Of Helicopters and Humans (23) “Those Dang Dangerous Helicopters “
Posted on March 15, 2014
Of Helicopters and Humans
Part 23: Those Dang Dangerous Helicopters
I always ask the ground staff to let me know if I’ve got a “First Time Flyer”. A virgin chopper-rider. After all, if they have half a brain, they should be nervous. Maybe a touch of ‘terrified’ even.
“What, leaving the ground? In that thing? With that funky old dude? With the wicked grin? Coming over right now to talk to me? What the heck? He wants me to ride in the front? Beside HIM? This is NOT a good idea…”
Now the point is that these guys are our customers. Our bread-and-butter. The mortgage payment. If they don’t go out to work, then nor do we. Mama would not like that. As mine said, one day, when I was leaving for work, in that intuitive, sensible, logical, wifely way:
“Be careful now. Remember, forty-eight beating hearts are depending upon you!”
I looked blank. Huh? Were there a whole lot of unclaimed, illegitimate offspring lurking around out there, that I didn’t know about? A product of an admittedly wild, and perhaps slightly debauched youth? An anarchistic past? No, she was referring to the following:
Three donkeys, two miniature horses, three goats, thirteen chickens, three geese, eight Peking Ducks, six Guinea Fowl, three Bantams, three dogs, one cat, a pigeon, and a budgie.
Forty-seven of the little monsteeee… beating hearts. Hers was the forty-eighth. I sighed, trying not to think of the monthly feed bill. Meekly, (well trained), I nodded. It would be not good to be struggling to pay the monthly feed bill. I could only imagine the dawn chorus of displeasure, if feed was not appearing quickly enough. Have you ever heard three randy, pissed orf female donkeys complaining about the lack of service? On a cold, winter’s morning, when H-A-Y is the only thing on their mind? Instead of the usual S-E-X? I have. Rolling over, trying to sleep. Pillow over weary head. Go away… Please.
So we have to be nice to our customers. I’m the funky, wrinkly old dude, with the dirty big grin all over my face. A “mucky grin”, a scrumptious, ex-girl friend of mine used to call it, nervously.
As in: “Down, boy! Back off! You are wearing that mucky grin again…” Or, “That was a real mucky laugh…” (“Go to your kennel…!”)
I’m the guy that walks up and smiles: “Hi! I’m Francis! First Time Flyer, eh? Oh, you’ll enjoy this. Come on in, and sit down right here… make yourself comfortable.”
A short while later, you find yourself at the mercy of that madman. You know it’s not going to be good, the moment you lift off the ground, to what those idiots call a hov-ver. There you are, wobbling around precariously, and HE is laughing his ass off. “Welcome to the world of Rotary Flight!”, he announces over the intercom. YOU stare out the chin bubble. At least it’s still not too high to jump. But a minute later, after a bit of driving out, you sense that chance is fleeting away. The crazy old dude asks, laughing:
“You haven’t changed your mind, have you…?”
Wisely, you say nothing. Best to ignore unstable people. A second later, the contraption you are riding in starts clattering across the grass, ever quicker. There’s a lot of rumbling and vibrating, and you wonder if it’s all gonna blow up. You catch a fleeting glance at a little bird on its nest of old broken coral and shells, protectively stretching its wings over her tiny eggs. You know JUST how she feels… Suddenly, the ground drops away. This is NOT good. Now it’s too high to jump. The intercom crackles in your ears. It’s HIM again.
“…Because it’s TOO LATE NOW!!” For some reason, he thinks he’s hilariously funny. You don’t.
A few minutes later, you’re at some dizzying altitude, and not doing the climbing thing anymore. Just flying along. Nutcase beside you has being making radio calls and doing stuff, but now he seems to be content to sit back and chat a bit.
“How do you feel about it now?”, he asks. Nicely enough.
