Imaginary dirigibles

You know how some people have imaginary friends? Until today, I had an imaginary blimp.

I was reading the post over on WorldChanging about the return of the airship as a travel alternative. I am prepared to sound really dumb here, but I thought there already was an existing route between Brunei and Hong Kong. Yes, I know this is bizarre. It seemed bizarre to me too. And get this: I believe I may have applied for a job flying such a route.

OK, since my lovely partner is out of town (she’s living with an up-and-coming stand up comic in Harlem for the summer–the picture is at her stop — well, sort of…), I should note that I have not completely lost my marbles. If anything, I am just dumb. There was an ad — I believe in the English-language Daily Yomiuri for the position of blimp captain on the popular Brunei-Hong Kong route. Apparently, part of its popularity involved the availability of gambling and drinking on board (which seems even more absurd, come to think of it, given that the airline was owned by the Sultan). I was so intrigued by the advertisement that I applied for the job. I never heard back from them. I am prepared to accept that this may have been because they didn’t exist.

So now I comb the Web, looking for any evidence that such a service actually existed (come on! where is an airship going to land in HK?), or some way of understanding how I have fostered this route in my imagination for a decade. There are a few possibilities that spring to mind:

1. It was a hoax, played on poor unsuspecting English-speakers marooned in Japan without recourse to outside sources. (This was back in the early 90s, when the only thing on the Web was the UCI bookstore. Or was that gopher?)

2. The ad actually said “airship,” meaning one of the monster Boeings that Royal Brunei flies, and I mistakenly read it as “blimp,” when they meant “big jumbo jet.” While this is the most likely option, I find absolutely no evidence of anyone using “airship” in this way.

3. I read a novel at some point that suggested such a route existed and this somehow leaked into my belief about the real world. This does happen sometimes, that some inconsequential fictional bit of information will somehow seep into the real world. Doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, short of digging through microfilm of the Daily Yom, I am out of luck. I actually did keep diaries during much of that period, but given that they are not Googleable, and that I don’t have a firm idea of when (or even if) I actually sent a letter of inquiry about the job, this is probably also a wash.

In the end, my world is a bit poorer for there not being a party blimp that took a week ferrying especially adventurous travelers from Bandar Seri Begawan up to Hong Kong. I kind of wish I hadn’t wised up.

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  1. Posted 6/1/2004 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    Wonderful – I wonder how many fictions I’ve caused myself to believe are true? Quite often I dream things that seem entirely plausible, and believe them for hours the next day. Perhaps there are other dreamt events that I never realise are untre?

  2. Posted 6/1/2004 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    hmm, reading neal stephenson’s diamond age eh?

  3. Posted 6/1/2004 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Hanna at join-the-dots has consulting Wikipedia entries and has been musing on the origins of the word “blimp”


    The comments offer further anecdotes of airship travel lore.

  4. Posted 6/1/2004 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Hey Alex—my guess (for what it’s worth) is that possibility 2 was the case. As for there being no evidence of “airship” being used in this way, the word “airbus” is most definitely used. Perhaps something was, well, lost in translation?

  5. Alex
    Posted 6/1/2004 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Jill: Actually, that might be the most likely source. I may have dreamed it and it became a false memory.

    Jeremy: The timing is right–I probably read Diamond Age around that time. Though, as far as I recall Brunei wasn’t included in that. Though I might have combined it with stories of the Sultan’s private jets. (See here for an amazing plan of such a jet.)

    Hanna: Had they used Airbus I would have recognized it as such. You are right, though: it wouldn’t be the first time an ad got mangled in translation–in this case from English-to-English, but that is sometimes the most difficult! I also thought the airline was exclusively Boeing, though.

    I did page through my diaries, and at first glance find nothing. For a while, I kept a diary using the “wa-pro” provided by work. When I noticed the thermal paper I had printed this on was fading, I think I transcribed them. So I should at least be able to search through that relatively short piece. I’ve thought about transcribing some of my diaries from that time–in fact I even got a start on feeding them into a MT blog–but there isn’t enough there to sustain my interest. So for now, this will remain a mystery.

  6. Posted 6/2/2004 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Translation may not be the issue. This instance sighted by Alex is perhaps an example of regional
    usuage. I have found one more example where “airship” references what looks like an “airplane”

    Search string “airbus airplane Hong Kong”

    Airship — the figure in this illustration to a Hong Kong newsletter item looks like what would be called an “airplane”

    And for good mesure…

    Search string “Brunei Hong Kong airship” nets
    a reference to

    which is a story not about flying between the two destinations but flying at each of them.

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