I recently heard a friend say that she wasn’t ready to get another dog because she was still very sad about the loss of her previous dog about a year earlier.
A few months back, a different friend told me that he was reluctant to try online dating because he didn’t want to get hurt. Entering the dating arena placed him and his vulnerability front and center.
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We sometimes say that timing is everything, and in a way, that’s true. With many of life’s events, we don’t get the luxury of picking the when.
But what about being ready for when surprises do pop up? Like a plane off your wingtip?
About five years ago, I was not dating. I had taken myself off the market, or whatever you’d like to call it. I was resigned to just being single.
A few weeks before Christmas in 2015, my good friend was hosting a holiday party in Orlando. If you know me, you know that I loathe driving, and even on its best day, Florida’s Interstate 4 is hellacious. The trip would’ve been approximately three hours each way, which really isn’t a big deal. But I have a valid airmen certificate and an airplane ready to fly—and it’s a 35-minute flight. It was an easy call. I’d just fly. I woke that morning to sparkling sunshine, clear skies and light winds. A perfect day for flying.
When I fly, I always patch in my iPhone so I can listen to music. With good music playing, I lifted off from runway 5 around 10:30 a.m. Once airborne, I executed a gentle turn to the east. My route of flight would take me directly over a small airport called Pilot Country, but other than that, it was an easy, direct path to Orlando Executive Airport. I leveled off in the smooth air and settled in, enjoying the sights and sounds of the flight. As I approached Pilot Country Airport from the west, I keyed in its frequency and made an announcement that I would be over-flying the field from west to east at a thousand feet. It was a Friday morning, and I didn’t observe any other traffic, so I expected to continue my route of flight, uninterrupted. In that moment, how was I to know that my whole life was on the brink of changing forever?
A gentleman’s voice replied on the frequency, announcing that he was also in the vicinity, flying a Pitts. In short order, we figured out where we were in relation to each other, and then he asked if he could form up on my wing? A Pitts is an aerobatic biplane and has always been one of my favorites. As for forming up on my wing? “Um, sure?” I thought. It wasn’t normal, but it happened so quickly—and I’m always one for some impromptu fun, so I said, yes.
A black biplane popped up next to me, just as quickly and unexpected as could be. I snapped some pics with my iPhone, and the cheeky aviator asked if I’d kindly text those to him. He proceeded to give his phone number over the frequency, and I sent them along, realizing I had just given my number to a stranger, possibly the stalker-type. We flew along in a loose formation for a few moments before he peeled off, zooming off into the blue sky from which he’d emerged only seconds earlier. I continued to Orlando, the rest of the flight uneventful. I met my friend and recounted the strange encounter I’d just had.
The mysterious Pitts flyer and I began exchanging text messages. I had no idea who he was, just a fellow flyer on a sunny day. Intrigued, I agreed to meet him at a small area airport a week later.
On the day we planned to meet, it was another lovely day, warm for December but good for flying. I arrived at Zephyrhills Municipal Airport before him and parked Daisy, the Champ, near the main runway. I always keep a blanket aboard for such occasions and spread it below the wing to sit and wait. A few moments later, I heard the authoritative sound of a powerful engine, and the black Pitts roared down the runway, abruptly pulling up into a steep climb and making a turn to re-enter the pattern. The Pitts landed and taxied up, parking next to me. I was suddenly kind of nervous! The moment of truth had arrived: Who was this mysterious charmer? The canopy opened, and a dark-haired man pulled himself from the narrow cockpit. I froze, staying seated right where I was, totally losing my cool. Seconds later, he finally stood before me: a handsome, clean-cut guy around my age named Mike. I observed no wedding ring, another good sign. We were both nervous to meet one another, I could tell! He sat upon the blanket beside me, and we got to talking, sharing a beautiful afternoon in each other’s company.
Mike, the bold Pitts flyer, and I were married on February 22, 2018—and if you put those digits down, they make up the radio frequency on which we met (122.8). I might not believe that story if it were not my own—but you just never know what life has up its sleeve. Was I ready to meet Mike? I would’ve probably said that I wasn’t, but we were obviously meant to meet. I have often wondered at the timing—two minutes in either direction, and we could’ve missed one another.
There’s no such thing as being ready, but it serves us well to anticipate the good that can come when we least expect it. The universe listens. Things can and sometimes will go wrong, but more often than not, they go right. Try being ready to receive good things, believe in it, and keep your eyes on the sky.
Have you had a close call or a cool aviation experience that left a lasting impression? We’d love to share your story in the magazine! We’re looking for stories that are between 1,100 and 1,500 words long that tell a great story. If you’re interested, you can always write us a note outlining your experience and we’ll get back to you right away. The pay is small potatoes, $101, but if your story is chosen, you’ll get to work with our great illustrator Gabriel Campanario and have him bring your memory to life.
Email us (sorry, no phone calls or snail mail) at [email protected] and put Lessons Learned Submission in the subject line.