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TRAVEL: Threesome with French Air Crew

“So what’s life like working in the air?” I ask of Stephanie, Angelique and Phillipe, turning on the charm.  I grab any opportunity to speak French these days, so I used my usual methods to insinuate myself into a French-speaking circle in the smoking lounge of the Wanderers Hotel, one of two hotels used by Air France in Johannesburg.  No, come to think of it, I was for once invited over.  More precisely, winked over.  It’s eleven at night and everyone’s smiling, engaging, relaxing and smoking.  Gosh they smoke.

Stephanie is a sexily-French sassy brunette.  She’s wearing high heels and a white blouse tucked into tight fitting jeans with a hanging belt between navel and crotch.  She also has the moves to complete her ensemble, like the beckoning wink.  Angelique is a fetching blonde in an impending state of disorientation, while Phillipe comes across as blasé, someone whose sensibilities have been deadened by ennui.  He adopts a reclining position out of which he only emerges to emphasise a point.  Apart from being French and chic, they have the curious habit of calling the waiter “Sir”.

Stephanie (exhaling smoke):  “What’s life like as an air hostess?  It can be difficult, but we have chosen this metier, so we take it.”  Gallic shrug, smile.
Me: “Do you often work together as a crew?”
Stephanie: “Not at all, we don’t, this is the first time we’ve met.  We are over 16000 people working for Air France, and the crews are constituted afresh at a briefing before each flight.  We three might never fly together again.  But it’s no problem.  We are all trained professionals and fit in automatically with each other.  It’s better this way than to have close friends working together.  A little distance between us is important in giving a better service.  But, it’s not a problem, for we all have the same profile, we are screened that way.  For example, we are chosen for our ability to easily engage with the public.”
Angelique:  “Ah oui, we ’ol ’ave zee same profile.”
Phillipe:  “Oui, we ’ol ’av zee same profile.”
They confer with each other and then nod like three smoking ducks in a row.  Never had I thought such concordance possible among the dissenting French.
Me (ever debonair):  “So what’s so difficult about your profession?”
Phillipe:  “We are alone and far from ’ome for a long time, zhat’s zee big problem.  But it’s not so bad zhese days as stopovers are shorter.  However, we still ’ave needs you know.”
Me (taking a longing look at my drink): “Indeed!”
Phillipe:  “In zee past, given zee longer stay-overs, we used to already scan each ozher at zee pre-flight briefing, and in a minute we’d know who we were going to sleep weez after zee flight.  Some crew members of course find people at zee destination.  As I said, we ‘ave needs, we are but ’hu-man.”
Stephanie (in mild disgust):  “Yes but there’s a price to pay for being human.  The worst thing about having needs is to wake up next to others in the morning and to look upon their ugly faces.  How degoulasse.”
Me:  “Well, the trick presumably is to flee before you have to wake up next to them.  To take French leave of sorts.”
Phillipe (matter of factly):  “Of course, of course, but zhat’s not always possible.  Yet, you can’t carry on forever in your laiff satisfying your needs like zhat.  It’s OK for a few years, maybe ten, twelve, fifteen… but it eventually leads nowhere, zhees fleeting liaisons, you build nothing, you ’ave nothing, you need someone, yes.”
Stephanie (exhaling a cloud):  “Exactement.  But on the whole, we like our profession.  After all, we are not only air hostesses.  We have many jobs rolled into one.  We do everything.  We are firemen, nurses, doctors – not real doctors but you understand; we are counsellors, we subdue the rowdy, placate drunks and even deal with the deceased, yes, the dead, les finis, on board.”
Me:  “You mean you’re aerial undertakers too?” – I belly laugh coarsely.  Three wooden faces stare back.  Cultural slippage, obviously.  It was about then that Angelique began to complain about some of her colleagues.
Angelique (slurring):  “You know what’s zhee worst thing about ahwa profession, especially in ahwa companie Air France?  Zhere are many putes, yes, sluts, in it.  Last week I was in Bangkok and two ’ostesses flying weez me ’ad hardly arrived when zhey went to zee swimming pool and adjusted zheir bikinis lewdly as zhey walked past sunbathing men, transmitting a signal.  Like zhees.”  She gets up and gyrates, lewdly.  “Later, two ozhers came to my room weez a Thai woman they ’ad picked up and before I knew it zhey were totalement nue, naked, making moves on me, so I chased them out, out.  Dehors putes!  Out sluts! – I ordered.  But every companie ’as sluts, no?  Tell me, are zhere any sluts in zee companie you work for?”
Me:  “Not at all.”
Angelique:  “Boff, zhere are sluts everywhere… and it’s not only zee gays you know…”
Me:  “You mean there are gay people serving on airlines too?”
Phillipe:  “But of course, you must ’ave noticed, no?  You can understand zhat zhere are many gay people working especially as air stewards – I’d say 50% of them – because gay people are very good at zhees job, let’s face it.  However sometimes zhey can get a bit much.  On the flight here I was hastily getting a croissant au buerre and the sixth whisky for a desperate passenger at three in zee morning when two gay stewards blocked my way and fondled my chest in zee galley.  I was like a piece of meat in zee middeel of a Greek sandwich.  One even pinched my left inner thigh, so out of politeness I ’ad to delay my service for a few minutes.”
Me:  “That’s the worst thing about being aroused on the job.  Service suffers.”
Phillipe:  “Hmpff, but zhings are changing.  Today, weez more women flying especially in biznhess, zhey are demanding more straight men.  Women also like to look you know, zhey are insisting, so zee number of gay stewards is declining and zhat of straight stewards is increasing.  I personally am more on zee straight side of zee spectrum.”
Stephanie (bored):  “And ten to fifteen percent are bi, at least on Air France.  They take what comes.  There are many bi people, and the worst are what we call les vol-couples, married couples in the flying profession who rush at you from both sides.”
Angelique (profile rapidly deflating):  Boff.  Whatever. Now tell me Alex-a, do you ’ave someone?  You do?  And are you ’appy?”
Me:  “In a manner of speaking.  But life’s working hard to make me happier.  Life owes me.”
Angelique:  “Me too.  I am 27 years old, and I ’ave someone, but I ’ave no-one.  I’ve been together weez someone for two years.  Up to six months ago I used to love watching him sleeping, breathing, snoring.  Now I look at him and I feel like screaming “ta guelle”!  Shut-up!  Shut-up!  I’m sick of him.”  The others nod sympathetically.  “He is also weez Air France and he is always exhausted when he comes ’ome zhees days.  He doesn’t touch me anymore, he just comes ’ome, watches télé and sleeps.  But I ’ave des besoins – needs, you know, I have zhees” she says, pointing at each of her breasts in turn.  “I’m 27 years old and I ’ave someone but I ’ave no-one, I’m so-o-o-o un’appy”, she moans, then looks around and slumps into Phillipe’s chair for solace, who is quick to administer cold caresses as he would a potential upgrade to first class.
Me:  “Don’t worry.  Things improve with age”, I lie.  Then my scintillating mind finds the analysis.  “Look, he’s obviously exhausted after all the activités at his various destinations.”  The truth revives Angelique who rises to mock-slap me – kill the messenger – only to lose her balance and land on Stephanie’s lap instead.  Stephanie too pats the poor Angelique, who is well into the maudlin stage of her malaise.
Angelique:  “I am 27 years old, I am togezher-weez and yet I am alone, alone…” she sobs-slurs into Stephanie’s neck.  Lots of back stroking from Stephanie.  Time for some portentous philosophy by way of consolation.
Me: “Man lives and dies alone.”
Angelique (half-reviving):  “Schhutt up and schhutt up!”  This is hissed through a spray of spittle and Chardonnay before she collapses into Stephanie’s torso again.
Stephanie (showing concern):  “There, there.”  “Excuse us, I think I’ll have to take Angelique to her room.  She’s obviously having une crise personnelle…”  A wobbly Angelique is led off by the hips, way past it to mumble good night but conscious enough to down her glass in a single draft as they pass it.  Phillipe is now free to express.
Phillipe (over-explaining):  “You see, she is weez someone and it’s not working, but in laiff one ’as to decide, no?  She has needs, we all ’ave needs, but she must be décisifEh oui.  She has to live her youth, to test her limits.  We ‘ave to see how far we can go so we can learn about laiff.”
Me:  “Indeed.  But it takes time.  I’m personally at my age still graduating from the school of hard knocks.  I get a lesson every few weeks or so.”

