Friday, December 30, 2011

Quote of the Day

Speaking of reading...I had a flashback the other day to a short story I read many years ago.  I'd forgotten all about it but something hit the right button and an old quote popped back into my head from wherever I had it tucked away.  Like "Fate...", it's not exactly a classic...but it sank it's hooks into the old gray matter somewhere and just stayed for the ride.  There's a lot of that rusty junk kicking around behind my baby blues...someday I'll have to have a yard sale and dust out the cobwebs.  'Till then, here's to Helen America and Mr. Grey-no-more...somehow they're a part of how everything turned out and where it's all headed.

"She saw in him a young bachelor, prematurely old.  A man whose love had been given to emptiness and horror, not the tangible rewards and disappointments of human life.  He had had all space for his mistress, and space had used him harshly.  Still young, he was old; already old, he was young."

Cordwainer Smith
-The Lady Who Sailed "The Soul"-

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On Fate (is the Hunter)

After that lengthy hiatus on Office Train posts, it's back to reality and business as usual (or as usual as it ever gets) at the Wayward Home.  As I so often say when I ease the throttle out on another we go again.

Believe it or not...I read more than I write and sometimes I actually have a minute or three to do that very thing.  My favorite book is still a less-than-well-known autobiography called " Fate is the Hunter "and my old softcover copy is now very faded and dog-eared from being read over and over.  It's the memoir of an airline and transport pilot who flew in the early days of commercial aviation, beginning before World War II and on into the '50s.  Ernest K. Gann, I know is not a literary giant in the sense of a Dickens or a Tolstoy but his story suits me just the same.  As a much-loved book should, it speaks to me and makes me think.  So what if it isn't a 'classic'...

I'm not much of a highbrow type anyway I guess.  I chewed my way through "The Inferno" a while back, mostly just to say I had.  Talk about a workout.  "Moby Dick"  was a tough go as well.  It turned out I actually liked it but I had to work pretty hard to digest that many chapters and it's not the kind of thing I can just pick it up and read a few paragraphs of before I pull the covers up and call it a day. 
I often do exactly that with "Fate"; find it on the nightstand or pick it off the floor where I dropped it last time, open it to a random page and start in.  It's like a comfortable old chair where I can spend some time and fall asleep with the light on.  There's no famous, epic lines;  "To the last, I grapple with thee..."; no deep metaphor; no CliffsNotes...just a story.  And a good one.  Thunderstorms, crummy landings, the Hump, malaria, ice, the Taj Mahal, DC-2s and C-87s...I won't re-tell it all here but it's a story I can relate to, even though I've never been a pilot.  Read it someday and you'll see.  You might see something about me in there too as you go along.

One of my favorite passages is in the last chapter:

"Tell me now...since you are older and wiser, by what ends does a man ever partially control his fate?  It is obvious from the special history of our kind that favorites are played, but if this is so, then how do you account for those who are ill-treated?  The worship of pagan gods, which once answered all this, is no longer fashionable.  Modern religions ignore the matter of fate.  So we are left confused and without direction.
Let us admit, then, that the complete answer may only be revealed when it can no longer serve those most interested.
Perhaps we should hide in childlike visions of afterlife wherein those pronounced good may play upon harps and those pronounced evil, stoke fires.
...At least let us admit that the pattern of anyone's fate is only partly contrived by the individual."

Ernest K. Gann, "Fate is the Hunter"

There's an idea in there that says something to me.  I haven't figured out quite what it is or what it means yet...but if I leave that book on the nightstand long enough, I just might.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The End (of the OCS)

So down the road we went with our travelling show.  After our brush with the detector, there were only minor distractions and I spent the next few hours trying to look cool and collected.  My mother told me once that she thought I was like a duck; calm and unruffled on the surface but paddling like crazy underneath.  If only she knew how true that was.
Finally, it came down to the last long swoop off the hill into home.  By some accident, the set on the brakes was right and we coasted in like we knew what we were doing.  And just like that, it was almost over.  The plan was to change head-end crews first, then have the fresh guys pull the rear of the train to a crossing to load and unload passengers.  Sounded good to me.  There suddenly wasn't much energy left in the old guy.
I pulled to a stop and sagged in my seat.  Suddenly I was very weary even though it was not yet noon.  The outbound crew waited by the ladder as we handed out our grips, still trying to do everything by the book right to the bitter end.  The Road Foremen thanked us and smiled.  One leg of the trip was over for them and we hadn't gotten them or us dismissed.  I thought I might actually kiss the ground when my boots came down off the last step.  I refrained however and contented myself with giving the outbound a fare-thee-well rundown and then fading into the background to watch the proceedings.

The last car stopped on the dot and a whirl of passengers came and went.  At the last minute, my CEO appeared one more time and shook my hand.  Our Chief Operating Officer also swung by and chatted a minute or two before it was time for them to load up and head west.  As before, there was more talk of bicycles than trains.  Funny thing...bicycles...who ever would have thought?  A smile and a wave and they were off to board the coaches.  I hung out for a minute to watch the markers go around the corner and out of sight.  Suddenly I realized I felt like I'd been hit by a truck and staggered across the track to the office to call it a day.  My grip and book bag felt like they weighed as much as the train and I realized my vest was on inside-out.  Oh well.
One of my friends was around to take some photos.  I thought Lucky was going to have to prop me up for the picture...

At the end of the day, for all the stress and worry, the experience was worth it.  Particularly since I managed to keep my job and everybody went away happy.  I can say "Been there, done that" and add it to the list of things I might never do again.  We'll see...

As a little postscript; I was driving home when my cell rang.  Seems the second unit had caught on fire less than three miles from where I handed off the train.  Talk about dodging the bullet...but that's another story.