Words on Wednesday
It was a few months later that I ran into Captain Bill Atwater, rather accidentally at the Thursday evening Farmer’s Market in San Luis Obispo. SLO as the locals loved to call it.
Alan and I had driven our motorcycles that morning down to SLO, a small gem of a town, nestled along the coast between San Fran and LA. Alan had attended school at CalPoly and still had some connections.
Earlier in the day we had visited the Jet Center and the FBO at the airport to see if there were any jobs to be had. I didn’t really want to go back to charter flying or flight instruction, but with the way things were, I would be fortunate enough to get any job. Since the weeks and months following the terrorist events in New York, the airlines and air travel took the hardest hit. Airlines cut schedules. Aircraft were being retired. Many smaller airline companies had gone belly up. Furloughs had started. And junior officers were the first to go.
“John! Fancy running into you here,” Bill exclaimed as he slapped me across the shoulders. “Have you met Jill, my wife?”
“No. How do you do? This is my friend Alan.” I responded.
“What are you doing here?” Bill insisted.
“Alan and I rode down here this morning. He always spoke so highly of the Farmer’s Market that I decided to check it out. Are you retired then? I heard you say, you were going to settle here?” I asked in return.
“Yes, December 1st. That business back in September was a terrible business. I was given the choice to leave early and I decided to. There was nothing left to keep going on. So here we are. Jill and I moved in just before Thanksgiving and it is splendid.” Bill responded profusely.
“What are you doing these days? I heard several first officers were let go…”
“Yes. Still looking for jobs. That is why Alan and I are here. We were at the SLO airport this morning.”
“Sorry to hear that. If this was a few years ago, I would have been in a tight spot. As it is, I am in a tight spot. I have been trying to get in at SLO as well. No charter jobs. Just flight instruction at the FBO. These day, there are hardly any new students. The industry has been hit hard!” Bill pondered the gloomy future.
“Have you had dinner yet?” Jill asked. “A friend of mine has opened this neat restaurant a block away from here. Bill and I were going to try it tonight. Why don’t you and Alan join us?”
So it happened, that Alan and I had dinner with Bill and Jill that night. It was as we parted ways that Bill said: “Why don’t you talk to Teddy? Jill and I were over in Lancaster visiting for Thanksgiving and he was talking about a flight school in Mojave looking for instructors. They also have a test school there I think.
“Okay,” I had responded.
At that moment, even I couldn’t have fathomed what was in store for me.