Reflections from a higher plane pt.3

Travel anecdotes and notes

Gate 41

Gate 41

A series of observations, imaginings and happenings on a recent globe spanning flight.

Gate 41, South Terminal of Hong Kong Airport. I am awaiting the departure of Lufthansa Flight 739 to Frankfurt, Germany.

The gate is manned by airline workers of Chinese nationality, locals presumably in the employ of this international carrier. Two in particular catch my attention, young women more school girl than official, as though selected by a teacher for a very unusual job. Shuffling shyly from aisle to aisle, their task is to announce the boarding of seats 50 and over, but in print rather than word—they have a sign pre-made specially for this purpose. The sign should need only a single person for the holding, but the second girl assists the first, reversing it to change the language displayed, pointing her in the right direction, answering questions from the puzzled German passengers, taken aback by this most unusual form of public announcement.

Although this boarding lounge procession is very cute, in the charming way of so many things in Asia, it is from a practical point of view a most peculiar sight, and my trained for maximum efficiency Western mind is quite unable fathom why they do not make use of the public address.

In fact no announcements are made out loud today, and I am left, aside from amused, to conclude that here in the people-rich People's Republic, sheer numbers of people are the efficiency. With a total population well into seven figures, one surmises that labour does not need to be maximised, rather uses found for all of its employ.