Rodney M Bliss

Facing The Headwinds

Headwinds. They impede progress, right? Last weekend as I was mountain biking with the scouts through the Utah mountains, just before our turn around point we rode through a couple miles of flat, level cow pasture. After the uphill climb we’d done for the previous 8 miles, it was a welcome relief. The bikes seemed to glide across the former train track.

After a short lunch break we headed back the way we had come for the second half of the 23 mile trek. It would be easy, right? Level cow pasture then coast down the last 8 miles. It should have been easy. But, as soon as we started, we encountered a headwind. It wasn’t much, maybe 5-8 mph. But, it was enough to make the level grade the hardest stretch of trail that day. Every turn of the pedals was a struggle. What would have been a leisurely ride in the park was a test of our already tired muscles.

Headwinds. Who would want them, right?

Today, I’m flying back to Utah from West Palm Beach, FL. I’ve been here for two days getting a new call center ready to open. Soon, I’ll climb on a Boeing 737 for a trip to Atlanta and then change to a 757 for a 4 hour trip to Salt Lake City. The trip West actually takes longer than the same trip (SLC –> Atlanta) coming East. It’s because there is a headwind when heading West. The Jet Stream is a constant river of a wind blowing around the world in the opposite direction of the earth’s rotation. If you take a snow globe and quickly spin it, you’ll notice the sparkles don’t spin at the same rate. The Jet Stream is the same idea, except the sparkles are on the outside of the snowglobe.

The point is my plane will be facing a headwind as I fly home and it will take me longer to get there.

No one likes a headwind, right?

We have headwinds in our own lives. Yesterday was a particularly blustery day. My client presentation was supposed to be of a fully functional site. We won’t be using our Florida site for several months, but my team had assured me we were going to be production-ready now. . .We weren’t. It worked out okay since the client only required we be 50% ready. But, my disappointment was palatable. During the tour of our facility my lovely wife called me. . .twice.

My family has a phone code. If we call a family member and it’s something important, we don’t leave a message. If there is no answer, we send a text. If it’s really important we call twice. Call. Hang up. Call right back. It’s our own family 911.

I got two of those calls and the corresponding texts yesterday. We try to be equal partners in raising our kids. We aren’t. My lovely wife does the lion’s share. I travel a lot. I work late. I take phone calls during family events. She covers for me. Sometimes the kids don’t like it, but she explains that Dad’s job pays the bills.

The headwinds were blowing pretty steady yesterday, from three different directions. It was a pretty rotten day.

But, you know who likes headwinds? Pilots.

My son-in-law is a pilot. He flies for an arial photography company. He’s working on getting enough flying hours to become an airline pilot. It’s impossible for a plane to take off if it has a tailwind. Well, it’s not impossible, it just has to go faster, a lot faster than the wind. But, give a pilot a headwind and he not only can take off, he can do it in a shorter distance. A plane with a proper headwind, can actually take off vertically, like a helicopter. The headwind provides lift for the wings.

Landing also requires a headwind. Without sufficient headwinds a plane is useless. Now, once they get into the air, the pilots look for that tailwind. It saves them fuel and lets them cut time off their trip. But, to get off the ground, they need resistance.

My flight is having absolutely no trouble lifting off.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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