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Friday, January 23, 2015

Hat Suck

It was a cloudy day
So I don't know why Sal even wore his hat
But that certainly didn't make this an exceptional day
As he wore his hat all the time

Hell, I wouldn't have known he actually had hair
If I hadn't taken to hanging out with him after work sometimes
Which was the first time I saw him really take it off

That same scenario has gone the opposite direction with other coworkers
Who reach to remove their caps for whatever reason
And reveal a reflecting mirror of a skull looking right back at you
Blinding you with their flesh
No matter the color of their skin
It was always shiny as if polished by a wax buffing wheel

And always
Without exception
You'd fervently wish that they'd put the damn thing back on
Because this wasn't what you'd counted on dealing with today
The image of this person that was like cement in your head
Needed to be maintained gosh darn it

So the hats need to stay on
Usually, anyways

On this cloudy Northern Michigan day
Where there was no need for ball caps
Yet there he went
Walking around the flight line
His dark blue cap jauntily tilted just slightly off center
So much so that you always wanted to reach out and straighten it for him
Except that he wasn't the kind of person you did that to
Not that he was dangerous really
No more than anyone else around there probably
So I suppose that none of us were the type of person you'd reach out and correct a wardrobe issue upon without asking first

There was a Douglas DC-8 doing ground runs in the center of the taxiway
Just kind of idling there
A couple RCH* off of the idle stops
And we were wandering around looking for leaks on the engines
Ducking here and there with flashlights and rags
Wiping at this and that
Then watching the spot for a few seconds to see if the offending substance reappeared
Which it usually did not

DC-8's have a habit of leaking
Pretty much everywhere
But doing it so slowly
That it is hard to catch them at it

They're sneaky leakers

So that was going on
And there was Sal
Walking around like all the rest of us
With his hat loosely cocked in the preferred manner

When he happened to stroll right in front of the running #2 engine inlet

I was looking right at him as he did it
And I wasn't worried in the least
As we all did that without much of a care

Suddenly he went from Sal with a ball cap on his head
To Sal with his full head of fuzzy black hair

He took another half step past the engine and stopped
His hand zipping up to the top of his head in reach for his hat

Then he looked around quickly
In that way that you do when something falls off of you
And you don't know exactly which way it went

Then

And keep in mind that I can't see into the front of the engine
Only he could, from where he was standing
I could only see his face as he saw what he saw

Sal did a total Hollywood double take
With the looking at the front of the jet engine quickly
Then almost looking away
Before locking onto that view with big  surprised eyes
His eyebrow cocked
And he made a quick simultaneous "Oh shit!" movement with his head

Which looked however you think it did
And that you learn to read after working with someone for years

Then he turned quickly and jogged up to the front of the plane
So that the guy in the pilot's seat could see him
And after getting his attention
Sal held up two fingers
Then drew his hand across his throat
Clearly telling them to shut that #2 engine down

Now several of us were curious as to what was going on
And I had my suspicions
So we casually sauntered up to the front of that still running engine and peered inside
Seeing the memorable sight of Sal's blue ball cap
Folded like a taco shell around one of the fan inlet struts
With the fan blades whirring at their uncountable with the naked eye RPM's
Only millimeters away from grinding it up like a giant titanium Cuisinart

That Pratt & Whitney JT3D engine was taunting him
Just as surely as if it had hung a pizza
Or a dollar bill
Or whatever you want to imagine you'd be tempted to grab
On a string just out of reach

Oh yeah
We laughed
And we may have laughed a lot
Some of us may have gotten narrow tunnel vision and stars across our eyes we laughed so hard
Which was a real safe thing for us all to do right next to a running aircraft
But then, we were all about safety back then

I swear we didn't really laugh at him
We loved him too much for that
More at the impossibility of that situation
Of getting a hat sucked off your head by the jet engine
And gaining that instant of "Holy Shit!" as you see your hat hanging millimeters from shelling out a six figure power plant

Sal bought the drinks that night
Sealing us to secrecy perhaps

Until now


*RCH = Red Pubic Hair (you can guess what the 'C' really stands for maybe)
  And there was also a BCH, which is for Black Pubic Hair.  This was a unit of measure; with red being very fine and thin, and black being thicker.  So in practical use, if you were working with someone trying to line something up with hammer blows, and your partner says, "Just another RCH!", that would mean just a light tap of the hammer should get it lined up, as it is super close.  But if he says that it's a BCH, then you better hit it hard, because it isn't so close yet.