It Can Be Hard To Name Life’S Most Exciting Moment, Part Ii


I left off last week at the point where I was having what I count as my last exciting childhood experience: The day I decided to cross a cliff face by standing on a very narrow ledge while my hands clung to another ledge just above eye level. Trouble is, I disturbed a big old black snake sunning above me, and the snake thought it might be a good idea to peer over the edge and see what kind of nut was crossing a 100-foot-high cliff.

I was the nut, of course, but not for long. I let go.

Luckily, I had passed the 100-foot drop, but I landed on a grassy slope and started to roll downslope toward said drop. No problem. You should see how fast a 16-year-old can grab grass.

No, not that kind. The kind you have to mow.

Anyway, I count that as the last exciting moment of my youth. After that my exciting moments fall into the adult category. Which means they are far more likely to be the result of something dumb.

Adults, I’m here to tell you, are much better at such things. They have more money, more education, more control, and more false confidence. All of which adds up to far greater screw ups.

Why do I keep mentioning screw ups and exciting moments at the same time? C’mon! Be honest. You know what I mean. Life’s most exciting moments come right after you do something really dumb and are desperately trying to escape the consequences.

Not always, of course. Sometimes someone else screws up. Take the time I was on an Air Force transport, looking down and waiting to see back-waves bouncing off Hawaii. We had a 9-hour, 30-minute flight plan, should have seen the back-waves about 30 miles off Hawaii, and had been in the air for 11 hours.

I had been telling the captain sitting next to me about back-waves, and we had both been watching for them. When I pointed out that we should have seen them an hour and half earlier, he went off to talk to the navigator, an Air National Guard lieutenant.

My! My! That was one very pale captain who came back.

“Find out anything?” I asked him.

He gulped. “I asked that %$#@! navigator if he knew where Hawaii was. You know what he told me? ‘I thought I did.’”

That, Johnny, was the second time in my Air Force career we ran out of gas taxiing in. That kind of excitement I will pass on.

The worst part of it was that we stayed overnight and had to get back on the same aircraft, with the same navigator, who had to find, not the whole Hawaiian Island chain, but little old Guam.

I know the question you’re asking. No, we didn’t make it. We crashed and I died, along with 73 others.

Hey, troublemaker! Who do you think is writing this? The Ghost of Christmas Past?

Here’s an exciting moment I know you’ll appreciate.

A few years back I had some kind of problem with my digestive tract. I have since traced it down to lactose intolerance, so it was basically nothing.

Wel-l-l-l ...

It was nothing if having stomach pains, cramps, an inflamed everything, and a proctologist who is hell bent on having a look see from the top down and the bottom up. From the bottom up, no problem. Go for it. From the top down?

Stick some big old tube down my throat? With my gag response? While I’m awake? Oh, man!

But then the doctor told me something that got my attention.

“You won’t like it, but you won’t remember it. The anesthetic we’ll use has an amnesiac effect.”

So, hoping he wasn’t just kidding me, I smiled at Lolly as I was rolled off on the gurney.

About five minutes later I looked around and saw they had stashed me in a small plain room to wait for the procedure. After perhaps 10 minutes a nurse came by. “You doing OK?” she asked.

I lied. “I’m ready to start any time you folks are.”

“Oh, but you’re all finished. This is the recovery room.”

Now that was an exciting moment!

I swear to God I have no memory whatsoever of that procedure.

Talk about great!

Who cares what they do as long as you don’t remember it?

Dentists ought to have some stuff like that. Can you picture this conversation?

“Hi, Tom. What are you in for today?”

“The ... uh, four root canals.”

“Oh, but that was last week.”

Holy mackerel! Would that feel great, or what?

Of course, some things need to be remembered. For example, the time I decided to get back into my car while it was lying on its side on the edge of a cliff in Okinawa. Why? To “steer” the dumb thing while two taxis hauled it backwards — as the road fell off into the sea in sections and the car struggled to right itself. If there is anything called “justice for idiots” one of those falling sections of road should have included one Mercury — and me.

Trouble is, something like that really doesn’t last long enough for you to enjoy the full impact of it. The really exciting things are the ones that last a long time.

You want exciting? You want long-lasting?

Try this on for size.

Pakistan. I’ve been there just 15 days and have yet to learn its real dangers. Sundown. The air is still, heavy, filled with tension. Sam McNutt and I, both unarmed, slip quietly out of our jeep, through a high iron gate, and along a dark path. Ahead in the dark we hear voices. Carefully taking the steps one at a time we make it up onto a darkened porch.

There they are! Two of them! Eying us from the shadows.

My heart almost stops. Never before have I seen anything like it. I know I am looking at the most dangerous creatures known to man. “Courage,” I tell myself. “You know what you have to do.”

And so I did. I married one of them. Named Loretta.

Excitement has lasted 51 years so far.


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