Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why I am not a Hobbyist

Or “an hobbyist,” if you happen to be British. Or pretentious.
Or both?
I was twelve when I first had a real threat to my future social life. That isn’t to say that I had a social life. If you looked on the chart of “introvert caterpillar” to “social butterfly,” I was stuck at “prehistoric mollusk.” I had exactly two friends at this point in time, and they were only friends by default since I refused to associate with anybody cooler than me and these were the ONLY TWO PEOPLE IN THE SCHOOL that weren’t.
But, in spite of the fact that I was so far in my shell I needed a complex system of mirrors and magnifying lenses just to tell whether it was day or night, somebody was determined to make me even more of a pariah, and they were going to do it like this:
They were going to force me into a hobby. Or an hobby, if you’re… yeah.
I don’t remember who it was, but on my twelfth birthday, my most expensive present was a remote control model airplane. Not one of those ones that you can buy from a toy store that you can put together in ten minutes, either. No, the box advertised (IT ADVERTISED! AS IN, PUT IN BIG BLOCK LETTERS!) “Ready to Fly in Less than Five Hours!”
I was twelve. The only thing that could hold my attention for five hours were nipple clamps covered in super glue. Although that’s just a hypothetical, since I never super glued nipple clamps to myself when I was that age. If I had, it would have made an excellent story, but it is not at all plausible and so it would not fit with the theme.
So, my father decided that he’d “help me” build it by buying all of the materials that didn’t come with the package (as I recall, we needed to get servos, engines, and the remote control.) and then assembling it himself.
This took him months. He was in the garage several times a week, trying to put this thing together according to the meticulous instructions. I was riding my bike or flying a kite outside while he was sitting in the dark, holding pieces of the thing together, waiting for the glue to set.
It took him more than five hours.
My father is a handy fellow. He has built more than one remote controlled airplane in his lifetime. I used to go out and watch him fly them, when I was really, really little. So he was either so out of practice he had somehow ended up having negative experience, or this thing was so stupidly complicated that the only way it could possibly be meant for a child my age was if it sporadically turned into a puppy.
He finally got the thing assembled, and we took it out to a park to fly it. Naturally, having spent all of this time on the thing, he didn’t really feel comfortable handing the remote to a dumb kid with his finger in his nose, and I was perfectly fine to let him have the first flight. I wanted to go and play on the swings anyways. After the first flight.
He turned it on and launched it into the air, then began manipulating the remote.
I asked him why he had nosedived it. He muttered something about a cross breeze and shut up. So we went over, brushed it off, and launched it again. The same thing happened.
After some experimentation, we realized that he had put the engines in backwards, and, when we threw it forward, it was trying it’s damndest to make its way back into our faces and slice off as many bits as possible for the creation of such an abomination.
Dad gave up and bought me a much simpler remote control airplane which I put together (correctly! Hah!) myself.
I took it to the park by myself and sent it flying. I spent a bit of time getting the hang of the flight, and then decided to buzz a mother pushing a stroller around the perimeter of the park.
The remote control had a range of 300 feet.
The lady was roughly 350 feet away.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t hit the baby with a (light! Very light! That’s important!) remote control plane traveling at perhaps 35 miles per hour, but I didn’t stick around to find out. When the plane stopped following my directions the moment it was aimed directly at the stroller, I left.
At home. Dinnertime. Dad. “Hey, how was the maiden flight?”
Me. “Hm? Oh. Terrible. Just awful. Flew it into a tree. Off a cliff. Into a river. Or fire, maybe. I don’t remember. But there’s nothing left of it. Or I couldn’t get to the remains. Boy, this is good spaghetti!”
“Really? Oh. I’m sorry to hear that. I should have been there with you. If you want, we can get another one. It wasn’t that expensive.”
“No! No! No! That’s okay! I think I’ll stick to… um… writing! It is difficult to kill a baby while writing!”
“What does that have to do with it?”
“Nothing! Um. Nothing.”
I have been deathly, irrationally afraid of hobby stores ever since. I picture a woman, holding a mangled remote control airplane in one hand with the other on her hip, tapping her foot as she scans the customers entering and exiting the store. Watching. Waiting.
For me.

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