Just Step Over It
Taking that first step
On Air Force bases, aircraft are parked in restricted areas, outlined by a wide red stripe painted around the parking area. To get into the restricted area to your plane, or out of the restricted area from your plane, you pass though a narrow entry control point which is merely a white-painted section in the red border.
From the time we start the transfusion of Air Force blue into our blood, we know that entry or exit to and from a restricted area, is done so through the entry control point. Stepping over a red line on Air Force flight lines wins you some face-to-face time with the pavement while a security forces troop, and their loaded weapon, ensures you stay cheek to cheek with the tarmac. Bottom line is you do NOT step over red lines.
Thinking this to be a universal truth, and well indoctrinated by the Air Force, I’m leaving my aircraft after having flown onto a Naval Air Station. I’ve run the checklists, buttoned up the plane and am ready to depart the restricted area. I walk toward where the entry control point should be but find only more red-painted line. I try another possible entry control point with the same result. More attempts to find a white-painted section breaking up the red outline leaves me bouncing around the parking area like a ping pong ball. Each denial of exit makes me a little more frantic. Well, as frantic as pilots allow ourselves to look.
After shedding a career’s worth of cool points, a Naval Master at Arms (the Navy version of our Air Force security dudes) drives up in his tricked out high tech patrol vehicle. His crisp Navy uniform is accessorized by a smirk acknowledging the victory of a military enlisted member having caught an officer of another military branch in the rituals of his own service that are unfamiliar to the invader. The fact that he’s caught a pilot creates a bonus trifecta.
He pulls up next to me, looking down from the bow of his tall truck, preparing to confront this Air Force intruder on his nautical turf.
“Having trouble Lieutenant?” He bellows from the mast of his driver’s seat.
The condescension in his voice as he uses my rank is not lost on me. A Lieutenant in the Navy is the third commissioned officer rank, what we in the Air Force call “Captain.” The Lieutenant that I am in the Air Force is the first commissioned officer rank. So in the game of who salutes whom, his Lieutenant wins a salute from me, the lower ranking Lieutenant.
All this will be fresh bait over beers with his buds later. He won’t have to fib one bit to cast his tail about catching and releasing an Air Force fly girl who was trapped by his lines.
Side note: a Captain in the Air Force is the third commissioned officer rank but it’s the sixth commissioned officer rank in the Navy, so I make a note that in 4 years when I make Captain in the Air Force, I will call him and condescendingly identify myself as “Captain Barrett” and he will jump to attention thinking I’m a Navy Captain. And then I will laugh at revenge for the time the Navy painted me into a restricted area.
But for now, I am still in the restricted area. And I’m still a Lieutenant. And I’m still in the Air Force. So, if I wanna make it to the third commissioned rank, I need this Master at Arm’s help.
“How do I get over this red line?”
He exchanges his mask of condescension for one of shock.
“Ma’am? What do you mean?”
“How. Do. I. Get. Over. This. Red. Line?” Time as an American overseas will teach you that to be understood, you must simply repeat yourself slower, and louder.
Dumfounded, he says, “Ma’am. Just step over it.”
Like it was that simple.
But it was.
Naval Air Stations, I quickly learn, are less rigid about flight line security. They assume that if you have access to the flight line, you know what you’re doing. So when you need to get into or out of a restricted area, you just step over the red painted line.
It dawns on me that I am often afraid of stepping in it or on it that I hesitate and let inaction gain inertia that can be solved by just stepping over it. What “it” may be.
This means stepping over the “its” of self-doubt, naysayers, obstacles or a lack of motivation. As a wise internet blogger once said, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one giant leap for mankind” of something …
So the next time you’re stalled on that business proposal you told your boss you already completed, just step over that lie and start writing.
The next time you hesitate to share your feelings with something, just step over that reluctance and profess your gratitude for them.
The next time you commit to writing a book and the publication date is fast-approaching and you just can’t seem to get over the it of procrastination, just step over that block and start acting like a writer.
Be vulnerable, take risks, but take that first step.