Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to FlightMonkeys.com.
Bear with me for a minute. I’m going to use your imagination to help make a point. It’s an important point, though: As much as we may love aviation, airports, airplanes, pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers, and fly-ins, you have to be careful not to beat people to death with your enthusiasm for the topic.
Now back to your imagination: Let’s imagine that you live in a tidy, respectable home, nestled right in between two similarly tidy, respectable homes, located in the heart of an upscale neighborhood. And let’s imagine that you do a lot of yard work, as do your neighbors. You like yard work. You like to be outside. Your neighbors also enjoy working in the yard on sunny days. So you often strike up a conversation over the fence, or the hedge, or whatever it is that separates your yard from theirs.
Your neighbor to the north side of your house collects Hummels, the German figurines that tend to feature cherubic children with rosy cheeks in a state of wide eyed innocence. You know this because he tells you about his collection every time you see him. Before you can get out, “Nice day, huh?” your neighbor is knee deep into a monologue about the difference between pre-war Hummels and post-war Hummels.
Over time the charm of this ongoing discussion wears off. What was once odd, then mildly interesting, has become a burden. You may start to avoid the neighbor to the north. It wouldn’t be unheard of for you to peek out the back window to be sure the coast was clear before you head out to prune your rose bushes, or mulch your poinsettias.
On the south side of your house, you have a very different neighbor. He talks about NASCAR, and politics, and the weather when he’s out working in the yard. Sometimes he asks how your kids are doing at school, and he might even comment that he noticed the new car in your driveway, which he envies to some extent – even though a sporty two-door isn’t really appropriate for him, considering his growing family. Then one day while you’re raking leaves and chatting amicably over the property line your neighbor to the south casually mentions that he collects Hummels.
“Really?” you respond, somewhat surprised. “I’ve known you for years but I had no idea you collected figurines.”
“Oh yeah, since Judy and I got married – almost 15 years now,” your neighbor explains. “Most people aren’t into them, though – so it’s not something that comes up all that often.”
And there’s the big lesson for you and me to take heed of. As much as we may love aviation, airports, airplanes, pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers, and fly-ins, you have to be careful not to beat people to death with your enthusiasm for the topic. Sure, respond when asked. Absolutely, offer your expertise when the subject comes up during a casual conversation with business associates or friends. But don’t make aviation the focus of every conversation you have or each letter to the editor you write.
This is a problem that I struggle with on a regular basis. Not because I’m unwilling or unable to discuss anything but aviation, but because I enthusiastically engage in any aviation-related conversation that comes my way. I’m a flight instructor who writes, for goodness sake. I’m have opinions, and I’m more than willing to share them. But being a relatively high-profile guy with an aviation bent, that condition pretty much assures that people will ask me about aviation on a regular basis – out of curiosity, fear, ignorance, or even enthusiasm that rivals my own. So I have to go out of my way to be sure that I engage on issues that aren’t aviation related – lest I be accurately branded a one-trick pony.
A politician with a loyal following of aviation enthusiasts is lucky to have that support. But a politician who has nothing by the loyal following of aviation enthusiasts is a politician who doesn’t have enough backing to get much done.
It’s a big world out there. So although I truly do love aviation, and consider myself fortunate enough to make my living in one way or another from the industry – I have other interests, just as you do. So let’s make sure we emulate the neighbor to the south with our diverse interests, and our willingness to talk about something other than our love of aviation when the audience may not be as enthralled with the subject as we are. And let’s make sure we don’t become the irritant that the neighbor to the north represents – the visitor who refuses to leave, the relative who just can’t seem to refrain from telling loud, inappropriate jokes while out in public, or the single-minded stranger who cannot seem to find any subject but one to talk about – and they talk about that one subject incessantly.
No matter how knowledgeable you are, or how well intentioned your comments might be, if the only thing we can ever talk about is aviation, you can bet that it won’t be long until we’ll be tuned-out, permanently. And that wouldn’t be good for anybody.
You can reach Jamie at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com