Who Am I?

My photo
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?

24 April 2014

Jumping To Conclusions

Misconceptions: We’re all guilty of them, especially when it comes to other people.

I carry a lot of passengers in my taxi, and as a student of human nature I've learned to "read" them. However, I do jump to some conclusions about people. I don’t like it when I’m wrong. And sometimes I don’t like it when I’m right.

I carry a lot of military kids in my cab. The Naval Aviation Technical Training Center (NATTC), based at Naval Air Station Pensacola (NASP) has over 4,000 young U.S. Navy and Marine Corps students in attendance at any given time. Many of them are under 21, and very few of them are allowed to have cars, and so they depend on taxis to get around. Over 90% of my business comes from the navy base.

Getting a tattoo is a time-honored tradition in the military. Lately, the government is putting more and more restrictions on tattoos, but nevertheless the desire for “ink” is strong and I transport a lot of young sailors and Marines to the various (and numerous) tattoo parlors in the Pensacola area.

Recently, three young ladies got in the cab at the navy base. …Three Marine women, all in their smart-looking Class C uniforms which the Marines are required to wear when they go off base here. …Three clean-cut, wholesome, conservative-looking, nice young women hopped in the cab at Foxtrot barracks.

“So…which tattoo shop can I take you ladies to today?”
I said in my jokingly sarcastic way.

“Monster Ink!”
was the excited reply. All three of them had appointments to get tattoos.

Well shut my mouth.

I hate it when I’m wrong.

Then a couple of days later I got a call from a woman whom I’d carried before and who lived way out west of town. Her daughter was at home and needed to go to the Cordova Mall. The woman could not drive her. A pickup time was arranged.

When I got there, the daughter (who is white) and a boy (who is black) got in the van. They were very young…sixteen...maybe. I couldn’t tell whether they were boyfriend and girlfriend. You never know. It might be racist of me for even mentioning it, but there is a trend today for white girls to go out with black guys. You almost never see the reverse: a black girl with a white boy. It just doesn’t happen. For obvious reasons, I suppose. (And if you have to ask…don’t.)

The ride to the mall took over a half-hour, so I had time to assess the young couple in the back. These kids were a puzzle. For one thing, the girl spent almost the entire time on her cellphone. Secondly, they weren’t holding hands, nor did they seem at all affectionate. They didn’t even seem very friendly to one another. In fact, there was a palpable air of tension between them. I got the distinct impression that the boy didn't even want to be there. Then it dawned on me. “Ahh, she’s pregnant!” I smugly thought to myself. That’s what sixteen year-old white trash girls do down here – they get pregnant by the first boy who pretends to be in love with them just so he can get laid.

Halfway to the mall the boy’s cellphone rings. He has a short conversation with someone I take to be a male friend and who I gather wants to get together and do something. A question is posed, but I cannot hear it. “I can’t," the boy replies in a disappointed tone. "I have a doctor’s appointment,” he says. Then he hangs up. Hmm. “I” have a doctor’s appointment? Not “we” have a doctor’s appointment? Could I have read this whole situation wrong? Perhaps. And so being nosy, I ask if they want to be dropped off anywhere specific “at the mall,” which coincidentally is right next to Sacred Heart Hospital and a bunch of medical clinics in the surrounding area. But they say no, the main entrance is fine.

We finally get to the mall and the kids get out. As she does, the girl drops a folder on the floor right behind and between the two front seats. I reach down to pick it up and hand it to her. On the front is a label with her name on it and…wait for it…the logo for the obstetrics clinic at the hospital. Aha! Okay, then. A fifteen or sixteen year-old girl, pregnant by a guy she's probably not all that fond of to begin with.

I hate it when I’m right.

