Happy, sad…

0823/18th February 2022

There is just no keeping up with this winter.

Rising at our normal time yesterday, we looked out on a damp and muddy, brown and gloomy sight that I had no desire to photograph.

Ten minutes later, winter returned.

Which cheered me immensely.

It also caused something else to happen.

Grant peered out the kitchen window and insisted it was snowing. But I looked at my phone and said “it can’t be. It’s 3 degrees.”

Years ago I could not have conceived of obtaining a weather report by just glancing at my phone.

One thing remains the same, though. Weather reports are still not reliable. More on that later…

Three degrees“, said Grant, “there was a group called “Three Degrees.” Which was the launching point of another Breakfast with Grant and Carolyn.

No, I don’t think we will do a podcast but we have some strange debates and discussions at times.

Eating his cereal with one hand, Grant soon persuaded his phone (and it bends my mind how all these things are possible) to play a famous song by the aforementioned group.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TyipwcgLqg

“When will I see you again?”

How poignantly music can take you back!

The immediate memory for me was decidedly sad.

After a few minutes though, I recalled something else.

Looking back, I realize that I always had an interest in writing and creating a dialogue with photographs.

British Airways was taking on a lot of new customer service agents at JFK and they had by then established a training course for new staff.

Radical idea! My intake got “on the job” training. We didn’t even rate the familiarization flight to Bermuda.

The 1969 group had a raw deal!

Someone in Management woke up one day and decided they should offer support to new hires and furthermore, they thought it would be a good idea to involve some of the people they would be working with.

Anyone who was interested in helping to create a presentation for new hires could sign up.

Well why not? In the end we were a group of maybe six who put our heads together. As is human nature, our little group were then regarded as suspect by some of the other staff, never mind that they could have volunteered and didn’t.

What special concessions were we receiving? None, actually, but we were having a lot of fun!

(And we were dubbed “The Royal Family)

The only media available to us was a cassette tape and a slide viewer. In fact it was a set of slide viewers.

We had to load our slides in two precise sequences so as one slide faded out, the next one in the adjacent viewer came on screen.

We thought this was terribly advanced! Although if you were in charge of the presentation, you got the daunting job of “clicker” and you had to remember when to press for the next image so they were in sync with the audio cassette tape.

We had decided to make a light-hearted presentation of what a customer service agent should not do, in each instance then showing what they ought to do.

We had access to the BA photo archive. Pictures of aeroplanes. Yay. We decided to create a series of typical transactions, script and photograph them, with us “acting” the parts. We also added slides of some of our other colleagues at work, to include them.

In a drawer somewhere, I may still have a copy of the cassette tape though I have no means of playing it.

We got a little help from our audio-visual department with which we were able to streamline the presentation with musical interludes. One was Barry White’s “Love’s Theme” which was very popular.

And there was one sequence that showed a passenger waving goodbye and a VC10 taking off, to the song “When will I see you again”.

It was heart-wrenching.

Not quite. But is was quite astonishingly successful.

Management loved it.

Our colleagues were polite about it.

(But still suspicious)

We took our show on the road!

Our presentation was viewed at BA stations around the US, with just two of the team (on company time!) to operate our highly sophisticated equipment.

Perhaps Chicago in January wasn’t a popular choice, but I was happy to go, particularly as my team mate was a great friend. We laughed a lot and staggered into the airport hotel afterwards feeling quite exhausted.

Water beds were all the rage and my room was so equipped. What no one thought to tell me was that you had to turn the thing on.

By the time I met Jack for breakfast, I was almost purple with cold. And then we laughed some more.

My next destination was much warmer. The road show was even sent to Trinidad, for the benefit of another airline. I’m not sure they really got the points, but we got a free ticket and I stopped off in Barbados to see my parents on the way back.

The biggest surprise was that our humble presentation was sent off to be viewed at Heathrow and for that epic, we all got to go. Good job too, as we all needed moral support.

It was complicated because our equipment was not compatible with UK electrical current. Nervously we transferred the slides and crossed our fingers as a group of Heathrow customer service staff filed in.

Uniformed supervisors in those days were bedecked with stripes. We had never seen so many stripes in one room and we felt a bit like the irks from the country.

Or the colonies.

There was an immediate failure, but it was not ours. A bulb blew out in one of the slide viewers and we lost half our audience while that got sorted.

However, our biggest fear was that our London staff might not appreciate the humour we had inserted into our little presentation.

The do’s and don’ts were all fine. Simple, but this wasn’t intended to be anything else.

We had ended the presentation with an excerpt from a current BA/USA advertisement that used the famous:

“The British are Coming! The British are Coming!”

…followed by a very American voice from some play or other: “Well, there goes the neighborhood!”

As I recall, it went down alright, but by then we were past caring as we were all coming down with the ‘flu.

We travelled home feeling decidedly under par.

If you are still with me, I mentioned that the song by the Three Degrees evoked a sad memory as well.

We all have those, of course.

For complicated reasons, I lived with relatives until 1976. To put it mildly, this made having a social life difficult.

However, I developed a friendship with a London-based colleague who came to New York regularly. He was funny and I was fond of him.

One time we had lunch in a New York restaurant and the waitress asked if he wanted his soup in a cup or a bowl.”I thought I’d have it in a basket”, he said.

Silly, I know. But he made me laugh and it wasn’t that easy, in those days especially, to get me to laugh.

My friend had an estranged wife who lived on another continent. There was no real reason he and I could not enjoy each other’s company.

Then one day he left without a goodbye and I never saw him again. He stopped coming to New York and did not write. I didn’t know why.

But I suspect it was my uncle. He knew how to threaten people and he was obsessed with me.

.

It isn’t always easy, to extricate yourself from such a situation. I know because I tried. I moved and he followed me around at work and at home. That year I had thyroid surgery. Managing everything became too stressful, so I went back. All the while I was trying to protect my aunt who was the one person I really loved.

5 thoughts on “Happy, sad…

    1. When I began blogging 2019 I think, I did write quite a bit about it. It was therapeutic but also I thought if I touched just one other person who may have read some of my story and felt less isolated, it would be worthwhile. Others have had it a lot worse.

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  1. That song brought back great memories (for me) … it always played on a tape my father had in the car. So, when we went on road trips, it was a sure thing that we would hear this song a couple of times – my brother and I later sang this from “the beginning to the end” 😁.
    I love your story about your road show – that must have been an experience never to forget! Don’t like the story about the uncle though … one always tend to think how different your life would have turned out to be if it wasn’t for “that” one person.

    Liked by 1 person

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