Saturday, January 30, 2016
"My First Commute"
He was born in the summer of his 27th year,
Coming home to a place he'd never been before...
For 32 years, my partner, Philip, and I have lived where we worked, in the cities where we were assigned to inflight bases: Honolulu and Houston. The opportunity to commute (live in a city other than where we were based) was always available. Many of our friends did it in order not to disrupt their personal lives by moving every time they had a base change which, for some, is quite often. Some commute from the beginning to the end of their careers. Philip and I have been regaled by the horror stories that commuters have told about how difficult their commute was to join the same trip as us at our base. So, we trod our own paths, living where we worked, even though it might not have been our chosen locale.
Exploring possibilities, we purchased part-time homes to make the most of our travel opportunities; a small home in coastal Maine and three different homes in Florida. But as we aged, I think that Philip and I both realized that we'd like to spend our golden years split between our families and our family homes in Atlanta and Pensacola. So, here we are.
For the next two weeks or so, we are Pensacola commuters, while the small condominium that we've purchased in Atlanta is made ready for our move–in. I feel like I remember feeling as a new arrival at Mrs. Hamby's kindergarten, at the age of 5! I feel excited, anxious, apprehensive...will I know what to do? Will I make mistakes? Will I be successful? Even though I have performed my job for 30+ years and flown standby on time off for the same amount of time, there's something very unsettling about putting the two together for the first time. And knowing that there's no turning back, no safety net.
Philip and I have discussed and tried to prosper from the experiences and advice of our colleagues and friends for whom commuting has always been a way of life. But planning and doing are entirely different things. I flew with my friend Mary last week who reassured me that in her 21 years as a commuter, she'd only missed one trip as the result of her commute. In my eyes, Mary epitomizes the relaxed approach to anxiety-inducing things that is most often successful. She doesn't over-think or over-plan. Hers is a reasonable, rational approach to a logistical problem over which she does not have total control. I want to be like Mary!
For example, I refused to let myself be concerned about my commute from Pensacola to Houston today until the day before my working trip, yesterday. Yesterday morning, I spent a little time evaluating the 3 flights from Pensacola that would get me to Houston within the prescribed timeframe for my trip (I.e. Earlier than my 2015 check-in). I also looked at alternatives from the airport in Mobile, just 50+ miles away, as a backup plan. Everything looked reasonable, so I listed for the flight I wanted and carried on with my day. It was wonderful that I could enjoy yesterday's beautiful weather and relaxed Pensacola atmosphere unfettered by anxiety and worry. I am and will be a responsible commuter.
Mary had further counsel, lest things should go uncontrollably awry: the São Paulo trip that Philip and I tend to favor is perfect for last-minute glitches. It's a very late check-in and very popular with our Flight Attendant colleagues. In her experience, she has had ZERO difficulty trading it away at the last minute if circumstances dictate that her commute will not be successful. No harm. No foul. Just make up the loss of flight time later in the month. That knowledge and my commitment to being responsible will allow me to get the most out of my new reality.
And what a reality it is! Living where we truly want to live and are most comfortable. Being near those who matter most to us. In my mind and in my heart, I'm asking, "Should we have done this sooner?" Likely not. Timing is everything.
This morning, my target flight showed 4 seats available, down from the 6 showing last night before bed. I was one of two employees listed to standby. As an additional fallback, this 50 seat regional jet has an extra Flight Attendant jumpseat that I can occupy, unless a Flight Atttendant who works for the regional carrier operating the flight wants to exercise the same option. No worries! Both the other standby and I were given passenger seats with plenty of time to spare, 11A for me. One hour, fifteen minutes later, I'm in Houston, ready for work.
Today's success is heartening. It will be tempered by a future challenge soon enough. So, for now, I'll just say, "the commuting life is good" and I will feel happy, content, excited, accomplished...
just like I did on my first day at kindergarten with Mrs. Hamby, 50 years ago. Who would believe I'd ever relive those moments again?
Life. To be continued...
Departing Pensacola, we passed just to the north of our home in Navy Point ("Blew Inn"), with NAS Pensacola in the background. From seat 11A, one can clearly make out Sherman Field, the home of the US Navy's Blue Angels and the "Cradle of Naval Aviation".