Stephanie traipses in a little later from her charity trip with Angelique and livens up with a cigarette.  More chatting, laughter, strong recommendations to go to Corsica, etc & etc. It’s around midnight and all’s well in the smoking lounge, but the clock’s been ticking.  Time to bid mes adieux.  We exchange pleasantries and cordial thanks and I get up to leave.  So do they.  But I had been missing all the signs.

For then, it quickly happens.  Stephanie invades my body space and plants two kisses on my cheeks.  I immediately sense she’s about to slip me her room number, to hell with Freudian transference.  Just like that, I’m being proffered a rendezvous for a voulez-vous.  Phillipe closes in on me from the other side, and stands there quite erect, like le coq sportif itself.  I’m trapped in a cul-de-sac and a sac des culs.1  Phillipe has already got that glazed look in his eyes that people assume in expectation of a threesome.  I know because the expectant threesome gaze was once explained to me in detail over two hours in a bar in Bellville, and I now recognised it for what it was.  As far as Phillipe was concerned, our threesome was a fait accompli and a f_uck accompli.

No-need-to-ask these were the smoooooooooth operators, the high habitués from Air France cruising coast-to-coast schmoozing savoir-faire for free with no place for beginners with sensitive hearts.2

Well I never.  This was rich.  Of all things that had to befall me, me, an innocent, upright citizen?  Really, the effrontery of it all!

The next morning on my way past the concierge, my night’s sleep soundly slept, I remark on how odd it is that Air France, the carrier of a nation that couldn’t care a damn about things English, chooses to stay in a hotel so close to the Wanderers, a famous cricket ground.3

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Notes: (to What Air France Needs)

  1. Sac des culs = literally “bag of backsides”.
  2. With extreeeeeme apologies to Sade’s mega-hit “Smooth Operator”.
  3. Information:  Air France flies daily from Paris to Johannesburg, landing at OR Tambo International Airport at 09H45.  In case you want to pick up a little more French than you bargained for, the crew arrive at the hotel around 90 minutes later but it’s best to go in the late evening after they’ve rested.  The Protea Wanderers Hotel is off Corlett Drive in Johannesburg North.
  4. Disclaimer: This is a humorous piece and in no way intends to impugn the reputation of people, companies or organisations mentioned.

ooooo

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