I made a burrito and forgot to shave


My job as a pilot is made much easier by checklists and routines. I do the same thing - the same way - every time.

Checklists are written in a way that is intended to flow logically as we set up the cockpit for each phase of flight. It’s the times when something upsets that flow - that checklist items are missed. You’re midway through a taxi checklist and a radio call breaks the cadence of the “challenge and response” and it’s easier (and safer) to start over rather then stumble back into it.

My life has become a series of checklists. I’m not sure if I was made for aviation or if a career in aviation has made me the way I am. When I’m on a trip, each day I do the same thing - the same way - every time. My evening ritual in the hotel has been modified slowly over the years to become the most efficient it can be. I check into my room and immediately strip the garnish bedspread off the bed and lay out my clothes for the next morning. Regardless of how long I have in the hotel, I ready for the next day by setting two alarms on my phone, one on the hotel clock and phone for a wake-up call. Each of these alarms are set for 1 min apart beginning 45 minutes before we are to meet for the van. I write the city name and tomorrows day of the week on the hotel key envelope and put it next to the alarm clock. The rest of the night, like a Roomba vacuuming robot, I mindlessly walk through a series of preprogrammed routines. Hopefully, this involves some Seinfeld.

The same precision takes place during the morning events. Nothing gets skipped, nothing gets forgotten. Until there’s a change to the routine. A shower that won’t get hot or a broken coffee maker. I recently introduced a lunch box to the program. I’ve become a lunch box guy. I pack 4 days worth of  food on ice and make meals-to-go in my room for a picnic at 30000 feet... without the blanket or ants. It’s not as much about saving money as it about getting so freaking sick and tired of Sbarro pizza and Wok-n-Roll fried stuff with soy sauce.

With the introduction of the lunch box, I’m all out of whack. Yesterday, although I made some excellent burrito’s out of Trader Joe’s Chickenless Chicken Strips...  I forgot to shave. Having to get ice from the ice machine for my lunch box threw off my whole program! While showering, I debated when to work ice retrieval into the equation. Should I do it before or after I put on my tie? This internal argument must have carried on into the “it’s now time to shave” portion of the ceremony and I overlooked it while I debated maybe just getting ice on the way out the door with all my luggage.


Years ago, I left the keys to my car in the cockpit of the airplane I just gave to another crew and realized this as I watched them taxi towards the runway. Naturally, this happened because I just bought a new suitcase and hadn’t decided yet which pocket to store my keys. I had it down to a science with my old suitcase but had yet to find a convenient spot for them in the new one. I opted to keep them in my pants pocket until resolving this crisis but then they kept stabbing my thigh so I set them in the cup holder. Off to STL they went without me.

Tonight, I may use a spreadsheet to map out a new routine for tomorrow mornings ice gathering mission. But doing so, I’ll probably forget to brush my teeth before bed.