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Whuffos

My buddy Tim and I were part of the crowd lining the taxiway as the CAF airplanes rolled by: a gorgeous, mirror-polished P-51 Mustang, a Hawker Sea Fury, a Grumman F6F Hellcat, an extremely rare Mitsubishi Zero. It was a fine, if blustery, Spring weekend at Half Moon Bay airport and we'd flown my club's Cessna 172 in for the Pacific Coast Dream Machines airplane and car show. As I watched the airplanes pass, I thought I heard a woman's voice call my name amid the din of the massive radial engines.

"Kennan?"

I turned around and saw a familiar face.

"Ann?" I asked.

She smiled and nodded. We hadn't seen each other since college. Her hair was darker and much longer, but she looked virtually unchanged. We hugged and she introduced me to her beautiful 6-month-old baby girl. I introduced them to Tim.

"What brings you here?" I asked.

"I love airplanes!" she answered. "We were driving by and saw the event and I just had to stop."

She went on to describe how she'd become an avid skydiver and had spent most of her pre-parenthood weekends hanging out at the drop zone, getting in all the jumps she could.

"Funny we should both have gotten into flying. I've become a pilot," I told her. "In fact, we flew here today."

The four of us wandered around the show, admiring the airplanes and catching up on the events of the intervening years, but inevitably the conversation returned to our shared love of airplanes and flying. We talked about the intensity of that passion and lamented that a lot of people don't understand it.

"You gotta watch out for 'whuffos'—people who look at you like you're crazy and ask, 'Whuffo you do that?!'" she said. "You can't let 'em wear you down!"

I laughed in agreement and thought about how important it is to have support for one's passions from friends and family. It must be really difficult to pursue something as challenging and consuming as flying without that support. I was reminded how lucky I've been to have a wife who's always supported and encouraged my flying, even when it took time and money away from other important things. It was clear from our conversation that Ann hadn't always been so lucky. I was struck with a fresh admiration for those like her who persist in doing what they love even without the support of those close to them.

Finally, we arrived at our airplane and I opened up the doors to let her look inside.

"Wow, this is pretty fancy compared to the jump planes I'm used to," she said. "You have upholstery!"

I chuckled. "Yes, and relatively new upholstery at that. One of our club members did the work. He did a great job."

By this time the show was winding down and it was time for Tim and me to leave and for her to get her little one back home. We parted with a good-bye and a warm hug.

"Blue skies!" she said. "Enjoy the flight home!"

"Thanks!" I replied. "It's been really great to see you!"

It was really enjoyable to meet an old friend after all these years and find that we had so much in common—and to be reminded of the importance of pursuing one's passions—no matter what the whuffos say.

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