By A Pilot


You know the joke at the party: "How do you know someone is a pilot or vegan or has an MBA? They will tell you within the first 5 minutes of meeting them."

Being a pilot is only fabulous, invoking romantic ideas or even envy at a party with losers with MBA's present. Real life looks a bit different. Here are some life hacks for pilots that have served me well over the years.

If you arrive at your accommodation in the dark after a long day of flying, and you can count more than say 5 cockroaches one-time, when switching on the lights, boil the kettle. Pour the first boiled water down the walls to actively kill the visible cockroaches, this way their eggs don't survive and you don't have dead insects squashed all over your walls. Boil another full kettle and pour the water down the sink. The third one pour down the drain in the shower/bath. This way you take out most of them for a night and make sure their usual breeding cycle is slightly interrupted.

After this you check out the bed. Remove the sheet carefully, if one is present. If the mattress looks like it is alive, take talcum powder or baby powder or similar and pour it all over the mattress in a solid looking, thick layer. If the powder is fine enough, the bed bugs and mites and the like will inhale it and die. Pilot: 2, Goggas: 0!

Before buying anything in a new country, buy yourself a coffee. That'll give you a good idea of the exchange rate and the purchasing power of the currency of the country you're in. You know what it costs back home, now you can relate better to the local notes and coins.

Soak all vegetables and fruit that you buy in vinegar water for an hour before cutting or eating them. This way you might be lucky to hold off the squirts a little while longer. Take out the fruit and while the vinegar water is draining away, add some baking powder or Epsom salts into the water to try and get the stinky stuff in the pipes to dissolve at least a little bit.

Upon leaving the room, use a Gautrain Card or similar to put into the hotel key card slot, so that your aircon stays on, even when you leave the room. Should you be in a crew accommodation where the AC costs extra, and they didn't tell you, and its Friday afternoon and you're just supposed to wait until Monday, sweating like a pig being led to slaughter:

Go to the main switch board of the apartment building, probably located in the basement/cellar/ ground floor and switch off the entire bloody building at the mains. Wait a few minutes. Switch the mains back on and go back to your room. The AC will be working nicely the whole weekend. If the caretaker comes Monday to supply the remote for the aircon, and the ice-cold air from your apartment makes his hair swim back stroke as you open the door: deny, deny, lie.... Especially when he arrives with the local electrician because an electrical fault was reported on Friday late afternoon.

I think you are starting to get the picture, dear reader: life as a pilot is not as glamourous as the people might think. Regarding the invites from the villagers for local cuisine or just any restaurant up in Africa: don't eat prawn curry or unknown spicy foods before a flight the next day. Especially in countries where the cool chain can't be upheld. If you have to eat to be courteous, make a nappy out of the bath towel the next day and sit securely in the cockpit when the pax arrive, without moving. The homemade nappy will perhaps be enough to not spoil your hot sheep wool seat and hold off the worst smells if you got Delhi belly. Stay seated after landing until the last person has left except for your driver fetching you so you can get a drip set asap.

I never travel anywhere without rehydrate for that is also the best hangover cure. My personal favourite is Cream Soda flavour. We call it Cream Sober...

Rennies are a good source of potassium, never mind that it helps against heart burn. If you don't have any, chew 6 almonds until there's almost nothing left of them in your mouth. Sorts out any reflux one-time. Always travel with magnesium and omegas as well. After a regular night on the 00, you'll need the magnesium in order to avoid muscle cramps.

Anytime I get to a new accommodation I check out where North is. It'll give a better picture and situational awareness. Also always know what your general heading is after takeoff, in case the GPS screens go black in the heat. That has happened a few times. Also: jot down estimates for TMA and destination while taxiing already, because you know they're going to ask for it just after rotation.

For the dustier parts up in Africa, use a salt spray for your nose in the evenings. You'll sleep better and will have less painful sinuses when climbing and descending, and be under less pressure...

On the weekends when it is finally time for a braai and you forget to take some Jet or Avgas from the plane: A crumpled paper towel soaked in cooking oil starts the braai just as nicely. If the local steaks are tough: marinade one side of the steak in Mustard and spices. Put the naked side of the steak onto the grid first and roast it that side down for a good while. The mustard trickles down into the meat and will make sure that it gets a bit more tender due to the vinegar content. If the steak is of questionable origins, and you don't really know what you're eating: the mustard will make it taste better as well. In fact, after a while, that's the only way you'll like your steak.

ALWAYS use Peaceful sleep or Tabard around the braai. Spray yourself stukkend with Anti-Brumm or whatever brand you can get every 4 hours. Bring enough to share. There's always that one colleague...If you do get bitten, use pawpaw gel for the bites.

More on infected bites in hot humid climates in the next instalment...that reminds me: always look under the mattress for spiders. A bite from a sac spider will get infected and the scar will stay with you for rest of your exciting pilot life...

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