Posted 6 years 31 days ago ago by Francis Meyrick
I get a lot of emails, which is fun, and a few years ago, I received one such missive which positively bubbled cheerfulness. An exchange of emails led to a couple of phone conversations, and I found myself chatting to a bouncy young fellow, who was, in three words, ‘full of beans’.
Our hero was in the process of graduating as a Commercial Helicopter Pilot and CFI from the renowned Bristow’s Academy in Florida. A learning establishment about which I have heard much good. He certainly appeared to have enjoyed it, and he now faced his penultimate challenge: to wit, the giving of a presentation to his fellow class mates and his instructors. Apparently that’s a tradition down there, and depending on the graduate concerned, some have been known to give the event much preparation. To include slide shows, and detailed hand out notes. Well, this young fellow wanted to ask me if he could use “Moggy’s Tunaboat Helicopter Manual” and the associated outrageous stories from the Dark Side, for his presentation. It was nice of him to ask. “Sure”, I said, “You bet! Just let me know afterwards how it works out!”
In due course, our young Tiger called me again, and apparently his presentation, complete with images lifted off “www.Chopperstories.com” mightily entertained the assembled hordes. A huge success. I complimented him on his zeal, and I imagine this lad is forging ahead in his helicopter career now, blazing a pathway which is filled with learning, achievement and fun.
Fast forward another year or so, and I was sitting in the Intercoastal City Base, in Louisiana, telling some outrageous story. There was much laughter, and I was probably doing my arm waving thing. I get a little carried away, and my hands become airplanes and helicopters. Thus my left hand might be a World War One Sopwith Camel, being pursued by the Red Baron in his Fokker Triplane. It degenerates into one helluva dogfight, but the outcome is a bit unpredictable. Thus I have managed to shoot down any number of coffee cups and pint glasses. People that know me are careful to slide them out of reach. Even that doesn’t always work, as witnessed by a number of tragic events. One such smoking wreck involved my old tuna boat captain’s genitalia, which I accidentally fermented, and not content with that, ten minutes later… but I describe that unfortunate Moggy cluster in a story elsewhere...1*)
Thus I was holding forth, and there was much mirth, and when there was a quiet moment, this young pilot sat down beside me. Until they know me (doesn’t take long) they tend to do things like hold the door open for me, call me “Sir”, and generally treat me like a doddery old Aunt trying to cross a busy intersection. Usually, after I threaten to break their legs a couple of times, they relax, and we get along famously. Well, this was a prototype new bloke, I could tell from the carefully starched uniform, the gleaming new gold bars, and the crease in his trousers.
Unfortunately, us hooligans who have been around the Gulf for a decade or more, well, mostly, our standards slip a little. Being away from Mama for a week or two doesn’t help either, and the creased apparition with the Jet A stained shoes, is not unusual. This lad oozed newness. No worries, we’ve all been there. He was, however, wearing a funny look. Then he pointed a semi-accusing finger at me. I raised my eyebrows questioningly. Did I owe him twenty bucks? I couldn’t remember.
“That accent… that story… are you THE Francis? Who writes all those stories…?”
I winced. Believe me, I have learned to wince. The scribbles are not universally lauded. By any means. There is the occasional Captain Dalek out there, who feels personally offended by everything I blog. Terminally so. (inside joke) As if it is written about HIM. It’s not. The song is not about you. It’s just a general, generic send up of soulless Daleks who wish to kill (ex-ter-min-ate) every last bit of fun that can be derived from becoming a chopper jockey. In their world, there are only Captains, and check lists, and procedures, and polished, gleaming gold bars. “Carry my bag, Junior!” And there are NO ‘chopper jockeys’… (only S.I.C.’s)
But my new found friend was, thankfully, no vengeful Dalek. On the contrary. He had read every last story on my scurrilous, subversive blog page, and some more than once. I was shocked at the admission of so much time wasted. Imagine what he could have done with that effort! Learned Russian, or calculus , or taking a course in one of the most difficult subjects known to scholars. (Women). The fact that he seemed to have enjoyed it was no excuse. In my mind, you could be forgiven for reading one or two, but ALL of them? That seemed a bit like too much self flagellation. You know, the bit where the Medieval penitents of Old walked the stations of the cross, barefoot, whilst whipping themselves bloody with spiked whips. And all the while, volubly, giving thanks to God. I mean, come on now, Sinner. How much is going to Heaven really worth? Imagine it’s run by a bunch of Captain Daleks? Or people like my old Zen Master? Are you sure you want to go there?
