Pinned to the schedule board in the bus depot was an envelope addressed to her. that was unusual. The note inside was short. 'Your runs for today have been re-allocated to other drivers. Report to the supervisor's office when you arrive.' What the .........? Arwin wracked her brains. No, she had not dented or even scratched her last bus. There had been that difficult passenger, but she had been firm and correct with him, and the remaining passengers had even clapped her as she dropped him off. What was this about? Quick check of uniform, all in order. This was puzzling and worrying.
Someone had made an attempt to make the corridor leading to the supervisor's office a little festive. Faded paper chains, some threadbare strands of tinsel and even a miniature Christmas tree that looked as if it had survived a hurricane. The office door was open and the sour faced supervisor was sitting behind his desk. “Come in Arwin, shut the door and take a seat.” A seat? This must be bad.
The plastic chair across from the supervisor rocked on its uneven legs as Arwin waited for the supervisor to look up from his paperwork. She could see her personal file on his desk. Finally he looked up and spoke. “We have been looking through the files of all the people we took on in the last year. We found one or two things in your resume that prompted us to call you in. In particular we noted that you had some technical experience that we found unusual.” Arwin gulped. She was sure that all the details were correct, there was nothing in there not supported by documentation.
Unnervingly the supervisor smiled and continued, “We have an assignment for you. You may know that we have been running some extra buses at Christmas for some years. This year we have adapted one bus specifically to take children to visit Santa Claus. We would like you to drive our 'Santa Special' this year.” Arwin gulped again, this time with relief. She had heard some rumours around the depot that there was special project being carried out in the workshops. Getting to drive it was really a feather in her cap. She smiled at the supervisor and said she would be glad to help. He stood up, shook her hand and told her to report to the workshops and get accustomed to the vehicle and handed her a leaflet outlining the timetable and a map of the pick-up points, the destination of the bus seemed rather vague though, it just said Santa's North Pole Workshop.
Gleaming new the bus stood in a screened off area of the workshop. From the outside the only way it seemed different was a custom sign on the side announcing it as the 'Santa Special' replacing the normal advertising banner and some heavily studded tyres. Inside was a different story. In the place of the normal bench seats were padded seats with seat belts and it had a carpeted floor. Fairy lights ran along the ceiling and Christmas music was playing over speakers. What really took away Arwin's breath was the drivers area. A leather chair? A multitude of readouts, dials and what looked like a radar screen on the dashboard and above all rather than a steering wheel an aircraft yoke and even hand throttles. With a little imagination you could even imagine this bus could fly.
Laying on the drivers seat was a folder bearing the title 'Flight Manual'. The workshop had really entered into the spirit of this. Well Christmas was a time for indulging in some make believe, even if only to make things special for the children. Arwin worked her way though the manual, all pretty standard stuff, just some additional information about the sound system, the lighting About half way through the manual and she thought well that covers everything. What was the rest of this about. She flipped to the next divider and blinked at the title. 'Pre-flight checks, take off and landing procedures' …........................