A few months before I turned
23, I was walking around at work and saw a guy I knew playing a videotape for a
few people. It was a tape of him hang gliding; I don't recall where,
but I think it may have been in the Rocky Mountains. The camera he'd taped
his flight with was attached to the back of his glider and looked over his
shoulder as he soared among the peaks and cliffs, rising and diving and rising
again, and at one point even sailing alongside a circling vulture.
The tape ran out while he was
still in the air, and he explained that that happened a lot. The thermals
often allowed him to glide for three or four or more hours, and generally the
tape or the camera's battery would be finished before he was.
Well, I knew what I wanted to
do for my birthday now, and anyway, hang gliding had always been appealing to
me. Especially the whole running and jumping off the mountain part.
It's gotta take some cojones to run full tilt towards the edge of a cliff with a
collection of metal rods and canvas flaps on your back, and I wanted to be able
to say I had done it. Also, while neither skydiving nor bungee jumping had
given me the sensation of falling I was expecting, I figured I knew what hang
gliding would be like: flying. And who doesn't dream of doing that?
Well? Answer me!
Oh, fine. Be that way.
He happened to know some local
guys who ran a hang gliding business not too far away, so when birthday time
rolled around, I set up an appointment, got directions, and headed on over.
As I was driving there, a
thought occurred to me. There weren't any actual, like... mountains
around here. I was in Florida, after all, a ridiculously flat state about
6.3 inches above sea level. What was I going to be hang gliding off
of, exactly? You had to get a running start, so it couldn't be a crane or
anything like that, and you had to be pretty high in the air, I figured, or it'd
be a damn short flight. I guess I'd find out soon enough.
The place looked like a little
ranch. A few buildings, some farmland, and what looked like a small
airstrip. I looked around and sure enough, there wasn't a single gigantic
mountain to be found anywhere.
I eventually found the guy who
ran the place, and when I asked him about the apparent lack of cliffs to leap
from, he told me how one hang glides when one has no mountains handy. We'd
be getting into the hang glider, which was supported on three wheels. The
hang glider would be attached by a cable to the back of an small airplane, which
would take off and pull us up into the air behind it. When we were high
enough, we'd detach the cable, glide around for about 25 minutes, then come in
Huh. Well, I had been
looking forward to flinging myself off something tall, but getting dragged into
the sky behind an speeding airplane sounded pretty damn exciting too. And
landing on wheels sounded better to me than sticking down our feet and running
(and probably falling) when we hit the ground, especially since the fellow was
easily a foot taller than I was. If we'd had to land on our feet, I
figured his would hit the ground well before mine would, and I'd have a few
moments of running on air, my legs kicking at nothing like a tiny spaz, before
my end of the kite crashed into the ground. Looked like I wouldn't have to
worry about that.
The guy (I really wish I could
remember these people's names) told me he had modified the design of the plane, specifically
the wings, to allow it to take off at a slower speed than a normal plane
would. It'd allow for a much gentler takeoff for the two of us strapped
into the kite and rolling along in tow.
(Sadly, there'd be no videotape
to send home this time to drive my parents to drink. No camera on this
We got into the hang glider's
harness (after the usual pound of paperwork), sort of lying down on our stomachs
in what basically amounted to a couple of large sleeping bags. There we
hung horizontally beneath the kite, about two feet off the grass. The
pilot hooked up our cable, hopped into the plane, and started to taxi down the
short runway. I guess we weren't going all that fast, really, but what
with my head two feet from the ground and being pulled behind an airplane, it
seemed pretty damn fast. And then the plane was rising, and we
followed. Extremely cool!
We slowly circled our way up
into the sky, until we were a couple thousand feet up, I guess, and then
disconnected the cable. And we were hang gliding.
