Being stuck in Europe during the Icelandic volcano revenge brings your most creative side alive. How do you get home from Paris to Stockholm with airports closed, all train tickets sold out and every car rental company in Paris already emptied? On top of that, you have just received instructions to pick up your boss (the CEO) in Brussels and make sure he gets to Copenhagen to deliver the quarterly result on Monday.
Working for Metro, I have always taken pride in our entrepreneurial spirit, but this was a new challenge. In desperation I called up the Chairman of Metro France and asked him if he could lend me a car, without knowing how to possibly return it to him. After all, we were going to Scandinavia and I was not planning to drive back to Paris again. Yes, he said – I have a car. You can take my son’s Smart car. Excellent, 1,600 km in a Smart car! I can smell a promotion coming up.
Thinking I was doomed, I went out for lunch, where I saw another colleague parking her car — a nice comfortable Lexus. “Here is my chance!,” I thought. I sidled up to her and offered her a Smart car in exchange for her Lexus. After a confusing discussion we had a deal. But she needed the car back on Sunday, she said — not knowing the details about my plan for her car.
It was Friday noon and I proudly called our CEO to tell him “Mission Accomplished” — I would pick him up in Brussels in four hours and drop him off safely in Copenhagen on Saturday morning.
On my way out from Paris I still had to solve the small issue of getting the car back to my colleague by Sunday. I called up the office in Stockholm: “Do we have any French people stuck in Stockholm?” The ash cloud cooperated: one of our employees was stuck in Sweden, trying to get to Paris. Put him on a bus to Copenhagen, we’ll meet him there.
On the autobahns in Germany, our CEO was smoking heavily, talking on the phone and playing with the GPS — a novelty for a man who almost exclusively bikes everywhere. Around midnight, I started to get tired and asked if he could drive for a while. “Sorry,” he said. “I don’t have my driving license!”
We were still five hours away from Copenhagen. It was going to be a long night.
At 5 a.m. on Saturday morning — after 16 hours on the road — I handed over the car keys to our French friend in Copenhagen. Mission was completed. Our CEO was in Copenhagen, I was on my way to Stockholm and the car was going to be back in Paris by Sunday.