Be the Captain

I have had so many things on my mind recently that it’s been difficult to put just one thought to paper, or rather, keyboard.  But, some very excellent margaritas (oh, fine, here’s the recipe, you sots: 1 part Jose Cuervo Especial,

I know I've got some Triple Sec around here somewhere...

1/2 part cheap-crappy-probably-as-old-as-Methuselah Triple Sec, 1/2 part lime juice and 2 parts generic margarita mixer) and a lovely post from my dear friend (can I legally say that about someone I’ve only met by blog?), Bee, has inspired me.  So, suck it up, my friends, and endure my drunken ramblings.  Or not.  Whatever strips your gears, I always say. Am I an alcoholic if I can only compose a coherent, entertaining blog post when I’m inebriated?  Eh, we’ll examine that another time.  I’m low on Cuervo.

“Be the Captain.”  I’ve been stewing on this for a while and I guess it just takes a little bit of mental KY  (i.e. yummy margaritas) to give me the (most likely false) sense of security to write about it.

While I was in training for my freight pilot job, one of my favorite instructors would constantly harp on us to “be the captain.”  Unfortunately, most of us didn’t get it, at least not right away.  Some of us didn’t get it until much later in our careers.  A few of us didn’t get it at all and that’s just one of the reasons not everyone made it through training.  I believe I finally understood what he was talking about about a week after my catastrophic (at least to me) check ride with him.

It started out like any other check ride.  I had all the flight plans in order.  I had confirmed that the aircraft was airworthy and ready for flight.  I was nervous, but I knew I could handle whatever he could dish out.  I would pass my test, and be on the next flight to Midway Airport to collect my car and sleep in my own bed.  But I was wrong.  He wasn’t looking for someone with all the right answers, he was looking for someone who could “be the captain.”

He continuously questioned my decisions.  He played on my fears of incompetency.  He insinuated that potential dangers might exist.  He, quite frankly, made me feel like I had no idea what the hell I was doing thinking that I could possibly operate an aircraft  at all.  He morphed into a complete stranger, mockingly twirling the keys to my future on his index finger while saying, “I don’t know….I suppose I’ll have to discuss your performance with my superior before I can determine what to do with you.”

What if the controller is asleep?

Describing my reaction as “devastated” would be an epic understatement.  I could not comprehend in my wildest imagination what could possibly have gone wrong.  I did whatever he asked, flawlessly.  But that was exactly the opposite of what he wanted.  He wanted me to “be the captain.”

“Being the captain” means assuming the ultimate authority and responsibility for the flight.  The captain makes all the hard decisions.  The captain does whatever it takes to ensure that the flight is successful, safe and efficient.  The captain, is, as far as that particular flight is concerned, God.  He was simply waiting for me to exert my authority as captain and tell him to “kindly shut the hell up.”  The fact that I chose instead to cry like a two-year-old with a boo-boo caused him a considerable amount of consternation.

My point is this: you, too, are the captain.  You have the ultimate authority and responsibility for your life.  Everything is a choice (perhaps some seem more so than others, but they are all choices)  and the final decision rests in your hands.  It’s all up to you.  So, what are you going to do, Captain?

Personally, I’m going to bed.  I have children to send to school in the morning.


11 thoughts on “Be the Captain

  1. I never left a checkride feeling confident that I could really master the airplane, until Claire. And so my initial multiengine checkride was the same 135 company checkride that you all took…in the same airplanes, at night, crappy weather, etc. I also had the same excellent training, which makes all the difference. I also remember controllers and freight dogs keying up from time to time just to check on one another, pass on weather or a little levity. Sometimes an “altimeter” check is all you need to realize you’re drifting off course or altitude; not just in the airplane, but life too. Partnerships. You may be captain, but we got yer back…xoxo.

    1. I did my “second chance” check with Claire and it went so smoothly that he complained that I didn’t give him anything to do until I asked him to fish out a plate for me on the last approach. And you just pointed out the best part about being the captain: you are never alone. You have your crew, dispatch, air traffic control, other pilots, and a treasure trove of other resources available whenever you need a little help to keep your mission on track. Thank you for that “altimeter check,” Donna!

  2. LOVE this post. I WAS the Captain. I’ve been on a three year leave-of-absense (long story… has to do with a car accident, drunk driver (not me), broken neck and a long rehab). But I’m about to take the controls again. Talk to me next week. ;0)

    1. OW! I think you’re going to have to relate that story to me over a chocolate martini sometime. But, I’m pretty sure that even if you didn’t consider yourself “the captain” during the last three years, you were most certainly the (wo) MAN! Welcome back to the left seat, Captain. When would you like me to bring you your coffee?

      1. LOL! My daughter and I were stopped at a red light. We were rear-ended by a drunk driver who hit us doing 50mph. My daughter walked away with a gash in the back of her head and some bumps and bruises. Unfortunately, I was just a smidge older than my daughter and us “mature” women aren’t just quite as supple as the younger ones, and I was carried out on a back board with a broken neck. It’s been three years of therapy and rehab, all paid for by the insurance company. The trade off is that, while you’re going through therapy, you live in a fishbowl. You get sent for frequent assessments by insurance doctors, I’ve had private investigators follow me to be sure I’m not doing anything I shouldn’t, (Hello! Did you fools look at the x-rays. I didn’t fake the broken neck!), people constantly monitoring you and your progress. Anyway… we settled with the insurance company last week sooooooo… I GET MY LIFE BACK! WOOHOO! And it’s nice to be back. I’ll take a little champagne with that coffee! LOL!

  3. Wow…that story really IS something else. I’m very glad that you are mended and done with life in the bowl. And I’m glad your daughter didn’t have to go through what you did.

    But, as I see it, recovering from a debilitating injury like that, wrangling with insurance companies, and evading private investigators (sorry, couldn’t resist) while continuing to tackle each new difficulty as it arises without simply giving up is what makes a captain, well, THE CAPTAIN. You didn’t throw in the towel and let the insurance company off the hook. You didn’t relinquish responsibility for your own actions and take horseback riding lessons against the advice of your physical therapists. You took control of your response to what life had thrown at you and you told it to “Kindly, shut the hell up.” I’m proud of you, Captain!

    Champagne is on me, sister! But not with coffee…ew.

  4. Thanks for the kind words. It was more about attitude than anything else. I was just too darn stubborn to let the accident get the better of me. LOL! And you’re absolutely right. Champagne goes much better with orange juice! LOL!

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