Thursday, July 24, 2008

"At least it's my aspirational peer group!"

Over at Enrevanche, Barry posted a snippet from James Fallows and a link to a post meant to be rather sadly revealing about, as Fallows titled it, "Our American Media Landscape." Reading the whole Fallows post though, I was struck by a different chord.

For reasons too odd to contemplate, a quick, business-related, out-and-back trip from Beijing airport to.... Newark! With stay at an airport hotel designed to make me newly grateful for the environmental pleasures of Beijing. Surrounded on three sides by freeways. On the fourth, by check-cashing storefronts, pawn shops, liquor stores, tattoo parlors, car-auction sites. Kind of disappointed not to see some gun shops in there too.

All the other occupants of the hotel that I have seen are flight crews on Newark layovers. At least it's my aspirational peer group! Get to sit with the grizzled pilots in the bar and talk about "there I was...."-type flying tales and which airline will fold next.
I'm sure Fallows's description of the conversation here was every bit as accurate as his sad truth about the NYT (go read). Sadly, it reminded me of another piece of "humor" I received lately from a pilot friend--one that struck way too close to home. I'll share it, because a) it's funny; and, b) every aviator will recognize a piece of himself in there somewhere. I've no doubt whatsoever it's a pretty accurate description of some poor guy's life, start to finish. I know there's some of me there--ahead of the time line in some places, behind in others. One more good reason to make the move to academics as a profession. ;-)

'Life as a Pilot'

22 years old: Graduated from college. Go to military flight school. Become HSJP (hot shit jet pilot). Get married.

25 years old: Have 1st kid. Now hot shot fighter jock getting shot at in war. Just want to get back to USA in one piece. Get back to USA as primary flight instructor pilot. Get bored. Volunteer for war again.

29 years old: Get back from war all tuckered out. Wants out of military.

30 years old: Join airline. World is your oyster.

31 years old: Buy flashy car, house and lots of toys. Get over the military poverty feeling.

32 years old: Divorce boring 1st wife. Pay child support and maintenance. Drink lots of booze and screw around while looking for 2nd wife.

33 years old: Furloughed. Join military reserve unit and fly for fun. Repeat above for a few more years.

35 years old: Airline recall. More screwing around but looking forward to a good marriage and settling down.

36 years old: Marry young spunky 25 year old flight attendant.

37 years old: Buy another house. Gave first one to first wife.

38 years old: Give in to second wife to have more kids. Father again. Wife concerned about 'risky' military Reserve flying so you resign commission.

39 years old: Now a captain. Hooray! Upgrade house, buy boat, small single engine airplane and even flashier cars.

42 years old: 2nd wife runs off with wealthy investment banker but still wants to share house (100%).

43 years old: Settle with wife # 2 and resolve to stay away from women forever. Seek a position as a check Captain for 10% pay override to pay mounting bills. Move into 1 bedroom apartment with window air conditioners.

44 years old: Company resizes and you're returned to copilot status. 25% pay cut. Become simulator instructor for 10% override pay.

49 years old: Captain again. Move into 2-bedroom luxury apartment with central air conditioning.

50 years old: Meet sexy Danish model on International trip. She loves you and says you are very 'beeeeg!'

51 years old: Marry sexy Danish model for wife #3. Buy big house, boat, twin engine airplane and upgrade cars.

52 years old: Sexy model wants kids (not again). Resolve to get vasectomy.

54 years old: Try to talk wife out of kids, but presto, she's pregnant. She says she got sick after taking the pill. Accident, sorry, won't happen again.

55 years old: Father of triplets.

56 years old: Wife #3 wants very big house, bigger boat and very flashy cars, 'worried' about your private flying and wants you to sell twin engine airplane. You give in. You buy a motorcycle and join motorcycle club.

57 years old: Make rash investments to try and have enough money for retirement.

59 years old: Lose money on rash investment and get audited by the IRS. You have to fly 100% International night trips just to keep up with child support and alimony to wife #1 and #2.

60 years old: Wife #3 (sexy model) says you're too damned old and no fun. She leaves. She takes most of your assets. You're forced to retire due to Age 60 rule. No money left.

61 years old: Now Captain on a non-schedule South American 727 freight outfit and living in a non-air conditioned studio apartment directly underneath the final approach to runway 9 at Miami Int'l. You have 'interesting' Hispanic neighbors who ask you if you've ever flown DC-3's.

65 years old: Lose FAA medical and get job as sim instructor. Don't look forward to years of getting up at 2 AM for 3 AM sim in every god-forsaken town you train in due to the fact your carrier can find cheap, off-hours sim time at various Brand X Airlines.

70 years old: Hotel alarm clock set by previous FedEx crew member goes off at 1:00 AM. Have heart attack and die with smile on face. Happy at last!

Ain't aviation great?