your seatbelts, announced captain Reza Bokhari over the intercom.
I was on Iran Airs London to Tehran flight IR945. Well
be landing at Mehrabad airport in 35 minutes. I had my eyes closed.
My mind was cast back to that unforgettable day at the White Hart in
Theobalds Road, London - 13th of October, 1975. I remembered it well.
As we are born with the ability to question, I have often fallen into
the human trap of looking at my own life through the mirror and asking:
where do I go from here? What should I do next? I can count
on the fingers of my left hand the number of times that a serious decision
may have altered my course. But this particular one that I took, very
nearly doomed my future for the rest of my life.
We all follow a long trek through time that can take many twists and
turns. Like sweating through a jungle, or clambering over a mountain
range, it continues, it goes up and down, but never ends, or so it seems.
Multiple paths are presented with luring alternatives. Delicate options
constantly dance in our minds. Decisions are taken over and over again,
some in haste, some through meditation and others, well, never at all.
But the outcome, the results, even the final destination hopefully
not yet are irreversible. One false move, and
lives could change dramatically. And yet, as someone once said: there
are always two possibilities. Optimism is key to survival.
As an international employee I was given a special mission to explore
new business opportunities in Central America. The success was meant
to pave the way for my immediate promotion. After six months, I walked
into my boss office and presented him with a stack of files and
folders. Umpteen number of projects, statistics, financial and technical
analysis, contacts, charts and business plans were laid in front of
him. You name it, I had covered it. He took one look at them and said:
Jim, these are great, but youre too late. Ive decided
that were no longer interested in the area.
My heart sank. For a moment my mind went blank. I walked out of his
office and simply thought: shit. You sod! I never did see
eye to eye with him. I took some leave that was due to me and went on
holiday. As my wife was Spanish, we returned to her parents home
in Spain. I spent the next couple of weeks sulking and brooding about
my future. Suddenly, within a flash, I sent my boss a note which read,
very simply: Ive had enough. I resign.
I had just chucked in fifteen years of a lifetime career and had no
idea what I was going to do next. It didnt take long for me to
realise my mistake. I tried to have a go at starting a translating agency
but failed. I had no customers. My brother-in-law offered me a job as
a plant manager in an aluminium window frame factory. That was even
worse. I finally ended up on the beach digging for cockles to drown
my sorrows. My wife, ironically, was now supporting the family having
landed a job as a teacher in one of the local schools. I literally caved
No, I did not attempt suicide, nor did I go to the local pub to get
pickled. I called my boss, and very sheepishly asked him the vital question:
can I come back please? Within a week I was reinstated.
Pension rights restored, I returned, alone, to the London headquarters.
My family remained in Spain. My boss greeted me with his usual sadistic
smile. I knew youd be back. Cold out there isnt it?
he said. You realise youre now confined to the UK. Your
overseas career is over. Hell, this is not what I was expecting.
I couldnt see myself starting a life of commuting every day. Taking
the 0740 to Liverpool Street or Paddington from some dreary suburban
station. I was used to dirty smelly buses in third world countries,
or driving to work in a broken down Landrover on some Caribbean island.
Civilised monotonous 9 to 5 was just not for me. But what could I do?
Two months had gone by, I was still living on my own, had no home as
yet and my wife and family continued in Spain. There was a pub on the
corner of the office where a great deal of us would go for our luncheon
beers and sandwiches. Although it was not my cup of tea, working in
London, in those days was fairly routine and relaxed. No computers,
no stress, no incentives and no bonuses. Just strictly boring. I remember
I was on my third pint with some of the lads when a senior overseas
manager Id known for years, walked in. With three pints, one tends
to speak ones mind. I told him of my woes.
He was on his last assignment and was rounding up a team of experts
to go to the Middle East. He needed one more body. Without batting a
eyelid he said: how would you like to go to Iran? A million
thoughts went through my head. Id lost count of the sleepless
nights Id had trying to sort out my future. And here it was, the
opportunity to go back to the wilderness, metaphorically speaking. Had
never been to the desert before! Youll have to sort it out
with my boss, John. As you know, Ive been stricken off the overseas
Thats not your concern. Do you want to come or not?
he emphasised. Yes I said. All hell broke lose the next
day when my boss called me in. Every conceivable insult and abuse was
thrown at me. You bugger off to Spain. You resign. No sooner have
you left, that you plead to come back. I turn heaven and earth back
here to get you back and this is what you pay me with? Get out!
I opened my eyes and diligently fastened my seat belt.