One of my favorite lines from a so-so movie; “Worms, Roxanne, I was afraid of WORMS!”**
Worms get me into so much trouble, even with my fairly large vocabulary, I don’t always correctly choose the worms I’d like to cast forth.
….words truly are “worms” sometimes.
They burrow their way into the mind of those that read or listen, and sometimes change lives for the better, worse, or in some cases….maybe just leaving holes of misunderstanding.
Worms….I’ll spew comical worms, and some laugh. My dog always finds me funny. Others peer at me as though I’ve just screamed “Fire” in a crowded church. The lesson there is that I need to choose my humorous worms more carefully and watch more of the Comedy Channel. Other times, the cynical or sarcastic worms sort of slime their way out of my mouth or fingers, and they’re viewed as though they are rainbow worms in a field of a solid color. They just don’t quite fit the occasion. Lesson there? STFU??
We choose our worms so carefully at times; it’s almost as though there truly is a hook buried deep within, ever ready to reel our listeners in for more (or perhaps less). And of course, some worms are repugnant no matter how carefully they’re chosen. Either way, poor choices in worms almost always comes with a free learning experience hidden inside. Sometimes hidden very deeply…
One of my lessons in worm choices recently came full circle.
Last December, I was sitting in a crappy little Mexican restaurant eating with some friends, some friends of friends, and a couple people who were complete strangers in the six degrees of Douglas. One of the people at the dinner was a new friend that I’d been speaking with earlier in the day. This person (who shall remain sexless to protect their identity) had expressed frustration at struggling with the coaching course and the RW required (even though they’ve got nearly 1000 skydives). I commented, “I thought you were flying camera for tandems over there?” to which the response was “Yes, I sit with all my tandems.”
“Hmmm….didn’t I hear you saying earlier that you are having serious troubles flying well on your belly?”
“…Well, yeah, but I sit with tandems….what else am I supposed to do?”
I nicely said (at least I meant it to be nice), “Don’t you think you should learn to fly on your belly before going out in sits with tandem students that have no idea how dangerous it might be if you flipped onto your back or couldn’t track backwards fast enough from an oncoming tandem instructor?”
This raised the temperature of our conversation and I didn’t choose my worms as carefully as I should have. In fact, I was pretty much a d**k. Even though I was right, I wasn’t as diplomatic as I should have been. A few poorly chosen worms later, I found myself saying “Look, if you can’t fly on your belly well enough to be a coach, you sure as hell have no business sit-flying in front of a tandem student.”
Fortunately, my cell rang right after that comment, rescuing both of us from what would likely have been a fairly entertaining and engaging discussion (for those seated around us).
This conversation has plagued my mind for the entire month since it occured. I realized I’d birthed ugly worms in my head and in the head of the person I was speaking/arguing with, and neither of us was any better for it. I’m sure they too, have slimy memories and holes in the fabric of that discussion.
Then today I received an email from a young man whom I didn’t know. He was seated at the same table, 3 chairs down from the discussion. I received the email through a fairly hidden account, so he went to some length to find me….
How is everything? I am not sure if you remember me, but I had dinner with you a little over a month ago at the _______ place down in _______ with _______.
I was reading your article in this months issue of Parachutist and I wanted to just write you to say that I thought it was awesome and I gained a lot of insight about camera flying that I absolutely never knew, especially about the safety aspects. I have 100 Jumps and thought about eventually getting into camera flying, but my goal is to become a Tandem Instructor.
I remembered the conversation that happened during that dinner regarding the importance of belly flying and mastering the techniques before moving to freeflying. I remember not too far after I got my “A” I couldn’t wait to learn how to fly ways other than belly. Despite what some of my friends said regarding mastering belly before freeflying, I went for it at around jump 40 – 60 in pure sit and back flying. When I
got down to Z-hills, I was extremely excited about jumping multiple ways on belly because of the relative work I could do. After that talk with you, I devoted the next 25 jumps purely to instruction on mastering Belly, and WOW did I learn and correct a lot that I didn’t realize I was doing wrong. I get it now! I did 35 min of tunnel time with _____ and ________ which was an awesome improvement on my skills.
Basically what I wanted to say was THANK YOU! Thank you for the insight to reiterating the importance of belly flying, and shining some light on me to help improve my skills. I can safely say that by choice I probably won’t be free flying for awhile until I am 100% sure that I have a firm grasp on my belly skills. I am sure that I will be putting a few instructors kids through school after I am done, but I know that in the long run it will make me a better flyer, and hopefully in the end make me a better coach and instructor. Though I do have the 100 jump minimum requirement for my coach rating, I want to hone my skills more before challenging the class. In my mind I don’t want to coach a student on a skill that I myself am trying to master.
I can imagine that it probably caused some negative feedback, but unfortunately in this sport when it comes to safety you kind of need to be brutally honest. I know for myself I respond better to brutal honesty than a sugar coating. Despite that I did want you to know that you did get across to someone and someone did hear you out completely. Being a rookie still and trying to learn the correct ways to do things without causing any injury to myself or others is very important in my book.
Anyways, aside from that, the article was totally awesome and I did learn a lot. Maybe when it comes time that I want to pick up the camera I could pick your brain a little, cause it is very obvious you know what your doing and you have that safety aspect your primary goal just in front of gaining that perfect shot and having fun!
This letter made my day. I realized that even when being a bit of a d**k, my worms burrowed their way into someone’s mind in a positive way, even though that wasn’t the direction I would have thought they’d travel.
I appreciate the young man’s kind, well-chosen worms, and aspire to keep in mind that someone is always watching, someone is always listening, and someone is probably even hearing what is being said from time to time.
As funny as it is, worms are something to be feared. They can leave trails in the dark, they can catch a listener, they can be slimy or sweet, sugar-coated or left covered in dirt, and they can be made palatable (even enticing), or they can be as acerbic and bitter as black dirt.
Life is filled with lessons, I suppose it’s a matter of realizing what experiences are lessons and which ones are not. I’m sure I’ve missed at least my fair share but I wanted this one young man to know that in addition to helping me absolve myself of poorly chosen worms, he taught me that good may be found even in those dirty worms that left a nasty taste in my mouth.
There are few stand-up people that use words to build; there will always be cowards that hide behind anonymity on the internet and use worms to diminish, flame or incite. Words, Worms, or Wussy, there will always be the bully that can’t stand in front of you to say what he has to say. They leave a nasty taste in your mind.
I’m still afraid of worms, “Roxanne,” but I swear, I’ll do my best to consider the worms I choose in the future.
And to the person with whom I was speaking at the table that night; I used a poor judgement in delivering my worms. I regret the package they came in. I’m still right, but the delivery killed the message. For that, I’m sorry for us both.
**Steve Martin in the movie “Roxanne”