More Maria 1.0 Photos

A few more very old photos.

Yesterday, I blogged a few things about Girl Scouts, which I was part of when I was a kid. I still have my Girl Scout sash with all of its badges somewhere. I went looking for it yesterday morning, hoping to get a photo of it for the blog post. I couldn’t find it. But I did find a bunch of very old photographs from my teens and college days. I thought I’d share them here.

At Disneyworld

The date on the back of this photo says 1980, but I’m pretty sure it was older than that. That could account for the discoloration. I commonly put off developing film for a very long time. I’m thinking this was from around 1977 or so. My mom had remarried (or was about to?) and we went on a family vacation to Disneyworld in Florida. It was remarkable for two reasons:

  • We stayed at the hotel inside the park. The one the monorail goes through. It was the first time I’d ever stayed in a real hotel.
  • My stepdad bought us passes that gave us unlimited access to all the rides. Back in those days, you had to buy tickets for each ride you wanted to go on. (Ever hear of an E-ticket Ride?) We had access to everything. It was a huge deal.

We had the royal treatment throughout our visit, including dinner at Cinderella’s Castle. That’s where this photo was taken. It shows my sister, brother, and me. When I texted this photo to my brother, he not only confirmed it was when we had dinner in the Castle, but he remembered that he had prime rib. When I asked him how he could possibly remember that, he replied:

Because the meal came with a red candied slice of apple as a garnish. At the time it freaked me out since I never saw something like that before so I have not forgotten it.

Whoa.

At Disneyworld
(L-R) Laura, Norbert, and Maria Langer at Cinderella’s Castle, Disneyworld, circa 1977.

Prom Photo

Prom Picture
Maria Langer and Paul Soehren, prom photo, 1978.

I went to two proms in the same year in high school. One was my senior prom, which was in the winter so photos could make it into the yearbook. The other was my junior prom, which was in the spring. And yes, I was a junior and a senior in the same year — which explains how I managed to graduate high school at age 16.

This is from one of those proms, back in 1978. I was dating the guy across the street, Paul. We were together for quite a while. Unfortunately, he was slightly younger than me and I graduated early so he was two years behind me in school. When I went away to college — well, let’s just say that my outlook on life and relationships changed. But he was a good guy and I suspect he made someone a very good husband. I seem to recall that he became a firefighter. I’ve lost touch with him but that’s okay.

We made a nice looking couple, no?

Siblings

Here’s a shot of my brother and me sitting on my aunt and uncle’s back deck. The other photos in this group show a lot of different family members, including my grandmother, in a wheel chair. I assume it was somebody’s birthday or something, but can’t figure out who. It was obviously in the summer and I don’t know anyone other than me with a summer birthday.

I figure this was around 1980, just based on my hairstyle and the fact that I’m not wearing glasses. I started wearing contacts when I went to college. I remember that top. My brother was about 10 or 11 here.

I didn’t crop this, although I certainly could have. I wanted to save it the way it was shot. It was likely taken by my mother, who couldn’t properly frame a photo if her life depended on it. I have a lot of photos that are framed like this.

Maria and Norb
Maria and Norbert Langer, New Jersey, circa 1980.

Laura

Laura Langer
Laura Langer, circa 1980.

Taken at the same event as the one above, here’s my sister. She’s changed quite a bit since Disneyworld, no?

What amazes me about these last two pictures is how much eye makeup we’re both wearing. Sheesh.

And I can bet you anything that my mother did not take this photo.

College Days

Photographer Maria
A candid shot of me taking a candid photo of someone else on campus. September 18, 2981. Ah, to be that young (and thin) again!

In college, I was a member of the yearbook staff as a photographer and it was a blast. I loved doing candid shots. I’d put a long lens on my Olympus OM-10 camera (hey, you have to start somewhere) and shoot images of people lounging on the grass in the Quad or snacking in a cafeteria or studying in the library.

My friend Jeff Noreman, who was the yearbook editor one year (or more?) took this photo of me while I was likely taking a candid photo of someone else. The only reason I know it was Jeff is that his initials and the actual date of the photo are on back. So I can tell you that this was shot on September 18, 1981. I was a senior at Hofstra University and just 20 years old.

Yearbook Staff
The Nexus staff, circa 1981.

I also found a group photo of the yearbook staff. I suspect Jeff took the photo since he isn’t in the shot, but if he did he must not have been trying very hard — it looks as if my mother framed it for him. The other photo i have of this group is the same pose but horizontal and also cut off. Maybe the camera was on a tripod with a self-timer?

I’m thinking this was shot on a trip to Great Adventure, an amusement park in New Jersey. I have other shots from the same place.

I can name some, but not all, of the people in this shot. Can you see me? I’m in the back on the far right, standing next to a tree. I look very butch in this shot! It probably dates around 1981.

College Graduation

I found two good shots from graduation.

First, you need to understand that I was the first person in my family to go to (and graduate from) college. It was a huge deal. So when I graduated, my entire family came to see the ceremony. That’s what the group photo is all about.

Group Graduation Photo
(L-R) Barbara Langer (my stepmother), Kristine Langer (my half sister), Laura Langer (my sister), Norbert Langer Sr (my father), me, Norbert Langer Jr. (my brother), Madelyn Odendahl (my mother), and Thomas Odendahl (my stepfather).

Graduation Photo
Here’s my college graduation photo. May 1982. I was 20 years old.

Of course, being friends with a lot of photographers, it was easy to get a good photo of me in my cap and gown. This one was taken by my friend Stuart Litel, another yearbook photographer. The only reason I know that is because his sticker is on the back of the photo.

Double Exposure

I’ve shared this next one before but thought I’d share it again because it’s so cool. It’s a double exposure self portrait that I created entirely in my camera on film. In other words, if I could find the negative, it would look just like this.

This is a relatively big deal. This is before the days of Photoshop when whipping up something like this would take a few minutes in front of a computer. The trick, as I recall, was getting my camera to let me take a second shot on top of the first one. I had to mask each side of the image for each shot. If you look closely, you can see a slight blurring on the buildings in the middle; I probably moved the camera a tiny bit when I prepared for the second shot.

The dress is actually a wrap-around long skirt that wore with a belt as a sleeveless dress. I made it myself. I still own it.

Double Exposure
Double the pleasure, double the fun?

If I find any more good Maria 1.0 photos, I’ll be sure to share them here. It’s a nice being able to look back into my distant past and remember the good old days. You can see a few more old photos here.

Some Thoughts on Scouting, Gender Differences, and Equality

Am I the only person who sees this so clearly?

I’m on Twitter a lot — even more lately since I’m trying to rest up to prevent a mild cold from becoming a bad one. One of the accounts I follow is Stephen Colbert. I’m a big fan — which, by the way, is the only reason I subscribe to CBS All Access — and although he doesn’t tweet often, what he has to say is usually right on target. Yesterday, he tweeted about the Boy Scouts of America now allowing girls to join: “How about we drop the whole “boy” and “girl” scouts thing and call them what they are: Kids with knives who know how to set fires.”

He was trying to be funny, of course, but there was a deeper meaning to his tweet. At least I found one. I replied, “I think @boyscouts and @girlscouts should merge as just plain SCOUTS to keep scouting alive and teach the same skills to all.” My suggestion — which I was completely serious about — seemed to be a hit with other Twitter users. At last count, it had 242 “likes,” which is pretty good for one of my tweets. I was almost immediately directed to an organization called Navigators USA, which seems (from its website) to promote the kind of healthy attitude we need in kids. Another Twitter user tweeted “That’s how it is overseas” and someone else immediately agreed.

The conversation took off in all kinds of directions, ranging from cookie sales to corruption to exposés on Boy Scout policies. Some of it was interesting, other tweets were propagandist. I enjoyed reminiscing about cookie sales with another person around my age. But the direction that interested me was the one that seemed to concern a handful of people: the differences between boys and girls. One person tweeted:

What is wrong with having Girl Scouts as well as Boy Scouts? Why don’t boys want to join the Girl Scouts ? What’s wrong with males and females being different? Why do women want to be the same as men? Gender will never go away no matter the century

Wow. Just wow.

In 240 characters — which I have yet to be endowed with — he managed to pinpoint the root of the problem in today’s gender biased world.

He wasn’t the only one with this backwards thinking. Another woman tweeted: “There are boys and there are girls different in many ways, I believe that’s a good thing!!” Then she went on to add, in typical gutsy-because-of-anonimity fashion: “Maria, there’s something really wrong with you!” (And if you haven’t guessed it, yes, she is a #MAGA Trump supporter. Sheesh.)

Still another argued that “Boys need Men (whether gay, straight, whatever) ALL men! Girls need strong women mentors. The rest is all sorted out as we (hopefully) grow.” When I attempted to engage her in a conversation pointing out that gender roles were old fashioned thinking, she finally blurted, “Yes, we’ll all become robots.” Where did that come from? I had enough, said goodbye, and muted her.

I figured this might be a good time to blog more thoroughly about my thoughts on this matter.

Gender Differences

Yes, there are biological differences between boys and girls. I will not argue that. I am a human, I’ve had sex, I’ve seen naked men and women. We are different.

Some people will argue that those biological differences extend to thinking and brain function. I am not qualified to comment on that. I’m not a neuroscientist or a psychologist. I don’t even know enough about those two fields to be able to link to studies that prove one idea or another on this topic. I don’t want to mislead people by sharing information I can’t verify so I won’t.

I’ll just tell you what my 50+ years as a female in America have shown me.

I was one of two girls in my family. My sister is very close in age — only 16 months younger than me. We were raised together almost as if we were twins.

But I became the tomboy. While my sister was playing with her friend’s dolls, I was playing with her friend’s brother’s Hot Wheels. I was doing jumps on my bike, whittling pointy sticks with a pocket knife (and I still have the scar where the damn thing closed on my finger), and reading race car magazines I got from a friend. Sure, I had dolls and yes, I did occasionally play with them — when I was younger. But there were other things that interested me more.

And yes, my mother raised me as a girl. I learned to cook and sew — hell, I made clothes on a sewing machine for my Barbie doll. I learned how to clean house and change diapers — my brother came along when I was eight — and do all the other things a woman was expected (in those days, anyway) to take care of when she got married and started a family. And most of these things have served me well all my life.

(And no, I never identified as a boy or was attracted to women sexually. In all honesty, I found most — but not all — women pretty dull and still do.)

But my mother never taught me to troubleshoot a broken vacuum cleaner or rewire a wall socket. She never explained how to replace the workings of a toilet tank. She never showed me how to change a tire or even how to check a tire to see if a tire’s pressure was low because it had sat too long or if it had an actual leak.

These are all skills I’ve used more than once throughout my life. Skills that are taught to boys but not girls.

Why?

And why is it that boys aren’t taught how to cook or sew or clean house? Well, maybe they are these days, but when I was a kid in the 60s and 70s, boys were expected to be in shop class and not home economics.

I doubt they would have let me into shop class. As it was, I was the only girl in drafting class in high school.

Our culture and education system supported gender differences. Boys did and learned these things and girls did and learned these other things. There was little overlap.

And that sets up dependencies. Women depending on men to do specific things for them; men depending on women to do other things for them.

It’s quaint and I’m sure some of the Twitter users I quoted above seem to think it’s “right.” But is it?

Why should either gender be reliant on the other for basic tasks of everyday life? Why should I have to “call a man” to come fix my toilet when I can buy a kit at the hardware store for $15 and do it myself? Why should a man, when his wife goes off on ladies night, have to eat leftovers or take out food when he should be able to cook a meal for himself?

Yes, there are gender differences. But should those differences limit the capabilities of a man or woman?

I say no.

Scouting

I have to admit that I don’t know much about today’s scouting organizations. I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout and even a Cadet for a short time back in the late 60s and early 70s. But I don’t have kids so I don’t have experience with scouting beyond that experience.

I will say this: When I was in the Girl Scouts, they taught a wide range of skills ranging from basic homemaking skills (cooking, sewing, cleaning) to outdoor skills (camping, making fires, cooking outdoors, first aid). As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I learned how to shoot a rifle in Girl Scouts. We learned teamwork and the importance of being prepared for anything. I also sold cookies, door to door, which taught me how to approach strangers and ask them to buy something they didn’t need. (And yes, I know that door-to-door sales by kids is difficult in today’s crazy world, but it’s still possible with supervision.)

My favorite part of Girl Scouts was always the camping trips. Cooking our own meals over hot coals, telling ghost stories, sleeping with a bunch of girls in a platform tent similar to the one I own now, having raccoons run over our feet because someone left a candy bar in their duffle bag. Hiking in the woods, whittling sticks, getting dirty. I loved it all.

