Graveyard Shift : Episode 1

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Too many seats untaken

I suppose we all have our taste of passing time at work, whether it be in an office or a field assignment, wherever it maybe. It all ends up soon exciting to recollect what you have made out of it when you have the guts and daring. A gifted storyteller and humorist who could get a crowd in utter silence at the command of his voice to keep track of a thrilling horror story combined with a litany of jokes in between has it all but everything maybe said and done. I’m not much of a toastmaster or an insurance agent to command such talent in selling my trade but I have a bit of something I could make of it in writing and you are the judge if my timidity in person could commensurate to my literary skill.

I ended up cleaning aircrafts for Jet Utility Services (what a name) after I finished college, those were the times when graduates had been flourishing more than a country could offer jobs for them (as it always was). As for me, a degree in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering was a fitting background and it did fit in. I was placed on a 6-month training with a salary lower than the minimum (I was on probationary so they say, but actually the management was exploiting manpower, say 2 out of 10 gets on regular post but it’s actually a trainee’s post extended term with the same salary) tasked to clean the fleet of aircraft of Philippine Airlines ranging from an Airbus 300 to a Boeing 747-200. It was fun at first since I am getting the feel of working in an aircraft, just on a different perspective, a cleaner. I was placed on the evening shift, after the last arrival of an aircraft in flight and awaiting it to be towed on the darker side of the airport ramp. Our working hours were made by about 4 hours waiting and 4 hours rushed work. On an ordinary shift, we have to clean a minimum of two 747s if not 3 Airbus 300s. We have to bring along pails of water combined with those awful smelling aerospace chemicals for cleaning the exterior and interior. Well if you considered cleaning your car a backbreaking work, just wait until you give it a try cleaning an Airbus 300-600. Economy class on the A300 seats 251 people, which means 251 seats. On a seat you have the armrest, the ashtray, the front pocket, the folding table (the one which could be opened to accommodate a meal) which must all be cleaned. The matting (floor carpeting) which extends from the tail to the cockpit of the aircraft spans about 150 feet x 2 since it has two aisles (aircraft length 177 ft 3 in), it has 6 galleys (kitchen), 4 lavatories (comfort rooms) 6 doors and about 120 windows (including 6 at cockpit, although this could vary according to configuration). We were 5 males in the shift and the job was allocated among each of us. Now here is the twist to the story, while we were awaiting for the aircraft to be towed beside the airport ramp for cleaning, we position ourselves among the empty baggage carts used in transporting passenger baggage. There was power failure at that time in the airport perimeter and we were cracking jokes and storytelling by the moonlight (imagine no cellphones). We were almost out of our stored stories until it led to ghosts. A colleague of mine was telling about ghosts in each aircraft we each have memorized by the registration number in the tail. CEB was one such aircraft and my buddy was nearly sacked by our supervisor when such aircraft was delayed for the flight out of his protestations. He was at that time waiting for the mechanic he assured entered the lavatory to finish his assignment but the former didn’t came out for hours. Only did he later barge inside the lavatory to verify there was no one inside (it was later learned the mechanic died while on vacation). On another occasion, another colleague of mine was assigned to do the matting. During those times, the company haven’t yet heard of a portable vacuum cleaner or maybe, they were just making us dead tired out of earning a little out of their big cut. Armed with a floor scrub and dust pan, it was time for my buddy to scrub the carpet 150 feet each side stooping down. It was his first rotation on the assignment and he was paced too slow so that everyone were finished and have left the aircraft with only himself inside (consider the eerie feeling of facing 251 empty seats alone). He was on the last row of seats stooping down to scrub the aisle when he noticed pairs of feet. Startled, thinking a mechanic or a colleague was left behind falling asleep, he rose up to check only to find nobody seated at the seat. He didn’t realized how he breezed thru out of the plane taking the avionics’ ladder by the cockpit. Now as I said before, it all ends up exciting to recollect what you have made out of it when you have the guts and daring. I haven’t have the guts and daring actually but despite a low salary I couldn’t bear losing my work for sheer act of cowardice stemmed out from a ghost story. So I did it afterwards, on my first rotation shift in doing the aircraft matting, of all other assignments. Boy, I’m not the psychic type who sees ghost with a faint heart but my hairs aren’t bad after all. I wasn’t used in using hair gels in my hair but sure enough my hairs stood on end until I finished scrubbing both aisles of that A300 to the last row of seats. So tell me if I earned that right to tell this story (Thank me for not including the Boeing 747, about twice the size and double the scare ).


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