The guy showed me how to steer,
and I banked hesitantly and turned carefully and dove alarmingly and rose
shakily (and stalled frequently) for about a half hour. It was very
peaceful up there. The view was wonderful, it was an absolutely clear day
and I could see for miles. Still, it didn't seem so much like
flying. More like... lying down in the sky, I guess. With no
mountaintops to swoop over, no rocky cliffsides to navigate, no jagged spires to
slice between, and no vultures to circle with, there wasn't a whole lot tell me
how fast I was going, or even that I was going anywhere at all. It wasn't
much of an adrenalin rush, either, except when I thought about the fact that I
was in a sleeping bag held up by a few poles and a tarp, two thousand feet above
Eventually, he guided us back
down to earth for the landing. We slid in over the trees and landed on the
glider's tires, which was pretty exciting, considering we were coming in heads
and bellies first. We rolled to a stop without incident, another birthday
marked by wind, heights, and gravity.
Not a bad way to spend an
afternoon. Someday, maybe, I'll do it the other way. The leap from
the cliff, the valleys and mountaintops, the peaks and pinnacles, and the
The vultures circling during
the flight, I mean. Hopefully not after.
Doing something somewhat life
threatening on my birthday became a tradition after I went skydiving.
Skydiving is tough to top, though, as far as dangerous thrills go, but I decided
that when I turned 22, I really needed to try bungee jumping. Why
not? I had jumped out of a plane and lived, surely I could jump off
something much lower to the ground without a second thought.
As luck would have it, I lived
in Orlando, Florida at the time, or, as a friend of mine called it,
ThemeParkWorldLand. In addition to Disney, Universal, and Sea World, there
were a billion other little tourist attractions. A bungee jump had been
set up in a hotel parking lot not far from where I worked, so on or around my
birthday, I headed over there to jump off something high over something hard
with a huge rubber band attached to me. Brilliant!
I certainly would have
preferred going off a bridge, with the bungee cord attached to my ankles, like
you see all those cool maniacs doing on television. If you're gonna fling
yourself stupidly off something for no real reason, you should at least have
some nice scenery like a river or cliffs to look at on the way down to your
tragic death. Still, I found I could settle for a parking lot,
because they would videotape the jump for me and I could send it to my horrified
So, off I went, with my
fearless friend Julie again, to bungee jump. Once more, there wasn't much
in the way of instruction, mainly just some forms to sign before I was weighed
and strapped into a harness on the ground, with the bungee cord attached to my
back (I would be jumping and falling feet-first, not diving). Then I was
escorted over to the crane, and into a small steel elevator, much like a cage,
that would take me to the top. The instructor guy was in there with me,
talking to me, I think, though I don't really remember, because as the cage
started rising, I realized I was completely and utterly terrified.
Odd, that. I had been
nervous before jumping out of the airplane the previous year, but now I was
completely rigid with fear. I think it had something to do with being
close enough to the ground to recognize it as the ground, as opposed to
being 13,500 feet up, and having the ground look like a little model or map of
the ground. Skydiving was surreal, a whirl of sound and wind far removed
from world below, but this was complete fucking reality. As we reached the
top of the crane, I was actually shaking. Cold sweat, quaking knees,
knotted stomach, the works.
Gosh, what fun! Happy
Now. I was told to open
the little gate and step onto a small metal platform, about two feet wide and
two feet deep. I did this, barely, and the guy shut the gate behind
me. Click. I was now standing over a parking lot on a tiny little
metal diving board. The guy said he'd count down from three, and on one, I
was supposed to jump off my tiny platform.
I have never, and I can
honestly say this, NEVER known such fear. I was petrified. I was
certain I was going to die. Scratch that, actually, I was certain that
when he reached "one" I would be too terrified to actually move.
He'd have to pull me back in, lower me down, give me a nice big hug, and send me
home for a fresh pair of underpants.
yelled. Not just to me, mind you, but over a loudspeaker, so everyone on
the ground could hear it. Great, thanks.
I wasn't going to be able to do
this. No way. I didn't even want to do this. This was
stupid. It wasn't fun or exciting at all. When he said
"ONE!" I wouldn't jump. I simply wouldn't be able to. The
moment I heard "ONE!" I'd turn to stone.
I guess I said I was ready,
because he yelled:
Nope. I won't jump on
one. No. Won't be able to. Can't. Don't want to.
Won't. Won't. Won't jump on one.
