I was thinking about my last blogpost, the one just below this. And I was thinking about fun, and how important it is to me.
A long, long time ago I was visiting with a guy who was my first real mentor in this business. In fact, it is his name that is on the first line of my very first student pilot logbook. Although retired now, his name would still be familiar to many within the helicopter industry. I will not name names, because what I’m about to write might seem critical or harsh although I most sincerely do not intend it as such.
Anyway, I had been a commercial helicopter pilot for a while, and as I said went to this man’s house to visit. In turn, we went to the house of a neighbor of his, a Captain for TWA (a now-defunct airline) who flew jumbo jets across the Atlantic and had been doing it for a very long time. I was impressed! I’d always wanted to be an airline pilot, but somehow got diverted into helicopters and my fate was sealed. However, this airline captain was an interesting guy, and along the way I asked him if he still found the job fun?
I remember that he thought about it for a bit before answering. I don’t recall his exact words so I won’t pretend to quote them although that would be the typical literary technique at this point. The gist of his reply was that no, it was not fun; it was merely a job. Some aspects of it were more enjoyable than others, but for him flying had ceased being “fun.” I was a little disheartened, being at the start of my career at the time and having a whole lot of fun flying helicopters. Would it ever not be so?
After my mentor and I left, we were in his car when he turned to me and said, “Bobby,” in that rather stern voice that he used when he was displeased with me. I braced myself for a lecture.
People don’t generally call me Bobby. My family does, and certain close friends do, and I do not mind it. But I am not really a “Bobby.” It’s kind of the reverse of how we’d never think of calling Bobby Kennedy “Bob.” He was always a Bobby to everybody.
My mentor said, “You shouldn’t have asked that question back there about whether he still had fun. Fun is an immature concept.” (I do remember those exact words quite clearly.) “When you’re paid to do a job, it’s not fun. And it shouldn’t be.” Ouch! He had made me feel like such a child.
I was stung by the criticism. Up until that point, life had been nothing but fun for me. I was having a blast flying helicopters, and I couldn’t imagine doing something for a living that wasn’t fun. What kind of life would that be? Drudgery, that’s what.
Over time I came to understand my mentor’s point. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it. For some people, work is serious business. It is not fun. Because fun is an immature concept. For some people.
I may die a poor man. I may never attain great wealth, or achieve "success," or own a business, or own beach houses here and abroad, and multiple hunting camps like my former boss in Alabama. I will probably never get married, and I sure don’t plan on having any kids to carry on a legacy of any kind. I may never cure cancer, or write the next Great American Novel, or become POTUS, or for that matter do anything truly “great” with my life. I admit that I’m a pretty irresponsible guy, one who puts more value on riding motorcycles like a madman and chasing strange helicopter jobs around the country (the next one will be even stranger still…if it actually materializes).
But when I get to the Pearly Gates, I’m gonna wipe the sweat off my brow and tell St. Peter, “Holy cow, that was fun!” And I think he’ll say, “You sir, have learned the true meaning of life. Come on in. Welcome home!”
But he might not.