Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SPEAKING FOR PAPA

Mekkar’s papa had to conduct a business trip to the United States. The father directed his oldest son to ready himself for the journey ahead. Yet, Henrik didn’t reveal any other details about the journey to come. Mekkar was even unaware of the destination or the nature of the trip at all. He thought this was odd, since usually his papa normally prepared him just in case Mekkar’s help was needed in any way.

They drove from the village on a bright sunny day to the closest airport, which was a little over one hundred miles (160.93 Kilometers) away. This trip by vehicle normally takes a couple of hours, in good weather. Right away, Mekkar began the journey speaking with his papa regarding a variety of subjects. Mekkar felt the give and take of conversation would make the drive pass more quickly. However, the reality set in, about fifteen to twenty minutes later Mekkar’s eyelids got heavier and he began to nod off. Soon the youngster, in the front passenger seat, fell asleep to the hum of the car’s motor.

Henrik continued to navigate the vehicle in a non-vocal manner. Mekkar slept all the way to their destination and awoke when they reached the long term auto parking area at the airport. Now, he needed to be alert to avoid mistakes and be at the right gate to board the correct flight. The boy thought it was good that his papa was a detailed individual who handled those minute details for him.

After waiting in the lounge for about thirty minutes to hear a voice over the speaker, it was time to get on the plane. Mekkar joined his papa, Henrik, in their first class seats. His papa never flew economy class. For a few main reasons: Flying coach would create an image that would negatively affect the company Henrik worked for. Secondly, the trips were usually long ones and there is more to be done. Not to forget Henrik, at six foot seven inches (2.0066 meters) tall, had a build that was larger than most people. Personal comfort was always a consideration. Henrik said that, for him, being at ease improved his   business interaction and success rates. On forays with his papa, Mekkar was a beneficiary of this projection of appearances due to his papa’s beliefs. The boy was not going to complain in the least. It was also the same when arriving at different places with his mama, Sirga, too. Both of Mekkar’ parents permanently spoiled him in this regard. Mekkar preferred travelling in style and had gotten a small taste of the good life. No return would ever be acceptable. Mekkar would only now fly economy on an air carrier that has no availability of better accommodations.

The first leg of the voyage was about a three and half hour flight to a much larger city to change planes. It is part of the airline’s hub and spoke timed interchange flight connection system. The larger metropolises are the hub where all flights meet and funnel out of spoke out to smaller destinations. Airlines claim it saves money and provides more service. Not surprisingly, many flyers are skeptical about those assertions.

This was not the first time Mekkar had been on this particular route. He had done this previously with Sirga. There was only a short wait until the next departure and that would be of a much longer duration. The pilots would direct them, high in the sky, over the polar route to Los Angeles. Mekkar watched a couple of movies, grubbed away, and napped some more. Fighting boredom was a difficult task. The youngster was aware of the fact there are a limited number of activities available inside a tube hurdling through the sky. Plus, due to their elevation he couldn’t see much out the windows of the jumbo jet either. At least, it was more comfortable in the non-coach area of the aircraft.

It was nighttime when they at last arrived in Los Angeles. Still, the city illuminated the evening horizon. Henrik and Mekkar’s body clocks needed to adjust to the local area. Both the boy and his papa were tired of travelling all day. Henrik figured they had logged a minimum of ten thousand global air miles in the past twenty four hours. Henrik told Mekkar that sightseeing of the famous movie industry and other locations would only occur after the main tasks were completed.

Accommodations had already been made to stay at one of the nicer local hotels. Mekkar knew that his papa would avoid a reservation too close to a busy airport like LAX. Thus, to be further away from the constant aviation landing, takeoff, traffic, and crowd noise. Avoidance of shaking and rumbling windows, as well as, the scream of powerful engines soaring into the night can affect a person’s sleep habits. The next morning, a limousine,  it was more like a shuttle van, came to pickup Henrik and Mekkar outside the hotel main entrance to take them southward toward San Diego.

