trajectories and terrible comm 26 March 05

We do it in airplanes every time we flying formation. In order to stay close to, but not hit, your flight lead, you calculate where he’ll be during the next span of time, and therefore, where you need to me and how to get there. After a few formation flights, this becomes subconscious. It rises to consciousness, however, when you found you have just done this on a highway in a car going a mile a minute. A few cars in front of me, on the dry road with some traffic but not much for Denver, a car suddenly skid sideways. 2 or 3 cars had swerved around him in a space of time too short for drivers to even hit their brakes. His tires smoking and chassis tilted against the deceleration, he slid sideways, perpendicular to traffic. He blocked the left and middle lanes as he slid west down the highway, advancing slowly north toward the right lane. Now he was in front of me, blocking ever more of my middle lane. I was aware of a car behind and to my right and moved smoothly right, calculating 2 things – just how far right I’d have to go to miss the moving target in front of me, and whether the guy behind me was maneuvering in relation to me. For a moment it felt like I was flying formation with a young wingman – calculate where you need to go, but temper it with “wingman consideration” and always monitor him to be sure he’s seen you maneuver and is responding accordingly. I passed within a foot or two of the skidding car and moved back over into my lane before I realized that nothing had really felt out of place or uncomfortable in the whole situation. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever outgrow a teenager’s illusion of invincibility. But then again it’s said that we become fighter pilots so we don’t have to grow up. (Though I do thank God for keeping me safe in this crazy life I lead!)

I spent the next few days with Mom and Dad, marveling at the miscommunication that was our norm. He’d ask what time we needed to leave and I’d answer what time we needed to be there. She say she wanted to ski with him, and he’s answer, it’s okay, we’ll just meet at the bus. It was a relief to realize it’s not just me who’s communication-challenged – it’s hereditary!

So off I went to snowshoe race, where verbal skills are not evaluated. Receiving the “communication” given by the flags marking the race course is, however. And there I failed, staring at the snowshoes in front of me and trudging across Lake Dillon until shouts behind me made me realize my error. The entire lead group had missed the turn, though is was clearly marked with flags – amazing what can happen in a race. I knew something had gone significantly wrong when I was breaking trail (making fresh tracks in the deep powder). There’s pros in this field – no way I should be up front! Danelle, the race director, handled it well, awarding the original categories of 4K and 10K, and creating a new category of 10miles for those who had continued off-course half way across the lake until she’d rounded them up and herded them back on her skis. As for the course, it was typical Danelle – off-piste, knee-deep at times, bare mud at times, winding through thickets, pushing through tree branches, never never flat, and crowned by a couple hundred foot butt-slide down a steep hill, only to turn around and go back up at the 4-mile mark (or 5-mile for some of us communication-challenged types). And all this capped off by scrumptious soup and a jalapeno eating contest…

I had begun that Saturday in Vail, Colorado, raced in Frisco, and driven to Denver (where I met Mom and Dad for an unexpected airport dinner as they waited on stand-by for 2 seats to New Jersey) to fly to El Paso, Texas, then drive home to High Rolls, New Mexico. You have no idea how happy I was to find out they had cancelled weekend flying so I could sleep on Sunday, instead of working.

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