Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My Soul is Soaked in Jet Fuel. Positive Prist.

So, today was my first training day as a ramp rat. For those of you who decided that the preceding sentence was an indicator of intoxication, a ramp rat is a person who boogies around and makes sure everything that needs to happen to get aircraft all taken care of and either sent away or put away. At the place I work, which starts with an "S" and ends in a "wissport," this generally means fueling and de-icing, plus the obligatory marshalling, parking and moving of planes. Clearly, there was going to be fantastic weather for my first day on the ramp.

Iced over, freezing rain and freezing FOG, turning to snow, cold enough to bend a brass monkey.

Thanks, weather.

So we started out with the morning checks of equipment and fuel farm. Now here's the thing...you have to be careful with fuel, because, well, it can go boom, so there are a lot of steps to doing anything with it. At the same time, as with every job like this one where you deal with hazardous materials all day, there's a weirdly casual attitude to it. For instance.

To check out the quality and gunk-freeness of the fuel in a truck or in the giant tanks at the fuel farm, (NB - Do me a favor and say "fuel farm" a few times. Isn't that GREAT?!?) you set all the various levers and buttons appropriately, and grab a porcelain-lined bucket. See how that sounds fancy? It's not. It's a semi-grungy bucket. Throw said bucket under the sump spout, and pour maybe a gallon into it of whatever fuel you're checking, and then swirl it around. Look for stuff moving around and water. Don't see any? Dump it in a big bin, and start with the next tank or truck.

So that's fine. Pretty easy, except the endless pumping required to get things going...naturally, it took until the third tank to figure out that steady pumping was not, in fact the way to go, but rather that you should just yank the everloving crap out of it and it'll get moving faster. Man, it is SERIOUSLY satisfying though, the first time you get that really productive pump. You're all over the pumping, arm a begloved blur, and then you slow waaay down although you're using the same pressure, and you smell that nasty smell and there's about an inch of fuel in the bucket. Yeah, baby.


Nothing about that last paragraph was a metaphor for sex. Yikes.

It's a lot like when you're biking and switch to a higher gear as you start going uphill...you're not making as many revolutions, but every one is so damn satisfying.

"You know that's right."
"hoooooooo RAH!"

Anyway. I also got set to the task of learning to operate the tug, which is a very squat, very ugly critter used to haul more or less everything around the ramp. If you're an airport ramp watch-while-you-waiter, you'll have seen it pulling baggage carts, potable water tanks (...hate.), and lav carts (...ew). First they set me up with a tow bar attached to the Tug and told me to do some figure eights around two cones set out that actually managed to look too small for the Tug to get through in the first place. No matter, I made it work. Tim Gunn would have been so proud. (Although not of my outfit, most likely.) Then the guy I was working with threw down another cone, so I switched to making trinity knots around the cones. Then...oh THEN. Mushroom came out (It bears mentioning that I named him Mushroom because he calls himself that every now and then, in the context of being left in the dark until someone opens the door and throws some shit on him. Hah!) and hooked up the water cart to the Tug.

And my nemesis, it was met.

Holy mother of GOD that thing sucked. With the tow bar you only have the wheel set at the end of the bar to navigate. With the water cart, there are two sets of wheels, so every movement of the Tug's steering is magnified. I was supposed to back the cart (cart going backwards, Tug driving forward) along the yellow line going straight down the tie down area in front of Swissport. That line has NEVER looked so long as it did after my first try at moving that cart. UGH. No matter WHAT I did, it jacknifed on me. Mushroom said it was because I was going too fast, which, fine, but by then, I was agita all over the damn place so we called it a day Tug-wise and watched some INTENSELY stimulating AvFuel instructional videos. Fab.

So the most exciting thing, other than playing with the Tug, which kicked ass (tm Ray), was that I got to fuel a real, live plane. We had a small Lear come in for a prisoner transfer (!! No one exciting or even very menacing though.) and they needed fuel, so Red Hat and I fueled it up. Unfortunately, he forgot to mention that there is an extra small cap on the end of the nozzle, so I took "so go ahead" to mean "you can pump the fuel without incident now."

I'm sure you know where this is going.

I can now personally attest that the taste of Jet A - positive Prist, for those of you keeping track at home - is NOT something that anyone needs to be tasting. I have heard ad nauseam that the Glycol (de-icing) tastes like Dr. Pepper. Let me tell you that Jet A does NOT. I was spitting all damn day after that stuff. It also bears mentioning that jet fuel has a violently adhesive aroma to it. I just pulled my clothes out of the washer maybe an hour ago, and they STILL smelled faintly of it. I am hoping that the dryer sheets will kill the stench. But wow. I actually wonder, on a side note, whether or not if they intentionally flavor the Glycol.

Other news: Pentameter (It's so great when your friends appear online...ready made code names.) is going to help with some grant work for the non-profit! I have been wanting to start things up and going up here in Mass, but I'll need some fundage...which is where Pentameter comes in. She knows her shit, grant-wise, which spares me the need to learn the grant application process inside and out AND, in theory, the need to pay for everything out of pocket once again. Not that paying for eleventy billion reams of paper and other assorted crap that went along with the conference on my work study paychecks wasn't fun, but...it wasn't fun. So everyone think good thoughts for me, and if anyone has any suggestions for places we should hound for money, let me know.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Note to the Cast and Crew of Annapolis: "Uh-uh, guys."

This is what I love about Annapolis.

