My company recently bought a new airplane for our fleet. I may have blogged already about the previous owner and his son watching it go like it was a child going off to college. We told them we weren't sure exactly when we would arrive, so to leave it out on the ramp for us to collect, after the payment cleared. But they preferred to make the trip from town out to the airport on our schedule, to open their hangar and tow it out for the last time. The ops manager and I flew it to its new home, and then it sat in our hangar for a while, which maintenance discovered and rectified decades of idiosyncratic repairs. The wiring for the wing strobes was literally wrapped around the aileron cables, because there's nothing better than abrading through electrical wiring right by your fuel tank, while restricting the movement of your flight controls. There were a coupled of days I was alerted for an impending test flight, and then waved off, because the final run up had turned up a new leak or suspicious behaviour. The right side brakes weren't working. Even though I fly it single pilot from the left, and right brakes are optional on the type, a problem with the brakes is a problem with the braking system, and cannot be allowed to stand.
Finally, I was to instructed to fly it to another airport for a specialty refit. The avionics haven't been addressed yet, so I waited for the weather to improve to VFR and then grabbed the minimum plot equipment and flew it up, to take an airline flight back. The first officer stood at the foot of the airstairs as I boarded the commuter airliner, and he spotted the VFR charts sticking out of the pocket of my headset bag.
"You're an aviator," he observed. Not one to interfere with the linguistic process that is eliminating gendered terms for professions, I answered in the affirmative. (I also don't mind, guys, if you want to call yourselves aviatrices. It is a cooler word). "How far along are you?" asked the first officer.
I was halfway up the stairs by then, almost entering the cabin. What's the answer to that? Ten different jobs, an ATPL, eight thousand hours ... I ended up saying something condescending, telling him I likely had five times his hours. It could actually have been ten or twenty times: they're hiring FOs pretty green these days. I didn't mean to be condescending. I don't think he intended his comment that way either. I took it cheerfully, like being IDed at the liquor store. I was planning to apologize on the way out of the aircraft at the end of the flight, but it was windy and noisy and he was busy, so I just said goodbye with the other passengers. If you're reading, dude, this is your apology. If he's not, that's okay. I remember some pretty rude pilot passengers who thought they were better than me, from when I was flying airline, but now they're all just funny stories, so I don't mind being one of his.
To him, professional aviation is a progression from VFR to IFR and from small airports to big airports, so someone with a headset and VFR charts boarding a plane at a little airport was perceived to be near the beginning of the chain. I should have answered "oh maybe three quarters of the way there" based on the number of hours I estimate I'll accumulate before I retire. On the other hand, someone has to teach him that it's a bad idea to ask a woman "how far along are you?"