12 February 2010

Other Roads

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The weeks have crept by silently, and the amount of time I spend in the air dwindles.

While I may be feeling less like a pilot, there are some things I must admit as being well beyond my reach to rein, harness or wield. The availability of aircraft, for one, lies not under my control. This game is in the court of greater powers, and a mere Squadron Operations Officer lies far beneath the shadow of said powers.

Am I merely a pilot? Or are there other facets of my life which lie in neglect when I am chasing the almighty hours in the cockpit? I have often lamented, to myself of course, over what little time I have to go cycling, as I have long been on SAR standby for weeks on end without pause. I have fallen in love with the bicycle, and so I should stop twining my knickers into a knot and start enjoying the doldrums for what they are: an opportunity for alternatives!

Labuan, is as far as I am concerned, a wonderful place for cycling. The roads are relatively quiet, drivers have the patience of the saints and will wait as you heave to pedal past their junction and the scenery is good. The only detractors to this cycling paradise are the early onset of insolation and….dogs!!

Most of the dogs that patrol the roads are mere wage-earners. They have a few barks to emit in the earning of their keep and if their masters are away, they just watch you pass by without a twitch of the ear, appraising if you are worth a blood-curdling chase or no. Most times, those dogs used as cheap security at construction sites deem their measly rations not worth the energy expenditure and nervously turn their heads away as you cycle past. The dogs that are house-proud and guard homes, though, have a higher loyalty clause to honour and will never let you go through their territory without you paying toll with either pedaling your giblets out or the hasty selection of an alternate route. The severity of the problem becomes progressively worse when the ambush is staged on a road that goes uphill and can only be conquered at a mashing pedal pace.

While I do not have a morbid fear of these mongrels, and their body weight would often defeat any ambition they hold of acceleration down their garden path and onto the road to intercept an adrenalin-fuelled cyclist, I like my rides peaceful and canine-free. Cycling is my time, when I push the pace, burst the lungs, and daydream if the chance permits. I do not seek to wage war with a snarling hound whose Doppler accuracy or rather inaccuracy I cannot rely on for a safe margin of escape. So I don’t take any chances. When the mongrel looks like he couldn’t scare a roach, I pre-empt his point of impact by brandishing my bicycle pump at him like it were a flaming sword. Of course, if it were a pedigree like a Rottie or Doberman I could have been driven to cycle through the Mines Of Moria.

So one matter I can devote myself to is cycling. That is a good thing, whichever way I look at it. I enjoy it and it is good for me.

I have been walking the tightrope for so long, I have forgotten how to let go of the things I cannot change when I am in the squadron premises. It becomes difficult to be here and not get up in the air. I remember that this frustration used to reign when I was a flying student and the weather stopped us from getting airborne, or when the serviceability state fell so low the course could not progress for weeks. I would be chomping at the bit, agonising over the inactivity. Then when a chance finally made itself available, all that anxiety made for an awful sortie in the air.

The empty spaces in life do not always have to be filled. Empty spaces can be allowed to just be vacuous. Life is frenetic enough as it is. When the pace falls off, it may well be a blessing in disguise.

I must admit though, that the timing of these doldrums was impeccable. The fall in the serviceability state coincided with the Raya week perfectly. Without a SAR aircraft, no SAR standby could be effected. Without a second aircraft for training, we couldn't clock proper hours for training either. In my 17 years of flying, I have never had such a pleasant Raya where I was actually with my family at so leisurely a pace. I had time to drive my family around and go visiting and sampling the Raya goodies. I should be saying that I could get used to this, but I actually can’t. However, the rest was welcome all the same.

I must remember that there are other priorities now. The lull is merely Providence’s way of saying, “Let me help you with that.”

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