Author Archives: drsuzannem

Bladder Cancer – A Family Experience

The memory of my grandfather standing in our powder room struggling with his ileostomy bag is indelibly printed in my brain.  My grandparents had come to visit with my parents and the bag had leaked.  PawPaw never had a cross word for anyone and he didn’t talk much.  Andy always said PawPaw was a lot like God.  He didn’t have a lot to say, but when he did say something, you needed to listen.

That would be their last visit to our home in Fayetteville, Georgia.  PawPaw would leave us about five years later, with my stepfather at his side.  His cause of death would be bladder cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, complicated by medical malpractice.  He would have died, anyway, but his doctor’s incompetence hastened his death and deprived my grandfather of the comfort he deserved.  

The night my grandfather died, he watched his nightly quota of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, then looked over at my stepfather and told him he was going on a trip.  He asked if my stepfather was going with him.  My dad said no, and PawPaw told him he would be waiting for him.  In a few minutes, PawPaw was gone.

Now my husband is fighting bladder cancer.  The doctor who diagnosed him said that treatments had changed and my grandfather’s cystoscopy “was likely performed with a candle.”  I thought that was rude and unnecessary, and a bit cavalier.  He told us that the standard of care for Bob’s type of bladder cancer was treatments with BCG, but said he could not get the drug since it is in scarce supply.  

I am not one to sit back, so we called Dr. James Bennett, who successfully treated Bob for prostate cancer more than 10 years ago.  Dr. Bennett said yes, there is an international shortage of BCG, but he could get some for Bob.  BCG infusions are done weekly for six weeks and are followed by a cystoscopy every three months for the first year.

Dr. Bennett knows I am a nurse and has allowed me to observe during the procedures.  During his second procedure, six months after the completion of the first round of BCG treatments, a new tumor was evident.  In the midst of Covid, Bob was admitted to Emory Midtown and his bladder was resected.  Once his bladder had a chance to heal from the resection, he underwent another series of six weekly BCG treatments.  These were much worse than the first, and he was sick after each one.  He’s finished the six treatments but he is still having issues.

As I sit here and wait for his tests to be completed, I am trying to channel the stoicism of my grandparents.  It isn’t working but I’m trying.  Bob is so calm and is taking everything in stride, while I internalize my stress.  

I wish I could predict the future.  I wish I knew what lies ahead.

My First Best Shopping Experience

 

I have exactly four hours to find the right shoes for Andy’s wedding and get back to the hotel before Netjets sends me my brief.  I can’t believe they won’t let me just go home, but a night out in Atlanta isn’t all bad. My new friend Steven is picking me up at the FBO to take me shopping and he insists we go to Saks.  Geez.  I can’t afford Saks.  I’m paying for this stupid rehearsal dinner and no one has even RSVP’d but I know at least 40 people are showing up.  I don’t have the money to buy shoes, too, but my flying boots won’t go with my gold dress.  At least in my uniform I won’t be tempted to shop for anything besides shoes.

“May I help you?” this nice young man asks.  He isn’t that young.  He’s about my age.  He’s nicely dressed and his tie complements the color of his short.  He isn’t pushy, but I know he’s there.  Steven steps in a little closer.

“I’m looking for shoes for my son’s wedding.”

“Oh my, how exciting!” the salesperson exclaims.  He tells me his name is Jonathan.  “Tell me about your dress.  What color is it?”

I describe the dress and he gets the vision before he guides me over and to exactly what I need.

Steven is impatiently waiting.  I know he wants to get something to eat, but for once I’m really having fun with shopping.  Girl clothes aren’t something I do often, nor even something I do very well.

“Can you hurry up?” Steven asks.

“Give me a minute,” I tell him.  “My son’s wedding is a big deal and I need to look like I’m having fun, whether I am or not.”

Steven sighs and rolls his eyes.  Jonathan is quick to jump in.

“Do you need jewelry to accent the neckline of your dress?” he asks.  “I think I know just what you need.  Judith Ripka would be perfect and within your price range.”

