Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Pot Air

Once upon a time, I accidentally applied for a job as a drug smuggler.

The dispatcher was on the telephone with a customer when I came in, so I smiled at her and waited my turn. (It's pretty obvious when someone in a white shirt and a tie walks into an aviation business, clutching a document folder and a logbook, that they're looking for a job.) Looking around, I saw a well-appointed flying school. There was with a comfortable, professional looking lounge, a few briefing rooms, a ground school room, and some offices. It was the first flying school I had ever seen that hadn't been decorated by taping tattered Transport Canada posters crookedly to the walls. Apparently whoever set the place up had some money to start with, or a naïve banker.

A man wearing a leather jacket came in the door behind me and, seeing me, asked enthusiastically, "Are you going to teach me to fly?" Here was a potential coup. If I could sell a walk-in customer on a school I didn't even work at, perhaps there was a job in it for me. I didn't see any instructors around. That's how aviation works: you're at the right place when they need a pilot, and you're their newest pilot.

I don't remember what exactly I said. It would have been something along the lines of, "I'd love to teach you to fly. I don't work here yet, but I'm hoping to. It's a nice school isn't it?" The apparent student was interupted in his attempts to question me further, as the dispatcher hung up the phone and busted his cover.

"Don't listen to him! He's the owner!" What better way to make a first impression than by sincerely showing the boss how you would sell your product? Takes the stress out of the hello-pleased-to-meet-you-I-was-hoping spiel, too.

He took my resume, and showed me around proudly. He even gave me a poster of one of their aircraft flying over a spectacular mountain ridge. He encouraged me to call back, as he might need an instructor soon, but I found a job somewhere else before he needed me.

I heard through the grapevine that the school had been closed down, something about running drugs. Today read a story in the Vancouver Sun that filled in some details. (No it's not today's paper: I'm a pilot. I read week-old papers lying around in the crewroom.) Apparently it wasn't just that someone was making unfiled flights into small American airstrips. That flying school and all its assets were seized as part of the corporate empire of Advanced Nutrients, a pot-growing supply business. I don't even know that the airplanes were ever used in the drug operation. The trips described in the news story featured rather more expensive aircraft. Talk about busted!

The RCMP weren't actually able to charge the owners with anything, anymore than the Prohibition era authorities could charge the manufacturer who sold bottling equipment, or boots, to the bootleggers. It's not illegal to supply fertilizer, hydroponics and expertise. It's not even illegal to supply plants and seeds to individuals who hold licences to grow medical marijuana. It's a big business, even profiled in Forbes Magazine. Virtually all the company's assets were eventually returned, but no flight school, even one backed by drug money, can afford to have its operations suspended like that, and the company folded.

So it's just as well I didn't get a job with that company.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hmmm... what company was that again? *strokes chin thoughtfully* ;)