By lex, on January 20th, 2008
After church today I asked the Hobbit to move her car out of the way the better for to unlimber the motorcycle. I was scheduled to fly this afternoon at Palomar, and while the trip up the 5 is predictably smooth, the return trip south is predictably chaotic, for some reason. You’d think there would be some sort of unified field theory, a “goes inna – goes outa” constraint to limit southbound traffic to a less than or equal to value. But I’m telling you from experience that, for whatever reason? The math is out of balance. Eventually we’re going to flip poles and the south will be on top, what with all that accumulated iron down there.
Just you watch.
Before I headed out the door she sternly remonstrated with me to “be careful!” I wasn’t sure whether she was talking about the bike – she always tells me to be careful on the bike – or the flying. Of the two, the motorcycle is probably the more hazardous risk exposure. You do what you can to mitigate the risk – you have to drive as though you’re invisible, that no one sees you. That way it doesn’t surprise you when they pull out in front of you, or dart into your lane. You have to try and always keep a safety option in your pocket whenever you can – a protected place to go if things go wrong around you. Me? I always ride in the leftmost lane or the rightmost, never in between. That keeps the shoulder of the road in play if something happens up ahead.
The nightmare scenario is not so much what’s behind you or beside you. It’s the unpredictable thing that happens just in front of you, inside your breaking distance and reaction time. In a car you’ve got a fighting chance plowing into someone else’s mess at highway speeds. On a bike?
Not so much.
So anyway, I got up to the airport to discover that my flight had been canceled. A bummer, but it happens. The client got sick. I stopped off at one of the local training dumps to inquire about the cost of getting night and instrument refresher training in a Cessna 172 or 182 – preferably one with a glass cockpit – or maybe even a Beechcraft Duchess for some multi-engine time. The flying bug has bit me again and I’m turning the numbers over in my head, trying to see if they add up.
You see, I commute back and forth to Coronado every morning past Lindberg Field here in San Diego. And every single time I drive by I look at the runway, check the ramp. See who’s arriving, who’s departing. Who’s parked. Every time. I realized that I very rarely look at the office buildings as I go by and wonder what it’s like sitting in one of them pushing paper around. I’ve got that.
I actually had planned to do the airline thing after retiring as a commander at 20, but then 9/11 hit and we all got a little busy. One thing led to another and here I am a few years later finally ready to hang up my spurs.
Since the airlines are all about seniority, I used to think that going commercial after a 26-year retirement didn’t make a lot of sense – not enough time to get off the reserve/right seat/Christmas Eve flight schedule to make it work. But with the age limit going up to 65, it occurs to me that I might just have gotten five years back. And frankly the beltway bandit/consultant alternative doesn’t look all that appealing.
I haven’t decided on anything finally apart from the fact that maybe – just maybe – there might be more flying in my future. That means getting current. Which is nothing like cheap.
So anyway, I got the menu from the training camp and was heading out when a man pulled up in his car and asked me where the airport building was. An Asian gentlemen, with limited command of the Queen’s argot. I told him to take a left at the stop sign and he’d find himself where I reckoned he wanted to be, by the arrival terminal. Apparently he knew just enough English to ask the question, but not enough to understand the answer.
Hell with it, I thought: “Follow me.” Wouldn’t take but a minute or two of my time. Might give hizzoner a better impression of the natives. Not all of us do so very good a job of representing the side to furriners. Sometimes I like to smile and tip it the friendly. Hoping it might come back to us in time – “They’re not so very bad,” a man might say in Mandarin one day. Once this fellow went out of his way to bring me home.
So I dropped him off at the FBO where he met his friend and then I went about my merry. Toodled back down the south, working my way through the venturi until I got back home.
When I got to the exit leading to my house I saw a car a-laying on its side in the median between the highway and my exit. Something had happened at high speed I imagine. It had gotten right awkward there for a cuppla. There were a few folks sitting down, being comforted by some other people – witnesses maybe, or good Samaritans. Rubberneckers perhaps. It looked like it had been ugly there for a bit – there was still dust and steam in the air, the front tires turning lazily on what had been someone’s pride and joy, but what had become a liability. But everything appeared to be well in hand, so I rode on.
The highway patrol wasn’t there yet, which meant that I couldn’t have missed it by more than a minute or two. That minute or two, it occurred to me after a moment, that I had spent shepherding hizzoner the Asian gentleman to the FBO. I pondered the realization that if I had just blown him off and headed home, the mess that I was witnessing in aftermath I might have instead seen in real time, just in front of me. With no time to react, nor distance to stop.
Hell, I don’t know.