By now, Steven has rolled his eyes so many times that I’m pretty sure he’s seen his brain at least twice.  He sighs loudly.

I follow Jonathan over to one of the jewelry counter.  This is beautiful.  A necklace and earrings.  I’m going to look great.  I hand over my Visa. I sense Steven’s impatience.

“Steven, seriously? Why don’t you go get something to eat and I will call you when I’m back in town. I’ll get a taxi back to the hotel.”

“Fine,” he says, as he turns and I watch him exit.  I breathe a sigh of relief.  I didn’t like him much, anyway.

“Now what about a handbag?” Jonathan asks.  “A Judith Lieber is timeless and if anything ever goes wrong with it, they’ll repair it.”

I don’t even know who Judith Lieber is but I follow him to yet another area of the store.  He pulls out a gorgeous bag that is covered with tiny crystals.

“It will only hold your car keys and lipstick, but that’s all you need.”  I whip out my credit card, once again, realizing that I need to work at least 5 extended days this next month to pay for the damage.

But how good it feels.  For a few hours, Jonathan has helped me feel my feminine side.  For a few hours, I have escaped being Captain Greenway and have just enjoyed being a “girl.”

I never saw Steven after that day, but my friendship with Jonathan is stronger than ever, after 19 years and all kinds of life changes.  Jonathan provides a level of service that keeps his customers coming back.  Successful personal selling requires building a relationship with your customers, a concept that many salespeople do not understand.  Even when I was on an extremely tight budget, I was always treated like I was valued.  To quote Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you did but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”

Aviation and Gender Bias

I learned to fly to fly before I learned to drive.  Going to the airport and getting in a plane is as normal to me as getting in a car is to anyone else. I started to work when I was 13 years old and saved every penny I made to pay for my flying.  It was my dad’s airplane, but I had to pay for part of it.  That’s who he was – he was a “you don’t get something for nothing” kind of person.  By the time I was 16, I was holding down three jobs and maintaining straight As in school.  I wanted to fly in the military, but they didn’t allow women at that time.  So I stuck it out and worked hard.  I detoured my career, was successful enough to retire at 43, then pursue my passion.

I never asked for special treatment.  I never complained when I was flying night freight that some of the freight hangars didn’t have women’s restrooms.  I used the nasty restrooms with the men and never thought twice.  I used the pallet jack to move truck transmissions off the back of the DC-4 in Detroit. I’ve climbed on the wing of a DC-4 to measure the fuel level in the main tanks, and I’ve pumped oil out to the engines during flight.  I’ve flown powerful people into Aspen, Colorado, where every approach requires precision and finesse.  I’ve flown into East Hampton, New York, and into Ocean Reef, Florida, on Key Largo.  These are challenging runways, short and narrow, not runways that are two miles long.

About a year ago I read an email forwarded from Leonard Brunasso, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot who is now a check airman for Omni Air.  The email was titled “The Age of the 707/DC-8” and it begins, “Those were the good ole days.  Pilots back then were men…”  You can just guess how far it went downhill from there, as he went on to insult every category of people except for white male pilots. From what I can gather, taxpayers paid for Leonard’s flight training in the Air Force.  He refers to pilots “in the good ole days” as real men and refers to flight attendants as stewardesses who appreciated a little sexual harassment, and were “proud to be combatants in the sexual revolution.”  He went on to say these women didn’t have any “plastic or composites” in their pectoral regions.

Rarely am I offended, but having been subjected to blatant sexual harassment and abuse in the cockpit, I have a few things to say to Leonard.  I am beyond angry.  I am furious.  I am sad.  I am, unfortunately, flooded with memories of clowns just like this guy who didn’t think I belonged.  The ones who objectified women.

I’ve taught over 1000 people to fly and I have an impeccable record.  I’ve shared my love of aviation with literally thousands of people.

I’ve endured sexual harassment in every form possible.  I had to sit through an oral exam for 8 hours for a multi-engine rating, purely because the check airman didn’t think women should fly.  I’ve had a check airman stalk me and a chief pilot try to push himself in my hotel room.  There was no question what was on his mind.

