With the school year finished, I wasn’t aware that I was the one who had still not taken their final. Life served me my test last Thursday.
Riding with my buddy Roberto and Pete, we took the hour drive from Ventura to a little slice of paradise 30 miles north of Santa Barbara. With the sun out, enough kindle for a campfire and some good conversation on tap, I was glad we all decided to take advantage of the beauty California constantly serves up.
Speaking of beauty, I’ve wondered why over time, especially with the invention of smartphones and other advanced technology, society has felt an increasing and incessant need to capture and chronicle everything we deem to be alluring? (I explored this idea before when I visited Zion National Park.)
I believe in balance, so I took my drone with me and left my camera behind. Determined to get only ten minutes of footage from far above would satisfy my creativity and desire to document this location.
With an hour before sunset, I set sail and let this little helicopter survey the California Coast.
Gliding across the sky, spinning around, switching angles, I was looking at Mother Nature from a perspective only a few were lucky to have. At this point, I was unaware of how my luck was about to change.
The battery read error, as it has done the past two or three times. I carefully began to fly it back to base. Standing in an almost empty parking lot, I saw it hovering above me.
Then it stopped spinning.
Free falling, but nowhere near as sweet sounding as Tom Petty, I watched in horror as my drone was moving at a speed that I couldn’t control. Malfunction. Malfunction. Mouth open, aghast and then CRASH!
I looked on in horror. My drone had crashed directly onto the windshield of an empty 2017 Dodge Challenger. Shit.
Your test begins…now. I grabbed my wallet and a shirt, and as I headed to the parking lot the scene was well underway. A young lady, who was unluckier than me, began barking, yelling, screaming, asking me what I was thinking.
I could only muster a few phrases, all with the same implication: I’m so sorry.
I took a few more verbal punches as her family surrounded me in full force. They wanted answers. I told them what I knew regarding the malfunction and that I would take full responsibility for the situation. But words wouldn’t fix her windshield. Yet, as time slowly trickled by, and I remained calm and apologetic, refusing to fight anger with anger, the scene improved and we worked towards a solution. Throughout the two hours of waiting together, we worked our way to the heart of humanity.
As we waited, we talked. It turns out two of her family members were teachers. We swapped stories from the end of the year. Her boyfriend was a Dodgers fan, and with my Phillies sweatshirt, we recounted the tense playoff series back in ‘08 and ’09 as well as the current season. We curiously asked questions about each other. It was genuine and it was pleasant- even if the circumstances weren’t.
Every twenty or thirty minutes, when the conversation wore down and we remembered why we were all there, I would reiterate how sorry I was. They understood. Mistakes happen. They appreciated someone who owned their fault because, unfortunately, they had recently been through a hit-and-run. Luck did not seem to be on their side.
After two hours, the tow truck eventually came, and this marked the end of an unfortunate event.
As I walked back to camp, I was surprisingly grateful. I knew I would be out a fat chunk of cash, but I also knew it could have been worse. I had hope for humanity. We didn’t let technology, or anger, divide us.
As I write this, the issue has been resolved and her car is fixed and back in her possession. I learned the hard lesson that machines have a mind of their own and we must be careful with how much trust we put in them. I also learned that owning up to mistakes and handling warranted anger with understanding and grace goes a long way.
If life were to grade my final for the year, I’d hope for an A-. But that is up to the teacher. And realistically, regardless of our professions, we are all students at heart.