Learning to Fly

Erik is out of the office this week for the Christmas holiday, and so we're reprinting a column from December 2005.

It was a question on a discussion card to make car trips and bad dinner parties go faster: Would you rather have the power to fly or become invisible?

Your answer is supposed to provide some insight about who you are as a person.

For example, a lot of people who choose invisibility tend to do so for less than ethical reasons. They would spy, sneak, and do mischief if they could do it unseen. But the flyers talk about saving time, avoiding traffic, and experiencing the freedom that soaring through the air can bring.

I'm a flyer.

Not in a plane though. It's just not the same. I've never had the dream of flying my own plane or becoming a pilot. Flying in a plane isn't like flying like Superman. You don't experience the wind in your hair, or the sense of speed. Also, the food sucks, and I'm right in front of the kid who won't stop kicking my seat.

I want to be the Superman-type flyer who takes off and shouts "Erik Deckers awaaaaay!" I would soar through the air, hair blowing in the breeze, playing tag with birds, buzzing through the clouds.

I've wanted to fly since I was a kid, when I first tried to become airborne in my living room. Like most people my age, I learned important life lessons from TV. And at four years old, I had learned several important things about the way the world worked.

Like if I rolled a piece of paper into the shape of a rocket, it would fly when I set it on my front porch (it didn't). Or if I ate a lot of spinach, I would immediately grow huge muscles like Popeye (I didn't). Or if I flapped my arms, I could fly.

After a steady TV diet of Superman, Scooby Doo, and Bugs Bunny, I had become convinced that if I tried hard enough, I could fly around the house, floating a few feet above the floor. It was just a matter of speed and willpower. They could do it on TV, so I should be able to do it myself.

I chose the highest point in the house — the arm of the sofa — and leapt into the air, holding my arms out like Superman. I thumped to the floor. Superman technique: failed.

Next up, the Scooby Doo technique, which meant I needed to flap my arms. I remounted my launch pad and tried again, flapping furiously. Still nothing.

I tried several different flapping styles, long armed, bent arms, hands only, but no luck. All it earned me were some sore feet and a request from my mother to kindly "KNOCK OFF THAT DAMN JUMPING!!"

I settled down and pouted while I watched Scooby Doo, disappointed that my aerial vision would never be realized. They had been cut short by gravity and a mother who didn't share a young boy's weird dreams.

That is, until I discovered the answer right there on my television. The solution to my previous failures. I watched as Scooby picked up two sheets of paper, flapped them, and actually stayed aloft.

It was my Eureka moment.

I grabbed two pieces of clean typing paper from my dad's office — used paper isn't very aerodynamic — and resumed my position on the launch pad.

I gripped my new wings exactly like Scooby had, leapt off, and flapped like mad. This was it! It was working! I would slip the surly bonds of Earth and touch the face of — THUD!


I sat back down in front of the TV and finished my show, devastated. Television had betrayed me. I never tried to fly after that, the dream all but dead. But as I share this story now, I realize what I was doing wrong.

In the cartoons, the characters stay airborne as long as they never look down. As soon as they do, they immediately drop. This was my error. I had been watching the ground! And in doing so, I was reminded of where I was, which caused gravity to take hold.

So I'm inspired to try again. I've got my own paper — four sheets of card stock, since I'm a grown-up now — a pair of pilot's goggles, and I'm heading up to the highest point of my house for one last attempt at glory.

In fact, when they make a movie about my victory, that's what they'll call it: Thirty Feet to Glory.

I'll see you when I land.

Photo credit: Richard Schneider (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.