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Is Having Fun at Work an Oxymoron?

My motto has always been, “Have fun at work!”  To me, fun at work isn’t an oxymoron, a phrase that combines contradictory terms.  I suppose fun at work could be considered a contradiction in terms, like the classic Military Intelligence, or perhaps business ethics, or how about Microsoft Works or my favorite crash landing?  The thing is, if I’m not having fun at work there’s something that needs changing, and if it’s something within my control, I change it.

An excellent example where I definitely was not having fun at work was the time I had to fly with a female freelance photographer in San Diego, a beautiful young woman in her early thirties named Desiree.

Whenever I think of Desiree I have to punctuate her name with the visual of her tossing her head back with a simultaneous flip of the wrist, throwing her thick mane of blonde hair over her shoulder like an affected actress.

My crew chief in Vietnam used to have the perfect saying to describe any woman he saw of unimaginable beauty like Desiree. He’d tell me, “Sir, I’d eat a thousand meters of commo wire just to hear her fart through a field phone.” 

Yeah, that would apply to Desiree. She was always impeccably turned out.  One could easily fall in love with a woman like Desiree except for one very big character flaw; she had a reputation among the young flight instructors as being a bully.  If you looked up the highly derogatory “B” word in the dictionary, you’d see Desiree’s picture.

I got to experience the full double barrels of Desiree’s abrasive personality one morning when the boss asked me if I would fly Desiree on one of her ‘round San Diego photo missions.  I reminded him that I was retired and really only wanted to fly students twice a week as my way of personally giving back, but I said, “OK, just this once to help you out.”

We were going to fly in a Hughes 300 with the doors off.  Desiree was half-an-hour late.  She swanned over to me, gliding across the apron and with a flick of her hand through that impossibly thick blonde hair tossed it back said, “Are you ready?”

“Yep, just show me on the sectional chart where you would like to photograph.”

I circled the places she wanted to take pictures, and of course nearly every spot was just off the active runway of nearly every airport in San Diego County.  I told her, “We’re going to need a little more fuel.  It’ll just be a minute.”

I got the heave of the shoulders, the rolling back of her blue eyes and the long, exasperated low-pressure-inducing sigh.  I didn’t rise to her obvious displeasure, I just quickly topped up the tanks and we got in.

I began going over the short checklist as she adjusted her seat belt, cradling her Nikon on the lap of her $200 jeans.  Then she said something that served to make the day immediately un-fun.”

“I want to ask you something,” she said.

I continued going over the checklist.  “Yep, what is it?”

“Have you EVER flown with a professional photographer before, because it appears to me that you obviously have not?”

I’d flown numerous motion picture crews and photographers in my career. I had even won two First Prizes with my own photography.  All I said was, “Yes, I have.”

“Well, you should have been prepared then.  The helicopter should have been fully fueled and ready to go before I got here.  Now we’re late.  Can you tell me why you weren’t prepared?”

I didn’t remind her that she had been 30-minutes late, but it was her tone that set me right off, speaking to me like she would to one of the young flight instructors whom she was used to bullying.  I could immediately feel my earlobes throbbing with engorged blood, as my pulse rate shot up past disco level of 120 beats per minute.  I had my hand on the key ready to start the engine and looked over at her and after a short pause said, “Wasn’t I married to you once?”

I am sure the ATC guy in the tower heard her neck snap at being talked to like that. 

I continued, “Young lady, I’m basically retired.  I do this for fun and I can tell right now flying with you today isn’t going to be fun at all.  Besides, do you really want to fly for 2 ½ hours in an aircraft with the doors off, with a pilot who you’ve managed to totally piss off?  I have your life in my hands right here,” I tapped the cyclic.  “So you know what?  We’re not going to do this today,” I said and got out.

“But, but… you have to,” She stuttered in obvious shock.

“Actually… I don’t.”  I turned and began walking to the hangar.

“I’m going to call your boss, you know!”

I walked back over to her, taking the boss’s card out of my wallet.  “His number’s right there,” I pointed, then turned and walked back to the hangar.

I arranged for one of the other flight instructors to fly her that day.  He was thankful for the flight time.  When I told him what I’d done, he did a fist pump.  He’d flown with her too. I was a bit of a hero around the hangar for a week or so. 

The boss?  He just laughed.  Turns out he’d flown with Miss Desiree once or twice before, and had several un-fun days of his own.

Posted in: Humor & Poetry

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