June 12, 2012

Not Status Quo...

Six years ago when I was a new trainee, Boston Center, and the world of Air Traffic, was a scary place.  I had worked so hard to make it here.  And the hard work was really just beginning. 

It was overwhelming.  So my mind started looking for ways to simplify it all.  Granted, there was still the map test (with over 10000 memory items to draw), procedures, frequencies, preferred routes, phraseology...... and a dark room full of 50 other intimidating people who already know how to do your dream job.  So, step one:  Get over it and find some good role models.  One of the reasons I love my area of specialty is because I think my area is full of good role models.  Of course we have some people who don't fit that role as well as they could, but I digress.  Area A is full of controllers who know the rules:  We talk about them, we argue about them, and we try to figure out if there is a safer way to rewrite them.

But six years ago, I just needed to find a few folks who seemed like the best controllers and then figure out how to be like them.   And luckily, it didn't take me long to figure out who my role models were.  I still strive to be like one controller who always speaks in the same constant, calming tone, no matter how many planes are deviating.  Or another who says the number zero unlike anyone else.  Or another, even if they never use vector lines.....

The one that inspires me to write this was forced to retire recently.  I, sadly and begrudgingly, now work his schedule.  I think of him every day that I go to work for my new ten hour shifts, four days a week, Wednesday through Saturday.  I will add that it is a GREAT schedule.  It's just horrible how I came to receive it. 

As I worked the A-sides and D-sides and met the controllers in my area, there were a few key attributes I was looking for:  Calm, no matter what; perfect phraseology; friendly; helpful; and lets add hilarious in there, too.

CN fit that description. And for any of you who never heard his verbal mannerisms and iconic southern accent on the frequency, it is a shame I can't play a tape for you right here (working on it).

But a few months ago, CN got a headache.  It never really went away.  He got lost driving somewhere he's gone a hundred times.  So he went to the hospital and they found a brain tumor growing so fast he literally had hours to live.  Most people with his form of cancer never make it to the hospital.  So, he's in unfamiliar territory (being alive with this kind of cancer).  But he made it through his first round of chemotherapy and the tumor is very small and not growing anymore.  As far as his public interactions are concerned when he stops by work to say "hi"  or when he's on the phone, he seems like his old self.

It can't be noted strongly enough that his attitude and his great family are helping him to remain an amazing individual still worthy of my, and anyone else still looking for a good role model's, respect.

Also noteworthy is the treatment CN is receiving at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon, NH.  This Sunday, my new schedule allows me the honor to go take a walk with CN, his family, my fellow controllers and countless others in Lebanon for the benefit of CN and the Cancer Center.  http://www.skipsrun.org/

Feel free to throw in a few bucks on behalf of a great man and controller who, even in retirement, inspires all of us to enjoy work and enjoy life. 

Skip Matthews Memorial Run: Team Charlie

Till next time....



LRod said...

Sorry to hear about that, DM. When I was a lad of 22 or 23, Hugh Sport called in sick, and then again, then again. After he'd been out about a week, we got word he'd been diagnosed with a virulent brain CA. It was only a matter of a week or two and he was gone.

It was remarkable to me as it was the first death I'd experienced of someone who wasn't supposed to (like great grandparents in their 90s—you expect that).

That was so long ago—1969, perhaps.

On another note: when did y'all get to do 4×10 shifts? We would have killed for that back in the day. And, in a metaphorical sense, we did, as that was among the things we were fighting for in '81.

ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired

deltamike172 said...

The 4-10s have been happening since we got rid of the White Book.

Wasn't sure how I was gonna like being at work for an extra two hours a day, but I mostly just train, and that extra two hours is my "yay, I get to plug in and work traffic" moment. Not to mention having an extra day off is pretty excellent.

Federico said...

Sorry to hear such a bad news! It's always tragic when we see that our role models are not immortal, even if they look like that.

Here in MXp at least we are young enough not to have to worry about it (yet).

It is a real truth that when we join a new workplace we look for role models to adhere, people who are respected by others not just for doing a good job when on the frequency, but also for being all-around good guy, respectful and real professionals.

And then it becomes our turn to be those guys, and that's the most difficult part...

Thanks for a great post!

LIMC/MXP control tower, Italy