During nursing school, I would instruct in the wee hours of the morning and then go to the hospital in Charlotte for clinicals, then I’d go to the airport and fly afterwards.  And I kept my grades up while I was doing it.  I am as proud of my RN as I am my ATP and CFI.

I learned instrument flying with nothing more than needle, ball, and airspeed.  I’ve made the decision to go or not, when flying fuel to some of the most remote villages in Alaska in a DC-4.  I’ve manually calculated how much fuel to take on, and looked at prog charts to see whether it was even safe to go.  I didn’t have dispatch to calculate weight and balance for me, tell me how the weather was, and determine whether I’d be released to fly or not.  I made those decisions, on my own.

I worked my way into the cockpit with my skills and abilities to fly.  I’ve been pinched, grabbed in inappropriate places, and even been physically assaulted by other pilots.  I’ve been asked whether I ever felt guilty taking a job away from some poor man trying to feed his family and when I’ve adjusted the temperature in the cockpit, I’ve been asked if I was having hot flashes.  I knew when someone was having fun and when the line was being crossed.

When I first became a flight instructor, there were only about 4000 women in the US with commercial pilot certificates.  I was one of the youngest, since I was only 18.  Today, 40 years later with my Airline Transport Pilot certificate, I am one of only about 8000, still only about 6% of all pilots.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.  I’ve got more than 45 years in the cockpit plus I’ve earned a PhD, started 4 successful businesses, and have tried to be the best person I can be.  I’m happily married to a retired Delta pilot who recognizes and appreciates my brains and my talent.

I want to say all kinds of ugly things to Leonard, but it would do no good.  I just hope that someday, this brand of pilots is replaced by kinder, more respectful human beings, by people who don’t care whether you are male or female, provided you can competently perform your duties in the cockpit or in the cabin.

Today I read a Facebook post where someone shared an article about a crash.  There were no women involved in the crash, but he prefaced his comments by saying he knew a woman who had slept her way into the right seat of one of these jets.  He went on to say she bragged about it, and that he respected my record and my professionalism.  I know he does; I value his friendship.  But why is it necessary to comment on one random woman, when her situation is totally unrelated to this crash?  Why not talk about the incompetent men who make it to the left or right seat because they know someone or because they have the money to persist?  Or the man who carries a flight bag full of porn on every flight?  Incompetent men exist, but why do aviators only highlight the women?  Misogyny?

Honestly, I just wish people would accept other people for who they are.  Be kind.  And stop spreading messages that promote hate.

Link

My father is furious.  My mother is ready to kill me.  Daddy’s gone through the time on the engine and my mother has gone through her gas card receipts and they know what I’ve been up to.  My weekly trips to the beach have to stop.  I’ll never forgive the line boy at the Myrtle Beach airport.  He said to my dad, “What are you doing flying Suzanne’s airplane?”

I could have gotten away with my scheme for all four years of college if he hadn’t opened his big mouth.  My girlfriends and I only went once a week and our grades were good. We never skipped the same class two weeks in a row.  Who were we hurting?  Well, maybe we were hurting my chemistry grade, but I really didn’t care.  I hated that class.

My mother tells me that there is a job opening at a local hardware store.  I’m to report on Monday morning.  She has it arranged already.  I’ll be working in the toy department, since I’m not exactly a tools and hardware type of person.  This is horrible.  This place is smelly and the aisles are crowded. It is a place where I would never go voluntarily.  I am pissed.  Maybe I should steal the plane and run away again.

I show up at work and learn the various boring things that I’m supposed to do.  I walk around and look at the toys, wind a few up just to be obnoxious, then go back to the counter and hang out.  The more I can wind up, the more obnoxious the noise.

At the end of the day, I am informed of the closing routine, and know immediately I’m going to hate it.

“Suzanne, please get the vacuum and vacuum the aisles in the department, then wipe the counters so everything is spotless for tomorrow,” the boss demands.