So. I jumped on
When I went skydiving, I was
surprised that at no time did I really feel as if I were falling. And as I
somehow stepped off the bungee platform, I didn't feel like I was falling then,
What it felt like was
this: That the bungee cord that was supposed to stop me from plunging to
my death had actually been attached to the ground below instead, and stretched
taut. And when I had stepped off the platform, it was snapping back.
Quickly. I didn't feel so much like I was falling, I felt like I was being
yanked violently toward the ground. It seemed far too fast, I couldn't
breathe, I couldn't scream, I couldn't move.
But then, I was slowing down,
slowing down, stopping... and then shooting back up into the air! Oh,
The rest of it was fun. I
could enjoy the second earthward plunge, I could hoop and holler and bounce happily
around like the yo-yo I was.
My Mom put it well, I think,
when I mailed the tape home. When they watched it and saw me step off the
platform, my sister noticed how rigid my body was, how as I fell my arms and
legs and head didn't move at all, like someone had thrown a mannequin off the
"He looks like a
dummy!" my sister said.
My mom groaned. "He
|9.30.02 - Twenty-One
A brand new My Desk
essay for you today. Click
here to read it!
I mean, if you want
to. No pressure or anything.
|9.25.02 - Note
to Self: Update Site
I made a mental note to myself
today, that went like this:
"Mental note: Mercilessly
kill all cute adorable helpless baby kittens I come across."
Does this worry you at
all? Don't let it. My mind is like an extremely shallow yet
surprisingly murky puddle, and mental notes, when entered, are akin to writing
on the surface of this puddle with a stick. They are instantly lost,
leaving maybe a vague ripple or two hinting at what they might have been.
It's kind of frustrating.
Ideas pop in and out of my head all day, as well as sights or events I need to
remember, not to mention tasks I need to do, and unless I write them down
somewhere, like on scraps of paper, I'll never remember them. Some days I
come home with pockets full of Post-It's and receipts and other little notes
scrawled with things I need (or would like) to remember. God knows where I
put those little scraps of paper, though. Damn.
Paying rent and bills are two
big mental notes that go unremembered. When it does pop into my mind that
my rent is two weeks late, and if I'm not at home at the time, I call myself
immediately, and leave a message. I get home, listen to the message, and
then, sadly, make a mental note to pay the rent as soon as I've finished my
Funyuns. This gets repeated the next day, then the next, until my landlord
makes a mental note on my door with his foot.
Last night, I did several
hundred thousand pounds of laundry, and made probably ten or twelve trips to the
laundry room in my building throughout the course of the evening. Totally
routine, nothing new, I do laundry about once a week, and have been since as far
back as I can remember (which is about four days). But I still can't get
it right. I brought a load back from the dryer in my laundry basket, and
left the basket by the door so I wouldn't forget to bring it back to the dryers
for the next load. Yet I did. Twice. After having to carry
scaldingly hot clothes down the hall in my arms, twice, I finally placed the
basket directly in front of my door so I definitely wouldn't miss seeing it on
the next trip. Soon after, I found myself in the laundry room again, sans
basket, but I had the dim memory of kicking it out of the way as I opened my
Could be worse, though, and
has. Most of the time, my laundry adventures end with me sitting bolt
upright at around four in the morning, realizing I'd just left everything in the
dryer around dinner time, or even worse, left everything in the washer.
Around breakfast time. This is bad news, simply because people get tired
of waiting for me to come get my stuff and pile it up on the counter or floor or
wherever. Some nights I don't sit bolt upright, I just putter around in
confusion in the morning, wondering where all my pants got to, eventually
realizing that they're cold, damp, and smooshed inside one of the washers.
Along with several dozen wadded up and faded little scraps of paper,
generally. And that's if I'm lucky.
I think my favorite lapse was
when I'd put my stuff in the washer, and a half hour later, I headed to the
laundry room to start the drying. Cut to me at the corner store, looking
into the patient eyes of the counter clerk as I try to remember what I had come
to buy. Then wondering why I hadn't brought my wallet. Then
wondering, when I got back home, why I hadn't even brought my keys. Then
Then again, maybe it's not so
bad. That last story? About the store? I remembered it.
Didn't even have to write it down. At least, I don't think I did.
