It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane… It’s a Hungarian Pheasant?
Ten years ago I assisted with the hosting of an official NATO event at the Czech Senate Building in Prague. Like many places in Prague, it is beautifully designed with detailed frescoes that cover the walls and ceiling along with soaring crystal chandeliers.
Occasionally I have a tendency to make sarcastic comments with a deadpan expression. Usually I just want to see if they are listening.
So while walking through this amazing hall I asked the event planner, “Are these chandeliers actually real?”
She looked at me with an appalling frown and said, “Of course! What do you think? We are in Las Vegas?”
She peaked my interest and a month later I was in Las Vegas on a short holiday before going to Los Angeles. I quickly figured out what she meant as there is no place on earth filled with so many things that just aren’t real (except all the money made by the casinos…).
While in the city of illusions, my then girlfriend Jamie and I went to see the master of illusion, David Copperfield. I love magic and this was an amazing opportunity.
In order to pick someone to come on stage, he throws a frisbee out to the audience. Whoever catches it is invited to come-up and participate in his next act. Jamie caught the frisbee and next thing she was on stage.
What happens next is something you would never hear about. She had to draw a bird and did not draw what he was expecting and he sent her back.
She had killed the trick!
Apparently Jamie could outsmart the same guy who managed to make the Statue of Liberty disappear and walk through the Great Wall of China. Regardless of our experience, he is still the master of tricking us into believing something that is not real.
Speaking of trickery, I recently was tricked by something as simple as a restaurant menu. Last week while in Prague I went out for traditional Czech food and an item on the menu caught my attention. It was called “Moravian Sparrow.” Suddenly I had an image of a real sparrow freshly killed from the woods being served whole on my plate.
Which of course begs the question, “Do I start with the wings or the head?” I would defer to Ozzy Osborne on this one.
Apparently Moravian Sparrow is a pork, cabbage, and dumpling dish (Very Czech!). How it actually got to be called Moravian Sparrow is something you will have to research on the Internet.
In any kind of business you always have to struggle with figuring out if your vendors really get the job done. You wonder if they will actually serve you what you are order. Are they too an illusion?
In the trip support company side of things, clients must wonder who is providing the handling support on-the-ground. Is it the same people they called to set the trip up? We pride ourselves on the fact that in our 175 locations it is one of our people.
This includes Hungary, where we recently proved having your own people is essential.
Petr Pazurek, our Hungarian Country Manager, was coordinating the departure of a flight for a VVIP customer in Budapest when they showed up unexpectedly with 100 freshly hunted pheasants to be put on the aircraft.
Apparently they were gifts? So much for a bottle of wine or box of chocolates. I guess bringing a pheasant to dinner parties is now the “it” gift.
Petr immediately attempted to ice them down, but realizing that regular ice would melt through their boxes and dry ice was not easily accessible, he went into a cargo storage area at Budapest airport that had cooler boxes. He grabbed them, filled them up with ice and managed to fit the 100 pheasants into all the boxes. If anyone knows Petr, there is no doubt he had zero hesitation and was up for the challenge.
Having someone on the ground is essential. They can make magic happen with their knowledge. We get frustrated when we see a worldwide guide of airport ground handling support operations list companies that are not present in so many locations. We know for a fact (it helps when your employees have worked at the airport for 25 years) that so many of these companies are just not there.
Perhaps it helps to destroy an illusion when you have a partner company with a main office in Prague, where what you see is what you get. It is a Medieval city filled with so many original buildings that nothing is an illusion (apart from the dancing puppets on the Charles Bridge).
So what are two things I want you to take away from this blog?
Firstly, when you have your $40 million plane sitting on a ramp somewhere, you can be assured that when your customer orders Moravian Sparrow, we will make sure they get a pork, cabbage, and dumpling dish and not an actual Sparrow.
Secondly, keep tossing us a Frisbee and let us come to the stage. We will ensure that magic happens. And if we do not, then we will send you a trendy Pheasant. I know what you are thinking. Not to worry, it will arrive in a cooler.
Make no illusion about it.