Friday, November 4, 2005

The Commute

Today is being spent just getting to work. Pretty much a whole day--two legs and 6-8 hours--devoted to just getting to work. Tomorrow, after I toil on the clock for all of two hours, I get to devote another 6 hours or so--and three more legs--to getting home. I can hardly claim to be overworked with this trip (one 45 minute leg, after all, followed by nine days off to recuperate. And before everybody yells, this is not typical!); but the business of commuting kinda blows.

It's another weird airline thing that many of we pilots and flight attendants live in different states from where we work. I always get a dumbfounded look when I tell people that I live in Wisconsin but I work in Kentucky. (And even that is not strictly true, since I kind of work everywhere.) People assume that my airline flies here into Appleton, and I fly that airplane. Passenger airline people have things a bit easier, as all their trips will begin and end out of the same place. For example, I have friends who work for United and are domiciled in Chicago, so their commute is always from their home to O'Hare and back. Figure that out once and you basically have it; it's only a question of schedules and flight loads. Plus, passenger airline people can simply walk up to a gate and get on their own company's airplane, pretty much no questions asked (well, after following prescribed security procedures, of course). As easy as travel gets.

For we cargo people, things are a bit different. First, though I am able to ride on most passenger airlines' cockpit jumpseat for free, it's a more involved process than riding on my home passenger airline back when I flew people. Phone calls and discussions with ticketing agents are involved. No big deal, but still, a procedure. And more saliently, a great deal of my work does not begin and end in my domicile. A sizeable majority, in fact. A cargo airplane will usually fly overnight on week nights, and will sit the weekend wherever it ends up Friday or Saturday morning. So one's work week will typically begin out where the airplane sat the weekend (guzzling Jet A and tanning its polished aluminum, say, on a beach in San Juan). Thus, each work assignment will often be new commuting territory, since both where I'm going and where I'm departing from can be quite variable (I only depart from home when I get an assignment while at home, or when I have something pre-scheduled). Not to make it sound traumatic or difficult; I mean, lots of us travel a lot and it's what I do for a living. But it can be a hassle.

We don't have to live out of domicile, of course. Many pilots with my company immediately upon getting the job moved to Kentucky. But again, this is perhaps a less clear-cut advantage when only a small percentage of our work actually originates in domicile. (There are commercial travel advantages to living in domicile, but this is teetering on the edge of becoming an aviation post!)

Tomorrow's is a rare trip that does originate in domicile (though it terminates in the hinterlands of OH), and it is my responsibility to get my carcass and gear to domicile to start the trip. Another day in the crash pad, another lunch at Qdoba, more time hanging out with my roommates (who may or may not be there). But for now, the commute. I've been dealing with the friendly folks at Delta here in Appleton for years, and they always take care of me. It helps that I bribe them occasionally with Krispy Kremes, but then I'm faced with the additional challenge of ensuring that said doughnuts actually survive the four minute ride to the airport.

You laugh, perhaps; you have no idea.


BrianAlt said...

I understand. I always see those airline employees getting on my flights.

Plus, I have a decent commute myself, but it's on a bus. Hour five, hour ten going in and hour 20 to hour 30 going home.


wunelle said...

Any thoughts of the romance of travel scoot the hell out of town at the possibility of five hours on a bus (unless, of course, I was being paid to drive it).

You have my sympathy and admiration!

Lizzie said...

I'll never complain about my 2 mile commute to school again. (Although I still maintain DC public transportation sucks.)