Daily mythology: Mayday


“Do you know what it came from? said Luke. Mayday?
No, I said. It’s a strange word to use for that, isn’t it?”
(Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale)

It is a beautiful day. The sun shines brightly from the skies. Some tiny white clouds sail near the mountainside. The first gulets cross the waves. In spite of Ramazan many Turks sit in the meyhaneler and enjoy their tea. The rare tourists dare to swim, but mostly lay on their chaiselongues. In France houswives do their spring cleaning – it’s about time! In Paddington Railway Station some wait for their local train to Reading or Weston-super-Mare. They sweat in their long sleeves! In the Black Forrest though they even began with naked gardening. The wealthier Russian prepare for their holidays in Sotchi or Trabzon. Some drunkards near Hamburg desperately pull their wooden handcarts filled with beerbottles and Schnaps along macadam-roads… Is the world precious? No, “cheap, cheap, cheap!” the sparrows in the bushes answer. Really, a beautiful day in May. A Mayday. Mayday! Mayday! How comes to have such a cry for help seeing all that beauty?

Of course the origin of that emergency signal is quite different. What does this “Mayday” mean? Well, it has nothing to do with our month in spring nor with the English primeminister Theresa May. This distress signal comes from the French “(Venez) m’aider” = Help me! It was proposed by a British officer in the beginning of the 20th century, as much of the air-traffic was in between London-Croydon and Paris-Le Bourget.

Father Brown utters “Mayday! Mayday!”, sitting near a suicidal pilot in a small sportsmachine tumbling towards the earth. I bet James Bond said occasionally the same. They both had the better end of it. Many wartime pilots sent this signal just before crashing. They had “Roger that!” as an answer. It was the last words they ever heard. “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” screams the captain of the Titanic, the Wilhelm Gustloff, the Andrea Doria, the Bismarck….


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