A long time ago I learned how to fly.
Lessons were thrilling, dazzling, mind-blowing and action-packed.
They were also exhausting, white-knuckling, petrifying and hair-raising. My knees knocked together with such precision and regularity, I’m certain they were sending out some sort of Morse code of panic.
But one of the most important lessons I took away from that experience was gaining the true definition of what it meant to fly by the seat of your pants.
I think, at the time, I would have been fairly confident in admitting that I was not spontaneous. I’d been raised and trained as a musician and had been for many years making a living showing others that I could deliver results because I’d practiced and perfected (or close enough) what was expected and what I’d been paid to do. The shows I performed in were strictly timed and had no room for stepping a toe outside the margin for artistic license. In fact, artistic license was frowned upon. With microphone in hand and speaking to the audience, even the ad libs were practiced.
That was the point. Surprises meant panic—and these were not shows that invited outliers to mess about with the tried and true. Follow your cues, hit your mark, and take a big bow. Remove your makeup, cash your paycheck and wake up to do the whole thing again tomorrow.
Piloting a plane was incredibly similar. Tick off the checklist, fly the plane, land the craft. Don’t skip procedure or you’ll NOT wake up to do the whole thing again tomorrow. You will also not wake up inside the pine box you’re now residing in.
Easy peasy. Simple and safe.
Accompanying my daughter to one of her shows is an entirely different experience. She too had been fed on the same diet of stable, steady and straight, but at some point, she spat that bunk out like it was a mouthful of cat hair.
From then on, playing the part of parental roadie has been like riding a roller coaster without a safety harness, and knowing somewhere you missed the sign that said, “Temporarily shut down for repairs.”
I’m a planner. If I’m doing a road trip, I’m going to make sure my car is in tiptop shape, I’ve got gas, I have directions to the destination, I’ll have packed my bag, and I have emergency supplies for every conceivable calamity mankind has had to face.
My daughter will grab an armload of clothes off her bedroom floor, a jug of eyeliner and rely on a bra strap to use as floss before bed.
My computer copied directions turned out to be less than reliable as a split second after seeing the Google Map displayed beautifully on my screen and clicking the word PRINT, all the numbers seemed to have gone missing. I was told to turn left or right, but not onto what and never after how long.
But I’ve got a great sense of direction. So we fly by the seat of our pants, right?
Rule number 792 of flying: Never trust the seat of your pants.
Trust your instruments. But only after you’ve checked your backup instruments to your instruments. And only after you’ve checked and double checked your original instruments and backup instruments.
Speaking of instruments. Do you have your violin??
The answer was: Probably.
We had to rely on my daughter’s iPhone, as mine is working better as a thick bookmark and a paperweight these days than it is as anything with intelligence—artificial or otherwise.
The problem with the above scenario was that the smartphone’s voice for directions only occasionally worked because the gadget was being overloaded with text messages from a hundred other teenagers and the necessary ‘study music’ needed to accompany somebody who was finally cracking open a few chapters for a massive physics test in 36 hours.
About 30 minutes before we arrived for sound check the question, “I wonder what I’m playing tonight?” floated through the car.
Flicking back through several weeks of old text messages revealed the set list: a few songs she sorta remembered, one she would wing, and two others she vaguely recalled performing nearly a year ago.
My ‘panic and puke now’ bells were rapidly firing off. I was only an audience member and I was beginning to hyperventilate, but the person riding next to me just pulled up one of the tunes on YouTube and started air violining her way through it.
“Oh my godfathers, you had better hope they’re going to let you Milli Vanilli the performance tonight.” I envisioned catastrophe.
“Chill, Mom—and shush.”
Fast forward to showtime and a last minute text that came before the lights went down.
MOTHER! Hair up or down?
I thought about what could save her future. Down. Definitely down and see if you can’t hide most of your face.
And then I added, Which dress will you wear?
Her response: All of them.
The lights went down, the show began, the numbers flew by. There was no panic on anyone’s faces—no sign of distress—my child did not leave the stage amid a flurry of booing and tomato throwing from the audience—no crashing and burning of aircraft because she forgot to do a fuel check before takeoff. She got fuel from applause. She got inspiration from the whooping and hollering. She got chord progressions from the guitarist beside her.
Was she lucky? Was she good? I think maybe both.
And now she wants to learn to fly.
Well, I may sit with her in a car using nothing more than the sun and a few shadows for directions, and I may sit in the audience for her holding my breath and hoping for the best, but I will not sit in a cockpit with her and be offered nothing but a wing and a prayer.
That is one flight of fancy that I’ll just have to ground.
Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the Pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.
- 29 Things Your Pilot Won’t Tell You (http://www.rd.com)
- Funny Pilot Chatter (http://www.funnyairlinestories.com)
- Fly By the Seat of Your Pants (http://www.idiomation.wordpress.com)