Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

29 March 2014

Cab Driver - Therapist

Whenever a bartender flags you down you know things are going to be bad. Either a too-drunk patron had them call for a cab, or they’re throwing somebody out because they’re too drunk.

Like bartenders, hairdressers, priests and legitimate therapists, we cabbies are often called upon to dispense advice. Why on earth people would presume that I would have any words of wisdom for them is beyond my meager powers of comprehension. I’m a goddam cab driver fer cryin’ out loud.

With that in mind, I’m cruising up Palafox Street in downtown Pensacola last night when a guy hails me outside of the Helen Back bar. He gives me the, “Wait one,” hand gesture and goes back inside. That’s when I spot his t-shirt with the “Helen Back” logo. I think to myself, “Just drive away, Bob, just drive away.” But no.

Subsequently he comes back, and he’s just about carrying this little blond woman. Skinny thing, tiny…late 20’s or early 30’s. He plops her unceremoniously in my front seat and wordlessly shuts the door. Uh-oh. She immediately turns to me and says, “I am NOT going to get sick in your car.” Then she gives me an address that’s not too far away. Hardly reassured, I drive off. I keep a blue plastic pail (the kind kids play with on the beach) within quick reach in the event the drunks I carry have any accidents.

Before we get far, she’s sobbing. Against my better judgment, I ask her what’s wrong? She doesn’t answer, just alternates between sobbing and mumbling incoherently. And she seems vaguely pissed at me for some reason, saying that I don’t really care about her. Which I don’t, to be honest. Ten minutes from now she’ll be out of my cab and out of my life.

As we motor toward her house she suddenly sits straight up and angrily informs me I’m going the wrong way. “I guess that’s your plan, huh…to charge me as much as you can?” One has to be careful when insulting a cab driver. We’re likely to pull over and kick your drunken ass out. There is no law that says I must get people to their destination. Anyway, she quickly realizes her mistake, but does not apologize.

Finally she starts making sense. Between her sobs I learn that she’s all alone in the world. Her husband left her, she’s estranged from her son, they don’t talk to her…she has no family, and all of her “best friends” have turned out to be not friends at all but merely coworkers. All alone. And…of course…she misses her dead father terribly; he died thirteen years ago, she says.

We get to her house. The fare is eight dollars. “Can you please just show me some compassion?” she verily demands. “Can you please just say SOMETHING to me…give me SOME advice?”

Hey toots, I'm just some fuckin' guy, you know? But okay, you axed for it. I start off as gently as I can, kind of knowing how this conversation is going to go. “Ma’am, it’s been my experience that if you have a relationship with God, you’ll never be alone in life…you’ll never be lonely. No matter what happens, God is always with you.”

Before the words are even out of my mouth, I hear the tongue-cluck and the sigh. I knew they were coming. “Oh, I don’t have a relationship with God,” she spits. “I have a relationship with pantheism.” I don’t have time to ask her to explain because she quickly adds, “I tried the God-thing.”

The God-thing. I’m tempted to ask, “How’s that working out for ya?” but I don’t. She starts fumbling around, pretending to look for her purse. I decide that it’s time to help her out of the car, whether she actually gives me any money or not. But she finds the purse, pulls ten crumpled dollars out and makes a big show of dumping them on the floor between the seats.

“Thanks for nothing,"
she hisses as she walks away.

I feel sorry for people like her…people so wrapped up in themselves and their own misery and self-pity that they drive others away. From the very brief glimpse I got of this young woman’s life, I completely understand why she’s all alone and bitter. I get back in my cab, shake my head and I drive away too.

19 March 2014

Risks We Elect To Take

So here we are, a week and a half after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and there is still no sign of it. The plane just vanished. Speculation runs rampant, especially on the all-news TV channels. Most of it is just inane-bordering-on-stupid. I can’t even watch CNN anymore.

Personally, I knew almost immediately that it did not crash at the point where it disappeared from radar. When searchers went to that location and found no wreckage I smelled a rat. Big airplanes like the Boeing 777 leave evidence behind when they crash. Something would’ve been on the water. But it wasn’t. Ergo, airplane not there; airplane somewhere else.

Where? Somebody knows, and somebody isn’t telling. I read today that Thailand’s government admitted that their military radar tracked the jet. Thai officials sort of disingenuously claimed that they never said anything about this because…get this…nobody asked. Yeah, right.

Big jets like the 777 do not just evaporate into thin air. It went somewhere, and it either landed or crash-landed. My sneaking suspicion is that it went somewhere and landed, and if it is still flyable it is now in the possession of some group. And my other sneaking suspicion is that the assigned flight crew did it…”stole” it…aviation’s version of “The Hunt For Red October.” Why? Who knows. It’s the stuff of adventure novels for sure. And it’s going to make a great movie.

The other aviation incident that made national news this week was the crash of a TV news helicopter in Seattle. It was apparently taking off from a rooftop helipad when something happened and it crashed onto the street below. Both people in the helicopter were killed, and one man on the ground was seriously injured.

Immediately after a bad accident like that, I knew there’d be a lot of speculation, just like with the 777 disappearance, especially on the internet. People want to immediately know what happened: What caused the helicopter to crash? This of course is impossible to know. Nevertheless, self-proclaimed “experts” are always throwing out their theories as fast as their pudgy little fingers can type them. Maybe it makes them feel better to be looked at as an authority by others. Older pilots like me refuse to even make an educated guess as to what would cause such a crash – because there are too many things that can go wrong with a helicopter operating from such a pad.

These two events hammer home the point to all of us that aviation is still a potentially dangerous endeavor. Nothing is perfectly safe, no matter how hard we try to make them so. Airline travel is “fairly” safe to be sure, but there is always an element of risk that cannot be denied or ignored or wished away. And the fact that there are X-number of successful airline flights all over the planet ever day does not lessen the associated risks one little bit.

Helicopter flying is perceived by some as “dangerous” but really it is not. I could not have survived over 30 years of flying these contraptions if they were dangerous. More than that, I wouldn’t have done it. I mean, come on, I’m no fool. I understand that helicopter flying is riskier than staying in your nice, safe apartment or house all day. But I work very hard at keeping the risks as low as possible when I’m flying.

The other night I was driving my taxi on a four-lane, divided highway. A confused (drunk?) driver pulled out from a side road right into my lane going the opposite direction. Head-on and coming fast! I confess that my initial thought was, “I wonder if my airbag is gonna work?” I yanked the wheel to the side and managed to get my car into the next lane just as the other car same zooming by, accelerating hard as he went the wrong way, looking for a place to get back on the proper side of the highway. We missed each other, but hoo-man! It was close enough that I got that metallic taste in my mouth that you get when you’ve had a really close call.

I chucked to myself, “And they say FLYING is dangerous??”