You wonder hard. How DO you feel about it? You decide to ask the inevitable question. “What happens if the engine stops?” You presume you are dead meat, but somebody said these things can glide. How can they possible glide if nothing is driving the fans overhead? It doesn’t make sense. Patiently, the Old Dude explains about auto-mation. If the engine quits, the blades auto-mate. They keep fanning. So that bit is cool, but what’s not cool is that we still go down. Then at the bottom, we have to do a “flare”. Whatever that means. It sounds obscene. He doesn’t seem remotely worried about it, though. He says he used to be a flight instructor for many years, and he’s probably done a couple of thousand practice ones, and a few real ones. You guess he must have survived. He doesn’t seem to be missing any bits that you can see. Arms, legs, fingers… all there. Maybe a couple of dozen marbles missing, but that seems to be it. He chats on. Then he asks you:
“Are you feeling happy, or still a bit nervous? ‘Cos, you know, we like happiness.”
Stupid question. What man is going to say: “Fuk’n petrified!” or “Me trousers are full!” So you kind of shrug in a manly way, and remark that “It’s alright”. You are lying. Old Wrinkly then asks, in a kind of quiet, whispering, worried, confidential aside:
“You know the bit about this flight that scares the BeJayzus out of me…?”
The pilot nervous!? Oh, that is SO GREAT! All your stomach butterflies, that were beginning to maybe settle just a bit, and buzz around pretty flowers, mixing it happily with pollen and honey, take off in a mad fluttering scramble. You reply silently, with eyes the size of small saucers. The expression reads a question: “Huh!?”
“Yes”, he says, looking real serious. “There is ONE part of this flight terrifies the willy’s out of me…!”
You wish you had not gotten up that morning. This is a bad dream. He gives you a sad look across the cockpit. He is shaking his head, wearily. He asks, with a nervous, sideways glance over his shoulder:
“What part do you think that might be…?”
You don’t know. You guess. “Errr… the landing?”
He shakes his head. “Oh, no, not worried about that at all. No worries there.”
He looks at you, cocking his head slightly. Like inviting your next guess. Hell, you don’t know.
He shakes his head, dismissively. “Oh no, never worry about that!”
He looks at you again. Yo! What’s LEFT!??
“What… just driving along like this?”, you ask incredulously. Your eyes the size of LARGE saucers.
“Oh, no”, he says casually, dismissing that suggestion. He looks at you. You wonder. Is he taking the rise? Pulling your plonker? Messing with you? What!? He is wearing an expression that is just too… controlled. Poker Face. You’ve met his type. On some level, you have a growing suspicion this guy is really, really, off his trolley.
He kind of crouches, and casts a theatrical look over his shoulder. As if he’s worried that they guys in the rear cabin might hear him. Or somebody else.
“The bit that really scares me…”
You find yourself breathless, hunched forwards yourself. Quietly, you say: “Yes..?”
“The bit that REALLY scares me…”
He’s totally got your attention now. Are we gonna die?
“…is when this flight is over, and when I’ve got to get in my truck, and drive back home…”
Your mind is reeling.
“…and then go and mix it with all the druggies, crazies, texting drivers, and Hockey Mums on the cell phone running red Lights, and jay walkers, and dogs, and speeding tickets, and… and…all that stuff!”
“Fuk’n eejit! “, you think to yourself. Messing with me. But he DOES have a point. It’s a lot SAFER up here.
You find yourself smiling.
“Well, there’s no red lights up here. For a start!”, you say.
He nods, satisfied. “Exactly!”, he says, seemingly pleased with your wisdom and insight.
* * * * *
“How did you like your first helicopter ride?”, one of your new work mates on the drilling rig asks later that day, at the dinner table.
“Oh, it was alright,no big deal”, you lie convincingly.
“Who was your pilot?”, somebody else asks.
You think hard. “Errr… He told me his name… old dude,Irish guy.”
Amusement at the table.
“That would be Francis!”, four different voices remark.
“Did he screw with you?”, somebody asks.
Did he screw with me?
But you, a veteran of the rotary world, and fully cognizant of the workings of engine failures and resultant auto-mations, brush it all off.
“Ha!”, you say. You exude an air of confidence, and worldly wisdom. The dude who has been around the block. Got his sh… shtuff together.
“He tried a bit, but I saw through HIS little game…”
* * * * *
But you make a mental note to, next time, try and bag the best seat in the house.
That front seat. With the best view.
Beside that crazy, chatty Old Pilot.
Last edited by Francis Meyrick on March 15, 2014, 11:00 am