The Wingman

by Kwame DeRoche

There is a man out there. He waits in the shadows. He always appears on cue, and rarely fails at his assigned task. He can blend in with the crowd or become the center of attention. He's your buddy. Your friend.

Your wingman.

(And please don't be offended. Sometimes the wingman IS a woman, but for my own sanity, I write from my own skewed 'dude' point-of-view.)

Yes, the legendary wingman. The man who "takes one for the team," "jumps on the grenade," and generally keeps someone else occupied while you're "engaging the primary target." Now, the secondary target isn't always a prize. Sometimes, they're downright scary. You know who they are.

The "friend that drove us here."

The "we have to leave now" or "we have to get up early" girl.

The "if you think you're going home with her, you're sadly mistaken" friend.

The "HELLO? We're having a girls' night out here" girl.

I'm sure you get the idea. Usually, it's some skank who you could care less about, but you have to distract so you can talk to her friend.

This feeds into my long-standing theory that attractive people seek out ugly friends, to make themselves feel even more attractive. This is how the attractive folks then become the leaders of these little groups. But they also use the not-as-attractive friends as human shields, practically screaming: "If you want me, you'll have to find matches for my band of girl-goyles."

Enter the wingman.

Selfless beings, wingmen are generally just happy to be there for you. Some wingmen even find joy in playing decoy. Guys and gals, we've all been there. You spot the one you want across the crowded room. Then, out of fear, shyness, or sheer cowardice, you can't bring yourself to walk up to the object of your affection alone. Walking up to a crowd of guys (or girls) to talk to only one of them is rarely a winning proposition.

So, you walk over with your winger. Hell, sometimes I've been known to take a whole squadron. Sometimes, you're the winger. Whatever. You strike up a conversation. You move in. The winger covers your six. It's a beautiful thing.

And you can never predict how your mission will turn out. Sometimes, the wingman does better than you. Sometimes the human shields are more appealing than the primary target. Sometimes, you get shot down. Sometimes, your wingers get shot down and you have to abort because you lost your cover. And of course, sometimes the mission is a success.

There are many who sit in the hallowed halls of flight history for acts of sheer bravery -- going above and beyond the call of duty -- doing the equivalent of a kamikaze. Yes, I mean taking the secondary target home. A moment of silence for those brave, brave wingers.

Oh yeah... I almost forgot...sometimes you fly right into a heavy combat zone, where she (or he) was good (looking) from far, but far from good. Definite mission abort. And it's not easily done with grace. My best maneuver? Pretend she was someone you thought you knew, apologize, and walk away.

But, you ask, who makes the best wingman? This is pretty simple.

A. Ugly friends of your own. You know you have 'em. They're nice, fun, and cool, but kinda lost the lottery on looks. You love 'em to death, but you also know that they're perfect for your mission objectives. It's OK to admit you have ugly friends.

B. Hot friends who don't know they're hot. Be careful, these are the wingers who accidentally blow you right out of the sky. I have several of these in my squadron.

C. Married or dating people. Perfect. These people have nothing to lose. To them, flying wing is "just talking." The key here is having them save the "I have a girlfriend/wife/boyfriend/husband/lover" sentence until the very end of the conversation.

D. Friends who just don't care. 'Nuff said.

...And who makes a poor wingman?

A. Dorks.

B. Drunk guy. He'll crash and burn and nip your wing on his way down. You'll end the night as a smoldering heap of what used to be dignity.

C. Boring guys. Nothing worse than having to turn around and bail out your own wingman.

As I told a friend of mine not too long ago, for all my successful missions, lost planes, and wingers who went on to bigger and better things, I'd rather be sitting in the officers' club, polishing my medals and reminiscing about when I used to fly. It's tiring.

Until then, it's still a Friday, which means I'm putting my flight suit on for Happy Hour. See you kids on Monday.

That's the rant.

Copyright © 2000 by Kwame DeRoche