I have flown on many occasions. The thrill now dulled by the snaking airport queues for check in, passport checks, security checks, and boarding checks, before being herded into seats so rigid and short of legroom, that there must be some sort of EU regulation that bans them.
Mid-flight, at 30,000 ft, somewhere over Croatia the call came over the intercom – “if there is a doctor on board could they make themselves known to a flight attendant”. A woman who looked too portly to be a doctor pressed the buzzer. She was duly ushered to the back. Everyone desperately tried to look, without looking, necks swivelled with a speed normally associated with Barn Owls, a low hum of conversation “Have they died?”, “Will we be diverted?”. After a while the doctor returned to her seat. It was unclear whether the patient had passed away, and her work was done, ( do they jettison bodies, a sort of burial at sea?) or whether the patient had responded magnificently to the medics’ ministrations. Still, I had witnessed the call.
It reminded me of the story of a similar call that had been made on a flight to Florida from Heathrow when a man suffered a suspected heart attack. Twenty two seat buzzers sounded. A party of British Cardiologists was attending a Cardiology Convention in Miami. The patient lived.
Serendipity works in strange ways.
It was an ordinary evening in an ordinary French rural town, a dormitory for Paris. McDonalds was doing a brisk trade to hungry children, and resigned parents. What followed was straight out of Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” when Pumpkin and Hunny- Bunny decide to hold it up.
Two young men entered the restaurant, one firing a sawn off shotgun into the ceiling as a warning, the other brandishing a handgun. “This is a robbery, no-one move and no-one gets hurt” ( the equivalent in French obviously) rings out as the robbers approach the terrified staff behind the tills.
The diners gasp, cower, whimper in terror. Apart from nine young men, casually dressed, all wearing jackets, all sporting neat close hair cuts. They don’t speak. They communicate by flashing eyes, barely noticeable body language, which says “ Stay calm, do nothing, the risk to the public is too great”. Will this be a straightforward till robbery? Will the customers be robbed? Will hostages be held? Or is there a more sinister terrorism motive? In seconds, the tills are looted, the robbers whoop triumphantly and flee the building, the doors flapping behind them.
Cue nine men standing up, reaching inside their jackets for holstered Glock pistols running to, and beyond, the doors in pursuit, closing on their prey with every bound. “Armed Police halt or we shoot” they bark. Both robbers look over their shoulder in shock. One collapses to the ground in abject surrender, immediately pounced upon by two of the officers, the other fires towards the officers. Three shots are returned, all find their target, who slumps wounded and is immediately disarmed and restrained. Job done.
The nine members of the French Elite Anti- Terrorism unit, who were returning to their barracks after a hostage rescue training day, and had stopped for a burger, waited for the local Gendarmerie to arrive to tidy up.