Herman was a legend among us. Those of us who had flown with him never gave the details to those who had not. It was too much fun to watch their shell-shocked expressions when they had finished their flights with him. Herman wasn’t just a colleague. Herman was an adventure.
Now Herman was from Hong Kong and was a born again Christian. Neither of those things were what made him that legend but I mention them as they both added elements to the crazy- pants stew that was this man. Never a fan of taking things easy he did everything at high speed. Walking,talking,eating and taxiing were all done at a high rate of knots. This led to one First Officer he flew with to call out “Rotate” as they were speeding to the gate one time. To save time between flights he would skip meals and scoff some evil Chinese madness in flight. Another poor F.O. witnessed Herman slurping cold eels out a can. He’s not been right since.
Herman was a great fan of efficiency and multitasking and as I was fairly competent in both areas we got along quite well. We once sat down and planned out installing little sewing machines in the tray tables so that passengers could sew footballs or sneakers in flight. Another time,on a dare from me, he rode the baggage carousel at State College wearing a rising sun head band and waving a plastic Samurai sword.
I didn’t mind Herman you see,as I was able to close the cockpit door on him and his poor misfortunate F.O.s. So while Herman wasn’t my favourite Captain to work with he was one of the more entertaining. Until he sent me to hospital with an inhalation injury. Then it wasn’t funny anymore.
We were in Dulles and the plane needed it’s lav serviced as it was getting a bit whiffy. We had plenty of time and the rampers told us they would take care of it before we came back to the plane. True to their word they did. Only they took a little too much care of it. The toilet was filled almost to the brim with the infamous Blue Juice. The ramp guy had “over-serviced” and had pumped in too much. I called Herman back to have a look. He revelled in the challenge presented to him.
“Get me three of the heavy trash bags” was all he said.
This was where my instincts told me to flee but my curiosity at what Herman was up to beat them back. I had to see what he was going to do. I didn’t have to wait long. As soon as I gave them to him he wrapped his arm in the bags and plunged elbow deep into the blue lagoon.
“Herman!!!! You mad bastard! What are you doing?” was my helpful contribution.
“Ah…’s no problem.I just have to release this catch and…..”
We never did find out what the catch was supposed to do because we both took to our heels to avoid the volcanic fountain of vileness that erupted from the toilet. I was just ahead of the advancing tide but poor old Herman caught some on the chest. There was a blue river of this digestive enzyme (corrosive to aluminium) coursing under the seats and soaking in to the carpet. This plane was done for the time being. Or so I thought.
When the mechanics came on-board they could not believe the extent of the damage. The blue juice had by now sought out the lowest points on the plane and was spilling out on to the tarmac in full view of the passengers. It was like one of those Tom and Jerry cartoons where Tom gets riddled with gunfire,drinks a bucket of water and has it all squirt out of him.
Add a very blue (literally and emotionally) Chinese man with trash bags wrapped around one arm for extra comic effect.
Now we were supposed to have three more flights in that plane. A Roanoke round and then on to our overnight in Charlottesville but this was looking unlikely now. There were no spare planes available and ours wouldn’t be fit for flight for a while. To make a long story longer the mechanics dried out our plane as best they could and we were put back in it.
I never made it to Charlottesville. The flightie jump seat on a J41 is right next to the lav and that was where the soakage was worst. I had to breath that crap for nearly an hour and a half and by the time we landed back at Dulles I thought I was going to choke to death.
The Emergency Room doctors got a laugh out of it. I’d have laughed too if I could have spared the breath.
Herman,If you’re reading this I owe you a kick up the hole.