foot sniffing

I was not in the best of moods, in the first place. I had a hangover from hell and, having to wait for over 2 hours at the baggage carousel for my single piece of luggage wasn’t helping. Wasn’t helping at all.



My head was pounding so badly, I was almost beside myself, all-but stamping my foot with annoyance and frustration. Come on … come on! I kept on saying, to myself, as I stood and watched the never-ending procession of other peoples’ luggage arriving on the carousel – and wondering when in hell mine would show up.



My Flight from Alicante, in southern Spain, had landed at 5 a.m. and so I thought I would beat the morning’s rush-hour traffic. Now, though, it was well after 7 a.m. It would dawn on me later that, in my thick-headed state, I’d quite forgotten about it being Sunday … the roads would be quiet for a while yet, anyway.



But, as miserable as things were, they were just about to get a whole lot worse … I might have been fretting needlessly, about getting caught up in the morning’s rush-hour traffic but, after finally retrieving my single piece of luggage from the carousel, I was about to suffer another delay, anyway.



I had just arrived back at Gatwick Airport, having returned from Steve’s Stag Party in Benidorm. Steve was my best mate. We went way back; friends, for as long as I could remember. All our best pals had piled over there to the Spanish resort, and we’d certainly accorded the time-honoured tradition the ‘justice’ befitting the occasion. We’d all had a very boozy, whale of a time, a night to remember. We’d all mercilessly ribbed Steve about the ‘Ball and Chain’ he would soon be wearing; his lovely wife-to-be, Rachel, holding the only key to the metaphorical husband-enslaving apparatus – and keeping it nice and safe … Oh yes, we’d all enjoyed a great, Saturday night Drinkathon. Knocking the pints back as if there was no tomorrow.



Now, though, tomorrow was here, and I was paying a high price for my foolish excesses: I was exhausted, felt sick to my stomach, and my head was banging like Cozy Powell’s base drum. I’ve never been able to take my drink well and, at the moment, I thought there was an awful lot to be said for going teetotal.



I had just said my farewells to Steve and the rest of the lads after making arrangements to meet up at the Pub next Saturday night (so much for going teetotal!) and, I was just about to board the Airport Bus to the Long Stay car park, when I felt a firm, staying hand grip my right shoulder, and a rather harsh and stentorian male voice cried, “Just a moment, sir … Would these … happen to be yours, sir …?”



What the …? I wondered irritably.



Because the uniform of the man who had accosted me so closely resembled, at first glance, that of the Salvation Army, I had thought, at first, that the gentleman must be a member of that highly venerable organization, out asking for public donations … I was wrong.



Apparently, following a Government ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ initiative that was being implemented at all UK Airports, Gatwick Airport Authority were having a tough crackdown on the nuisance, anti-social behaviour of litter louts. And, fumbling for bus fare change at the last moment (that, in my fuzzy-headed state, I had forgotten I didn’t even need), I had, unwittingly, dropped some of the air-sickness sweet-wrappers from my pocket, which I had intended to deposit in a litter bin when I got the chance. Or, failing that, dispose of them at home.



But, not accepting my earnest, truthful excuses, the Litterman (for that was who he was) escorted me to the Litter Office, to be formally brought to book for my ‘offence’. “This way, sir …” the Litterman instructed brusquely.



Oh! This was just great, wasn’t it! What a drag. What an absolute pain. This was the last thing I needed. I just hoped, that this blatantly obvious misunderstanding could be cleared up quickly, and with the minimum of fuss and inconvenience. All I wanted, was to get home ASAP, get into my bed, and try to sleep off my hideous hangover.



After entering a rather unprepossessing building, the Litterman guided me by means of his firm, staying hand on my right shoulder, down a narrow dismal corridor with grey-painted walls to an office door at the end, which was painted a sort of ‘Institution’ grey. Affixed to the office door, was an inscribed brass plaque – somewhat incongruously bright and highly-polished looking, in this decidedly depressing building – which read: ‘Gatwick Airport Litter Office – Head: Mrs J Jepson’.



The Litterman then did something that, to me, seemed rather … peculiar. Looking at the inscribed brass plaque that was affixed to the office door; gazing at it, with such expressions of awe and reverence on his face, as suggested that who or what was on the other side of that door was a treasure without equal, the Litterman breathed heavily upon the highly polished surface of the inscribed brass plaque, causing it to dim and mist up. Then the Litterman: with an air of solemn, ceremonial gravity; with the cuff of his uniform jacket, he ‘lovingly’ buffed and burnished the inscribed brass plaque, restoring its gleaming shine. And, the manner in which the Litterman did this, had a strong suggestion of habit … of ‘ritual’.



His ‘devotions’ duly observed, the Litterman then discreetly rapped the knuckle of a forefinger on the office door and, upon receiving, in response, permission to enter from a decidedly no-nonsense sounding female voice, he opened the office door and escorted me inside. “Good morning, Madam,” said the Litterman respectfully and, with a slight, reverential bow to the woman who sat behind her desk, who was his Superior.



After looking me up and down sourly, the woman who was seated behind her desk addressed the Litterman. “Yes, Litterman …? What have you got for me?”



The Litterman: while nodding at me, as if he thought his Superior would otherwise have no idea as to who he was referring, brandished, in the palm of his large hand; as though implying irrefutable proof of a misdemeanour, a number of air-sickness sweet-wrappers. “He dropped these, Madam … There are six of them, in total, Madam …” the Litterman informed his Superior, in tones befitting the gravity of the situation.



“Well done, Arnold. Good job, my man! It’s nice to know that you are on the ball, as usual. Keep up the good work,” said the Litterman’s Superior, by means of giving her underling an approving verbal pat on the back.



“Thank you, Madam. But it’s all in a day’s work … and, as you know, Madam … I love my work,” replied the Litterman modestly. Her ‘acolyte’, I saw, blushed with pleasure: at the warm approbation of his Superior, but mostly, it seemed to me, at her use of his first name and … at her calling him “My man.”



Opening a drawer of her desk, the Litterman’s Superior took out and opened, a small, clear polythene bag and, inclining her head towards the offending articles in the palm of the Litterman’s hand, she instructed him, “Put them in here, please, Litterman.” Which he did … handling the air-sickness sweet-wrappers (“There are six of them, in total, Madam …”) with exaggerated care, as though dealing with some terribly fragile and priceless artifacts. Then the Litterman’s Superior carefully sealed the small, clear polythene bag – that now rather alarmingly resembled a forensic evidence exhibit – and, after opening the drawer of her desk again, she deposited the incriminating ‘evidence’ into it, and then locked her desk drawer.



What the …? I wondered. I was flabbergasted. I watched and listened to these singularly bizarre exchanges between the Litterman and his Superior, with disbelieving eyes and ears.



The Manageress – or, to accord her the formal designation of her official title: ‘Head’ – of the Gatwick Airport Litter Office, was a truly dreadful woman called Mrs Jepson: Mrs Josephine Jepson, according to her name-tag. And, I wouldn’t wish Mrs Jepson on my worst enemy … I couldn’t even remotely imagine, ever calling her Josephine … (“Not tonight, Josephine …”) Not ever!



Meeting Mrs Josephine Jepson, has been one of the sorriest events of my life. There have been much sorrier events in my life, yes … but only, thanks to Mrs Jepson. For, it would be that lady, herself, who would bring me into direct contact with the countless instigators of the much sorrier events to which I allude.



Mrs Jepson: a tall, thin-as-a-lath woman in her mid 30′s, with very short, blonde hair – like a soldier’s buzz-cut – immediately embarked on a raised-voiced, holier-than-thou tirade against me. With the Litterman’s staying hand still firmly gripping my right shoulder, Mrs Jepson gave me a scathing dressing-down, at having been caught red-handed by the Litterman in the wholly unacceptable, anti-social act of dropping litter. “Litter louts, will no longer be tolerated at Gatwick Airport,” she informed me categorically. “Those days, are gone!” she assured me.



My truthful protestations of total innocence – or, at least, of ‘accidental’ (and, therefore, ‘mitigated’) litter dropping – fell upon deaf ears. They had no effect whatsoever, on the stony-faced Mrs Jepson: my earnest explanations washed over her, like water off the proverbial duck’s back. “Save it!” said Mrs Jepson contemptuously, in rudely cutting me off. “I’ve heard it all before … from your kind! Do you think I haven’t? Now … you’ll get what’s coming to you – what you deserve. And, it just might help you to learn … to USE A LITTER BIN, in future!”



I felt outraged. I was always so meticulous in the manner of disposing of my litter: always considerately and correctly disposing of it in the receptacles provided for the purpose. And now, just because of one, innocent little slip … This was out of order – well out of order … Wasn’t it? Being spoken to, in such an appalling manner as this? But, Mrs Josephine Jepson was just getting started …



Upon learning that I was currently unemployed, and claiming Unemployment Benefit, Mrs Jepson delivered her swingeing, crushing, devastating body-blow of a penalty. Mrs Jepson: as Head of the Gatwick Airport Litter Office, was empowered and, she had no hesitation, under the Government’s new ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ Litter Legislation Guidelines, in sentencing me (as a first offender) to 28 days ‘Foot Service Duty’.



I was speechless. I couldn’t believe my ears. I must have heard wrong … mustn’t I? I could only gawp stupidly, at Mrs Jepson. I tried to speak, to say something, but my mouth just opened and closed, and with not much by way of sense coming out, like a goldfish in a bowl.



Foot Service Duty …? FOOT SERVICE DUTY …?? What the …? I mean, WHAT THE …??



Mrs Jepson duly ordered that I was to serve my 28 days Foot Service Duty sentence, here, at Gatwick Airport, at the Cabin Crews’ ‘Comfort Station’.



The Cabin Crews’ ‘Comfort Station’? What the …? I mean, WHAT THE …??



I was dumbfounded. At first, I had thought this situation was just plain ridiculous, ludicrous – farcial. Like a silly play that I might watch on a wet Wednesday afternoon on BBC2.



I had thought that; whatever it was, that was going on here, there would be no real harm done at the end of the day. After all, any fool could see, surely, that nothing more untoward than an innocent accident had occurred. Surely, I had thought, I could expect nothing more drastic than a severe ticking-off, and a stern warning to take more care with my litter in future.



Now, though, it was getting quite beyond being merely bizarre – becoming surreal. As Mrs Jepson continued to speak, the true gravity of my incredible predicament gradually began to sink in – and drag me down.



And, as I listened to Mrs Jepson’s decidedly no-nonsense sounding voice, my merely terrible hangover seemed to evolve, into a living, maliciously tormenting entity. As if a highly virulent strain of bacteria was hideously thriving, monstrously multiplying by the milli-second inside my head … Propagating: relentlessly, inexorably, quickly filling in my brain’s ‘wiggle room’, with the resultant anguishing pressure.



I sank down on my seat, lower and lower, all-but folding in upon myself in my growing misery and despair. And, a fog of depression settled over me, that was so thick, I almost needed a pair of infra-red goggles to see through it.



And, all of this was happening, because of an offence that I hadn’t even committed! And, wouldn’t commit!



It was all too much … Just too much!



The Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, Mrs Jepson informed me, was a large (‘Portacabin’-like), carpeted and comfortable, climate-controlled shelter.



Mrs Jepson told me that: as most Cabin Crew members got lifts from friends or relatives upon returning from their Flight Duty, the Comfort Station was rarely occupied up to its full capacity. Typically, she said, there were usually less than 20 occupants at any one time. Typically …



Typically, that is, unless a number of Flights happened to come in very close together … Which would happen, occasionally, explained Mrs Jepson, when such problems as delays and diversions caused a backlog that consequently resulted in a congestion of arriving aircraft. On these occasions, she said, the Comfort Station could – at a bit of a squeeze, and some would have to stand – accommodate up to 50 members of Cabin Crew.



At the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, the Air Hostesses and male Stewards – from the various Airlines that used Gatwick Airport – could avail themselves of the very good quality refreshments that were so abundantly provided for them … Free of charge. Funded, courtesy of the ample proceeds of the so-called ‘Airport Passenger Tax’.



At the Comfort Station, Cabin Crew could sit in … well, comfort, while they waited for the Air Crew Bus.



The Air Crew Buses, were scheduled to arrive at the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station: on the hour, and at 20-minute intervals. Except between midnight and 6 a.m., when they arrived on the hour, and at half-past.



The Air Crew Bus would take members of Cabin Crew to where they wanted to go, after having completed their Flight Duty: staff car park; rail station; bus station; airport hotel, etc … as it meandered along its route to the Air Crew Bus Terminus, via its various drop-off points.



To my horror and dismay, Mrs Jepson duly ordered that my sentence would actually begin tomorrow – Monday. My hours of Foot Service Duty, to be 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. And, for 7 days a week, until the completion of my 28 days sentence.



What the …? I couldn’t believe it. 12 hours a day! 7 days a week! For 28 days! I mean … WHAT THE …??



To say that my punishment seemed harsh, would be to utter an understatement of colossal magnitude. I was so gobsmacked, so stunned, someone could have knocked me down with the proverbial feather … and, I wouldn’t have been able to get up again.



After all: I was being punished for dropping litter at Gatwick Airport – not for setting fire to the Houses of Parliament.



Mrs Jepson, as Head of the Gatwick Airport Litter Office, formally issued me with a large, white carrier-bag, that had the singularly unglamorous legend ‘Gatwick Airport Litter Office’ printed on it, in bold, red letters. And, with the Litter Office’s official logo on it, of a silhouetted, stick-figured 5-member family, considerately and correctly disposing of their litter in the receptacle provided for the purpose.



I looked across the desk at the detestable Mrs Jepson. She was regarding me steadily, and with an air of cool satisfaction as she watched the changing expressions on my face … As if she was watching and listening to each and every one of her ‘pennies’ dropping.



Mrs Jepson, who, with her dramatically tall and exceedingly thin figure, seemed to me, like an exaggerated epitome of the proverbial ‘stick-insect’ figure. It actually made me wonder … if the official logo: the silhouetted, stick-figured 5-member family, as depicted on the Gatwick Airport Litter Office carrier-bag, was actually modelled upon Mrs Jepson’s own family. And, I was surprised, when I found myself having to suppress a half-hysterical titter, at the absurd notion. For I wouldn’t have thought myself even remotely capable of seeing the funny side of anything today … Not after being so embarrassingly accosted by the Litterman, in full view of gawping and astonished fellow air passengers. And certainly not, after making the acquaintance of Mrs Josephine Jepson.



Contained within the capacious carrier-bag, were the following items: a Travel Warrant – valid for 28 days; a polythene bag of 7 white T-shirts (1 for every day of the week), with the word ‘FOOTBOY’ printed on the front, and the words ‘LITTER LOUT’ printed on the back, in bold, red letters. And a pair of heavy-duty knee-pads …



What the …? ‘Footboy’? ‘FOOTBOY’?? What the …? I mean, WHAT THE …??



I finally managed to rouse myself from my stupor. I couldn’t stand for this! No way! This was preposterous … Wasn’t it? I was going to give this appalling woman a piece of my mind. “I beg your pardon, Mrs Jepson, but … I must protest, in the strongest possible—”



“Just shut up, and listen, David – this is important … So don’t go saying, later, that I didn’t warn you!” rudely interrupted Mrs Jepson, derisively shrugging my ineffectual complaints aside.



Mrs Jepson instructed me, in vinegary tones, as to the nature of my forthcoming ‘Duties’. As to how I was expected to behave, in the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, for the duration of my 28 days Foot Service Duty sentence.



“At the end of your 28 days sentence, I will perform my Final Assessment Test … I will scrutinize all of the comments made by the Air Hostesses, as officially recorded on your Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet … At least, David, you won’t have to worry about the male Stewards: sadly, they are under standing intructions to leave footboys alone – subject to penalty of instant dismissal … Not my ruling, Daivid, I assure you. Believe me, I would love nothing more, than for the male Stewards to be allowed to have at you, as well … Some of them would love it, I know …”



What the …? The “Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet”? … Her “Final Assessment Test”? … “Won’t have to worry about the male Stewards”? … Have at me? … “Some of them would love it” …?



What the …? I mean, WHAT THE …??



“To pass my Final Assessment Test, David, you must achieve a very high, overall Air Hostesses’ ‘Satisfaction’ Rating … A minimum, of 90%. Anything less, David, than 90%, and …” Mrs Jepson let her words trail off, ominously, leaving me to ponder her words – both spoken, and implicit – allowing them to sink in …



“You will be responsible, Daivid, for keeping the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station clean and tidy – spick and span – at all times … You must always – ALWAYS – address the Air Hostesses, as ‘Miss’ … When it does become necessary – as inevitably it will, on occasion – for you to address a male Steward, you will politely address him, as ‘Sir’… Won’t you, David …?”



“Yes, Mrs Jepson,” I promised miserably, but compliantly.



“But, above all …” continued the dreadful woman, “… you must – MUST – accord the Air Hostesses the highest possible respect and obedience – at all times. This is crucial … Of absolutely paramount importance, David, if you are to complete your 28 days Foot Service Duty sentence, ‘satisfactorily’ … if you are to achieve the minimum, 90%, Air Hostesses’ ‘Satisfaction of Conduct Rate’. Anything less, David, than 90%, and …” Again, Mrs Jepson left her unspoken, implied threat hanging over my even more painfully throbbing head.



Now, a ghastly smile spread across Mrs Jepson’s face, as she came to her favourite part of the interview: the ‘good bit’. “Should you fail, in completing your sentence satisfactorily, it will my pleasure, David, I assure you, to award you a further, stiffer sentence, as a Repeat Offender. The severity of which, would be completely at my own, sole discretion. And, I would duly award you what I consider to be the appropriate penalty, after considering the facts … just like today. I would add this subsequent sentence onto your original, 28 days sentence, and it would run concurrently.”

Mrs Jepson, finally satisfied that she had briefed me thoroughly, stood up: a clear signal that she was dismissing me from her presence, in her Litter Office. She didn’t bother to ask me if I had any questions … Of which I had 2 – what the …? and WHAT THE …?? But, thinking it the wisest course, I kept them to myself.



