In approximately 68 days, as the Earth reaches that point in orbit where its axial tilt points the North pole directly towards the sun, should fortune and perseverance align like the great megaliths of Stonehenge, I may once again find myself strapped into the Captain’s seat of a virtual jetliner in the maiden flight of Summer Sim Season ’18.
It has been a busy year in the Farmer household full of twists and turns that, as I review my notes, blog posts, and log entries from last summer, make me wonder if not one but five years have transpired since last we found the Earth at its present location in its majestic orbit around the sun. Yet, through bumps and bruises and the wisdom of another year’s mistakes, we all did in fact make it here and summer plans have now taken tentative shape which may again allow me to indulge in my solitary annual ritual.
For various reasons it appeared at times doubtful that the stage would be set. One particular concern growing of late is that as the kids get older, so too do their grandparents, and though their patience seems inexhaustible, their agility is most certainly not what it was. Our humble intentions to allow our children as much time as possible with their grandparents in the country of their heritage is now gradually being assailed by the reality that at some point the welcoming caregivers will themselves be in need of care, and will not for much longer be able to host the holy terror that is unleashed upon their quiet household every summer when the kids come to visit. What used to be a three month holiday became two, and this year we have pared it down to six weeks, which despite their protestations we feel is about as much as we can safely extract from them. And so on the day of the Solstice, if as I continue to remind myself, the next ten weeks unfold without any further unplanned disasters, the Fam will depart from Sea-Tac en route to Heathrow and I will be left to my already highly anticipated devices.
The mis-adventures of the past year since the last season have so dominated my care and attention that, thankfully I suppose, I have had no time to grow wistful for my long-dormant hobby, nor even to peruse the usual channels to see what it is I’ve been missing out on. In this lengthy off-season, flight simulation was always in the back of my mind, but I dared not let the seeds of longing grow, lest I set myself up for great disappointment. Even the very act of returning to this blog at this time may be premature. There are still so many things that could go wrong, the trip could very easily be cancelled, and I may find myself staring at another year before having the opportunity again. But let’s not be so terribly negative—though the year’s events as you’ll read more about below have quite conditioned my mind to expect the worst, we have after all made the plans and so achieved a very promising first step towards making any flight: Clearance Delivery has been granted.
But before I can truly free my mind enough to get excited about the propects of another sim season, as an act of therapeutic rehabilitation I feel I must recount the various highlights of the past year so as perhaps to convince myself that after navigating such troubled skies, I do in fact deserve to grant myself a bit of repose.
The first misfortune to literally befall our house was the sudden decision by a very large pine, originally located at what I had miscalculated to be a safe distance down the property to redecorate our living room in a decidedly woodland theme. This was during one of those storms we frequently see here in the Pacific Northwest that makes Cliff Mass so excited. Needles, twigs, branches, lots of mud, and to top it off a nice sparkling glaze of broken glass strewn everywhere. Surprisingly the financial cost was not nearly as dire as was expected given the scope of the damage, but it was four full months before a semblance of normality was restored and we were once again able to use our living room for its intended purpose.
Then there was the incident in which my daughter, taking after the more mischevious and unflattering chapters of her father’s childhood, engaged in some artistic redecorating of her own upon an unassuming wall on the grounds of her school with a certain can of spray paint whose origins to this day remain a mystery. From this event I learned two important lessons: first, that perhaps there are some events from one’s childhood that one shouldn’t necessarily faithfully recount to one’s children. And second, that my single-minded devotion to work for the ostensible purpose of providing for my children was in fact ironically robbing me of the proper amounts of time to actually provide genuine parentage. The school was intending to be much more forgiving than I was. I insisted they expel her and in the bargain I agreed to ground myself for a month in order to redirect her adolescent energies towards more positive efforts. Through some quality time, I attempted to explain that some lessons of my youth were not meant to be emulated and she would be the better person for listening to and learning from her father’s stupid mistakes. On the whole it appears to have been a successful experiment, at least for another year.
Before I could congratulate myself on being such a great dad, I was then waylaid by an illness that kept me fully indisposed for the better part of a month. Ever since the austere number ‘5’ violently overthrew its lesser predecessor and came to occupy the first digit of my age, and I now find that movies depicting historical events from my own time are becoming more populous than movies depicting historical events from before my time, and I begin to pay attention to things like actuarial tables, illnesses have assumed a greater weight than they did in more spirited times. Although the doctors assured me this one was not a grave concern, it did knock me around a good deal both physically and psychologically, forced me to pull back from my work even more, and made me to reassess whether my frantic schedule was working for anyone’s benefit.
On the work front, business this past year was more difficult to come by and there were several extended periods of time when I anxiously found myself with no clients at all. While my employees didn’t much mind having several weeks of downtime to spend in the office playing pinochle all day, I grew ever more anxious watching the dwindling of the accounts and redoubling my efforts at winning new clients. Naturally these downtimes didn’t coincide with the forced vacations the above events led me to take, so right when I was back in the game and ready to get things moving again was when I began to panic over the viability of the enterprise.
I came to realize why so many industries build in a bit of ineptitude, or planned obsolescence, into their business models. My stubborn integrity which leads me to get the job done right the first time, while providing a certain satisfaction upon completion as well as tremendous value for the customer, doesn’t bode well when it comes to ensuring a steady flow of new jobs. As Chief, I’ve got to spend most of my time marketing my services, shaking hands, and grooming a team whose skills and work ethic I can trust. For a business that spreads entirely from word of mouth, this means lots of travel and lots of pre-sales efforts that can take months to pan out, if at all. I had already begun preparing the “it’s been a wonderful time for us but that time is nearing an end” speech, when at last some promising contracts finally came through and breathed a bit of reassurance into the old company coffers.
So as you can see, it has been as the old proverb goes, ‘interesting’ times. Am I a fool, Dear Conscience, for allowing my mind to drift back to the purely self-induglent territory of flight simulation? Should I chuck this childish nonsense and concentrate only on work and family and health? You may be right, but then again, how else can one measure one’s progress without introducing a short recess in which to clear the mind, soothe the body, and mend the spirit? Every racer needs a pit stop now and again, and this is precisely what flight simming serves for me.
“Foolish rationalizations!” the Conscience insists, “you’re a lazy man, Farmer, and you must admit that this is no time to play! Your family not to mention the good people whose livelihoods depend on you should be ashamed by these escapist fantasies! Put down your toys and get back to work!” Ah, Conscience! Legacy of Bedouin warriors mixed with British Imperial fortitude and Midwestern salt of the earth work ethic, stuff it off already and let this man play with his joystick once and again!
Crossing a football field in the early morning twilight I allow myself a Zen-like moment to close my eyes and mutter “become one with the autogen.” Then glancing skyward as the sun’s rays dazzle and dance among the wispy clouds I say aloud but only to myself, “I’ve got to get back up there.”