"Go riding in your sweet lullabies, come fly away...."
-- Benny Benassi featuring Channing
"Come Fly Away"
It's been a horrible week at work. My being stuck in my life situation has been getting to me. I should be writing, not working a job with clueless bosses and a soulcrushing amount of overtime. I have no time to write and draw, and frequently drawing Rhapsody and Melody are the only things that can snap me out of a funk this bad. No chances to try and show the world what I can do until C2E2, and it's my only shot for the year, the days of submitting work and landing with an editor looking for new talent are over. Wizard World? I might as well stay home and play with myself. Family stupidity. Isolation from those I care about. Not making any headway in the world. Oh, I'm doing great helping others, but I have made no measurable advances for myself since last year....
During the week, I'm talking on the phone to my teacher, the only real contact I have with her. I haven't seen her in about a month and a half, and it's been longer since I saw the Munchkin. She listens with her usual infinite sympathy and understanding. That was before Friday night. Friday, we were expecting management to say that the overtime would be easing up a little bit, it's all they talked about the last few weeks. Friday, Lucy pulls the football away again. Not only will it continue, but the schedule is getting jiggled with so that I'll be starting at 3AM for a couple of days a week.
Talking with my teacher on the phone that night, I just vented all my frustration with my life and how sick of it I am. She gave me a pep talk, telling me that I would make it through it fine, I'm just feeling overwhelmed. "Once you shake it off, you'll make it through this okay."
It's going to take something pretty big to shake me out of this.
"Yeah...it will. Good night, Peter."
This morning, I wake up, have breakfast, and check my email. There's a message from my teacher. It lists a couple of groups of numbers. I call her up. What's this?
"What do you think it is?"
It looks like -- coordinates.
"Now, Peter, that's not how this works."
When should I be there?
"Anytime after 1000AM."
What kind of money should I bring with?
"At least $50, I would suggest $70 so you can grab a snack. And bring your camera."
"What's the point of making all that money if you can't enjoy spending it?"
She's never wrong, and she knows me better than I know myself. So I hang up, jump in the Angry Red Dragon (my car), and set my GPS for the coordinates she listed. It tells me how long until I get there, and I start driving.
The route takes me through corn country. I can't even begin to imagine what could be out here until I'm notified I'm almost there. About a half mile away, I see a sign that says to watch out for low flying aircraft. Just over the hill, I see a grassy area with several cars parked parking lot style. I guess that's it.
I pull up and get a look at the sign telling me what is going on. A charity fundraiser for a kid with cancer. And what are they selling to raise money?
My eyes light up. I'm going to fly in a glider.
I quickly park and jump out. The guys taking the money greet me happily and, after a quick exchange and me forking over $50, they mark me down on the list for a flight a few hours later (big turnout). I head for a McDonald's to grab a snack and check the Intertubes, then head back.
Killing time, one of the things I did was look over a glider they had parked off to the side for kids to get their pictures taken in it. It is really remarkable how deceptive these things are. They look fragile, but they are not only strong, but they are aerodynamically perfect. Planes fly because of the Bernouli principle, the difference in speed of air flowing under and over the wing creating lift. You can do this with either natural shapes like a glider or by forcing the wing into the air to generate the currents (known in local parlance as "angle of attack"), which is how those big bulky jets fly. There's a ratio that describes gliding. A regular jet gets a 1:15 ratio, which means for every one mile up you go, you glide fifteen miles forward. The most efficient jets have a 1:22 ratio. These gliders have a 1:50 ratio.
To achieve this, the gliders are extremely lightweight. The bodies are made of fiberglass, and the wings are composite polycarbonate -- more expensive than fiberglass but damn strong. Anything extraneous is gone from the vehicle, and that includes motors, not just to power flight, but also for things like retracting the landing gear and closing the hatch. That's done with a simple lever system. Same with the flight controls. The only part of the glider that doesn't use human muscle is the heads up display with the radio and SatNav. Even the altimeter just uses elementary physics as air in a pair of cylinders compresses or decompresses at different rates. In fact, that exact same simple mechanism is what is inside those giant jumbo jets.
Eventually, it was my turn. The glider I was getting was a racer, which was pulled to the runway by a golf cart (I did mention they were extremely lightweight, right?). The pilot (yes, there was a pilot and I was a passenger. They aren't THAT crazy) was a swell guy ready to answer any questions I had as we went. I sat down in the cockpit, and got my first disappointment -- the seat belt was having trouble reaching around me. "What do you weigh?"
I overestimated a little and said, 260.
"...uh, we have a weight restriction of 254."
I'm pretty sure I'm below that, if not by much, and told them I guessed high. They decided to make sure. The belt extended as far out as it could get clasped around me snuggly, but wasn't constrictive. The pilot told the tow plane that would take us up to go about 70 (and that's knots, not MPH. MPH, that's about 80.6). Since there is nothing excessive on the glider, there are no shock absorbers, so you felt the little bumps in the ground as we were pulled along. That lasted maybe fifteen seconds before we could lift off the ground, and we were off.
I had a set of guages where I was sitting, and could see we were cruising at about 1,800 feet. Once we were aloft, the pilot was told that it was going to take a little longer to get the landing gliders into position and aloft, so keep me up a little longer. The pilot hit a couple of thermal updrafts, and we kept on.
It was during this that the pilot asked if I'd ever flown in a glider before. I told him no, and in fact, until just this past November, I'd never flown before period. He seemed a little shocked since I didn't seem to be exhibiting any nervousness. He just didn't look at my forearms, where I had a small hive outbreak. Nervous? A little scared? Sure. But I wasn't about to let that stop me from flying.
If you ever get a chance to ride in a glider, I can't recommend it enough. Unlike being on a jumbo jet, you have a far more immediate sensation. You see everything. You hear it. The pilot and I just talked like we were in a car because there was no engine noise, just the wind going past the canopy. You are high enough to see the world as a cohesive unit, but not so high that all the details get lost. I forgot to take pictures, I was just blown away.
We came in for a landing with a sharp bank that was actually quite fun if a little nerve racking. The landing was perfect, and I thanked everybody. I got a certificate (give me a break, I like it) and was soon on my way to my regular life. I called my teacher. "Hello?"
I just flew in from Chicago, and boy are my ams tired.
She laughed, and I told her all about it. She said I sounded happier than I have in ages. She's right. It may be back to my regular life where I am struggling against my own obscurity, hoping to some day break through and be a writer instead. But at least, I have a happier attitude, so I can handle it a little better for now.
Supposedly, when you dream you are flying, it's sexual.
Not tonight, it won't be.