“You may go now,” said Mrs Jepson. “Don’t forget! 6 a.m. tomorrow, at the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station … And, don’t be late, David!”



Don’t be late, Mrs Jepson said! Don’t be late? That was rich … So rich, I found it impossible to stomach – impossible to swallow!



And, all of this was happening, because of an offence that I hadn’t even committed! And, wouldn’t commit!



It was all too much … Just too much!



Of course, I abandoned any idea of retrieving my car from the Long Stay car park, and driving myself home. I would pick it up tomorrow evening, after my ‘shift’, in the Comfort Station. Anyway, I had no business getting behind the wheel of a car, in my present condition. I was in no fit state. Not only, must I still be well over the alcohol limit for driving but, how was I supposed to concentrate on what was happening on the road … thinking about – worrying about – my imminent 28 days Foot Service Duty sentence, in the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, at Gatwick Airport?



Hell! This was like a bad dream – a horrible nightmare! A nightmare that would have me waking up in the middle of the night, in a cold, clammy sweat, the bed-clothes all tangled up from thrashing about. I knew though, that I wasn’t going to ‘wake up’. Oh, I knew that this … this waking nightmare, was really happening to me, all right …



I ‘would’, have been convinced … that someone was having a laugh. Convinced, that this was someone’s idea of an excellent joke … Steve’s! It would be just like Steve and the lads, to set me up in such a diabolical prank as this. To go to such ridiculous lengths, as such a ‘sophisticated’ scam as this would take to organize. To actually get people from the airport to assist – to take part in! – their infantile little game … On second thoughts, though, perhaps I would have been giving Steve a bit too much ‘credit’.



I ‘might’ have suspected, even … that I was actually on ‘Candid Camera’. Suspected, that I was the unsuspecting subject, of one of their carefully crafted wheezes. Suspected, that I was the unwitting stooge, the unwary victim, of one of their clever and elaborate practical jokes. Suspected, that I was being filmed, so that TV audiences Nationwide could laugh at me, while they sat on their sofas, eating their TV dinners from trays on their laps. Laugh, with their mouths full, at my shock, at my embarrassment, at my indignation. Laugh, at my earnest and truthful protestations of innocence, and at my pleas for mitigation – if not acquittal – falling upon deaf ears. Laugh, at my secretly filmed ‘comical’ facial expressions, as the plot of the hilarious scenario gradually unfolded.



Yes … I ‘would’ have been convinced, of such dastardly machinations afoot, had I not seen the Government’s long run of ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ campaign advertisements on TV. And, had I not heard the often repeated warnings, that darkly hinted as to the ‘innovative penalties’ that were to be imposed, in future, upon litter louts.



When I got home, I glumly told my Mum and Dad (who I still lived with), and my girlfriend, Kate, just exactly what I was going to be doing, for the next 28 days … and why. I had been expecting some sympathy.



Instead – just like the Head of the Gatwick Airport Litter Office, Mrs Josephine Jepson – they finger-waved away, pooh-poohed my earnest, truthful excuses. I was told I deserved everything I got, for dropping litter. It was the likes of me, they said accusingly, that was bringing shame and disrepute upon the country – litter, everywhere you looked, these days! And all because of ill-behaved, anti-social people like me. I had it coming, they unanimously opined, unwittingly paraphrasing the words of that hideous woman, Mrs Jepson.



Mum and Dad’s eyebrows were certainly raised, though … as to the decidedly singular nature of my punishment – my 28 days Foot Service Duty sentence, in the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, at Gatwick Airport.



Not so, though, my girlfriend, Kate: she said she was glad, and she actually squealed in delight …



Just the very thought, gloated Kate, of what was going to happen to me at the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station – Kate obviously knew something that I didn’t: she had friends, who were Air Hostesses based at Gatwick Airport – gave her such a warm and tingly, comforting glow, just from thinking about it … Made her feel happy and content, and all “Squishy,” inside. Kate was actually jubilant, gleeful even, at hearing about my unspeakable predicament. “You deserve it, David!” said Kate accusingly and vengefully.



And, I didn’t think she was talking about just my supposed litter dropping, either … Alas, I was in Kate’s ‘Bad Books’ – again! And, I knew there would be a lot of (serious!) grovelling to do, to get out of them. I knew – because there always was! But, Babes (as I called her) was worth any amount of aggro, to me … The pertinent question was, though: was I, to her? That, was the proverbial $64,000 question.



I knew that Kate had a very short ‘fuse’, and that, once lit, it burned quickly. And hotly. I knew – because I had ignited her ‘blue touchpaper’ on numerous prior occasions. Too many. So I knew just what to expect from Kate, when I was well out of order. Kate could actually be quite spiteful, vindictive, vengeful even … until we finally ‘made-up’. I knew that I was in very real danger of burning her fuse right down – again. I didn’t want to set her ‘fireworks’ off: they were very spectacular – and I always caught a ‘rocket’. I realised, too, that Kate had her limit: her final cut-off point – her ‘Line in the Sand’ – and I never wanted to cross that line. So I had better watch out … I was, I knew, starting to get too close to Kate’s ‘Line in the Sand’. Kate was, I knew, only going to stand for so much: so much grief, so much exasperation, before she finally lost her patience, her temper … Before she finally reached ‘Critical-Mass’ … and ‘Meltdown’.



My girlfriend, Kate, at just turned 21, was 2 years younger than me. We had been going steady for 2 years now, and I absolutely adored her – worshipped the proverbial ground she walked on. To be honest, I was amazed that she put up with me – put up with our ‘Roller-Coaster’ relationship … After all: Kate was responsible for all of the ‘ups’ … while I was the cause of all of the ‘downs’. My greatest – darkest fear, was that there would be a time when we went down – but only Kate would come back up again … That Kate would leave me, at rock-bottom.



Kate was my whole world. My universe. I knew, that she was the girl for me – I knew, that Kate was ‘The One’.



I wanted us to get engaged – but, not yet. I wanted to do it ‘properly’. Oh, yes – I had it all planned-out, in my head … First, I wanted Kate’s engagement ring, to be ‘awesome’. Then, when I could afford it, I wanted to go down ‘on bended knee’, in the time-honoured tradition. I wanted to ‘pop the question’, to her. I wanted us to ‘tie the knot’. I wanted us to have a honeymoon made in heaven. I wanted us to ‘live happily ever after’. With the proverbial ’2.4 kids’, and the whole caboodle …



But … I’d been out of work for a while, I was nearly skint, and there was no sign of a job on the horizon. So … not the best of times, to be ‘popping the question’.



Besides, judging from Kate’s thunderous mood, at the moment, she would probably tell me to ‘Get Lost!’



Kate, I could see, obviously still had a major ‘chinny’ on, with me. She was still sulking, Big-Time, because I had gone “Jaunting off” to Spain for my best mate Steve’s Stag Party – going abroad for Stag and Hen Parties: Benidorm; Magaluf; Palma Nova; San Antonio in Spain, Aiya Napa on Cyprus … anywhere, really, where lager louts were as much a part of the scenery as palm trees, were all the rage, these days – instead of spending the money on her … “On something ‘decent’, David, for my twenty-first birthday present – and not, squandering the last of your savings, on a … stupid Stag Do in Spain!”



Which I would have done, Kate said, if I “Really” loved her. Well, I did really love her, my darling Kate – of course I did! More than anything! But, I could hardly miss Steve’s Stag Do in Benidorm, could I? … Steve, and the rest of the lads would never have forgiven me!



Monday came … And, so accustomed had I become to the nice, leisurely lie-in that I had been enjoying every morning whilst between jobs – the Motor Parts Company that I had worked for had gone bust 4 months ago – that I found it a terrible trauma to get up at 4:30 a.m. when my alarm clock wailed as if it was the end of the world, or an invasion from Mars.



I had to get up that early, in order to get the 5:15 a.m. Gatwick Express train, that would take me from where I lived, in Brighton, and get me to Gatwick Airport – a journey of about 25 miles – before 6 a.m. However, I quickly scrambled out of bed, at remembering Mrs Jepson’s grating, adjuring voice: “And, don’t be late, David!”



Following the very specific instructions given to me by that awful Mrs Jepson: Head of the Gatwick Airport Litter Office, I duly reported directly to Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, which is located near Concorde House.



Upon my arrival at the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station (at 05:50 – oh, what I would have given, for those extra 10 minutes, in bed!), through the glass entrance doors, I saw a sleepy-eyed (though, still, very attractive), shoulder-length dark-haired, early 20′s, Air Hostess. She was attired, I saw, in the distinctive and readily recognizable, orange-liveried uniform of an ‘Easy Jet’ Air Hostess.



The Easy Jet Air Hostess, I saw, happened to be the only occupant of the Comfort Station, at the moment. She was sitting on one of the padded benches; her Easy Jet issue Flight Duty pumps, lying on their sides near her tan hosed feet, where she had, apparently, casually kicked them off. Her right foot, was resting on her left knee: the sole of her tan hosed foot, facing towards me. She was flexing and scrunching her toes; repeatedly, rhythmically, as though deriving comfort and relief from doing so.



As though lost in her own, reflective thoughts, the Easy Jet Air Hostess was staring off into the middle-distance, and sipping from a cup of coffee that she held, as though comfortingly, in both hands. After gently easing the Comfort Station entrance doors open, a fraction, “Penny, for them?” I said, by means of gently disturbing her introspection, and quietly making her aware of my sudden presence.



Upon seeing me – undoubtedly, judging by her reaction, mistaking me for an Air Steward – the Easy Jet Air Hostess’s decidedly downcast demeanour immediately brightened, considerably. With an openly engaging smile, in very warm tones, she exclaimed, “Wotcha!” in her bubbly, very friendly-sounding, broad, Essex accent. To me, it was a wonderfully endearing sound: the ‘Essex Girls’, I think, are a race apart.



I remembered, though, Mrs Jepson’s strict and very specific instructions … And, as much as I wanted to – my own, natural friendliness coming swiftly to the fore – I did not respond in kind. Instead, I said respectfully, to the Easy Jet Air Hostess, “Good morning, Miss. My name is David, and I have been instructed to report here, to … to begin serving my 28 days Foot Service Duty sentence, for dropping litter.”



10 seconds later, it was hard to credit that I was actually still looking at the same girl – ‘Pearl’, according to her name-tag. Her initial warm and natural friendliness towards me, had disappeared faster than a radio in an unlocked car in Liverpool.



Upon registering what I had actually said to her, her previously friendly and smiling, warmly engaging, softened features, became harsh-looking and stony – hardened – as though by super-fast setting concrete. The pupils of her eyes, glittering, with sharp points of dangerous light. With an unforgiving, hostile, aggressive glare now upon her face, the Easy Jet Air Hostess replied, in her broad, Essex Girl accent – her voice, though, now lacking any vestige of its former warmth. “Oh … Have you, now? Been dropping litter … have you, David? I see … Well, you’ve certainly come to the right place, then! Oh, yes … I can assure you, of that! Well …? You had better come in, then, hadn’t you? And, take your coat off … So that we can all see who – see ‘what’ – you are … And … why you are here!”



“Yes, Miss Pearl,” I replied, respectfully and obediently.



I was distraught. Choked. I felt incredibly upset – devastated. In bits. Absolutely gutted …



I was actually hurting, deep inside. Tormented, by the snagging, tugging barbs of such an awful, cruelly afflicting emotional pain … To be held, in such low esteem; to be seen, as the lowest-of-the-low; to be regarded, as the dregs of the earth; to be looked upon, as nothing better than scum … by this Easy Jet Air Hostess. By this decent, attractive young woman. By this good-natured, naturally very warm and friendly, Essex Girl.



And, all of this was happening, because of an offence that I hadn’t even committed! And, wouldn’t commit!



It was all too much … Just too much!



Now, my Litter Office issue, white T-shirt: loudly proclaiming ‘FOOTBOY’, on the front, and furiously denouncing ‘LITTER LOUT’, on the back, in bold, red letters, perfectly explained my decidedly ignominious presence, in the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station.



Upon retrieving a red clipboard from the Bulletin Board, the Easy Jet Air Hostess then formally signed me in, on the ‘Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet’.



The ‘Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet’, was the Official Document upon which the Air Hostesses wrote their appraising remarks, with regard to the satisfactory – or otherwise – conduct, of my Foot Service Duties. It was the Official Document, upon which the Air Hostesses would officially record their comments upon me, so as to facilitate Mrs Jepson’s Final Assessment Test of the satisfaction of my overall conduct, at the completion of my 28 days sentence … so that she could ascertain, whether or not I had achieved the minimum, 90% Pass Rate. (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and …”)



After having formally signed me in, the Easy Jet Air Hostess advised me (with a sly-looking smile now playing upon her lips) that, it was actually in my own interests, and could be very much worth my while, she said, to keep my “Nose clean,” with the Air Hostesses, and to behave “Well,” for them. It was, she claimed, at the discretion of the Air Hostesses, themselves – who had the ultimate power over my fate, via the comments they wrote in the potentially damning Official Document, of the Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet – to actually recommend a reduction in my sentence, for keeping my “Nose clean,” and for serving them “Well.”‘ “You know … just like a reward for good behaviour, in prison …” she added with a mischievous smirk.



Funny … but I didn’t recall Mrs Jepson advising me as to any such advantages. I didn’t remember her saying anything to me about a possible remission of sentence, for good behaviour (for keeping my “Nose clean,” for behaving “Well.”) And, I would have remembered! All I remembered, was Mrs Jepson telling me – and, in no uncertain terms – that I had to achieve an overall, Air Hostesses’ ‘Satisfaction of Conduct Rating’, of at least 90%. (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and …”)



Was the Easy Jet Air Hostess – Pearl – having me on? I wondered. She was having a laugh, wasn’t she? Was the Easy Jet Air Hostess deliberately – cruelly! – giving me false hope? After all, she ‘knew’, now, didn’t she, that I was a litter lout. No holds were barred. And, as far as she was concerned, I deserved everything I got, for dropping litter! Was that, her little game then? I wondered … Playing with – manipulating – my mind? Cynically trying to motivate me, to greater efforts? So that I would serve the Air Hostesses … ‘Beyond The Call Of Duty’?



Oh, it would be just like an Essex Girl! To try and pull off such a stunt as that. They just loved having a good laugh. And, I mean, a Good Laugh! Yes, Essex Girls were the fun-loving, salt of the earth. But, they had a wicked sense of humour … What a wonderful, delicious, sinking-her-claws-in, kick-ass way to ‘really’ punish a litter lout!



At the arrival of the Air Crew Bus, a moment later (the time was now 06:00), the – initially friendly, but now belligerent – Easy Jet Air Hostess, who had formally signed me in on the Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet, pushed open the Comfort Station’s entrance doors, and she wheeled her ‘Dolley Trolley’ to the kerb.



Before she boarded the Air Crew Bus; in her broad, Essex Girl accent, she informed me, in decidedly disgruntled tones, “There was no footboy on duty in the Comfort Station, last night … ” she grumbled, before adding spitefully “… and it’s in a right mess – so you’ll have to sort it, then … won’t you!” she decreed.



After lifting her Dolly Trolley up onto the conveniently low step of the Air Crew Bus, the Easy Jet Air Hostess turned to me again, for her ‘parting shot’. “Tidy the place up, footboy!” she ordered bossily.



“Yes, Miss Pearl,” I replied to the Easy Jet Air Hostess, demoralized and dejectedly. But, respectfully and obediently, too – as I knew that I must. (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and …”).



In response, the Easy Jet Air Hostess gave me such a looking-down-her-nose, contemptuous, thunderous, litter-lout-hating look, as, with a hiss of the hydraulics, the automatic door of the Air Crew Bus began to fold shut behind her. The Air Crew Bus driver looked at me, pityingly, as he drove away in his battery-operated vehicle.



The Easy Jet Air Hostess’s Duty, had just finished – mine, was just starting …



As it happened, I didn’t have the time, to “Tidy the place up, footboy!”



I had barely begun obeying the Easy Jet Air Hostess’s imperious, and sharply issued order, when 4 British Airways Air Hostesses; rather elegantly attired, I thought, in their dark-blue, decidedly cool-and-reserved looking uniforms, entered the Comfort Station – and they summoned me to Foot Service Duty, instead: “Leave that for now, footboy! …” one of them (Samantha, according to her name-tag) rudely snapped at me, “… you’ve got ‘more important’ duties to perform…”



“Yes, Miss Samantha,” I replied, to the British Airways Air Hostess, respectfully and obediently.



Miss Samantha: although she seemed, at first impression, rather ordinary and unremarkable; a rather short – barely Regulation Height – rather plain-looking, slightly chubby young woman with neck-length brown hair … still, she seemed the sort, who could easily … ‘grow’ on you.



Miss Samantha, exuded a sort of … ‘presence’. And, although at first sight, she might seem quite ordinary-looking … still, she sent out … ‘signals’. ‘Signals’ … that suggested she was certainly no ‘wallflower’. ‘Signals’ … that told you that there was more to her, than met the eye. ‘Signals’ … that told you to be constantly on your guard. ‘Signals’ … that warned you not to cross her – ever.



Miss Samantha, I instinctively felt, was a young woman to whom first impressions were very important … And, whether Miss Samantha ‘grew’ on you benignly … or malignantly, might depend upon whether or not she ‘liked the look’ of your face, upon her first seeing it.



And, for some strange reason, I instinctively knew that Miss Samantha hadn’t ‘liked the look’ of my face, upon her first seeing it – not one little bit. And, that she wouldn’t be ‘growing’ on me, in a nice way. It was in her ‘signals’ …

There had been something in Miss Samantha’s look (in her ‘signals’ …) that promised trouble – big trouble – when she had rudely snapped at me (as I was obediently following the orders of the Easy Jet Air Hostess – Pearl – and tidying-up the Comfort Station), “Leave that for now, footboy! … you’ve got ‘more important’ duties to perform …”



The names of the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses, were – according to their name-tags – Samantha; Laura; Lindsey, and Celia. The latter 3, I thought, rather more closely conformed to the traditional image of Air Hostesses: all 3, had fine, voluptuous, curves-in-all-the-right-places figures, and beauty and glamour in abundance … Yet, it was quite clear, that Miss Samantha – who was certainly inferior to her 3 BA colleagues, in said ‘superficial’ attributes – was their ‘ringleader’, their ‘leader of the pack’.



