That's El Capitano to all you youngsters out there. That means the weight of Dash 8 command is now slung around my massive neck. Pretty serious stuff!
Did it involve signing a 10 year contract? Affirmative.
Extra training, 3 partial PPCs and some tears along the way? Check that.
Nobody said the road to the top would be easy, gents. Follow your dreams and stay the course!
2 hours to report. YYZ, o' dark thirty.
I recall finishing my Skipper Line Check like it was yesterday. In actual fact, it was two Tuesdays ago. I was just a wet-behind-the-ears noob back then! Thought I knew it all, thought I had the world by the balls! I shake my head and chuckle at the memory of my youthful bravado, and haul my weary carcass out of the El Camino. I make an impressive figure as I stride off to the terminal. A hulking slab of muscle, polyester and freshly shampooed blonde hair, I keep my shoulders ramrod straight despite my grizzled veteran status. In a couple of hours I will be squinting steely-eyed into the sun as I bow at the
altar of aviation safety and regale my wide-eyed FO with tales of an era gone by. Watch and learn, son!
The mullet trails behind in obedient formation, my ever-present wingman on a journey of aviation glory. A small tear squirts loose from a mutinous tear duct, revealing the salty truth of the massive waves of emotion I have ridden over the years as I made my way to Canadian Aviation's coveted throne. I clamp it off with a muscular eyelid and stick to the goal at hand.
Time to obtain food!
I call it foraging--a challenging, never ending search for sustenance in the airports of our nation. It's not easy maintaining a fitness and nutrition regimen on the road chaps, but it can be done if you are determined. In addition to my faithful rolly bag, I never leave home without my Nutribullet, tub of protein powder and my 28L Stanley Adventure Cooler from Cabelas. A dozen resistance bands wrap neatly around a small kettlebell in the rolly, and the hand grip squeeze-trainers ride up front next to the Captain's pecs in the inside pocket of my blazer. Diligent training with these will ensure an impressive bone-crushing handshake awaits my FO! An authoritative vice grip and toothy grin are your tools for success as you ascend the leadership ladder of professional flying, blokes.
Hit up that Freshii, and endure the painfully glacial pace of the service as you watch in awe as the salad technicians heap combinations of veggies and meat into a straining plastic bowl. You can't rush perfection!
Giggle with excitement at Cookies by George as you point at the baked treasures you desire to woo your crew.
Subway's next--a foot-long meatball, my good sir! It's all swallowed up by the Stanley, and my forearms flex impressively under the added weight as I haul it effortlessly to my next destination. Let's see if Timmy's has any Apple Fritters left!
Appearances have always been top priority for me as you know, so I answer the call of the shoe shine man without hesitation. Using practiced Parkour technique, I vault myself impressively into the chair, rolling up my pant legs furiously just in time for the cougar on the way to gate 131 to catch a glimpse of what 2 decades of donkey calf raises can do. I caught ya peeking, dollface!
I lean back and let out an audible roar of contentment as the smell of shoe wax wafts up to greet me. The whir of the shoe polisher reminds me of my early days flying model airplanes with Grampy Pierre. The mullet coils up around the 4 barred epaullettes, careful not to conceal their status for the passing citizens below. Relaxed air slips accidentally from my body and the surrounding O2 quality drops to embarrassingly low levels. Sorry about that, mi amigo! Like a true pro, he pretends not to notice!
I slide deep into full REM as my morning meditation begins. Mental prep is the key, boys.
The snap of the towel across my boots jolts me, and I spring into action like a jungle cat. A small sphere of drool goes flying. My boots are gleaming! Beaming and nodding as I survey the fine work completed, I make it rain, cramming a crisp fiver into the palm of the shoe shine professional. His cries of protest are waved off and slowly receed into the distance as I thunder off to the gate. Keep the change, pal! I can afford it! El Capitano!
