Sitting on the lid of the toilet I check the bars of my phone and dial his number. This is the usual spot, less static on the line and the only place in the terminal where it’s possible to escape the village’s eternal need for gossip.
“Can you hear me?” I shift forward to help the phone. “Yes, loud and clear,” he yells back. We chat about my flights this morning and then I tell him the news.
“They’ve hired a new manager and fired Jack in Emmonak, that red-headed pilot. The idiot was goofing around trying to knock over cones at the edge of the runway while landing, and of course someone called it in.” We discuss the stupidity of Jack and then I drop my bomb. “I’m going to volunteer to fly out there.”
I list my reasons. More flight hours, more money, better housing, free TV and Internet. These are the company enticements to go where nobody wants to be. I omit the isolation, bad weather, short runs, lack of facilities and the physical demands of loading my own cargo. What really interests me are two things. I’ll ask for my own plane, one that nobody can hijack from me while I’m off duty, one with a working heater and matching seatbelts. A plane that flies straight and has a Capstone system so I can see other planes nearby. I have my eye on one of the last 207s ever built, shiny red 28M, a plane I’ve had to fight to fly for the last six months.
The second reason is I’m secretly in love with the idea of the remoteness. No grocery story, bring your own food, pack a sleeping bag, hunt a moose, collect reindeer beard remoteness; the shear native-ness of the place I intend to go. I want to live somewhere that might be gone in fifty years.
There’s also the fact that I’m one of the newest pilots at the company, and I’m pretty sure they’ll be calling me up and telling me I’m going anyway.
So we discuss the particulars of the additional commute that my sweetheart will have to endure if he wants a conjugal visit, and I emphasize that it's only one more flight on my three- or four-leg commute. We will make it work.
Before I leave my privacy palace, I dial one more number and negotiate with my boss. The deal done, I carefully wash my hands and use T.P. on the doorknob. The usual contingent of Carharts and chewing tobacco appraise my exit. I’m harassed about the length of time I’ve hogged the potty, presumably because of my extra chromosome. I don’t care, what my more experienced compadres don’t know is that I’m not going to have to haggle over who gets stuck flying frigid cold N9134CK (Chicken Killer), or dig around the maintenance hanger for a matching mate for my seatbelt.
“KONG, passengers for KONG!” I yell from the balcony. My group shifts to their feet, hauling plastic bags, dirty backpacks and crutches. They flock around me, smiling. “Margaret, how’s your knee after the surgery? Tom, is your son back from Platinum?” We exit onto the white ramp toward Chicken Killer.
Deborah Elder is an airline pilot based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She enjoys reading and writing when on the ground, and has been previously published in airplanereading.org.