I watched the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses, as they walked – seemingly glided – like poetry-in-motion (even Miss Samantha), in their BA issue, dark-blue Flight Duty pumps … I watched their shapely calves, their bottoms, and enjoyed the way they moved – the way they ‘comported’ themselves, as they made an elegant beeline for the 2 Refreshments Tables.



The 2 Refreshments Tables, were situated at the far end of the large, rectangular-shaped Comfort Station, and took up its entire width. They offered an astonishingly (to me!) generous, wide and varied array of snacks and light meals, hot and cold drinks.



The 2 Refreshments Tables would be regularly replenished throughout the day. White-coated Staff, from ‘Collins Quality Catering’ – who were a local catering firm of high repute, and who were the firm who were fortunate enough to be awarded the ‘plum’ Comfort Station Catering Contract – would turn up in their van, and emerge dramatically and purposefully, like crash-teams out of an ambulance at a motorway pile-up site, to perform their routine re-stocking.



When these regular deliveries arrived, the menu was suitably extended – according to time of day – with offerings of freshly-baked bread and rolls, hot pies, pasties, sausage rolls, soup, etc. All of it, very good quality fare: all of it; prepared; cooked; baked, etc, on-site, at the premises of Collins Quality Catering, located in nearby Horley.



And, on any such occasions, when food was actually in danger of running short, relief contingency (extra food supplies) were always at hand, and only a phone call away: via the Comfort Station – Collins Quality Catering 24-7 ‘Hotline’.



Not, of course, that I was allowed to sample any of the delicious-looking food and drink. Heaven forfend! (“After all … you don’t feed caviar to swine, do you …?”) I would hear Miss Samantha opine drolly, more than once, during the coming weeks of my Foot Service Duty sentence.



After inserting their Cabin Crew Card’s, to open the hot or cold glass display cases to get access to the delicious-looking goodies inside, the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses fussily selected their choices. They chose, from the wide and tempting range of offerings provided for them – free of charge.



It being early in the day, there were croissants, scones, Danish pastries, doughnuts with various mouth-watering fillings … Plus the always-available range … generously filled, clingfilm-wrapped sandwiches and rolls; cakes and pastries; packets of crisps, biscuits; cheese and crackers; pieces of fresh fruit, etc … I could almost hear the Refreshment Tables groaning, straining under the considerable weight of the food and drink they supported.



After inserting their Cabin Crew Card’s into one or other of the 2 drinks machines, the 4 BA Air Hostesses availed themselves of either a cold drink, or a cup of hot, steaming, aromatic coffee … not bad, I thought – for a coffee machine.



The food and drink was such, as could either be consumed in the Comfort Station, or conveniently taken out, should the Air Crew Bus arrive at an inopportune moment, which was often the case. When this happened – when Cabin Crew preferred to take their food and drink with them, rather than sit for another 20 minutes in the Comfort Station and wait for the next Air Crew Bus – they could do so, comfortably as well as conveniently. For, the Air Crew Buses were designed with both comfort and practicality in mind: one side of the Air Crew Bus was used for storing Cabin Crew members’ dolly trolleys and other luggage, while the other side was fitted with seating and tables.



I would learn later, from another ‘footboy’, that another offender – Michael – was actually stationed at the Air Crew Bus Terminus, where Mrs Jepson had put him to work. Michael was working the same hours as myself. His ‘job’ was to quickly clear up the mess and to pick up the resultant debris that the Air Hostesses had left behind them. To quickly clean out the Air Crew Buses (there were 4 of them) after each and every round-trip they made … while the Air Crew Bus drivers had their 10-minutes coffee-break and read the sports pages … During the night, I also learned, another offender – Alex – worked the 6 p.m. – 6 a.m. Night Duty ‘shift’. Although only 2 Air Crew Buses operated after midnight, until 6 a.m., Alex’s ‘job’ was by no means cushy. For, Alex spent most of the night giving the other 2 Air Crew Buses a thorough clean-up – or ‘valeting’ – to use Mrs Jepson’s term. The Air Crew Buses’ night-cleaning was prioritized on a daily basis, and was decided by ascertaining which 2 out of the 4 needed it the most … However, I digress …



My mouth began to water, at the sight of the delicious-looking food, and at the wonderful smell of the coffee. I hadn’t had any breakfast – a mistake I wouldn’t be making again! – and, my gastric juices were now waking up in response, bubbling and gurgling and churning away in protest. I felt starved.



I watched the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses, warily (“Leave that for now, footboy … you’ve got ‘more important’ duties to perform …”), as they sat down on one of the 2 long, padded benches that faced each other, and that ran almost the entire length of the 2 long sides of the Comfort Station. And I watched them as, with a collective, blissful sigh of sheer relief, the 4 footsore BA Air Hostesses gratefully eased their dark hosed feet from their BA issue, dark-blue Flight Duty pumps, after their long and tiring Flight Duty.



Miss Samantha, the rather plain-looking (but, who had … ‘presence’), short, and slightly chubby BA Air Hostess with the neck-length brown hair, who had so rudely snapped at me, in ordering me to make myself available for ‘more important’ duties, was resting her rather plump-looking, dark hosed toes inside the backs of the heels of her Flight Duty pumps, causing them to point up vertically, and to sway forwards and back, as and when she pressed her toes down – which she did, continually.



Gratefully relaxing, Miss Samantha’s 3 BA colleagues: Laura, Lindsey and Celia, were also absent-mindedly manipulating their pumps: their dark hosed feet, busily enjoying their new-found freedom, in one way or another … Their toes; scrunching and splaying, toying and playing … Their toes; wiggling and flexing within the constraining confines of the flimsy material of their dark pantie hose, and stretching it to much lighter, see-through shades, as they nibbled their food and drank their coffee.



Miss Samantha: after washing down the first, of 2 sugar-sprinkled, jam and cream-filled doughnuts, with a swallow of coffee, addressed me inquisitively (having not yet seen what was printed on the back of my white, Footboy’s T-shirt!). “What did you do, footboy … to earn yourself a sentence of Foot Service Duty?” she asked snootily.



(Later I would learn, from another footboy – a ‘bona fide’ litter lout, who went by the name of ‘Snugs’, who was, in a sense, my Comfort Station ‘co-part’, and who I would usually meet ‘in passing’ – that there were other types of offences that were also punishable by a sentence of Foot Service Duty, in the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station (and other locations), at Gatwick Airport. 2 weeks ago, Mrs Jepson had sentenced Snugs (as a first offender), to 30 days Foot Service Duty in the Comfort Station: 6 days a week – Snugs had Sunday nights off: hence the Easy Jet Air Hostess’s decidedly disgruntled comment to me, that “There was no footboy on duty in the Comfort Station, last night …” – doing the 6 p.m. – 6 a.m. ‘shift’… Night Duty! In the Comfort Station! It didn’t bear thinking about! At least there was a silver lining, though – apart from Sunday nights off!: the Comfort Station was very much quieter during the night … Cabin Crew appearing then, were either arriving off one of the Package Holiday operators’ Flights, or were arriving late, on delayed or diverted Flights. And so – just as with Alex, who also did Night Duty, cleaning-up (“Valeting”) the Air Crew Buses at the Terminus – Snugs had enough ‘free time’ on his hands, in which to return the Comfort Station to “Spick and span” condition – when he could be bothered to turn up, that is! Sunday nights off! I said to myself peevishly) … However, I am digressing again …



I was pleased, that Miss Samantha was at least interested in my ‘story’, and I hoped she might have a sympathetic ear. But, I was to be drastically disillusioned … “Oh! This is a terrible miscarriage of justice, Miss Samantha!” I began to explain to my questioner. Somewhat flustered, by her piercing gaze, I garbled on. “It was all … an unfortunate misunderstanding! A horrible mistake, Miss … You see, I dropped some sweet-wrappers on the ground, and … the Litterman, he … well, an easy mistake to make … he thought … and, Mrs Jepson … she said … she said she’d heard it all before! She said—”



“Oh! So you are a litter lout, then!” cried Miss Samantha – ostensibly outraged but, quite obvious to all present – including myself – gleefully seizing the ‘opportunity’ that had so propitiously presented itself to her. “Well, we know how to deal with litter louts! Don’t we, girls …?” she said, turning to her 3 BA colleagues who, in their (ostensible!) shared, righteous umbrage, nodded their pseudo grave agreement.



“Come here, footboy!” ordered Miss Samantha sharply. “So … Drop litter, will you …?” she demanded of me, in her obviously fake outrage. “On your knees! Now, footboy … before me, and facing me … Didn’t you hear me? … I said, on your knees, NOW, FOOTBOY!!”



“Yes, Miss Samantha,” I replied, miserably and resentfully, but respectfully and obediently. As I knew that I must. (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and …”).



“That’s right, footboy … perfect! So … you thought you could fool Mrs Jepson, did you …? Believe me, better than the likes of you have tried – and failed! Just like you! You litter louts’, are … beyond the pale! The lowest of the low! … If there is one thing I can’t abide, it’s a litter lout!” claimed Miss Samantha.



It was now, that I understood why Mrs Jepson – Head: of the Gatwick Airport Litter Office – had issued me with a pair of heavy-duty knee-pads …



Starting with Miss Samantha: in turn, and with their hot, hard-working feet freshly out of their well-worn, dark-blue, BA issue Flight Duty pumps, the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses pressed the soles of their dark pantie hosed feet firmly into my obediently proffered face, as and when I knelt before each of them. In authoritative tones, in turn, the 4 BA Air Hostesses ordered me – all-but snarled, at me – to smell their feet. Commanded me – all-but barked, at me – to kiss their feet …



Yes! To actually smell, their feet! To actually kiss, their feet! What the …? I mean, WHAT THE …??



Miss Samantha: “Right, then, footboy …” she announced in authoritative, retributive tones, after she had firmly planted the sole of her rather small, right, dark pantie hosed foot onto my obediently proffered face, cupping her plump toes over my nostrils, ” … drop litter, will you …? Well … This is what you get, for dropping litter!”



Miss Laura: “Now, footboy … keep still, while I massage my feet on your stupid, ugly, good-for-nothing face … No … your face is actually quite good, for this … isn’t it …? Hmmm …? I said … KEEP STILL!!” ordered Miss Laura severely.



Miss Lindsey: “I want you to rub your chin on my arch, footboy. Up and down, firmly, nice and firmly … harder … harder than that … I said … HARDER!” instructed Miss Lindsey sternly.



Miss Celia: “Have you got a girlfriend, footboy?” she asked, after firmly planting the sole of her dark hosed left foot upon my obediently proffered face, and ‘obliging’ me to inhale the decidedly unpleasant odour emanating from her toes, that she had firmly clamped over my nostrils. Unable to speak; since Miss Celia’s arch was pressed firmly against my lips, I nodded my answer – ‘yes’. “And … do you like to kiss your girlfriend, footboy?” I nodded my answer – ‘yes’. “And … do you think you are a good kisser, footboy …?” When I didn’t respond, Miss Celia went on. “All right, then, footboy … I’ll decide, for you. Shall I? I’ll be the judge, as to whether you are a good kisser, or not …



“Imagine, footboy … imagine … that the sole of my foot … is your girlfriend’s face … Imagine, footboy … imagine … that my heel, is your girlfriend’s lips … and, that my toes, are your girlfriend’s eyes … Now, footboy … kiss my heel, it is your girlfriend’s lips … look at my toes … see how they wiggle, for you? … they are your girlfriend’s eyes, sparkling, for you. Now … Kiss … kiss my heel, footboy. Look at my toes, my wiggling toes, as you do so … Now, footboy … Show me – show the sole of my foot – your passion … the same passion and desire, that you show to your girlfriend. Kiss. Kiss my heel … look at my wiggling toes … as if you are kissing her lips … as if you are looking into her sparkling eyes … What …? Is that it, footboy …? Is that … the best that you can do …? Is it …? Is that … how you kiss your girlfriend’s lips? Is that … how you look into your girlfriend’s eyes? Is this … how you show your passion, footboy … how you show your desire? Well …? Is it …? I said … IS IT …??” demanded Miss Celia preposterously.



I couldn’t believe this was happening! I couldn’t believe, that British Airways Air Hostesses would be capable of subjecting anyone to such … humiliating physical and mental oppression.



These 4 … oppressive BA Air Hostesses, were certainly a far cry from the peerless, unparalleled repute of their Airline’s painstakingly portrayed Public Personae. A far cry, from the stylized projected images in the ‘Fly The Flag’ British Airways advertisements that I’d been watching for years and years on TV. Now, I felt as if I had been … brainwashed.



Well! This was a rude awakening. A very rude awakening, indeed! I knew now, the unpalatable, awful truth. I knew now, the shocking, unthinkable reality, of which the vast majority of the flying public remained so blissfully ignorant … British Airways Air Hostesses, were not perfect, after all … Far from it!



I knew now, that – unless Miss Samantha and her 3 BA colleagues: Laura, Lindsey and Celia, were the proverbial ‘exceptions that proved the rule’ – British Airways Air Hostesses, were not, after all, the faithful reproductions of their carefully cultivated Corporate image. They were not, after all, the paragons of nuanced nicety, as perceived by their admiring public. They were not, after all, worthy of being placed; by their fawning adorers – such as I – upon their lofty, gold-plated pedestals. I knew now, that the archetypal model of the British Airways Air Hostess, was too good to be true … was a myth.



I felt sadly disillusioned. It was all just a deceitful front – a shameful sham – after all! And, I was certainly ‘Flying the Flag’ now, all right: a white flag … Downtrodden, I was holding it aloft, in my unconditional surrender.



For, to my eternal shame, I unquestioningly obeyed the awful orders of the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses. But, I had to! Despite my overwhelming emotions of resentment, humiliation, and self-pity, I knew that I must. For, I knew that my ultimate fate was in their hands – via the comments they wrote, in the Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet … Which could, all too easily, become my ‘Doomsday Book’! (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and …”)



An Air Crew Bus arrived at the Comfort Station … The 4 British Airways Air Hostesses ignored it.



Rubbing the dark hosed soles of their feet firmly into my face, by way of a relaxing, pain-relieving massage – and, by way of punishing me! (“This is what you get, for dropping litter!”) – I was passed from one BA Air Hostess, to the next. On my knees at their feet, I underwent this unspeakable ordeal, all the while listening to their murmured – purring – sounds of satisfaction and contentment. And, the other 3 BA Air Hostesses looked on approvingly, gratified at the excellent use to which I was being put to by each of their BA colleagues, in turn.



The 4 British Airways Air Hostesses’ – Samantha, Laura, Lindsey and Celia – hot, hard-working, tired and achy dark hosed feet, I found, emanated a surprisingly varying range of scents and odours …



Like a sort of artist’s round, quadranted palette, there was a generously applied, all-over base-coat, of underlying pantie hose, and BA issue Flight Duty pump leather ‘colouring’. But, in each separate quadrant of the round palette, the 4 BA Air Hostesses’ ‘colouring’ was variously manifested: from a barely noticeable (Lindsey), to a mildly unpleasant (Laura), to a decidedly unpleasant (Celia), to a rich, pungent, profoundly offensive odour, that all-but made my eyes water (Samantha).



This was the moment, when I learned that feet, are not – as I had previously thought – ‘just’ feet … Feet, I learned – upon my becoming ‘obliged’ to spend so much of my time at such close quarters with them – are not, all more or less the same. They have, I soon came to realise, their own, particular, differentiating and distinguishing recognizable ‘characteristics’, that are just as different and individual – unique – as the features, expressions, of peoples’ faces. And, as I would soon be finding out: feet, would actually become just as easily recognizable and as familiar as faces, to me – depending upon the frequency, regularity … and the nature, of my further acquaintance with them.



The 4 BA Air Hostesses’ dark pantie hosed feet: the sight of them, the feel of them, the smell of them – everything about them – were somehow all the same, yet somehow all different: each, with their own, individual … ‘personalities’.



Now, Miss Samantha: the rather plain-looking, short and rather chubby British Airways Air Hostess with the neck-length brown hair (but, who had … ‘presence’), addressed me again, waspishly. “Now, footboy … get onto your hands and knees, before us … Parallel with the bench, so that we can rest our feet on your miserable, litter-louting back … This is what you get, for dropping litter!”



“Yes, Miss Samantha,” I replied, wretchedly and disconsolately, but respectfully and obediently.



Distraught, I got to my hands and knees, as ordered: parallel with the padded bench, so as to better facilitate the greater comfort and convenience of the 4 BA Air Hostesses – and, so as to better facilitate … my punishment.



To be spoken to, by the British Airways Air Hostess, Miss Samantha, this way … to be treated by her, and by her 3 BA colleagues: Laura, Lindsey, and Celia, this way … So abominably. So diabolically. So hideously …



And, all of this was happening, because of an offence that I hadn’t even committed! And, wouldn’t commit!



It was all too much … Just too much!



My sense of gross injustice, was hard to handle, hard to cope with. It was threatening to engulf me, overwhelm me. And, I realised that I was in danger of ‘losing it’. Big time. (“You will accord the Air Hostesses the highest possible respect and obedience, at all times …”)

My bitter resentment, at being wrongly accused – and sentenced – as a litter lout … My seething anger, at having to serve a 6 a.m. – 6 p.m., 7 days a week, 28 days Foot Service Duty sentence, in the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station … My distress, at being ordered to my knees, and cruelly forced to sniff the feet of the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses … My soul-crushing humiliation, at being imperiously commanded to my hands and knees, like a dog, to kiss – to actually press my lips, into the soles of their warm, malodorous, dark hosed foot flesh … (“Kiss my heel … it is your girlfriend’s lips … look at my toes, my wiggling toes, as you do so … they are your girlfriend’s eyes, sparkling, for you … show me your passion … show me your desire …”).



