Next morning I go out to Wal-Mart to buy hair gel, conditioner (they were out of the 'special formulation for green hair' at home), rubber cement and snacks. Strangers in Texas are friendly. You can talk to them in the supermarket and they'll carry on a conversation, not stare at you as if you're a danger to your children. Southern Canadians won't talk to strangers.
Back at the hotel, I take my headset out of the bag and the earseals fall off. Directions on the rubber cement say that for a stronger bond I should put glue on both surfaces and press them together wet. I apply the rubber cement to my headphone and to the earseals, and then put the earseals on the headset. They fall off. I ball up a sweatshirt and clamp the headset over it as if it were my head, and leave it there for an hour. When I take it off to put in the bag, the earseals don't fall off. I go out to the plane.
My co-worker mentioned that she had had problems with the comm 1 radio last flight. After engine start I pick up my headset. The ear seals do not fall off. I put on the headset and use comm 1 to listen to the ATIS. It receives fine. I call ground for a radio check. They call back as if I had just made an initial call in preparation for asking for a clearance. I repeat "radio check." I'm not sure if that's the standard term here. When a controller gets a hold of an aircraft that has missed a few calls here, the controller will usually say "how do you hear?" He doesn't really mean "how do you hear?" He means, and often adds, "I've called you three times. You have to pay better attention!" But I use the terminology I learned first.
The controller thinks for a moment and then rates my transmission as "scratchy and barely readable." I write that down to go in the report to maintenance. I can fly until the inspection using the remaining radio.
Now that I know I just have the one radio, I'm cautious about every quiet moment and misunderstanding on the radio. The controllers here have been really good, getting the Canadian callsign easily on the first call. Must be lots of Canadians around here. But tonight Center has trouble understanding my call sign. After a couple of repetitions he gets it and I ask if that was due to the radio or my accent. "A bit of both, probably," he speculates. "Our radios aren't very good."
While I'm flying, another pilot calls for a radio check and the controller answers "loud and clear." I snicker, because that's what CBers say. In Canada we use a one to five scale to indicate how loud and how clear. I get a chance to demonstrate it a while later when the controller asks me for a radio check. As I mentioned, this usually indicates that a pilot has missed a call, but if I have, it's due to a radio problem, not my vigilance. I haven't been talking on the intercom and I have been listening out. I wonder how long the radio was not receiving properly. I tell the controller he is "five by five," indicating strength and readability of the signal is excellent, and then I brace for the chewing out. But he seems happy. He understands the "five by five" and he really was checking his radio. I hear several more comments in that sector over the next few days that really do suggest someone needs to spend money upgrading ATC equipment.
A reader commented earlier that Texas airline pilots use poor radio language when they are flying recreationally, but I don't notice this. It seems that the smaller the airplane, the more formal the radio work here. Almost as if it's a badge of honour to talk informally on the radio.
There's one airline that keep calling with a callsign that sound like "Startrek" and a number. I know it's not, I think it actually begins with T, but I keep hearing "Startrek." Who has a callsign like that in East Texas? Anyone know?
At the end of the flight my earseals do not fall off. I declare the headset fixed.