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Diversions Archive

10.2.02 - Twenty-Three

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.  Beautiful!

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 and land.

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 kite.  Booo!)

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 the ground.

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 circling vultures.

The vultures circling during the flight, I mean.  Hopefully not after.

e:mail: temp@notmydesk.com

10.1.02 - Twenty-Two

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 parents!  Huzzah!

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 birthday!

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.

"READY?" he 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:

"THREE!"

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 "two" instead.

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, either.

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.

Um.  Whee?

But then, I was slowing down, slowing down, stopping... and then shooting back up into the air!  Oh, thank God.  

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 platform.

"He looks like a dummy!" my sister said.

My mom groaned.  "He is."

e:mail: temp@notmydesk.com

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.

e:mail: temp@notmydesk.com

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 apartment door.

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 remembering.

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. 

e:mail: temp@notmydesk.com

9.19.02 - Five Short Letters

Dear Orbitz.com,

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!

Love,
Chris

-----

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 once?  Thanks!

Hugs,
Chris

-----

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.

Die,
Chris

-----

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!

Cordially,
Chris

-----

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,

No.

Sincerely,
Chris

e:mail: temp@notmydesk.com

9.18.02 - Germ Warfare

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 necessary.

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. 

e:mail: temp@notmydesk.com

9.16.02 - Tingle White Male

When 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 moodWhile 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!

e:mail: temp@notmydesk.com

Last Week on Not My Desk!

Alas, Alack, Alarm
Bag Reel
A Hyena ate my Dingo Baby!
Missed Connections
Prefont-Pain

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Smurf Rescue
Donkey Kong
Space Panic

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Mary Jo Pehl Interview
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Publishing Progress
NMD On Paper
Chapter One
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All material 2000 - 2002 by Christopher C. Livingston.

This website is a work of non-fiction.  The events and characters depicted on this website are not fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is totally intended.  Please, someone, sue me.  I'm begging you.  Or daring you.  Whichever works.  Really, it would make a good update or two if you sued me.  C'mon.  Do it.