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?

11 December 2017

Who We Are and What We Do

What defines me as a person? A simple question, no? I've always thought so.  But recently my answer has been challenged.

For a long time I have defined myself as a pilot. It is not only what I do but who I am. They are inextricably linked, and I don't know why. They just are. I am a pilot. I fly.  I'm incredibly proud of being a pilot and doing it successfully for so long (i.e. without killing myself).  It makes me who I am.  ...I think.

I bring it up because my friend and fellow cabdriver, Terry and I were talking about this recently over lunch on the upstairs outdoor deck of a new restaurant called NOLA on Pensacola Beach.  "NOLA" is southern shorthand for New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOLA, the restaurant serves a pretty good approximation of the food you'd get in the Crescent City.

It was a good day...no, a great day! A Chamber of Commerce day. The sky was absolutely clear, the wind was calm and the water gorgeous. The view from the deck could not have been more beautiful. It was the perfect day to sit and eat shrimp po'boys and drink rum and Cokes and pretend we had N'Awlins accents as we pondered the meaning of life. It reinforced in Terry and me the reason why we live here and not where you live, nothing personal. Oh, and as much as we all love New Orleans, we're glad we don't live there either.

Terry and I were talking about some of the other cabdrivers we know. Admittedly it does not take a lot of...well, “smarts” to be a cabdriver. All you have to do is know how to drive and operate a Pulsar taximeter. Sadly, some of our cohorts have gone as far as they're going to go in life. They've risen to their personal top. For some of them, a cabdriver is all they're ever going to be.  And some of them aren't even good at that.

Terry does not want to be restricted by such limitations. He's a good writer, and a published author. He's a poet, a painter, a pretty good photographer and a damn good philosopher.  You can check out his work HERE.  He is a much better writer than I am.  He can convey in very few words what takes me pages.

But of all the things at which Terry excels, he is first and foremost a good Christian who lets his spirituality guide everything he does. And he bristled at currently being identified as “cabdriver” for that is not who he is.

"It's like with you,” he said. “You're more than just a pilot, aren't you? Being a pilot doesn't define you as a person, right? It's what you do, not who you are, right?”

Umm. Well...wow. He kind of hit a sore spot there. I had to respectfully disagree. A spirited discussion (let's not say “argument”) ensued.

I look at it this way: I am a pilot. There is no way I could ever not be a pilot. I was a pilot even before I was born....I believe. You see, my father had been a pilot for nearly fifteen years when I was conceived. So it's in my DNA. (It turns out that my grandfather had been a motorcycle cop, which might explain my unusual obsession with two-wheeled machines of the Harley Davidson persuasion.)

My friend Brandon Arago's father is a surgeon. Although he didn't follow his father into the medical field, Brandon flies with a precision that can only be called surgical. He is quite amazing to watch, and I love flying with him so I can do just that. Scoff if you will, but I believe that Brandon would've made an incredible surgeon. And by knowing the son, I believe I know something about how good a surgeon his father must be.

So do I mind being called “cabdriver?” I don't know. I kind of like the job, and it turns out that I'm particularly and not unsurprisingly well-suited to it. It might not have as glamorous a title as “pilot,” but the two jobs are not all that dissimilar. In fact, for years and years the FAA called the type of flying I've done all my life, “air-taxi” since we move people and things from here to there for money. Then my last full-time flying job was ferrying some rich guy around at his whim and command.  I was basically his airborne taxi driver..okay, “chauffeur” if you prefer because it sounds better.

But does “cabdriver” define me? I agree with Terry: I think not.  And so if I'm not a cabdriver, maybe I'm not a pilot either.

Maybe I've been wrong all these years?  


Bob said...

Maybe you’re overthinking it ... but that’s OK. With the ambience you describe and the food and beverages, why not sit and contemplate? Did not know you were cabdriving again. Do you get much competition from Uber and Lyft?

Bob Barbanes: said...

Do we get competition from Uber and Lyft? Oh do we! Here in Pensacola they've just about put the legitimate taxis out of business. The *only* thing that's saving us is the fact that we have NAS Pensacola with the NATTC (Naval Air Technical Training Center) where "the kids" come fresh out of boot camp for their advanced training. There's about 4,000 of them, and they're not allowed to have personal vehicles. And they ALL want to be off-base on the weekend. And Uber/Lyft is not allowed on base.

So there's that. But if the Navy ever lets Uber/Lyft on the base, we're sunk like the USS Indianapolis. It'll be ugly.

But as to the overthinking part...yeah, I do that sometimes. It's just that when you've done something that you're really passionate about for so long, it's hard to separate the man from the job. Flying is all I've ever wanted to do for as long as I can remember.

And...maybe on some level it's just easier for me to deal with...you know...life...if I don't focus too much on myself (and who I am) but rather what I do, which takes so much energy and dedication to do well. But now that I may actually not be a commercial pilot anymore, maybe I can stop thinking of myself as Pilot Bob and just as Bob.

Scary thought!