Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fly Me To The Moon

I may never complain about the duct taped, rivet challenged "Flying Tubes of Death" again.  At least not for awhile. I was called to do an emergency contract in the wilds of Manitoba. The airline that normally services the particular community I was going to does not fly on Saturdays, which seemed a blessing in my mind, as it had been shut down temporarily  because of a  fatal crash in the summer in that same community, due to safety concerns (you think?). The other nurse who was traveling with me and I were heaving a collective sigh of relief. Heaven knows, we didn't want to sit on one of  THOSE planes. Then "Hugo", a burly Man of the North, fetched us from the sardine tin airport to take us to our wings. I liken this to a moment from my visiting nursing days. I finally had an address in the nice section of town, the one with the million dollar (at the time) homes, the manicured lawns, the Bimmers all shiny and spotless in the driveway. What I pulled up to in the midst of my fantasy was the paint flaking, brick decaying abode with the three foot grass lawn,  an old toilet in the driveway. The screen door hanging by the bottom hinge. The interior with the must and the colours that may have one day long ago signified grandeur of sorts. And the old lady and her sister whose dreams had decayed right along with the house.
Would you wanna climb this?
And so my colleague and I were led outside into the cold, slipping on the icy tarmac, past the Dash 8's, past even the Flying Tubes of Death, to the aircraft at the back of the lot. What we encountered looked like something that could have been used to drop propaganda bombs in World War 2. In my childhood, my home backed onto a park that sported those steel drum type garbage cans. Every year, another layer of paint would be added, until eventually  the can was nothing but a shell of 25 layers of green and yellow paint, the steel having long ago disintegrated beneath. The plane was encrusted in green and white. The nose was high in the air, the tail supported by a tire about the size of a dinner plate. As we neared the door in the middle of the plane, we were given a choice as to where we could sit to meet our Maker. One in the rear of the plane, the other up front with the pilot. I elected to ride shotgun. Having just read "How To Land a 747" I figured I was good to go in case the pilot decided to knock off early. So poor Darryl climbed into the plane, and seated himself in the lonely seat pretty much in the tail, just in front of the cargo net that was holding, well, cargo. I was right behind him, ready to work my way to the front of the plane, when the pilot, who was just a young wet behind the ears thing, tapped me on the shoulder and told me I had to get in the other door. What other door? Well (stupid), it was the co-pilot's door on the other side, it looked to be about 20 feet off the ground. How the hell was I getting up there? Where's the portable steps, hell, even the ladder from Mexico would have been helpful.  What I had were little bits of green paint chipping metal about three feet apart up the wheel assembly. I could hear the Friendly Giant's words echoing in my brain, "Look up. Look waaaaaay up!" And I, wanting to save face with my decision, had to haul me arse up there. Swinging my backpack to the pilot, I definitely hauled me arse up there, giving the pilot a nightmare image burned in his mind forever. Wonky knees from volcano slides didn't fail me and I managed to get into the craft without falling and flattening the pilot, who was smiling the whole time. We were ready to go.
I noticed a little ancient sign permanently driven into the dashboard of the plane. It said "It is strictly prohibited to perform acrobatic maneuvers and tails spins in this aircraft." Really? I reminded the pilot of such, and he promised me he would try to restrain himself. All hooked up, we took off, me ready at the drop of a hat to take over piloting responsibilities should something have happened to the youngun' at the helm. In the back, poor Darryl. Poor, poor, Darryl. The only source of heat was in the front of the plane, and the reason why I had to scale Mt. Everest was because there was another cargo net holding more cargo behind me and the pilot. So that even if we did a nose dive crash, and Darryl lived to tell about it as the people in the tail have a better chance of survival, he would have been pancake material due to the impact of flying cargo, once the net disintegrated. As it was, we could barely see that he was turning blue. And the tail swing was not due to turbulence, it was due to Darryl's uncontrolled shivering. Eventually he pulled a Michael Jackson, he had pulled a blankie from the end bowels of the aircraft and covered himself from head to toe. I wasn't sure if we would find a warm body or a popsicle, but in the end, neither of us was Heaven bound.
Would love to be able to soar like this fellow. In Mexico,
where he is from.
I managed to exit the aircraft semi-gracefully, but not until after five minutes of thought had been put into foot placement so as not to topple the pilot waiting below, who eagerly proclaimed "Don't worry, I'll catch you!"
And just as I thought it couldn't get worse, the airline that had been grounded was up and running by the time my contract was finished. A little 8 seater twin engine fishing line bob. A few of the folks on the same flight had obviously been hitting the liquid Ativan before hand, so once in the aircraft with club seating, I was hoping the "fumes" would calm me down. As we careened down the runway (the winds were high), I grabbed the seat back of the guy next to me, the window ledge, and finally the knee of the guy next to me. Once in the air, we were like a rubber duckie passing through Class IV rapids, up and down and all around. I think I was the in flight entertainment. The inebriated young man in front of me, once he finished laughing, started talking to me about all of the issues up North, and I concentrated on his every word, to spare the knee skin of the other guy next to me. Eventually, the air calmed down, he finished talking, and actually thanked me for listening, because sometimes he just needed to get things off his chest. Maybe it was the whiskey baited air I was breathing, or the conversation, but I thanked him for nursing me through this wild little flight, and thanked my lucky stars for the Flying Tubes of Death I am normally transported in.
The Great White North
And that is my little world in the GWN.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jude!

    Love the blog. What a great idea for a gift. I once did a website as a wedding present. Really enjoyed your flight description -I think you are very brave!