Don watched as the airline steward carefully rocked and rolled with the plane, trying not to let the turbulence disturb her balance.
A cost accountant, Don guesstimated how much the airline saved dishing out coffee during a bumpy ride. His cup was about 80% full. Multiply that by 300 passengers at say, 20 cents a cup that’s a saving of 60 dollars. Not bad.
“And the catering carts are sensible,” he thought. “Just wide enough for the aisles so that if there is turbulence it can’t move around too much and do a lot of damage. That would lower their insurance costs. Not to mention when the carts are out it’s harder for people to get to the loos, which would save a lot on toilet paper and hand towels.”
On the other side of the aisle Don’s mate Fred was thinking about what he had learnt at the convention. His mind was a blank.
Charlie, the third member of their accounting firm, was seated behind Fred. Charlie was not a good flyer. In his mind’s eye a graph appeared; the solid line mapped the up and down movements of the plane due to turbulence, and the dotted line mapped the up and down movements of the lunch he had finished half an hour before. As the plane lurched up his lunch lurched down, and vice versa. He was wondering what units he would use to label the y axis when a bolt of lightning hit the right wing.
The lights inside the plane flickered on and off for a minute, then everything went black completely. In the dark, no one could see Charlie’s knuckles go white as he gripped the armrest of his seat.
There was a small scream from a seat further up as the steward poured scalding hot coffee onto the lap of a passenger. Don made a mental note to write to the airline suggesting they revise their quality assurance safety procedure for making sure the coffee was not too hot. People were too quick to sue these days. It’s a wonder anyone went into business at all, return for risk being so hard to control.
Charlie’s graph disappeared and was suddenly replaced by a mental picture of the plane bursting into flame, exploding and breaking apart. Passengers and bits of metal flew out in all directions. For a brief moment, Charlie wished he was an economist – someone who, it was widely agreed, lacked the imagination to be an accountant. Surely his imagination was disturbing him unnecessarily.
His lunch suddenly came all the way up as there was a huge BANG.
The plane tilted forward and began nosing its way down toward the ocean below. At an exponential rate.
Don noted the oxygen masks hadn’t dropped from the ceiling. Definitely a breach of contract. When he leant forward to pull his life jacket out from under the seat his head hit the tray, knocking him out. He slumped forward, unconscious, in his seat.
The wheel-lock on the catering cart gave way, the cart pushing over the steward, tipping, and breaking the steward’s nose as it fell.
A greenie in the back row of the plane became anxious. He had thought long and hard before even getting on the plane, worrying if he could justify leaving such a huge carbon footprint in its wake. “Shit”, he berated himself, “now we’ll probably kill a dolphin when we hit the water as well.”
It seemed like an eternity before the plane hit the water. Four passengers, including Don’s wife, had died of heart attacks on the way down.
Into the ocean plunged the plane, down and down into the murky depths until the little air inside the cabin finally caused it to slow. Charlie’s arms dog paddled instinctively, trying to right himself and head back up to the surface. The last thing he heard before he passed out himself was Fred telling his wife he wanted a divorce…
Fred was surprised to discover, when he reached the Pearly Gates, that his clothes were dry. He felt calm. He pushed the buzzer on the main gate, not having to wait too long before a shaft of bright, white light moved closer.
An old man wearing nothing but a nightie, sandals and a long white beared appeared out of the light.
“Next”, the old man intoned in a bored voice.
“Fred,” said Fred. “Fred Smith.”
The old man checked a giant ledger sitting on a disk near the gate. Fred watched, surprised to note he could read the old guy’s mind. The old guy was peeved.
“Why,” the old man wondered, “did everyone assume his name was Peter?”
He wondered on. Why did Peter always get the credit for manning the gate? Hadn’t anybody heard of a Roster? He wondered why the on-call for night duty part of the roster always had his name – Rocky – on it. He wondered what grave sin he had committed a few thousand years ago that saw him stuck for eternity on night shift. It was a long time since he’d had a decent sleep, that was for sure.
“Smith!” the old man continued mumbling to himself. “Everyone who arrives at night is a bloody Smith.” He wondered, too, why an omnipotent God still insisted he use a ledger. A computer would surely be easier. And if they must use a ledger, why weren’t the pages made of paper, instead of great bloody slabs of rock?
He checked Smith’s name and address from the ID offered, then looked up at Fred and the woman standing next to him. “Is this your wife?”
“Yes,” said Fred.
“You were an accountant? On your way home from a convention?”
“Yep”, said Fred.
“Nope,” said the old guy. “You’re for the other place. Says here you were an accountant who used some very creative accounting methods to rip off your clients. You falsified details on your own tax returns. In fact, you loved money so much you married a woman named Penny.
Follow that sign to the holding pen, and someone will be along to get you shortly.”
The next to step forward was Don. Don Jones.
Accountant on his way home from a convention. Liked a drinkie or too. Beer, wine, spirits – anything alcoholic. Did a sloppy job for your clients cos you were constantly pissed.
“In fact, you were such a drunk you married a woman named Sherry.”
The Old guy pointed to the holding area, and said “Wait over there.”
“Name?” the old guy asked, not even bothering to look up.
“No need to look,” Charlie said to Rocky before turning to his wife. “Let’s go, Fannie.”