These keenly-felt emotions, were so crushing, so soul-destroying acute, that, wallowing in self-pity, it was hard to resist the increasing urge to blub like a baby – right in front of the tormenting, goading Britsh Airways Air Hostess, Miss Samantha, and her 3 BA colleagues: Laura, Lindsey and Celia. Oh, that would really put the cap on it! I could just imagine, how they would laugh …



When I was positioned quite to their satisfaction, the BA Air Hostesses lifted their legs, and they rested their hot, hard-working, tired and achy dark hosed feet upon my comfortable and convenient, obediently proffered back …



Except, that is … for the rather short and slightly chubby BA Air Hostess with the neck-length brown hair. The British Airways Air Hostess, who seemed, at first glance, to be rather ordinary and plain-looking (but, who had … ‘presence’ … and who sent out ‘signals’ … and who could ‘grow’ on you – either benignly, or malignantly … depending upon whether or not she ‘liked the look’ of your face), Miss Samantha. For, Miss Samantha – who was facing my head, sighed blissfully and contentedly, as she crossed her ankles … on the back of my neck.



What the …? I mean, WHAT THE …??



Yes! The rather plain-looking, short, and slightly chubby British Airways Air Hostess with the neck-length brown hair – Miss Samantha – actually crossed her ankles, on the back of my neck … On the back of my neck! How could she? How COULD she! What a nerve! What a … colossal NERVE! I couldn’t believe it! I just could not … believe it!!



Miss Samantha, had actually crossed her ankles … on the back of my neck! And, not gently, either! All-but slamming the bottom of her round heel down, on the back of my obediently proffered – exposed and vulnerable – neck (“This is what you get, for dropping litter!”), jarringly, and causing a rippling, vibrating wave of dizzying, nauseating sensations to pulse and throb inside my head, that took a while to subside.



On that very first occasion, I didn’t know whether Miss Samantha had actually slammed her heel down on the back of my neck, accidentally, through sheer carelessness … or deliberately, through sheer malice. I could not be 100% certain – the first time, and so I was prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt. But, in the coming weeks, on the occasions when Miss Samantha would suddenly appear in the Comfort Station, like a feared – dreaded – apparition, I would become 100% certain, all right. Oh, yes … As the saying goes: once, is an accident; twice, is a coincidence; but, 3 times, is … (“This is what you get, for dropping litter!”)



But … of all of the appalling, hideous treatment that I had been subjected to by the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses, so far … this, to me – Miss Samantha, actually crossing her ankles, on the back of my neck – took the proverbial ‘biscuit’.



It seemed, to me, the most sly, the most malicious, the most taunting, the most goading, the most malevolently-conceived – the most ‘calculated’ – of insults.



It was the most taken-for-granted, the most highly intolerable, the most keenly infuriating, the most direly provoking, and the most exquisitely arrogant, of impositions – of wicked wind-ups – that … I almost said ‘something’. I almost said ‘something’ … to Miss Samantha – the ankle-crossing Air Hostess.



How I didn’t say ‘something’ … to Miss Samantha, I don’t know. How I kept my seething outrage, in check, I don’t know. How I held my tongue – stopped it from wagging disastrously … from saying ‘something’, I don’t know. How I held back, from giving vent to my sizzling, burning resentment, I don’t know. How I kept my fever-hot emotions from spilling, bubbling over, how I kept from actually giving voice, to an irrevocable, catastrophic outpouring of blatant disrespect – from saying ‘something’ … to Miss Samantha – the ankle-crossing Air Hostess -I don’t know.



But, I was glad that I did. Very glad … After all, I was supposed to be keeping my “Nose clean,” wasn’t I? I was supposed to be behaving “Well.”



Soon, my neck started to ache … At first, it was just a dull, mildly troublesome, irritating – but tolerable ache. But that quickly changed – for the worse … With the cumulative – punishing – stress, of supporting the weight of Miss Samantha’s relaxing chubby legs, and her rather fleshy, fat feet upon the back of my neck, it wasn’t long, before the ankle-crossing Air Hostess was actually making me suffer … Adding injury to insult, in all likelihood (“This is what you get, for dropping litter!”)



Not that Miss Samantha – or any of her 3 BA colleagues, seemed to notice. Still less, cared … To them, I was just an object: hardly more than a fixture. Just a part of the furniture, that existed purely for their comfort and convenience. And, after all, I was here for a very good reason, wasn’t I? To serve a 28 days, Foot Service Duty sentence, for being a litter lout.



It was in this … this profoundly subjugating fashion, that the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses: friends, as well as colleagues, chatted to each other familiarly as they enjoyed their refreshments – and, as they enjoyed ‘putting their feet up’ – as they awaited the arrival of the next Air Crew Bus.



And, as I listened to their conversation (to try and take my mind off the increasing, cumulative – punishing – weight and stress, of the ankle-crossing Air Hostess’s frequently crossing and re-crossing feet, relaxing on the back of my neck, and of another 3 pairs of relaxing legs and feet, resting upon my back), I learned that they had all just operated on the same British Airways Flight – from Gatwick to Gibraltar, and back.



The 4 BA Air Hostesses continued to chat amongst themselves in excited tones, all-but ignoring me, as if I was nothing but a pouffe. As I listened, I also learned from their non-stop, animated chitter-chatter, that their next Flight Duty, in 3 days time, was to be a Long Haul affair. And, they were all very much looking forward to it, too … I wasn’t surprised!



They were all rostered to operate, on one of the twice-weekly BA Flights from Gatwick to Cancun, in Mexico. Their Duty, would involve a 4-day stop-over at the highly popular holiday resort. From what I heard them say, they would be there all over the weekend. And, as I listened-in – like the proverbial ‘fly on the wall’, the 4 BA Air Hostesses variously laughed, chuckled, tittered, and giggled, as they chatted about their up-coming ‘treat’ (these Duties, that involved multi-night stop-over’s in popular and exotic locations, I learned, were highly prized by a lot of Cabin Crew.)



The 4 BA Air Hostesses were looking forward to, I heard: sunning themselves on the great beaches, and watching all the bronzed hunks go by … Enjoying the trip-the-light-fantastic, neon-glowing nightlife … Getting outrageously inebriated – sozzled, falling-down drunk … And seducing the pilots!



I fumed, inwardly, at what I was hearing … Well, Bully for them! It was all right for some! I’m very happy for you all, I’m sure! Don’t forget to send me a postcard, will you!



It was so infuriating! … The 4 British Airways Air Hostesses: Samantha, Laura, Lindsey and Celia, were going off gallivanting in Cancun, Mexico. All expenses paid, and, with a ridiculously, profligately generous Over Seas Duty Allowance from BA – but, what the hell? The suckers (air passengers) were putting their hands in their pockets and covering the tab, weren’t they, one way or another: through the so-called ‘Excess Baggage Charge’; through the so-called ‘Green Tax’, and, of course … through ‘Supplements’.



And, while the 4 BA Air Hostesses were having a high old time in Mexico, I would be here, in the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station … doing Foot Service Duty!



And, all of this was happening, because of an offence that I hadn’t even committed! And, wouldn’t commit!



It was all too much … Just too much!



After what seemed like an absolute, interminable age (though I knew the Air Crew Buses were scheduled to arrive at the Comfort Station every 20 minutes), the next Air Crew Bus arrived and, after putting their BA issue, dark-blue Flight Duty pumps back on again, the 4 BA Air Hostesses finally released me from my Foot Service Duties to them.



Now, Miss Samantha, who had been plaguing me painfully: driving me half-crazy, with an all-but writhing agitation from frequently crossing and re-crossing her ankles on the back of my neck, got up from the padded bench, and she walked up to the Air Crew Bus. Addressing the driver, Miss Samantha asked pleasantly, “Would you wait a moment for us, driver … while we record our comments on this footboy …?” In response to Miss Samantha’s polite request, the Air Crew Bus driver immediately indicated his eager willingness to comply – touching the peak of his cap with the knuckle of a forefinger, in an unmistakable gesture of obeisance.



Miss Samantha then purposefully strode over to the Bulletin Board, and retrieved the red clipboard. Miss Samantha, it seemed, would be the one to ‘christen’ my Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet.



The signs were not good, I feared, as I tried to glean and interpret clues and hints from Miss Samantha’s ‘body language’ … As she had approached the Bulletin Board, her every single, on-a-mission like step had seemed to convey her malevolent intent. When she had picked up the red clipboard, she was sly-faced, as though forming and articulating harmful thoughts. And, as I anxiously observed the decidedly harsh style in which she wrote – pressing her pen down aggressively hard; describing angry slashes, loops and full-stops – the manner of her composition, only serving to further covince me of the animosity of her attitude towards me (she didn’t ‘like the look’ of my face, upon her first seeing it), Miss Samantha – the ankle-crossing Air Hostess – ‘christened’ my Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet, and wrote down her officially recorded comment.



I watched, warily, as Miss Samantha’s 3 British Airways colleagues: Laura, Lindsey and Celia, followed her example. In turn, they took the red clipboard in hand and, they too, wrote down their officially recorded comments, on my Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet.



And, I was itching – albeit, very anxiously – to see what the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses had written. For, Miss Samantha in particular, had glared at me vindictively (sent ‘signals’ …) (“This is what you get, for dropping litter!”).



“Now … you can tidy-up in here, footboy … You have my permission …” said the ankle-crossing Air Hostess tauntingly – goadingly. She then prepared to board the waiting Air Crew Bus with her 3 BA colleagues. “Thank you for waiting for us, driver,” she said to that gentleman. In response, the driver repeated his earlier, decidedly servile gesture to Miss Samantha.



Alas, instead of simply letting the 4 antagonizing British Airways Air Hostesses leave … and keeping my “Nose clean,” and behaving “Well,” I muttered peevishly, just loud enough for them to hear me, “Oh! Thank you so much … ‘MISS’ Samantha!”



As one, Miss Samantha and her 3 BA colleagues: Laura, Lindsey and Celia, turned to look at me, and I saw a distinct look of malicious satisfaction, of triumph, in their eyes. I had been surprised, when there had been no immediate, outraged backlash. Surprised, that there was no instant, vitriolic tongue-lashing. Surprised, when none of them even said anything to me. But, then again, they didn’t have to, I realised: their eloquent pens would do their talking for them … when they next wrote their officially recorded comments, on my Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet … The Official Document, that could, all too easily, become my ‘Doomsday Book’. (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and …”)



The Air Crew Bus driver gawped at me, in open-mouthed incredulity. Though I had told myself, urged myself to keep my fool mouth firmly shut … I just couldn’t. Not only that, but I then proceeded to make matters worse – a lot worse.



I watched the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses, as they stepped up to the kerb to board the Air Crew Bus, pulling their Dolly Trolleys along behind them. With patently false gallantry, I said, to the ankle-crossing Air Hostess, “Oh! Please allow me, ‘MISS’ Samantha!” And I handed the Dolly Trolleys up to the 4 BA Air Hostesses, one by one. “My pleasure, ‘MISS’,” I said sarcastically, again and again, as I handed each Dolly Trolley up to their recipients. The Air Crew Bus driver looked at me, as if I had gone out of my mind.



It had been an act, I realised, of the most foolhardy self-indulgence: this sort of self-indulgence came at a price – and it was a price I couldn’t afford.



I had reached the end of my tether. My taut-as-piano-wire emotional strings, had finally snapped with a great twang! – hence, my decidedly ill-advised, knee-jerk reactions. Calculatingly provoked, taunted and goaded, I had finally succumbed to their cruel pressures.



Foremost, I had capitulated, and yielded – bowed – to the irresistible force that had, for some reason (‘… whether or not, she ‘liked the look’ of your face, upon her first seeing it’ …) resolved to relentlessly pit herself against me. I had let my acute feelings get the better of me. I had invited Miss Samantha – aided and abetted by her 3 BA colleagues: her accomplices in attrition – to step on my increasingly tenuously gripping fingers as I had clung desperately to the edge of the abyss.



By my looks, words and actions, I had grossly disrespected (“You will accord the Air Hostesses the highest possible respect and obedience, at all times …”) the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses: Samantha, Laura, Lindsey and Celia. And it was a mistake, for which the ankle-crossing Air Hostess would make me pay – and pay dearly.



I knew, that I shouldn’t have been disrespectful; that there would surely be a ‘reckoning’, from Miss Samantha. I shouldn’t have crossed her. I realised that: not only, was I up the creek without the proverbial paddle … but I had actually crossed the Rubicon. The ankle-crossing Air Hostess – as I would duly find out – was the wrong person to cross.



And, after all: I was supposed to be keeping my “Nose clean,” wasn’t I? I was supposed to be behaving “Well.”



Regretting my foolish, self-indulgent words and actions, and unable – it was far, far too late, to take them back – I watched, with a sinking, gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach, as the battery-powered Air Crew Bus pulled quietly away from the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station.



The Air Crew Bus driver glanced at me as he drove away. He was, I saw, muttering to himself and shaking his disbelieving head. Miss Samantha and her 3 BA colleagues looked at me through a window. They regarded me calmly, almost impassively, yet their eyes spoke eloquently: promising me a suitable ‘come-uppance’.



Trying to take my troubled mind, from re-living my foolhardy and self-indulgent looks, actions and words – and my wild imagination, from speculating anxiously upon their possible, disastrous ramifications – I busily set about obeying the haughty, taunting, goading, wilfully pompous order, as issued to me by Miss Samantha. (“Now … you can tidy-up in here, footboy … You have my permission …”).



I worked quickly: I didn’t have much time … First, clearing up the worst of the appalling mess, that was scattered all over the Comfort Station – the appalling mess, that the Air Hostesses, themselves, had left behind them. First, I picked up the larger pieces of debris from the tables, benches and carpet. For the smaller bits, pieces and crumbs that were scattered all over the carpeted floor, like scraps of food thrown down to the pigeons by camera-toting tourists in St Mark’s Square, I would have to go around with the dust-pan and brush and the vacuum cleaner, later – if and when I got the chance … (“Leave that for now, footboy! … you’ve got ‘more important’ duties to perform …”)



I worked quickly: time was of the essence … I picked up the Air Hostesses’ deliberately – tauntingly and goadingly – dropped litter. (“Now … you can tidy-up in here, footboy … You have my permission …”)



I worked quickly: time was running out … There was litter, all over the place! Empty, part-finished – full, and unopened, even – cellophane, plastic, and foil bags and packets, of crisps, crackers and biscuits … Hot and cold drinks containers: bottles, cups, cartons and cans … Sandwich, pastries and cake wrappings … Fruit peel, cores, pips, etc … that the 4 BA Air Hostesses had dropped so blatantly, so tauntingly – so goadingly – all about me. Not to mention, the litter that was already there; left by other members of Cabin Crew (“There was no footboy on duty in the Comfort Station, last night …”). There was more litter, than you could shake the proverbial stick at.



I worked quickly: the clock was ticking … I had my explicit orders, from Mrs Jepson … (“You will keep the Comfort Station clean and tidy – spick and span – at all times.”)



Oh! The exquisite irony, of it! It brought me close to tears … And, it was the ankle-crossing Air Hostess, herself … Little Miss Goody – “If there’s one thing I can’t abide, it’s a litter lout!” – Two Shoes, Miss Samantha, who had been the worst culprit!



And, all of this was happening, because of an offence that I hadn’t even committed! And, wouldn’t commit!



It was all too much … Just too much!



Barely 2 minutes had elapsed – but, hurrying and scurrying, crabbing and crawling, I at least had the Comfort Station tidied-up a bit – when 2 Qantas Airlines Air Hostesses breezed in through the entrance doors, like 2 rip-roaring, uproarious whirlwinds.



The 2 Qantas Airlines Air Hostesses, were full of a vital, seemingly uncontainable energy: a picture of robust, excellent health. They were both highly tanned, and they both had long, blonde hair. They had both tied their hair in pony tails (convenient, and required for their Flight Duty, I supposed). Their long, shapely legs were bare – the Qantas Airlines Air Hostesses, I assummed, were not obliged by regulation to wear panty hose, and they could go bare-legged, if they wished … After all, they had the legs for it!



The 2 Qantas Airlines Air Hostesses didn’t notice me, at first – I was bending under one of the coffee tables, picking up some awkward-to-get-at discarded sandwich-wrappers and coffee cups – and they made straight for the coffee machine, chatting away in their distinctive, Australian accents. “Holy Smokes, Joanie!” exclaimed one of them. “I’m cream-crackered! I can’t wait to crack open a few tinnies … After we’ve had some kip at the Airport Hotel, that is, ha ha ha!”



“Too right, Pammy! Good call! The good old amber nectar … Mmmm, I can almost taste it now! There’s nothing like a couple of cold ones, is there, after a long Flight,” replied her colleague feelingly. “Then, when we’ve had some grub, waddayareckon we all hit the pubs in Crawley, tonight … eh, Pammy …? I want to renew my acquaintance with that dishy barman in the Hope and Anchor … you know, who I knocked off the last time we were here …? Good old creepy Crawley! Ha ha ha ha!”

“Oooohhh! Saucy, Joanie! Actually … I was sorta hoping we might all pile down to Brighton, tonight. You know … hit a few of the brill pubs and clubs there … But, if your ‘that’ keen, on your dishy barman … If you’re ‘Hoping’ to ‘Anchor’ yourself to him, again …?”



“Oooohhh! Catty, Pammy! Ha ha ha! Tell you what, Pammy … waddayasay we all take a vote on it, later. During dinner, at the Airport Hotel – the Gatwick Travel Inn – I think Crewing have got us all booked into, for the next three nights.”



“Yeah, Joanie, we’re booked into the Gatwick Travel Inn, again. I kinda like it, there … The place is friendly … laid back and relaxed – and not stuffy or pretentious, like some of the other billets that Crewing check us into. There’s a good atmosphere in the bar, too … especially when the rugger or the soccer is on telly. The beer’s not bad either – considering. And … there’s always the chance of … ‘meeting’ someone … If you get my drift … Ha ha ha!”



Unfortunately – for me! – the 2 Qantas Airlines Air Hostesses, Pammy and Joanie (still unaware of my presence), had narrowly missed the previous Air Crew Bus.



