Overtime - Over Time

Overtime! Who could resist the allure of getting more money for less time off?

There's no way to sugar coat it. I never liked working overtime. It wasn't just because it stole much of my leisure and robbed me of the time needed to finish a few six-packs. Important as indolence and beer were, there was a lot more to my overtime aversion than that. The five regularly scheduled shifts were usually bad enough but tacking on that sixth day was more painful than putting out a toenail fire with a hammer. Oh I couldn't complain about the extra cash but it was scant compensation for what I went through to earn it.

At Big Time Tower, the difficulty of an overtime shift depended partly on who was in charge. Some supervisors had the crazy idea that a controller on overtime should get relatively easy duty. After all; it was their sixth day on the job. Under this doctrine, I could expect to be assigned menial TRACON duties such as strip stuffing - or even be sent to the tower. There, I'd invoke the gods of gridlock on Ground Control until the supervisor came to his senses. Then I'd quickly be shuffled over to work Clearance Delivery and update the ATIS broadcasts for the remainder of the shift. You've gotta love it when a plan comes together.

Other supervisors shared more practical views on overtime. Their belief was that, since I was making more money than anyone else on duty, I should do the heavy lifting. This often meant working combined positions so that more members of the 'home team' could go to the break room. Or perhaps they'd have me work with their most maladroit and erratic trainee until I was as short on patience as he was on skills. No matter what fiendish plans they had in store, I knew I'd finish the shift with an attitude any axe murderer would be proud to call his own.

But supervisors weren't the only factors to influence the size of my overtime headache. Back in those days, Big Time ran on a three-team schedule. Each team had its own personality and annoying idiosyncrasies. One team, we'll call them the "Law Abiding Citizens," would embrace local and national directives as though they were an addendum to the Ten Commandments. If you practiced a more pragmatic credo toward working airplanes, you'd be in trouble with this team. Standard operating procedures were the safety rails that kept them from falling out of their cribs. Step out of line and they'd look at you incredulously and ask; "What are you doing???" Or they'd sneer and say; "We don't operate like that on our watch." I'd go home from a shift with these guys feeling like I'd just spent eight hours with an IRS auditor.

Another team, the "Carefree Crew," would be known for its free-wheeling style. As long as the pilots didn't squawk or scream and the controllers could keep track of what was going on; all options were on the table. If you came from the "Law Abiding" team, you might be in for eight hours of terror with these guys. Sector boundaries were like the dashed lines in a passing zone. Free-wheelers generally stayed in their lanes unless they saw a way to speed things up by using yours. Oh you'd eventually get a pointout; just so you wouldn't feel totally excluded from the fun. If I made it through the shift without soiling myself, I'd rush home feeling like the clay pigeon that somehow managed to dodge several rounds of buckshot.

Then there was the "Timid Team." They always crept through their shift like cats in a kennel; wary of surprises and uncertain in their approach to handling them. I suspect some of those guys would actually have fallen down stairs or off a cliff in slow motion. And just as over-winding a clock won't make it run any faster, pent up air traffic demand wouldn't make the Timids pick up their pace.

The slightest deviation from the norm would upset the delicate balance of things; sending everyone into a hybridized version of the other two teams. They'd work by the book until the book didn't seem to be working anymore, then improvise frantically until everyone (especially me) lost the picture. At that point; everything would stop until they regained their footing and were able to return to a "book" operation. After eight hours with this team I just felt like breaking something. Maybe I did break something.

No...I never liked working overtime. Over time, the added shifts incrementally attenuated what was already my frail grip on acceptable behavior. If only I had the self discipline to save all the extra lucre earned, I might have been able to afford the psychiatric help that working overtime left me in need of. Oh well.

© NLA Factor, 2010

No comments: