“And it’s so frustrating when you know, without any doubt at all, what you were put on this Earth to do, and you just can’t seem to persuade anyone else.”
John Finnmore Cabin Pressure
The above is from my favourite radio drama Cabin Pressure. Do check it out if you haven’t heard it. It is hilariously funny misadventures of a charter airline. Except they’ve only got one plane, and you can’t put one plane in a line.
One of the reasons I love Cabin Pressure is it’s ability to meld laugh until you hurt, and entirely quotable (really, ask my friends to tell you how many Otters you can fit in plane) but it also as the best comedy does, weds just the right amount of angst and heart with the silliness. And for me that is epitomised by the struggles of the show’s Captain-Martin Crieff.
I really identify with the Martin. Firstly Martin just has the worst luck in the world, he can’t ever win a bet or a word game with his smug co-pilot Douglas; he took far too many goes to get his pilot’s licence, and seems to be the only pilot in the world who can’t get at date. Basically if Martin’s involved things seem to go wrong.
Now in a humorous off hand way ‘Having a Martin day’ has become shorthand for me having one of those days where nothing seems to go right (which is frequently) And it’s true I don’t think I’ve ever won a bet or a game in my life, I took my driving test far too many times, and regular readers know my luck in the dating department.
‘Not your day’ co-pilot Douglas tells him after another bout of losing ‘Not my life’ Martin responds. And I often feel the same way.
Martin tried and tried to become a pilot, taking his test so many times that his Dad none to subtly left him his van and tools in his will, a sign to give up and get a proper job. Now analogies with my own driving test aside (another, far more painful yet amusing anecdote) I’ve lived that, I think I’m still living it. All I wanted to do was 1. Work in the theatre and 2. Get my PhD. Like Martin it has taken me many, many tries and even now I kind of sort of am doing what I want to….well it’s still not quite going right. Firstly like Martin people don’t seem to believe I am what I am, people often mistake him for the co-Pilot and people often seem to think I’m still not quite what I am. Just because I’m a student doesn’t mean I’m the equivalent of a first year undergrad-I teach the first year undergrads! And just because I’m not at Oxford doesn’t mean it’s not worth anything. Likewise in theatre, just because I’m not on stage doesn’t mean I failed.
I feel a stab of jealousy at other’s opportunities or successes, much like Martin does when he says to his co-pilot ‘It doesn’t help that I have to sit next to you every day’ when you’re having a Martin day (or life) the whole world seems full of Douglases, those for whom everything seems to be falling into place perfectly and repeatedly. I feel terrible for it but I do. It doesn’t help that some of my friends who are younger are still in the ‘Wow such exciting things await anything is possible stage’ I was there five, maybe six years ago. Until the opportunities were never there or came to nothing.
Doesn’t mean I ever gave up, just like Martin never gives up on being a pilot or getting a job in a better airline (or an actual airline). Now just like in ‘Cabin Pressure’ I’m sure all is not what it seems, they’ve been fired from jobs at ‘Air England’ or their wives have left them for Tai Chi instructors or the like. But sitting next to a Douglass hearing how wonderful life is and how wonderfully clever the rest of the world is just makes us Martins of the world want to curl up in the flight deck (or under our desk) and stay there.
Martin may not be the best pilot in the world but he loves what he does and he works hard and he keeps trying. No matter how many disasters come his way he still does the best he can. And actually at the end of the most recent series proved himself to be quite the competent pilot when it counted. So what are us Martins to do? Well nothing really, keep plodding on knowing we are doing what we love, what we’ve always dreamed of, and we’re not that bad at it either. Even if the rest of the world doesn’t see it as worthwhile, even if it doesn’t always go to plan.
And you can fit 100 otters in a plan. But none in the flight deck. Not even hypothetical otters are allowed in the flight deck.