I just read, with equal parts admiration and envy, about an 87 year old man who is still employed by American Airlines as a mechanic. Al Blackman works every day in the aircraft maintenance hanger at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Knowing this, I can't help but be curious about a few things because I know a bit about what mechanics do. Is Mr. Blackman still scrooching under the fuselage to see that everything is in working order? Does he have to crawl inside those jet engines to tighten a few screws? Is he up on ladders checking on the wings?
I want to know these things because I need to know how he does it. I could use some advice.
When I occasionally fill in at one of our branch libraries I am very aware of ways in which my body is gradually letting me down. Those books on the bottom shelf that I have to find? I take a deep breath and squat as far as I can, biting my tongue so as not reveal my discomfort. Then I am required to actually identify the call number on the spine. Gah. I swear those numbers are smaller and more faded than they were last year. I need to be nose-to-book for a decent reading, but it's getting hard to look professional while lying on the floor. My job requires some fine motor skills, too, just as I imagine Al's does. Arthritic fingers, alas, do not "keyboard" with reliable accuracy. And I don't think I'm as strong as I once was, either. Of course, the doors at the branch libraries might be much, much heavier than the ones in the building where I once worked.
So what does Al do at JFK all day? Whatever it is, I hope he is really good at it and that he is in better shape than I am. His employers seem to think so or they wouldn't be celebrating 70 years on the job. Right? I will hold that thought the next time I fly American Airlines.