March 06, 2011

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Motivation to write about anything is pretty non-existent these days. Contemplating saving all my posts to disk for my kids, getting rid of the junk that doesn't apply to them, and closing up shop is running rather high as well.

Time will tell. It's been a good run, over six years.

You know it's low when I didn't even write on my son's 16th birthday. In fairness to me, I have a lot on my plate and am treading water. I'll put a belated birthday post up... eventually.

Anyway, over at Lex's he has a new occasional poster, Whisper. Today's post has a series of pix, aircraft and carrier shots. But what he writes of is the young man on the flight deck, who he refers to as shuffleboard stick guy.

Crappy job. Long days, crappy weather, dangerous job, lonely.

And it reminded me of a young E4 I met 18 years ago, back when I worked the C-17. My group helped to field the C-17. (I know, I don't talk about work much, so if it bores you, move along.)

The C-17 is powered by a commercial engine that was converted to military use, to work with the C-17 airframe. My group did the studies for spare parts, field supportability for peacetime and wartime scenarios, etc, went to the field with other engineers to talk to the pilots of the C-141s who were converting to C-17 about their missions, so a mission profile could be developed, and we went to various facilities to watch a USAF crew attempt to tear down the engine using directions written by my company... all levels of maintenance.

My number was drawn to sit in with the USAF crew when it got to what we call Depot, which is where a lot of the overhaul goes on. When a motor has hit a critical point for cycles, it has to be thoroughly inspected, some parts such as rotating parts have to be replaced or overhauled, or sometimes the engine just gets seriously damaged in some way sending it in for overhaul.

So I sat out there for a few weeks while the USAF guys tore it down. Our writers were there making corrections, our Support guys were there as well to make sure all tooling worked, and I got to turn some wrenches and help, which was very cool.

I have some crazy funny stories from those times. And the notion of 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas' may have very well been invented from those six weeks.

I really got to know the young USAF mechanics. Oh my Lord they were young. One of them was right off a farm. I think he'd just graduated from high school and he would get us to laughing so hard we could hardly stand it. He was sweet.

Another was newly married. They were contemplating children, but trying to figure out how they were going to manage it on his salary, which was not much.

And the one I really got to know, was a young E-4, about to make E-5. He was in his mid 20s, divorced from a woman who had become a drug addict, and had two small children. He had family helping him, but it was a tough go. He was earnest and a hard worker. He had full custody of those babies, something that probably does not happen often to men, let alone military men.

I remember we were all out to dinner one night (this is where shuffleboard stick guy comes into play from Whisper's post) and the guys were talking about the crappiest duty they'd ever had.

Look at the picture of shuffleboard stick guy. What is he thinking? It is rainy and overcast. It's got to be cold. He's had a long day. Where is his mind?

And it made me think of that dinner conversation. And the young E-4 said he was stationed in Alaska. And it was wintertime and it was dark and cold and snowy. A plane came in and it was 2AM and it had to be fixed so it could be turned around to fly out.

He was out on the flightline, with the wind whipping around, and he couldn't wear gloves because he needed to be able to touch what he was doing. He said he'd never been so damn cold and then a cold fluid poured from whatever he was working on, above his head, and the fluid ran down his hands, into his jacket and down his arm.

He said he remembered thinking he was tired (long days), cold in Alaska in winter, depressed, and alone and now he was wet too.

And then he said, "You know what got me through that night? As bad as it got, as cold as it was, as miserable as I grew, I just kept thinking of my wife, warm in bed, and how I couldn't wait to get back home to her and crawl in next to her, wrapping myself around her... how her hair smelled, how soft her skin was, how it sounded to hear her breathe when she slept. All night as I worked on that plane, that's what I thought about. Home."

That has always stayed with me. Obviously she wasn't the drug addict at the time. It was during better days that this occurred... but he unlocked a secret.

See shuffleboard guy? His mind might be blank. He might be cursing the world for being where he is. Or... he could be somewhere else, thinking of someone, looking forward to going home.

I'm perpetually amazed at the young men and women that serve our Country.

We take them for granted.

Posted by Boudicca at March 6, 2011 02:49 PM

Yes, we do take them for granted.

I understand wanting to close the blog down, I really do... but I love your writing. You usually have something simple to say that turns out to be profound and touching, even if it's just life around the house.

