R is for Rock

Freight pilots really are a different breed.  Perhaps it has something to do with the demands of a constantly fluctuating  circadian rhythm or the stress “on time performance” places firmly upon the pilot’s shoulders despite the line of  60,000 foot level 5 thunderstorms stubbornly raging on final approach, but a sense of humor seems to be a common denominator in a vast majority of freight dogs.  And in my observations, this sense of humor usually manifests itself as a fierce love of practical jokes.

These practical jokes run the gamut from casually turning off a co-worker’s unattended microwave causing him to believe that his meal is still frozen solid after 10 minutes on high to clandestinely placing tire valve stem caps on a co-worker’s vehicle which illuminate a lovely shade of hot pink when the wheels are in motion.  But the most beloved and time honored freight dog practical joke tradition is covertly placing a large, heavy rock in another pilot’s flight bag.

To fully appreciate this joke, you need to understand that a freight pilot changes aircraft several times a night and must therefore transfer the flight bag containing all of the required charts and manuals to whatever aircraft currently being operated.  But he may only go to five different airports in the span of a year, so digging too deeply in the flight bag for information is a rare occurrence.  Additionally, a pilot schlepping around a “Travel Rock” is usually the only one who is unaware of it’s presence, so the rock is periodically removed by other pilots, aircraft loaders, shift supervisors, or late night pizza delivery drivers, updated with a date and location in permanent marker and then lovingly placed back in the bag for the clueless pilot to transfer to his next aircraft.

When the offending hitchhiker is finally discovered, the embarrassed mule will proudly display his Travel Rock as a trophy declaring not only his stature as a recipient but also his acceptance into the illustrious ranks of freight dogs.  He probably wants to keep an eye on it, too, so that it doesn’t end up back in his flight bag.  This logical escalation of the original practical joke has, to my knowledge, only been pulled off once when a clever photocopied Travel Rock forgery allowed a genuine Travel Rock an opportunity to collect a substantial amount of additional flight hours and autographs before once again being discovered.  Quite an honor.

There are times that I look back fondly on my experiences as a freight pilot.  Then I remember that I have yet to figure out who put the “I hate truckers” bumper sticker on my car.  Rest assured, when I finally do uncover the culprit, revenge will be swift.  I have a rock picked out just for you, Joker.

Penis Envy

The thrilling realm of night freight is, for some odd reason, rife with talk of genitalia.  It may have been simply a personality quirk shared by the cargo cowboys (and girls, for I was no exception) with whom I worked or perhaps there is something in the crisp night air laced with the delicate fragrance of jet fuel that makes one suddenly fluent in all things associated with Captain Winkie.  Of course, it doesn’t help that aviation is inundated with sexually suggestive terminology such as “joystick,” and that aircraft in general, and Learjets in particular, are more than vaguely phallic in appearance.  I’m positive that H.R. would have been horrified to learn that not only did merely saying the word “cockpit” more often than not trigger licentious snickers from some of more adolescent of us, it was also unanimously decided that a flight deck occupied by two female pilots was more appropriately referred to as a “box office.”

Lear 35

Heat-seeking Love Missile?

As it is readily apparent to anyone who has spent more than a fraction of a second in my company that I have a juvenile sense of humor, an extensive vocabulary of expletives and am extremely difficult to offend, I was quickly accepted into the “boy’s club” and awarded all the perks enjoyed therein including an honorary john thomas complete with a set of manjigglies.  Apparently, the stature of my pseudo-schlong was fairly respectable, even among  those with whom I did not work.  Once, as I fiercely analyzed the pixelated bright red and yellow splattered weather radar and contemplated a reasonably safe path from Omaha to Kansas City in my Baron, another pilot asked if my company simply issued balls to us after we successfully completed training.  My response?  “Yes.  Big brass ones.  Can’t you hear them scraping on the floor when I walk?”

One of the most memorable practical jokes in which I participated involved a six foot inflatable punching weenie called “Captain Pecker the Party Wrecker” which my captain and I hand-delivered to a co-worker in retaliation for some portraits of a baloney pony he had drunkenly scrawled on another colleague’s garage wall.  My contribution to this escapade included shopping for the immense super secret agent hosepipe, blowing it up while enroute to St. Paul to present it to it’s ultimate beneficiary, and letting the recipient know that we had a really big package waiting for him in the plane.  The memory of my friend’s embarrassed attempt to hastily deflate the giant tally-whacker by bending it in half still reduces me to childish giggles.

Fortunately for me, H.R. was never informed of my propensity for one-eyed trouser snake jokes.  On the other hand, I’ve come to the conclusion that the virtual chubby bestowed upon me as a fully vetted member of the Freight Dog Boy’s Club must be the reason I keep receiving all those unsolicited emails for Viagra.

Travel Rock

Freight pilots really are a different breed.  Perhaps it has something to do with the demands of a constantly fluctuating  circadian rhythm or the stress “on time performance” places firmly upon the pilot’s shoulders despite the line of  60,000 foot level 5 thunderstorms stubbornly raging on final approach, but a sense of humor seems to be a common denominator in a vast majority of freight dogs.  And in my observations, this sense of humor usually manifests itself as a fierce love of practical jokes.

These practical jokes run the gamut from casually turning off a co-worker’s unattended microwave causing him to believe that his meal is still frozen solid after 10 minutes on high to clandestinely placing tire valve stem caps on a co-worker’s vehicle which illuminate a lovely shade of hot pink when the wheels are in motion.  But the most beloved and time honored freight dog practical joke tradition is covertly placing a large, heavy rock in another pilot’s flight bag.

To fully appreciate this joke, you need to understand that a freight pilot changes aircraft several times a night and must therefore transfer the flight bag containing all of the required charts and manuals to whatever aircraft currently being operated.  But he may only go to five different airports in the span of a year, so digging too deeply in the flight bag for information is a rare occurrence.  Additionally, a pilot schlepping around a “Travel Rock” is usually the only one who is unaware of it’s presence, so the rock is periodically removed by other pilots, aircraft loaders, shift supervisors, or late night pizza delivery drivers, updated with a date and location in permanent marker and then lovingly placed back in the bag for the clueless pilot to transfer to his next aircraft.

When the offending hitchhiker is finally discovered, the embarrassed mule will proudly display his Travel Rock as a trophy declaring not only his stature as a recipient but also his acceptance into the illustrious ranks of freight dogs.  He probably wants to keep an eye on it, too, so that it doesn’t end up back in his flight bag.  This logical escalation of the original practical joke has, to my knowledge, only been pulled off once when a clever photocopied Travel Rock forgery allowed a genuine Travel Rock an opportunity to collect a substantial amount of additional flight hours and autographs before once again being discovered.  Quite an honor.

There are times that I look back fondly on my experiences as a freight pilot.  Then I remember that I have yet to figure out who put the “I hate truckers” bumper sticker on my car.  Rest assured, when I finally do uncover the culprit, revenge will be swift.  I have a rock picked out just for you, Joker.