“Jeeze, Pammy! My feeeeet … are ab-so-lute-ly killing me!” exclaimed Joanie feelingly as, standing at the coffee machine, she repeatedly rapped the carpeted floor with the heel of her right, slightly tight-fitting, Qantas Airlines issue Flight Duty pump, by means of persuading it to loosen itself from her screaming, half-crippled foot. “Ooohhh! That’s better, Pammy!” she sighed in blessed relief, as she proceeded to wiggle and splay her bare toes luxuriously.



Joanie performed her relief-giving exercise for some moments, while she busied herself in pushing the relevant buttons on the coffee machine. Then, when the coffee machine started to dispense her coffee, Joanie held the coffee cup steady to prevent the possibility of a spillage and, as she did so, she folded her pink-painted toes under, in a tight scrunch. Then: and in a sort of … resigned, gesture that suggested she now realised that she would have to wait a bit longer than expected for her coffee cup to be filled, Joanie settled down to her short wait, by leaning her resting knee forward: a movement, that caused her creamy-coloured arch to wrinkle up in several folds. This also had the effect, I noticed, of exposing the whole of the sole of her bare, sun-kissed foot. Her 5 toe pads, the ball of her foot, and her heel, I saw, all had a pinkish-red hue, and slightly hardened skin … Maybe from lots of barefoot walking, I mused idly.



Joanie was an ‘Out-Doors’ sort of girl, by the looks of things. And, she was no stranger to a surfboard, either, I guessed … Riding the waves, and waiting for ‘The Big One’ … Anyway, she didn’t get a figure like that, from playing dominoes! A typical Aussie Gal, I thought (stereotypically, I suppose).



“Strewth, Joanie! Mine, too,” exclaimed Pammy, as she furiously wiggled and scrunched and splayed her toes, for her colleague’s benefit … as if doing so, was to provide incontrovertible proof of her claim. “Oohh! … My new pumps, Joanie … They’ve … they’ve been playing merry hell, all night … with my poor little tootsies! Jimminy Cricket! It’s a heck of a ways to England, from Straylya!”



After sitting themselves down to wait for the next Air Crew Bus – cups of coffee in hand, and sitting on the same padded bench that Miss Samantha and her 3 BA colleagues had just vacated – upon at last noticing my ‘unobtrusive’ presence (or, more to the point: what was printed on the front of my white T-shirt, in bold, red letters), one of the Qantas Airlines Air Hostesses – Joanie – exulted “Now, Pammy … This … this is what I call … ‘Hospitality’!”



“Well … stone the ruddy crows! It certainly is, Joanie!” agreed her colleague enthusiastically, as she lifted her legs and, looking at me, meaningfully, she dangled her Qantas Airlines issue Flight Duty pumps from the tips of her toes. “You have to hand it, to them, Joanie … you can always trust the Poms to do things in style. I hear that our own Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is talking about following the Brits’ lead … and having footboys installed in our own Comfort Stations, back home in Oz.”



“Yeah, I’ve heard that, as well, Pammy. Bring it on, I say! I think Julia got the idea from the Brit Prime Minister, David Cameron … I heard that it was actually their Home Secretary, though … Theresa May – you know … the one they call the ‘Shoe Lady’, on account of her snazzy shoes that she wears all the time …? – who dreamed up the footboy scheme in the first place … Just like a true Sheila! Ha ha ha! And Theresa May recommended the scheme to her PM … Didn’t you notice, Pammy, how Julia and David were cosying up together all the time, at the recent Commonwealth Summit meeting, back in Oz?”



“Yeah, I did, Joanie … But I just thought they had the hots for each other, didn’t I? Ha ha ha!”



Turning to me, one of the Qantas Airlines Air Hostesses, Pammy, said, “Well, footie … this is my first experience with an English footboy … and, I can’t wait to get started! What’s your name, Pommy footboy?”



“My name is David, Miss Pammy,” I replied respectfully.



“Well, David, my little Pommy footfriend … just in case you haven’t noticed already, me and Joanie are a couple of your regular Sheilas from Down Under. And now, you’re going to get a bluddy good whiff, of mine and Joanie’s hot and sweaty, stinky, Aussie Air Hostie feeeeet! Well …? Waddayareckon, Buckaroo? Whadya say to that, Davy, my little Pommy footie …? Are you up for it, cobber? Too bad, if you’re not … eh?”



“No worries, Miss Pammy,” I replied in kind.



Pammy and Joanie threw their heads back, and laughed delightedly.



“Yeah! Thataway, Pommy footboy!” chimed in Joanie happily. “I had a feeling, Davy … that you weren’t gonna to be a big girl’s blouse about it!”



The 2 Qantas Airlines colleagues were immensely pleased, it appeared, with my taking-it-in-good-part attitude, with regard to the ‘proceedings’ in hand. (Not, that I had a lot of choice in the matter!) “Come on, Pammy!” urged Joanie. “We’d better crack on, and make good use of Davy, here, while we can … The rest of the girls will be here, any minute, and they’ll all want their turn with the Pommy footboy! Me first, though! Ha ha ha!” claimed Joanie.



In a flamboyant, extravagant expression of ecstatic, anticipatory abandon, Joanie flicked her Flight Duty pumps from the tips of her bare toes towards the far corners of the Comfort Station. “Come here, Davy … Come … to … Joanie!” she commanded, in a playful, sing-song voice. “Let’s have you on your knees, then, all nice and convenient for me … my little Pommy footboy! On your knees, Davy … at my stinky, Aussie Air Hostie feeeeet!” ordered Joanie exultantly.



“Yes, Miss Joanie,” I replied, respectfully and obediently.



Submissively on my knees, at Joanie’s feet, Joanie firmly planted the sole of her right, bare foot on my obediently proffered face, placing the undersides of her long, slender toes over my nostrils. “Now, Davy … Come on! Go for it! Have a bluddy good whiff! Ha ha ha ha ha! Have a bluddy good whiff, Davy … of my stinky … Aussie Air Hostie feeeeet!” instructed Joanie. “Ha ha ha ha!” she laughed ecstatically.



At seeing my eyes all-but bug out of their sockets, from my utter, sheer shock at inhaling the incredible, devastating stink of Joanie’s … between-the-toes, foot scent, Pammy and Joanie again threw their heads back … and giggled hysterically. “Oh, Davy … Don’t be such a ‘Girl’!” squealed Joanie delightedly.



A minute or so later, the (“Rest of the girls”) duly arrived in the Comfort Station … And they had (“Their turn with the Pommy footboy.”)



As the (“Rest of the girls”) duly indulged themselves with the highly agreeable attentions and ministrations of the Comfort Station footboy, Pammy and Joanie chatted away companionably … “I’m sure looking forward to frocking-up in my new black dress, next week, when we go to Hayley’s birthday shindig, Joanie. And, just you wait … oh, just you wait, Joanie, until you see my new heels … you’re gonna just die of jealousy,” predicted Pammy confidently. Pammy then stared, fixedly, into the middle-distance, as if watching projected images of the scene of that future, highly gratifying event, being ‘screened’ for her delectation.



“Ha ha ha!” laughed Joanie. “Yeah, Pammy … I’ve been looking forward to Hayley’s birthday do, as well. You can sure rely on Hayley to put a good spread of tucker on – too good, maybe … It’s too easy to overdo it. You know what they say, Pammy: ‘A Moment On The Lips – Years, On The Hips’ … There’s a lot of truth to that …” observed Joanie philosophically.



“Oh … but, Joanie!” exclaimed Pammy. “Never mind, about ‘Years, On The Hips’ … I always feel as if I’ve spent years, on my feeeet … after going to one of Hayley’s parties! You know … standing up, all evening long … Clustered together, chin-wagging, in intimate little groups …? On your feet … the whole time … eating and drinking, from her little round terrace-tables …?” described Pammy feelingly.



“Pammy … you are SO right!” agreed Joanie fervently. “Hey! You know what, Pammy …? Wouldn’t it be the coolest thing … wouldn’t it be dead brill … if Davy, here … could be at Hayley’s little shindigs, and perform a sort of … ‘Table Service’, for us …? Ha ha ha! You know …? He could go on ‘Foot Patrol’ … Going from table to table … and being all of the Sheilas’ little ‘Foot Pet’ …? We could all keep on taking our turns, with him … over and over, until the party ended … Resting and massaging our poor feet, on his little Pommy face … while he sat there, for us, on the floor, cross-legged … right behind us! … Well … wouldn’t that be the coolest thing, ever …? Pammy …? Wouldn’t that be dead brill …?” urged Joanie, insisting on Pammy’s ‘feedback’. Which she duly got …



“Ha ha ha ha!” laughed Pammy delightedly, highly amused, at Joanie’s shindig ‘Foot Pet’ ‘vision’. “Joanie … are you sure you haven’t been putting the amber nectar away … when my back’s been turned …? Ha ha ha ha! … Hey Joanie … maybe you’ve got something there … Maybe we should kidnap Davy … I’ll hide him in my Dolley Trolley, ha ha ha! We could take him back to Oz with us, as our very own, Pommy foot pet … Hire him out to all the other Sheilas, for their own shindigs, ha ha ha! I could sure use the extra wonga! ha ha ha! … But, yeah, Joanie … I think you’re right … it would be the coolest thing ever … And, yeah … it would be dead brill …” opined Pammy, in all seriousness. And once again, Pammy stared, fixedly, into the middle-distance …



And, so it went on … For 12, long, miserable hours. On that first, wretched, interminable day … The first day: of my 6 a.m. – 6 p.m., 7 days a week, 28 days Foot Service Duty sentence, in the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, at Gatwick Airport.



So, ‘busy’, had all of the day’s Air Hostesses kept me, in performing my humiliating Duties that, it was only a few minutes before the 6 p.m. Air Crew Bus was due to arrive at the Comfort Station, that I remembered about The Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet.



As no members of Cabin Crew were present in the Comfort Station just then, I strode over to the Bulletin Board and, with trepidation, I retrieved the red clipboard – and the Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet.



There were actually 3 sheets full of comments (which would turn out to be roughly the daily average), of some of the Air Hostesses who had used the Comfort Station on that – my first day.



It still came as a shock – but no surprise! (“This is what you get, for dropping litter!”) – when I read the very first entry in my Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet. Which was the comment, as written by the first of the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses: Miss Samantha – the ankle-crossing Air Hostess …



‘In my judgement, this footboy – David – is a wimpy, pathetic, litter-dropping liar. He is a sorry specimen of manhood, who won’t own up to his offence (he was caught red-handed by the Litterman, I understand). Since this footboy: continues to shamelessly deny his guilt; show no remorse; no sign of repentance and, no sign, either, that he will change his ways … I strongly recommend that he must serve out the full, 28 days term of his Foot Service Duty sentence. Indeed, I consider a 28 days sentence, for this footboy, to be far too lenient: he will offend – drop litter – again … I am sure of it!’ Signed: Samantha – British Airways Cabin Crew.’



Aw, hell! This was a great start, wasn’t it! Just great! What a damning indictment, by the cruel, vindictive Miss Samantha – the ankle-crossing Air Hostess. (“This is what you get, for dropping litter!”).



Aw, hell! Just wait, till Mrs Jepson read it. Mrs Josephine (“Not tonight, Josephine …”) Not ever! Jepson. (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and …”).



Anxiously, I moved on, to read the considered comments of Miss Samantha’s 3 BA colleagues, as officially recorded on the Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet – the Official Document, that could, all too easily, become my ‘Doomsday Book’!



‘In my view, Samantha has called it Spot-on. And I fully endorse her opinion of this unrepentant, litter-dropping footboy. Signed: Laura – BA Cabin Crew’.



Then …



‘In my view, Samantha has hit the nail on the head. The footboy – David – needs to learn the errors of his ways. And, in my judgement, for him to do that would take much longer than a mere 28 days … Signed: Lindsey – BA Cabin Crew.’



Then …



‘In my opinion, the comments of my BA colleagues are sound, and I whole-heartedly agree with them. Especially, with regard to the leniency of the footboy’s 28 days sentence … first offence, or not. Indeed, I feel that this footboy – David – would be a perfect candidate, to be made an ‘example’ of … The Government’s ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ litter initiative being, as it is, still in its inception, this would, I feel, send out a loud and clear message to all would-be litter louts: ‘DON’T. DROP. LITTER … OR ELSE!!’ Signed: Celia – BA Cabin Crew.’



Aw, hell! Well, this was just great, wasn’t it! Just wait, until Mrs Jepson read all of that! A 90% ‘Satisfaction of Conduct Rate? Ha! At this rate, I would be old and grey, gaunt and haggard, by the time I finally got released from my Foot Service Duty, in the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station … When I was too old and frail, too worn-out, too decrepit – too knackered – to be of either use or ornament, any more, to the Air Hostesses … When I was only fit, to be casually and carelessly discarded, like one of their crumpled, used-up sandwich wrappers – simply ‘dropped’ – like one of their pieces of litter …



And, I remembered … that I had let my feelings get the better of me: that I had given voice, to my bitter resentment; that I had shown my gross disrespect … ‘after’, Miss Samantha and her 3 BA colleagues had already made their original, scathing comments, in the Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet … That, I had disrespected them, ‘after’, they had already officially recorded their damaging – damning! – comments, regarding the ‘satisfaction’ of my conduct!



Aw, hell! What? I wondered … would the 4 grossly disrespected BA Air Hostesses say about me now? What would be their officially recorded comments, next time? Aw, hell!



So much, then, for my chances (if, they even existed!) of an early release from my Foot Service Duties at the Comfort Station, for “Good behaviour!” So much, then, for keeping my “Nose clean”! So much, then, for behaving “Well!”



Aw, hell! Well … this was just Tickety-Boo, wasn’t it! Aw, hell!



I became consumed, by bitter resentment and seething outrage. My blood was boiling … I fumed, inwardly, at Miss Samantha and her 3 BA colleagues … Well, thanks a bunch, you lot! Thanks a heap … Have a nice time, won’t you, sunning yourselves on the beaches! Have a nice time, won’t you, enjoying the nightlife! Have a nice time, won’t you, getting drunk! Have a nice time, won’t you, seducing the pilots! HAVE A NICE TIME!!



But, when I moved onto the next series of Air Hostesses’ comments, as officially recorded on the Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet, I received a totally unexpected, but very much-welcome boost. A very much-needed, revitalizing, proverbial ‘shot in the arm’, in fact. When I read the following testimonials …



‘Stone the crows! Davy is a heck of a Good Sport – and he’s a Fair Dinkum little footie, too! Davy is The Best! Signed: Pammy – Qantas Airlines Cabin Crew’.



Then …



‘Strewth! I swear that Davy was just starting to enjoy sniffing my stinky, Aussie Air Hostie feeeet! Ha ha ha! Davy is a cracking little Pommy footboy! HELL, YEAH!! Signed: Joanie – Qantas Cabin Crew’.



Then …



‘Davy is a Super Trooper! He’s a STAR! Good old Davy! Signed: Angie – Qantas Cabin Crew’.



Then …



‘Davy is The Business! A 5 Star footboy! Mmmmm … he gave me a Real Tootsie Treat! Mmmmwah! Thank you, Davy! Signed: Candy – Qantas Cabin Crew’.



The last, of the Qantas Airlines Air Hostesses’ comments, read …



‘Hmmm … Well … what can I say, to add to Davy’s long list of brill qualities …? I agree with the rest of the Sheilas. Davy is a First Class footie … a real Pro, ha ha ha! No, really … Davy is a Bonzer bloke – not one of your typical Pommy whingers! And, trust me – he had plenty of reason to whinge!! … PS: Me and the rest of the Sheilas are already looking forward to our next Flight into good old Gatwick! Ha ha ha!’ Signed: Gillie – Chief Stewardess. Qantas Cabin Crew.



Upon reading this series of Qantas Airlines Air Hostesses’ comments regarding their opinions as to the satisfaction of my conduct, as officially recorded in the Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet, I was overcome, choked, distraught – in bits. I was actually hurting, deep inside. But, this time – in a ‘good’ way …



Aw, hell! Tears of sheer, pure, heartfelt gratitude welled in my eyes. Spilled down my cheeks. Aw, Hell!



I thought; as I wiped my grateful tears from my face, that … It was they – the Qantas Airlines Air Hostesses – who were the “STARS.” They, who were “The Business.” They, who were “Fair Dinkum.” They, who were the “Good Sports.” They, who were “Bonzer.”



I thought; that the Qantas Airlines Air Hostesses, were The Princesses Of The Skies … Even if they had – every single one of them – made me take a “Bluddy good whiff!” of their “Stinky, Aussie Air Hostie feeeet!”



I had hope, then. There was hope, after all. There really was light at the end of the tunnel. Surely, I had at least an outside chance, now, of achieving Mrs Jepson’s very high, Air Hostesses’ comments ‘Satisfaction of Conduct’ Pass Rate rate requirement? A minimum, of 90%. (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and …”)



As I held the red clipboard, reading through the dozens of Air Hostesses’ hand-written entries, I soon realised, that the vast majority of them actually took the ‘concept’ of the Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet very much to heart. And, though they clearly exhibited a no-nonsense, taking-it-seriously, attitude, I was immensely relieved to find that the Air Hostesses apparently wished their officially recorded reflections to be balanced and fair … Though, of course, some of them were more ‘demanding’ – had rather more exacting standards – than others.



I was fascinated, by the wide range – the amazing spectrum – of the Air Hostesses’ views and opinions … There were carefully considered critiques; reasoned and reasonable reports; analytical appraisals and accounts … Pronouncements, that ran the whole gamut: from their lavish praise … to their out-of-hand denouncements. Their often … quite detailed explanations, as to how they arrived at their – thumbs-up; thumbs-down; the-jury’s-still-out – Satisfaction of Conduct standards, for me, made for highly captivating reading. The scales of satisfaction tipped this way … that way.

And … as I continued to avidly read more and more of their captivating comments about me, in the Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet, as written down by those particular Air Hostesses: the ones, who were so inclined as to put their opinions in writing, so as to have their views officially recorded; and, so as to have their ‘say’, as to my fate, I found that my new-found reasons for optimism, for hope, were actually reinforced …



For every Miss Samantha; for every Miss Celia … there seemed to be a Miss Pammy, a Miss Joanie.



