Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sometimes Getting Started Is The Hardest Part...

This past Saturday morning I fully intended to write this week's blog post...but I didn't. My wife had just left for her hot yoga class (she often asks me if I want to go and my response is always the same. "I am not really into yoga and throw in the "hot" part and I'd rather visit the cold dentist"). So off she went and I sat down with my laptop. It was out of battery power. This, of course is easily fixed. I simply needed to go upstairs get my power cord, plug it in and in thirty seconds I would be on my way...or I could watch HBO. Two and a half hours later I had watched an entire movie where Robert Redford gets kidnapped eventually dies but reconciles with his wife after his death (don't ask) and then watched a comedian who had me in tears over his thoughts on marriage and children (What used to be a romantic relationship turns into a business partnership of a very bad not for profit entity known as a household). I had not written a word. In fact, my computer still had no power.

I hadn't moved since my wife left...and now she had returned. She was of course a sweaty mess (it is like 105 degrees in the class) but she also had that look of accomplishment...9:30 AM on a Saturday and she was off to a great start. Me? I felt like mush, had probably gained a pound while she was out and thought I should put on a white undershirt and start drinking beer...I had been so unproductive that sleep would have been a better activity. To say I was a slow starter would have been a compliment. The rest of the day wasn't much better but I finally left the house at 7:00 go to a party to drink alcohol.

I chalked my slothiness up to being a bit "off" from my recent flight traumas. Yes I said traumas. There was the one where even though the passengers weren't allowed to smoke, the plane was. And while I joked about it, I actually found myself pretty stressed out on the return flight. Yet the following Monday I was headed back to the airport for the same flight to Detroit at the same time. Only this time, everything was looking better. This time the sun was coming up; no snow or ice in the forecast. I arrived early (again) and the security line was (again) very short. I did not get bumped to First Class but the plane was fairly empty and I had an exit row with no one else in it...almost as good. The pilot, a southern man with a top gun kind of voice welcomed us on the plane and said we would be underway in no time. I had not a care in the world...I would be in Detroit, make my meetings and be off to see my parents and sister for dinner. Except we weren't underway in no time. We weren't doing anything. Finally "Chuck Yeager" announced that "It must be a Monday but we can't get the number two engine to start so we are headed back...hopefully it won't be too long". In an instant I went from relaxed exit row guy to "Oh no, let's get another plane guy". And preferably a non-smoking working engine kind if you can find one. We returned to the gate where after fifteen minutes they made us exit the plane and told us "The engine starter shaft had snapped and made a pretty good mess in there". My stomach felt like it was going to do the same. Two straight weeks my planes had had serious travel issues...and now I felt like I was having serious travel issues. While I was happy the broken plane was not going to carry me to Detroit, I wanted to request an in-flight mechanic...just in case.

The four hours until the next flight passed slowly and while I was able to get some work done and have "lunch" (a chicken salad wrap that was more like a "sponge" than a wrap) I found myself getting worried. I decided to check out my flight crew in the hopes they would inspire confidence... they did not. The one pilot looked like your run of the mill pilot...middle aged guy, seemed like "Being alive" was a good thing for him (a key attribute needed in pilots) but the other pilot...was a woman. Now hold on a second, hear me out on this. I have flown in many planes with women as pilots and it has never bothered me at all...I happen to think women are more detail oriented as a general rule and that is a good thing when, say the flaps need to be set before takeoff...or the engine needs to be started. I also think women can actually remain calmer than men in many situations so I consider that a valuable attribute in this circumstance as well. The problem really was not that she was a woman. The problem was she did not look like a pilot. She looked a lot more like the actor on the show Enlightened which is about a woman in full mid-life crisis mode who tries to undermine her company and in the process seems to bring everyone around her down...way down. This does not seem like a good attribute for a pilot so she was guilty by association. She also seemed overly concerned about her makeup...I could argue this is an example of detail orientation but not the kind I want at 30,000 feet doing 500 miles an hour. But the most worrisome item on my list was her captain's hat...she wore it at an angle, tipped to one side. She looked either like someone dressed up as a pilot for Halloween or the person who is interested in pilots, has a few too many drinks, sits on his lap, takes the pilots' hat, puts it on her head all the while saying things like "I wish I could fly" and "Is it hard to go to the bathroom in space"? This is what really worried me.

As it turns out, the flight was uneventful but full. My exit row was now economy "comfort" (supposedly extra leg room...but I don't count a centimeter as extra) and without a window. I arrived in Detroit to slushy snow, a long line at the preferred rental car lot and a rear wheel drive car. I walked up to it, slipped and nearly fell, got a loafer full of slush and slipped and slid all the way to my hotel. I had some work to do for the next day since the meetings I had scheduled did not take place due to my late arrival. I tried to turn on my computer. It had no power. So I did what any self-starter would do...I watched HBO.

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