I met a friend at Starbucks today and enjoyed a wonderful morning visiting with her while partaking in my caffeine addiction. Ahh, life can be good. Yesterday, I met a different friend for lunch and we sat outside another java-haven in town while I indulged in my caffeine habit. I love my friends who ‘feed my need.’
I’ve been trying to meet up with friends as much as possible because our time here is winding down. We are on the verge of yet another move. Two years ago we moved to Abilene. I made some remarkable friends and reunited with good friends from the past. Texas is friendly. It’s also dusty and windy and I’m sure my patio furniture and BBQ will never recover. Anyway…
We are going to miss this assignment far too much to express. We were blessed by getting to do some awesome things. Just the other day I actually “marshaled in” a giant C-130 with those orange-cone-flashlight things. Yep, I stood outside on the flightline and told the pilot where to “park” the plane in front of a crowd of onlookers. I’ll never forget it. Of course, the airman standing next to me “helping” probably won’t forget it either.
The young airman instructed me how to get the plane to turn left on the runway. “Make an “L” with your arms.”
“No, Ma’am. The other way. You’re telling him to turn straight into the crowd. Make an ‘L’.”
“Oh, you mean a backward L?”
“No, Ma’am, an L.” He showed me.
I switched my arms. Now, don’t judge me. Seriously, think about it. If you were standing in front of me, it would be a normal “L” but I’m NOT standing in front of me, so therefore, from my perspective, it’s a backward L.
I decided not to espouse my “L” logic to the young man at that point. Also, on a side note, don’t ever ask me which side of the bed I sleep on, as it, too, is a trick question. I mean, are you talking about my right if I’m on my back lying on the bed? Or are you talking about my right as if I were standing at the foot of the bed looking at it? And because I sleep on my stomach, do you mean my ‘sleeping’ right? Or my ‘sitting in bed watching TV’ right because they are different. Oh forget it. It’s all so confusing for me since I rarely know right from left without thinking about it—or as in the case of the “L” over-thinking it.
I tried to cover. “I thought you meant the pilot’s left. Heh. Heh.”
“Really?” He looked at me, tilted his head and wrinkled his brow, not buying it. Maybe the “cover” was worse than the mistake.
The plane turned left and headed down the strip towards us. It was surreal standing there with this humongous plane coming straight at me. I was shaking in my shoes with excitement. Soon, I could see the pilots; they were that close! How cool is that? At this point, I would like to take you on a little journey through the workings of my caffeinated/ADD mind as I marshaled that plane in:
I thought, “Wow! That’s interesting. I’ve never seen a plane from this angle. I always see them in profile or on a ramp connected to those stairs-on-wheels things at the airport, but never on the ground looking straight onto its nose. This sort of reminds me of the guy standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square…which reminds me, I need to go to Walmart to buy soy sauce if I make stir-fry tonight…Greg loves Chinese. Stephen loves Thai. I miss my boys. Which reminds me, I still need to make airline reservations for Greg to…Oh, crap! I’m supposed to be doing something.”
“Wave them in. Wave them in,” the airmen said emphatically.
As I’ve just recreated my normal thought-process for your edification, you now understand that my mind was rather pre-occupied. So when he said, ‘wave them in’ my first thought was: How do I wave at them with these flashlight devices in my hands? But, before I put one of them down to wave, he demonstrated what he meant.
I moved my arms back and forth like he showed me. Somehow I managed (with the help of a slightly jumpy airman) to get the wheels near the target.
So, as I stood with my arms straight up above my head and waving the lights to and fro exactly like he told me, the airman says, “Okay, stop!”
I obeyed. I stopped. I did not wave them in anymore. I kept my arms perfectly still in the air.
His voice got louder. “Stop!”
What’s he want? I am stopped. I’m not moving at all.
“No, no, stop!” Now he sounded alarmed.
The plane continued to roll right over the square wheel indicator box painted on the runway.
He took hold of my wrists and made a giant X with my flashy-sticks. Ahhh…that means stop. Of course, I’ve seen that in movies before. Speaking of movies…I really want to see one this weekend…the one with the guy from that TV show we always watch…which reminds me, we need microwave popcorn, so when I go to Walmart for soy sauce…but…maybe I don’t want stir-fry…Oh wait…
I shook my head. All right. Now, I’m totally focused.
The wheels were not exactly on the black square anymore, but they were generally in the right vicinity. Hmmm…I wonder if airplanes have a reverse gear. Motorcycles don’t. I remember once when we went to Sturgis motorcycle rally and the guy told us that he…
I turned to the airman. “They stopped. Now what?” Relief spread over the young serviceman’s face.
“We’re done. Thanks, Ma’am.” Perspiration lined his forehead and top lip. He quickly took the flashlight-coney-things away from me and led me off the flightline to join the rest of the group. I’m sure he couldn’t wait to tell the other ‘guide-with-the-cones’ guys the story of one really dorky wife.
I would have never been able to do something so awesome if not for the blessing of our assignment here. Shout out to the Mighty 317th.
We will miss this place!
One of the ‘rites of passage’ for aviators in the military is something known as a fini-flight. This is the last flight on a plane before the person goes to a job that doesn’t involve flying or (as in this case) will no longer be flying that particular plane. (The incredibly powerful, sexy B-1.)
Customarily, the pilot or weapon systems operator gets greeted on the runway after his flight by a crowd of family, friends and colleagues.
The ‘aviator of honor’ is welcomed back by the spray of a fire hose. He is then ceremoniously doused with champagne followed by a toast with a chug of booze. The beauty of a fini-flight is that usually the spouse gets to hold the fire hose. Now how many spouses have wanted to spray their beloved with a blast of water like that? Here’s to always leaving your black socks next to the hamper!
My man had his last flight the Sunday before last. A group of us gathered outside Base Ops on a beautiful (but windy) West Texas day. A tiny black dot in the brilliant blue sky suddenly appeared. A moment later it took the shape of a B-1 and then VROOOM! It zoomed right over our heads in a spine-tingling thunder of power. It’s that fast! It’s impressive no matter how many times you see it. Trust me. (You can Google B1 flyover and see for yourself.) They circled around and touched down with a perfect ‘wheels to concrete’ landing. It was amazing.
The firemen are always on the runway for landings. On this special occasion they summoned me closer and I got to stand right next to the fire truck. And really close to the plane. Yay! A young fireman (with muscles of steel and a Superman chest) handed me the giant hose. (I swear that wasn’t meant as a euphemism!) Literally—he handed me the hose.
The cockpit door opened and a white metal ladder came down from the belly of the plane. This is it.
The Wing King (the big boss) stood a few feet from me with a bottle of champaign ready to shake and uncork it all over his next-in-command. A group of honoraries (dignitaries from town) and friends stood behind the two of us as we waited for our quarry.
Yes, I see the tips of his boots. We were all in place, knew our parts and awaited the recipient to descend the steps.
Young Airman Muscles says, “Okay, Mrs. Goodfellow, make sure his feet are planted before you get him. Just pull this lever back and let him have it.”
“Sure,” I say. Heh heh heh. I’m so going to get him good. What could possibly go wrong, right?
Wait for his feet to hit the pavement. Got it. Oh, yeah, I’m so ready.
Pretty soon, I see the familiar combat boots descend, then the green legs of a flight suit. Oh yeah! It’s him. I thought the clever man might send one of the captains down first. I was ready for anything, even some trickery. It became obvious that it was my man because he was coming down slowly, haltingly, knowing exactly what was about to take place. My heart sped up and I smiled from ear to ear.
I had never seen him come down a ladder so slowly. Next, I see his hands on the handrails, then his chest, complete with harness. Realizing he’s going to have to face the music, he rushes down the rest of the way. Both boots on the ground. You’re mine!
I pulled the lever as instructed hitting him square in the chest as if there was a target painted on his uniform. BLAM! Before I had time to comprehend what happened, I jolted back about two feet from the water pressure; my legs came out from under me and being that I gripped the hose, I didn’t have time to put my hands down to cushion the fall. I landed solidly on my backside, legs splayed out in front of me.
The hose was still firing water, but I lost my grip on it. The thing stood up like a cobra and sprayed into the crowd behind me. Now there were plenty of strong, healthy, buff (including Airman Muscles) military personnel, several young, nimble spouses and able-bodied friends in this crowd. They moved the hell out of the way quick as a flash.
The water took a direct trajectory and hit the only person not able to move at the speed of water. Also, the only person wearing an expensive, three piece suit and his favorite fedora. A man old enough to be my grandfather. That’s right. Out of all those people, it drenched one of the community honoraries who’d come out to witness my husband getting sprayed with a fire hose. He witnessed it all right.
As I sat on the tarmac, dazed and not quite sure exactly what just happened, Airman Muscles cuts the water and the hose goes slack in my hands. (Again, no euphemism here.) Behind me, the motley group of our closest military friends is guffawing like a pack of hyenas.
Poor, old, Jack stood, shocked (and wet)—he may have been the only one not laughing. So, what did this wily bunch of patriotic, loyal, dependable, trustworthy, steadfast friends do? They captured the whole incident on film, of course.
