Behind the Wheel

6 Sep 07 2 Comments

Janet wrote:

> just got a car, after months without, and re-learning standard stick shift
> routines. today’s big stressor was parking on a hill.
> but, no, there was no control tower. and no one watching.

I was in this situation the other day. I don’t tend to have to drive here in Spain. In fact with local roads a bit of a mad-house and parking nigh-on impossible in the summer months, I make a point not to drive if I can possibly avoid it. And I’m good at avoiding it.

So good that I managed to go a couple of months without driving at all. Then something came up and I found myself at the wheel of the huge Lincoln Navigator 4×4 that we continue to use even though dirt roads are now a rarity and driving through the sand to the beach is strictly forbidden.

I drove into city-center Málaga and got lost and then got unlost and did what I needed to do and then drove home again. And on the way home it struck me how I simply accepted this as the way things are without getting stressed. I clearly wasn’t driving as well as when I used to commute every day. I was obviously out of practice and slow to react. I had to think about how things worked.

So why is that totally not a big deal, but getting into the plane after 6 weeks of not flying scares me to death.

The difference struck me pretty much immediately. It’s not that no one is watching (in fact, there was at least one blare of a horn to show how irately one person WAS watching as I dithered), but that I can stop. At almost any point, I can make the decision to pull over. I can make the time to sort things out. Get a map out. Phone someone for advice. Take a few deep breaths. Have a little cry.

Once you are in the plane though, you just have to keep going. OK, sure, you can call for an emergency landing and really cause chaos (especially when you explain that it was just because you were feeling a bit upset about it all) but realistically, you are stuck now until the end and if things go too fast, well, you just have to learn to get faster. That’s what freaks me out … what I really want is to be able to pull over at the side of a cloud for a moment or two and catch my breath before carrying on.
The answer, of course, is to not let 6 weeks go by without flying. To keep reading about flying and good flying practices when it can’t be avoided. And I have to admit that writing about flying has helped me think about how I fly and what types of situations cause me problems.

But really, deep-down, I think my instinctive solution would be the best one: a great big pause button on the dash of the plane. I just want the option of saying “Please hold. An operator will be with you in a moment. Thank you for your patience.”

It’s not so much to ask?

Category: Miscellaneous,


  • it’s not too much to ask at all

    i won’t drive on the highway, or any road (if I can help it ) with more than two lanes. same thing (only smaller scale). I can’t pull over without huge improvements in depth perception and courage.

    Side of a cloud. says it all

    I’m still in awe of your doing this thing, this flying.

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