Sunday, July 11, 2010

Keep those seat belts fastened ...

... just in case we encounter any unexpected in life turbulence.

To recap the last decade:

  • March 2000. Hired at Northwest Airlines, move from Florida to Michigan. W2 skinny due to first-year burger-flipping wages.

  • March 2001. Start living in high clover.

  • September 11, 2001: Religion of Peace puts my job on the chopping block. Certain amount of shame attends thinking of that while watching, live, the second plane hit the WTC.

  • March 2002. Layoffs stop just short of me. Huge sigh of relief. Five days before my second anniversary at NWA, start training as Flight Engineer on B727, with four guys below me.

  • October 2002. Layoffs unstop. Huge unsigh. Inconsiderate children insist upon eating. Take job throwing satellite dishes at the sides of houses in Michigan winter. How bad was it? Go on wagon and return to dial-up bad. TOSWIPIAW* stars part time work at grocery store while also returning to school to get a nursing degree.

  • February 2003. Boy-child's outstanding choice in best friends leads to job at Ford, first as IT analyst (fancy name for spreadsheet geek), then software engineer. Resume drinking and broadband; TOSWIPIAW decides to forgo a career in the food chain industry.

  • March 2005. Get recalled to NWA. Keep working at Ford. TOSWIPIAW becomes miffed at relentless work schedule.

  • October 2005. Look like genius as I get re-furloughed and drive from my last flight to my cubicle.

  • February 2006. Get short notice FedEx interview. Outcome is on very long notice.

  • June 5, 2006. TOSWIPIAW learns she passed her board exam. Five hours later, I get hired at FedEx. I could swear I heard an ethereal door shutting.

  • June 2007. Having gone through yet another dose of first year pay, but even less this time, move to Anchorage and start living in high clover. And deep snow.

  • November 2007. Congress changes airline pilot retirement age from 60 to 65. Given the number of three-seat airplanes at FedEx (over 60 guys moved to the Flight Engineer position; they are referred to as ROPEs -- Retired Old Pilot Engineers), and the number of ROPES buying three houses for three angry women, this is bound to leave a mark.

  • June 2008. Mark left. Find out I am to be excessed to the B727 as a Flight Engineer. That's OK. It may be a 3000 mile commute, but at least there is a 30% pay cut.

  • Spring 2010. Word that excess moves will stop. Hold sigh of relief, since they are so hard to recall.

  • June 14, 2010. Five days before my fourth anniversary at FedEx, start training as on B727, with four guys (excluding, for the sake of coincidence noting, all the flight engineers) below me. Ongoing training and obsessive study follows, on account of going from this:

  • to this:

  • July 8. FedEx announces vacancies. Appears nearly certain I will return to Anchorage and the MD11. Big question is whether they will cancel the remainder of my training and send me back to Anchorage, or finish the 727 checkout and then send me back to Anchorage. Sigh on hold.

It is an excellent thing we can't see the future; I don't think we would get out of bed, otherwise.

And I'm still ashamed.

*The Other She Who Is Perfect In All Ways


Blogger erp said...

Dear Lord Skipper?

July 11, 2010 2:04 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Hey Skipper,

Thanks for the post. Business sucks, but it's important that people keep reminding me that being a private sector employee sucks at least as bad.

A nice, cushy public sector job sure sounds good right about now, doesn't it?

July 11, 2010 9:37 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


Great job, awful career.


I don't know that business sucks; rather, in a free economy, it tends to follow the vicissitudes of life itself.

In contrast, public sector jobs are (like socialism aims to do for everything) insulated, to a fairly large extent, from external reality.

I'm largely OK with that; civilization requires those kind of jobs, and they have to be fairly constant.

What I'm not OK with is compensation for PS jobs exceeding their free market counterparts. Job security is non-cash compensation, after all.


Because my quasi whinge-fest was already about 800 words too long, I left out oddities of pure, dumb, luck.

Back when the excess announced, I bid co-pilot in the 727, then flight engineer.

Unfortunately, I missed the CP spot by two guys, so instead of a window seat and a 15% pay cut, I was going to stare at a panel for 30% less.

But. Because excess bids go in reverse seniority order, that meant I was going to be among the very last to get booted out of Anchorage.

In other words, had I got what I asked for, I would have been gone over a year ago.

Instead, except for having to spend a couple months in a Memphis long term stay hotel room (which has given me the opportunity to get jiggy with the lifstyle of guys who earned their way into getting booted out of the house without actually having to do so) this last schlamozzle comes near as darnnit to not happening at all.

All because I got what I didn't want.

July 12, 2010 8:56 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

That explains the light posting.

When the new-economy gurus talk glibly about lifetime retraining, they have Skipper in mind.

Most workers, though, are not going to be that flexible, nor be as already prepared with minimal time in retraining to take over a much different job.

A nation of Skippers might make a functional economy out of this situation. A nation of the guys I was hanging with this morning, probably not.

Anyhow, think twice before you fly a plane older than you are.

July 12, 2010 6:12 PM  
Blogger Gaw said...

As someone who's had a few ups and many downs in the last two or three years, I've concluded that you've just gotta love it. The alternative really sucks.

July 13, 2010 10:54 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


Those are precisely the words I use whenever I contemplate aging.


A nation of [flexible, retrainable workers] might make a functional economy out of this situation.

You lost me here.

We do have a functional economy. And, given the gob-smacking rate almost everything has changed over the last 30 years, that has to mean a great many people fit that description.

The way to make a non-functional economy is to hand it over to the government, where flexibility and innovation are not only never rewarded, but often punished.

July 13, 2010 12:24 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Ah, the slings and arrows, man. The slings and arrows.

