By lex, on July 5th, 2006
I’m starting to feel the clock wind down, just that little bit. I’ve had my last cat shot, my last trap, I’ve dropped my last bomb and gunned my last JO. Two more years makes 26, and 26 is a good place to get off, if you’re not going any further, and the truth of it is that I’m not: Took myself off the up-track last year, not that I was moving very quickly down those rails. Which pretty much leaves me on the “out-track,” once I’ve finished the tour I’m in. Not that I couldn’t hang around for another set of orders, if something extra special came up. Just that I probably won’t. You’ve got to make hay while the sun’s shining, and old Sol’s getting pretty low on the horizon.
We’d moved every time a tour ended, the world being a wide and wonderful place, and which is fun while you’re young, and the kids are small. But that was 10 changes of station and 13 houses in 19 years. Comes a time when the psychic costs kick in, and then after a while they kick in a little harder. SNO was pretty elastic – good man himself – but the girls pay higher dues as they grow older; friendships mean so very much to them. And after a while, it isn’t about you any more. The Hobbit was a first class trooper: In for a penny, in for a pound, and take it where it goes, said she. They don’t much make them like that any more. Looking back on it, to tell you the truth, they very rarely did.
I had to be realistic, too – I was never going to be CNO, and while it might be true, as we were always taught, that it’s better to rule in hell than serve in heaven, there came a day when it just didn’t feel that way to me anymore. So I opted out, said there might be someone out there who wants it more, whatever it is, and you ought to let him have it. The Navy, to their credit, graciously agreed.
Stay in Sandy Eggo, Lex, if it do ya. Raise your family. We’ll find you summat to do.
And I’m grateful for that, even if it’s not like flying fighters off of aircraft carriers. Someone has to grind the handle, prime the pump and do the staff work. And I had an awesome run.
Was a time not so very long ago when I used to get all tied up in knots, worrying about what might come after. I’ve been spending the government’s dime since I was seventeen years old, which is a long time ago, when you put it like that. I never really wanted to be an airline pilot, nothing against them as a class. It just wasn’t me. But it struck me funny: If you left the Navy as a dentist or a doctor, odds are you’d pull teeth or whip out tumors, or whatever it is that doctors do. But not all pilots choose to fly. It isn’t the same, do you see? It’s not the same at all.
All the old heads I knew told me not to worry, that things would come up, that it was just a matter of what you wanted to do, and where you wanted to do it. Which seemed so easy for them to say.
And now, suddenly, it seems there’s no end of folks who’d like to have a chat. Any number who’d be happy to have me on the team. It isn’t all altruism, of course, all though of course it is nice to have friends. But the way of it is that the beltway bandits and snake oil salesmen make money off your labor – they’ll charge the Navy x for your services, and pay you x – y, y being their bit of the take. The more they hire on, the more they make themselves.
Part of you wants to put it all behind, start fresh, do something new. Make surfboards. Tend bar. Only today I was replacing a tire in my bicycle, having torqued the presta valve off the already mounted wheel prior to a workout yesterday. Good work to replace a tire, I thought to myself, suddenly imagining a second career as a bike mechanic, complete with greasy fingers and a work-apron, with maybe tiny cups of espresso in between. Honest work, easily done, with clear beginnings and defined endings. Grateful work for happy hands. Put the new tire in, pumped it up, and listened to the damned thing pop, apparently due to my having gouged the new tire with a tire lever while mounting it.
Which is the sound of the blogger, coming back to earth. Reality knocking, as it were, asking: “If you’re so very good with your hands, how is that you came to torque the valve stem off in the first place? Not to mention the tire lever thing. Eh?”
Which are un-answerable questions.
But it came to pass that I got an email over the weekend, and a phone call to follow up, asking for a meeting – nothing that might violate the rules of course – we do have rules – just lunch between old shipmates, a chance to talk about the world as we found it. What was I planning, he asked, and I told him: Systems engineering masters, and all that. Surprised he was, said he’d always thought I’d be more interested in politics or business. I told him that we’d share the tale, over a beer or three, while I’d never run for office, and how the SE program was designed to make me more marketable in the long run, if I didn’t hang myself first.
My man has a company and a business plan, and he’s got a lease on a bunch of cool airplanes, L-29′s, and MiG-17′s and options on MiG-21′s, not to mention some more pedestrian gear. Says he thinks I might find it interesting, what they’re doing.
And you know what? I might. I just might.
Once more into the breach, dear friends.