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It's All in the Title

Posted 11 years 184 days ago ago by Admin

When I was the chief pilot at the Life Flight program at UCSD Medical Center in San Diego one of our ongoing tasks was to continue educating the public and the new first responders about the service we provided and how to use us.  As with all HEMS programs we called such flights public relations or P.R. flights.  They were always the same.  The doctor, nurse and I would stand by the helicopter in our matching custom-made University of California San Diego Life Flight blue flight suits looking as sharp as any flight crew on the Navy Blue Angels precision-flying team, (well kind of anyway) and after we gave our spiel someone would invariably approach me personally and ask, “Are you medically qualified, or are you JUST the pilot?”

I was medically qualified at that point having done a seven-month EMT course at Grossmont College, but the common question did continue to annoy me somewhat.  It was the word JUST that I took umbrage to.  

I know the person asking the question didn’t mean anything by it but this being JUST the pilot troubled me as if my job was a menial task less important than what the doctor and nurse did.  One day I came up with an idea to hopefully put this problem to rest.

I had noticed that along with lots of education people who worked at the hospital also had fancy-sounding titles even for menial jobs not unlike being JUST a pilot.  There was of course HOSPITAL SANITATION ENGINEER for janitor.

FOOD SERVICE DISTRIBUTION COORDINATOR for the lady behind the counter at the cafeteria placing mashed potatoes and peas on people’s plates.

HORTICULTURAL GROUNDS MAINTENANCE ENGINEER for the gardener etc.  So I thought that instead of being Randy Mains

Pilot, like the nametag on my blue flight suit read, I decided I would have a fancy title too, like everyone else working at the hospital.  My thinking was that perhaps having a fancy title would befuddle anyone who looked at it and cause them to think my job was something more important than being JUST the pilot.

I approached Fred with my dilemma.  Now Fred was the official UCSD MEDICAL CENTER PERSONNEL INDENTIFICATION NAMETAG DISTRIBUTION SPECIALIST who was the man in charge of making everyone’s name tags.  I went to see him in his small office located in the bowels of the hospital.  

I explained my plight. “Fred, you gotta help me out here.  When I go on P.R. flights people keep asking me if I am JUST the pilot like what I do is some kind of menial task or something.  They never ask the doctor if he is JUST the doctor or ask the fight nurse if she is JUST the flight nurse.   I’ve noticed that people who work at the hospital have fancy titles so I’ve decided that I need one too.  I’ve come up with what I think is a pretty good one.  I ran it by the flight nurses and they all agree it’s a good one too so, what to you say, Fred, will you help me out here and print me a nametag with my new title on it?”
He didn’t speak for a moment obviously thinking.  Then he said, “Well, I don’t know.  What is it?”

I told him.

He sucked air through his teeth and with a slow shake of the head he said, “Ohhhh man… I don’t know Randy, these are official UCSD nametags you know.  See here,” He pointed to my chest where I had my orange name tag pinned to my flight suit.  He pointed to the small gold seal making it official.  “See, it has the official UCSD logo stamp on it.  I don’t want to get in trouble.”
“Fred, how are you going to get in trouble?  It’s an important sounding title that’s all and one I am sure will stop people from asking me if I am JUST the pilot or not.  Come on, Fred, please help me out here.  You won’t get in trouble, honest.”

He looked around his small office as if someone might be listening to this illegal plan we were hatching.  His paranoia rubbed off causing me to look around too to check to see if we were in fact being overheard.  

“OK, Randy, I’ll do it.  But on one condition...”

“And what’s that?”

“If anybody asks you about it you gotta take it off immediately and use the one you have on now. Deal?”

“Deal,” I said, and we shook hands.

Fred set to printing out my new nametag, the one I would wear with pride for five years, up until the day I would leave Life Flight for good.  And who would have the nerve to ask me again if I was JUST the pilot when they read my new title?