So Mike and Qbert have come and gone. Mike is my helicopter pilot friend. I wrote about him here. Last I heard, he’d gone off to Washington State for a seasonal job flying a Bell 206 very similar to mine (more correctly, “the one I fly”). This was back before Christmas.
I didn’t hear from him for a while, so I called him up. His cell phone voice mailbox was full. Couple of days later, the message was that the number was no longer in service. Uh-oh. He wasn’t answering my emails, but he never answers emails. Another friend of his emailed me, saying that he also was not able to get in touch with Mike, and did I know anything of his whereabouts? I didn’t. So I did a little digging, and through mutual friends discovered that the job he went for disappeared literally a week after he got there, leaving him in the lurch. With no job and no money, he retreated to his mom’s house in Wisconsin.
When I finally got in touch with him, he sounded pretty depressed as you’d expect. “Just come on back to Pensacola,” I told him, adding confidently (perhaps a little over-confidently), “We’ll find you a job. In the meantime, you can stay with me.” Mike has a mentor here who brought him up through his various ratings. This mentor (Roger Buis, a great guy who flies airshows in the “Otto” helicopter) likes Mike as much as I do. I still have some contacts in this business. Between the two of us, I was pretty sure we could hook Mike up in some sort of aviation-related job, even if it wasn’t as a pilot right off the bat.
And that’s pretty much what happened. Mike did come down, and he did stay in my house. He came with his dog, Qbert, a 10-year old Doberman that must be the most gentle, friendly dog in the world. Mike’s had him since birth (the dog’s, of course). I’m not a big “dog person” but I really became attached to Qbert. (What is it about dogs and their peculiar relationship with humans? It’s strange.)
Roger came through and got Mike a job as a helicopter mechanic at Heliworks here in Pensacola, while Mike networked his ass off. Shortly, two job offers came in; both of which would involve moving out of state again. Plus there was the strong possibility of one other flying job if he stayed in Pensacola. Would these jobs have materialized if Mike had stayed in Wisconsin? Probably…maybe…who knows? But there is something to be said for being in a good emotional place and being in a good frame of mind. You know I’m a big believer in the power of exuding positive energy and all that. And of course it’s always easier to get a job when you already have a job.
In the end, Mike - ever restless - opted to go back up to the Great Northwest, doing the same kind of flying he was doing before, but for a different operator. He’ll be flying in the Brewster, Washington area, in the Cascade Mountains close Mt. St. Helens. It’ll be a grand adventure...if it works out this time, which we hope and pray that it does. Aviation can be a tough industry for itinerant pilots.
The job Mike’s taking is so cool that even though it is seasonal (it ends in September), I would take it if I could. Unfortunately, I can’t just pick up and move so spontaneously anymore. I’m not exactly Mr. Settled Down myself, and I like to think I’m still flexible enough to move around. But the truth is that there’s just too much baggage to pack up and move for a job that starts next week. When did I get all this furniture? And what the hell…three motorcycles out in the garage?! I guess I should finally admit that Pensacola is my permanent home. After all, I’ve been living here for over twenty years now. Mike on the other hand is still in that “transient” stage of life. Pretty much everything he owns can fit in his Jeep. There’s something to be said for that, both good and bad. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t envy him a little. Obviously, I’m ambivalent about my own life.
So I’ve got my house back to myself. As I type this, Mike and Qbert are on the road, somewhere between here and there, driving straight through, sleeping in the Jeep in rest areas. God love him, I couldn’t do that anymore. He called me this morning, and I warned him of a line of bad weather ahead that’s just by Billings, Montana now. The cold front has all pink and blue along it, and those are not good colors to see when you’re driving.
As much fun as it was having them around, I have to admit that I prefer living alone. The weather has finally been warming up. I think I’ll grab one of the motorcycles from the garage (the Sportster - the one that runs) and head down to the beach for a beer or two. I’ll make a silent toast to Mike’s footloosedness. And I’ll leave all that settling down and growing up stuff ‘till…tomorrow. Or maybe the day after.