Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hang Time

I’m taking the world’s longest hang gliding lesson.

Eleven years, ten months, six days, and counting.

My adventure started in the mid-nineties with an early fall trek to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina with some friends. Following a brief instructional session, we hit what the Kitty Hawk folks like to reference as the “soft, forgiving” sand dunes which cushioned the fledgling efforts of none other than the legendary Wright brothers.

Our package included 5 introductory flights. I recall two things about my time on the dunes: the thrill of my running feet leaving earth as I went airborne, and an unfortunate crash and burn into said forgiving sand. I’d managed three flights before ill-winds turned the cushiony dunes against our party, reducing many of us to sand-blasted recipients of “wind checks”—a kind of extreme sport IOU—for the grounded flights.

Yesterday I attempted to cash in. See, wind checks are a pretty durable form of currency—you can cash them in, evidently by just claiming to have them (no one even asked to see mine) and they never, ever expire. So my daughter and I headed south, me clutching an aging wind check and her signed up for the same introductory lesson package I was planning to complete. The day was sunny and mild. We were set to fly. That is, until we pulled into Kitty Hawk beneath the specter of ill winds that blew a band of thunder storms just ahead of our arrival. We ran to the Flight School building through a cold sheet of rain and reviewed a range of options with the Instructor Studs, who basically delivered a lot of bad news in extremely charming fashion.

Our chances for flying that day were “abysmal.”

They were happy to troll the internet for lodging options for us, even though radar predictions for the following day weren’t appreciably better, and all the classes were full, anyway.

But they did know a great sandwich shop, in case we were hungry.

So with my hang gliding lesson back in a state of suspension, and it occurred to me that I should probably take some notes on what I’ve learned so far, just in case it takes another 12 years for me to resume it (although I’m aiming for August).

Here’s what I’ve got, just shy of mid-lesson:

That it is possible to keep track of something as small as a coupon for nearly 12 years. I find this fact fascinating. Let’s face it, I live in a home where key items such as passports, social security cards, children’s immunization records, and at least one queen sized striped sheet routinely vanish. The thought of a simple 3" x 5" piece of newsprint surviving nearly 12 years under our auspices leaves me frankly stunned. The fact that neither the document itself or even a scrap of verifying evidence was ever requested from the coupon, would admittedly be depressing had the Instructor Studs not issued me a new wind check for 5 full flights, which means I essentially redeemed the coupon for more than twice it’s worth. Not bad in today’s economy.

That my daughter is a great driver, even in the rain.

That Instructor Studs really know their sandwich shops.

(those are thin slices of sweet apples, just beneath the cheese.)

And that anticipation is a pretty cool thing. I can’t wait for August. Maybe I’ll wrap this thing up in under 12 years after all. Or perhaps the adventure will stretch out a little further, capturing even more memories to savor. I can’t wait to find out.


Anonymous said...

I still have my "wind checks" too! Amazing. I've tried twice, maybe a third time is the charm : )


Catherine Wannabe said...

Due to "abysmal" reading skills, I spent valuable time trying to figure out what "wind cheeks" could be!


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