One of the guys I’m working with is selling Amway.  He sees this as a temporary job, though I have my doubts he will ever get rich with any kind of multi-level marketing.  He goes to all of these meetings that are kind of like pep rallies.  He tries to get me to go.  No, thank you.

I see this job as a sentence to hell.

I wonder if vacuuming is my job because I’m the only girl but I bit my tongue.  How do you turn on a vacuum?  I am not going to ask for help.  I can figure this out.  If I can fly a plane I can do anything.  I find the switch and start to vacuum.

On Aisle 3 I confront the biggest cockroach I’ve ever seen.  I quickly suck that bastard up with the vacuum cleaner before it can get away.  I finish and I go home, but not before I stop at the library and look up alternate careers.  My mother may have squashed any dreams of a career in interior design, but I can do better than this.

And I did.

Facing my fears plus other observations on Ghana

We got up early today and traveled out to the Kakum National Park.  No one will believe this but I am TERRIFIED of heights. I have been obsessing over the rope bridge at Kakum National Park since our very first planning meeting.  One way or another, I was going to do it.

Anyone who knows me well knows that besides a fear of heights, I have some social anxieties and I have to push myself sometimes.  This entire trip has required me to push myself outside my limits, but now I’m comfortable with these people.  At dinner last night, John and I were teasing each other about going across the bridge, and I told him if I could then SURELY he could cross the bridge.  There was a fair amount of trash talking and ultimately neither one of us could get out of crossing that rope bridge, 100 feet in the air, over the tops of trees.  There are actually a totally of 6 or 7 bridges.  I’m not sure how many, but there are a lot!

We got up to the bridge and there was no question that I’d do it, but I was so scared.  I can’t even describe my level of fear.  “The only thing you have to fear is fear itself” was said by someone who never looked down from a rope bridge in Ghana.  But we’re on this pilgrimage together, and nowhere was that more evident than today on the bridge.

In our group was a family from the UK with four children, one an infant in a carrier strapped to the front of the mom.  She’s currently teaching in Egypt and they’re here on holiday, and they all went over!  Do you think this made me less frightened?  No!  Not in the least!  I didn’t even think about them.  Instead, I obsessed over the number of people on the bridge.  The guide told us that the maximum was five.  FIVE!  Whatever happened to the elephants they said went across the rope bridges to test them?  Surely five of us wouldn’t weigh as much as an elephant!

I took the first step, petrified.  I started reciting to myself the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, the 23rd Psalm, and all the other prayers I’ve ever memorized throughout my lifetime.  Then I started singing to myself.

Whether Shanna and Sharon have superhero hearing is something I’ll never know for sure, but Shanna said look at the back of her head and step with her.  I counted every single hair on the back of her head.  She stepped and I stepped.  Then Sharon started asking me questions.  I didn’t forget my fear of plummeting 100 feet to my death, but I was distracted enough that I can’t remember the exact number of bridges that I crossed.  I just know it was a lot.

John and Gale also made it across, and the three of us joined hands to help hold each other up as we went up and down the hills through the jungle.  I had left my cane in the bus and I am so proud of how well I did.  This entire trip has been one giant leap of faith after another.  I’ve made new friends and I’ve learned a lot about myself.

But I never need cross another rope bridge again in my life.

What am I going to do with my Dad?

For the record, I’m really talking about my dad’s ashes.  My dad died in 2016.  He is sitting in an urn in our living room, and I seem to get some sort of odd comfort in knowing where he is.  I didn’t really give this question much thought until our Boxing Day party, when a friend asked me who was sitting on the fireplace.  It took me a minute to realize he was talking about my dad.  This led to a discussion of scattering ashes and how to memorialize someone who has been cremated.

I love cemeteries.  I’ve been actively involved with Riverside Cemetery since we moved to Macon.  I love to go out and walk and look at the graves.  I love knowing where my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried.  But what am I going to do with Daddy?

At some point, my dad told someone he wanted his ashes scattered at Hanna Park in Jacksonville.  He might have told me; to be perfectly honest, my memory is fuzzy on some things.  There were a few things I really wanted to forget.  But I can’t scatter him.  I just can’t.

