Comin’ In Hot
I recently had an experience that was very painful, both physically and emotionally. It has caused me to re-think my stubborn, lifelong dedication to the principles of machismo.
At first I tried to slough it off as poor civil engineering and/or a lack of attention to safety precautions. All on the part of the supermarket I had been patronizing, of course. There was absolutely nothing that had diminished with me, especially my ability to carry six shopping bags of groceries from checkout lane to automobile. It was a trek of about twenty years, with no obstacles to negotiate except a curb. A diabolical, treacherous, feral monster that lay in wait for my unsuspecting self, blending into its background like the wild creature it was.
Having assured the checkout person that carrying my own groceries for such a paltry distance would be “no problema” and smiling confidently as I loaded up and headed out the automatic door, I was reasserting my manhood in that time-honored manner that had helped to make me a legend. In my own mind, as it turned out. For as I attempted to negotiate the single fiendish curb that was trying to block my path, I missed the other side by “that much,” and did an imitation of a navy pilot on final approach for a carrier landing. I managed to catch the landing wire after a short landing roll of about five feet, which my first awareness that I had maybe forgotten to lower the landing gear.
I plowed up those five feet of the ship’s deck with my face, they later told me. But I don’t remember anything about that part. I regained consciousness to the sound of a young woman screaming. She was the person who had volunteered to carry my groceries for me, and my first thought was that it was now payback time, and she was adding hysteria to my pain and embarrassment in her innocent little way. It took me a few minutes of clearing the cobwebs before I realized that she was actually calling for someone in the gathering “look-loos” to call 911. It seemed like no time before the EMS ambulance to arrive, and I had only just begun to to a damage assessment by then. My head was hurting pretty badly from its impact with the “landing barrier,” but the most curious thing I noticed right away was the shape of my left hand. Its middle finger now spelled “L” and I assumed that it was either broken or dislocated. I thought briefly about just yanking it back into alignment, but about that time the EMS technician intervened and advised me to leave it “in situ” for the present. Never at a loss for a quip, I ventured to him that “maybe you can use it as a backup turn signal on our way to the ER. I sure won’t be using it to flip anyone the bird,” I promised. I laughed a little, then but that was the only time it really hurt during the ensuing four hours.
Not to digress, of course, but that was the first time in my life that I had tried a carrier landing. I was Air Force, you see, and we never thought it was prudent to try to plant a perfectly good aircraft on a rolling, pitching postage stamp of a deck. Navy pilots, however, are not constrained by our timid ways, and many of them have served an entire career performing this foolishness. They even practice these inane maneuvers at their officers clubs when they are off duty. The apple never falls from the tree, of course. What they do is, they line up a couple of long tables near the bar, cover it with shaved ice, line it on each side with candles (runway markers) and then take turns trying to be the one who can dive off the bar and manage to stop before sliding off the end of the last table. The one who stops closest to the edge wins, the prize being drinks all around. This probably accounts for the reason that all Navy carrier pilots have hooked noses, the only “barrier” in these cases being the floor.
So now I was an unofficial member of that exclusive club, and I am applying forthwith for the Navy’s carrier-qualified badge. I expect that it will be my admission ticket to any swabbies’ o-club. I have nothing much to offer in return; we never thought it was so exceptional to make an eight-engine landing. And our straight, perfect Air Force noses manage to make us look the part of the dashing aviator, wouldn’t you agree?
Oh, and the bumps and bruises of my one special landing were all treated with the utmost professionalism by the UMC emergency room. And they made my finger say “I” again, with just a yank and a click. What have I learned from all this? Well, I will never again turn down the offer of a helpful checkout lady to carry my groceries. Macho Man will now make a hands-free trip from cash register to car, while bravely keeping his little secret that he has lost a step or two. In fact, I may start letting them carry me out in a basket, if I can find one with an on-ramp.
George is an American Bad Ass. He grew up in Jersey, flew B-52s in Vietnam, taught English, Spanish and other languages to children around the world, makes his own salsa, has been known to enjoy a beer or two and has called Lubbock home for a few years, just to entertain the locals. Welcome to Raiderland, Major. We are going to feature some of his writings going forward. Some new, some old. Some rhyme, some don’t. When it comes to George, there’s no box. So… enjoy our friend and enjoy his writings! – Hyatt