Monday, September 14, 2009

100% Useless

Well, there's six hours I wish I had back.

I should explain. My first post didn't offer much personal information, so here's some:

I am an airline pilot in real life. But please don't define me by how I pay my bills. In fact, close friends have been warned a severe haunting will plague anyone who spends more than a minute talking about flying at my funeral. It's simply what I do, not who I am.

Often when the plane is on autopilot, so am I. I'm fortunate to have a lot of time to think. I'm a good thinker, and many thoughts turn into stories. Because in imaginary life I am a writer. I write sometimes fun, sometimes disturbing, sometimes offensive. I'm given to understand I'm pretty good, and from time to time, when I can figure out how, I will post some of my prose here.

Unfortunately, writing has yet to pay my bills. And today I had to fly.

I figured, no big deal. I've been off for two weeks - not on vacation, but sitting on call and not flying. Don't worry about my finances, I get paid to do nothing. Occasionally, I get called to fly. And when I do, I share a tiny space with someone I barely know, or sometimes have never met, for hours, and sometimes days, at a time.

Today was easy, a quick flight to Jamaica and back. Less than an hour and a half each way. Home in time for dinner. And stuck in the cockpit with one of the biggest wastes of humanity I've ever encountered.

I last flew with this guy about a year ago, just after I learned I was getting laid off. This economy hits everywhere, and I was lucky to get my job back, but at the time I didn't know I would. Well, everything in the airlines is seniority based, and while I didn't have enough to stay employed, Captain Jackass was swearing up a storm about being forced back to the right seat.

An aside:

In the airline world, captains sit on the left and make more money, first officers sit on the right. Don't ask why, just accept it. I am a first officer (not a co-pilot. Don't ever say co-pilot. It's as offensive as the n-word) so I sit in the right seat, but we both do the same job. Of course sometimes, since I only get half the pay, I only do half the work.

So while this guy goes on about his woes, I quietly mentioned how I was about to lose my job and didn't care much for his problems. Fast-forward a year to today and we're back together for the first time. Of course he doesn't remember me, because he's one of those people who's too wrapped up in himself to care about anyone else. The type who only talks about themself and doesn't ask anything about you, which is just as well since if they asked, they might find out about this blog and then see what I really think.

Well, he hadn't changed, even announcing so much in his preflight brief. By the book keeps you out of trouble. By the book, he is not. However, if you read the book on stereotypical airline pilots with big egos and big mouths, he is by that book. Sexist, rude, obnoxious, can-do-no-wrong because he has thirty years experience and I'm just some young dope who should be happy to spend time amongst his greatness, he is a walking example of the argument against raising the mandatory retirment age for pilots.

Oh, and the guy is a Nazi. Literally, he told me proud stories of his father in the SS during WWII.

So while he's totally distracted by everything except his job, I'm find myself being both captain and first officer. An example:

The climb checklist calls for the captain to turn off the landing lights. He reads it, but doesn't do it. I notice, so I turn them off. He sees me do it and makes remarks how I think I'm better than him because I caught him not doing his job. Now, this may seem like a small thing, but when your constantly changing who you fly with, standardization is a must, or lots of people will die. It's standard that the captain turns off the lights. It always happens that way. It's not a big deal that I did it today, but he made it a big deal. Then he made it a bigger deal after landing when he forgot to turn them off again, because he distracted himself again, and I did it, again. This time, however, he didn't see me do it, and when he looked up and saw them off made a point of telling me he did it.

I could go on a while, but then I'd be like him, never shutting up. And boy the things he said, like asking me why I didn't shave today. I did shave, and told him so. It just happens I have a Fred Flinstone face. The kind that looks unshaven even when it is. I have dark hair and pointed out it's more visible than his white hair. He wouldn't hear it, even reaching out to touch my face to see if it felt stubbly. Believe me, the things I want to say and do during these moments are far worse than what I actually say or do. But when you have to be stuck with this person and face the possiblity of working with them again and again, it's easier to let things slide. (I should have said, "I have a skin condition Asshole, thanks for making me feel worse about it." Why don't I ever think these things in the moment?)

So between him not paying attention to his job, the shaving comment, calling the Jamaican ground crew n****rs and expressing his desire to rape the flight attendant, I was about done. I'd leave it there, but the best part came as we passed through Customs. There was a little girl, maybe three years old, in her dad's arms and Captain Dumbass thought she was cute and asked if he could take her home. Dad laughed, reveling in the compliment and asked the little girl if she wanted to go home with him. She reeled back, narrowing her eyes, the corners of her lips turned down, and in the tiniest of groans shook her head and said, "Uh-uh."

In three seconds, she summed up my whole day.


Traci said...

Wow - I read most of your post open-mouthed (because that guy was so incredibly AWFUL! Can you believe people like that actally exist? Sounds more like a character in a novel).

I found the airplane/pilot details interesting (I know nothing about planes) and loved the bits of humor and sarcasm throughout. The gem at the end, with the little girl, was the cherry on top, adn made this feel almost like a short story. A very good one. Thumbs up!

Matt said...

Thanks Traci.
I wish I could say it was fiction, but I lived it. Thankfully, the next guy I flew with was blissfully silent, except when he was chewing paper, or those little plastic airplane cups that hold three ice cubes and a quarter can of soda and telling me how his number one hobby is suing people.

Traci said...

Wow. Fodder for novels, I tell ya. Keep taking detailed mental notes - they'll serve you well when writing fiction. I have a T-shirt that says, "Be Careful or You'll End Up in my Novel." ;-)