Archive for July, 2004

Lucky Pup

10 July 2004 at 9:18 pm
by Jonah

Berck has bungee-corded me to the lawn chair that serves as my desk chair and is forcing me to write about the events last weekend that almost kept us in Chicago much longer than we intended. So, here goes.

I consider myself a lucky person. I am even lucky in my misfortune. When something unlucky happens to me, it usually happens in the most fortuitous circumstances…or even prevents a far greater misfortune. (Like that time Berck and I got locked out of the laundromat; the delay gave our bowels just long enough to realize the bad Mexican food we’d eaten needed to be expelled as quickly as possible…near nice, clean bathrooms instead of along the desolate stretch of highway on which we were about to embark.) I tell people I’m lucky, but really, I think someone is watching out for me. If you think about it, this requires about as much faith as believing that the principles of statistics are somehow cosmically altered for you personally.

The drive to Chicago was great. An overcast sky paced us all the way there, keeping the sun off our skin and the temperature perfect for top-down driving. Still, we were pretty tired when we arrived, having driven for most of13 hours.

Sydney gave us directions on the phone of exactly which side of which street on which to park. We found a Miata-sized space that Berck maneuvered into after several tries. We called Syd back to tell her we had arrived and began exhuming the contents of the trunk onto the sidewalk. I put up the car’s top and stuck my keys in the ignition to put up the windows. Then Syd arrived, and Berck wanted to sanitize the car’s interior, removing not only the attractively stealable items, like the radar detector and stereo faceplate, but every other worthless item not bolted down in the interior. “It can’t look cluttered,” he said. “That’s just asking for someone to break in.” Of course, since we never lock the car (that’s just asking for a thief to slice through the vinyl top), breaking in would actually mean simply pulling on the door handle.

We walked or took the L everywhere while in Chicago, as it’s a lot easier than braving city traffic or over-extending parking karma. When it was time to leave on Sunday morning (or noon by then), we made sure we had collected everything we’d brought and said goodbye to Sydney. I was a little irritated because I couldn’t find my keys in the spot where I’d emptied my pockets, but Berck had his keys, and I figured I must have forgotten stashing my set into one of my bags, or Berck had picked mine up by mistake. I asked Berck if he’d done something with my keys, and he got ticked off that I thought he might have. In any case, I figured they’d turn up later.

Down on the street, the Miata was still there, though the parking space around it had widened a bit over the weekend. I glanced in the passenger window and noticed that most of the contents of the glove box were strewn over the car seat. Someone had broken into the car! There was nothing in the glovebox worth anything to anyone else, so nothing was missing. Nothing except an old credit card of mine that I had presumed lost and canceled; Berck had held onto it, partly as memento and partly ice scraper, I think. The thief, probably not stopping to examine the expiration date too closely, maybed dashed off with his prize as soon as he found it, since nothing else was gone; even the change in the cupholder was undisturbed.

I got into Sydney’s car and waited for Berck to finish reassembling the Miata. A couple of minutes later, Berck came storming toward the Solara. “I found your keys,” he said, disgusted.

“Where were they?”



He stormed back to the Miata. Then he stormed right back.

“And you left them ON! The battery is dead!”

I guess no one could steal the car with the battery dead. Even with the keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked.

We couldn’t find any jumper cables in the Solara, and Berck wasn’t crazy about charging the Miata’s special battery that way anyway. So he took the live battery out of the Solara and replaced the dead battery in the Miata. The Miata started right up.

Then Berck unhooked the battery and took it back to the Solara. He was getting grease all over his hands and t-shirt and new shorts. The only thing I could do was sit on the sidewalk and feel useless and stupid. I thought about offering to hook the Solara back up, since I’d watched it being taken apart, but that was probably a bad idea. Instead, I decided to put the Miata’s spare tire back in its trunk, which had to be moved out of the way for the larger Toyota battery. Unfortunately, in the process I knocked the Miata’s positive cable against its body. The Miata’s engine immediately shuttered to a stop.

“Oh, no.”

“WHAT DID YOU DO?” Berck was furious. “You probably mucked the alternator all up! If you’re lucky, all you did was blow the main fuse!”

“We’ll go get another one,” I suggested.

“ON THE FOURTH OF JULY? What auto parts store is going to be open?!”

Berck yanked the main fuse out from under the hood. It looked okay, so he carried the Solara battery back to the Miata and hooked it all up again. The Miata started right up.

This time I let Berck put the Miata battery in first. “Now you can put the spare back in.”

We drove back to Norman without further incident, getting in around 2:30 a.m.

Stage Check (part deux)

8 July 2004 at 5:21 pm
by Berck

I didn’t fly last week after Monday. We went to Chicago. (There are more tales from Chicago, but I think Joanna should tell about them, because people will think I’m making fun of her if I point out the silly ways in which she tried to keep us from coming home.) We came back from Chicago.

On Monday, I couldn’t get Mike on the phone. I drove to the flight school, but there weren’t very many people there. I thought maybe the school was closed. On Tuesday, Mike asked if I’d heard from Will about my recheck. I hadn’t. He went and talked to Will and decided that we should review landings again since it had been over a week since I’d flown. We did.

