“This, my friends, has been a year of crashes.” Servaas folds the paper as he sits back to slip the reading glasses back into his pocket. “Those poor Malaysians! One country, three planes! It’s terrible.”
Gertruida nods. It is strange, she thinks, that both Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia are based in Malaysia. And now, after MH 370 had simply disappeared and MH 17 had been shot down, QZ 8501 was reported missing as well.
“Remember Blits Visagie? He was struck three times by lightning. He still goes fishing, though. Only insists on tackle with no metal in it.” Kleinpiet smiles at the memory of the withered, balding man he once met. “Well, he maintained that bad luck comes in threes. Now he’s afraid of the next sequence of strikes. Cats have three times as much luck as humans, he says, so he’s used up all his chances.”
“This is no joking matter, Kleinpiet. To lose an aircraft with its passengers must rate as one of the most harrowing experiences a country could live through. The families, the friends… My heart goes out to them.” Precilla, who scores a perfect 10 on the Empathy Scale, dabs a tear. “Imagine the terror of those passengers? Think about the loved ones…and them not knowing what had happened?”
“Ja, those incidents certainly makes one think about travelling. It’s better to stay here in the Kalahari. If we fall, we only go as far as the floor.”
“No, Vetfaan, you’re wrong. We may stumble about after a night of peach brandy, but that’s not the problem.” Servaas knits his brows together in a dejected scowl. “Those airline disasters made me think of our own country. We’re passengers on a political plane, completely at the mercy of the pilot, and the conditions we can do nothing about. And you know what? Our aircraft is twenty years old. It hasn’t been serviced. Our pilot has a Standard 3 certificate, and even he’s not at the helm these days. His copilot is doing most of the flying, but he’s lost the compass a while ago. The crew – mainly COSATU members – loves striking. They, too, have had so many infights lately that cabin service has ceased.
“We are, my friends, on a scheduled flight…but have strayed off the planned route so far that we may very well run out of fuel.”
“…And that’s why we have a power blackouts?”
Servaas ignores Kleinpiet’s attempt at humour. He’s in no mood for laughter. “You are right to remember Blits Visagie, Kleinpiet. Him, and his theory of threes. We’ve had Mandela, Mbeki, and now Zuma. What started out as a well-meant flight to freedom, has turned into a fiasco. We’ve lost thrust. We’ve lost a pilot. The landing gear has been stolen and there’s nobody listening for a Mayday. In short – we’re still alive, but the crash is inevitable. That’s what awaits us in 2015”
Despite the patrons in Boggel’s Place trying their best to cheer old Servaas up at the end of 2014, the atmosphere in the bar remains subdued, to say the least. They feel for the family and friends of the passengers and crew on board QZ 8501 and observe a moment of silence – a rare occurrence – in Boggel’s little establishment.
But…Servaas’s analogy has put a severe damper on their planned party on the 31st. Like Gertruida said: it’d be difficult to dance and sing while Rome is burning around them. Kleinpiet remarked that Rome is too far away to worry them, but that drew a disapproving look from the woman who knows everything.
“Humour may very well be the reason why we survived the last twenty years, Kleinpiet. Now, however, is not the time for snide remarks and glib statements. Our thoughts go out to those people in Indonesia. And – my word! – we should no longer joke about our president. We should pray for him – he needs it.”
When Kleinpiet (on his fourth peach brandy) starts reciting Humpty Dumpty, Gertruida storms out, with Servaas right on her heels. Sometimes, she thinks, people’s insensitivity surpasses even their lack of understanding.
“Our country is sick,” she tells Vrede, who has followed her home. “Our aeroplane has lost power. Let’s hope there’ll be enough survivors to start over.”
And Vrede, much like so many of his human counterparts, sighs contently as he flops down for a well-deserved mid afternoon nap. The world out there is so far away…