Friday, July 08, 2005

Wherein I reveal the purpose of the telephone

I know plenty of people who will disagree with me on this. But they are wrong. Telephones are a wonderful invention, especially the cellular kind. That is all I have. I have moved residence so many times, I don't even bother to get a land-line. Telephones exist so that communication can take place. I am fond of communicating, and finishing up the conversation if there isn't anything more to say, so that I can proceed with the rest of my life. So I see the phone as a means of getting a message across, followed by hanging up. I don't tend to have long conversations on the phone. I like to save those for when I am seeing someone face to face.

It has been my experience during several years of instructing people how to fly, that I always have at least one student who makes my life more complicated than it ought to be. This started early in my instructing career, when I often found myself as the only instructor of the bunch who was willing to deal with students who struggled mightily. The other instructors I knew just reached a point where they would give up, but I would keep trying. So I naturally ended up with the more challenging students: the ones who didn't grasp that rolling down the runway at 70 miles an hour was a bad time to look down and try to figure out how to set a clock; the ones who had such bad sense of direction that I wondered how they ever actually drove in to the airport without ending up several states away.

Before this starts sounding like a rant, let me clarify: I enjoy a challenge. I enjoy molding a totally confused student into a justifiably confident pilot. That's why I'm in this business. But I often have to marvel at the variety of ways that certain human neural centers function. Or fail to function.

As I said before, I generally have a "most complicated student" to deal with. For a while now, that title has been held by a woman working on her private license. Her main issue is lack of a sense of direction. She knows it. So an awareness of this inability tends to ameliorate the complication factor. To my utter amazement, the reigning queen has now been dethroned.

I have a new student. I think he will be a decent pilot, if I can actually get him to focus on it. I flew with him on his introductory flight almost two weeks ago, and he handled it well. But he doesn't seem interested in following any normal sort of path to a license. Not a major problem, I'm flexible. Well, somewhat. There are other students involved in flight training at the same time, which makes it a bit difficult to simply block out an entire day for him on a moment's notice. Or to switch days suddenly at the last minute. This is why we have not flown in the 12 days since his intro.

Generally, flight training starts with the basics, in relatively short bursts. An intro flight is short, because it doesn't often take too long to wear someone out to the point that their brains stop processing new information. Lessons immediately following the intro tend to have the same issue, so you keep them short, focusing on only a few tasks during the flight: straight & level at the same time, or following a road, or turns.

The basic skills involved in not turning the plane into a firey crater in the ground, tend to be the first agenda, and necessary for the acquisition of other skills. So when this student decided he wanted to fly a cross-country flight right off the starting gun, I knew it would get interesting. When he started getting frustrated at our inability to get the flight accomplished on every given date and time he wanted, when he didn't appreciate how skillfully I managed once to maneuver previously-scheduled flights to fit his wishes, when he suddenly sprung on me the desperate need to get to Cleveland at the last minute (and possibly with an extra person, requiring a different aircraft), and the disappointment he suffered when I was unable to call him back in a timely manner, all these were signs that started to tell me that the reigning complicated student champ was about to meet her match.

All of the above thoughts were leaping across the synapses in my grey matter this evening, while he kept talking through the phone, trying to work out every detail in his head, repeating questions, not quite letting me finish answers before asking other questions, and generally spending my cellular minutes with reckless abandon. I kept thinking how nice it is that my company now provides me with a phone, because I had been using my personal phone for business, and was always exceeding my 1,200 allotted minutes. I wondered at the talent it requires to turn 5 minutes worth of useful conversation into 37 minutes of me trying to find a way for him to stop talking.

It is times like this that I wonder why they havent invented a phone that can send an electrical shock across the line to the other end. And above all, I am impressed, because he admits he is being complicated.

Which relieves me of having to crown him champion-for-life.

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