22 April 2014

MH370: Gone Pecan (and yes, those words do rhyme)

I often get asked, "Bob, as an aviation expert slash cab driver, do you think they'll ever find the missing Malaysian airliner?" And I always reply, "Nope! Not a chance.” People do seem astonished that a big plane like that could just...you know...vanish into thin air (or thick water, if you believe the Malaysian government). We wonder, "Aren't there devices onboard the plane (like the passengers' personal cell phones) that could be tracked by...something...or someone…GPS, hello? Hmm. Good question. I don't know.

Here's what I think: Globally, the number of aircraft in the air at any given time is staggering. Nevertheless, I think the U.S. government does indeed have a way of tracking everything that is in the sky. Maybe there aren't people watching computer screens of global aviation activity 24/7 and monitoring every flight...but then again, who knows, maybe there are. In any event, I believe we *do* have the capability of tracking everything that's in the air. Don’t ask me the specifics of how, but come on…let’s not be na├»ve about what our government is or isn’t capable of doing. Edward Snowden, anyone? It’s 2014: The technology is obviously there.

But just as obviously the U.S. would want to keep the knowledge of this capability quiet. Why should ol’ Vladdy Putin know that we can in real time track every Aeroflot flight that takes off and crashes?

Furthermore, when MH370 disappeared I believe that the U.S. government reviewed its data of that area at that time. We probably knew there was no hope of survivors. Eventually, after waiting to see whether the Malaysians or Australians would figure it out on their own (which they obviously did not), the U.S government did...discreetly...tell the Malaysians where the plane went down. (Don’t you think it was strange that the Malaysian government suddenly had a very specific area they were focusing on and they never said why?)

We told them. We probably didn’t tell them how we knew; we probably just sent our ambassador to meet with the King of Malaysia, showed him a map and said, “Hey look, Yer Highness, it went down right here. We know this. I can’t tell you how we know this or I’d have to kill you. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out how you’re going to explain to the world how a 500 mph jet with no transponder overflew your country and didn’t send your defense forces into a tizzy.”

So the plane is a gone pecan. The extended, frantic, desperate search was in vain after a day or two of, “You know…umm…err…we’re not exactly sure *where* it went after the transponder got shut off.” I doubt they’ll ever find it…or more importantly find out why it crashed, which is what we really want to know, right?

09 April 2014

My Real Life

Already it is nearly time to take off the cab driver hat and put on the helicopter pilot baseball cap. I can't believe the time has gone by so fast; it seems like I just got "home." Which calls into question where "home" really is. I spent six months up in Washington State last year - half the year. I don't intend to stay up there that long this summer, but then I didn't intend to stay up there that long last summer. I like it up there. And it's starting to feel like home. A fella could get used to living in that part of the country...if it just didn't get so dad-blamed cold in the winter.

I greatly look forward to getting back up to Brewster. We always have a really great crowd of people that I get to hang around with...pilots and what we sneeringly call "non-aviators" alike. Yeah, sometimes we pilots get to feeling full of ourselves - especially when we get full of alcoholic beverages. Then the rest of the world becomes not us. It's bad, I know.

Of course I'm bringing my guitar. Last year, I brought mine and my friend Brandon brought his. Turned out that one of our other pilots, Lauren could also play! (Plus she sings terrifically too!) And so did copilot Chris. Danny (one of the owners - who also plays) brought out his two guitars, a gorgeous vintage Fender Stratocaster and an acoustic. All of us had a fine time jamming in the hangar (which has great sound as you can imagine). And let me tell you, there is nothing...NOTHING more fun than making music with your friends.

Since then I've gotten marginally better at playing and I've learned a whole bunch of new songs (although I do not have a good singing voice). Maybe I'll even put up a YouTube video like the awesome one my friend Hal Johnson did. Oh you didn't see it? It's incredible - gives me chills. Watch! Sings and plays pretty good for a dang ol' helicopter pilot, doesn't he? I doubt I could top this.

I quite like my dual life. But it is getting hard to know at this point which is my "real" life and which one is the one I go to just to play. Maybe some day I'll figure it out.