Saturday, August 26, 2006
Today's stories are about rats and politicians. One group has better manners, as I found out a while back.
5 or 6 years ago, back when he was Minister of Finance and before he became Prime Minister, I flew Paul Martin about the province, taking him to a few different fundraisers around Ontario and then back home in the evening.
I met him at the Toronto Island airport; we were going to Ottawa first and I figured I'd give him a quick briefing.
Me - "Hello, Mr. Martin, good to see you. The aircraft is ready, and the weather is great all the way to Ottawa. The flight will be about 40 minutes."
Him - (pause)(icy stare)
Him - "I'd PREFER to be called MINISTER Martin"
It took a physical effort on my part not to bitch-slap him. Needless to say, even though the weather was fine, it was a pretty bumpy flight on that first leg, and the subsequent ones weren't much better.
The best part was at the end of the day when we landed at his home airport. As he was exiting the aircraft, he leaned over and a stick of deodorant fell from his suit onto the ramp and cracked open. He went from being the guy who decided how we as a country spend money to being just a sweaty little man in a suit. I stood there and watched while he gathered up his deodorant bits, and we silently walked into to the FBO. I said goodbye without calling him anything, and went on my way, my heart a little lighter.
Shortly after that, the company I flew a Cessna 441 Conquest II for got a 1-time contract to deliver some albino lab rats from the rat farm to a university about 600 miles away. The stuff I didn't even know existed....just-in-time rat delivery...perhaps charter outfits should focus more on that in their marketing plans...
Anyway, The rats came to us in these large heavy cardboard boxes, with little air holes punched in the sides so they didn't pass their expiration date too quickly. This was the first time they had been shipped this way, and we thought the best thing to do for their comfort was to take some seats outta the back, and put the cases in the cabin, so they'd be nice and warm, and pressurized.
About an hour into the flight, with an hour left to go, I saw one of the little buggers calmly walk up the aisle and start investigating the right-seat rudder pedals. Then another. And another. I was single-pilot, the rats not requesting a F/o for the trip, so I was pretty much stuck in my seat. They had chewed on the airholes until they could get out of the box, and were certainly keen on investigating every nook and cranny of the 441. By the time I landed, there were almost a hundred of them throughout the airplane. You shoulda seen the look of the delivery guy when I opened the door after we landed. I was laughing so hard I had to sit down several times during the hours-long rat-catching that followed.
Speaking of looks, there was an equally priceless look on the boss's face when I got home and told him we were gonna have to completely clean out the aircraft, just in case there were still a few stowaways. It was after my thunderstorm incident so I didn't feel particularly guilty about giving the plane back to the boss, soiled. I was told the maintenance guys found about a dozen rats in the tail later that night. I can only assume they were set free in a nearby meadow, to live out their lives in peace and freedom. The rats, not the mechanics ;)
It's worth noting that the rats were very polite during the entire trip. A politician could learn something or two from that, I think.