If you go, I shall miss you.

Posted by: pam at March 6, 2011 03:49 PM

Pam- It's just tough as of late. Lots of stuff going on here in the house that's not blog fodder. I'd just never put up the bad stuff. I don't want to ever sound like a Pollyana like "Oh! Life is perfect!", but this is my happy place and lately... well... I'm just not laughing.

I can't write when I can't laugh and nothing is funny right now.

So I'll be touch and go... I've not hung it up yet, but it's just difficult right now. Life without laughter... is kinda sucky.

And thank you for saying what you said. You are so kind...

Posted by: Bou at March 6, 2011 09:29 PM

No, no quitting! Just take a sabbatical until life is amusing again (and it WILL amuse you again one day, promise). I will just have to reread your old posts to get a Bou fix while you rest your sword arm and soothe your spirit. And remember, you ARE the coolest. Ever. Even if motherhood sometimes makes you forget it. Wishing you peace and rejuvenation, my dearest dear.

Posted by: Leigh at March 6, 2011 09:54 PM

And wouldn't you know it, Murphy's law, I just have come to terms with the fact I'm not laughing and life is pissing me off... when Bones just did something I have to post on. Good Lord... you can't make this stuff up. I'll put it up tomorrow...

Posted by: Bou at March 6, 2011 09:57 PM

If you go, I shall miss you as well. To me, your blog is likely kind of like what your house is for your children's friends, but with a different kind of food.

If you do go, I hope it's not for good, but a break.

Posted by: Andrew Phule at March 6, 2011 11:28 PM

I'm hearing you LOOONG time!!! Life is life and I got a bunch of other stuff that needs my attention. I'm still trying to blog but barely so, compared to looong time ago. Thanks for staying on the positive side of life and NOT writing stuff you'd later regret. You're a class act LOOONG time in my book. Whatever happens, I wish ya all the very best. -Gene

Posted by: JihadGene at March 7, 2011 12:25 AM

We're good. We're good. There are just going to be days where it is dark here as I try to cope with some of the things going on here. Sometimes it all gets jacked up here and I pull in.

I have a post I wrote last night on Bones that I'll put up tonight. I had to write it then though, because by the end of the day, it might not be funny anymore...

Posted by: Bou at March 7, 2011 07:02 AM

Maybe a Lenten sabbatical? ;)

Posted by: pam at March 7, 2011 07:12 AM

do what you have to do... I just hope that means a time out, not a delete-this-blog

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at March 7, 2011 09:28 AM

Hey -- I'm not an every day reader, but for someone reason I decided to check you out today. Sorry life is in a rough patch. Hope you pull through soon. Miss you.

Posted by: Suzanne at March 7, 2011 12:08 PM

I can relate. I haven't laughed in a long time.

Your writing is a joy. Hope you hang around, even if only sporadically.

Posted by: Jean at March 7, 2011 06:46 PM

Hope things get better and you persevere.

My buddy's crane broke and I crawled under neath it in the pouring rain to fix it. This was a 50 ton old dinosaur with thick hydraulic cables and the doo-hickey underneath the center of the crane, which allows the hydraulic fluid to move up into the crane (even when it rotates) was broken. Coming home soaked isn't a big deal. I had a face full of cold hydraulic fluid and bleeding fingers. It takes forever to wash off, but at least it doesn't smell as bad as diesel.

Posted by: Carl Brannen at March 7, 2011 06:52 PM

I love your posts - absolute soul food, expecially this one! Thank you! If however this is gets to be a chore I too will understand. I realised last year that I have enough things in life to feel guilty about and started getting rid of the things that were wearing me down - the release was amazing! Take care of you Bou. xx

Posted by: Shaz at March 7, 2011 09:19 PM

"And wouldn't you know it, Murphy's law, I just have come to terms with the fact I'm not laughing and life is pissing me off... when Bones just did something I have to post on."

Actually, that's Harvey's Law:

By the way, if you do decide to shut the place down, consider having VW take you on as a co-blogger.

Or if not that, you will ALWAYS have a standing invite to guest-post at my place.

And I'm sure there's about another million or so bloggers that will make you the same offer.

You have options in addition to plug-pulling. I'll discuss them with you any time you need.

Posted by: Harvey at March 11, 2011 10:03 PM