In the van Mekkar’s papa only revealed their destination but little else. Henrik told him in a language that no one else there could understand them about this the situation. He said that this was a secret meeting involving a military nature. Henrik also mentioned from this point on, Mekkar could not speak of anything related to this matter for many years to come. The boy misinterpreted his papa’s warning, assuming that he must keep silent about the tasks ahead, forever. Mekkar was fine with that particular stand. Yet, he was still a curious boy. The shuttle dropped off a couple of people and picked up only one other person, a uniformed military man. Henrik figured that this individual must be going to the same place down south as they were. For the rest of the drive there were no more stopovers.

Mekkar had some scant knowledge of his papa’s flight skills and military training. Most of what he did know about his papa in those areas was from listening to stories told between the other adults in the sauna. Henrik would, once in awhile, contribute to the historical discussions and tell his own adventures that he participating in. Much of the conversation went back to World War II because their village was directly affected by it. However, Henrik was much too young to be of any effective armed resistance during that great-war period.

The oldest son, Mekkar, was proud of the fact his papa was the only accomplished jet pilot in the village. Airborne crop sprayers and small plane recreational flying was dismissed by Mekkar, in his mind. Only top-notch commercial jumbo and air force supersonic jets would suffice in the boy’s equations. After hearing these stories about his papa, Mekkar began to elevate his papa on a pedestal. Equaling him at the same level as other great historical flying aces and famous battle tested pilots of earlier times. Mekkar thought his papa was so cool and put him in his own category, a master of the air. Similar to the Red Baron, the boy read about in books.

However, the adolescent declined each time Henrik offered him a plane ride with him in the speedy aircraft he was required to test out. Mekkar was not excited by the possibility of losing his last meal, be rendered unconscious by the g-forces involved, or being inside a plane that was not fully tested. The boy didn’t want to suffer embarrassment, due to a failure to hack it. Also, Mekkar had a feeling if that were the case, the word would get back home and the teasing wouldn’t end for a long time. Thus, Mekkar never took advantage of any requests to go up into the sky. Still, Henrik continued to ask every so often if his son wanted to fly with him. Yet, he was always rebuffed by Mekkar. Henrik’s attitude was ok but you are missing out on a unique experience. Mekkar interpreted it as a probable plane crash would be a rare event also.

Henrik was required during these assessment flights to conduct maneuvers to demonstrate the flying machine’s full capacities. His job included an evaluation process to be done in these prototype jets. Questions must be answered whether the planes functioned as they were originally intended and which improvements were required before full production. Henrik would test the limits of these original aircraft far before they reached full capacity status. After a number of flights or more Mekkar’s papa would land the plane, then get out, and pointed out flaws to improve the flying mechanism’s capabilities. He would also suggest needed upgrades and other aspects based on his electronics and avionics expertise. If other pilots were involved, the cockpit might be reset back to normal. As they were modified to accommodate the large physical specimen that Henrik was. Mekkar’s papa, as a full grown adult, was considered too large to be a pilot according the size and space restrictions of the time. Despite his body structure Henrik was adaptable and could take the controls of just about any aircraft in the skies. Even if the instrumental panel labeling was in an unfamiliar language, he had the knack to figure it out anyway.

On the other hand, Sirga was always worried that she would be the recipient of bad news. She expected that one day she would see an unwelcomed government official or military officer. Sirga continually worried about an approach to the front door of the family home with news that her husband’s test plane had crashed. She was afraid of that dreaded announcement regarding his death as a result of an accident. The good thing is that it never happened. Mekkar and his mama mainly thought that Henrik was fortunate or just lucky perhaps. From time to time, Henrik would fill in and join the crews of the national airline. Henrik flew their commercial jets on various travel routes just because he loved to fly and he was great at it. The company smartly took advantage of his services due to a seeming shortage of good pilots. Once in awhile, Mekkar went along on a few of those flights to destinations all over the globe.

Even though he can’t recall who first mentioned it, Mekkar had previously been told by someone about his papa’s exploits as a fighter pilot. Part of the epic included Henrik as a young air enemy hunter in the Korean conflict on the side of the United States and United Nations led Allied forces. Henrik’s true age was fibbed so he could appear older to manage the jets of the time. Otherwise, technically he would have been considered too young to participate in dogfights. Mekkar had heard about his papa’s past air war activities from others. The son was also aware of Henrik’s extensive study, knowledge, and insight about Soviet made aeroplanes, especially the MiG. Over the years Henrik defeated a good number of those enemy planes in various aerial encounters.

