Sunday, September 06, 2009

Quest for Food

The pilot quest for food never stops. When you're a student or beginning commercial pilot you're searching for food you can afford. (I know someone who did his cross-country time-building to airports selected specifically because they were across the street from McDonald's restaurants. He was living off the the one-dollar burger deal. And yes he did look about as healthy as Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me). At other points in your career the problem is availability of food, and I use that term loosely, thinking of the row of empty vending machines in one Nunavut airport, or time between duties to get the food. This week for me it's getting to the food.

I'm in a perfectly nice hotel in a fairly civilized part of the country, in a hotel that is down the highway from the town. I'm expecting to be called to fly about four, so I'll aim to finish my lunch around three so that I have the calories to sustain me until midnight. The client calls and wants to meet at three-thirty. No problem. I have an hour and a quarter to eat and get back to the lobby with my flight bag.

The first restaurant I try is the one attached to the hotel. Although the changeable letters on the hotel marquee advertise that it opens at 6:30 am, there is a piece of paper on the door advising me that it will open "soon" and "under new management." I go back to my room to ask Google for plan B. It finds me a chain restaurant just under a kilometre away. Sweet! I thought it was just residential around here. That should take me six minutes to walk there, giving me forty-five minutes to order and eat a meal, with time to get back, brush my teeth and be ready to go. I look at the directions. Cross the highway, go two blocks west, turn right and it's about three blocks down on the right. I say "about" because the only straight street in town is the highway. Everything else is little windy roads with cul-de-sacs.

I follow the directions, getting onto the correct street as planned. After about three blocks it still looks very residential, but the street curves away and there could be a plaza just around the curve. After about four blocks I ask someone on a porch. He tells me I'm about as far away from any restaurants as I could get. He gives me some directions, which I start to follow, but as I get further from the hotel I continue doing point of no return math, and stop at the point where I would have seven minutes to get food before having to start the return journey. Fast food service is not a forte in this province. Ain't going to happen.

Hurrying back to the hotel, I must have passed a wasp that didn't like the way I was cursing Google Maps and the non-linear nature of this town, because all of a sudden OW! Something bit me in the uh ... rear upper thigh. Right through my slacks. Son of a flaming firetruck. I slap at it and yeah I'm shaking a large insect like thing off my hand. Ow ow ow.

I get back to the hotel with fifteen minutes to spare and ask the client "Could we please go early and swing by somewhere I can get something to eat"? The first drive-through in sight is a KFC, and I'm in an appropriate stage of the KFC cycle to have some. (I tried to find something to link to describing the cycle of "eat KFC, remember that KFC really isn't all that great, swear not to eat it again, five months passes, eat KFC again" but all I could find was gruesome articles on how they raise their chickens. I'm sorry, chickens. It was for flight safety. I was really hungry.) I order three pieces of chicken, just the chicken, because their fries are mushy and their cole slaw is gooey. The order is relayed across the truck, through the speaker, but they get it right.

On the way to the airport I eat my chicken, taking care not to get grease and bits of chicken skin all over the truck, and not too much on me, either. As we pull into the airport parking lot the client says, "I just have to say, I'm impressed."

I'm thinking back to our last flight. It went well, I guess, but nothing to write home about. What's he impressed about? He continues, "You ate three pieces of chicken in seven kilometres." In fact it left such a lasting impression that he mentioned it later to his boss in front of me. Hey, you never know what will impress the client. I throw out the empty box with the bones so as not to stink up his car with KFC smell.

The flight went as planned and I could feel my tummy being happy because it was full of warm chicken. It may have been full of horrible bad for me ingredients, and clearly it didn't do the chicken any good, but it was better than flying hungry. And that insect bite itches.

11 comments:

Paul Tomblin said...

My first instructor referred to the vending machines in FBOs as "food simulators". I thought that was the funniest and most original thing until I got to an FBO where they were actually labelled as such.

InterestedObserver said...

Did you have any concerns about flying so soon after being stung? I guess anyone who's overly sensitive to those things would know about it and take precautions...

Intriguing how you have to map out your nutritional needs in such clock-bound detail. Along with all the other details of duty-time, aircraft inspection timing, etc.. Life as a pilot seems ironically very confining compared to the "freedom of flight..." stereotypes so prevalent.

dpierce said...

Original, crispy, or grilled? These things are important!

Aviatrix said...

I don't believe they had grilled, so I had original. Apparently that's about 400 calories per piece, so that was most of my daily caloric needs right there.

And I assumed that the worst of the insect bite was the bite itself, so it didn't concern me to go flying. It was "OW!" painful. Surprising how much pain a bug can inflict.

5400AirportRdSouth said...

I'm more impressed that you managed to eat KFC in a moving vehicle. My fast-food choices really dwindle when I'm faced with having to actually eat on the move.

Maybe its just me, but my KFC excursions usually involve some serious washing facilities to be immediately at hand for the aftermath....

Dave Earl said...

I liked this one a LOT. I'll remember 'food simulator' and 'son of a flaming firetruck' but mostly; late, hungry and desperate we went to KFC a couple weeks ago... same cycle, lol.

How about an Iphone? I bet you'd never go hungry again. Let your company buy it for you to get weather :-)

Sarah said...

The Quest for Food ... funny in all senses what one will eat when simple hunger and the "5 month cycle" gives you a KFC bucket. I have to admit I have a shorter cycle for fried chicken in general, it's such an effective comfort food.

I like your insect sting analgesic. I only hope "Firetruck!" is a blog euphemism, as the best effect is when rarely-used obscenities are used enthusiastically. Once again, psychology discovers the obvious.

Jim said...

I love how you express it in terms of daily caloric intact. I tend to think in the same terms. Food is fuel. I need x pounds/calories to fly/live for x amount of time..

Finding a consistent source of nourishment in some of the small towns I stay in is a challenge too. I base my accommodations around a co-located restaurant these days. Getting lazy I guess.

I’m lucky (?) in that I have the metabolism of a reptile. A day without food is no hardship. The key is knowing what you need to function properly. If KFC fuels the need so be it. I lived on it in Red Deer. No judgment lol

Geekzilla said...

Ever had Popeye's fried chicken? They're much better than KFC. I hate KFC. Their chicken is overly salty and soggy. Yick.

Anonymous said...

You calculate six minutes for a walk of one kilometer? Wow, I must say, that is a blow to my ego: six minutes per km is my usual pace when I go running.

Sounds like a mountain hike with you would be quite the challenge ;-)

Aviatrix said...

Oops, anonymous, that walking pace was an error, but now I don't remember exactly what. I sustain six kilometres an hour on okay terrain, and seven on sidewalks, so it's more like nine or ten minutes a kilometre. I probably could hustle 800 metres in six minutes, but I meant six kilometres an hour not six minutes per kilometre.

Quite possibly I did the math wrong at the time, so it's a good thing I wasn't late.