It was the first day of a long trip…
Anyone who has been doing this beautiful chaos long enough knows that those words are the classic intro to an epic aviation horror story, akin in the novelist world to the infamous, ‘It was a dark and stormy night.” If you don’t believe in the curse of Pilot Wife Law, you’re either extremely new to the life (just you wait!) or an aviation outsider. If it can happen, it will…while he’s on a trip. The struggle is real! It doesn’t matter if he’s home 6 hours or 6 months, everything waits to break, explode, and implode until he is gone! True story.
From the chickens roosting on a giant snake to police chases through my backyard complete with guns and K9s to exploding water heaters to unprecedented hurricanes turning our country home into an island property and everything in between, I have lived it all…generally with my husband 30,000 feet in the air and blissfully oblivious. I know I’m not alone; I have heard your stories too! There’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure!
This morning my Fly Guy stumbled oh-so-quietly out of bed at 0300 for a dark and early 0530 departure. Yay. And my poor guy! Now, this is actually his first ‘real’ trip in months since he has pretty much been instructing nonstop here at ye ol’ home base, so of course we’re due for a full-on double decker dose of PW law! After he left, I tossed and turned for a couple of hours before finally accepting that there was no going back to sleep and got up. Plus, I had to take my newest pup in for a spay, and she had an early drop off.
After I dropped her off at the vet, I sent him a quick text wishing him a good day, fully expecting he wouldn’t answer for a couple hours because he ‘should’ have been somewhere over the Smokies by then. He answered right away. Uh-oh. That’s never a good sign. I’d like to interject here that sometimes we are also blissfully oblivious to what our traveling partners silently endure on the road! Perspective.
So apparently, he boarded the plane, they pushed off from the gate, and they made it all the way to the runway for takeoff when…
A PAX projectile vomited all over the back of the plane forcing them to return to the gate surrounded by eau de vomitus, deplane, and wait for the entire fuselage to be cleaned and disinfected. Fun times. Of course, he missed his connect (he was commuting not flying), which pushed back his SIM, which…well, messed up everything and then some for this coming week. Hellooooooo, aviation life! Living the commuting dream. I would also like to insert a quick public service announcement here that there is a very special bag in your seatback just for this intended purpose. Next time, if at all possible, use it. Pretty, pretty please. I mean, if you are even a little queasy get that little sucker out and at the ready… Because no one, and I mean no one, wants to be splattered by last night’s spaghetti midair. Or clean it up. I promise. Ain’t nobody gettin’ paid enough for that!
Anyway, back on the ol’ home front, I decided to take my 16-year-old out for some driving practice. We drove to a local store and my phone rang as we browsed. My veterinarian informed me that he thought it best to postpone my puppy’s procedure (long story) until next year. Thankfully, we were already close since we were in town, so we headed over to pick her up. I guess neither my husband nor myself needed to be up early after all! There’s nothing quite like the deep-rooted annoyance of a delayed flight and/or a cancelled appointment after an ugly 0300 wakeup call, let me tell you! It’s the worst kind of party foul.
On the way home from the vet clinic, the pup was pacing a little and acting uneasy, which she usually doesn’t do. I figured she was anxious from being in the kennel since she is a very suspicious and one-family breed and doesn’t do well with strangers. She has a doggie seatbelt that she wears to keep her safe, but there is slight leeway to allow for some movement. In hindsight, I should’ve known.
There we were sitting stuck in heavy traffic when all of a sudden the overpowering stench of, you guessed it, dog poo filled the cavity of the van and our unwilling nostrils. So. Not. Cool. For whatever reason, I guess she couldn’t hold it and took a big, giant, runny, nervous, doggie dump in the back of the van – the kind that promptly soaks in where you never quite get it all out again. Did I mention…fun times?
As if that wasn’t bad enough (believe me, it was), before we fully registered what the heck was going on, she then proceeded to step in it with all four oversized puppy feet (because the seatbelt tether gives her limited range and she was trying to turn around), scoot back to the front leaving a trail of poo, and plop those nasty paws right in my son’s lap. Oh. My. Gosh. Are you freaking kidding me, Mr. Bigglesworth?? She may be only five months old, but she weighs over 50 pounds. I guess she was scared and emptied the entirety of her bowels in my car. That, my friends, is a lot of very stinky poo.