I looked around from my spot on the asphalt and saw nothing but cell phones pointing in my direction; laughter all around me. I sat sprawled out on hot concrete and realized no one helped me up because no one’s hands were free of iPhones. There is a partial video of the event. If you watch it, please note: everyone scattered so they didn’t get wet and someone actually rushes behind me to pick up the bottle of booze lest I knock it over. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to the booze! But, the boss’s wife knocked on her butt? Yeah, that’s funny, where’s my phone?
The official photographer DID NOT snap any pictures of said incident, or if he did, he DID NOT include them on the CD he sent me. Either way…smart man.
I looked up still stunned, and caught the eye of my wet knight in shining armor. Surely, he’ll come to my rescue. Well, maybe when he stops laughing. He was practically doubled over.
And so, thanks to the wonder of technology there exists a video and numerous cell phone captures of my embarrassing moment. To be honest, I was laughing, too. What can one do in a moment of utter humiliation besides join the fun? One thing is for sure. We won’t ever forget that fini-flight. In fact, I’m sure the firemen went back to the station and relived it over and over, probably in slow motion on their phones.
After I was back on my feet, one of the other colonels told me, “I thought they usually had a fireman holding it behind you.” You think? Really? She meant well when she informed me of this.
For days afterward, people made remarks about me taking a “ride” on the fire hose. (Okay, enough with the non-euphemisms! What is it about this story that drips with sexuality?)
I purposefully did not tell my sons what happened. They’d never let me forget it. We raised them to have great senses of humor. Sometimes that can backfire.
My oldest son, a sophomore in college, said this to me yesterday. “Mom, I was officially inaugurated President of the RGA for 2012-2013.”
“Really? That’s fantastic!”
“Yeah. And my first act as president will be to change the title.”
“The title? To what?”
“To Supreme Overlord and Ultimate High Commander.” He laughed an evil ‘villain’ laugh. “Bwaahaahaa.”
I chuckled, but for a split second, I wondered if he might do it.
“Stephen? You’re just kidding, right?” I had a visual flashback.
Stephen stood in the playroom with rows of his and his brother’s Beanie Babies in front of him. I stopped and watched for a moment before I quietly headed back upstairs to get the video camera. When I returned unnoticed, he shook his fist in the air and looked into the ranks of stuffed animals. “To me only, you shall remain true, and we shall put an end to the rebellion.” He slammed his fist into his palm.
Not to date myself, but the ginormous video camera contained a big huge light in the front to use as a flash. I turned it on and it caught his attention. He stopped.
“Go ahead, Stephen. Keep going.”
I only captured a snippet of what he said. It went something like this.
“Together we can regain our objective and reign supreme.” He paced in front of his captive audience with his hands behind his back. He gave those little critters a stern glare, turned on his heel and paced the other way, hands still clasped behind him. “Storm troopers you shall be. Together we shall rule the universe!” At this point he glanced up and pointed at me. “Look! A spy! Seize her! Don’t just sit there! Your ruler has given you an order.”
He rushed toward me wearing a scowl, but then smiled sweetly into the camera, all big eyes and innocence. He gestured to his troops with a toss of his head. “What do you expect? They are full of beans!”
My son is hilarious. And brilliant. Or scary. I choose hilarious and brilliant.
Once on a road trip, my husband asked Stephen, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Like he was prone to do, he gave it some thought before he answered. “I don’t think there is a title for it.” He shrugged.
“Well, tell me what it is that person does and I’ll tell you what the title is.”
Stephen was silent for a moment.
“All right. I want to…”
For the next few minutes he explained exactly what he wanted to do when he grew up. After his monologue ended he said, “Dad? Does this have a title?”
Hubby glanced at me, raised his eyebrows and gave me his crooked, incredulous smile. He then looked in the rearview mirror to catch our son’s eyes. “Yes, Stephen. It does have a title. From what you just described…I’d say it’s called The Emperor of China. I’m thinking that job is already taken.”
His father and I chuckled.
Stephen, completely undeterred replied, “No, I think you’re wrong, dad. I do not want to be the Emperor of China.”
“Well, that’s a relief, son.”
“No.” He bit his lip. “The Chinese are communists. I am a firm proponent of capitalism. I’d rather be The Emporer of The Western World.”
Did I mention he was nine?
He’ll be twenty-one years old in a few weeks. Wow. Probably the same age as the kid helping me marshal in the C-130.
You know, somewhere in the base dorms I’m thinking this conversation might’ve taken place.
“Hey, you guys…you will not believe the wife I had with me on the flightline the other day.” He’ll proceed to tell the story. The others will laugh and slap him on the back. “You poor dude.” Someone else will pull out his iPhone and say, “Oh, yeah? You think that’s bad? Check out this genius spraying her husband on his fini-flight.”