Part of it is the issue of memorializing, and this was my friend’s objection to scattering.  I find comfort in bringing flowers and going to the cemetery.  If I scatter him, how will anyone know where he is?  How will anyone remember he was even here?  Will anyone care?  Who will remember him when I’m gone? How do we memorialize him?

My step-father’s ashes are at the National Cemetery in Salisbury, North Carolina.  I told my mother we could put the two of them together and then I would only have to make one visit.  I thought it was pretty funny but my mother didn’t.

I am the person who makes decisions.  My daughter and I planned my father’s funeral.  My brother has not been involved and has said he really doesn’t care.  I care enough for both my brother and me.

I just don’t know what to do with Daddy.  Do I scatter him, as he wished?  I’m not ready.  But he deserves to be memorialized somewhere.  I just don’t know where.

Suzanne

The Saga of the Missing Cat

In anticipation of my husband’s birthday party and 100 guests walking in and out of our home, we decided to board our cats with Plantation Animal Hospital, the veterinarian we had used for over three years in Macon, GA.  You can imagine our surprise when, on Friday afternoon, someone from the vet’s office called and asked us to come as soon as we could.  She was apologetic when she explained one of our cats, Chanel, had escaped.  The person who was moving the cats from their individual crates to the kennel had left both crates open, and at the same time had left a door to the outside propped open with a rock.

Chanel always tried to escape outside and this was exactly the reason we had decided to board them.  They would be safe, right?  Wrong. We made our way to the vet’s office and walked all around outside, calling Chanel and looking for signs of her.  Heartbroken, we went home after an hour of futile searching.

By Saturday afternoon, we were frantic and had exhausted our search efforts.  We posted photos and notices on social media and animal rescue sites, but we heard nothing. At 2:00 p.m., my very sad daughter posted a negative review on the veterinarian’s website, and got an immediate response:  they had found our cat and she was secure inside.  Soon after, I got an apologetic email from one of the vets, Dr. Susan Howard. It would be too little, too late.

Early Monday afternoon, my husband went to pick up the cats and bring them home.  You can imagine his surprise when our grey and white female cat had been transformed into a black male cat!  Surprise quickly turned to anger.  I was on a plane already for a business trip, so I was of no use.  All I could do was worry.  How could this be?  I had sent them photos of the cat.  They had records of the cat, so how could they confuse a black male with a petite grey female cat?  Had anyone even seen our cat?   Don’t cats have medical records?  Especially when this has been her vet for over three years and she had been boarded in the past?

We had two cats at the time, Chanel and Valentino. I had Chanel from the time she was a kitten and I inherited Valentino as an older cat, from my cousin, and he was not my favorite cat.  I had him only because my cousin’s dog kept trying to eat him, and I took him to keep him from going to a shelter.  But we never connected.  One of our grandsons said we needed to respect him anyway, because he was a cat. I could have dealt with losing Valentino, but not Chanel.

 On Monday night, four days later, and we still had no Chanel and no answers.  Chanel is the best pet I’ve ever owned, with the possible exception of my horse, and I was so angry.  Two weeks passed and still no answers.  Animal rescue groups shared my blog post and Plantation Animal Hospital blocked me on Facebook and Twitter.   My friends persisted in sharing “wanted” posters and in calling the vet.  I was heartbroken.  The vet used my photo and made a reward poster, which was shared throughout the area.  $500 for my cat.  They needed to do that.

Three weeks after Chanel disappeared, someone found her and claimed the reward.  She weighed less than 5 pounds.   The vet gave her IV fluids and checked her thoroughly.  We were finally able to bring her home.

This sounds like old news, and maybe it is, however just this past week I have had two friends who have had bad experiences with this same animal hospital.  I’ve had other friends whose cats have been lost by vets.

We’ve since found another vet that we like and Chanel seems okay with him.  The office is nice and they get us in fast.  I like them.  Two years later and we still don’t board Chanel when we travel.