You know, the first 1,783 times
your pop-up ads interfered with my internet browsing, it was incredibly
annoying. But the 1,784th time it happened, it totally convinced me to use
your online travel service! Thank you!
Dear All Reviewers of the HBO
Program "The Sopranos,"
I have an idea. How about
just a single solitary one of you refrain from including "fuggedaboudit"
and "bada-bing" in your reviews? Just one of you? Just
Dear San Francisco
Mayor Willie Brown,
I understand that
for the anniversary of September 11, 2001, you had planned to turn all traffic
lights in the city of San Francisco red at 5:46am. You had thought this
would be a fitting tribute. When it proved technically improbable, you
settled for turning traffic lights at some 700 intersections to flashing yellow,
and asked all motorists on the road at that time to pull their cars over to the
side of the road and reflect upon the terrorist attacks.
For next year's
tribute, Mayor Brown, I suggest you throw yourself in front of a fast-moving
street car. You and that stupid hat. Putz.
Dear DVD Makers,
Your DVD skills
are getting better and better! Especially with the impressive pre-menu
graphics and montages that play automatically when I put in the DVD and won't
let me skip past them or fast-forward through them or access the menu until I've
watched your 45-minute intro! Thanks for giving me no choice!
Dear Guy Who Asked
Me For a Cigarette Today Even Though You Were Already Smoking One, And When I
Pointed That Out, You Said the Cigarette You Wanted From Me Was For Later,
So, I'm not working this week,
at least not yet. I always enjoy having time off, but the thrill is
somewhat dampened by the horrible stomach flu I've had since Saturday morning.
I don't feel too bad, really,
it's just that every sip of water or bite of food I take is in an awful hurry to
get back out into the light of day, by one path or another, pummeling my insides
to mush in the process. I usually get a fever around 7:00pm, which sends
me to bed bright and early, which means I'm up around three or four in the
morning, meaning I need a long nap during the afternoon. It sucks.
I've been avoiding coffee, so I'm perpetually tired, I've been avoiding alcohol,
so I'm perpetually unhappy, and I've been avoiding leaving my apartment, so I'm
perpetually within dashing distance of the bathroom, which is unfortunately
On the plus side, well... hm,
can't think of anything.
I made a trip to the store to
buy soup, crackers, juice, tea, and all things that are apparently supposed to
make me better. They don't really, and anyway, I hate kowtowing to
sickness, changing my routines and habits to placate the little micro-organisms
that weren't invited into my body in the first place. Generally, though,
when I get sick, it's business as usual. I've smoked through bronchitis,
boozed it up through colds and the flu, and worked through walking pneumonia.
Screw you, germs! I do what I want! *snaps fingers dramatically*
It's a two-pronged attack,
really, the first prong being to pretend I'm not even sick, giving me a
psychological advantage over the microscopic little fuckers, and the second
prong being to make my body as uninhabitable as possible. I figure a
combination of booze, cigarettes, fast-food, and sleep deprivation should send
them scurrying into a healthier body or kill them outright. Or kill me
outright. Either way!
I think if I'm not any better
tomorrow, I'm gonna forego the soup and tea and Vitamin C, and get back to my
roots with Vitamin CCC: Caffeine, Cigarettes, and Chivas. Dr.
Daniels, paging Dr. Jack Daniels, please report to my gullet! Stat!
At any rate, this stomach bug
why is I didn't update last night, and also why there isn't much an update today,
save for this. I would also like to mention, however, that I also bought
toilet paper at the store, or "bathroom tissue" as it is known these
days (the toilet paper, I mean, not the store), and was forced to choose between
TP that was "quilted" and "pillowy soft."
Now, "soft" is a fine
attribute for toilet paper, don't get me wrong. But the words
"quilted" and "pillowy soft" bring to mind the image of
wiping my ass on a bed, something I'm not really all that fired up to do, y'know?
If they're gonna pick soft things to entice me to buy their brand, why not
"bunny soft" or "puppy soft" or "newly-hatched baby
chick soft" or something? Those things are plenty soft.
Granted, if it came down to a choice between wiping my ass with a puppy or a
pillow, I'd probably choose the latter.
