Friday, February 20, 2009

You’ve Got Clearance, Clarence

Flying High a.k.a. Airplane! (1980) was a ripper of a film when it came out piling spoof upon spoof, the feature of which we’d often have to view it again and again to pick out all the humour in it.

In one memorable sequence at the start of the movie, the plane is taxiing and there’s the comical banter between pilots and air traffic control. This sequence is hilarious:

Roger Murdock (Air Traffic Control): Flight 2-0-9'er, you are cleared for take-off.
Captain Oveur: Roger!
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Tower voice: L.A. departure frequency, 123 point 9'er.
Captain Oveur: Roger!
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Victor Basta: Request vector, over.
Captain Oveur: What?
Tower voice: Flight 2-0-9'er cleared for vector 324.
Roger Murdock: We have clearance, Clarence.
Captain Oveur: Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?
Tower voice: Tower's radio clearance, over!
Captain Oveur: That's Clarence Oveur. Over.
Tower voice: Over.
Captain Oveur: Roger.
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Tower voice: Roger, over!
Roger Murdock: What?
Captain Oveur: Huh?
Victor Basta: Who?[1]

That sequence cracked me up every time! But, seriously, it demonstrates the point that communication’s a tricky thing. But, that’s not what I want to focus on. I want to focus on the subject of “clearance.”

When I did my mechanical trade, clearance meant something very tangible about the fit of metal parts with each other i.e. male and female parts. There was your garden variety interference fit where parts would have to be heated or shrunk in dry ice to expand or contract enough to fit. The transition fit was where both male and female parts were precisely the same size, and a clearance fit meant there was room or space between the parts so they could run in and out of each other easily.

Then one day recently I was on the road in peak-hour traffic where there was incredible congestion. I got to thinking that our lives can become a lot like roads at peak-hour. We tend to operate in life with a lot of interference (jamming already crammed schedules with more), a little transition (‘Phew, just made it!’), but very little clearance these days.

Clearance i.e. room and space, is a good thing. We ought to be structuring our lives with more clearance and less interference, finding space to experience the things that can’t be bought in life, like peace, love and joy.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] Source:

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