Going back to college at 40 seemed like a good idea at the time. I was wrong.
It was a flippin’ BRILLIANT idea.
Fair enough. I’ve been a bit crap at the old blogging but no harm really. There are enough fevered egos and complete wankers out there competing for your eyeballs and the last thing you need is to waste your time here.
It’s been a long and productive year in the old Hangar and I am on the verge of taking to the skies again. There was a genuine ‘Oh Shit!’ moment this week when I had to hand my certificates over to an FAA examiner. No matter how benign the experience no pilot can fail to be affected by the sight of his/her tickets disappearing into the maw of the feds.
I mean I had new temporary ones issued immediately with proper ones coming in the mail in a few days but still…..
Still here? Great…now that we’ve gotten rid of the lightweights…….stand by.
For the last fortnight or so I’ve been on the horns of a dilemma. Real First World problems to be sure but in need of resolution none the less. One one shoulder I had the angel of Nursing. In pristine white and with voice angelic she beckoned me to a secure career with decent money and seemingly limitless opportunity. On the other shoulder lounged the smoke wreathed demoness of Aviation. Clad in a shabby,oil stained leather jacket she cackled at me as she sparked another fag.Shrugging her shoulders she offered me a bleak vista of unrelenting hard work,low pay,endless flight time building and instability.
For most people this would not be much of a dilemma. Then again most people wouldn’t have to choose between such disparate occupations. I’m not like most people though. Not in any cool sense you understand. More of a spacker,imbecilic swimming against the stream sort of way. Imagine a Liz Lemon as uncool as Jack Donaghy imagines her to be and you’d be in range. It all then came to a head when I was confronted by my old enemy Stephenie Meyer Algebra. I decided to take an insanely compressed Algebra ‘boot camp’ that hosed 16 weeks of madness at us over 4 days with a placement test for college maths at the end.
I was losing sleep over this. It was ridiculous. So for the first time in my life I acted like an adult and looked at the pros and cons of the two degree paths open to me.Now I should point out that I had done so a couple of weeks prior but it wasn’t an honest assessment.I was ignoring certain realities in order to sway my decision a certain way. Not the biggest of issues if you’re an 18 year old heading off to your first year of college but of bigger concern to a 40 year old woman with kids and a job.My approach this time was exhaustive and even scientific (there were spreadsheets involved)and looked into every detail.Tuition,housing,work/school schedule,commuting,credits from previous courses,job prospects,applicability to current employment,pre-requisites and what was in my heart of hearts.
In my previous effort I had gone to great efforts to ignore that last factor.I wanted this to be a decision based on pragmatism. When I did allow it in it became the final,most satisfying,piece of the puzzle. All of my other questions were answered in the loud ‘click’ of the puzzle piece locking into place.
Nursing was only ever going to be a Second Prize.
*With apologies to Neal Stephenson
C’moooon Baltimore….think you’re ‘ard enough then?
Over two years and multiple injuries later I have come to the reluctant conclusion that my body is trying to tell me something.
Now if it would just stop that screaming for a second I might be able to make it out.
Frightful carry on at JFK the other day. Still there was a certain style and dash to the whole thing. I especially love how he grabbed a tasty beverage for the short descent to the tarmac.
Meanwhile in Baltimore I’m dreaming about work.A bit sad I know. In my dreams my co-workers are taking to the skies with personal flying machines sort of like a tiny turbine on their backs with a folding hang-glider/ bat wing contraption. They are exceedingly nifty and I feel quite the clod in a clunky old Learjet.
I need this jet you see because I’m teaching a robust and bellicose Alex Higgins (circa 1982 AH mind)how to fly.
It might be about work (sort of) but I woke up happy.
The freight runner screeches to a halt next to me. There is an impressive amount of smoking rubber in his wake. He gleefully plants a full size surfboard in my already overflowing freight cart and speeds away. I can hear his laughter over the scream of the jets. I like to see people happy in their work.
As lovely as this fucking love connection is he has unwittingly created a bit of a problem for me. You see all the other freight in the cart is going to one destination while the board is going to another…in four hours time. I know that if I don’t move it some well-intentioned crew member will ship it somewhere vile. Yes..Columbus,Ohio I’m looking at you.
Of course it’s the busiest time of the day and just about every plane,tug,pushback,beltloader,baggage and cargo can is doing three things at once so I’m still carrying a fecking surfboard by the time I finish my search. It has to be said that this was very amusing to the passengers and crews. This particular gate was wedged in a broad V formed by two wings of the terminal so plenty of people saw me scuttling from one pool of shade to another with a surfboard under my arm. You see it had to go somewhere. You just can’t leave it on the ground,out-of-the-way somewhere because you’ll forget about it when the next ball of chaos rolls over you. Or the owner of the board will chance to look out onto the ramp just in time to see it get run over by a lavatory truck.
Eventually a solution presented itself (It was slow in coming because of the heat that day) and I lashed the thing to the back of my gate’s pushback tractor with bungee cords ( a good crew chief will always have some on her/him). Now a pushback is sort of squat,diesel-powered bastard love child of a Mark IV Panzer and a Massey Ferguson. If people were amused by me running around with the board they were breaking their arses laughing at it strapped to that beast.
