By lex, on January 23rd, 2010
Two hops today, and it was something of a blessing, for it’s been that wet and trashy down Sandy Eggo way over the last many several. Howling winds and rain coming sideways, the usual collapse of civilization on the freeways, as stolid commuters obtusely denied the possibility of rain slicked highways contributing to mishaps. After eight or so days, you’d think that maybe vehicular Darwinism would have been in effect, to teach the survivors that it simply will not do the careen down the highway at 80MPH with ten feet of separation bumper to bumper. That maybe the richest crop of morons gets harvested on the first day, with successive slaughters gracefully tending towards zero.
You’d have been wrong, for thinking that.
The second hop was much the less remarkable of the two, a father and son affair, the younger being a 25-year old transplant from Colorado, his dear ol’ da come hither for to serve as target, it seemed. But the first flight?
That was a record setter.
Never in my many years of treading the footless halls of air have I heard a man more comprehensively ill, nor seen someone so entirely taken up with sickness nevertheless fight so manfully. Madhu was his name, as best as I could make out. An Indian lad, software engineer and Canadian citizen, come down from Teh Frozen Wastes to our friendly shores via the Bay Area with his lovely partner, a first year law student. Come down here, for this.
I sensed it coming, when he begged leave to remove his jacket between the first hack and the second as we repositioned. For it was a cool, blustery day and the air vents were open. At the end of the second hack he handed me back the flight controls like they were on fire, becoming wretchedly ill for the length a book. At the kind of volume, and with the sort of vocalizations that made a mockery of engine noise. I do not mention slipstream. It was all I could do to keep my shoulders from shaking in silent laughter, for – although I was and am deeply sympathetic – this was something utterly new to my experience, and I was a fighter pilot long enough to appreciate the comedic value of someone else’s misery.
Would he be all right for a third engagement, or prefer instead to pick our way leisurely back to home plate, casting our godlike eyes upon the local sights?
Game on, cried he, gamely.
He won the third fight, and two out of three altogether, before asking permission to take his headset off and take a powder, like. Resting his weary head against the canopy for the duration of our flight home, missing all the wonderful scenery and such. Eyes closed.
Cleared for the break overhead Montgomery, I briefly pondered requiring and desiring of him to put his headset back on, if only for form’s sake. So that we could chat on the intercom should some untoward thing arise, like an engine failure or approach turn stall, either of which might mean the end of us, and an opportunity to clear things up with God (or gods, as the case may have been) in the little time remaining to us. While commiserating on our ineluctable fate.
In the event, I left him to his rest, for he had been a good sport, and I adjudged the odds of mortality within the next several minutes (at least) as being acceptably low.
In the bright light of informed retrospect, I think I might do things differently.
After a gentle – oh, so gentle – return to the field from out over the ocean he was unpleasantly surprised to awake to a 2 1/2 g break to downwind, alarmed to find us side-slipping down out of the sky on a high and tight approach and thoroughly resentful of his dwindling stores of Saturday lunch.
He hollered, burbled and spat in the back seat like he was being disemboweled – the slaughter of the innocents ain’t in it – but my hands were too full of the task at hand to do much about it.
“I’m sorry,” he cried, between eruptions.
“Did you get it all in the bag,” I asked. For getting sick in the bag is a trivial thing, while getting sick in the actual cockpit is another thing entirely.
“I did not,” he replied, choking.
A thoroughly dissipated, degraded and wretched Madhu spent much of the afternoon sleeping on a couch in the airport lounge, looking for all the world like a naval aviator after a wild night in Hong Kong, at least until rescued by his lady friend. It was my sad task to inform linesman Bud – a thoroughly good egg and retired USAF electronics technician – that the Mighty Varga required a certain degree of maintenance before it could be made in all good conscience ready for additional customers.
Including the headset. And the map case. And the seat cushion. And the rudder wells.
One intact grape bore mute testimony to what had gone before.
I tried to help, but possessing as I do a cast iron stomach from the vagaries of actual flight, I am an absolute wreck when it comes to cleaning up after. I’m pretty sure that I’m off Bud’s Christmas card list. And the 1040 will reflect that there were no tips forthcoming, neither from Madhu nor from his lady.
I had to tell my employers that I was not sanguine about word-of-mouth potential in this particular case, gomen nasai.