Who’s cooler, an F-18 pilot or a guitar player for Bruno Mars?
I drove these two guys back-to-back last night.
Austin was first. Black beard and black T-shirt, built like a high school wrestler, I took him from the Eagle’s Nest to his place at Chick’s Beach. I liked him right away.
“Is driving for Uber your full-time thing?” he asked.
“No, I’m also a teacher.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a professional musician.”
“Yeah? That’s awesome. What do you play?”
“Are you with a local band or something?”
“No, I play for Bruno Mars right now.”
I’m not a fanboy or anything, but I like Bruno Mars. I remember watching him during the Super Bowl a few years ago and really enjoying his performance. I began listening to him somewhat regularly from that time.
I asked all the typical questions, I guess. Yes, Bruno really is as cool and laid-back as he seems. His last gig was at the Grammy’s. No, being a rock star isn’t as glamorous as you would think. It’s actually a lot like a job.
He laughed when I told him I didn’t get many celebrities in my Uber. He doesn’t think the word applies to him. He told me interesting stuff. Like that Bruno’s brother is his drummer and that they’ve played together since Bruno was ten years old. And that Bruno started out as an Elvis impersonator. That made me laugh.
Austin grew up in the area and still lives here because he thinks it’s an awesome place. I like that about him.
After dropping Austin off (my second professional guitarist, btw), I picked up Matthew at Hot Tuna.
I love when passengers are easy to talk to. Austin and Matthew were both that way.
“I just had my first run-in with a Navy SEAL,” he said.
“Uh oh. That doesn’t sound good.”
“Ha, no, but it worked out. I guess. It’s crazy. I didn’t realize how many of those guys are around this town.”
“Yeah. I drive them all the time.”
“They are pretty much the baddest of all bad asses.”
“So, what happened, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Me and two buddies walked into Shuckers and this dude just starts hassling us. He’s like, ‘Look at these three queer faggots.'”
“Just out of the blue? You didn’t say anything?”
“No, we just walked in and he jumps all over our ass. I couldn’t tell if he was serious or just f–ing with us. He’s like, ‘What do you m— f—ers do for a living?’
“So, we’re all pilots. Me and one buddy fly F-18s, the other guy flies a COD–”
“Sorry to interrupt. You’re a fighter pilot?”
“That’s awesome. What’s a COD?”
“Oh, right, sorry. It stands for Carrier Onboard Delivery. He flies people and supplies and stuff.”
“Got it. Continue.”
“Yeah, so this guy tells us at first that he’s a tugboat pilot, and he buys us shots, which is cool, but he still rides our asses pretty hard.”
“Is he alone?”
“Well, not really. He’s with a bunch of pretty big dudes. But they aren’t involved. He’s not that big, so I didn’t figure out that he was with the teams. I’m just not used to those guys being so common around here.
“Anyway, me and my one buddy are getting pretty pissed and defending ourselves. The other one–the COD guy–he’s backing off and being a real p–y, you know? And I’m like, what the f–? Well, he’s been in this area longer and he instinctively knew the guy was a SEAL, so he was hanging back. Eventually, he pulled each of us aside and told us. Then we’re like, oh sh–!”
“Was he just yanking your chain or was he really looking for a fight?”
“After a while, I figured it out. He really was pissed when he found out we were F-18 pilots. See, we drop bombs on those m–er f–ers in Syria and Yemen. And apparently he lost a buddy in a firefight sometime ago. He says they were calling for air support, but the pilots wouldn’t drop the bombs because it was danger close. Do you know that is?”
“No. Not really.”
“It’s when friendly troops are within the blast radius of a bomb. We know that a bomb has a radius of about 300 feet horizontally–about a football field. And like two football fields vertically. If our guys are in that circle, it’s danger close and we can’t drop unless we get approval from…well, someone really high up.”
“So, he was mad because he thought a pilot could have saved his friend?”
“Yeah, basically. I told him that we just can’t do it. That if we dropped in danger close, we’d automatically lose our wings. And he’s like, ‘f– that. Lose your f–ing wings to save somebody’s life.'”
“Yeah, but if you drop a bomb and it kills a SEAL or a bunch of SEALs…”
“Exactly. Just dropping without permission would lose me my job, but if it also killed one of ours? I can’t even imagine.”
“Wow. I get it. That’s a crazy situation.”
“Right? It’s really hard. And, believe me, I understand where the guy is coming from. I don’t blame him. I hate that it was all antagonistic and sh– because I respect the hell out of him.”
No punches were thrown, but nothing really got settled either, it seems.
So, what’s your call? Who’s got the cooler job–Austin or Matthew?