The thing that I miss most about the airline industry is the friendship.It’s not your average workplace and there really is a sense of being a part of something bigger.We were not workmates.We were (and remain) crew-mates.In a very real sense your crew became your family on the road and very strong and enduring friendships were forged.You could liken it to a college fraternity or sorority…..or some mad cult.
That our infant airline was basically strangled at birth by the big boys and under siege for every moment of it’s short life added to that camaraderie.I have to confess that it took me a while to move on from what we had and for a long time I couldn’t revisit the many great memories without mourning them.These days (nights really) I work in a lonely,soulless environment with little or no contact with humanity and it was genuinely painful to contrast those good times with my sere present.
I’m over it.
I could choose from a huge array of good memories but this one thats been bouncing around my skull for the last several hours works for me.
For some inexplicable reason only known to Crew Scheduling my crew was taken away from me and I was dumped in Richmond on my own.It was my 30th birthday.I was to report to the airport in the morning and take the place of the inbound flightie for the super short hop back up to Dulles.I was ,however,duty bound to do so nursing a wee bit of a sick head.I mean it was my birthday after all.So making very sure to observe all of the FAA and company regs I got langers with some locals at a very disreputable roadhouse within the alloted ‘wet time’.
I wake up in the hotel in Triple A status (Alive,Alone,Aching) and set about getting ready for my day.I make it to airport in plenty of time and a very amused ramper gave me a huge paper cup of black coffee.I wander out on to the tarmac and park myself on a tug to await my plane.It was nice out here.Cool enough to warrant my big blue overcoat but warm enough not to regret wearing my uniform dress.I must have dozed off for a minute because next thing I know one of our J-41s is rolling very deliberately right at me.I don’t stop to think that it’s doing that because I’m sitting just in front of it’s parking spot.Oh no..this was a plot to torment my wee sick head with the hellish scream of two Garrett turbines.The absolute bastards!
I slip my ear protection on immediately and eye the approaching plane to make out the gobshites in the cockpit.Yup..sure enough it was Deek and Murphy.Two good friends who knew exactly why I was sitting on the tug with the coffee.The bastards! The ground crew guide her into her berth and chock the nose wheels.Normally this would be when the crew would shut the engines down but they had a really short transit from the runway to the gate and needed to run the engines for a minute or two to properly attain a safe shutdown temperature.This, of course, was a source of great hilarity to the pair of bolloxes up front who jockeyed the throttle just for me and my sick head.
The insane,screaming,banshee howl of those engines dragged me to the edge of murder.Well.. not really.You see given the same opportunity I’d have done the same thing.I move nose to nose with the plane and making sure no passengers can see me I gave Deek and Murphy the two fingered salute.Murphy ( from Ireland too) convulsed with laughter. Deek was from Minnesota so Murphy had to translate my gesture.He too joined in the yuks.
These were the things that told me I belonged.That I was among friends.Among my crew.