By Mark W. Danielson
When it comes to flying for an airline, everything is seniority based. Presumably, every new pilot that's hired is equally qualified and will eventually make captain. In most cases, this system works well because it eliminates age, sex, race, and religion bias. Your date of hire not only determines when you can upgrade seats, meaning higher pay, but it also determines your monthly flight schedule. You see, pilots bid on their flight schedules each month, so while those who are very senior can hand-pick their trips, the bottom-feeders get whatever’s left over. As such, every junior pilot can’t wait for those senior to them to retire or bid onto a different aircraft so they can move up in seniority. Of course, no one likes to hear about their fellow pilots dying, but whenever such news breaks out, pilots can’t help but to check the deceased’s seniority number. Trust me, as morbid as this may sound, it happens all the time.
Of course, seniority knows no borders. On layovers, while crossing busy streets, senior pilots are expected to cross first. That way, if anything happens, the junior pilot will move up a notch. And while a senior pilot may remind a junior pilot to fasten his/her seat belt, you’ll rarely find a junior pilot reciprocating. No sir, no ma’am; this way, if something bad happens, they’ll move up another notch. It’s the cold hard truth.
Now, we all know about the recent peanut butter scare about salmonella that's left yet another industry crippled. Among the reportedly tainted products are peanut butter crackers; the six pack that makes for a great snack. Give me one of those and a Diet Coke and I'm good for at least three hours. That is, unless I get food poisoning--and die. I've had several bouts with food poisoning overseas, and I'm sure it would be a horrific way to go.
So, with seniority in mind, I have to wonder is this why my first officer kept offering me his six pack of peanut butter crackers? Did I mention that he’s a farm boy from South Carolina where they grow lots of peanuts? Now, I’m not accusing him of anything, but I do find it interesting that he always placed them in plain site, but never once touched them on any of our ten flights together. Later, he jokingly said that he offered these crackers to all of his captains. Hmmm. Something ain’t right here. Of course, I can’t be positive that he was trying to poison me until the next scare comes along--say with cheese crackers. Then if he offers me cheese crackers instead of peanut butter, I’ll know for sure. Until then, I’ll willingly chock up his cracker offer as an act of kindness, but I’ll still bring my own snacks and drink water from a sealed bottle.