It was my final solo flight after sixteen seasons soaring daily in jolly old New England. Several friends were up chasing each other around the local wave, three had been my students at different times and there really was the feel of a going-away party. That was our excuse anyway for more chatter than usual, but as evening approached even 123.5 went quiet.
The wave was itself ho-hum, such that no one ever got much above six thousand AGL. Operating in a slim band of altitude only makes things more interesting — if you can see well. It’s too interesting when you can’t and there’s traffic, and pointing straight at a hazy sunset to maintain position in the wind doesn’t help.
We all knew the regs about flying after dark of course, and eventually that topic bubbled up on frequency. What followed became an impromptu game of slo-mo chicken (“No, you go first”), but with six players instead of two, each coyly daring another to be last to land.
This kind of stupid game gets more stupider the longer you play it. Soon no one could see traffic more than half a mile away and we all wanted to land immediately, but that would never work. Next came the clumsy sorting out process that should have begun much earlier, who’s where, how high, and who’s not. Who should go in first while others wait. And where’s the guy we’re not hearing from?
Found out later he’d already landed, our resident genius.
One by one the gang spontaneously regrouped after landing to watch their next incoming bird appear on mid-final. When all were down it was so COLD our feet were numb, and everybody had to pee. And there was only one toilet.
What you would have seen through growing dusk was several middle-aged guys bent at the waste from compressed bladder syndrome racing each other on stiff ankles, hoping to not be last to reach that door!
Too much competition for me. I pulled to a stop and let them all hobble ahead. Alone again, I looked around and decided what the hey, it’s a perk of grass airports after dark… As some might say, ‘Ahh p-ss on it!’