A huge wasp nest in a birch tree.

This has been a week full of unfortunate events and unpleasant discoveries.

The company I work for is having a rough time and there have been rumblings of internal upheaval, yet somehow the gears of corruption and good-ol’-boy favors keep turning. On the home front, I discovered a basketball-sized wasp nest hidden in the woods west of my house.

As you might imagine, both situations involve unpleasantness I’d rather stay far removed from. But when you discover a hive of scum and villainy right in your own back yard, what do you do?

I work for a company that will remain nameless for at least as long as I work there (all bets are off after I leave, though.) Their legal standing with the FAA and IRS seems to be precarious, to say the least. This company is comprised of a hodge-podge of separate air operations and dubiously defined DBAs, and judging by the air of carefully controlled panic exuding from the upper tiers of management, we’re one clean investigation away from being shut down.

None of this was readily apparent when I was hired. The company’s representatives came to me because they’d heard of my record in the airline and transportation industry. They claimed they were looking for someone who knew, understood, and obeyed federal regulations; someone who had the guts and leadership skills to begin guiding operations of a specific division in a safer, more regulatory-complaint direction.

Not really knowing what to expect, I signed on. It’s a decision I’ve regretted ever since.

There are so many things wrong with how this air carrier is run that I could write a book on it (and I may one of these days,) but for now I’ll focus on the last week or so. We had an unexpected landing of one of our aircraft, and another division finally realized that there’s a reason airlines have a trained ground guide direct the pilots during engine startup and departure from the terminal: it prevents dubiously sober and sleep-deprived pilots from taxiing with doors open and cargo hatches unlatched.

It’s my job to ensure that regulatory requirement and hazmat carrier laws are followed, among other things, and this has made me unpopular with just about everybody. Yes, federal hazardous material air transportation regulations are a pain in the ass; but you know what’s more of a pain?

Accidents like the 1996 ValuJet crash, where a series of safety failures led to the ignition of 144 oxygen-generating canisters that were improperly secured, labeled, and packed in the plane’s cargo hold. The crash claimed the lives of 110 passengers and crew, and made the ValuJet name synonymous with catastrophic airline disasters.

In the last two weeks I’ve been threatened more than once by “personal friends” of the owner, simply for refusing to accept their improperly packaged hazardous materials. Apparently employees in my position are expected to make exceptions for friends of the company, even if those exceptions could cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and get the company shut down.

In addition the threats, I’ve witnessed bribery, influence peddling, and a supervisor allowing a “special friend of the company” to ship improperly packaged hazmat. And this was all in the space of the last week and a half.

Needless to say, this leaves me feeling kind of uncomfortable in my role with company. At what point do you start reporting what you’re seeing? And in a state like mine, who do you even go to? Or do you just get out before the whole house comes down on its own?

So let’s talk about something slightly less unpleasant: massive paper nests full of angry wasps.

I’ve noticed a disconcerting upswing in yellow jacket activity in the past few weeks, but been unable to find the source. I do a biweekly check for nests, as the stinging menace tends to consider the underside of my second floor deck to be prime real estate for homebuilding. Saturday morning I went on an extensive search and was rewarded with the discovery of a massive hive concealed among the leaves of a large birch, 25 or 30 feet off the ground in a thickly wooded area on the west side of my property.

On the one hand, knowing is half the battle. On the other hand, this thing is going to be a real pain to eradicate. Kind of like the rotten core of corruption running through the heart of my workplace.

Tonight I’m going to suit up in protective gear, grab a can of Raid or three, and bring the hurt to these wasps. Tomorrow I’m going to suit up and go back to work. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you don’t hear from me again, it probably means I’ve either been stung to death or some disgruntled special customers figured out where I live.

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