Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ahh, a pilot's life. Traveling all over the planet, staying in fine hotels and eating in fine restaurants, meeting beautiful people and having a 'friend-with-benefits' in every port. That's the cliche, but it ain't entirely a cliche.

So there's this pilot I know..

This pilot has an ongoing romantic relationship with 2 other people at the same time. Neither person is aware of the other one's existence. This tells me that my friend pilot is a bit of a sociopath, and is also well-organized. The pilot uses a spreadsheet to make up flight schedules, then shows the fake schedules to each partner, and the schedules are set up to explain the pilot's absence through work. This has been going on for some time, as in years.

This person isn't the first pilot I know who has run two relationships at the same time; the nature of our business is such that random, extended absences are pretty common, so it makes it easier for a cheater to come up with excuses for a liaison. For example, I nearly did a trip to Texas this morning, which would cause me to miss the Hallowe'en party that Lisa and I have been planning for a while. Lisa didn't even bat an eye when I told her last night - she knows it's a part of my occupation / career / passion.

I do admit that from a purely clinical perspective, running two simultaneous and separate romances takes some genius. It also fails a basic risk management test - failure is inevitable, and the consequences of failure will be spectacular but not in a good way.

The thing is, in this particular case, it's worked so far and it's been quite a while.

I couldn't handle a life like that. First of all, I'm not too big on betrayal - I would drink poison for Lisa anyway, and the thought of hurting her on purpose is horrifying. Second, eventually the jig will be up, and I don't have the energy or inclination to worry about whether every incoming phone call I get is a loved one, distraught and furious after having unraveled some small lie that caused the whole big lie to come apart. Lastly, I value my time alone, and a quick peek at this pilot's master schedule (detailing time allocated for work, and for each partner), shows this pilot has zero time alone. To me, it sounds like a private Hell, but clearly I'm missing something. It's gotta be the sex, right? I just wonder how satisfying it can be when it's all based around a lie.

When I think of my pilot friend, the word that comes up a lot is 'selfish' - to me that's doing something that hurts loved ones, but choosing to continue anyway because it gives some sort of gratification. The thing is...

I have had to no-show to lots of important events and occasions with friends and family due to flying, and it is extremely likely that when I have kids I will miss important moments in their lives because I'm away on a trip. Just thinking about it makes me really sad, but it's a price that I will pay, and make them pay, because it's what I want, and because I'm selfish. Really, the only major distinction I can make between my behavior and my pilot friends is that I am honest about my selfishness to my loved ones, while my pilot friend chooses to keep that information private. Is that actually enough? I really hope so.


Anonymous said...

Would you rather work a job you hated and come home every night only to be grumpy and short with the kids?


Miss seeing them a little more than you'd like, but be in a good mood and truly enjoy the time you have?

It's not selfish to work a job that you enjoy and that provides for your family, I'd say it's better to do that then show kids that being an adult and working is a miserable slow-death.

tangozulu said...

Not the same! First off, you're in an implicit agreement with your friends and family that this is what you do and that they've accepted it. (I'm counting Lisa as family.)

That pilot you know has only the agreement with himself if that counts. No one else is aware of the full view.

Second, don't your friends and family want you to be happy too? It's not only your relationship with them, but their relationship with you that counts. Again, your friend is doing things one-sided.

Anonymous said...

In flying usually you have to sacrifice a lot for little reward (other then flying) for the first few years. I have met many pilots girlfriends and wives who have moved from nice places to not so nice places in the name of flying. I know people who don't see their kids for months(!) at a time. I have also seen people who have at the eleventh hour quit their training or even after they were trained, quit flying so they could get a different job to make a good life for their family.

My spouse and I have held off buying a place to live until we could afford it. Thank you flying! I feel guilty that my husband and I have to live in a crappy place while I pursue my dream. I am going to keep flying because we have spent too much money to stop, and in return I will try and be the best wife and the best pilot possible because that is the only way I can repay his sacrifice.

I have to say though, missing an event or two due to work is not that selfish. It's just a fact of life. If you were a Doctor, or worked in the oil patch in Alberta you would also probably have to miss stuff. It's not even close to being in the same league as cheating on your wife!

Flying High said...

Stop worrying - they're completely different things!

Lisa knew what she was getting into when she married you - everything, the good and the bad. She wasn't blinkered in any way. That other pilot's poor partner(s), on the other hand, are having the truth hidden from them.

When I met my husband, I had a fair idea what I was getting into, and I never feel that he's being selfish. It's his job, after all, and the crappy rosters aren't his choice.

But infidelity, and particularly that sort - such scheming, for so long - is a completely different matter. Unforgiveable, if you ask me. And it's a choice, one that's very easy to opt out of, if you've got the self-restraint to keep your urges under control, that is... It's so sad some people choose to live like that, isn't it.

Aluwings said...

"...I am honest about my selfishness"

A good insight and a starting point at least.

I know airline pilots who stayed relatively junior their whole careers because they wanted to promote faster up the ladder to bigger airplanes and the Captain's stripes. Others were satisfied to remain on smaller equipment with less pay in order to gain relative seniority on that type, and have time off at home with their family and control of working conditions.

We make our choices. And reap the consequences.

Cpt. J's Wife said...

I knew that there would be missed events when I married a pilot. I throw temper tantrums on occasion ... Lucky for me, I have access to check his schedule if need be - there is rarely a question.

Anonymous said...

Although there is no doubt that what your pilot friend is doing is deceitful...You must ask yourself...Is what he's doing directly affecting his partners? As far as they are concerned they are engaged in a perfectly happy relationship with him. They are satisfied. He is satisfied.

If he is not married then he is not bound to any person, nor committed. And this means HIS happiness comes before others. What he is doing is not actually wrong until they become aware of it, and even then...he put his happiness before their own, its human nature. This only becomes a problem when you put your own happiness before that of someone who you supposedly care for more than yourself.

Aviatrix said...

I seem to be the only commenter who hasn't read this post as a "what am I doing in this profession?" introspection. Maybe it's because I saw the love for that woman glowing out of his eyes before I even met her.

Sulako, do keep us updated on the inevitable spectacular resolution to the spreadsheet-driven pilot's schedule.