Well it’s that time of the semester again. The time those of you who graduated already fondly remember, the time those of us still in school look forward to every term…welcome to finals week everybody. Finals week is a great time filled with coffee, marathon study sessions at the library, coffee, highlighter marks and sticky notes everywhere, coffee, curses to MATLAB, CATIA, and other computer programs, coffee, coffee, mumbling equations in your sleep, no sleep, coffee, and coffee. It’s a time no-one particularly likes. Anyway I was studying during our school appropriately named study day, when I got some inspiration and decided to write something about it.
In our library, because we have an aviation complex (I think it’s a medical condition) there are pictures of airplanes everywhere. I mean everywhere. We even have an airplane hanging upside down from the ceiling. There is really something wrong with us. Just kidding I think it’s awesome. Probably both. The thing that hit me though was this drawing of a 1918 Fokker D-VII biplane that was hanging on the wall in front of the little desk I was working at. I was trying my hardest to review the lab manual that was in front of me but I couldn’t stop thinking about this airplane drawing. It was maybe 15″ by 13″, in a frame, hanging on the wall. The airplane was painted red from the spinner until the middle of the cockpit, then a nice mustard yellow color through the rudder. It had WWI German markings on it (it is a German airplane), and a little box containing some specifications and performance data. For instance it could climb to 6,500 feet in a matter of 8 minutes and 18 seconds. Why 6,500 feet was so important I haven’t the slightest clue. It’s top speed at sea level was 117 and 1/2 miles an hour. I imagine the german dude, Claus, taking the measurement to be like “Hanz! Hanz! Ze needle ist betveen ze lines! Was shall Ich Machen??” and Hanz to be like “Ach Nein! Du bist kaput! Putten ein half! Ja!” But I digress. That vision did make studying a little easier, but that’s not what really got me.
No, what really got me was I kept thinking what a horrible misrepresentation of a thing. I mean this machine that flew through the skies in World War I and turned and banked and fought and crashed and…and now here it is in a little 13 x 15 frame as a side profile that some college students don’t look twice at. Even at a place like Humpty Diddle…er I mean.. Embry Riddle. And then I looked at the frame next to it which contained MILLIONS of little side profile drawings of some really old flying machines. There was even a pterodactyl. Just kidding. But there was a hot air balloon that was almost as old. These things that were literally revolutionary to the bug that we all caught (I told you it’s a medical thing) that brought us to Embry Riddle in the first place. And now they just sit on walls. I mean they may get a passing glance. Maybe. But that is not nearly enough to give justice to what is actually depicted on the paper. The things that these aircraft did in real life…it’s a terrible injustice really.
I kept imagining this airplane flying through the early 20th century sky and what it was like to be in the cockpit, firing the machine guns, or smelling the oil and fuel that the 6 cylinder mercedes engine needed to pull the craft along. It is kind of amazing when you think about all the stats of that old airplane and how much went into the craft. I mean this thing flew, not just flew but flew in arial combat, only 14 years after the Wright brothers first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. And now it’s trapped in an oil painting. Ok so not exactly an oil painting, I think it is a print of some type, but it’s the same idea. And those of you who watch The Office got an extra smile. This journey I was taking in my imagination did make it slightly difficult to focus on my task at hand, which was studying for finals, and I’m pretty sure my long gazing stares at the wall were more than creeping the kid next to me out, and keep in mind I was pretty heavily dosed with caffeine at this point in the game, but it was kinda worth it. In fact I think that’s kind of the point. And I think, especially during the fun of finals week, it’s something we could all use a little more of.
Because see here is the thing. Finals week isn’t the end of the world. Nor is any problem that comes up that seems big and daunting and filled with coffee. No, the reality is it will be over in a week and it won’t seem like a big deal at all. Now I get that this doesn’t really make it seem any less crappy to be staring down the barrel of 4 finals and 3 projects in 2 days but, my point here is that during these times, more than the times of normal stress levels, but still then too, remember to look at the airplanes on the walls. Take them out for a spin. Take an extra moment to appreciate that someone measured the time it took to climb to 6,500 feet, and the little details that someone took the time to draw on the piece of paper that is in the frame. And then think about the people who designed it and the people who flew it and what that would have been like. The mental break is good. Whatever your finals week may entail, I do hope you find your airplane on the wall, and don’t end up pulling your hair out. And remember, there’s always more coffee. Happy finals everyone.