A while later I was in the middle of pushing back a California bound plane when the captain chimes in over the headset.
‘Duuuuuude…….come with us. Surfing sucks in Baltimore.’
‘Don’t tempt me lads. I’m susceptible to temptation right now’
We disconnect the towbar and the crew clears us off. I pull back to where they have visual on us and wait for the guide agent to hop in for the drive back to the terminal. I snap off a salute to the cockpit and get two Shakas in reply.
I am immensely cheered by this.
Flippin’ ‘eck. I can’t believe it’s been that long since I posted last. The purchase of a family season pass for the city’s pools combined with the heatwave and working my Pale Irish Arse off at the new gig leaves precious little time for blog bothering.
That’s about to change though. I’ve re-gimped my right paw and have had my ears blistered by my physical therapist. Fortunately (as fortunate as it can be under the circumstances) it happened at work and ,fair play,they’ve taken great care of me. It’s also not that bad of a sprain this time. A week of rest with some PT and I should be back to Living The Dream (Cough,cough) in no time.
I’ve been making endless mugs of tea and scolding the cat. All I need now is a turf fire and the shawl.
‘ 803 on the deck for Alpha 9 ‘
The Tannoy’s blare knifes into my whisper adapted ears. Just in case we weren’t all aurally maimed the first time it’s repeated.
‘ 803 on the deck for Alpha 9’
Muttering vileness we slither out into the merciless sun and sort of scuttle along keeping to the shade. We are a motley posse in fairness. Uniforms are most certainly not and modifications for heat are as varied and idiosyncratic as their owners. I must have the only pair of camouflage capris here. Scratch that. I know I have. I clamp my boonie hat to my head with the Mickey Mouse – style ear protection and slide on the shades. A grain of sand or a bit of dust driven into your eye by jet blast or prop wash would be tedious in the extreme.
The jet acquires the line and screams towards us. I raise my wands,like truncated light-sabers, and convey some slight corrections to the skipper through some semi-occult gestures and signs. Like magic the whole fucking thing comes together and the bird settles into a temporary nest. Via some more pithy waving the man up front promises me he has cut the engines and that none of my crew will get sucked into a turbine. I trust but verify and manage to convey same to the captain with a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s amazing how nuanced a raised eyebrow,tilted head and a hand on a hip can be. My No.2 chocks the nose gear and hooks up the Ground Power. He then scuttles like a lizard under the belly of the plane to hook up the air conditioning. I’m delighted to see him afterward. People soup is a bastard to clean up.
Seconds later the combat-turn dance begin and the fuelers,engineers,commissary,loaders and crews swarm into action like ants attacking a fresh corpse. I’m new to this still and the pace is astonishing. One payload comes off and another goes on and it’s a 112 F in those bays. I’m sweating like Mary Harney in a cake factory. Stuff is coming and going left right and centre and I’m somehow supposed to be coordinating it while doing the weight and balance maths in my head. No biggie until you realise the payload on hand bears no relationship whatsoever to the planned payload. Oh and we’re tankering a shit load of fuel too.
Fuck it. We get it done with time to spare.
803 is now ready to be launched again. Once I’ve let her go that is. In a minute of two she belongs to the crew but until then she is mine. I am obsessively anal about the walk-around and I refuse to let it go until I have done a complete and thorough inspection.
I’d want someone doing it for me if I were on it.
Grudgingly I cede control and fix the crew with a beady eye and shoot telepathic warnings to them not to bend my aeroplane.
That’s right bitches. It’s fucking well mine.
A fraction of a second after shredding my ankle I felt this weird,almost electric, tingle up the outside of my leg. I began to form a thought along the lines of ‘ I have a bad feeling about this’ when the pain arrived. There was no more attempt at thought for quite a while.
While writhing in agony prior to being carried off the pitch by my teammates I did have one concern though and it led to a thought of sorts. Through mentally gritted teeth I said to myself ‘ I bet this is when I get the call about the job’.
The rest of my Saturday night was spent in the ER doing my Irish-Transplant-In-Appalachia stand-up (in a wheelchair) routine. I was a bit more of a grouch than usual…just a bit. The staff didn’t seem to mind and eventually released me into the sweet embrace of Vicodin. Sunday passed in a bit of blur to be honest.
Monday morning I get the call to report to my new job on Friday. Hooray,Shit,Hooray,Shit,Hooray,Shit.Being lovely people and this being an airline I want to retire from I hobbled up to see them on Wednesday thinking they would have mercy on my crutchy arse. I need not have worried. They were happy to give me a two-week deferment on my start date. Very much-needed as a follow-up visit and MRI had the docs laughing at me when I asked if I could start this week. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself in the MRI until I had a think about the last person to be scanned. Maybe they,or the person to come after me, have something truly heavy to deal with. I won’t die from a sprained ankle no matter how many ligaments are banjaxed.
Definitely a bit of a win there.
Update: A very tidy Canadian doc had a look at me this morning and cleared me for action. No surgery is needed and I’m off the crutches. No sports (bah!)for 12 weeks and I have to wear a goofy boot/brace for a while longer but I’m OK for work next week. Huzzah!
I was forced to use a motorized scooter at the grocery store the other day and I felt like an utter pillock. Still as I’ve mentioned before it was a chance to change perspective and learn a bit of humility.