Unless, of course, the pillow
was mine and the puppy wasn't.
I hate to leave you with the
thought of me wiping my ass with a small dog, but hey, no one forced you to read
this, right? Seeya tomorrow, here's hoping the germs get the hint.
last I left you, I
was preparing to sweat out the last day of my temp job while knowing that one or
more of my supervisors may have seen my website.
A little nerve-wracking.
But, as it turned out, the
actual location of this site was never compromised. No one asked me about
it. No one confronted me. I wasn't dragged off by security,
strip-searched, questioned, or beaten. No one, apparently, saw it.
Damn. Woulda given me
good something to write about.
But not only was I not exposed
as the masturbating thief I am, I was actually given an ice cream party on
Friday afternoon, as a "thank you for pretending to work so hard while you
were here" sort of thing. It was nice, other than the fact that I'm
lactose intolerant and can't actually digest ice cream, not to mention that all
the admins spent the "party" discussing their parents' intricate and
disgusting medical problems. Um, whee? Party time! My parents
are very healthy, so once again, I had nothing to talk about with anyone.
Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad!
Now, I know I complain about
temping every so often, like, pretty much every day, but I'll tell you
this: the boring, meaningless tasks, the shitty pay, the lack of job
security, the absence of medical benefits, well, it's all worth it, for that
moment, that moment when I walk out the door at the end of my last day of
a particularly crappy assignment, like this one.
I usually feel the tingle that morning. The "Hey, this is the last time I have to enter this
building!" tingle. In this case, it was the "Hey, this is the
last time I have to enter this building an hour and ten minutes late for
work!" tingle. And throughout the day, I get more and more of them.
"Hey, this is the last
time I'll go for coffee and a smoke within a half-hour of getting here an hour
and ten minutes late!"
"Hey, this is the last
two-hour lunch break I'll take!"
"Hey, this is the last
time I'll have to minimize my chat window when someone walks by my desk!"
"Hey, this is the last
time I'll have to avoid that chatty security guard who always wants to talk to
me while I'm smoking!"
These tingles build and build
over the course of the day, and I find myself experiencing the oddest
sensation: that of being in a good mood. While at work.
I whistle, I zip around with purpose, I'm polite, friendly, I smile at people, I
don't actively wish anyone dead... it's like being someone well-adjusted for a
few hours, and I savor every second of it.
Still, I get a little bogged
down, since I actually have to complete the tasks I am given, unable to drag
them out for days or weeks as I normally would. And there are always a lot
of tasks on my last day, since all my supervisors realize they will have no one
to give their shit work to. If they need someone to make a list of all the
files in the file room, well, they'll have to do it themselves from now
on. So, the work flies in from all directions, which can sour my tingles a
trifle, but then again, the panicked look on my supervisors' faces, the
slowly-rising terror in their eyes that they will be without someone to do data
entry, well, that makes me feel a little better.
Then! The end of the day
approaching, I am simply awash with joy from the simple thought: "I
did it. I did the job, and did it well."
Er, no. That's not it at
all. It's: "I did it. I totally slacked off for two months and
I got away with it!" Yeah! I got away with it. No one has
discovered what a shoddy filing job I did, no one knows that data entry, which I
took nine days to finish, could have been completed in two hours by an elderly
marmoset on Vicodin, and no one knows I once spent an entire three-day stretch
doing nothing but following baseball games online.
All of this fills me,
invigorates me, carries me through the afternoon, until that wonderful moment
finally comes: 5:00pm. Well, 4:41pm. It's my last day, I ain't
stickin' around for 5.
And then I'm gone. A few
(fake) sad farewells, a few (bullshit-filled) It's-been-nice-to-be-here's, a few
pounds of office supplies tucked into my pockets, and I'm out. I'm
done. I'm history.
And so is the job.
Diversions for this
week: Hold the Button! See how long you can, um, hold the...
button. And test your reflexes with The Reflex Game! Yay.
Also, for my Canadian audience (and one in particular), a Curling game!
Personally, I don't get it, but that's Canada for you. Links on the left
sidebar, bottom box. Werd!
Week on Not My Desk!