I’m Being Paid to Worry about the Weather

A funny true story.

The backstory: I’m in Washington State on cherry drying contracts. In short, I’m being paid to be on call to use my helicopter to dry cherry trees in case it rains. You can learn the details about this in “The Life of a Cherry Drying Pilot.”

Last night, my grower called around 9 PM. He was almost certain that it would rain at 4 AM this morning. He lives in Wenatchee and his orchard block is near Quincy, a 30-minute drive south. He wanted to give me a heads up. He said that he knew I wouldn’t fly in the dark, but if it rained, he expected me to be drying at dawn. I assured him that would be no problem and encouraged him to call me if he needed me, no matter what time it was. That, after all, is what he’s paying me for.

I was dead asleep this morning when my phone rang. My Blackberry’s ring tone is a digitized version of the classic analog telephone bell. Despite the fact that I’d heard that sound every day for the first 20 years of my life, when it rang this morning, I had no idea what it was. After all, I was asleep. When I realized it was my phone ringing just inches from my head, I grabbed it, pushed the answer button, and said “Hello.”

It was my grower. “I’m leaving Wenatchee now,” he told me. “The sky is clear.”

I wasn’t too sleepy to wonder why he was calling me to tell me the weather was good.

“I’m going to see what it’s like down at the orchard,” he went on.

I got the feeling he wanted a local weather report. After all, I was only 6 miles (as the crow flies) from his cherry trees. Fortunately, the zip-up window beside my head faced out that way. I unzipped it and looked out. I could see stars. It wasn’t raining. I couldn’t see any rain clouds by the light of the waning moon. I reported my findings.

“Well, I’m going down there anyway,” he said. “I’ll call you if it rains.”

“Sounds good to me,” I said. We said goodbye and I found the button that disconnected us. The phone reverted to clock mode. It was 3:50 AM.

I managed to get back to sleep for another hour before the birds woke me up for the day.

It’s nearly 12 hours later and it still hasn’t rained.

When I told this story to my husband, he told me I needed to have a talk with the grower. I told him I’d do no such thing. I explained that I was on standby and that the grower had paid me good money to worry along with him about his crop of cherries. If it made him feel better to wake me up to discuss the weather once in a while, that was fine with me.

As long as he didn’t do it every morning.

2 thoughts on “I’m Being Paid to Worry about the Weather

  1. If he’s entitled to do it once, then he’s entitled to do it every morning. I don’t think that’s really true, and I guess you don’t either, but I’ll bet the grower does. If he didn’t before, he probably does now.

    • Well, I think that was my husband’s argument, too. And I’ve since spoken with another cherry drying pilot about it.

      I think the grower thought I would be awake because he’d said he expected rain at 4 AM. I think he figured that I’d be up then just to check the situation. I really don’t think he put his brain into it. Maybe his brain was still asleep.

      The truth of the matter is, I can’t fly before it gets light (which he knows) so I didn’t see any reason to get up so long before dawn. I figured he’d call me with a “heads up” call if it was raining — but not if it wasn’t raining.

      I think he realized the folly of his deed later that day. In a phone call later in the week, he assured me that he wouldn’t call so early in the morning unless it was raining. No no discussion is necessary and we’re all okay.

      Believe me, if he did it a second time — that is, waking me to tell me it wasn’t raining — I’d certainly speak up and tell him to stop. Worrying about the weather during daylight hours is part of the job, but being wakened for no reason is not.

What do you think?