The evening light was casting long shadows over the green fields and little houses as I flew low. I was over neighborhoods I knew, familiar streets and houses. There were people down there swimming in their backyard pools, some grilling, others were tucked away in their air conditioned homes and binge watching Netflix. From a couple thousand feet above and moving along at just under one hundred miles per hour, the houses drift by like fallen leaves in a river.
As a pilot, we look down on thousands in a single gaze out the window. But to most, we’re nothing more than a noise in the sky that passes in seconds. Some may think we’re annoying and dangerous, other’s will gaze up and watch us fly by and smile. Either way, I have touched a part of their lives, while I sit in my seat, solo. Flying, though very much a community of people with large events, gatherings, and social interaction on the ground; the actual act of piloting a plane is quite a solitary experience.
To be honest, this applies to a lot of professions: race car driver, long haul trucker, even that construction worker you passed by doing seventy when you were supposed to slow down to fifty. We see, and don’t see, so many people every day of our lives. And the problem with this, in this modern age, we start to become too accustomed, perhaps taking things for granted in our rush to be where we think we need to be, or doing what we think we need to be doing. How many people do we walk by day in and day out that we could have just said “hello” to and changed their day?
One of the advantages to owning an old vintage car or truck is the fact that no matter where you go, you’re driving a conversation starter. You’re sitting in a steel body built fifty, sixty, seventy years ago; was once common and seen everywhere, but now has become an instrument for connecting one person to another. Just yesterday my wife and I did our bi-weekly trip to the hardware store, and of course we drove Tilly. We spent a fortune on this and that, then went out to load the boards for the fence into the back of the truck. I pull the truck to the front of the store and commenced loading. Just as we finish, a man walks up to us and is eyeing off our truck with a big grin on his face. He’s fascinated by the finish – bare metal gleaming in the sun. We all get to talking, and forty minutes later we are still there, standing out front of the store, getting dirty looks by store management for loitering, and we are still having a good chin wag. The man was from Germany. He and his wife live out in the country. He comes to town to run the errands, his wife doesn’t much want to come to town. They both love traveling, and my wife reminds him of a mate he knew once back in Germany with her Aussie accent. He loves a good home cooked meal, his wife makes the best food and she’d probably be furious when she finds out that her diabetic husband ate breakfast at Frisch’s Big Boy. He offered us a dog, too, they have six. And he has a Goose that his wife raised who thinks its a dog. It’s name is Oscar, after Oscar the Grouch, because the goose isn’t too keen on company and chases the mail man.
I could write on and on about our new friend. In such a short time, we learned so much about someone, and he us. We may never meet him again, but my wife and I will never forget this day and this encounter. And it seems that this is happening more and more, just because an old truck allowed someone to shed their reservation, stop, and say “Hello.”
Just today, my wife and I attended a neighborhood open house for some new neighbors. Most of the block was there, and after a year of living here, I was amazed at how many people we didn’t know. But it was nice, just conversing, learning, and hearing their stories. Folks who have lived in this neighborhood for thirty years or more. Others, like us, were relatively new. But we all share a little bit of love for this neighborhood. And perhaps now, because these new neighbors invited us in, we will feel a little more apt to stop and say hello in the future.
And if you see a small plane over head, give it a big wave, tell that pilot they are not really alone. They may just wave back.