it's finally over.

No, not our marriage. Tempting, but no.

No one's lucky enough to be done with us (yet). Chuck and Susie or "Suckie" (as our friends have called us since Bennifer made couples adhere to the one-name policy) will probably be around at least through 2010. Rough estimate. Don't hold me to it.

What's over, finally, is Chuck's career as an airline pilot.
Finally.
Finally.
Finally.

One more finally and then I'll move on.
Finally.

I have not been this happy since, well, since Chuck got hired as an airline pilot. Funny little paradox isn't it?

You knew Chuck was an airline pilot, right? Well, was an airline pilot.

See, once upon a time Chuck decided he was going to be an airline pilot. This was sometime between the ages of 1 and 2, and he never relented. He went to college to become a pilot -- they have an aviation program at the school we went to. In between English 101 and Geology 144, Chuck and his aviation friends were doing solo flights, simulator training, and check rides.

We thought this was very cool.
I mean, wouldn't you?
Ok, picture this: You're 18. You just left home. You live in the dorms. The guy across the hall just learned to fly an airplane by himself. I think this is, and remains, the only time I've ever thought Chuck was cool. In fact, I blame the acquisition of his Private Pilot License freshman year of college for our entire relationship. When you're 18, driving fast is cool. Driving an airplane is literally off the charts.

Here's a funny story, if you can spare a quick divergence:
When Chuck got his pilot license, Me and the other dorm kids pitched in some money to rent a plane for a few hours and head into the sky with Chuck. We did a bunch of stalls, Lee threw up, it was awesome. WE WERE 19. What the heck were we thinking? I wouldn't do that now. 19? Saddle up.

Bottom line. We loved flying. We loved it. Chuck worked all through college to become the best pilot he could, and he really is amazing at it.

After Chuck graduated, he worked as a flight instructor. You do this to build "time". Aviation is all about how much time you have. How many hours you've flown and how many engines are on the plane you were flying. It's all very confusing. I'm sparing you so many details, you should thank me.

Chuck built his time.
He built his resume.
And one day, the happiest day, he got hired. At a real airline. We were so happy. His family, my family, we were busting. I told people "My husband is an airline pilot" with the type of reverence you use when talking about angels.

It was like getting called up to the Big Leagues.

And then finding out that working in the Big Leagues meant making less than a first year school teacher or a grocery truck delivery driver. Oh and he worked for one of the better paying airlines. We have lots of friends making $15,000 a year flying you from point A to point B. Consider that next time you fly.

For Chuck, it also meant you worked about 5 days a week. But not weekdays and not always consistently. Some weeks, you have Tuesday and Wednesday off. Some weeks, it's Thursday-Friday. Which is great because so many other people have those days off too... Oh and remember that the days you're working, you don't come home those days. You leave day 1. You come back day 5.

And the days you're working. Well, you're probably not. You're on what's called "reserve" for years. Years. Reserve means sitting in the airport for 8 hours hoping to be called to fly. You get paid for 4 of those hours. Consider that lifestyle for a little bit. Sitting by yourself, in an airport, for 8 hours, everyday.

Then some days, you do fly. You take off, which is fun. You land, which is fun. In the middle, autopilot is on so it's like cruise control driving through Montana. What are you doing with yourself? And you do that over and over until you land in another city and you stay alone in a hotel. You have dinner alone. You wander the city alone. You watch TV alone.

And while Chuck was doing that and having "fun", everything else was happening without him. Every holiday, every birthday, every time I was sick and needed someone home, every time our friends were in town. We called 2007 and 2008 the years Chuck missed. Because he missed everything.

I was miserable. I was living, essentially, alone in an apartment missing him. I may (MAY) have gone a little crazy from the lonely and started sleeping with lights and radios on, with boxes barricading our front door, and -- you'll enjoy this one -- the remote in my hand to use as a weapon , just in case. We started spelling crazy S-U-S-I-E.

Chuck had, what we in teaching, call an "a-ha" moment.
He was alone in a hotel eating Taco Bell over the sink. Taco Bell had forgotten his spork so he was eating a enchorito, covered in sauce, with his fingers. He looked at himself, wearing a stripped down version of his pilot uniform, covered in fast food sauce, and had that "what am I doing with my life?" moment.

Neither of us wanted to be the one to say it.
Flying was his dream. I wasn't going to be the wife that forces him out and he didn't want to admit that it wasn't what he thought it was going to be.

