Plane & Pilot
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Becoming Invisible

“Sometimes, we’re all alone in a crowd”

Somewhere in the massive crowd, there were a bunch of pilots who, only a few hours earlier, had been part of a community, but were now invisible bits of flotsam with no identity. We were between worlds. Oshkosh was left behind and we were migrating back to the worlds we call home. In so doing, we crossed paths with the sweeper lady, but virtually none of us did so much as meet her eyes.

At the time, I thought that was sad. I saw her as being alone in a crowd. Then I realized I had it backward—I was the one who was alone in a crowd. We were all alone in a crowd. To her, however, there was no crowd. We were just stuff on her floor and this was her world. She wasn’t alone. She was home.

Without knowing it, I had seen this woman before. Back at Oshkosh, she had been the waitress at the restaurant, the desk clerk at the motel, the dozens, maybe hundreds, of people who call Oshkosh home whom I had interfaced with in the course of the week. To them, I was just a face in the crowd that always showed up for the fly-in. To us, they were the people who were always there, running the support systems around the big event.

At the exact moment that I was watching the sweeper lady, back in Oshkosh the town, “Welcome EAA” signs were coming down, the “Vacancy” neon at hotels was again glowing and that part of Wisconsin was beginning to breathe easy. It was returning to normal.

When each of us steps off the next airplane at home, Oshkosh will have been left far behind and we will also have returned to normal. We’ll all have a short period of readjustment, but as work and family regain their rightful positions in our lives, we’ll get over the re-entry blues quickly. Then, without even realizing it, we’ll start counting down the days before we again make our emotionally-necessary pilgrimage back to av-land. It’s a predictable cycle. Swallows have Capistrano. We have Oshkosh.


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