I felt, though, that these 2 extremes, these polarized opinions might possibly cancel each other out, in the long run. I felt that my fate would ultimately be decided, by the other … middle-of-the-road ‘voters’.



I found the number of Airlines that used Gatwick Airport, to be quite staggering. I’d had no idea, of the great number of Airlines. No idea, of the colossal numbers of Air Hostesses …



UK based Airlines alone, being well into double figures: Easy Jet; British Airways; First Choice; Thomas Cook; Monarch Airlines; British Midland, to name just a few …



How many Air Hostesses, I wondered, are employed by those UK based Airlines? Was their number, in the hundreds … or the thousands …?



Foreign Airlines: American Airlines; Qantas; KLM; Air India; Alitalia; Iberia; Singapore Airlines; Lufthansa; Air France; South African Airlines … the list, seemed endless.



How many Air Hostesses, I wondered, are employed by those foreign Airlines? Was their number, in the thousands … or the tens’ of thousands …?



And, I also wondered … how many of those Air Hostesses – during my 28 days Foot Service Duty sentence – would pass through the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station?



And … how many of those, I wondered, would avail themselves of the attentions and ministrations of the Comfort Station footboy?



And, I also wondered … how many of those, would also officially record their comments, on the Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet?



As I scanned through all of the Air Hostesses’ comments, I tried to evaluate my overall ‘performance’. My Satisfaction of Conduct rating, for the day. And, as I did so, I began to feel a little more upbeat. I thought that; on the whole, the positive comments far outweighed the negative. I was ‘scoring’, maybe about as much as 70 – 30. In my favour … Not bad, then – considering!



I cautioned myself, though, not to get too carried away. After all, this was just Day 1, of my 28 days Foot Service Duty sentence. I still had another 27 to go …



In the coming days and weeks, I knew, there would be literally hundreds – maybe thousands – of Air Hostesses, from many different Airlines: both, UK based, and from abroad, arriving at Gatwick Airport … Air Hostesses, at whose feet I would have to respectfully and obediently serve, as ‘footboy’ (and, tidy-up after), in the Comfort Station.



And, I also knew, that I would have to keep my “Nose clean, and serve the Air Hostesses “Well,” if I was to have any hope at all, of achieving Mrs Jepson’s “Final Assessment Test Pass Rate”: a minimum, of 90%. (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and …”)



I looked at the 24-hour-clock, that was situated on the wall behind the Refreshments Tables. The time was 18:14. Time, to get the hell out of here – out, of the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station. (‘My work, here, is done’.) Oh, yeah …? What about the next 27 days, “Davy?” I said to myself … Talking to myself, was getting to be a bit of a worrying habit.



This was the moment, when I first met my Comfort Station ‘co-part’ – Snugs – who was just arriving for his 6 p.m. – 6 a.m. Night Duty ‘shift’. “Hiya, mate! Had a nice day …? Ha ha ha! I’m Snugs,” he greeted me joviallly, holding out his hand for me to shake. I couldn’t help but think, that Snugs seemed rather … cheerful – under the circumstances … “I hope you’ve left the Comfort Station all nice and ‘Spick and span,’ for me …? Ha ha ha!” he laughed jokingly, imitating Mrs Jepson.



“Ha! It’s a hell of a lot tidier, than it was when I arrived this morning, I can tell you!” I responded in kind, enjoying the banter, and in taking an immediate liking to the guy – to my Comfort Station ‘co-part’. “Sundays off …?” I marvelled incredulously. “What next!” I exclaimed. “Bank-Holidays, and a shorter working-week? An Occupational Pension? … And, you’re 14 minutes late – mate! … Anyway, Snugs … ” I said, nodding at the Comfort Station, “… I don’t know what you’ve got to be so happy about … just wait, until you start your—”



Snugs stepped right up to me, gripped my shoulder, and he whispered in my ear – as if he was a spy, concerned by the grave possibility of being eavesdropped upon by foreign agents with sophisticated listening equipment, or of having his lips read, through powerful zoom lens binoculars. “No … no … You’ve got me all wrong, mate … I’ve got myself here … on purpose!” he confided, nodding his head twenty-to-the-dozen, by way of adding emphasis and conveying credence to his decidedly outlandish claim.



Then, at beholding my bemused, befuddled expression, a wide smile broke across Snugs’s face, as he further confided to me, by way of ‘rational’ explanation. “I like women’s feet, mate! I actually like them! Especially, Air Hostesses’ feet … can’t get enough … They drive me crazy … drive me nuts! I love … their … their stinky feet … I love it, when they make me smell their … when they make me sniff … their … First thing I’m going to do, mate, when I’ve served my sentence … is to drop litter again – right under the Litterman’s big red nose! Right under his hooter. I’ll deffo get caught again … I’ll make sure of—”



Snugs’s astonishing confidences in me were then abruptly curtailed, when we were suddenly confronted by the authoritative tones of a Lufthansa Air Hostess – though, by then, I thought I had got the incredible gist of what my Comfort Station ‘co-part’ had been telling me …



3 Lufthansa Air Hostesses had arrived at the Comfort Station. Their names: according to their name-tags, were Helga, Mathilde, and Monika. All 3 of them had long, blonde hair, tied in pony-tails. And all 3 of them, were very attractive, Bavarian beauties, I thought – stereotypically, I suppose. One of them – Helga – spoke and, though her command of English was apparently excellent, nonetheless, her German accent was still quite discernible, underneath. Addressing me, she demanded, “Why, may I ask, are you two standing out here, gossiping like a couple of fish-wives …? You will come inside, at once – your services are required …” she told me, in no uncertain terms.



Thoroughly alarmed, at this unexpected development, I stammered, panic-stricken, “But, Miss Helga … I beg your pardon, Miss Helga, but … I was just going off Duty … I was—”



“I don’t care, which one of you two fools is on Foot Service Duty,” interrupted the Lufthansa Air Hostess impatiently. “One of you, will accompany us inside … Now!” ordered Miss Helga authoritatively.



“Duty calls, mate … heh heh heh,” Snugs whispered happily to me, in finding this turn of events highly agreeable to him. Snugs then went through the entrance doors of the Comfort Station, following in the footsteps of the 3 Lufthansa Air Hostesses: Helga, Mathilde, and Monika.



Phew! That was a close call, I said to myself with a huge sigh of relief. Then, taking no further chances, I made a sharp exit – just in case Miss Helga suddenly got it into her blonde head to call me back, for a spot of ‘overtime’ …



My Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station Foot Service Duty, was finally over, for today. Snugs’s 6 p.m. – 6 a.m. Night Duty ‘shift’, was just starting … At 6 a.m. tomorrow – Tuesday – I would be back, to ‘relieve’ my Comfort Station ‘co-part’. And, to serve Day 2, of my 28 days, Foot Service Duty sentence.



Although I was allowed to hop aboard the Air Crew Bus, I desperately needed some fresh air … And, knowing that I had plenty of time in hand in which to take a stroll over to the South Terminal in time to catch the 6:30 p.m. Gatwick Express train to Brighton, that’s what I did.



As I made my way over to the South Terminal (where the train station platforms are located, beneath the Terminal Building), I looked up at the monorail. I watched the monorail (that transfers air passengers between Gatwick Airport’s North and South Terminals), looking at the travellers in the 2 monorail cars. And, I wished that I was aboard the monorail, and on my way to catching a flight somewhere, too – anywhere, would do. Anywhere, was preferable to the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station! Back to Benidorm, even. After all, I had an even bigger ‘hangover’, now – a couple of aspirin and an early night had soon sorted my other one out.



As I waited on the station platform for the arrival of my train; due any moment now, I came to realise that I was absent-mindedly rubbing the back of my neck, in trying to relieve a lingering, troublesome dull ache. I could have sworn, that I could feel a brand-new indentation there, right at the centre. As understanding dawned, I felt myself beginning to erupt, with a sense of bitterly resentful outrage … My persistently gnawing discomfort was, I realised, a direct consequence of the frequently crossing and re-crossing, fleshy, fat feet of the ankle-crossing Air Hostess – Miss Samantha. I knew now, that she actually had added injury to insult. All of my earlier resentment, indignation, outrage, once again came bubbling up to the surface, and I could actually feel my face getting warm.



How could she? What exquisite arrogance! What a nerve! What an imposition! What a wicked wind-up. (“This is what you get, for dropping litter!”)



Well, at least I could see a silver-lining – of sorts: the ankle-crossing Air Hostess wouldn’t be using the back of my neck as a footrest – for the time being, at least … It would be a full week, before Miss Samantha and her 3 BA colleagues: Laura, Lindsey and Celia returned from their next Duty – Duty? Duty! jaunt! holiday, more like! – when they returned from Cancun, in Mexico … When they returned … from sunning themselves on the great beaches, and watching the bronzed hunks go by! Returned, from enjoying the trip-the-light-fantastic, neon-glowing nightlife! Returned, from getting inebriated – sozzled, falling-down drunk! Returned, from seducing the pilots!!



A lady rail passenger looked at me, showing concern … She probably thought I was having a ‘funny turn’! “Are you all right, dear …?” she asked kindly. “It’s just that … you don’t look very well … Have you got a pain in the neck, dear …?” the kind-hearted lady asked.



“Yes, love, I have,” I replied. “And her name’s Miss Samantha.”



The next 27 days, of my Foot Service Duty sentence in the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station at Gatwick Airport, were a waking nightmare … I didn’t even see my ‘fans’: Pammy and Joanie, and their colleagues; Angie, Candy and Gillie, the Qantas Airlines Air Hostesses – the ‘Princesses Of The Skies’ – who had been so kind to me; via their comments, as officially recorded on my Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet.



When Saturdays came around, I had to phone Steve and tell him that I was ‘”Not in the mood” for the pub.



The Air Hostesses, of course, were just as nice as pie towards their pesky air passengers – while on Flight Duty. But, once comfortably ensconced, in the comfortable and comforting confines of the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, it was a different matter, entirely …



The Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, was the Air Hostesses’ ‘Sanctuary’. It was the place where; after their long and tiring Flight Duty, they could feel free to ‘let their hair down’, and ‘put their feet up’ – and they did. If they’d had a ‘Bad Flight’ – their pesky passengers, being a major pain in the butt; always asking for things, and not giving them a minute’s peace in which to sit and chat to their colleagues … well, now, they could always ‘take it out’, on the Comfort Station footboy – and they did. At all events – whatever their frame of mind; whatever the mood an Air Hostess might find herself in – the Comfort Station footboy was ‘there’ for them …



But, for the duration of those remaining 27 days of my Foot Service Duty sentence: no matter, how grievously put-upon, I was – not least, by Miss Samantha, and her 3 BA colleagues: Laura, Lindsey, and Celia – by the staggering number of Air Hostesses of seemingly dozens of different Nationalities who used the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, I remained respectful and obedient, at all times.



No matter: that I was ‘brought to heel’ by many of the Air Hostesses – and unyieldingly kept there: ruled, controlled, oppressed, with arrogant, imperious authority – I remained compliant and malleable, at all tmes.



No matter: the taunting, goading, sometimes cruel provocations of the Air Hostesses, that I had to endure – and, they were legion – I remained respectful and obedient, at all times.



No matter: that, when some of the male Stewards; who, although forbidden to ‘partake’ in this splendid activity themselves, still, nonetheless, hugely enjoyed the ‘spectator sport’, and laughed in my face, when I called them ‘Sir’ … I remained polite and respectful, at all times.



No matter: that, although a number of male Stewards succeeded brilliantly in maddening me beyond measure, as they exhibited great delight in watching my pathetic plight: laughing inanely, tittering and giggling (“Some of them would love it, I know …”) at the ‘hilarious’ antics of the Air Hostesses, so much so, that I wanted to get up from my hands and knees, and punch their lights out … No matter: I remained stoic to my ’cause’. I kept my “Nose clean.” I behaved “Well.”



Finally, oh, finally, at long, long last, it was Day 28.



It was the final day, of my 28 days Foot Service Duty sentence, in the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, at Gatwick Airport. The time, on the 24-hour clock situated on the wall above the Refreshments Tables, read 17:01. I had just entered the last, the final hour, of my 28 days sentence …



And, Mrs Jepson – Head: of the Gatwick Airport Litter Office – had just entered the Comfort Station … Her long, thin, stilt-like legs, seemingly transporting her for vast distances with each stride, she quickly covered the short distance to the far end of the Comfort Station. Upon reaching the Bulletin Board, Mrs Jepson then retrieved the red clipboard – the red clipboard, to which was attached my Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet.



By now, the sheets of the Official Document had greatly accumulated, into a very thick and substantial-looking ‘dossier’. “Right, then, David … Let’s see how you’ve done, then, shall we …? I’ll soon know, whether you have been behaving yourself, or not, for the last 28 days … Whether your overall standard of behaviour has achieved the minimum, 90%, Satisfaction of Conduct Pass Rate … Anything less, David, than 90%, and …” said Mrs Jepson, as she sat down on one of the padded benches next to one of the coffee tables, her long, thin, stick-insect like legs sticking out in front of her, like a pair of double-jointed knitting-needles.



“I’ll have a cup of coffee, while I work; while I make my Final Assessment Test of your conduct … I take it black … IF … it’s not too much trouble, David …?” she said, holding out her Refreshments Card to me, so that I could get coffee from the machine, for her.



“Oh … Oh! Of course, Mrs Jepson. Naturally! By all means! Please, you just sit there, all nice and comfortable, Mrs Jepson, while I get you a lovely cup of coffee! There’s no need for you to move a muscle, Mrs Jepson. Not a single, solitary muscle! Not while I’m here!” I gushed obsequiously …



“There you are, Mrs Jepson, your coffee … Madam. And, if you would like another, Mrs Jepson … you’ve only to say the word …”



“Yes, David. I know that … Don’t you worry, David. I won’t let myself go dry – not on your account,” replied Mrs Jepson derisively.



Fortunately, I was saved from having to think of a suitably grovelling response to Mrs Jepson’s cruel put-down comment, when 2 very attractive, early 20′s, olive-complexioned Air France Air Hostesses proudly sauntered – like 2 Persian cats, as though perfectly aware, of their head-turning, double-take inducing, eye-catching beauty – into the Comfort Station. According to their name-tags, their names were Marie, and Sophie.



Immediately upon seeing me, and, of course, ‘recognizing’ me, one of them – a full-figured, sultry-looking dark-haired beauty, arrogantly beckoned to me with her forefinger. “You, footboy! You will massage our tired feet, for us … At once!” she commanded assuredly, as she and her Air France colleague chose a place to sit down on one of the padded benches.



“Of course. It will be my pleasure … Mademoiselle Marie,” I grovelled shamelessly, in hopes of impressing Mrs Jepson – who I knew would be listening closely, to every single word. And, here was another great opportunity presenting itself, with which to impress Mrs Jepson … “No, Mademoiselle Sophie! Please! Allow me … You must allow me, your most humble servant, to remove your shoes, for you,” I begged Mademoiselle Sophie – intervening, in the nick of time, just as she was about to pull her Flight Duty pump from her right foot, by reaching down for it with her hand, and pulling it from her foot by the heel.



Mademoiselle Marie, then presented me with the – admittedly, dainty sole – of her right, tan hosed foot; an arrogant, expectant look upon her attractive face, as she did so … And, it was a certain sort of look … of expression, I had come to realise, that seemed … a common, or shared, trait of all French Air Hostesses. As if … as if having a ‘footboy’ massage their feet for them: at the mere click of their fingers; at the mere beckoning of a forefinger, was a perfectly normal state of affairs … And, maybe it is, in France! “You may begin, footboy …” she condescended, with exquisite nonchalance.



“Thank you, Mademoiselle Marie,” I replied and, taking her tan hosed, right foot in both of my hands, I practised one of the numerous foot massaging techniques (from my expanding repertoire!), that I had learned – been taught, instructed, mentored – by countless footsore Air Hostesses, over the past 28 days. I firmly – but, not too firmly! – pressed both of my thumbs into the ball of her foot, and rotated them, rhythmically. Around and around, pressing my thumbs, working them, just below the ball of her foot. And pressing, rotating, working my thumbs, just below her repeatedly scrunching toes, too … her French pedicure (what else!) displayed to me, with each and every toe-folding scrunch.



Mademoiselle Marie leaned back on the padded bench and; with rather surprising firmness, I felt the tan hosed toes of her left foot gripping my right knee-cap – as she ‘anchored’ herself, for stability. Despite myself, I felt a highly pleasurable tingle, at her touch, as if I had just been connected to a low-voltage battery-charger, that trickle-charged right up my leg to my groin.



Mademoiselle Marie relaxed: wiggling and flexing and splaying her toes, luxuriously, as I supported the weight of her right leg and foot, in my hands. She was audibly sighing, as I gave the foot-massaging performance of my life. I did my utmost, to massage the aches and pains of her long and tiring Flight Duty day away. She sighed blissfully: moaning, almost, with relief and pleasure. Relief and pleasure, in equal measure … And, I knew Mrs Jepson was watching, listening!



Mademoiselle Sophie – while she patiently awaited her own turn for a much-needed foot massage – rested the heel of her right, tan hosed foot on my left shoulder. And, while she absently perused the glossy pages of her ‘Elle’ Magazine, and took dainty little sips from her bottle of Perrier water … seemingly absent-mindedly, she rhythmically stroked my left cheek with the ball of her foot, and with the pads of her gently caressing, tan hosed toes … and, despite myself, I almost enjoyed it, too! After all; it was not an overly disagreeable sensation … You have to admire the French: in every little thing they do, they have such style! Such panache! Such savoir-faire. Such … Je ne se qua …

Unfortunately for Mademoiselle Sophie, she didn’t, on this occasion, get to enjoy the relief and pleasures (relief and pleasure, in equal measure), of a nice, relaxing foot massage, as administered by the Comfort Station footboy. For, the Air Crew Bus arrived, and deprived her of said highly agreeable attentions and ministrations.



