In general, we receive our flight roster about four weeks in advance. But a few times a year we work in a standby shift that lasts two weeks. During that time you haven’t got a clue what your days will look like. KLM can call me anytime, sending me anywhere, for any number of days. In the worst case I’ll have to be at the airport in one hour’s time.
Today’s my first day as a standby. My shift started at 6 am this morning and will end halfway through the afternoon.
I envy those colleagues who are completely relaxed during these shifts. They must have nerves of steel, going out to rollerblade in the park or staying in bed without setting an alarm. And true, when you’re cool-headed, these days are perfect to do all those odd jobs that you would rather not do but really need to do.
Not me. I’m not cool-headed at all. Although it’s a mere half hour from where I live to the airport, I make sure that I am ready to go all the time. Sure, I do see the necessity of cleaning the cupboards in my kitchen. Some of the cups are sticking annoyingly onto the shelves, but I only use the few in the front anyway. And it’s true that my kitchen ceiling has turned from a nice fresh white to an undefined yellowish grey: it could use some paint. As a matter of fact, there are many odd jobs that really need to be done at home. But then I imagine myself halfway through painting that ceiling (covered in paint) or busily scrubbing those shelves, my tableware all over the place, when the phone rings…
So I’d rather stick to simple tasks. This morning, for example, I put my books into alphabetic order, finally throw away the last Christmas stuff and sort out all the still-working ballpoints on my desk (two out of twelve). From time to time, I check the Internet for KLM flights that are still to leave (and that I might be on). Just as I start to get a little bored, my phone rings. I wish with all my heart it would be a friend, somebody who dialled a wrong number or even a telephone survey. But it’s none of them. “Crew control. We’ve got a flight for you”. This means reporting in two hours for a flight to Ghana, back the day after, two days off, and then to Shanghai.
After hanging up, I spend a while running up and down my apartment like a fool, without actually doing anything. Finally, as my heartbeat goes back to normal, I throw some insect-repellent into my already packed suitcase, change from a jogging suit into my uniform and call my boyfriend. Then I make myself a cup of coffee, as I still have an hour to go. Sipping my coffee, I manage to relax again and wonder why I always get so terribly stressed about these shifts. Also I promise myself to clean out my cupboards real soon, since I’ve just noticed that even the cups in the front are sticking to the shelves now.