My dentist was bemoaning the fact that his son is graduating college without a clue of what he wants to do or be.
I wish I could say I was a driven individual who always knew she wanted to be an airline pilot, but alas, this is not the case.
I had too many interests to choose.
Even though I thought about going on in aviation, it wasn’t a huge disappointment when my parents told me I had to go to a traditional college and get a real degree. My dad died when I was young, leaving money from the Veteran’s Association coming in every month. Mom scrimped and saved the money for my brother and I to go to college, so it really was up to her how I spent it. I went to Colorado State University because I wanted to learn how to snow ski.
I decided to save the world from pollution. Seriously, when my mom and I made the trek to Colorado to register me at Colorado State, I had no idea what to choose as a major. A guidance counselor there started pinning down my interests and learned that I had tried to clean up the creek by my house by finding out who was polluting it.
Colorado State had an excellent Microbiology Department. Their Environmental Health Degree would be right up my alley, she thought, and air and water pollution were huge problems in our world.
I lived in the dorm and made fast friends for life with my suite-mate.
Every afternoon I would head for Horsetooth Reservoir for Rocky Mountain highs. Seriously, we would drink beer and sing John Denver’s song…Rocky Mountain High, Colorado!!
I even dated a guy named Jack Daniels who had a bar in the foothills. He let me drive his Corvette and try Rocky Mountain Oysters!!
One of the guys in my dorm ended up in my hiring class at Northwest Airlines years later, and we barely knew each other from Fort Collins. Life takes some funny turns. He remembered all kinds of things I was hoping people forgot, like drunken stupors making music with wine glasses and eating horse meat.
The classes were hard, and I spent most of my free time being tutored in algebra, chemistry, and biology. I was a B and C student, no matter how hard I tried. I dated my biology Teaching Assistant (T.A.) And ended up living with him the next year. I started going to all the guest lecturers Colorado State invited to speak to faculty and became fast friends with one of the professors, Dr. Francis Lechleitner.
I took my Environmental Health internship in Denver the summer of my junior year.
I watched the airplanes at the Fort Collins/Loveland Airport takeoff and land as I drove back and forth on the freeway. I missed flying. I couldn’t see myself trapped inside a laboratory my whole life, analyzing air and water samples. I needed windows.
Besides, Melanie, the best student in our Microbiology class, contracted tuberculosis while doing a special project for the teacher. Melanie’s techniques were impeccable – flawless in my estimation, yet obviously they had not protected her. Wearing my white lab coat home some nights because of the cold, my roomate’s boyfriend called me “Dr. Bice.” I knew better. I shuddered at the thought of injecting myself with AIDS or Ebola.
Nor could I see myself dipping honey pots into sewage ponds, inspecting restaurants and swimming pools. Now, in my last year of college, I found myself drawn to flying again. I loved it, why had I stopped? How could I fly for a living?
My eyes were 20/30 and the airlines wanted 20/20. One of my first flight instructors wore glasses. I knew I could be a flight instructor or corporate pilot without having 20/20 vision. I started taking lessons again. This time I was more serious and less apt to count swimming pools.
“Working” toward my licenses was a term that seemed wrong, somehow. It wasn’t work, it was fun and I loved acquiring the skills I needed. Once I had my Private Pilot License, my instructor, Pete, convinced me that buying a little airplane was more economical than paying for lessons. He would maintain it for free if I would let him fly it. For three thousand dollars, I bought a Cessna 140 in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. My little two-seat tail-dragger cost less than most cars.
To Be continued…