Flurries

19th February 2022

Can you find the Indian elephant in this post?

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There may be a short delay to my recent proclamation of an early Spring.

Witness photographic evidence of yesterday’s predicted “snow flurries”. Yes, 4 inches of them.

Juncos had to dig for seed. They all show up when it snows, hence their nickname.

Judging by their clamour, I would say that the birds were enjoying it. What a racket!

Brave Little Red was undaunted by it all. I never saw an animal move as fast as he.

He’s a shape-shifter. One minute he’s here and the next he’s at the end of the garden.

Flurries, indeed. Tell that to the DD birds.

Or Grant. I think he actually likes it!

Maybe I tell myself that in order to feel less guilty that I can’t help. Shoveling snow is hard labour.

In my younger days, before moving to Seattle, I did quite a bit of snow removal. Winters were much harsher then.

It was delightful, after a long shift at the airport with screaming passengers (who seemed to believe we controlled the weather), to wait for the B2 bus and then plod through snow to dig your car out.

If it hadn’t been completely blocked by the plough and you were able to navigate free of the parking lot, you then faced a precarious drive home.

In those distant days, I was less enamored of Winter.

A 30-mile drive in blizzard conditions was not much fun, although if conditions were really dire, we simply camped at the airport for the duration.

The worst weather situation I encountered in my 31 years at JFK was in fact one summer when torrential rain flooded the parkways and all the airport under-passes, effectively closing the airport for some 24 hours.

And it was a Saturday, one of the two busiest days.

The other busiest day was Sunday and on that particular diabolical weekend, we were obliged to handle the two days of flights rolled into one. Passengers were all over the place, having been there for 24 hours and you could literally, barely move.

Luckily, although it was by no means an easy day, I was behind the scenes, preparing weight and balance sheets, one after another as we processed flights.

One of my colleagues came back to the office at one point and exclaimed “some passenger just complained to me that he’s been waiting on queue for 40 minutes!

In fact, it was my friend Jack who I mentioned yesterday. One of the nicest, funniest people I ever knew. He was from Manchester. You couldn’t work with a better chap.

Sweeping snow from the porch this morning, before my brush finally fell to bits, the thought came to me about delay announcements.

(Between flood and flurries, ice crystals.)

Being a British airline, we tried to keep our announcements professional and proper as in: “Ladies and Gentlemen may we have your attention please.”

We shared the terminal with an American carrier and their announcements could be heard throughout.

Sometimes you would hear something like:

“Well, folks, there’s going to be a short delay…etc”

…and if we had more mature British passengers nearby, occasionally they would bristle :”Folks?

Most people have been subject to an airline flight delay. Probably more than once.

The public seems to feel that airlines create delays deliberately to annoy people. You can take it from me that airline personnel hate delays even more.

In the case of my own particular employer, it was an important requirement to determine the specific cause of any delay, even as short as a single minute.

If, indeed, it looked as if a delay of a minute or two might be incurred, the dispatcher could try cozying up to the Captain. No, I don’t mean literally. If the length of the flight plan allowed and if he/she was in a genial mood, they might agree to release the brakes early thus deceiving the computer into believing the aircraft had actually departed from the gate.

In the good old days, of course, there was no computer and it was far easier to lose a minute of two in the transmission of details.

Such deception and wickedness.

It was a lot easier than having to explain to the boss: “What went wrong?!”

There are so very many factors involved in the dispatch of a commercial flight and in this day and age where everyone is constantly graded and evaluated on a points system, no-one wants to take the blame for anything.

Sometimes, one error can cover up another and occasionally different departments have to agree to a portion of the delay.

Or everyone can fight about it.

Imagine spending an hour trying to attribute the cause of a one-minute delay.

In the event of inclement weather, even my employer was not prepared to blame the Almighty, so that sort of delay did not count against the station.

“Weather” could be used as a cover for all sorts of issues: late catering, late crew transport, air traffic delays, de-icing, frozen equipment and many more that I have long since forgotten. Often those things really were caused by the weather.

When dispatching a flight the words you never wanted to hear were: Technical defect.

As I recall especially, you didn’t want to hear the word “hydraulic”, because that could be a needle in the haystack thing. If you were lucky, the problem could be sorted reasonably quickly, but generally it was open-ended. What we called “a crawling delay”.

Once the engineering department went to work, all bets were off and sharing updates and information was low-priority.

No doubt they had a point. Repair first and properly, talk after. But when you had three hundred passengers wanting to know when they might depart, you needed to be able to tell them something. Which is why, so often they didn’t get told anything.

Better nothing than something you invented!

Worse was when someone on the previous shift had improvised a story and you now faced the passengers wanting to know why you had lied to them!

Our ground engineers gave the impression they thought they were better than the rest of us. We got very frustrated with them at times. But I can honestly say that they were good. If anyone needs to be, it’s them.

When I say were, it’s because I have been retired for fifteen years and can only speak for what I knew.

While I have often been known to critique my ex-employer, I also still carry just that bit of loyalty and in many ways it was a good airline.

What made it a good airline was its employees. As the shareholders became all important, the only thing that mattered to the CEO’s was the bottom line and making the numbers look good.

It was hard not to become cynical.

My friend Jack was one of the best. He was the salt of the earth. But there were many others and working with those people was what got me through some tough times. They were my backbone. Bless them all.

Flurries. Right.

10 thoughts on “Flurries

  1. Thank you, Carolyn, for letting me know your name and for your witty and funny post, and for the brilliant photographs! I love reading about your life as it makes me smile! Thank you.

    Joanna

  2. Love the bird pictures. But I must have missed it somewhere along the line, what are the DD birds? Thanks!

    1. It’s just a silly name we gave the sparrows. The actual Dee Dee birds are the chickadees that say “dee dee dee”. When we first came to Cambridge each time we went food shopping the carts were full of sparrows which amused me so I wrote a daft poem but at the time I hadn’t worked out who belonged to which song…Covid arrived and shopping carts were moved along with the many sparrows and we joked that they had followed my car home because suddenly they were all in my bushes. Aren’t you glad you asked?! I adore birds as well as cats. They are such amazing little (and not so little) creations of Nature.

  3. I love your snowy pictures! This looks now like a proper winter. People became more impatient over the years and don’t want to wait for anything … whether it is for a flight, food or just in a queue at a shop. I do feel sorry for people in customer services these days …

    1. I should have clarified that it’s really only the head and maybe a foot of an elephant with the colourful headcover they wear in India. I saw it in the frost on the window pane next to where I wrote about technical defects!

      1. I was wondering, too. Thanks for clarifying, Carolyn. I see it clearly now myself!

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