The first thing I noticed is that the trailer features nothing but boot-camp-esque clips, violent yelling, sexy military folk, and all the other assorted cliches of dick-swinging military flicks. The second thing that I noticed is that there's a fair amount of actual hoo-rahing, which I have to think is inserted in the hopes of ganking some success from Jarhead... one of the most compelling aural and visual images from that movie was the one they - wisely - chose to end THEIR trailers with, that of Jamie Foxx, sitting at a fire, explaining why he loved the hell out of the Marine Corps, with his face masked enough by shadow that only the roughest edges of his face were lit, and growling out an "ooh-rah" that started somewhere around, say, his kneecaps, and rumbled up and out to relay pretty much everything elemental about why people are never ever ex-Marines. I've found the Hoo-rah to be one of few cross-branch armed forces "things," but I don't know that anyone is going to argue that when you hear it in general pop culture, you think of the Corps, not the other folks.

Anyway, back to Annapolis...as I'm watching the trailer, I have about five seconds of "Woot, go Spinnaker," followed by a long, uncomfortable period of "that's....not...the Yard." Here's the thing about military movies. Military recruiting banks MOSTLY on two things - the sexiness of it all, with the uniform and the hardbody stuff and the guns and swords and boats and planes and Bob Hope and all, and then there's also the financial benefit, which is worked to the most success by, of course, the Reserves. The collective military spends thousands upon thousands of dollars - I can't believe it wouldn't easily break into the millions - on advertising. When someone in Hollywood decides to make a big ole ball of testosterone about any one branch (I have yet to see someone make a movie so expansive that it can cover the movement of all the branches of the US Military in one movie....and I have to think that it would be pretty boring for the general public, just from the sheer amount of stuff to keep track of and the knowledge required to not START about nineteen feet over your head.), it's free advertising for them. For a movie to suck SO HARD that the Navy told the people creating it that if they came near the USNA they would turn the plebes on them (and let me tell you, those kids have GOT to have some major violent repression going on...I imagine the producers and directors and editors being chased with sticks, quite frankly, and it warms the cockles of my heart.) is fanTAStic to me. I just love it. That is one suck-ass movie. I have GOT to go see it.

Now here's another thing, which I'm not 100% sure about, but I know Anna Karenina will be reading this at some point and probably be able to set me straight...Spinnaker didn't give me detailed records of his physical training at the Academy, but somehow I find the stuff in the trailer...overly hardcore. Anna?

Things are good here...in response to the Great Betta Fish Crisis of Ought Six, we bought a 30 gallon fishtank, which is being cycled in as we speak. We have eight little fishies, all of whom are awesome AND compatible with Betta Number Two, Jerry. Jerry is not in the big tank yet, because we would hate to lose him during the various cycles of chemicals in the tank. So far we've only lost one tetra, and he was sort of...floppy from the get-go. He wasn't doing well even in the fishie store. Speed (Skeezix, though fun to say, has become an irritating moniker for him in my mind, so I am changing it, HAH.) gave him a burial in the garbage disposal, which sounds brutal, but actually spares the fish the possibility of regaining some sensibility mid-flush and suffering as the poisons in the sewer systems eat into his body. Poor little guy.

Had a great weekend in the Poconos with a bunch of the Ubersite gang...you know, some folks are just fab. TigerLilly is one of the best friends I've got, and god damn is she wonderful. SO few people I can sit and shoot the shit for THAT long and have it remain interesting and a total blast. Really fun weekend, and more later. On the flipside, it's also SO great to be back and see my sweetie...I think it's the longest we've been apart since we got together. Awesome.

He is the best.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

The Lost Art of the Blinker


There is a handy little lever on the left hand side of your steering wheel (No, no, your military left. What are you doing? Don't put that finger...oh for God's sake.) that I would like to reacquaint you with. It might also control your winshield wipers or, more likely, your headlights. What you do with this is simple. When you want to make a turn as you drive from Point A to Point B, you use any combination of fingers or your entire hand - hell, both hands if that's what you need to get the job done - to move the lever up and down. Depending on which way you move it, your car will have a little blinky light at the front and back of it on the appropriate side that - get this - TELLS OTHER DRIVERS WHICH WAY YOU WANT TO GO. This is helpful with things like not causing collisions and not making people wait for 5 minutes for you to inch along the road with the other lane completely clear of traffic only to find out that you are going to continue on your deranged little way. People at the fork of Salisbury and Forest Streets, I am GLARING MY ASS OFF IN YOUR GENERAL DIRECTION.

One more traffic related item...guys, seriously, know and follow the rules of the road. I know you're trying to be nice by letting me go at the funky intersection, but I am expecting you to go, because you have the right of way, and no good will come of your politeness at this moment in time. Don't let me discourage you from being polite the rest of the time, but when you're driving, just go by the rules. Because what's going to happen is that you're going to smile, and look like a really nice person, and I am totally sure that you are, but then I'm going to start to go, then stop, because I think I see you moving, and you're going to get confused and then YOU are going to start going, and we'll have a few more false starts, a la the Patriots (...seriously. Cut the crap, guys.), and then some asshole, probably in a pickup truck, is going to come flying through from the third street in the intersection and blow his horn and flick us both off, and it's GONNA BE UGLY, so please...it would be my pleasure to have you go right on ahead, because if we do that, the asshole in the truck will have nothing to honk at, and I won't be pissed.

RIP fishie Dean, dead of unexplained causes. Jerry lives on, appropriately. We are getting a big fish tank now, which will be really nice - complete with cat-proofing cover - and maybe we will get a SHARK because now Worcester has a hockey team!

Spiritus Sancti, Dean-o.