July 14, 2010 1:45 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Partially functional.

There's no question that the pace of change makes some functions obsolete. Typesetters, for example.

It';s expensive to retrain adults for something completely different; and the skills of typesetters were not useful for other tasks.

For over 30 years, I have heard scores of gurus, including some of the biggest, talk glibly about lifetime education, retraining and improving skills.

Never, not once, have I heard one mention costs.

They don't live in the real world.

And for all you hate-gummint guys, have you seen private business stepping in to absorb those costs. Of course, you haven't.

I am all for lifetime education and retraining. It's just that I don't believe in miracles.

July 14, 2010 10:18 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Harry Eagar wrote: "...have you seen private business stepping in to absorb those costs. Of course, you haven't."

Of course I have. For the robotics company, I've never hired anybody with the specific skills I need (because nobody has them) and I've trained every one of them.

July 14, 2010 11:07 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Yes. When I worked for Cisco, they sponsored a number of retraining operations, to teach people how to do network administration. One of the guys I worked with went from carpentry odd jobs to a six figure income through such a program.

I also find Eagar's comment amusing because he's obviously unwilling to count the cost of the gub'mint paying for it, as if all that taxpayer loot simply appears in gub'mint coffers from thin air.

July 14, 2010 12:33 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Of course I'm counting it. That's why I mentioned it. And I said it's very expensive.

Particularly if it's a middle-aged worker with a family that has to eat -- something never on the radar of the gurus -- during the unproductive months or maybe years while the worker gets retrained.

Did Cisco fire the carpenter first, then train him? I'm going to guess not.

July 15, 2010 11:01 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"Did Cisco fire the carpenter first"

Nobody fired him.

More over, I thought you were now fine with things that tended better over the long run. It's the same thing here -- over time workers are better off with a free market because of increase in overall prosperity. Or is that once again something that's bad until the gub'mint does it?

July 15, 2010 12:18 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


For over 30 years, I have heard scores of gurus, including some of the biggest, talk glibly about lifetime education, retraining and improving skills.

Never, not once, have I heard one mention costs.

Investment always entails cost, unless one believes returns should come for free.

The reason I got the glorified spread sheet geek job at Ford is because, ten years earlier, I had spent my own money and my own time to get a MS in Computer Science.

Then, once hired at Ford, on my own initiative, I learned an information extraction platform called "Business Objects" in order to do my spread sheet geek job better.

Which, in turn, got me hired as a software engineer.

The problem with your approach on this is that it requires others to make an investment that should be the individual's.

Furthermore, why should I invest in myself if I am going to be required to invest in someone else who can't be bothered?

July 16, 2010 11:17 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

So they'll have a job to make money that they can spend on iPods.

Most jobs in America do not pay enough money to allow a family man or woman to pay for food and also an MS in computer science.

They might have, if the increase in wealth since Reagan took office had not all gone to the top 1%.

July 18, 2010 10:25 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Harry Eagar wrote: "Most jobs in America do not pay enough money to allow a family man or woman to pay for food and also an MS in computer science.

Here're some affordable MS in Computer Science degrees:

Columbus State University: $5,436.00

North Carolina State University: $6,930.00

Indiana State University: $7,438.00

and lots more ...

These are online master programs and can be done from anywhere while continuing your day job.

The average "Consumer Unit" of 2.5 people spends $6,133 per year on food. A family twice as big (5 people) would average spending around $12,000 per year.

The median family income is over $50K. Food plus one of the above master's programs is less than half that for a family of 5, so your statement is incorrect.

July 18, 2010 7:04 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Who does the budgeting for your company?

Let's say, food, $6K, lodging, $12K, auto $3K ($6K for two-worker, two-car households), clothing, $1K, insurance, $4K, taxes, $12K, medical care, $12K, savings, oops.

No savings for you, lower middle class. So when that job you thought you had goes to Mexico, economize on eating.

July 19, 2010 11:57 AM  
Blogger Bret said...


In your quote, you said food and MS. You didn't mention anything else. Perhaps the year somebody incurs $12K in medical expenses is not a good year to get the MS.

July 19, 2010 12:53 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

The fastest growing financial burden on the middle class is taxes, so if the government really wanted to help with job retraining, it would cut taxes. Even in Eagar's example, there's no expense larger so that's where it would help the most.

July 19, 2010 2:00 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

And, of course, many investments are not paid for in full at the time of purchase.

Another point to keep in mind is that a great deal of improving one's worth is focusing on doing the job you have better.

Of course, doing that only makes sense if there is going to be some reasonable return on the investment.

July 19, 2010 2:02 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, if you are going after an MS, first you have to have the BA or BS, usually. And that typically costs more than $6K.

Also, you have to have some expectation that, after getting that advanced degree, it will have market value. Most people who live in circles where people have college degrees can cite example after example of friends, relatives or acquaintances who have several college degrees and no job.

I didn't choose computer science as the example, either, and I can remember a friend not so long ago who was bemoaning the fact that both her children, who both had doctorates in technical fields, were unemployed and had been for a long time.

I am amused that Guy thinks if people get tax breaks they will spend the money on education. I recall that over the past 30 years, whenever taxes were lowered, the expectation was that they money would be spent on consumer goods.

Not surprising, since you cannot buy a lot of education for the 20-something bucks the working stiff enjoyed in the Reagan round.

July 19, 2010 8:02 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

How's this for opportunity?

The local astronomical research lab needs an administrative assistant, with a degree and professional experience, and it's willing to pay $36,000 a year.

This, in a community where a studio apartment rents for $18,000 a year.

Oh, yeah. It's a temporary job.

Land of opportunity.

July 20, 2010 12:47 PM  

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