What was remarkable was a promising and daring young Henrik had a more experienced co-pilot right behind him in the cockpit. The other aviator with Mekkar’s papa had the ability to converse in the same communication language of the Allied operations. Many difficulties were avoided because Henrik did not speak the main language of the commanders at all. It was a smart move to put a compatriot with Henrik that comprehended and spoke English. While at the same time, the co-pilot translated commands and instructions for Henrik. Some things never change and exposed the reason a young Mekkar was on this itinerary with his papa. He needed a translator for him to relay valuable information to his audience. In this area, Henrik displayed a portion of his stubbornness. He never felt the need to learn English because he frequently used other tongues instead while conducting business affairs. Yet, this was a special undertaking and Mekkar would be part of it. Sirga’s plan for Mekkar to learn English for the tourist business back home paid off in other ways also.

When the transport limousine reached a security gate at the military base, Henrik roused Mekkar from his nap. They passed through the first layer of security and encountered more soldiers at the next checkpoint. One of the guards had a clipboard in his hands with a list of names on it. He had anticipated the passenger van after seeing it arrive at the front entrance. The young boy spoke up to the security person and told him he was there to translate because he papa did not speak English. The soldier responded back to Mekkar, “My list has your father’s name which matches his identification plus his son. Okay, you may proceed.” There weren’t many strange glances at them, thought Mekkar. He figured it was like military bases at home when the troops would bring their families with them. The youngster concluded that, here like back home, the sight wasn’t uncommon either.

After reaching the main building, papa and son ventured down a fairly long hallway. To the left, Henrik opened a door to what appeared to be a classroom. Mekkar recognized one, even though he had not been present in a formal classroom setting. Various uniformed personnel began to file in. The adolescent boy tried to recall if he could identify their ranks, etc., but he failed to do so. After about ten minutes or so, Henrik was all setup and primed to give his presentation with students who were ready to receive it.
Henrik spoke first and Mekkar followed by telling the group who they were in English. Mekkar explained that since there was nobody else available to perform his role, it was up to him. He asked the audience to bear with him. Mekkar pointed out the fact that despite having only a few years in their language, he would do his best to translate properly. Mekkar continued on and said, “My papa has instructed me to convert exactly what he says to the best of my ability. He says there will be items, aspects, & concepts of a nature that you will understand. However, I am not familiar with most of these things. Also, my papa has pictures and will draw pictures to illustrate some of his points. This session should take about an hour or so.”

The presenter, Henrik, started in and shortly drew a diagram with a black marker on a large white sheet of paper. Mekkar thought to himself, wow! My papa can draw really well and detailed too. On the stand there were many large white sheets that could be flipped over the top and continue on to the next one. The stand dwarfed Mekkar due to its largeness, yet Henrik towered over the helpful tool.

The developing boy had no inkling of what message his papa’s sketches were conveying to the group, by looking at them. Mekkar only comprehended a little more when it was his turn to deliver the words to the audience. It dawned on him right about then, that this could be what his mama was trying to inform him, the day before. Sirga was right again, when she said to him yet again, “If you had a brain you would be dangerous.” Mekkar realized, by helping his papa get some of this information across to a number of the best U.S. military jet pilots, he fulfilled that remark made by his mama. In this particular case, Mekkar was dangerous, especially if an enemy were operating Soviet-made aircraft.

Due to Mekkar’s capability and value in helping his papa on this mission, the boy later received the added benefit of further trips with his papa. Henrik would later on have his oldest son accompany him on three separate trips to the Hawaiian Islands and other places to conduct sessions of a similar vein. For Mekkar, the best part of being involved with those assignments was the time spent with his papa afterward. The two would have fun with sightseeing, theme park rides, and more after the job was completed. The bonding between papa and oldest son increased as a result.

Henrik has a specific business philosophy of extensive early preparation, follow the plan set out, get the work done, then play time begins. On these trips, Mekkar gained an understanding of why his papa was very successful and enjoyed his job so much. Another bonus was the perks of frequent worldwide travel to fulfill Henrik’s widespread duties. Mekkar enjoyed the travel part most of all.