On Wednesday, there was a message on my phone from C. C. is another check airman. He wanted to schedule me for the afternoon. Unfortunately, he didn’t return my call until about 4pm, at which point, “it was too late.” He wanted to fly at 6:30am on Thursday. I told him I’d rather fly in the afternoon. “There aren’t any planes.” I figure if I’m paying them $26,000 I should be able to fly when it’s convenient for me. But in the interest of getting this done as soon as possible, since he seemed unwilling to schedule me for the afternoon, I reluctantly agreed.

I would write about it, but it wasn’t very interesting, and I barely remember it since I think I slept through most of it. He had me do a few landings, then signed my logbook.

I called Mike and asked him if he could schedule me for one of the 7 remaining lessons later in the day. No, it has to be tomorrow, there aren’t any planes until after 4pm, and he’s going to be working dispatch.

So I’m scheduled at 10am tomorrow morning.

The Windy City

3 July 2004 at 11:41 pm
by Jonah

We’re in Chicago.

We drove from Norman Friday morning. It’s pretty easy… you take
Interstate 44 until you get to St. Louis, then I-55 till Chicago. I-44
passes through Springfield, MO, the first house Berck remembers living
in. We got lunch at Arby’s, and with Berck’s description of the
neighborhood to his mom, and his mom’s description of the house, we were
able to find it. We would have taken a picture, if we had a camera.

We got to Sydney’s apartment in Wicker Park after ten p.m. After
walking many blocks in search of food, we settled for a tasty taqueria
(where, unfortunately, I left my hat). Then we bought some beer and
headed back to Sydney’s roof (carrying a case of beer up an extension
ladder is tricky), which had a great view of the moon, the Sears Tower,
and some premature fireworks. Sydney’s roommates returned one by
one and shared our beer and stories. I finally petered out at three in
the morning, but everyone else apparently stayed up until dawn, when
Berck came to bed, happy to have had conversation with people other than
fellow pilots in so long.

Saturday we slept till noon despite the oppressive urban heat. We got
ready to head out to get breakfast (lunch), and the heavens opened,
pouring rain into the street. But a minute later, it had trickled to a
drizzle, and we walked the few blocks to the L station and caught a
train down to the Loop. Then we trekked through the intense humidity in
the general direction of Greek Town and picked a random gyro joint.

Tonight we ventured near the Loop to eat pizza at a place one of Syd’s
roommates works at. It was nice to have Chicago deep dish pizza. We
got a pitcher of beer on the house.

We walked back to and from the L in the rain, getting fairly wet, but
it’s nice and cool

Berck prepared some listening material for us before leaving Norman. He
stole some free stuff (that allows one to rip free RealAudio feeds to
wave files) and burned them to CD’s. We could have just put them on the
MP3 player, but then only one of us would have been able to listen to
them on the way home, since we’ve got two cars going back. We also got
a great deal on some audio books from Both of them are regulars on
This American Life. Sarah Vowell’s Partly Cloudy Patriot and David
Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day, which we listened to on the way up
here. We were laughing so hard during some of his stories. He’s been
described as a gay Mark Twain. Most of his stories are about his
idiosyncratic family or trying to learn French after moving to France with
his boyfriend. If anyone wants to borrow the CD’s after we’ve listened
to them, maybe we’ll loan them to you. They’re pretty good driving
material. All for driving to the town where WBEZ is located, home of
This American Life.


1 July 2004 at 11:08 pm
by Jonah

I have tomorrow off. Happy 4th on the 2nd! That meant that we were
supposed to get off every day this week at 4:30. Ha! We did on Monday
and Tuesday. Then we were hit by some humongous orders. Yesterday we
got off at 6. Today we finally got to leave at 6:45…and that was just
us new people. Everyone else had to help fill pink cards (which we
haven’t been trained to do), so I don’t know when they got to go home.

So what are we doing on our three-day weekend? We’re driving to
Chicago! Berck’s sister Sydney just moved there with the AmeriCorps
VISTA program, and she can ride the L around. With a car more of a
liability than an asset, she offered it to us to babysit until she
finishes her term in January. An extra car! Woohoo!

Berck is working on making CD’s of our favorite radio show This American Life
so we can listen to them on the 11 to 12 hour drive.

Alarum III

1 July 2004 at 10:43 pm
by Jonah

Our upstairs neighbor came downstairs today.

She was extremely apologetic. She had just gotten back from the
airport, had been out of town all week. (So we didn’t hear her upstairs
after all. Berck thinks I’m hearing things. I think her boyfriend came
every evening to feed the cat.)

So when Berck woke me up on Monday morning, wondering if our neighbor
was dead, my sleepy answer was apparently accurate. “No, she had to get
up early on Sunday to catch a plane. She’ll be gone all week, and the
alarm will wake us up each morning.” Then I drifted back to sleep,
dreaming about how our neighbor wasn’t dead…she was just foster
parenting the klepto-pepper kid because his real parents had disappeared.

Hopefully, this morning will be the last wake-up call. Berck didn’t
wake up at all this morning. I did after half an hour of the insistent
buzzing. It just drives your brain crazy.