Budd Davisson, October, 1996

Carpe Diem!
The Day I Ran Away From Work

It wasn't planned. But the good ones never are. I was sitting right where I am now, looking out the window at the mountains in the far distance. In support of my sanity, I ignored the millions of roofs between me and the blue gray phantoms on the horizon.

As far as that goes, I was ignoring just about everything. The hum of the removable hard drive was somewhere far away. The dull glow of the computer screen couldn't draw my attention and the words on it meant nothing.

My mind was somewhere else. Somewhere out "there." Where it was blue and three-dimensional.

I'd gotten into the office at my usual time, oh-dark-thirty, and hadn't noticed the sun was rising until it broke free of the mountains behind me and bounced a few stray rays against those mountains out there.

Without realizing it, my mind clicked off. At least that part of my mind which is harnessed to things that have to be done. That must be finished. That exist only in the imperative.

The switch which controls that particular part of my brain must have only two positions and neither one of them is "off." One position is labeled "work." The other is labeled "make-it-up-as-you-go-along."

I grinned, stood up and tossed on a flying jacket. It was time to run away. The imperatives can wait.

I don't know about the rest of the world, but for those of us who are self-employed (read that as "chronically unemployable"), the guilt normally attached to work can sometimes be overpowering. If you aren't working, you aren't producing. If you aren't producing, you aren't investing your time wisely. It seems as if school is never out and you always feel guilty about not getting that term paper finished.

There is, however, that marvelous moment, when you finally commit to running away and the mantle of guilt slides off and you feel as if you're bursting up out of cold water after holding your breath for a long time. The feeling of relief is enormous. And instantaneous.

For me, that feeling always surfaces when screaming up the interstate on-ramp at the beginning of a long cross country driving trip. Or, as on this day, the instant the hangar doors slide open and the low, morning sun sets fire to the bright red of the fuselage and wings. Suddenly, even before I'd pulled the airplane out, the guilt went away. The things that absolutely, positively had to be done a few minutes earlier, were forgotten. They can wait. The entire world can wait.

For me, the most delicious moment, when playing hooky, comes when I've stepped over the fuselage side and I'm standing in the cockpit with both feet in the foot trays. As I bring my elbows in to clear the canopy rails and slide down inside, it is at that exact moment I know I'm free. When I know I'm where I belong.

I don't have the feeling of being in the right place very often. That's been true for my entire life. In fact, the only time I feel as if I'm where I'm supposed to be is when I go through that boarding ritual and slither down inside that particular cockpit. At that moment, the feeling of being in the right place always overwhelms me. On this particular day, a day when I'm just goofing, when not a solitary soul knows where I am or what I'm doing, the feeling is especially sweet. Yeah, all that business stuff that positively, absolutely has to be done can wait.

Then the Lycoming barks up between my feet, the airplane comes alive and me right along with it.

I've taken off on this particular piece of asphalt hundreds of times and I glory in the thrill every time. But on the days I'm running away from the world, I can literally taste the takeoff. And I'm super aware of leaving all that mental trash behind. A few minutes earlier I had been dogged by deadlines and payments. Telephones and faxes. But, for the moment, they were all in the past tense.

As my eyes focused on the fuel cap far ahead, my mind playing with the edges of the runway as they flashed past in my peripheral vision, nothing else existed. Absolutely nothing.

There were no extraneous thoughts in my mind. Nothing unwanted was intruding. There was the vision of the runway peeking around that long nose and the feeling of being launched down the runway. There was the image of the proper takeoff attitude projected on my mind's eye and there was the instinctive effort to match that image with what my eyes were seeing.

There was nothing else.

Then, the ground bound ballistic rush down the runway blended into flight and I was again so very conscious of the separation. Of thumbing my nose at the must do's, the deadlines, the absolutely-positives that were at that very moment milling around somewhere down there wondering when they were going to get done.

They'll get their chance. But, not right now.

At that exact moment, as the two sets of wings shoved me away from the ground, and I twisted my head back to look for traffic, I couldn't have carried less.

Morning air is always sweeter. And fatter. The airplane loves it and for that reason, I also love it. As we, the Pitts and I, curve up away from the runway, I look down at the sleeping roof tops flashing past, soon to disappear behind me. It occurred to me that they are the ones truly wasting time.

I was going out to visit my real life. The one that hides down in the river valley and watches as I flash past, effortlessly twisting left and right to follow the gravel bars and dry washes. The same life that can't help but grin, as I pull hard, erupting up out of the canyon shadows for what it knows will be a few minutes, maybe many minutes, of high "G" cavorting.

Freedom never tastes as sweet as when it is stolen from the hands of forces determined to smother it. I knew my phone was ringing, the computer was humming and the fax was vomiting an endless, impatient stream of messages out on the floor. But, at that instant, I was free. For the moment, I had won. And it is subtle victories like that which make it possible to face life's battles knowing victory is possible.

Running away from everyday life isn't always bad. In fact, sometimes that's the only thing which absolutely, positively has to be done.