Friday, August 05, 2005

Life in Aggregates

On the way to the station this morning, I saw J come from a side road and begin walking fifty yards in front of me. As he crossed the road he glanced sideways, saw me, but then pretended he hadn't and started walking in front of me. I shouted to him. He didn't turn. So I started running and caught him up. When I reached him, he pretended to be surprised as if he hadn't known I was there.

I had a specific reason for wanting to talk to him. He is moving with his family to Toronto in a week and I wanted to know what he thought of the Air France plane crash there on Tuesday. I asked him if he had watched it on TV. Yes, he had. One of his colleagues had been due to fly back to France on that very plane. We agreed that it was very lucky that everyone had got out. Yes, said J, Air France are very good at ejecting people from their seats. He admired the courage of the co-pilot who had run the length of the plane, checking eveyone had got out. J told me that his family were very upset. He has three children and it seems the eldest girl who is about fourteen was particularly worried. Eventually they lied to her and told her it wasn't Toronto but another airport where the crash had occurred.

J told me that a plane he had once travelled in to Turkey was thought to have engine failure and dropped 'like a fighter jet" towards Venice airport. Luggage lockers had flown open during the descent and he had pondered whether to write a farewell note to his wife and family. When they landed, it turned out to be a false alarm: "two wires attached the wrong way round". J told me that he has travelled 360,000 miles in the past year.

When we got to the station, we met B. He works for the same corporation as J. It's a building materials company (cement, aggregates, roofing and plasterboard). They are in the aggregates division. Their boss has recently come from cement and doesn't know how the aggregates business works. With a chuckle, they complain that they are having to double up with him like minders on his trips, because he is unsure of himself. We really will have to tell him that we can't hold his hand any longer, says B.

They continued in this mode all the way into Paris, discussing the 'ambitions' of other members of staff and their forthcoming trips. Among the list of their forthcoming destinations were Chile, Vietnam, Philippines, Canada. As they talked and talked about the life in Aggregates, I slowly realised I had disappeared again.

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