I wish I could tell you how to find a good vet.  Get recommendations from trusted friends and read the reviews online.  Meet the doctor and the staff and ask questions.  Veterinarians are so specialized now and make sure the doctor you choose is comfortable with your breed.  You and your pet should both be comfortable.

What an experience!

 

Revising my father’s eulogy

I began the eulogy by saying the Webster Marlowe his friends in Palatka knew was not the same man I knew as my father.  I think I truly believed that until last Sunday, before I received a call from Patty.

Sunday started out like any other.  We woke up, showered, and went to choir rehearsal at Christ Church.  It should have felt good but it didn’t.  I didn’t feel right.  I wasn’t happy to be there.  It wasn’t anything particular; I knew the music and I love our choirmaster, but I just felt off.  I got the car keys from my husband and told him I would see him after church.  He was concerned, but I told him I was okay.  I just needed some time.   I needed to be.

I went out to the car and as soon as I opened the door my cell phone rang.  It was a number from Jacksonville, Florida, so I assumed it was Mayo Clinic or something.  Normally I would decline the call, but I hit the button and said hello.  The caller said she found my name when she was searching online for my father, Webster Marlowe.  Patty had been on a trip to Haiti with him and she found my blog post.  She said her plan was to build a hospital in Haiti with Daddy’s name on it.  She said she was honored to have helped him.   She talked of his hard work and his compassion.  The more she talked the harder I cried.  Then she gave me the phone number of another of Daddy’s friends, Donnie.

Donnie opened my eyes.  I knew my dad as an entrepreneur, a business owner, and as a person who was highly creative, but I never connected this with the man who seemed to be obsessed with Haiti. When I heard the story, though, I knew. It clicked.  Daddy was never one to turn down someone in need.  If a problem needed solving, Daddy would figure out how.  My mother reminded me how he once fixed an oil leak on our Cadillac by running a hose from the leak back into the engine.  My dad could fix anything.

On his first trip to Haiti, his job was to do handyman type work for the Baptist church.  He was to fix broken hinges and rehang doors; he was to do anything that required a hammer and a saw.  As he was working, a man approached with a wooden leg and carrying a piece of wood.  “Can you help me with a new leg?“ the man asked.  Daddy told him he didn’t know anything about that, but the man insisted that with his hammer and saw, Daddy had all the tools he needed.  The next morning Daddy was met by a larger group of amputees, each carrying wood and asking for help.  Webster Marlowe did not know how to say no to anyone who needed help. I’ve known this my entire life.

 

Donnie taught my dad how to use composites to make the legs and introduced him to a prosthetist in Gainesville who could help train him.  Someone else donated titanium.  Titanium! I introduced him to a prosthetist in Georgia, though I was never crazy about Daddy going to Haiti.  The demand grew and over the next 20 years, Daddy fixed and replaced all kinds of legs. He would get emotional as he talked about people who had worn out their legs, children coming back when they had outgrown their legs, and especially when he talked about how the demand outweighed his ability to supply.

While the Webster Marlowe of Palatka didn’t wear suits to work and didn’t drive the latest cars, he really was the same compassionate and caring man whom I called Daddy.  I’m closer to understanding why he was so drawn to Haiti, but I’m not quite there. What I do know is that my dad was a remarkable individual throughout his life, and maybe that is enough.

Making Connections

We were invited to a GPB dinner on Tuesday evening to share our ideas on one of our favorite shows, On Second Thought.  The show is taking a new turn, as the previous host stepped down for a new and wonderful adventure.  One of the reporters said she was from a small town in North Carolina, and I said I was from a small town outside of Greensboro.  She said she was, too, and it turned out she is from Trinity, about 15 miles from my home.  Trinity has a small airport, Darr Field, which is where I had my first flying lesson that really ignited my passion for aviation.  It was a wonderful conversation and we talked about some of the things we love about North Carolina.  We left with sense of just how connected we all are and how small the world really is.

