To Infinity and Beyond
I remember being 5; I was in kindergarten. We were sitting on the rug (I sat next to Greg Thurner. I’m pretty sure I loved him.) The VCR was wheeled into the classroom. A national tragedy was occurring. The space shuttle Challenger had exploded.
I succumbed to national propaganda. I was scared beyond belief of the Cold War and accompanying air raid drills (because holding onto the legs of my California public school issued desk was TOTALLY going to protect me from a nuclear attack). I thanked my lucky stars I was born an American. Because I was convinced had I the unfortunate fate of being born into the Soviet Union, Mother Russia would have forced me to be a cosmonaut. And I was terrified.
(You know – typical childhood fears: Bloody Mary in the mirror, drowning in the shower, spontaneous combustion causing my home to turn into a fireball of doom, and space exploration. No? Just me?)
On Friday, the Space Shuttle Endeavour, the fifth and final space-worthy NASA bird built (as a replacement for Challenger), made a flyover of Northern California on its retirement tour.
My friend and I had a discussion about how cool it would be to see this moment in history. I agreed. I’m all grown up now. And the cold war is over. I’m a marketing writer, I wear glasses – and, as my husband has so helpfully pointed out, middle aged. There is no longer any astronaut danger. (Alas, so to are gone my dreams of piloting a fighter jet.)
TO THE TWITTER! #SpotTheShuttle.
Allegedly, the shuttle was going to appear on the back of a 747 jet at 10:17 a.m. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could see above the trees?
I ran to the muppet’s room. I pulled open their blackout curtains. I flung open the blinds. The window swung open. And proceeded to argue with the screen for a good five minutes. I was just about to punch that sucker open when I finally dislodged it from the window.
I scrambled out over the threshold – climbing over the windowsill, jumping down to the flat portion of the roof below and making my way across the roof tiles up onto the peak of our slanted roof.
I sat there, typing away on my phone, laughing at the concept that work was merely a location. I was working on the roof! (Hello neighbor man. I seeee you in your backyard there.) Meanwhile, my colleagues were texting me that they were on the roof of our work building as well.
It was actually quite serene up there, taking in the last day of summer sun.
“Leaving Moffet in 5,” buzzed a text on my phone. It was time. I looked skyward.
I heard the rumbling of the jet engine, reminding me of the Rocketdyne rocket tests I would occasionally hear during my cosmonaut-phobic youth. Suddenly the 747 emerged between the trees; the space shuttle nestled atop it for its piggyback ride down the state. An F-16 fighter jet flanked its rear.
At this point, reality struck home. How the hell was I going to get back off the roof? The goal was to do so without an inadvertent leap to my death.
I peered down the charcoal shingles. I had no pockets in my sweats, and this wasn’t an adventure I wanted to partake upon without use of all available limbs. So I shoved my phone into my bra and began scooting down slope.
Narrowly avoiding the potential rain gutter disaster (note to self – rain gutters may *look* like they possess fantabulous finger grips; they do not due to lack of structural and adhesive integrity), I tumbled down onto the lower portion of the roof. There was no blood, bruising or broken bones. Success!
I made my way back over to the flat portion at the back of my house, where it becomes painfully apparent that the window is a lot higher than I remembered. In hindsight, this is likely why Jon always brings a stepstool when he ascends to the highest heights of our house. However, I’d been so excited to see the shuttle, I hadn’t thought this entirely through… (7 P theory. I know.)
Who knows, may be it wouldn’t have been so bad to be an astronaut. That combination of strength training for zero gravity would come in awfully handy right about now.
Despite my stunningly stunted upper body strength, I gripped the window, bent at the knees, and launched myself upward. (Visualize the shuttle firing toward the stratosphere!) I got just high enough to swan dive over the ledge and nose dive toward the floor.
It wasn’t graceful. At all. But I made it. I witnessed history. And lived to tell about it. That. Was. Cool.