Without so much as a word to me – perfectly normal Air Hostess behaviour, in the Comfort Station – the 2 Air France Air Hostesses slipped their tan hosed feet back into their Flight Duty pumps. Then they stood, and they wheeled their Dolly Trolleys to the kerb, preparatory to boarding the Air Crew Bus. Then, like a gift from the Gods – or, Goddesses! – the incredible, the unbelievable, happened …



Mademoiselle Marie: just before setting foot on the step of the Air Crew Bus, turned around, and she looked right at me. And, she smiled (as though she meant it!), as she actually said “Merci, footboy …” before turning around again, and boarding the Air Crew Bus with her Air France colleague, Mademoiselle Sophie.



I couldn’t believe it! I was speechless! And, to this day, I have regretted – profoundly regretted; for, heaven knows, such instances of French complimentary largess were extremely rare, in the Comfort Station – not being able to express my unbounded gratitude, to Mademoiselle Marie. After all, this was a breaking-new-ground, unprecedented occurrence. It was the very first time, in 28 days, that I had actually received any actual voiced expression of thanks (“Merci, footboy …”) from a French Air Hostess … After all, it was, apparently, their God-given – or, Goddess-given – right, anyway.



Better still! Better still … was that Mrs Jepson: who had been listening to (eavesdropping), and furtively watching (spying) everything that went on in the Comfort Station, while she was working on her Final Assessment of my footboy’s Daily Record Sheet … saw and heard everything!



And, whats more: I saw Mrs Jepson – at hearing Mademoiselle Marie’s “Merci, footboy …” – nod to herself thoughtfully; and then write something down …



I saw Mrs Jepson, write something down … Mrs Jepson: who had been quietly contemplating, tapping her ballpoint pen against her lower lip, as though pondering, wrote something down … Mrs Jepson: who had been carefully deliberating: weighing up, perhaps, some of the finer, touch-and-go points, in a bid to arrive at the correct, Final Decision, wrote something down … Mrs Josephine Jepson: in seeming to finally arrive at her critically considered conclusion, as to whether or not I had passed her Final Assessment Test: as to whether or not, I had achieved the minimum, 90% Satisfaction of Conduct Pass Rate (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and…”), wrote something down …



I waited. I waited, for Mrs Jepson to finally speak. To announce her Final Decision. To reveal my fate … I had never known, such tormenting, unbearable tension.



Mrs Jepson, I could plainly see, took a wicked pleasure in beholding my pathetically anxious face; my needing-to-know-but-scared-to-find-out expression … Staring at me, for long, agonizing, tension-filled seconds, as though daring me to speak, as though daring me to actually ask, for the thumbs-up or thumbs-down verdict of my test – Mrs Jepson’s Final Assessment Test – before she finally put me out of my misery …



“Congratulations, David,” said Mrs Jepson sourly. “You have passed my Final Assessment Test … Only just, though: it was a very close thing. You have actually rated exactly 90%, David … Anything less, David, than 90%, and …” she said, sounding sorely disappointed with the outcome.



Passing me an A4 size sheet of thick, white paper, with bold, red letters printed on it, declaring: ‘Final Assessment Test Pass Certificate’, Mrs Jepson said, “Here, David. This is your Pass Certificate … What ever you do, don’t lose it! Well …? What are you waiting for now? A medal? A 21-gun salute? Your name in lights …? You’re free to go, you fool … Go on, then, David … Get out of my sight! And, I don’t want to ever see you in my Litter Office again … Or else!” she warned me as she walked past me, and left the Comfort Station to return to her damned Litter Office.



Well! Mrs Josephine Jepson (Mrs “Not tonight, Josephine …” – Not ever! – Jepson) didn’t have to tell me again! I shot out of the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station so fast, I almost broke the sound-barrier. Not surprising, though – I was already over the moon! I was actually free! FREE!! Yes! YES!!



I carefully folded my precious Pass Certificate (“What ever you do, don’t lose it!”) twice, so that it fit snugly into the back pocket of my trousers, with no danger of it falling out.



I still needed to wait for the next Air Crew Bus though, as I needed a lift to the Long Stay car park. I had come to Gatwick Airport in my car today, because I had actually dared to hope that I might actually achieve the horrible Mrs Jepson’s Final Assessment Test Pass Rate: a minimum, of 90% (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and …”)



In the happy event of my actually achieving said minimum Pass Rate target, I wanted to have a drive over to the ‘Blue Water’ Shopping Centre. I wanted to buy Kate something really, really nice. A present (“Something ‘decent’, David,”) by way of celebration … I know! In tribute to the Air France Air Hostess, Mademoiselle Marie, who, I felt convinced, had actually tipped the scales in my favour, and had won the day for me at the very last possible moment (“Merci, footboy …”), I would also pick up a bottle – what the hell! – 2 bottles of Chateauneuf Du Pape; which, by a happy coincidence, was Kate’s favourite wine. And we would toast my beautiful French rescuer, Mademoiselle Marie!



I was exhilarated! I hadn’t felt this good, for … 28 days! Ha ha ha! And, I would be back on track, now, with Kate. Oh, yes … ‘Normal Service’, would be resumed … Especially, as I had a new job lined-up – starting on Monday! Now, Kate would forgive me all of my sins. Every single one of them. Oh, yes … She would! Mrs Jepson, had shunted me into the sidings, and left me there for 28 miserable-as-sin days. Now, though; in issuing my Pass Cerificate, she had pulled back on the points lever, and waved her green flag, letting me back on track. I was going to be back on track, with Kate! ‘Normal Service’, was going to be resumed! WHEH HEY!!



Then, just as I was thinking, in a celebratory, sing-songy way … ‘No more ankle-crossing Air Hostess’ … ‘No more Miss Samantha’ … ‘No more Pain In The Neck’: Lo, and behold: she turned up. Out of the blue. In her civvies. And suddenly, things looked black.



Miss Samantha: her demeanour, usually so calm, so confident, so self-assured, so arrogant – so insufferable – seemed, to me, to be rather nervous, fidgety. Edgy. This was just not like her … This was not the Miss Samantha, that I had come to know – and live in trepidation of. And, I just knew, that something smelled ‘fishy’. I just knew, that something was definitely ‘off’, here …



Especially, when she didn’t say anything to me: didn’t try to wound me, with one of her ‘trademark’ cruel, hurtful barbs. And when she seemed to be avoiding making eye-contact, with me: instead of glaring at me, in conveying her customary, malicious message (“This is what you get, for dropping litter!”).



Until, that is, the arrival of the Air Crew Bus …



With a hiss of the hydraulics, the entrance door of the Air Crew Bus folded open. “Please, Miss Samantha. After you,” I said courteously and respectfully. To the last, keeping my “Nose clean.” To the last, behaving “Well.”



“No, no … it’s all right, David. On you get!” insisted Miss Samantha … rather too brightly, to my ear. “Let’s let bygones be bygones, David, shall we?” offered Miss Samantha generously. “I mean … you made a mistake, David … but now you have paid your price to society,” she said absolvingly.



Now, I was worried – very worried. Miss Samantha had just scored a very worrying hat-trick. Never before, had she used my name – it was always ‘footboy’. But, she had just called me ‘David’ – 3 times. And it was this, more than anything else: more, than her patently false, sudden friendliness; more, than her blatantly insincere expressions of forgiveness and absolution, that set the alarm bells ringing – clamouring – in my head, in warning of my imminent and dire peril.



And those clamorous alarm bells were still trying to warn me; to alert me to my peril … When I courteously said ” Thank you, Miss Samantha.” Still trying to warn me, when I set foot on the step of the Air Crew Bus. And, those clanging, clamouring alarm bells were still trying to warn me – until it was too late.



For, I felt a strong, staying hand grip my right shoulder, and a harsh, stentorian male voice cried out, “Just a moment, sir …”



The Litterman (for, that’s who he was) held in his hand, an A4 size sheet of thick, white paper, with the words ‘Final Assessment Test Pass Certificate’ printed on it, in bold, red letters. “Would this … happen to be yours, sir …?” he asked accusingly.



Oh no! OH NO!! How could this have possibly happened? I wondered frantically … My Pass Certificate (“What ever you do, don’t lose it!”), had been in my back pocket. Nice and snug, and with no danger of it falling out … No danger … of it ‘falling’, out …



“Out of my way, FOOTBOY!” said Miss Samantha nastily, rudely elbowing me out of her way, as she stepped aboard the Air Crew Bus.



When I looked up at Miss Samantha, and saw the expression on her face … the penny finally dropped – and exploded like a laser-guided cluster-bomb.



Miss Samantha, had planned this! She must have! Yes! That was it … She had insisted I get on the Air Crew Bus, before her, so that she could pluck my Pass Certificate out of my back pocket, and then drop my precious passport to freedom on the ground, for the Litterman to see …



But, that was the bit I couldn’t understand: what was the Litterman even doing here – in a part of the airport where there were no air passengers – in the first place? Patrolling this area was not a part of his official remit … I didn’t get it.



Miss Samantha was jubilant, gleeful, exultant. She was smiling at me: wickedly, tauntingly, goadingly (“This, is what you get, for dropping litter!”).



My legs actually buckled; folded under me, as if my tendons had suddenly snapped like old, perished elastic, at absorbing the dreadful knowledge of the awful extent of Miss Samantha’s perfidious perpetration against me. My legs actually gave way, from the appalling, stunning shock: the shock, of realising just what Miss Samantha – the ankle-crossing Air Hostess – had actually done to me. I would have collapsed helplessly to the ground, had it not been for the Litterman’s firm and staying hand, holding me up.



Oh, the exquisite irony, of it! It brought me close to tears. “You!”, I croaked at Miss Samantha wretchedly. “You, have done this … Haven’t you? You! YOU!!”



“I’m not sure that I like your tone, FOOTBOY! I must remember to make a note of it, on your Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet,” promised Miss Samantha gloatingly.



I couldn’t take much more of this. It was all … so cruelly unjust! So devastating. So soul-crushing. So … so hideously wrong!



And, all of this was happening, because of an offence that I hadn’t even committed, And, wouldn’t commit!



It was all too much … Just too much!



And, not accepting my earnest, truthful excuses, the Litterman escorted me to the Litter Office, to be formally brought to book for my ‘offence’. “This way, sir …” instructed the Litterman brusquely.



Guiding me, by means of a firm, staying hand upon my right shoulder, the Litterman escorted me to the door of a decidedly drab-looking building. Once inside, he marched me down the familiar, decidedly dismal narrow corridor, and up to a door at the end, which was painted in a depressing, sort of ‘Institution’ grey. On the office door, was the – rather incongruous looking, in this dismal setting – highly-polished brass plaque, which read: ‘Gatwick Airport Litter Office – Head: Mrs J Jepson’.



The Litterman: after breathing heavily upon the brass plaque, and then polishing it to a gleaming shine with a cuff of his uniform jacket, discreetly rapped the knuckle of a forefinger upon the office door. Upon receiving, in response, permission to enter by a decidedly no -nonsense sounding female voice, the Litterman opened the office door, and escorted me inside.



“Yes, Litterman …? What have you got for me?” asked the woman who sat behind her desk, who was the Litterman’s Superior.



After gracing his Superior with his customary reverential bow, the Litterman spoke. “He dropped this, Madam …” said the Litterman, handing over the offending article – the incriminating ‘evidence’ – to his Superior.



When Mrs Jepson – Mrs Josephine (“Not tonight, Josephine …”) Not ever! Jepson – saw me, she cried, “You! YOU AGAIN!! What is the meaning of this …? No sooner, have I issued your Pass Certificate (“What ever you do, don’t lose it!”), than … you are littering again …?” she asked incredulously. “Don’t you realise just how close you came, to failing my Final Assessment Test?” (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and …”)



“Oh, no, Mrs Jepson! NO! It wasn’t like that! I promise! You see … it was Miss Saman—”



But, by now Mrs Jepson was looking at the offending article; the incriminating ‘evidence’, that the Litterman had handed over to her. And, as she recognized it, I thought that her face gradually turned about 5 shades paler, as all of the colour drained away. “What’s this, then … David? What have you been littering with, this time …? Why … I don’t believe it … this… this is actually … this is your Pass Certificate!”



“Are you quite all right, Madam …? Madam …? A glass of water, perhaps …?” asked the Litterman solicitously, out of his obvious concern for his Superior.



By means of a dismissive wave of her hand, Mrs Jepson assured her faithful underling of her well-being. To me, Mrs Jepson said through gritted teeth, “So, David … this is the measure, then, is it … of the contempt that you hold for the Gatwick Airport Litter Office … for MY office …?”



“NNNOOO, Mrs Jepson!! You don’t understand! It was Miss Saman—”



“SHUT IT!! I told you what would happen, didn’t I, David, if you were brought before me again? And, to cap it all, you actually littered … with your Pass Certificate! Well … I told you, 28 days ago, didn’t I, David, what to expect … That I am empowered, to award you a much stiffer sentence; the severity of which, would be at my own, sole discretion …? Well, David … as a Repeat Offender – and, of such serious magnitude! – I am awarding you a 12 months, Foot Service Duty sentence, to be served in the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station … And, your hours of—”



“NNNNOOOOOOOO!!” I wailed in panic-stricken horror, causing the Litterman to tighten the grip of his strong, staying hand on my right shoulder. “No, Mrs Jepson! Please! You’ve got it all wrong! ALL WRONG!! It was Miss Saman—”



“I SAID … SHUT IT!! The Litterman has caught you red-handed – again – and that’s all there is to it … Oh, Samantha was right, wasn’t she, when she confidently predicted that you would litter again?



“Now, where was I … Your new Foot Service Duty sentence, David, will begin tomorrow – Monday. Your hours, will be exactly the same as previously … 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. And, for 7 days a week, until the completion of your 12 months’ sentence … After each month of your new sentence, I will assess your Satisfaction of Conduct Rate, based upon the comments of the Air Hostesses, as officially recorded on your Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet … Then, at the completion of your 12 months’ sentence, I will make my Final Assessment Test … I will do this, by means of combining your monthly values, so as to calculate the average score of your overall conduct, for the whole 12 months … You must achieve a minimum, 90%, Satisfaction of Conduct Pass Rate … Anything less, David, than 90%, and …”



“NNOOOO, MRS JEPSON!! PLEASE … no … no, you can’t … Mrs Jepson. Please … Mrs Jepson. Mrs Jepson … JOSEPHINE … May I … may I call you … Josephine … Mrs Jepson …?”



“I … I don’t believe this … You are actually trying to ingratiate yourself with me, now! … Well, David … IT. WON’T. WORK! I have duly judged you … My ruling is final.”



“Please … Mrs Jepson. Please … Not the Comfort Station AGAIN! Please … please … Mrs Jepson … Let me clean the Air Crew Buses, instead … Mrs Jepson …? Night Duty, even! Anything, but the Comfort Station … MRS JEPSON!!” I wailed despairingly.



But, all that my pitiful and pathetic begging and pleading achieved, was to make Mrs Josephine Jepson’s day.



Miserably, I slunk lower and lower in my seat. And, I was sitting in a cloak of dejection and despair that was so dense, I thought I would have to cut myself out of it with a pair of tailor’s scissors.



Mrs Jepson issued me with a large, white carrier-bag, with the singularly unglamorous legend: ‘Gatwick Airport Litter Office’ printed on it, in bold, red letters. And on the capacious carrier-bag, was depicted the Litter Office’s official logo, of a silhouetted, stick-figured 5-member family, considerately and correctly disposing of their litter in the receptacle provided for the purpose.



Contained, within the capacious carrier-bag, were the following items: a Travel Warrant – valid for 12 months; a polythene bag, containing 7 white T-shirts (1 for every day of the week), with the word ‘FOOTBOY’, printed on the front, and the words ‘LITTER LOUT’, printed on the back in bold, red letters; a pair of heavy-duty knee-pads … and, my own key, to the Footboy T-shirts and heavy-duty knee-pads cupboard.



Finally, Mrs Jepson said, by means of a short re-cap, “Right then, David. You know the routine … Tomorrow, at 6 a.m., you will report to the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station to begin your new, 12 months’, Foot Service Duty sentence … And, don’t be late, David …”



Don’t be late, said Mrs Jepson! Don’t be late? I shouldn’t even be coming back at all! I couldn’t take much more of this! It was so unfair! So unjust! So cruel! So diabolical! So hideously … wrong!



And, all of this was happening, because of an offence that I hadn’t even committed! And, wouldn’t commit!



It was all too much … Just too much!



Well! So much, then, for having a drive over to the ‘Blue Water’ Shopping Centre to buy a nice, ‘celebratory’ (“Something ‘decent’, David,”) present for Kate. I couldn’t afford it, now: since I wouldn’t be starting my new job on Monday, after all.



No … Instead: as per Mrs Josephine Jepson’s orders, I would be reporting for Foot Service Duty, at the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, at Gatwick Airport … Just as I had been doing, for the last 28 days. I had never felt so wretched. My outlook had never looked so bleak.



When I got home, I glumly told my Mum and Dad, and my girlfriend, Kate, just exactly what I was going to be doing, for the next 12 months … and why. I had been expecting some sympathy.



Instead, Mum and Dad told me I deserved everything I got, for dropping litter – again! Pooh-poohing and finger-waving away my earnest and truthful excuses, they righteously opined that since I obviously hadn’t learned my lesson yet, this second, much stiffer sentence was entirely called-for, and was wholly appropriate. It was because of the likes of me, they pontificated, that they couldn’t even walk down the street, these days, without being unduly inconvenienced by having to step around all manner of litter.



But, that wasn’t the worst of it … Oh, no. Not by a long chalk. Upon hearing my decidedly unwelcome news, my girlfriend, the ‘long-suffering’ Kate; in a rather melodramatic gesture, threw up her arms, in giving animated expression to her ever increasing exasperation and frustration with me. Kate blew up. Her very short fuse had finally burned down. And, being at the ‘seat’ of the dramatic explosion, I caught all of the shrapnel.

Kate said this was the “Final straw.” I had “Gone too far,” this time she said. She’d finally “Had enough.” … I had crossed Kate’s ‘Line in the Sand’. And now, she was kicking that sand in my face. “You are SO dumped, David!” announced Kate, with an awful note of finality. “You’ll always be a loser, David!” she predicted confidently.



