Archive for June, 2012

Transitions

2 June 2012 at 11:40 pm
by Berck

Joanna and I watched the transition from light to dark from our porch this evening, something we should do more often. Thanks to Uncle Stacy we smoked a couple of cigars of unknown origin whilst sipping from our glasses of Oban (thanks to future employment).

We’ve allowed a small carnivore (Professor Linus Erwin von Neumann) to live with us, and I’ve decided to do something completely different.

Mesa is sure to call me at some point in the next few months, but they’ve missed the boat. First, they called me in January to tell me they’d arranged a May 7th class date for me, which was as good as I could hope for. That was finals week, but I was able to convince all my professors to allow me to take finals a week early. It meant a rough end to my last semester, but the whole academic world has been rough on me, and I wouldn’t expect anything different for the end. I smiled on my good fortune up until the point Mesa called me back and told me they’d canceled the May 7 class.

I had the choice of returning to Mesa early April or staying on the recall list. I opted for the recall list. Normally, turning down a class date is equivalent to a resignation, but since I’d already been promised a later date, I was allowed to stay on the list. This means that while I’m not currently assigned a class date, I’m able to return to work when they schedule another class.

Should that class have been scheduled imminently, I’d be excited to return to flying. The idea of sitting in a seat attached to a mechanism that allows me to move a lever at will that produces 30,000 lbs of thrust is immensely appealing, but I decided to look at my options.

Sometime back in August, I found myself back in school for lack of anything better to do. It’s not that I had some grand plan conceived back in 1998 that I’ve skillfully executed, but more that I didn’t like the other options. Sometime in late 2000, missing Joanna terribly, and without better ideas, I decided to take a semester off and live in the real world. I’d proved that academia wasn’t for me and I needed to move on. I vaguely recall that whenever someone asked me what I did at that time period I told them I was an artist. I hunted for work and spent awhile doing “web development” for Verizon back when they were mostly GTE. At the time, it seemed like good money and all I had to do was pine for my Purple Pen, it wasn’t enough for me. I quit that job in search of a job as a network admin, and moved to Georgia for the promise of free rent.

That job never materialized, and I started applying for anything and everything. For awhile, my best bet seemed a job as an oil change tech at the local dinosaur residue replacement emporium, they would never agree to actually hire me. Atlantic Southeast Airlines, however, was glad to usher in the new era of fat geeky flight attendants, and I showed everyone I knew that I could pour coke just as well as the next gay guy.

Eventually, Joanna realized what a mistake she’d made, and while pouring coke I realized that  the direction of the carefully sculpted hunk of aluminum might as well be directly decided by me rather than some rednecks with rich parents. So I became a pilot.

I’m a good pilot. I’m happy being a pilot. It’s something I wouldn’t mind doing for the rest of my life, but the last folks who deigned to pay me for my services let me know that I wasn’t needed sometime in December 2009.

And then it was December 2009, and I realized I wasn’t a kid anymore. So I signed up for school with all the kids in hopes they wouldn’t notice.

At first I was terrified of being the old guy in class. I had memories of the University of Dallas where there was, in fact, an old guy attending class with us. Lest any of us doubt his age, he showed up to class with a briefcase. Each day, he dutifully arrived in class with his briefcase full of textbooks. He meaningfully hit the releases on his briefcase with a “CLICK CLICK” and extracted from that sad vessel his textbooks.

I did not want to be that guy. Fortunately, I didn’t have a briefcase, so I immediately assumed I’d be safe. A few seconds after that assumption it occurred to me that the guy with the briefcase just went to class with what he knew: something I was about to do with my backpack. Sure, kids my age wore backpacks, but these were new kids. Kids who grew up listening to musicians my age, singers like Christina Aguilera. Anything might be cool these days, anything but backpacks. Backpacks were clearly the new briefcase. I needed a messenger bag.

Messenger bags seemed inherently stupid, so I showed up to classes resigned to be the old guy with my backpack, and it didn’t seem that bad, at least from my perspective. It turned out the old people carried their textbooks in suitcases with wheels, as though their million-miler status would win them extra credit in class.

This time I got through with a degree, and a degree way better than any I could have acquired from the University of Dallas. My entire life I’ve been a C student, but somehow this was different. I actually wanted to learn how to calculate the charge resulting from two spheres smeared with a uniform charge density, because it seemed important, if not useful.

This time, I showed school who was boss. I laughed at the kids who started what was clearly a two-night project the night before and then were happy with their B’s. I grew a beard, some hair, and harassed my professors just because I could. I was no longer a 17-year-old who was lucky to be in class, instead I was an old fart who’d fought for his right to be there and was fully prepared to exploit that right to the determent of his fellow students. No one should go to school right after high school. It may actually be the case that no one should go to high school, but that’s a different story.

Endless jobs for programmers landed in my lap, and I laughed, confident that I would return to flying, but eventually it occurred to me that I could make a lot more money writing code than flipping switches in an airliner. But I really like flipping switches in an airliner. It used to get me out of bed in the morning.

After Mesa shafted me the last time I finally decided to look around for something that might make me just as happy, but that would pay me a lot more money. A cursory search didn’t turn up much, but I got a random e-mail in my inbox that peaked my attention.

A company with a local office was looking for firmware engineers, and they were interested in the best recent UCCS CS grads. This was exactly the sort of coding job that appealed to me, and I responded.

I start Monday. It’s a long way from anything I thought I’d be doing, but the idea of solving interesting problems every day for more money than I could make at the airlines is awfully appealing.

A decade ago I was wearing a vest to work. Not long after that, a flight suit, then a uniform with epaulettes, but on Monday I’ll wear shorts.