And I still cook that aluminum foil chicken and vegetable dinner once in a while when I’m camping with friends.

I suspect Girl Scouts is very different these days. I hope not.

I truly believe that scouting can teach valuable skills to kids. I’m not just talking about the skills I listed above — or those that Stephen Colbert mentioned jokingly in his tweet — I’m talking about social and interpersonal skills. I’m talking about values, like self-reliance and respect for diversity. And perhaps respect for the opposite gender.

And that’s where I was going with my tweet. I don’t see why we need two separate scouting organizations. Why can’t girls and boys play and learn together? Why do we have to stress differences? Why can’t we focus on how we’re the same?

Gender Equality

And all that comes back to what I’ve been saying for years about gender equality:

It’s impossible for women to be treated the same as men if society continues to stress how different they are.

I’m in my third career in a male-dominated field. I’ve had success in all three careers. Could it be, in part, because of the way I think?

I think I’m equal, therefore I am.

On average, I was equal in skills to my male counterparts in every career. Probably better than some and not quite as good as others. But certainly good enough to get the job done in a way that kept me employed and earning a good living.

And has anyone ever heard me whine about equal pay or how hard it is to be a woman?

Maybe it’s the acceptance of society’s “norms” that are keeping women from achieving everything they can?

Maybe it’s the backwards thinking that boys and girls are different so we need to treat them differently from birth. From the toys we offer them to the things we teach them at home, in school, and in organizations like scouting, we are feeding gender inequality.

Maybe it’s time to stop?

On Free Rides

Stop asking for them.

Yesterday, I flew for an hour at an event I do every year. It was only an hour because the wind came up, as forecasted, and the turbulence was getting bad enough to start getting me sick. I pulled the plug after only three flights.

River Reflections
The best part of yesterday’s event was the flight to my landing zone in the park before the wind kicked up. The Columbia River was smooth as glass and the few clouds reflected perfectly on its surface.

One of my passengers was a guy who’d been calling me periodically for over two years. He’s handicapped and moves around in a wheelchair. Back when he first called me, he told he only had a few months to live. One of the things on his bucket list was to go flying in a helicopter with his young daughter. Trouble was, he couldn’t afford the $545/hour rate I charged for tours.

News flash: most people can’t. Hell, even I can’t afford that. But that’s the rate I have to charge if I expect to cover all my costs and make a living.

The One-Hour Minimum

I normally have a one-hour minimum for my flights. There’s a good reason for this.

First, you need to understand that I don’t have an office or hangar at the airport that I sit in every day. That would be a huge waste of time and money since there simply isn’t enough business in this area to keep me busy. I’m lucky to get a few tourism-related flights a month — and that’s only during the spring, summer, and autumn. I make most of my living as a cherry drying pilot; if I had to depend on tours and photo flights to make a living, I’d be bankrupt in less than a year. Instead, I keep the helicopter in my garage at home and pull it out on the relatively rare occasion that a client books a flight with me.

Before every flight, I spend about 20 minutes preflighting the helicopter. Then I spend 10 minutes dragging it out of the garage, 2-3 minutes warming it up, and 3-4 minutes flying to the airport before taking another 2-3 minutes to shut it down. If you’re doing the math, you can see that I’ve already had the engine running — burning fuel and oil and clicking the Hobbs meter — for 7 to 10 minutes — without getting paid. Now I wait 10 to 30 minutes for my passengers. I still haven’t seen a dime. I greet my passengers, give them a preflight briefing, and get them on board. Maybe that’s 5 minutes. Now another 2-3 minutes to start up. I do the flight. I come back. 2-3 minutes to shut down. I go inside the airport terminal with them. I collect the money they owe me. They leave. I go back outside. 2-3 minutes to start up, 3-4 minutes to fly home, 2-3 minutes to shut down. Another 10 minutes to drag the helicopter back inside and another 10 minutes to do a post flight inspection.

Have you been paying attention to the numbers here? My time — not including the actual flight — adds up to about 60 to 80 minutes. This is all time that I’m not compensated for. In fact, if the passenger doesn’t show up at the airport at all, I’ve just wasted all that time, as well as the additional time I’ve waited in case they were late.

And the uncompensated helicopter time — time when I’m actually spending real money to have the helicopter running — is 14 to 20 minutes.