And then today I received an email today from a man whose grandfather owned our (my!) airplane before my dad bought it.  He talked about flying with his grandfather to a baseball game between Kansas City and the New York Yankees, and how he got to see Mickey Mantle play.  I told him how Daddy flew my brother to Baltimore to see the World Series, around 1970, and how they flew to Indianapolis to the Indy 500.  He told me that his grandfather purchased a Cessna 210 after he sold the Cessna 172, N7214A, which he had owned in a flying club with three other pilots.  I told him how I stripped all the paint off the plane so that Daddy had no choice but to paint it yellow and white, just like I wanted.  He told me he was a commercial pilot and flew crop dusters.  I told him that was what I always wanted to do.

I’m always amazed by connections and how small the world truly is.   But right now, I just want to call my dad.  I want to tell him about the email and I want to tease him about taking Robert to the World Series and the Indy 500 instead of me.  I want to hear him laugh about losing his airplane the day I had the flying lesson at Darr Field.

I just want to remember.

 

 

#MeToo No More

From the beginning of my aviation career, I dealt with unwanted advances.  I’m reluctant to talk too much about it in my blog, because I just don’t want to ruin anyone’s life.  Maybe people have changed.  Maybe I’m just a wimp.  I am definitely going to talk about it in my book, but not here in my blog.

A few days ago, we got a death notice from the Delta Air Lines retired pilots network, and the person who died was truly one of the most obnoxious people I’ve ever met.  As I read his obituary, I wondered whether this was the same person whom I banished from my flight school and did everything possible to avoid at Netjets.

Let’s call him Steve.  The first time Steve came into the flight school in 1997, he was wearing a flight suit.  His smile was more like a leer than a friendly greeting and he had dog breath.  “You must know who I am,” he said.  No, I really didn’t, and based on this greeting I didn’t want to know who he was.  “Maybe I can take you out to dinner tonight.”  No, not in this lifetime he wouldn’t.  It wasn’t just his bad breath that was revolting.  It was the lewd and lascivious way he looked at me and how he couldn’t keep his eyes on my face.  I declined and said a silent prayer of thanks when my phone rang.  I ran into my office.

He always found reasons to come into the school.  We had a deli inside the flight school, the only food concession on the field.  We were also required by our lease to have a retail shop for charts and pilots supplies.  Most days I was able to escape, either by going flying or taking a phone call in my office.  Eventually, however, our paths crossed and I couldn’t escape.  Everyone else was out flying and I was manning the front desk.  In came George.

I’ll leave out the details but I ended up speaking with a member of the Airport Authority. I told him what had happened.  This is where I was at an extreme disadvantage.  This individual had greater status than I had and was highly respected.  He was connected with literally everyone.  It would be my word against his, and I could potentially lose a large block of business and  even my access to the mechanics.  But I wouldn’t compromise.

Soon he disappeared.  I began to relax.  Maybe he had found a new target for his crude behavior. I didn’t give him another thought.  He was gone and I was safe.

Or so I thought.  Three years later I was an airline pilot and was on the ramp at Teterboro.  By now I was accustomed to the bad behavior of a lot of pilots, and there he was in New Jersey.  In one of Nelson DeMille’s books, he said the only difference in pilots and pigs is that pigs don’t turn into pilots after two beers.  In George’s case, it didn’t even take one.  Right there on the ramp, he greeted me like we were old friends.  I was polite until he grabbed my tie and said, “You need a good man to show you how to tie this thing.”  I slapped his hand away and walked back into the FBO.  I did not report him.  All I wanted to do was fly.  I could handle this.

We would periodically cross paths on the road but he was based in Savannah and I was based in Atlanta, so it was infrequent.  “Another empty kitchen” was his favorite line.  Eventually enough flight attendants complained about him and he was let go from the airline.  I didn’t give him another thought until I read his obituary.

Maybe he turned his life around.  Maybe his children are responsible adults.  Maybe he is remembered as a loving husband and a loving father and grandfather.  He was apparently active in his church and in multiple community organizations.  Whatever.  I wish his family the best, but I will breathe a sigh of relief and  gratitude that I can go with Bob to Delta Retired Pilots activities and know I won’t run into this creep, ever again.

#MeToo No More.