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.

1 comment:

  1. Ha ha. I've worked in airports for 3 years with the folks in airside operations but never on a ramp. Funny to read first hand what you guys and gals get up to.