Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Funny Way To Make A Living

The potential employer picks me up at the appointed time, well actually a bit later because he forgot about me until his assistant asked if I was coming today, but I spent the extra time sitting in the hotel lobby reviewing their procedures manual, so it wasn't a waste of time. The original plan was for me to go flying with the chief pilot today, for me to see to see how the operation worked and be persuaded that I wanted to join, and for them to see how I work. The flight would also count towards the required training to put me on his operating certificate, but the chief pilot has not come in today, due to a family medical emergency, and the boss is too busy to do the flight, so we're improvising.

So we chat for a while. I'm not sure it counts as an interview, because no one asks me what kind of tree I would be, what my greatest strengths and weaknesses are, or what I would do if the pilot I were flying with stated an intention to go below minima. We're telling each other stories, comparing our philosophies of life, flying and les politiques des deux solitudes du Canada. The smart psychology people amongst my readers are shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at the screen now, saying "You idiot, Aviatrix, that was the interview," but hell then, my whole life is an interview. Remember when I had a line check and didn't know it until it was over? That was awesome, too. We get along amusingly well. I tell him a story that illustrates the freedom and responsibility of being pilot-in-command compared to terrestrial rules. I've probably told it on the blog before, of driving my car on an icy, windy day, keeping my speed at what I judged safe for the conditions, which happened to be below the city speed limit. As I approached an intersection, the traffic light turned amber. On a normal day, I might have braked to a stop, but today I knew the ice would make my stopping distance longer and that locked wheels would make the car less manoeuvrable if it skidded through the intersection, buffeted by a crosswind. I elected to continue through the intersection at my cautious speed. There was no cross traffic. The combination of my low speed and a rather short duration light left me still in the intersection when the light turned red, and I knew that intersection was equipped with a red light camera, where they snap your licence plate and send you a ticket in the mail when they catch you. As far as I was concerned, the red light rule is secondary to safety, and it so happened that I had made a chain of safest decisions that contradicted the red light rule and was fully prepared to defend my decisions in court should I be issued a ticket. And there my prospective employer picked up the baton because he had had exactly the same experience--it's a Canada thing, I suppose--and he had been issued said ticket, and he had defended himself in court with weather reports and diagrams and calmly reasoned arguments, and he won. So it seems I don't need to paint any walls white for this guy.

He has work to do, so sets me up with another task, something amusingly familiar. I'm writing company exams. "Writing exams" sounds stressful, but in ten years of writing them at least once a year I can only remember one occasion in which it was a timed, competitive, closed-book event (and in that case I scored so well that the chief pilot teased me about it). It's really just an exercise in demonstrating that a pilot has reviewed all the company manuals and is familiar with their contents. You typically complete the exams as you read the manuals, noting the speeds, baggage arms, wingspan, fuel capacity, and other items that the chief pilot has chosen to test you on. There are similar manuals for icing, ground handling, the ops manual and other special aspects of the operation.

The boss pulls up an example of something on his computer. I can't not notice that it's in Xxxxxxxx. There's a chance of me flying in Xxxxxxxx! I know it's probably just like Témiscamingue or Deep East Texas with different accents on the radio, and squiggly letters on the airport terminals, and people excited about buzkashi instead of hockey or football, and mares' milk instead of poutine or barbecue, and ... oh face it, it would be totally different from Témiscamingue and Texas, and I would wrestle on horseback over possession of a goat carcass for the opportunity to go there.

I go back to writing exams, figuring out all the details of the company deicing rules. I hear the boss next door fielding a call that implies that a client has urgent need of his services in Yyyyyyy. He's telling them he has an airplane and a pilot ready to go, and can dispatch them today if need be. Replace buzkashi with surfing, and mares' milk with little drinks with umbrellas in them. The boss's assistant comes into the room where I'm writing and hisses excitedly, "hurry up and finish those exams!" gesturing with her head towards the Yyyyyyy conversation. I grin and nod, but voice reality, "That's not a mission the new hire is going to get." I'm more likely to get the mission to Qqqqqq that I think I heard him negotiating for fuel for. But hey, replace buzkashi with the knuckle hop, and mares' milk with seal blubber. I don't have to leave my own country to find an exotic culture.

If this is all a test, or some sort of set up, who cares. If someone wants to fly me to somewhere in the world, put me up in a hotel and buy me a few meals in order to have me write exams and then be told that I'm not needed after all, I'm okay with that. It gets me out of the house and gives me travel, new people to meet, and at least the opportunity to feel like I'm going to get a cool job.

I finish all the exams and get a tour of the maintenance hangar. There's a garishly-painted partial airplane in there, but I'm assured that it's the parts plane, and not representative of the appearance of the fleet. We'll try again for flying the next day.

Back at the hotel my card doesn't work. I go back to the lobby and tell the desk clerk. I always feel that in someone else's territory you should at least attempt to speak their language. Although I usually waive that rule at service points in highly traveller-oriented places like hotels and airports, I know that this clerk is francophone, so I say, "le clef ne marche plus." The key doesn't work anymore. He says the same thing I've heard a hundred other times I've experienced this, it happens, you need to keep it away from your telephone. I pull my telephone out of the same pocket and display it guiltily. I knew that. I'm clearly out of practice for hotel living. He remagnetizes the card. And then I realize that he continued the conversation in the same language as I started it. Usually bilingual Quebeckers switch into English right away in response to my French. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt and presume that they are being polite and accommodating rather then implying that my French is too execrable to listen to. I haven't been here for a while though. Is it a political wind shift, or just that this guy really prefers to speak French, even at the cost of having to listen to my accent. (The word Quebeckers looks so wrong written down, but lots of people say it aloud. I've almost decided that it's the anglo pronunciation of Québecois). I know it doesn't represent any great improvement in my ability.

Oh and did I mention that potential employer number one wants me for that operation? I've stalled them while I check out this opportunity. I find that stressful.


Chris said...

Stressful, but not such a bad position to be in.

Too early to say well done, so fingers crossed here!

Matthew Flaschen said...

Congratulations on the first offer! I hope you get two to choose from. :)

TgardnerH said...

That's all :-)

Frank Lee MeiDere said...

I'm pulling for you -- whatever that means exactly. But if the interviews were a tug of war and you were allowed someone else on your team, then I'd be there pulling for you. Except that wouldn't help much since I'm tall, but don't have much mass, so really it would be better if you got someone a bit heavier to pull for you.

So instead I'll just say that you're in my prayers -- except God's been mad at me since that whole leaving-the-ministry business back in the early '80s and tends to dump on anyone I pray for so that's probably not a good idea.

Anyway, good luck. Although that may not be the best thing for you, since...

K1MGY said...

"The potential employer picks me up at the appointed time, well actually a bit later because he forgot about me until his assistant asked if I was coming today, but I spent the extra time sitting in the hotel lobby reviewing their procedures manual, so it wasn't a waste of time."

I am stunned. Mostly because in your post you continue onward.

If I remove my foggy specs, it still looks as if the prospective employer's interest is such that your meeting was not important enough. Forgettable.

Besides learning more about their procedures, might you have received a living lesson in the prospective employer's priorities and organization?

The fact that you remained, and participated with enthusiasm and grace, suggests that they will score a pilot with a lot more than mere technical skill. They will get someone with admirable character.

And it sounds as if you're needed.

Best of luck!

Dan in ALB said...

Thanks for letting us peer into your life! I am excited for you when good things happen. I am sad for you when they don't. Right now I'm exited :-)

Cedarglen said...

Life is one continuous interview. For what, I'm still not sure... -C.