“No delay, immediate right turn to three six zero degrees!” When youâ€™re flying a small plane, and Air Traffic Control says words like “no delay,” and “immediate”…that gets your attention. So I flicked the auto pilot off… and turned that control wheel over hard… and I watched the compass spin up till we were at about 345 degrees…then I eased her the rest of the way till it said 360…just like the man said.A moment later a big jet flashed by pretty close to where I would have been if the controller hadnâ€™t called the turn. I flicked the mike and said “thanks.” And believe me, I meant it. Pilots around here call that a “Linda Rondstadt” because Linda had a big hit called “Blue Bayou”…as in “that jet just blew by you.”I flicked the auto pilot back on to catch my breath for a moment and I realized… I was looking at an “N word.” Thereâ€™s no 360 degrees on an airplane compass. Just the letter N. It means North.Maybe there are some lessons here. For example:
1- There are lots of “N words”…which means there is no such thing as THE “N word.” Some idiot long ago couldnâ€™t spell the word “Niger”, so we got the word “nigger”… which became a word other idiots have used to call people with brown and black skin. If a guy describes somebody as a “nigger,” heâ€™s done you the favor of telling you right up front that heâ€™s an idiot. Simply by using that word, heâ€™s saved you the time and effort of figuring him out. Donâ€™t waste any more time/effort on him.
2- Get real. “The N word” doesnâ€™t mean anything. Say what you mean. “Nigger” is a word that cuts. Itâ€™s stupid, discourteous, and it hurts. And that means something…it tells you something…something ugly… something that wonâ€™t go away if you stick your head in the sand. So deal with it. The phrase “The N word” doesnâ€™t hurt… because there IS no such thing as “THE… N WORD.”
Thereâ€™s a dictionary full of “N words.” How about Nice, Nude, Naked (I like that one), Nabob, Naah, Nana, Nail, Native, Nose…etc. When that jet was bearing down on my little plane, the controller said “turn north.” That meant something. If he had said “turn to the N word”… the only response Iâ€™d have had is…”HUH?” “Do you want me to turn naked nicely like a nabob with a nana who has long nails…naaah, that canâ€™t be… do you want me toÂ fly my plane up your nose?” By the time I got if figured out, Iâ€™d have been toasting marshmallows on the jet guyâ€™s after burner.
2a- And while weâ€™re at it, there is no such thing as an “African American,” any more than there is a “European American.” “African American” means absolutely nothing. You African? Okay. You European? Okay. You American? Also okay. Africa is a continent. America is a continent. Europe is a continent. Three different continents. Lots of water in between.
3- Get a grip. When that controller called the traffic, I put both hands on that control wheel and some muscle went into that bank…fast. It happened, as they say, with “no delay.” The lesson ? Letâ€™s cut the crap…now. Weâ€™ve got important things to worry about in this country. Let it be the exclusive concern of our very capable American Association of Interior Decorators to worry about how brown, black, white, pink, yellow and red can work together…. what do you care? Get up off your black, brown white, pink, yellow or red butt and get a grip on the things that count. And DO something about them.
Watch the newscasts…if youâ€™ve got cable/satellite, check out the news reports from the BBC and other foreign sources so you know what other people are really saying about us…read the paper…learn whatâ€™s going on…make a note of which politicians donâ€™t really answer the questions…tell your friends who they are, then vote them out of office. Raise hell on talk radio, and write e-mails to the politicians… and demand an answer from them by phone if they ignore you. Know whatâ€™s really going on…THINK…donâ€™t get led around by the likes of Al “Sharpie” Sharpton or Righteous Rush Limbaugh .
Remember this quote. Itâ€™s from Adolph Hitler…and these are his exact words: “How fortunate for those of us who rule, that the people donâ€™t think.” SO THINK. THEN get up off your multi-colored butts and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
4- A sense of humor couldnâ€™t hurt. The thing the papers call a “near miss” is really a “near hit.” If it were a “near miss,” it would be a collision. But pilots call it a “Linda Rondstadt.” As in “Blue Bayou”…as in “that jet just blew by you.” We can all use a laugh… especially when weâ€™re looking at something that can tear us apart…like racism.
4- Help each other out. It was that controllerâ€™s job. Itâ€™s yours too. And mine. Respect the difference between giving a helping hand and giving a handout. But if youâ€™re on the receiving end, donâ€™t bite either hand… and get off your black, brown, white, pink, yellow or red butt as soon as you can so you can pass some good stuff along.
5- The Air Traffic Control system is highly professional and absolutely courteous. Pilots and Controllers address each other as “Sir” or “Maâ€™am.” We trust each other with life and death decisions that have to be made in an instant. Thereâ€™s no time to waste. But courtesy isnâ€™t considered a waste of time.
Courtesy is simply an expression of respect and concern. You may not want to go so far as to call each other Sir or Maâ€™am, but you can hold a door open for a lady…or even another guy…whatâ€™s to lose? You can resist riding a guyâ€™s bumper or giving another guy the finger if he does it to you. And Louie-Louie Generation guys should have the good sense to remove their hats at the table, at least when there is a lady present…unless your religion requires otherwise…in which case you can wear the appropriate yarmulka or turban…not a Yankee baseball hat.
We have a number of pilots who subscribe to this blog, and at least one (ex) Air Traffic Controller. On behalf of all of us pilots, let me take this opportunity to say “thanks” to Paul and all his brother and sister Air Traffic Controllers for looking out for us. You guys are the best.
1- How did my Mom enforce her order to “Stand up straight”?
2- What makes “Louie- Louie Generation” guys the romantic partners of choice for Super Models everywhere.
3- What did Sean Connery do for a living before he became an actor ?
3- right – You have the “Right Stuff.”
2- right – You have some pretty good stuff.
1- right – Near hit.
0- right – Near miss.
So… what have we learned? Iâ€™d say itâ€™s time to get real. Say what you mean. Get a grip. Laugh a little. Say “thanks” when itâ€™s due. Take at least one flight in a small plane on a lovely day. Enjoy living a little before you die.