Wise Guys

Lyrics and Music ©2023 by Bill Roper

I have always been fond of songs that tell a story.

Here is a story of what we will euphemistically describe as a "learning experience". Since the protagonist survives, we will take it as a good one.

G                            Em
I’ve been a star pilot for a longer time than most.
       C                                D
I know when to push the throttle in and when it’s time to coast.
G                               Em
Some folks say I’m cautious and some say I’m just old,
    C                          D
But when I was a younger guy I used to be quite bold.
         C                                     G
Push the throttle past the red line, force the engines to exceed,
     Em                              A                 D
Disregarding safety margins ‘cause I felt the need for speed.
     C                               G                Em
They said that flying starships is a game for younger men.
           C                            D                  G
That’s the story that they told me; I believed it all back then.

(G)          D                  G
I want to be old.  I want to be wise.
             D                              C                 G
I want to be just a little bit smarter than all those younger guys.
     Em                                A
They say old age and treachery are the secret to success,
        C                                   D                    G
But I’d rather play it honestly, ‘cause the wise guy says that’s best.

Had a hot load for Arcadia, they wanted it there fast,
But the guy they gave my second seat was some relic from the past.
I told him he could take a nap for the balance of the trip.
I didn’t need some wise guy helping me to fly my ship.
We were ten percent past red line, he was givin’ me a look.
He said, “You push the margins and that engine’s gonna cook.”
But that’s why I’m the pilot and he’s the second seat.
You know it takes a bold, young man to know just how to cheat.

We were about six hours from landing, it was time to turn around,
When the wise guy cleared his throat and said, “I do not like that sound.”
I laughed and said, “There’s nothing wrong, so just relax, old man.”
Put my hand upon the throttle and that’s when it hit the fan.
That wise guy must have laid a curse ‘cause that engine coughed and died
And left us on a course aimed to arrive on planetside,
About three hours too early and unhappily too fast.
You hope for a soft landing, but this one would be a blast.

I stared down at the panel with a blank look on my face.
The wise guy said, “Now, Captain, I’m too old to die in space.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to see if I could take us in.”
I stammered yes, he looked at me, and cracked an evil grin.
“This engine’s gonna need to be rebuilt when we touch down.
It isn’t meant to be abused by some young, cocky clown.”
He flushed the coolant out to space and flooded it with more
And after two more cycles, our engine started with a roar.

“We’ve got to shed some delta-V before it’s safe to land.
This course correction’s gonna make us later than you planned.
We’ll take a loop around that moon for a gravity assist.
Arcadia Port has got the plan – would you like to check my list?”
He leaned back from the console and he looked me in the eye.
“Just keep it under eighty and this bird’s still fit to fly.”
Well, I’d been bold, but the wise guy’s old and smarter than I knew,
And since that day, I’ve learned to be a wiser pilot too.

(Chorus twice)
(Em)      C                                   D                    G
Yeah, I’d rather play it honestly, ‘cause the wise guy says that’s best.