There we were sitting at a stoplight holding our noses, windows rolled down, surrounded by cars going nowhere fast, trying to hold her still while she spread the stinky love, gagging on the smell (I was really regretting those eggs she stole from the henhouse yesterday), with my son covered in it all. And I’m thinking…it figures. Hello, Pilot Wife Law, my old friend. I have missed you. Not.
Into every life a little poo must fall, I guess.
Now, I can tell you that being married to a pilot for the last couple of decades has made me pretty bulletproof. There’s not much that really throws me or shocks me. I can handle it, period. Life generally doesn’t give me any other option! This was no exception and isn’t, by far, the craziest, grossest, or worst thing I have had to deal with over the years, but it was still pretty darned disgusting! I navigated traffic and whipped into the first gas station I could find. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about cutting my losses and simply deserting the dog and the car on the side of the road for someone else to deal with and walking home (and maybe downing an entire bottle of wine), but of course I didn’t. Instead, I put on my big girl PW panties and did what we do. I stepped out of the vehicle, assessed the situation, and figured out how best to proceed. We handle stuff.
I hurried into the gas station and bought the first thing of wipes I could find. Thank goodness every store now has disinfectant wipes front and center because of Covid! The cashier showed me mercy and spotted me some extra plastic bags and a pair of gloves to use to clean the car. I darted back out to where my kids, who were a little green around the gills, were trying to keep the dog still and hold their breaths. They may have broken a world record for longest breath ever held. I then spent the next 20 or so minutes on my hands and knees trying to scrub rancid poo from the carpets, dog, and kid with Lysol wipes to some limited avail. About trading in the car for a new one, honey…I’m game. Just sayin’.
Seriously, y’all. And that’s just trip day one (and only hour six)! Everyone knows the worst stuff happens on day four…so Lord have mercy on my soul by the end of this week!
Here’s the thing though… Sometimes life just plane stinks. It really does! We can be driving along enjoying the fresh air of life one moment and find ourselves gagging on unexpected circumstances the next. Every now an again we are faced with a big pile of crap that life then gleefully smears across our laps with her oversized paws. It happens to the best of us – some just more literally than others! Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Aviation life and parenting are hard! It can and will get a little messy every now and again, and that’s okay. You’re okay. I promise.
When life takes a dump in your backseat, take a deep breath (or not!), pull over at the first possible opportunity, step outside the situation, and figure out what the next step is. It doesn’t mean we desert the van on the side of the road (no matter how tempting it may sound in the moment!). It means we do what we do, ladies! We pull ourselves together, gather our wits, then we clean up the mess one Lysol wipe, prayer, (curse word), and baby step at a time.
Here’s the kicker: He’s
probably not going to be there when the poo hits the fan. You are going to be winging it without him. That’s just aviation life. It’s okay! Just because your spouse is gone doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone. Find yourself a community of people who get you – get this life – and keep them close. They will be your proverbial gas station in the ensuring chaos – a safe place to pull over and find some much needed help. Don’t be afraid to shop their endless shelves of knowledge and experience. They are willing. They will also make you feel less alone because there’s nothing out there that you will face that someone else in this community hasn’t already walked through or cleaned up too. Knowing that you are not the ‘only one’ is a beautiful gift. Cherish it.
And for heaven’s sake, if you are not currently the one dealing with a pile of poo in your life, have mercy on those around you. Because someone somewhere is. You never know what muck someone else is trudging through at the moment. Most of the time we hide it well because Pilot Wives are independent and strong to a fault. Sometimes – shoot, most of the time – a moment of unexpected compassion is the tiny thread of hope that keeps another person clinging to sanity, so be kind. Always.
And remember that someday we will look back on these crazy, messy, stinky life moments and laugh.
Maybe. The jury is still out, but I’ll let you know.
I love you, aviation family!
Angelia (a fellow Pilot Wife)
P.S. For those who are wondering, my poor Fly Guy finally made it to his destination a lot later and a lot grumpier than intended. Did I mention life on the road can just plane stink too!? (It can.)
Just Winging It: Prayers for My Pilot Wife (autographed)
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Captain on the Road; First Officer at Home (Gold Bars) Soft Jersey Tee