The ATC Report

"In Control" - Vol. XI, No. 6

First off, this is really just Dave this week. You will find out why in a second or two. And secondly, I know we're technically supposed to be writing about The Amazing Race. Of course, we've strayed so far from that premise in the past that I probably shouldn't be worried about doing it again this time, but I figured I ought to give you fair warning.
What I am going to talk about is a good friend of mine. Perhaps you know him. He was the big goofy guy that I happened to run The Amazing Race with - Steve Meitz.

If you opened this page to read how we dissected this last leg of ASTAR®, you're going to be disappointed. Outside of mentioning the fact that Charla & Mirna won their second leg in a row (and didn't know what catamarans were) and that Teri & Ian were eliminated, I don't intend to talk about the current Race at all this time. What I am going to talk about is a good friend of mine. Perhaps you know him. He was the big goofy guy that I happened to run The Amazing Race with - Steve Meitz. You see, as I write this, Steve has exactly one more shift left to work before he retires as an Air Traffic Controller - after 25 years of service to the American people and the flying public.

Several weeks ago, a co-worker (yea, it's you Jeff Wilkie - man, the lengths you go to to get mentioned in one of our columns!) approached me and asked if I was planning on doing anything for Steve's retirement. I'd been thinking about what I should do, but the best I had come up with involved taking him and his family out to dinner or something equally as lame. I think Jeff was hoping that I had come up with so many things I wanted to do, that I couldn't possibly do them all. That way, he could use one or two of my ‘discards' and claim them as his own. You see, the only idea that Jeff had come up with involved taking Steve and his family out to dinner or something equally as lame.

Of course, the folks in the area we work in came around collecting for the obligatory gift, and I threw in the obligatory $20 - but still, I had no idea what to do for him on a more personal level. (Speaking of which, Gump - Bobo never told me what they were getting you. It had better be good or I'm getting my money back.) Finally, as I was watching the Race on Sunday and trying to figure out what to do for a column, it hit me. We've done columns on Jonathan's brain, phony clues, fake maps, doctored pictures, and just about everything else - why couldn't I do a column as a tribute to the guy who ran the race with me? (Not to mention the fact that it would save me from shelling out any more cash on him...) So here we go - my memories of a friendship with Steve Meitz.

I've worked for the FAA for a little longer than Steve. Whereas I've always been at Chicago Center, Steve started out at Champaign (IL) Tower. Back in the mid-80's, we at Chicago Center were really short-staffed. The FAA got a brilliant idea to send people from the towers (where they weren't short) to the center. Steve was one of those people. I first met him when I was assigned to train him. To be honest, I wasn't too impressed with him initially. He had to spend lots of time thinking about computer entries that were second nature to me. But as the weeks went on, Steve got better and I realized that we had someone with a lot of potential. 

Actually, I think it was his sense of humor that I found most interesting because it was just as warped as mine.

Steve quickly began to realize that potential and was soon the second-best controller in the area in which we work. Of course, I was (and still am) the best. But more importantly, I realized that Steve was someone who shared a lot of the same interests as I did, and was almost as funny. Actually, I think it was his sense of humor that I found most interesting because it was just as warped as mine. Over the years, we've spent countless hours laughing at each other's jokes. Jokes that no one else seems to 'get', but that we find hilarious.

The similarities between us were sometimes quite startling. On one occasion, I showed up at a party Steve threw with the girl I was dating at the time. She walked up to Steve, gave him a big hug and kiss, and proceeded to reminisce about 'old times' with him. It turns out that she and Steve had dated years earlier.

Soon we decided that just entertaining ourselves wasn't good enough. Steve came up with the idea of having a horse race named after us, and we put together the first of "Steve & Dave's Night At The Races". Steve did all the real grunt work - contacting the track, setting up the dinner choices and selling the tickets. I think I made a few signs and allowed him to use my name. The night went off without a hitch, and 75+ people sat at Maywood Park watching the "Steve & Dave" horserace. Since the first one was such a success, we even put together one or two more.

Next were the road rallies. Steve and I both have an interest in sports cars (Steve more so than myself), and we decided it might be fun to try and race in a road rally or two. The first two rallies we entered, we won our class - and we won one of the rallies overall as well. In one of them, we even used a little brainpower to win rather than doing it the ‘legitimate' way. It was a photo rally where we were given a set of route instructions, a series of photographs, and a set of questions about the photos. The idea was that you would follow the route, see the actual things that the photos were taken of and answer the questions about them. As we approached the finish line (a restaurant), we realized that we had all of the questions answered except for one. After some thought, we realized what the picture's subject was (a miniature golf course), and approximately where it had to have been along the route. We went to a pay phone and dialed information, provided them with the location and asked if there was a miniature golf course in the area. They provided us with the name (which answered the question) and we won.

After running the rallies, we decided it might be fun to actually design one ourselves. Thus began the first, "Steve & Dave's Road Rally" - of which many more were to follow. Our first effort had about 20 entries. By the time we put together our last rally, we had 40+ cars running around the area. We've even recently discussed putting on another one - after all, Steve will have some free time soon. 

Then there was the 'operational error' that you all read about in our CBS bios. Trust me when I tell you that it really wasn't all that bad.

Then there was the 'operational error' that you all read about in our CBS bios. Trust me when I tell you that it really wasn't all that bad. You have to realize that CBS asks you reams of questions - one of which involved the "worst experience you've ever had with your partner". Steve and I really haven't had any "worsts" - except for the ops error that we had years ago. True to form, we both answered the question in the same way, and CBS kept asking us about it. It really wasn't anything.

Of course, CBS quickly provided us with a ‘worse worst' by keeping us cooped up in a hotel room in LA for a week for finalist interviews. Thank heavens for the PS2 and Tiger Woods' PGA Tour. I'd still like to know how you got so dang good at that game. I spent the whole week trying to catch up.

Besides being a better controller than he is (which Steve might dispute), I'm also a better bowler (which he won't dispute). I can't deny that Steve has improved far more than I have in the time we have been bowling together. He's gone from a 130 average bowler to a 180+ average, in the same time frame that I've gone from 170 to 200. He even recently shot his first 600 series in which all 3 games were 200 or better. For what it's worth, on that night, he even had a better series than I did.

And now it comes down to the part that I've been dreading. You see, for all these years, I've had someone to work with that I really 'clicked' with as well. By this same time next week, that person won't be working with me any more. I'm going to miss that. 

I'm going to miss working Bradford together and laughing our asses right through the middle of the rush.

I'm going to miss working Bradford together and laughing our asses right through the middle of the rush.

I'm going to miss sliding across the aisle to talk about the last American Idol episode. Or Survivor. Or The Race.

I'm going to miss being able to bounce ideas off of you for our next column and hearing the ideas you have as well. (And no, I still can't put together a picture of you and Meg Ryan kissing so that you can 'prove' it to Geezer.)

I'm going to miss sharing the latest gossip about work with you and hearing what you've come up with from the swing shifts.

I know that you're not going anywhere, and that I'll still see you at bowling, and that you're just a telephone call/e-mail away ­­- but for some reason, this still seems like a funeral.

Stever - it has truly been a pleasure. You have made my time at Chicago Center more enjoyable by your presence. Coming off of a mountain in Cortina, Italy I told you that there was no one I would have rather run The Amazing Race with but you. I stand by that statement.

Thanks, my friend. Thanks and good luck.

stever