SEATBELTS FASTENED… Squid decided to travel around this great nation of ours to see how Squid’s underwater fam lives elsewhere. Squid began plotting a route: Should it be Amtrak up the coast to chill with the Klamath sucker fish in Oregon? Or should Squid cash in Squid’s change jar and splurge on an airline ticket, maybe head to Motown and combine Squid’s love of music with a visit with the Lake Trout gang, which really knows how to party.

Michigan it is! Squid packed a bag, dropped Squid’s beloved bulldog Rosco P. Coltrane with a sitter and boarded a flight. As Squid settled in, a kindly flight attendant asked for Squid’s drink order. Squid requested a Clamato and vodka, but when it was delivered, Squid had a strange sense of deja vu. The flight attendant looked strangely familiar, but where had Squid seen him?

Then it came to Squid. The guy who asked Squid to fasten Squid’s seatbelt and delivered the Clamato is more typically seen in a Salinas Fire Department uniform, one with chief’s insignia on his collar…

Pablo Barreto, is that you?” Squid asked.

Turns out, Salinas’s recently hired chief – that’s Barreto – has a side gig as a flight attendant. He started that job before he came to Salinas from the Watsonville Fire Department, where he’d been for 22 years.

“It’s a part-time job and I’ve been very open with the city about it from the beginning and very open with the department’s membership,” Barreto tells one of Squid’s colleagues. “It’s nothing to hide. Firefighters tend to do a lot of things on the side and so do I.”

But why does a guy who earns a chief’s salary of $195,000 a year, plus benefits, need a side gig? Barreto says it’s a matter of planning for the future meeting his long-held love of flying. Also, as long as City Manager Ray Corpuz approves – and he did, Corpuz says – there’s no prohibition on city employees from taking outside work.

Barreto says when he retires at some point, the flight attendant gig will allow him and his family to travel for free on standby, and carries zero-cost medical benefits too.

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Barreto didn’t want to share too many details. Asked where he last flew, he declined to answer. He says his schedule is sporadic (“I don’t fly that much”) and that the airline only requires him to fly one day a year to maintain his standing as an employee.

Has Barreto been recognized on a flight? He’s sure he has. One passenger was lucky he was there – on a recent flight, said passenger suffered a medical emergency, and Barreto was able to step in and assist. (Squid wonders: What if Salinas has an emergency while he’s in the air?)

The situation has Squid wondering what other side gigs are out there for city employees. Maybe Corpuz teaches yoga, or City Attorney Chris Callihan sells menswear. Shrug. It’s Salinas. Anything can happen.

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