Tuesday, March 02, 2010

February happenings

I guess this blog has been turning into a monthly digest of sorts. I will try and update a bit more frequently this month...be nice to get up to weekly posts or at least bi-weekly, but we will see how things go.

February started off relatively uneventfully, but I got a cold (again) about halfway through the month. It was a pretty bad one, so I called in sick one day and went to see my doctor. The doctor suspected a possible return of bronchitis so I was placed on some stronger antibiotics than last time, along with a few other medicines. I have recovered from the cold although I still have a little bit of chest congestion. I'm glad I went to the doctor, though. Sometimes I'm stubborn about not using my sick leave unless it's a dire circumstance, but I definitely needed to this time. Everyone at work was glad I'd gone to see a doctor when I came back to work, so maybe I looked in even worse shape than I felt.

Another thing that happened is, my sisters and I decided that it was time to find a new home for my Mom's dog, Gus. She just wasn't able to take care of him anymore and seemed increasingly unaware of him. I placed a "Free To A Good Home" Craigslist ad for him, and I only got a few responses...probably because Gus is ten, and takes arthritis medicine (currently via a monthly shot.) However, one of the responses I got did work out, and I took Gus to his new home last week, where he seems to be settling in fine. I did consider keeping Gus myself, but as I have no yard, and I like to bring Mom by here once in a while if I've cooked something, I thought it was best just to find a new place for him. Also, he sheds like crazy.

The new owner has another older outdoors dog, and an old parrot...he says his kids sometimes call his place "the house of dysfunctional pets." It seemed like a nice situation for Gus, and I think things are working out well there so far. Mom hasn't even noticed Gus being gone, which one of my sisters was worried about, so I think that just goes to show it was definitely time for Gus to move on.

Gus was a nice dog, but honestly, Mom really never should have adopted him in the first place. I guess Mom was probably lonely, as my father had passed away in 2004, but she had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer's when she got him in 2005, and part of the reason she got him was to prevent us from moving her out of her home. (She told me this herself.) He was very good company for her, I must admit, but she was never really able to properly care for him from the get-go...things like remembering to take him out regularly, making sure he got fed at the same time each day, keeping water out for him, things like that, she was never good at. Additionally, Gus really trashed the carpets in her old house, although I don't blame Gus for this; she just wasn't remembering to let him outside before she went to bed or at regular intervals throughout the day. Mom was also getting in the bad habit of feeding Gus while she was eating, giving him table scraps. One of the most frustrating things was if I ever brought up anything about his care, Mom would find some excuse for what she was forgetting to do...when I asked about giving him heartworm medicine every month, she'd say there weren't many mosquitoes in Albuquerque, and so forth. Anyhow, I am glad to not have to worry about Gus any more, and I hope he does have a nice rest of his life in his new home. Gus did help Mom get adjusted to living here but he was a lot of work also, and I'm glad to be able to just concentrate on Mom's care now.

I have a week off from work this week and I originally planned to use some of the time for a mini getaway somewhere, but I ended up staying in Texas. The hotel I wanted to stay at in Trinidad was booked full, and all the alternative hotels were very pricey. I still needed to get my cockpit observation time done for the year, though (I have to do five hours of it per year) so I flew to Cancun and back. I wanted to fly somewhere international since all the flights I'm working these days are international ones. Cancun was the easiest and quickest way to get things done. I could have stayed there also, I suppose, and next time I will, but I needed to get the flying done by the end of last month, so staying a few days wasn't an option this time since I flew down and back on the 28th.

The way it works for cockpit observation at The Rather Large Airline is, I call into work, and they list me as a must-ride for the cockpit jumpseat for whatever flights I'm going on. This often confuses the gate agents, since if there is room in the back of the plane, they want to give me a regular seat. I finally got everything worked out at the airport here and got on board in the cockpit jumpseat. The crew, both the flight attendants and pilots, were very friendly. I was staying with the same plane going back to Texas. Since I was only going to be in Mexico about 40 minutes, I didn't go through customs, and this threw the gate agent there for a loop...also, he said they had no record of me having listed on the flight, even though I had done so before my trip. They may have been looking in the wrong place or something, I'm not sure. They had to call my office to verify I was authorized to fly back, and I finally got on board the plane and in the jumpseat at the last minute. The flight out of Mexico was full, so the cockpit jumpseat was the only extra seat available coming back.

The flights themselves were pretty uneventful. Nice views of the beaches in Mexico while going in and leaving; I'll have to definitely stay longer next time. The cockpit jumpseat in a 737, while not the worst one I've ever been in, isn't very comfortable for long-haul flying, so I was definitely ready for the trip to be over, but the view for takeoff and landing can't be beat.

I was wearing my airline ID while on board the plane, so that any passengers who saw me entering or exiting the cockpit wouldn't think I was some random passenger riding up there. I should have asked the crew if I could go through customs with them, but I just went in the regular line. I kept my airline ID on (which is in a lanyard ID holder I keep around my neck) since I was going on the bus back to the airport employee parking lot once I got through customs, and I had to wear it for the shuttle bus.

The line in customs was very long, and slow. I finally got stamped and proceeded on, but evidently I was "red-flagged" somehow since I got pulled aside for extra screening before leaving the customs area. As it turns out, the customs people don't like airline employees wearing their employee IDs in customs for some reason...they said that they couldn't tell if I had been working a flight or not. (Well, technically I was working by observing the flight procedures from the cockpit, but I didn't argue, just put my ID in my pocket.)

The customs agent had to look me up on a computer in another room. He was gone for several minutes; then some people that were also in the "extra fun" line paid some more duty taxes that they owed to him over there. As they were finishing up, I wandered over to check on things and was told rather sternly to get back to where I had been standing.

I think I may have raised some kind of alert either because I flew to Mexico and back in one day, or perhaps because I never went through customs in Mexico. I had to explain what I was doing on the trip, and it's never easy explaining my job to someone outside of aviation. ("So, you're a dispatcher, and you do flight planning?" was one response I got from the customs guy as he was typing on his computer.) He then went through everything I had in my briefcase EXTREMELY carefully, inspecting a John Sandford novel I had in there and closely examining some photocopies of some back exercises my chiropractor had given me. Actually, after sitting in that uncomfortable jumpseat and standing around for an hour in customs, I'm glad I have a chiropractor appointment scheduled this week. (I felt like telling the customs guy that but I didn't want to delay my processing even further.)

The most annoying thing was that customs never did tell me why I'd been pulled aside for extra screening. I suppose they had their reasons, security and all that, but it was a rather disquieting experience. I guess if I do another international jumpseating trip, though, I'll stay over in wherever I'm headed for more than 30 minutes and hopefully avoid getting a long stop in customs before re-entering the United States. I understand the customs guy was just doing his job, but any event like that always makes you wonder what the hell is going on. Had I forgotten to pay some traffic ticket from last year and gotten flagged in the computer? Did I underpay my taxes? I was VERY glad to finally walk out of customs and ride back to my car once he was done with typing up his report, and believe me I slept well that night.

I go back to work at the end of this week, and while I do have another break of five days off later this month, instead of tempting fate again I think I'm just driving to my relative Rex's place and avoiding aviation completely for a few days. Pass travel is nice, but it's also nice to just completely take a break from airlines, airplanes, and airports on your days off once in a while.

No comments: