Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

22 October 2008

Magic Moments

I wasn’t actually in the best of moods. The Boss and I had gotten in late last night. By the time I put the ship away and got everything buttoned up, it was nearly midnight when I got home. Now this morning here I was at sunrise, on my way back to the airport for another long day of flying. In my old life as a charter pilot, the FAA rules mandated that we had at least ten hours of rest between duty periods. But “corporate” is not “charter” flying, and the rules are different.

It’s an hour from the house to the airport. I go against the traffic – it’s always seemed so, throughout all my life, me going against the grain. Everyone else is headed toward Pensacola, even at that early hour the roads are getting crowded with commuters. Comparatively I’m out for a jaunt in the country, iPod on as usual, volume up loud as usual.

There’s a shortcut across some farmland, a deserted little back road on which I can really haul ass. Cuts about ten minutes off from the other way. I take it.

Up ahead I see a pointy-nosed crop-duster plane working a field adjacent to the road. He zips across the road twice as he pulls up and dives back down. I flick the cruise-control off and slow down. And then something incredible happens.

Just at that point, the instrumental song, “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat starts on my iPod. With its lush strings, soaring violins, staccato horns and that weird harpsichord/oboe thing going on, it wasn’t exactly a rock song back in 1968. Nevertheless, it’s always been one of my favorites.

As I watched, the pilot approached me, the road and the wires alongside it, at the last second he’d start a zoom-climb. Then he heeled the thing over into a tight, steep swooping reversal turn, diving back over the wires and back to business. He squirted a little blast of chemical into one section, then hopped over a small stand of inconveniently placed trees and resumed spraying on the other side. When he reached the other end of the field, he pulled up and did it all again. And again, and again.

And I sat there transfixed, watching this delicate and graceful sunrise ballet set to the music of this intricate and pretty tune in my ears. It was one of those jawdroppingly magical moments in time. It was awesome to watch, an amazing, inspiring experience.

The pilot finished with that field and departed for somewhere else. I drove off with a lump in my throat, the same one I always get when I watch the Blue Angels fly. I try to be the best pilot I can be – that’s all any of us can do, right? But when I see other pilots who really know their stuff I get all jealous, like, “Dear God, why can’t *I* fly that well…that smoothly…that perfectly?” It’s pilot-envy, that’s what it is.


When I finally got there, the normally quiet airport had already come alive with activity. Charlie, the pilot for the Alabama Department of Forestry had already departed. As I stepped out of the car, I heard the approaching growl of the first of the usual gaggle of Navy T-34C trainers that are always buzzing around. Behind me, three powered-parachutes taxied out to take advantage of the calm morning air. I pulled the helicopter over to the fuel pumps, and waited for the call from the Boss that would signal the official start of my day.

It’s an odd life, this pilot business.

Powered-Parachute

5 comments:

Redlefty said...

What an awesome moment!

Bob said...

And a lot of times when I read your stuff, Bob, I think "Why can't I write that well . . . that smoothly . . . that perfectly?"

The paragrapy about the "sunrise ballet" made me feel as if I were there.

Bob said...

Thank you both for your comments.

Bob, you are most generous and kind, considering that yours is one of the first blogs I check each day for updates (and Michael's, of course). Not to belabor the point, but to answer your question: You do.

Hal Johnson said...

Yeah, sometimes I think that being in sort of a down mood gives emphasis to those moments. They're like a gift, ey?

Bob said...

Well, they *are* a gift! Life is all about balancing the highs and the lows, and never getting too freaked-out about either. For me, one makes me appreciate the other all the more.

Perhaps it was because I was grousing about having to go to "work" so early that the simple beauty of an airplane in flight affected me so. But in any case I doubt that I would have driven on by without stopping had I even been in the best of moods.

I never, ever forget how lucky we pilots are to see the world from our vantage point, both in the air *and* on the ground.