I looked to Mum and Dad, hoping for some moral support. But they looked away, as though embarrassed, and not wanting to speak. Not wanting to intervene, on my behalf: not wanting to ‘stick their oar in’. This was a ‘private matter’. And, after all: I had brought this whole situation down on my own head, hadn’t I? … Through my persistent litter-dropping.



Of course, I tried to rescue the situation – but it was hopeless. “Oh, Kate! Aren’t you over-reacting, just a bit …? It’s not the end of the world … Oh, come on, Babes … we’ll come through thi—”



“DON’T CALL ME ‘BABES’!” yelled Kate. “And, there is no ‘we’, anymore … Don’t you get it yet, David …? HEL-LO …?? We are through. Finished. We are SO over. You are HISTORY … Get it now, David …?” demanded Kate. But, she hadn’t said her piece, yet. Had hardly started …



Kate got up from her chair, and she began pacing about the living room, like a seriously riled tigress. As if it was an extended claw, Kate angrily pointed and jabbed her finger, ‘slashing’ at me as she spoke, by means of emphasizing her key points …



“And, whats more, David … Easy Jet are recruiting now, at Gatwick … And, I’m going to apply! I’ll apply tomorrow …” asserted Kate. She made a couple more circuits around the living room, gathering and forming her thoughts, before continuing …



“… Some of my friends are Easy Jet Hosties, based at Gatwick … With my contacts, getting a job with Easy Jet will be … easy! Ha ha ha! A cinch. Yes … that’s right, David … penny dropping now, is it …? I’m going to be an Easy Jet Air Hostess, based at Gatwick!” announced Kate decisively and triumphantly.



Kate then opened the living room door, preparatory to leaving. Standing in the doorway, Kate all-but shouted at me. “Goodbye, David! Until we meet again … At the Comfort Station!”



After Kate had left the house; closing the front door behind her none too gently, Mum found her voice again. “Well, David,” said Mum, “you can’t really blame her … Can you …?”



I felt as if the bottom had just fallen out of my whole world. I felt as though my universe had just collapsed in upon itself … and all that was left was a great big, gaping Black Hole. The Roller Coaster had gone down again and, as usual, I was the cause of our plummeting descent. And, my greatest, darkest fear was now being realised … only Kate would be coming back up again. She was leaving me at rock-bottom.



So … So much, then, for doing it ‘properly’. So much, then, for Kate’s ‘awesome’ engagement ring. So much, then, for ‘going down on bended knee’, in the ‘time-honoured tradition’. So much, then, for ‘popping the question’. So much, then, for ‘tying the knot’. So much, then, for a honeymoon made in heaven. So much, then, for ‘living happily ever after’. So much, then, for ’2.4 kids’, and the whole caboodle. And, so much, then … for Kate being ‘The One’.



I was distraught. Devastated. Crushed. In bits. I felt all broke-up, inside … and I didn’t think I would ever be mended.



And, all of this was happening, because of an offence that I hadn’t even committed! And, wouldn’t commit!



It was all too much … Just too much!



It was 2 months later …



I was now 2 months into my new, 12 months, Foot Service Duty sentence, at the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, at Gatwick Airport.



It was in the early afternoon, on a Monday. And, it was ‘business, as usual’ …



As ordered, by the British Airways Air Hostess, Miss Samantha – the ankle-crossing Air Hostess – I was on my hands and knees, parallel with one of the padded benches, and facing towards the entrance doors of the Comfort Station.



Miss Samantha, and 3 of her BA colleagues (who were, by sheer coincidence, the same 3 BA Air Hostesses with whom I had made ‘acquaintance’ on the very first day of my original, 28 days, Foot Service Duty sentence: Laura, Lindsey and Celia), had just returned from their latest Flight Duty. Their latest Duty had, apparently, entailed a very interesting and quite exciting, 2-night stop-over in New York.



Miss Samantha and her 3 BA colleagues were using me as their footrest: Miss Samantha, as usual, crossing and re-crossing her ankles on the back of my obediently proffered neck, with extremely irritating and aggravating frequency. The 4 BA Air Hostesses sipped their coffee, and chatted pleasantly about their highly enjoyable time in the ‘Big Apple’, while they waited for the next Air Crew Bus to arrive, and that would be along in about 15 minutes.



Then Miss Samantha revealed something – something, that I wished would have remained forever secret. So as to spare me from even more pain, even more anguish, even more grief, even more heartbreak …



But, it was not to be. Miss Samantha, in fact, had had no intention of keeping her terrible, loathsome little secret from me – far from it! No … The ankle-crossing Air Hostess, had been merely biding her time. Had been – with the dark patience of a cat, toying with a mouse – waiting for the ‘right’ moment. Waiting for her most ‘opportune’ moment, to reveal her delicious little secret to me. Waiting for the ‘optimum’ moment, to drop her ‘Dirty-Bomb’ … Carefully aligning it, with expert precision, over her unsuspecting and defenceless – vulnerable – ‘target’. And, only pressing her vindictive thumb down on the ‘release button’, when she was certain of a ‘direct hit’. When she was certain, that her pernicious ‘payload’ would duly produce the spectacular ‘fireworks’ that she wished to see: the resounding and brilliant success, of her cruelly calculated ‘desired effect’, upon ‘detonation’ …



“Oh, by the way, Laura …” said Miss Samantha to one of her BA colleagues, with patently false nonchalance, “… but, have I told you the story – ha ha!! the incredibly funny story … about how … on the very last day, of his 28 days Foot Service Duty sentence, for dropping litter … and, he was actually on his way home, with Mrs Jepson’s Pass Certificate in the back pocket of his trousers … I cleverly trapped this litter-dropping footboy into serving a 12 months, Foot Service Duty sentence, in the Comfort Station…?” asked Miss Samantha with an amused titter, as she re-crossed her ankles – and, none too gently, either! – on the back of my already tiring and aching, protesting neck.



Miss Laura shook her head, ‘no’, in reply. But she was smiling, in complicity. Miss Laura, I realised, was ‘in’ on this little pantomime! I feared, that this would be a pantomime with a real ‘Punch-line’. And, that I would be on the receiving end.



What the …? I wondered. What was she talking about? What were they up to …? I didn’t like the sound of this. Not one little bit. I mean, Miss Samantha had already made it plain enough to me, that she was actually responsible for my Pass Certificate ‘falling out’ of my back pocket, through her look of jubilation, her glare of triumphant, unadulterated glee, as I had been about to board the Air Crew Bus that day …



“Well …” continued Miss Samantha in tones of fond reminiscence, “… after reading through his Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet, I had the awful, sneaking suspicion, that he might actually pass Mrs Jepson’s Final Assessment Test … Well, I was certainly not having THAT, was I, Laura …? Oh! What delicious FUN, I had, Laura! And, it all came together, ‘like a plan’. Ha ha ha! First, I got the Litterman ‘on-side’ … I put a rather attractive proposal, to him … He has a daughter who lives in Canada, you see, and I offered him—”



“Nnnoooo,” I groaned miserably, in strongly suspecting what was coming … At the time, I couldn’t understand how the Litterman came to be there, at the Comfort Station – in an area of the airport that was not a part of his official Litter Patrol remit.



By means of admonishment, Miss Samantha placed the ball of her right, dark hosed foot to my cheek and, she repeatedly pushed/slapped me with it, as she spoke with mock sternness. “Do be quiet, footboy! I am talking ‘about’ you – not ‘to’ you … Now, where was I, Laura, before this ill-mannered footboy so rudely interrupted me …? Oh, yes … First, I got the Litterman ‘on-side’, by ‘sorting him out’ with a pair of extremely cheap BA standby tickets to Toronto, so that he and his lady wife could go and visit their daughter who has emigrated there to be with her Canadian husband …” Miss Samantha let her words trail off, as though inviting my reaction … which she duly got.



“Nnnnoooo! The Litterman … he wouldn’t … He just wouldn’t! It’s not true! It can’t be! It’s not—”



Once again, the ball and toes of Miss Samantha’s dark hosed foot pushed/slapped my face in mock chastisement. “I just told you to be quiet, footboy, didn’t I …? And, you will obey me, and not be so awfully tiresome … if you know what’s good for you …” advised Miss Samantha.



“Now, where was I, Laura, before this ignorant cretin of a footboy spoke without my permission …? Oh, yes … I told the Litterman what time to be at the Comfort Station, to catch the footboy ‘red-handed’ at dropping litter again … Well, it worked like a dream, Laura – like a charm – ha ha ha! Oh, Laura, I’ll never forget it! Ha ha ha! I only wish that you and Lindsey and Celia had been there to see it, too … but, if all four of us had just suddenly turned up out of the blue, like that, in our civvies … even HE might have suspected something! It was such FUN! Ha ha ha! … Taking his Pass Certificate out of the back pocket of his trousers, was just like taking candy from a baby … or its dummy! Ha ha ha! The look on his stupid face … was SO comical, when the Litterman collared him for littering … For actually littering, Laura … with his Pass Certificate!”



Miss Samantha, after ending her (“Incredibly funny story”) on a cruelly barbed, triumphant note, had calculatingly let her words trail off again: to let her appalling words sink in; to invite my further, unwise and greatly damaging knee-jerk reactions … to give me ‘enough rope’.



“Oh! You little schemer, Samantha! You are ‘a one’!” contributed Miss Laura goadingly. Miss Lindsey and Miss Celia also helped to push me towards the edge of the abyss. Taunting me: their provocative, maddening tittering inviting me to grab hold of even more ‘rope’.



And, as my full understanding dawned … as Miss Samantha exultantly revealed to me, the actual, incredible extent of her diabolical designs … revealed to me, the full, despicable details of her wicked ‘campaign’ against me (whether she ‘grew’ on you benignly, or malignantly, depended on whether or not she ‘liked the look’ of your face, upon her first seeing it), I was unable to contain myself any longer … and I duly obliged them.



At digesting the true, malicious enormity of what Miss Samantha – the ankle-crossing Air Hostess – had actually done to me, I started the irreversible process of totally, totally, burning-my-bridges-burning-my-boats, ‘losing it’ – Big-Time.



“You … You! YOU! This … this is all … because of YOU! Isn’t it? ISN’T IT …?? I’m here, in this … in this … God-forsaken … so-called … Comfort Station … 12 hours a day … 7 days a week … for … for 12 MONTHS!! … because of you … YOU! AREN’T I …?? All … because of YOU!” I spluttered … And, duly doing with the ‘rope’, just exactly what Miss Samantha had hoped and expected – had planned and calculated – that I would do with it … Tie myself in knots – to the Comfort Station!



“Why … you … you insolent little worm!” cried Miss Samantha in gleeful, mock shock. “I’m not sure that I like your tone, FOOTBOY. I must remember to make due note of it … on your Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet …” she promised smugly, as she re-crossed her ankles – and, none to gently, either! – upon the back of my obediently proffered neck. (“That’s what you get, for dropping litter!”)



But, I wasn’t through, yet: my in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound, self-destruct button pressing thumb was just warming-up. I could hardly believe it! I just could not put the lid back on my all-consuming outrage (keep my “Nose clean,” and behave “Well”), and I continued the no-way-back process, of well and truly, totally ‘losing it’ – BIG-TIME.



The elaborate lengths that Miss Samantha had actually gone to, in securing her vindictive, wicked objective, beggared belief … Miss Samantha, had actually propositioned the Litterman (“Put an attractive proposal, to him”), by bribing him (getting him “On-side,” and “Sorting him out,”) with a pair of heavily discounted BA Standby tickets to Toronto. And, it was all … for the sole, malicious purpose, of keeping me here – like a prisoner … in the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, at Gatwick Airport.



At the shocking and stunning impact, of the staggering enormity of this devastating, soul-crushing knowledge, I was rendered almost speechless. My stammered words, scraping and clawing their way out of my suddenly aching, suddenly painfully sore throat, were rasping and choked, barely coherent, as I unthinkingly, ill-advisedly – recklessly – addressed Miss Samantha … As I self-destructively confronted and accused my Nemesis – the ankle-crossing Air Hostess.



“You … YOU! … Why …? WHY …?? This is all … because of you … isn’t it …? I’m here … because of you. Here, in this … Comfort Station! All … because of YOU! Aren’t I …? AREN’T I …?? ‘MISS’ Samantha!! … You’ve destroyed me … I had a life, a new job, all lined-up … A GIRL!! She was ‘The One’!! … You’ve stolen everything, from me … taken my darling … taken my KATE! She dumped me … because of YOU! … Why …? WHY …?? ‘MISS’ Samantha!! … To be your FOOTREST …? Ooohhh, you … you … YOU BITCH!!”



At my self-destructive outburst, Miss Samantha was gleeful, exultant. Just as she’d hoped and expected, just as she’d planned – calculated – (“Oh! You little schemer, Samantha!”), her ‘Dirty-Bomb’ had scored a ‘direct hit’ – Bulls eye! Had landed smack-bang on its ‘target’ – and with all of the resultant ‘desired effects’, upon ‘detonation’, that she could have possibly hoped for.



“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear … footboy …” intoned Miss Samantha, in melodramatic, patently false tones of disappointment in me. “I wonder what Mrs Jepson will think … hmmm …? I wonder what Mrs Jepson will have to say, to you … when she reads about your little outburst, on your Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet …? Hmmm …? Hmmmmm …?”



So … So much, then, for keeping my “Nose clean.” So much, then, for behaving “Well” … This was going to play merry-hell, with my overall Satisfaction of Conduct “Average value’. Tipping the scales the wrong way and … maybe too far, to recover. Maybe too far, to still have even a snowball’s chance in hell, at passing Mrs Jepson’s Final Assessment Test, in 10 months time. (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and …”)



Then … and just when I believed that things couldn’t possibly get any worse – they did.



For, who should push open the entrance doors and enter the Comfort Station next, but my former girlfriend, Kate. (“Goodbye, David! Until we meet again … At the Comfort Station!”)



To me, Kate’s ‘Grand Entrance’ into the Cabin Crews’ Comfort Station, seemed more dramatic, than ‘Annie’ – of ‘Annie Get Your Gun’, fame – swaggeringly pushing her gun-toting way through the double swing-doors of some old ‘Wild West’ saloon bar, could ever have been.



Of course, Kate saw me straight away … and, I was dismayed to see an amused and satisfied smirk push up the corners of her lips, as she took in the scene before her … The scene: of the 4 British Airways Air Hostesses: Miss Samantha, with her ankles crossed upon the back of my obediently proffered neck, and of Miss Samantha’s 3 BA colleagues; Laura, Lindsey and Celia, putting their feet up upon my conveniently positioned back.



Kate, I thought, looked … resplendent; attired, as she was, in her distinctive and readily recognizable, orange-liveried Easy Jet Air Hostess uniform. (“With my contacts, getting a job with Easy Jet will be … easy. Ha ha ha!”)



As I looked admiringly at Kate, I actually felt my chest painfully expand, as I felt a surge of glowing pride for my former girlfriend. But, crestfallen, by a cold and crushing sense of tragic loss, a wave of pure misery washed over me, at seeing just what I had lost, and I became submerged in the bleak and frigid depths of an unbearable desolation.



And, all of this was happening, because of an offence that I hadn’t even committed. And, wouldn’t commit!



It was all too much … Just too much!



I shuddered and shook: I was wracked in the throes of an unbearable, unadulterated wretchedness. “Kate! … Oh, Kate! …” I blubbed, helplessly and disconsolately.



Now, Kate walked up to me, and she looked down at me. “What? What did you just call me, footboy …? Aren’t you forgetting something … FOOTBOY? Something very, very important …? You just addressed me, as ‘Kate’ … I shall have to make a note of that … on your Footboy’s Daily Record Sheet.”



” I … I beg your pardon … Miss … Kate. It won’t happen again … Miss Kate,” I apologised to my former girlfriend, miserably, but respectfully and compliantly. As I knew that I must. (“Anything less, David, than 90%, and…”)



Miss Samantha’s interest was piqued, at listening to what had just passed between the Comfort Station footboy and the unfamiliar Easy Jet Air Hostess. After looking at Kate’s name-tag, she asked Kate, “Do you … do you actually know this footboy, then … Kate …?”



Kate; after looking at her questioner’s British Airways name-tag, replied, “Unfortunately for me, Samantha … I used to … But it seems a long time ago, now … A lot of water has passed under the bridge, since then …”



(Not for me, it hasn’t! Stuck here … for 12 hours a day … 7 days a week … in this … in this … so-called Comfort Station!) I wanted to shout at Kate.



Kate addressed Miss Samantha again, conversationally. “I’ve just returned from a Flight Duty to Venice, and back … I didn’t get to go and have a nice look around, though, as I would have liked to – ‘What do you think this is, Kate? A Holiday?’ – that’s what the Purser said to me, when I merely mentioned to her that I would love to visit the sights … It’s like that with Easy Jet, most of the time – just a quick turn-around, and back to Gatwick … It’s not nearly as glam and fab as I used to imagine it would be … just a lot of hard work – and getting up at stupid o’clock half the time, too, for the privilege of doing it! … Having said all that … I do love it, though. Ha ha ha! I enjoy all of the … ‘attention’ we get … Have you and your three colleagues just come back from somewhere nice, Samantha?” asked Kate interestedly of her new, and seemingly agreeable acquaintance.



Indicating her 3 BA colleagues – Laura, Lindsey and Celia – Miss Samantha replied enthusiastically, “Yes … the Big Apple! We’ve been before, of course – millions of times – but there’s always something new to see and do, in New York. It’s so amazing! We had a great time … Oh, Kate … you just wouldn’t believe some of the places we go to, with BA – and with lots of great stop-overs, too! Sadly … such pleasures come at a high price, though … my feet are killing me! Ha ha ha!” laughed Miss Samantha, as she re-crossed her ankles upon the back of my obediently proffered neck. “Maybe you should apply to join BA, Kate …?” suggested Miss Samantha sympathetically.



“Yes, maybe I will. It sounds great, Samantha …” agreed Kate tentatively, “… but I’ve only been with Easy Jet for a bit. Since finishing my training, recently, I’ve been operating out of Luton and Stansted, where we’re a bit short of Cabin Crew, at the mo.”

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