A few more stops and we are almost at the gate. Apply for that platinum card I've been eyeballing for years as an impoverished FO. Hit up the foreign exchange to get that stack of USD in case we hold Syracuse as an alternate later and it all comes off the rails. The latest copy of Muscle and Fitness goes sailing into the Stanley so I can stay awake on the way to YYB. I've seen it all before but I just love the look of fascination on the cojo's face as they see Lake Nipissing for the first time. Ah, to be young!
Starbucks next. Getting closer.
A watch at a ridiculous price, followed by some white sunglasses for la collection. They immediately take position on the top of my head. Sushi for later. Check. A Cllif Bar for the taxi out, and a salad for approaching TOD. A book of Sudoku puzzles for the cruise segment and a----what? A new John Grisham paperback? Done!
Swing by the iStore for a new MacBook Pro, crush a morning smoothie at Booster Juice. El Capitano's MasterCard swallows it all up with ease. Set course for the gate next!
In hindsight, it must have been hard for the female pax at gate 127 to keep their composure when their leader showed up. It would have started innocently enough, a far off rumble as the clickity-clack of the Stanley and rolly bag announced their simultaneous arrival across the terminal tile. The barndoor lats would have slowly come into focus underneath the gleaming four bars, all backdropped by the fragrant billowing flaxen mullet faithfully bringing up the rear. A wink and a finger point selects the lucky winner from the crowd for a flight deck visit upon boarding, as I pivot smartly away and thrust my hand forward in greeting towards my waiting crew.
Man of the people!
I'm grinning from ear to ear as I crush the hands I'm offered, parking myself firmly in the chain of command as the Alpha.
The FO looks concerned about the weather, and I take the time to reassure him. CRM is key in these tense confrontations, blokes. Hands on hips, head tilted back--I roar with laughter and slap him squarely on the back as I tell him everything is going to be just fine. That job done, I cast an eye towards the FA, telling some off-colour jokes to break the ice. Here's a tip for you newbie skippers: do it a bit louder than normal conversation levels so the pax can join in and have a chuckle too! You're welcome!
I break out the Cookies by George and pass around some California Roll during the crew brief, and instantly feel the warmth of the camaraderie envelop me. It's good to be King! A short slideshow presentation on the MacBook sets the tone, and a two page handout outlines my expectations. The FO is still mumbling incoherently about RVRs being low, but I don't have time for such trivial matters right now. El Capitano needs to check his bird. I try to high-five a kid in the boarding lounge but he leaves me hanging. Merde!
Unfazed, I enter the jetway to access my kingdom. I strap the Stanley into a pax seat and start flicking switches in a frenzy as the FO watches in awe, mouth agape. Walk around time. Outside I go. Two Fritters disappear down the hatch as I strut around the Mighty 8, waving at the huddled unwashed masses in the lounge watching my every move. Poor minions! Leaving no stone unturned, I frown and smile at various doors, hatches and bolts as I complete my due diligence. Walk around complete!
My cellphone erupts with my personalized ringtone as I settle into the commander's chair. "Danger Zone" from Top Gun fills the flight deck. Operations wants a word. I silence the FO's takeoff briefing with a karate chop motion through the air and take the call from HQ.
Flight's cancelled. Fog in North Bay.
I knew it!
I unbuckle the Stanley and reassemble my kit. Time to pull chocks. If I hurry I can catch the 1030 BodyBlast session at the T1 GoodLife. I fist bump the pax in first class and solemnly tell them how close they came to going to Syracuse. I pass on a word of wisdom to my young protege, a stern hand resting on his shoulder.
Mon ami, it is better to be on the ground wishing you were flying instead of, you know, being flying and not wanting to be flying, or something like that.
The burden of command is not something I take lightly my friends. I got lucky on this day, but in the future, who knows? In the end it is experience that saves the day.
Meanwhile in the airport staff parking lot....
I second the call for a compilation of the Mullet's adventures, preferably in graphic novel format, sold at all pilot supply & airport bookstores.