I’ve been an airline Captain since 2001. With a recent airline change I’m a First Officer again. The copilot. Just like Kareem Abdul-Jabar… and the guy who sat next to Sully. I’m one step up from Otto the autopilot in Airplane. I should have made business cards that said “Cool Jet Captain” while I could. (Mental note - change my voicemail greeting from Jet Captain to Seat Filler.)
I’ve switched seats and I’ve lost my mojo. I don’t know where to put my pen. My right hand moves to push the buttons even though they're on my left side now. And damned if I can’t make passenger announcements anymore.
For years I’ve been saying the same thing to the people in the back.
“Folks, this is your Captain speaking. Blah blah blah. Weather is blah blah blah. There is going to be a few bumps on our climb out blah blah blah.”
But now I start in with “This is your….”
And I’m lost. Flatline.
My inner voice screams “LINE!”
But it’s just me. No cue cards. No teleprompter. Just me… your copilot.
And I think I’m pretty dexterous on my toes. I had a six grade teacher tell me I need to think before I speak. She didn’t mean it as a compliment.
I can’t think before I speak. It just happens. And without the normal cadence of “This is your Captain speaking.” I’ve got nothing. Flatline.
Oh, and you know those pilots that walk around the airport with their sunglasses on? You laugh at them on the inside because they think they’re so cool? Maybe they’re also new and have lost their mojo too?
I was on a dusk flight soon after I switched seats and titles and the sky was getting duskier on final approach. I even made a comment to the actual Captain about how dark this new cockpit I’ve found myself in was at night.
He agreed though surely he knew what the solution was.
And then I said something about the taxiway lights being an unusual hue.
And then I stood in the doorway and said goodbye to the passengers face to face. Eye contact.
And then I went up and got a cup coffee at Starbucks.
And then back in the cockpit I said something about how my phone screen suddenly had a reddish tint. “Maybe it’s reverted to some strange astronomer night mode?” I said.
That’s when the Captain commented on my rose colored sunglasses.
“I don’t know what to tell you Elton.”