There are people everywhere that talk non-stop about how you can't leave aviation right away. You need to stick it out, it'll get better. Your schedule will get better. Your pay will get better, But really, so many of those people that we met were still hoping for it to get better 8, 10 years down the road. And better is still working weekends. Better still means living out of a suitcase. Better still means doing most everything alone. And Chuck noticed that most of the guys who encouraged the "it gets better" mantra were on wives 2 or 3. We didn't want to get AIDS (Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome). We kind of like each other and we kind of like seeing each other on a daily sort of basis.

Right about the time Chuck and I were starting to think maybe the Pilot Life wasn't for us (and it is for some, just not us), the economy crashed. I know this sounds awful, but it was perfect timing for us. The Airlines announced there'd be lay-offs and fingers crossed, Chuck would be one. (Who prays for their husband's termination?? This girl.)

Chuck started looking for a new job before he was ever laid off (because he's smart like that) and six months later he found one. And it's even aviation related so his degree wasn't for not. He took a leave of absence from the airline and was officially furloughed January 2009, two months after he took his new job.

Technically, the entire time I've known you, Chuck has been an airline pilot. He's been technically employed with the Airline, just not working because of the layoffs. Technically, they could "call him back" and he'd have every opportunity and right to go back.

And most everyone in the aviation world assumed he would.
Because, why wouldn't he?
Why wouldn't he want to be an Airline pilot?

Well, the letter to go back has arrived.

And he turned the Airline down today.
He officially resigned.

Not that I'm shocked or surprised or anything like that, it's just that it means (officially) that it's finally over. The age of Chuck the Airline Pilot is behind us. It's like the elephant finally walking out of the room.

It's over.

Chuck's not a furloughed airline pilot working somewhere else.
He's just an employee at a great company that gives him weekends off and holidays off and lets him come home for dinner each night. No seniority needed.

And that is what we call years of bottled up emotion dumped out on a blog.
I feel so much better.

11 comments:

  1. Congratulations!!! We had a career reconsideration too. Better to do it early on.

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  2. I'm really happy for you! I worked in a restaurant for years and all of my friends had gotten 9-5 jobs. I had to miss so much and it sucked. Holidays, BBQs, birthday parties, camping trips...I finally get to do all that stuff and it's just as awesome as I thought it would be.

    As much as I love love love reading the goofy stories about your family, I really enjoyed this post. It just seemed more personal than your usual stuff.

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  3. I prefer Suck and Choosie.

    I remember the miserable apartment days, glad they're over - congrats to Suck!

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  4. blog stalker alert. I clicked over from littlemisshadley.

    My husband used to be an airline pilot too. He "quit" the day our first daughter was born. Officially he was just using up every last day of his Family Medical Leave Act and a bit more. I remember sitting on the couch, totaling up our expenses and figuring out that even if he had to go and sweep parking lots he wasn't going back. The DAY we made the decision to quit he got a real job that allowed him to sleep at home and not on a couch in an airport or in his crew car in Frensno. It was so uplifting. (pun was not intended) I'm a flight instructor and whenever a student comes and says they want to go to the airlines I cringe. Fly for fun, not for a job with the airlines. And I don't know about you guys but we NEVER ever used the benefits. Never. Kip couldn't bear the thought of sleeping in another hotel room.

    Loved the post

    P.S. I used to run out of the house scared out of my mind and drive to my parent's house to sleep. Not sure which is better, remote as a weapon or trying to come up with a good excuse as to why you're at your parent's house at 2:00 AM.

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  5. I can totally relate to this post! I'm so happy that Jason turned it down, too - although, not quite as officially as Chuck - Jason is on a 2 year leave of absence while he's under contract with the university, but I highly doubt that he'll ever go back to the airlines and I'm ok with that!

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  6. I guess I'll just reference this blog post in my exit interview. Thanks for cheering me up. Oh, what's that sound?... it must be my hopes and dreams being flushed down the toilet.

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  7. You have a transitioning husband. I'm a transitioning wife. It happens.

    But do you still get to say, "I'm the pilot's ife?" Cuz that's pretty sexy to get to say that about the hubs.

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  8. I think it is really sad we don't pay these people who literally have hundreds of lives in their hands daily more money! I guess I can just add that to the list of things I would change if I were in charge...!

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  9. Shiann Boyd (Paul's Girlfriend)November 14, 2010 at 8:08 AM

    Wow, I feel like slitting my wrist(s). Thank you Susan...

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  10. Although I wish Lamar would've given me a leave so I could have quit this week instead of two years ago, it was the best decision of my life.
    I may not have ever successfully flung the hotel key card into the slot, but now I have nights, weekends, and holidays off. Oh yeah, and a wonderful son I'm sure I wouldn't have had otherwise.
    Flying = good. Airlines = bad. Go figure.

    P.S. Tyrell says you're killing her softly.

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Tell me about it. Oh and thanks for validating my life.

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