Tuesday, August 08, 2006
I'm getting fat. Before I elaborate, here's some long-winded background:
Today I'm preparing for a trip to Teterboro, then Nashville, then Memphis. I'll be returning on Friday, so I'll have a bit of time at each place to check out the sights. This is one of the main reasons I became a pilot, so I generally make the most of it. Who the hell wants to sit in a hotel room in a strange city when they could be out exploring?
Teterboro is in New Jersey, across the harbor from New York city. There is so much to look at and do in New York it's overwhelming. Memphis is an awesome city with a pretty interesting musical history and some great bars downtown. Nashville is known for country music and good food. I expect to gain at least 10 lbs worth of chicken fried steak or steak fried chicken (with biscuits!).
That kind of brings up the main point of this post: With my current job, when we are out on a layover we don't get per diems. For those of you not familiar, per diems are generally a cash payment for meal expenses incurred during trips. If you want to bring your own lunch from home, then you pocket the cash, or if you want to visit McDonalds for supper, then you pocket the difference. A lot of pilots use per diems as a significant source of income - my pals at Air Canada Jazz say that they take home between $800 and $1,000 per month from per diems, which is a lot when they only make $33,000 per year or so.
My old medevac job had per diems of $2 per hour spent on duty, but my present job doesn't have that system. Instead we have a far more insidious way of doing things: They cover all my meal costs. I got our handy dandy computer system to tell me what we spend on meals during trips, and it told me we spend US $143 per crew member per day. Our bosses are particularly generous and allow us to expense beer with supper etc, so alcohol is a fair portion of that amount.
When I got this job one year ago, I was at 190lbs, which is a comfortable weight for me (I'm 6'1" tall). When I did my medical last month the scales pointed at 218lbs. Yup, I gained nearly 30 pounds since I got this job, and I can honestly say it's entirely due to the meal allowance system here. We never eat at fast food places, and we never miss a meal. If we are going to be flying during a meal, we'll either get catering on board, or wait until we land and hit a restaurant on the way to the hotel. Since I got my medical done I have been exercising and watching what I eat a lot more, and have lost 8 pounds, but I have at least another 20 to go.
I think we need to change our system to per diems so I don't die of obesity, 'cause under the current system I order the most expensive thing I can find on the menu, just because I can. To further lower your opinion of me, when I was in Nassau once, I ate dolphin 'cause it was on the menu and it was expensive. Not the fish, the mammal. For the record, it tastes light, like pork, or perhaps a toddler. Yes, I am going to hell.