Prop talk

Ok, it is official: Some people need educational classes and a permit to use a cell phone in public.

Some years back, I took private pilot lessons to learn how to masterfully handle and maneuver a small plane. During my first flight I had trouble watching my airspeed and rate of climb. When asked by my instructor to call the airport and announce who I was and that I wanted to land, I broke out in an instant sweat and nearly crushed the microphone.

I stretched for no reason and mis-identified my small plane as some sort of jet and began to stall, then mistakenly changed the channels so that I was talking to a twin engine Beechcraft. Next, I proceeded to land as close to sideways as possible, after flopping down the runway like a hooked fish on a long line.

It was not my best day at nerve management, but, as they say, "Any landing that you can walk away from is a good one." I do not remember walking anywhere, just sitting in a lake of perspiration until the airport stopped spinning. Fortunately I had taxied to a tie-down before shutting down the engine.

I took lessons three times a week and, despite my dismal initial flight, I began to be able to, over time, read more instruments while managing to stay away from the flare gun and life jackets, for what little they might mean if ever needed.

As the training progressed I felt increasingly confident, except for the time I inadvertently harvested some pine cones on a panicked approach to a remote short runway. I almost immediately took off for Ashland and landed with two squirrels holding onto my fixed landing gear, the same fellows who managed to somehow follow me home and terrorize me from my walnut tree every time I venture into my side yard. I really cannot blame them, for I was the one to pluck them from their sylvan home and relocate them near a very busy street.

In the final analysis I learned that, if properly trained, a person can handle many tasks, seemingly at once. It was, accordingly, with great surprise that I witnessed a cell phone collision downtown yesterday, an event that makes "goofy" seem like a royal complement.

While walking behind a teenage girl who was awash with enthusiasm as she spoke on her cell phone with some unknown person, I suspected that something was up. She gesticulated wildly and broadcast her half of the conversation to any and all persons, pets and parked cars within reach, which, given her powerful lungs and focus, caused many dozens of turned heads and was disturbing pedestrians right and left. The fact that she swore like a sailor and talked in code did not wear well with those witnessing the unfolding of events.

It was a one-in-a-million event and, even in the retelling, seems long on odds and short on probability. Yet, nevertheless, it happened and cannot be refuted, especially if you did not watch it develop.

Little Miss Cell Phone, eager to meet up with her telephonic friend, paid so little attention to where she was walking that — you are not going to believe this — she walked into and collided with her communications partner. They were both downtown, but, apparently, had never got around to the "where are you" segment. They both bounced off of a tree and a light standard, you decide which.

I am usually a serious kind of guy when watching someone go down, but saw immediately that both were just fine as they picked up their phones, joined hands and headed up to the park in search of solitude and each other.

In retrospect, my best advice is to watch where you are going and keep your walnuts dry, for you never know when some squirrely cell-toting flapper will be headed your way, without an agenda or a care in the world. was last seen plotting with a nursery of raccoons about how to get two squirrels tickets on a Greyhound Bus heading out of town.

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