Aunty’s partner owns a small private aeroplane and has been flying for over forty years.  I believed he would be very well-prepared for any flight so when he suggested we fly three hours across the desert to South Australia, I was excited.  I didn’t plan anything since I was sure he would have it all under control.  I was also practicing not being a control freak.

The trip was taken over an Easter break so all the shops were shut on the Friday.  No worries though, because we could pop into town on Saturday to buy needed supplies.  But that shopping didn’t happen.  Apparently, we needed to get into the air and beat the heat of the day.  The plane didn’t like being too hot!

No worries though, because we were stopping half way at an airport to fuel up.  I knew that all airports have toilets, food dispensing machines and water so I felt great.  We were more than prepared with an airport as the back-up plan.

We set off with no food and little drink.  There is no air-conditioning in the plane’s cabin so it was hot both inside and out the aircraft.  The thermal updrafts were incredible and our little plane was bounced all around the sky. Up and down, up and down.  I was hungry, thirsty but only mildly grumpy at that stage.  I needed the bathroom.  My partner kept asking me to reach around and get the book showing airport requirements.  Then I had to put the book back.  And then get it again and then put it back, again.  The book is quite heavy and there is no room to turn around in the tiny space. No worries though, because happy days – it was time to land at the airport.

The toilets were being renovated and so, closed.  No worries though, because I was told, “You are in the country now so the back of the building will have to do”.  And it did just fine.  I then asked if there was anything to eat or drink and was told, “Sorry Love, town is five kilometres away so nothing here.  It’s just an airport”.  That chap’s perceptions of an airport were obviously very different to mine.  But his perceptions represented the actual reality at that point in time and at that airport. Now hot, tired, hungry, thirsty and increasingly grumpy, I looked at my pilot, wondering what else he had failed to plan for.

One and a half hours still to go and us flying directly over the desert. It was now much hotter and we were back bumping around the sky.   As we left the desert, my partner sighed with relief saying, “No pilot likes crossing that sort of ground”.  I shot him a, ‘what the?’ kind of a look.

Another airport in the middle of nowhere meant the trip was now thankfully over.  Now, if I had thought the first airport was remote, this latest one could have been on the moon.  We tied up the plane and started to walk across more desert terrain to meet the partner’s cousin who lived in the area.  The cousin phoned to say he couldn’t find us and was lost.  Walking, walking and us with no food or drink.  We were wearing the wrong clothing, inappropriate footwear and dragging suitcases behind us.  It must have looked very funny to any locals watching, if there had been any locals around.

I was so ill-tempered that I was beyond speaking.   The cousin finally turned up and we were saved.  I think two hours passed before I could speak again.  If you can’t say something nice, best to say nothing.

I take some responsibility for our lack of preparedness on that awful trip.  I will never again to let my partner plan anything else on his own without asking, “What are we about to do? What could go wrong? How could we do it better?”

Years ago, when our second son had turned two, I was having a mini mid-life crisis.  I had re-discovered roller-blading and would blade through the park, pushing the pushchair and thinking I was very cool.  Know that this is not a cool thing to do. Do not do what Aunty did!

This particular day, I was doing fine until I went up a slight rise. Uh oh!  The pushchair started to roll backward.  What to do? Either let the pushchair fall over taking baby with it or break the fall with my hand?  It wasn’t the baby’s fault so, whack, down I went.  Son safe, thumb pouring blood.  If only I had considered those three questions: What am I about to do? Go roller-blading with baby in pushchair.  What could go wrong? I could fall over taking baby with me.  How could I do this better? Either lose the blades or leave baby at home with husband.

Asking and answering those three questions will help you anticipate risks and plan to control these.  Would you paint a ceiling with no ground-sheet? Or set off on a wonderful road trip without enough petrol, food, water, spare tyre or sufficient mobile phone battery.  Would you sit your exams without doing enough study or prepare a special dinner without checking you have all required ingredients? How about booking an international trip then arriving at the airport late and without one or more of the key items of sunglasses, laptop, phone and charger, credit cards and passport?

Taking a few moments to explore risk before jumping in saves you time, effort, embarrassment and pain.  Consider how you are going to tackle the task and what do you need to do it right.  Would a mental or written checklist help you do the job efficiently, effectively and safely? What tools will you need?

Before rushing in, remember to ask, what am I about to do? What could go wrong? How could I do it better?

Always consider risk before you do anything.