First of the week and baby pilots

Campbell Webster
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If you have flown the little Air Canada Express buzz-bombs that shuttle back and forth from Charlottetown to Halifax, you will no doubt have noted that most of the pilots of these tiny prop planes seem to have graduated from flight school about a week ago, and from high school the week before that.

They are, simply put, quite young. It doesn’t mean they lack ability, but they somehow violate that archetypical, and admittedly sexist, image of the garden variety pilot: The craggy-faced late 50s grey-haired calm Dad figure. These little guys and gals seem like some sort of bush-baby-pilots. You half expect them to yell, “Let ‘er rip, Billy” when their pencil thin-tubes begin to zip down the runway.

It is just another example that we spend our lives having our prejudices and expectations either met, challenged, terribly violated, or somewhere in between. We have so many endless layers of what-must-be implanted in our heads in so many unknown ways, that surprise and deviation from these mostly unseen norms is the norm.

On our small Isle, one of the repeated violations of future hopes, beliefs, and assumptions can be distilled down to a single common expression, often uttered by trades-people, “I’ll get to that the first of the week.” It is of course a use of the English language that is riddled with imprecision and fraught with the possibility for disappointment.

For it means nothing. You could try to proclaim that the first-of-the-week must end by Wednesday at noon. If the first-of-the-week promise is not fulfilled by lunch time, that it has been broken. But of course we don’t enforce it as such, perhaps understanding that the first-of-the-weekers are usually just trying to buy time: (It might be Thursday, and they can’t be bothered to commit to an answer, and really don’t want to think about it, so first-of-the-week it is. This is especially useful when it comes to unpaid bills, as in, “I will get that money to you first-of-the-week, promise.”)

But what is curious about this first-of-the-week Island cultural norm is that it is at both an accepted practice and also a set-up for everything from mild-irritation to rage.

For it is really, and often, just a sort of false-hope. It feels good when people say it, perhaps because you want to believe its true, and they know you want to believe its true, so the moment of promise passes well for everybody.

Still, we accept it, sort-of, because the first-of-the-weekers often follow-up the first mini-betrayal with, “sorry about that, was quite busy, will get it done the first of next week.” (Etc, etc.) It is a tender-trap, of course, but one we adjust to, for it is curiously two things at once; a violation of an expectation, and a familiar dance that is part of our cultural language.

Acceptance and compromise is how we get through (most of the time) these transgressions of our assumptions and expectations.

If we didn’t have this facility, we would all be constantly tearing each other apart for breaking the rules all time.

It’s why when some of us first stared in mild shock at the 12-year old pilots that were about to take our lives into their hands, we quickly, as best could allowed for this deviation to our expectations, hoping that we would live to the first-of-the-week.


Campbell Webster is a writer and producer of entertainment events. He can be reached at

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Halifax

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Recent comments

    December 06, 2013 - 18:02

    I use to live in Thunder Bay and Sudbury in the late 70's to mid 80's. I use to fly NORONTAIR (which in those days was opertated by the Ontario Government before Harris shut it down) all over Northern Ontario. The planes were Twin Otters and then DASH 8's. The pilots were young as well. As soon as the pilots accumulated enough hours, then they would move onto other airlines that had bigger planes. They have to start somewhere. It was fun flying with these individuals on the Twin Otters. They did not need much runway to take off or land compared to the bigger planes. When Air Canada flew the DC9's, the pilots needed a minimum of 6500 feet to land. Most major airports in Northern Ontario are only 7,000 feet long-----only North Bay is longer at 10,000 feet and it is often used as a back up to Toronto, London, and Ottawa when weather prevents the big planes from landing in these places. When you flew into Thunder Bay you often wondered if the DC 9 had enough runway to land and then come to a complete stop before heading to the terminal