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?

20 January 2015

The Brotherhood of the Weed

I don’t smoke.  Not cigarettes and not weed.  The idea of lighting something on fire and then sucking the byproduct into your lungs seems so…I don’t know…insane.

If you do not smoke weed and you are friends with someone who does, you will find that your friendship with them is limited.  Because no matter how close you think you are, you’ll always be an outsider.

Potheads gravitate to other potheads.  Getting high is an important way of socializing.  Guys get together to hang out and smoke.  It’s a bonding ritual that brings guys much closer than they might otherwise get.

Full disclosure: I used to smoke weed, back in the day.  But not anymore.  And by “back in the day” I mean when I was in high school which was forty-five years ago.  But I knew that my future was in aviation, so by my senior year I had sworn off all drugs with the exception of alcohol of which I partook aplenty!

Nowadays, smoking weed is becoming more socially acceptable.  The states of Washington and Colorado have decriminalized personal use and allow it to be sold openly in sanctioned stores.  Other states will surely follow.  But back in 1970 pot was totally illegal, and there was more of a stigma associated with smoking pot than there is now.

Let me add here: Do I think weed is harmless?  Oh hell no, of course not.  I can run down the long list of negatives, just as you can.  Just as with alcohol.  But as I opined in this post, I think weed is far less harmful to society than alcohol.  And if you’re going to allow the use of one intoxicant, it might as well be the less harmful one.  Yes, yes, I know that in a perfect world people would not have a need for any intoxicants.  But I don’t live in that perfect world and neither do you.  People drink.  People smoke.  Get over it.

I remember back when I was a teenager.  We smokers would get together in some clandestine place to get high.  It was like being a member of a secret club.  Those who did not smoke were shut out.  If you weren’t part of the in-crowd (i.e. a smoker) you didn’t belong, simple as that.  We didn’t want non-smokers around because they were “buzz-kills.”  And they might rat us out.  The fear of arrest was strong.  As I got older I came to really dislike “clique-y” things like that.  I don’t like them in flying or motorcycling or any activity.  But you find them all over.

Many adult potheads still act the same as when they were teenagers.  They prefer to get high when they’re not doing anything else, and in general they prefer to be in the company of other potheads.  They go off together to get high and do things while they’re getting high.  Non-smokers need not apply.  They don’t want us around.

Gee, Bob, jealous much?  It does sound that way, doesn’t it?  And in a way, yeah, I guess I am.  But maybe “insulted” is a better word.  Because I want friendships to be about people, not a particular activity.  Now me, I don’t have friends that I only hang out with when and because I’m drinking.  If I hang out with someone it’s because I enjoy their company; and hopefully they enjoy mine.  And I don’t exclude people who don’t drink.

But every serious pothead I know always acts as if they have someplace else to be when we’re together.  They’re always checking their watch, trying to calculate when was the last time they got high or how long until they’ll be able to get with their other friends and light up.  When you’re with a pothead, you always feel like you’re intruding on their little world, a world you’re not part of.  It’s weird.  And it’s hurtful. 

They will of course deny it.  They will insist it’s not true.  But they’ll squirm as they say the words, knowing how unconvincing they’re sounding (maybe they’re trying to convince themselves?).  But it is true. 

I mentioned all of this to a friend of mine recently, a married guy in his 40’s who does not smoke cigarettes or weed and who hardly drinks.  I brought it up because I was feeling hurt at the time, snubbed by someone I thought was a good friend.  I bounced these ideas off him to see if I was just in one of my pissy, little-girl moods.  To my surprise he said that not only had he noticed it, he agreed whole-heartedly. 

A little surprised, I mentioned it to some of my other non-pot-smoking friends.  Indeed, they too related similar stories about being excluded from certain group activities because everyone else in the group smoked weed.  They too had felt slighted by people they considered friends.  So it wasn't just me.

As a non-pot-smoker I’m just not a member of The Brotherhood of the Weed. 
And I guess I never will be.

14 January 2015

From Air-Taxi Driver To Ground Taxi Driver

You might think that driving a taxi would be something of a let-down or come-down after a career flying helicopters.  After all, flying for a living seems so glamorous and exciting!  But at the end of the day (and at the end of a career) getting paid to fly is no more glamorous than doing anything else.  It is just a job.  A fun job, to be sure – but there are a whole lot of other considerations too.  

For instance there is always that risk of death.  We pilots don’t like to speak about it.  But it’s there.  Prior to each take-off we must pledge to ourselves that we’ll do our best to avoid making any dumb/fatal mistakes.  But yet every year many pilots do just that.  I know that I am not immune.  Luckily the mistakes that I have made so far haven't resulted in any crashes.  That’s not to say I haven't come very, very close. 

I truly hated my last flying job.  I worked for a rich entrepreneur who bought a helicopter to get around in his local business world.  But he also used it personally as well, and I became a sort of glorified chauffeur.  The pay was…okay, but just “okay”…for Pensacola, Florida but it was not by any means on a par with what pilots of similar experience in similar jobs flying similar equipment were getting elsewhere.  He felt that he was paying me a king’s ransom for doing very little though. 

And so he dreamed up non-flying “stuff” to do when I wasn’t needed to fly the helicopter.  Thirty years as a professional pilot and I was tasked with waxing his boat,  going grocery shopping for his hunting camp and running general errands.  Yeaaahhhh.  It was messing with my self-respect.

Neither were the perks all that great.  I had no health insurance coverage while I worked for him.  It would unreasonably raise the total premium that he paid for the whole company, he said.  So he gave me his word and handshake that he’d cover any medical expenses limited to injuries that happened on the job.  He thought that was pretty generous.

The kicker came when I had a minor motorcycle accident in which I broke my left arm.  The Boss had never liked the fact that I rode motorcycles, and he’d made it abundantly clear.  Right after the accident he called me up and told me he couldn’t have his only pilot taking these kinds of risks.  He threatened that if I didn’t sell the motorcycle he would have to “…make other plans.”  That’s when I quit.  Who needs that kind of crap?

So now I only fly part-time, doing that cherry-drying thing up in Washington State in the summertime.  That gig almost pays enough to carry me through the whole year, but I need something to keep me occupied for the other nine months.  Here at home, employers aren’t really keen on hiring some old guy who says he can’t work summers.  So I drive a taxi.  And it’s great.  I make my own schedule and don’t answer to anyone now.  The pay isn't quite what I was making as a pilot, but the demands on me are far fewer.  And I like myself a whole lot more.

Ironically, thirty-plus years of taking people from here and dropping them off there in helicopters has prepared me well for this line of work.  Not so ironically, I enjoy it immensely.