As the young fellow’s story unfolded, it emerged that he too, had gone to Bristow’s Academy in Florida. The helicopter world is indeed, a very small one. And this is where the story took a unique twist. He told me that he had run into money troubles, girlfriend troubles, and staying-the-course troubles all at the same time. It sounded like self flagellation on steroids to me. Paying for his flying meant debt up to the eye balls, Ramen Noodles and sleeping on a couch, and that apparently was seriously not-supported by girlfriend. She wished him to go back to his old job, which was a well paid tradesman’s beat. Unfortunately, our hero was burned out in that profession, and regarded it as a soulless way of making money. He wanted to fly. To add complexity to the plot, as if that were needed, girlfriend was anxious to start making babies. Poor fellow! I could just imagine the disturbance in the Force. On top of all that, he was struggling to concentrate at the helicopter school, and he was behind on his class work. He was… seriously thinking about giving it up. And going back to the old trade, and, presumably, start making babies.
He also did not get along with his regular instructor, a very serious and authoritarian fellow, purgatory to fly with, who apparently had told him he was wasting his money, and the instructor’s time. A low point, I’m sure. The school management decided to swop our hero to another instructor. This one, my new found friend told me, was the polar opposite. The guy was funny, told all sorts of outrageous stories, and was really pleasant to fly with. Listening to the tale with interest, I failed initially to make the connection. The dots were there, but swimming around as it were. WHO said the helicopter world was a small one? This NEW instructor, upon hearing of my friend’s plight, and upon realizing that his student was about to give up, apparently warmly recommended… you guessed it… the scurrilous blog of a certain lower caste rickshaw driver. He did so with the caution that my friend might spend a night or two up late. Now I started to titter. I could guess where this was going. Sure enough, several sleepless nights, a major change of heart, new-found energy and enthusiasm, and…
Here he was, at Intercoastal City, starched shirt, pleated trousers, gleaming gold bars, and having the time of his life! What a difference a change of Flight Instructor can make! And maybe some time-waster tales from the Dark Side…
Of course, me being me, infamous for my indiscretion and lack of tact, I had to ask:
“What did the girl friend say?”
He laughed. “Ditched her!”
I feigned horror. “But how about the babies?”
“Oh”, he said, happily. A gleam came in his eye.
“Don’t worry. I’m busy practicing elsewhere…”
1*) : Of Helicopters and Humans (#30): "A Mental Midget - Moggy on Fire"
A Little About Moggy - Francis ‘Moggy’ Meyrick (www.chopperstories.com) admits to not being terribly bright, but he did first grace the skies (more or less) totally on his own some forty-five years ago. He is rumored to have solemnly intoned these memorable words on the downwind leg. “Holy Molly McBride! NOW what have I done…?” He is working dutifully on his eighty-sixth incarnation (he does, admittedly, get sent back a lot – for another try) , and he describes himself as a ‘chopper jockey’. He says it’s basically a case of a nut, hanging under a nut. (BIG nut, though). Compared to trying to attain Wisdom (he was a Buddhist monk once) (before he got demoted to galley hand), he reckons it beats working for a living. It ranks right up there with being a happy penguin, and spending all day sliding down icy slopes. Moggy loves spinning a good yarn, and his greatest reward is simply your enjoyment. His many friends caution you he does tend to tell his bar stories with verve and gusto, and much arm waving, so you are advised to move your pints and other drinks safely out of his way. Peace. Got a pickle sandwich? -