“Yo Big Country!”

Ever happen across that friend you fell out of touch with years ago? That exact thing happened to me while at work yesterday. I ran into my former roommate and co-worker, Jeff, or as we called him when we worked together, “Big Country.” Why? Dude is like 6-3 or so and pretty thick, so he acquired that nickname while working as a baggage handler. Since then, it has stuck. He and I, along my other buddy Greg all started at the airlines together in 1995. Since that time we have sort of gone our separate ways so to speak.

Jeff and I were both pilots with great expectations to be hired together and fly, as commercial pilots for the airlines. We moved in together back in 1996 (maybe 1997) while living in Torrance, California (just south of LAX). For the most part we were inseparable, always hanging out together, with friends, flying, drinking, basically having a hell of a good time.It was his (now) wife who introduced me to a (now) ex-girlfriend years ago. She was a teacher, as was Jeff’s wife and they lived together in Riverside, while Jeff and I were, as previously mentioned in Torrance. It goes without saying Jeff and I spent many days and nights our in Riverside, living it up, drinking and reciting lines from Top Gun while near inebriated.

It was 1998 when I got a wild hair up my ass to take a transfer to Chicago (butt ass cold there!) basically leaving Jeff high and dry, not able to keep the apartment we rented on Amie Ave. After moving out and beginning in Chicago, I fell out of touch with him. I knew he was dedicating himself to his flying career (unlike I did) in order to achieve he goal. I knew this transfer would end any chance at being a commercial airline pilot. I decided to take that chance as I had earned my FAA Flight Dispatch License and was going to pursue another line of work in the aviation industry.

After that I believe I saw him once, about 4 years ago while still working in Los Angeles. My buddy Greg (while still employed at the airlines) drove me over to say hello to Jeff who had a short layover in LAX, near where my office was on the airport. Seeing him in his uniform really made me think I fucked up by leaving him as a roommate and moving to Chicago.

It was late last year that Jeff happened to hear my voice on a frequency we use to communicate with airplanes. He said, “Is Steve Toumi there?” I immediately jumped on the frequency, we exchanged pleasantries and went about our jobs as if we didn’t miss a beat.

Then today, when walking back from Peet’s Coffee & Tea I see this guy from about 50 feet away and my mind said, “Big Country!” As I got closer I called out his name. We shook hands and hugged (not fag like fools) in greeting and swapped career, family and children stories for about 30 minutes.

There are just some people who make an impression, Jeff was one of those individuals. I am so glad I got to see and talk to him yesterday. Hopefully he and I, along with our wives and sons can get together sometime in the future.

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