Sunday, August 10, 2008

An early garbage e-mail

One of my earliest e-mail experiences occurred in 1994, when I worked for Horizon Airlines. Though it wasn’t especially inspiring, it was memorable. As a multitasking ramp-worker, one of my duties included emptying the trash from the aircraft. More often than not, as the flight attendant handed us his or her rubbish, the bags would leak onto the stairs leading out from the plane. After witnessing dozens of these syrupy incidents, it became clear that we needed to take some simple measures to improve this safety and health hazard.

I wrote a letter to corporate headquarters, suggesting that we conduct some tests, using higher quality garbage bags. After a few weeks, one of our managers handed me a three-page printout, which consisted mostly of middle managers e-mailing each other back and forth, mostly making wisecracks about my suggestion. This left a bad impression on me. Not only that, I wondered if it was; a glimpse of what this company was evolving into; another fat-cat corporation, overstuffed with middle managers piddling around their cushy desks, while being heavily subsided by our government.

This was the first time I worked at a place, where the corporate headquarters was in a separate state from the job. This did not seem healthy. In one of their first cost-cutting measures, they slashed our stations highly qualified safety-training officer. Soonafter, one of the new employees almost walked into a running airplane plop as he tried throwing the GPU’s electrical cord out of the passenger pathway. When Skippy our (corporate-tool) manager heard about this, the best he could do was mark a “must read” onto his office board in bold chalk that proclaimed, “Do not walk into the airplane props!”

Several other noteworthy incidents along these same lines occurred, that I would like to write about soon.


  1. This post was pretty disturbing... Damn, I could never work that close to a live propeller. Imagine that--your first mistake would probably be your last ever.

  2. That wasn’t our only “near-miss” with a prop either. A few winters later, I was preparing to marshal out a nearly full plane, when suddenly a seemingly crazy woman climbed over the six-foot (non-barb-wired) fence and came sprinting toward the cabin door. I surely thought that she was trying to end her life as she came with a foot or two from being clipped by the running prop. But no, that wasn’t the case at all. After nearly intersecting with the prop, she proceeded to tap on the closed cabin door.

    At first, we didn’t know what to think. As she ran by the prop, I signaled the pilot to cut the engine, which he did, although he decided to keep engine two running. Then they opened the door to figure out what the great problem was. Did somebody forget an important item? Did she miss her flight? No, her boyfriend was late checking in and that why she went to the trouble to jump the fence! And unbelievably, our ticket agents actually let him get on the plane after a slight delay! Later, one of the rampers in the back room made a joke that the fence jumper must have wanted to get rid of her boyfriend terribly, because she probably had some vast plan to paint the town and party that night in Sun Valley. That was probably around 1997. I wonder how the TSA would deal with a similar incident these days.

    Also, I remember reading back in those days that we had an average of one propeller death per year in airports across America. Props are very unforgiving.


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