The Inuit, the malamute and the tanker pilot (Part-1)

Th Inuk, the malamute and the tanker pilot

Akna and I just got laid off. Me, I knew it was coming, that it was just a matter of time. What did I expect? 50+, no niche competencies, deep brown. And a boss like Nurse Ratched who loved giving me a B- in everything.

But Akna took it hard. Akna Apkulaq had received her AI certification just last month. An AI certification in the aviation industry is a very big deal. An Authorized Inspector (AI) certifies an aerospace component as airworthy and has a seal given by the FDAA. If she refuses to put that seal on the RCRA of that thingamabob inside the turbofan, your jet won’t fly. Simple as that. It was inexplicable she got the pink slip. But shit happens, what can you say.

Kenny and Melodie decided to take Akna and me to Jacque’s, down at the Chambly that evening, to chill us out, like. A lay-off produces a very predictable series of reactions from the poor sucker who get’s laid off. First, the disbelief – how can it be me? They need me. It’s all a mistake. I’ll call HR. Second, anger – Damn the m—-r f—–rs, they’ll grovel and beg me to come back when the XT1020 blade design needs tweakin’. Third, resignation – What the f—k, I’m getting drunk. F—k everybody, f—k the world. And finally, raw terror – What am I goin’ ta do, with the new Subaroo?

By chilling us out at Jacques, the guys hoped to get Akna and me to step-3 above, soon as possible. Me, I’ve been on step-3 all my life. At my age, you know you’re going to get what’s coming to you. You take it a day at a time and try to make a joke out of everything.

But Akna was having a meltdown. Someone called her home and got her husband, Timmy Stanton, to join us at the bar. When we arrived, Timmy was already on his second soda. Timmy Stanton is a burly salt and pepper haired military transport pilot flying KC-135 Stratotankers. He drinks as much as his tankers carry ATF. Except when he has to fly. While Melodie and Kenny set about trying to make Akna laugh, I buttonholed Tim, “What’s flyin’ a KC135 like?”

Timmy drawled, “The KC-135 is just a dirty olive green Boeing 707 without windows. Looks particularly sinister at night when you’re stealing up to it from behind, to hook up. And decidedly more unstable, what with all that ATF sloshing around. She is a really bouncy babe when she has offloaded the fuel. Like the way Akna was, on our honeymoon.” He looked over at her fondly and laughed. She was smiling now. We were relieved.

I said to Timmy jovially,” Well, son, if you’re using P&W power plants in your KC-135s, the beer is on me.”

“Unfortunately no. The complete inventory of 36 birds in the Canadian Air Force has just been re-engined with GE’s CFM56 Turbofans.” I had had two Jack Daniels by then and didn’t give a flying f— what engines the tankers had on, so I just responded with a disinterested “Oh yeah?”

The gathering dispersed after an hour as the others had to get to work the next day. The mood was somber. Timmy was driving direct to CFB Montreal from Jacque’s. He had a flight to CFB, Goose Bay, Labrador, from where a squadron of CF18s were going to join him on a transatlantic ferry flight to RAF Lakenheath, in England.

I offered to drive Akna home, while the others followed in a convoy behind. Akna is an Inuk. An Inuk is singular, while Inuit is plural. An Inuk is known in the western world as an Eskimo, which they see as a disparaging reference. So, if you call a burly Inuk an eskimo, you might find a seal hook up your extreme southern end before you can say ‘Jack Robinson’.

As we turned into Akna’s driveway, her house exploded into a series of howls and barks. And the second she opened the front door, a huge shaggy beast threw himself at her. He had a flowing white mane, with a streak of black running between his alert blue eyes. And a very large, very bushy tail.

“Qannik! Qannik baby!” Akna cooed, “he’s a malamute,” she explained, “cute, isn’t he? Malamutes are sled dogs. In Siberia, they’re called huskies. Qannik is Inuktitut for ‘snowflake’. Just give him a while to used to you.”

Qannik left her for a moment and came up and sniffed me all over, circling around and deliberately brushing hard against my leg. He forced my legs apart with his massive head and walked through under, his tail wagging furiously, taking a vicious swipe at my nuts while he passed under. He then turned around and walked back through. He went on doing this, each time giving my tootsies a hard swat with his wagging tail. Didn’t bother me none. They weren’t much use nowadays anyway. I stood there nervously, not moving.

By now Kenny and Melodie were right behind on the front porch, laughing at my discomfort. The evening had changed. The somberness had disappeared. We stayed back for just one drink and, after making sure Akna would be ok, went our separate ways.

I met Akna a week later with Timmy at the old port. She was doing well, had a job and all and still had her new Subaru. We sat and talked about Qannik and sled dogs over a coffee. Interesting creatures, awesomely cute.

(to be continued…)

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