On a wing and a prayer
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CASTLE HILL, NSW ONa freezing February morning, I arrived at the small domestic airport of Rovaniemi in northern Finland. I checked in my knapsack, collected my boarding pass and, like a true Finn, headed straight for the bar.
A hard week of crosscountry skiing had left me exhausted, and with a long flight ahead, I was in desperate need of a drink. I plonked myself down at the bar, ordered a beer, and looked out the window at the blue ice on the tarmac.
As the outside temperature plummeted, I watched the inbound planes carefully negotiate the sub-zero conditions. One after another, each pilot shrewdly calculated his final approach and, with breathtaking precision, brought his aircraft to a sliding halt on the icy runway.
It was a beautiful sight. A young man sitting next to me seemed similarly enthralled.
‘‘So where are you flying to?’’ I asked. ‘‘Helsinki,’’ he replied. I told him I was also headed there.
The young man smiled. ‘‘Well, in that case we should have a drink,’’ he said and uncorked a large bottle, filled two glasses, and toasted, ‘‘To a safe landing in Helsinki.’’
I downed the shot. A warm sensation rushed through my veins and flushed my cheeks. ‘‘Wow,’’ I gasped.
He explained it was Finnish vodka. ‘‘Strong as an ice-bear, and twice as deadly.’’
I laughed. He poured me another.
For the next hour, we went back and forth, talking and drinking, and before long both of us were pretty tipsy. After two hours, we were smashed.
Finally, an announcement came over the loudspeaker: ‘‘Passengers are advised that the flight to Helsinki will be boarding shortly. Please make your way to Gate 14.’’
‘‘Well,’’ I said, struggling to stand, ‘‘we should probably start heading over.’’
‘‘Relax,’’ he slurred, pouring himself yet another shot. ‘‘Our flight isn’t going anywhere.’’
‘‘What makes you say that?’’
‘‘Because I’m the pilot.’’ Send your 400-word contribution to our Follow the Reader column. Published columnists will receive a Lemnis Pharox Solar Kit. Ideal for outdoor adventures, this nifty device is both an energy-efficient portable light and a charger for devices such as phones and iPods. Charge via electricity before you leave or on the road with the included mini solar panel. $49.95. More: 1300 LEMNIS; lemnislighting.com.au.