Now imagine that the actual ride I gave was only 15 minutes, as so many people have requested. Say they pay me 1/4 of my $545/hour rate or $136. If we round that uncompensated running time to 15 minutes and add it to the compensated running time of 15 minutes, that means I’m getting $136 for a half hour of running time or only $272 per hour.

That’s less that my operating costs, so I’m losing money.

And isn’t my time worth something?

So no, I don’t do flights less than an hour long — except for certain circumstances.

Special Half-Hour Tours

Half-hour tours are a special circumstance. I sometimes offer these on days when I know I’m going to be out with the helicopter.

Suppose someone books a winery tour at 11 AM on a Saturday. I know I have to be at the airport with the helicopter at 11, so I can offer half-hour tours, perhaps starting at 9 AM, for $295 (slightly more than what a half hour would cost). With up to three people on board, that’s a lot more affordable for most folks. And since I have to be at the airport anyway for that other flight, it doesn’t take any additional uncompensated time. Well, maybe waiting time, but not with the engine running.

So I make the offer on my company website or Facebook page. I figure that if folks are serious about going for a flight, they’ll be watching for special offers. But I’ve only sold a few so far, so half the time, I don’t even bother offering them.

Rides at Events

The other thing I do is rides at events. I have a few events I do every year, including the Wenatchee Wings and Wheels car show in East Wentachee that I did yesterday.

These are advertised events and, in many cases, helicopter rides is a main draw. People will come just for the ride. I usually (these days) charge $40/person for a ride that’s 8-10 minutes long. I can make this work financially by not flying with less than 2 people on board and doing a lot of rides. If my ground crew is good and there’s a big crowd of people, I can sometimes average more than my usual hourly rate. It’s not my favorite kind of flying to do, but I really do enjoy being able to take kids flying — this is often the only way it’s affordable for their parents.

And that’s what I kept suggesting to my wheelchair-bound caller. I gave him information about the next upcoming event each time he called. I guess that after a while, he realized that being in a wheelchair didn’t mean I’d do a special flight just for him. (Let’s be real here: if I did a special flight for everyone who called me with a sad story, I’d be broke and have my own sad story.) I didn’t hear from him for a while and, in all honesty, forgot about him. But when I saw him roll up yesterday, I made the connection. He was finally getting his ride with his daughter at a price he was willing and able to pay. He told me numerous times during the flight how much it meant to him and I was happy for them both.

Before his son lifted him out of the helicopter seat to get him back in his wheelchair, he leaned in toward me and said, “You know, I only have six months to live.”

Some People Don’t Give Up

They hung around while I did the few other flights. When I shut down for the day and helped my ground crew load signs and chairs into their SUV, he followed us.

“You know, if you ever go flying and want company,” he started.

Oh, how I wish I had a dollar for everyone who said that to me!

He went on to say that he’d tell all the people in his “group” about it and it would “blow up.” I think he was trying to say that he would promote my services to his group of — well, I never did find out what his “group” was — and they would all come flying with me. But would they be looking for free flights, too? Did he think I wanted my phone to start ringing with more people looking for free flights with me?

How can I run a business if everyone thinks they can get my services for free?

What he doesn’t understand — and what most people apparently don’t understand — is that it costs money to fly the helicopter.

And no, it’s not just gas. It’s oil ($7/quart every 5-8 hours), it’s maintenance (like $300 for an oil change every 50 hours), it’s 100-hour inspections (about $2500 if I’m lucky and they don’t find any problems). It’s a radio altimeter and ADS-B required by the FAA at a cost of $15,000 and $4,000 respectively. It’s insurance at about $15,000 per year. It’s an overhaul every 12 years or 2200 hours at a cost of $220,000. And let’s try to remember that none of it would be possible if I didn’t cough up $346,000 in 2005 to buy the helicopter in the first place.

That’s a shit-ton of money. Maybe it helps explain why I get so pissed off when people expect me to fly them around for free or the cost of fuel?

If I’m going to fly for pleasure, I’m not going to fly it with a pushy stranger full of empty promises. I’m going to fly with a friend or someone else I really like. Or I’m going to fly alone.

I’ve blogged about this in various ways before. I’m not sure if I was ever this blunt. Maybe I’m in a bad mood because I took a loss for yesterday’s event.

Or maybe I’m just sick and tired of people trying to get me to spend my hard-earned money giving them something for free.

In any case, thanks for reading. Rant over.