Thought for the Day: “Comrades among the Creative”

Builders,

When I was driving to Corvair College #34 last September, I briefly met the woman below in a north Georgia gas station.  She has a sprit and a story worth sharing…….

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At a glance, she was petite, in her 60’s and touring alone.  Most people in the station took notice of her, but she didn’t welcome the looks, gave nothing back.  Their cars, dress and facial expressions betrayed them was suburbanites with judgments, people who’s instinctive reaction to seeing anyone or anything different is to state how they wouldn’t do that or look like that.  This is the part of society that Richard Bach was satirizing in Jonathan Livingston Seagull as the flock of birds trying to peck the different individual to death.

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I was filling Paul Salter’s F-250 with diesel on the opposite pump. I waited a moment and looked around the pump and said “Nice Shovel.”  There was a moment of recognition, and a big smile came across her face.  I am no expert on Harley’s, but I knew enough to recognize her bike as a late sixties or early seventies “Shovelhead.” This small bit of recognition broke the ice, and we had a really memorable 20 minutes.

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She has owned the bike for 36 years. Toured all over, liked visiting friends, preferred to travel alone. Knew the machine inside and out, did all her own work. Her home was in the Florida panhandle, but she liked riding in mountains also. Her every motion said she was confident and comfortable in her own skin. Everything she said had charm or a bit of wit. Her nature was alert, and a comment about knowing how to take care of herself suggested she was equipped to do so. I am a married man and this woman is half a generation older, but her presence and manner was undeniably attractive. You could go stand in any shopping mall in America for a month, and you wouldn’t see a single person half as interesting as this woman. In a world where most people are homogenized to the point of being difficult to distinguish acquaintances, this woman didn’t remind me of anyone else, she stood out as an individual.

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What made this conversation possible when the other people in the station barely made eye contact with her? Something I call “Camaraderie among the Creative”.  Consider this:

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Homebuilder brings his airplane to Oshkosh, parks it in with the Homebuilts, and unfolds his lawn chair behind the wing in a position that clearly identifies him as the guy who brought it. The canopy has stickers from the last 16 Oshkoshes, the prop card says what the plane is, his name, where he is from, what powers it, and in big letters says “This Plane Has Flown 2,000 Hours.”

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A stream of people walk past. Even without saying anything, many of them express a judgment with body language or gesture.  Many others stand there, as if the builder was invisible, and loudly express opinions about the choice of designs, the powerplant, the color, etc. A third group comes by and says “Your first trip to Oshkosh?” or “They say these planes glide like bricks when they are loaded”. The fourth, and possibly worst group, are the people who ask questions you would chastise an eight year old for asking: “How much did this cost?” , “Where can I buy one of these?”  “Does it come in any good looking colors?”   Our Homebuilder puts on his strained smile,  and says little to these people. Although they may be EAA members, or pilots, they are not homebuilders. They are just another form of mindless consumers, and engaging them would be just as pointless as our woman with the motorcycle above trying to converse with the couple staring at her through their Prius window.

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Now picture yourself walking up to the same homebuilder: Because you have already had a parade of neighbors and co-workers make stupid comments about the plane you are creating in your shop, you already know what not to say to a person who created any hand made work of art.  Because you are actually building a plane, not just walking up and down the rows at Oshkosh pontificating about things, you are skilled at things like reading plans and observing things, so you take the time to read the prop card and note the 16 Oshkosh stickers. Because you have already had two dozen ‘experts’ walk into your shop and tell you about how Ferdinand Porsche built the Corvair (even though he died in 1951) you know that no one ever learned anything by repeating any story that starts with the phrase “They Say…” So you know to say something simple like “Nice Shovel”,  and let the creator of the project share with you what they have learned first hand. You know all of these things because you are a homebuilder, and as such, speak an universal language known only by creative people. And I believe that this is one of the greatest benefits of being an actual homebuilder; it is your passport to a different world that that co-exists with the consumer world, but shares almost nothing in common with it.  Having escaped the monotonous repressive conformity of consumer-ville, you will be free to lead a interesting and productive individual life and communicate with your comrades in creativity.

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-ww.

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“Strained Smile”:

 

About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

3 Responses to Thought for the Day: “Comrades among the Creative”

  1. jaksno says:

    Hands on Art, Music, Science, Movement of all kinds, contemplation. Post Army societal rejection. Be a lawyer or a beatnik-hippy potter; took the left fork. Made my own wheel, formulated glazes and clay bodies, made my own kilns, dug my own pipelines, made tools, rebuilt the /54 239 OHV in my ’50 F150 that transported all. by ’71 was selling in street fairs, and a big 6 week long festival in my hometown SoCal beach town. Transfer all those comments to the homebuilder to ambivalent bluehairs fascinated with ‘art’ very suspicious of my hair and costume or lack thereof. New fork: treat them with disdain and blame them for lack of sales, OR ‘educate’ them with respect, dignity, and grace. No matter how ‘stupid’ the question asked, the truly dysfunctional one is unspoken and unanswered. My sales were double those folks surrounding me who were ‘too creative’ to bow down and include the ignorant in a ‘throwaway’ miniature but honest relationship. I got to share my passion and get excited all over again; the ‘stereotype’ human forms in front of me suddenly appeared in all 3 dimensions, and a sale almost always was made, but smiles all around always. Everyone has seeds of greatness buried within them – no matter what we do, it IS possible to stir up the ground in another and germinate a seed. A lot more fun than sorting people like fish on face value….{;^)

    • All very good points. I find myself asking what is different about people today that might make them harder to reach, but even that question sounds pretty negative in comparison to your approach to people in the public.

      At Oshkosh a few years ago a 60’s-ish man with strong presence and a USMC hat with a RVN ribbon on it came into the tent and ask to speak with ‘William” he was a little stunned to find out the guy who wrote stories he liked looked different than expected. After a moment of small talk he asked if I had thick skin, I said I like to think so. He said he liked nearly all of the stories but in person “I looked like a G-D Hippy” I liked his direct honesty. In a few minutes he said “I’m Adjusting” over a few hours and a couple of coffees all was well. I really admired the guy because he had a pretty strong experience that gave him a natural emotional bias, But contrary to what image might suggest, he proved to be an aware guy who rapidly adjusted to the idea that thoughts he liked could come in packages he didn’t favor.

      Perhaps I need a better approach and a more open mind about people at airshows, but it does take a lot of positive energy and genuine spirit. -ww.

  2. jaksno says:

    Good for him! You have all the positive energy and spirit you need. I wouldn’t change you into being like me, even in a veiled way: I’m too jealous of my own quirkiness! Hahaha. I just don’t want to see you burn out before I get to take advantage of you! Cheers. P.S. The carb thread that came after this one made me spit on my monitor laughing…and I learned stuff.

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