Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Brooder

I don't relish flying with brooders. They're among the worst kind to share a cockpit with for three or four days. Not that they're bad people or bad pilots. They generally fly well and are knowledgeable.

But the brooder goes for long periods without talking. You sense he is intensely probing something within his thought world. He's turning stuff over in his mind. He's different from the ponderer, the dreamer, the philosopher—he's got troubles. You know you're in for a long trip.

But then—without warning—the brooder opens up. Ah, now you know what's eating him. He's mad at the company. Maybe. Or, perhaps he just sees something interesting, or hears something funny on the radio. Laughs. Talks furiously for three minutes. You welcome the opportunity to engage him. But its over as quickly as it began. The brood is back.

Another thing you can expect with the brooder is fixation on a subject. He will exhibit little interest in what interests you, but he will assail you with what interests him, and he will revisit the topic at intervals between brooding periods. If he puts forth an opinion that he is passionate about you can count on it being resurrected over and over again.

With brooders, you use your peripheral vision a lot—and I mean a lot. You'll be reading or scanning, or whatever, and out of the corner of your eye, you'll watch him. You cut eyes toward the center console and pretend to be looking at the switches but you're really trying to get a better angle on what the brooder is up to without risking eye contact with him. You don't want him to know he is being watched, because—in his mysterious perspective of things—that could pose a problem for him.

Brooders make unusual sounds. The most common ones are sighs. You may also hear heavy breaths being taken in or let out, lips popping and tongue clicking. These noises are usually not associated with any talk or other actions.

His movements tend to be a bit jerky—almost bird-like. You notice a flash of a hand in your periphery and cut eyes toward him, but you're too late. His hands are at rest again. Sometimes he glances abruptly at you, then quickly turns away.

One particular brooder I recently flew with spent a lot of time on his cell phone, fiddling with it, playing games, reading downloads, or whatever. You learn quickly not to engage the brooder when he is doing something like that. Unless it relates to one of his pet subjects, he will not respond. When you see him put the phone, or other object of his intense interest away, he may exhibit a slight interest in what you say or ask.

On layover the brooder often morphs into a human. When he downs a couple of beers he opens up and talks about his life and even takes an interest in yours. You actually enjoy an evening with him. You think you have established a rapport—a friendship even. But you're wrong. Next day he returns to his curious ways.

After the third day of this you start to get antsy. You keep asking yourself, Does this guy have something that's eating at him or does he have a problem with me? You start evaluating yourself. Every move you make, every thing you say now becomes carefully calculated. You start to take on his traits. Now you've become a brooder as well.

The hours turn into days. The end of the trip is a long time coming and when it does, your home never looked so good. You will watch your schedule in the weeks ahead, wary of the appearance of his name on it once again. Happily the next trip out you are back with one of the many outstanding guys and gals you fly with and the brooder is forgotten, until you see his name on your next trip.

And you will.