Thursday, August 11, 2016

Throwback Thursday

There I was at work, just a working away, when Supervisor Ronny came by and said, "If I'd have come over here yesterday, I'd have laughed at your picture."  I was like, "YES!  Someone who gets me!"

You know, I appreciate all of you who read this blog.  I appreciate the comments, and when you Like the post on Facebook.  But let me tell you, there's just something about having a real, live person who is not family, and therefore not obligated to like your posts, come up to you face to face and say, "I really enjoy reading your posts."

Edna is just such a person.  She's really inspired me to keep writing when I felt like giving up.  Or at least taking a break.  I was thinking about this old post I'd written years ago that I figured she'd get a kick out of.  I started to just share the link with her, but then I thought that most of you weren't reading way back when, so I'm just going to repost the whole thing.

(This photo doesn't have anything to do with the topic of this post.  It's just one I had from my time in Italy.  One of these days, I'll get around to scanning some more photos.  Today is not that day.)

I've never been afraid of heights. Despite my lack of fear, my natural clumsiness and tendency to be accident prone has made me reasonably cautious. I'm not into jumping out of or off of stuff, but I do like to climb things.

When I was in the Navy, I worked on satellite communications equipment. Our job was to maintain the communications links between...well, I can't tell you that. I'd like to give you some official sounding excuse like that it was classified information, but I can't. Yeah, maybe it was classified, but the truth is, I just didn't know. I do know that during the first Gulf War, one of our links eventually ended up in Iraq. Other than that, well, I just kept the equipment running.

We had three antennas. One was a big, tall thing that looked like a radio station antenna. The other two were satellite dishes. These weren't your little Direct TV dishes that you hang on your eaves. They were huge. The taller of the two was probably as high as a 3 story building--the dish, I mean. The base added a bit more to it's height. It looked kind of like this one, but not exactly:

Every few years, the antenna maintenance crews would come around and perform--uh-- maintenance on the antennas. That's all they did. They replaced lost bolts and such. They cleaned them up, sandblasted the old paint off, and repainted them. They were civilians. They had safety harnesses. Us regular Navy were just up there...just us and the wind.

Naturally, when they were working on them, we shut down the antennas and put them into the stow position. For those of you not in the know, that is with the dish facing upright, much like a giant bowl. And just as naturally, the first thing we did was run out and climb to the very top of the feedhorn. (That's that thing sticking out of the middle of the dish.) When I came on watch, I wanted to climb the antenna. One of my shipmates--Aubrey--quickly volunteered to go with me. So we went out and climbed up the feedhorn and looked around a bit. Then we climbed down and climbed up to the edge of the dish, and looked around a bit ("Wow, look. Our lightning rods aren't grounded!")

As we turned to climb down and go back to our regular duties, we kind of had to scootch down on our backsides, as the dish was almost vertical at that point. Everything was going ok until I hit a patch that had been blasted clean of its paint. The slick metal acted just like a playground slide, and you can guess what happened then. That's right, I began to slide, and it was at that point that I looked down and realized we'd left the hatch door open and I was heading straight for it at a much higher rate of speed than I would have wished. Aubrey realized this at about the same time as I did, and he began screaming "Becky! Becky!"

Now, I'm not exactly and expert on men, but I do know that one thing men don't like to feel is helpless. Even less than feeling helpless, do they like being helpless. But that's exactly what Aubrey was. There was nothing he could do. I was on my own at that point.

I began scrambling sideways--or trying to anyway--in hopes that I would miss the open hatch. At the same time, I was making contingency plans in my mind--maybe I could catch myself with my feet on the sides of the hatch; maybe I could catch myself with my hands on the side of the hatch; maybe as I fell through, I could grab the ladder and break my fall that way. If all else fails, it was only about a 7' drop to the deck below. A jarring fall to be sure, but not exactly life threatening.

Eventually, I managed to get onto a part of the antenna that still had paint on it, slowing my runaway slide to a point I could get to a safe place and stop myself. Aubrey carefully climbed down beside me. We looked at each other and he said one of the most profound things I'd ever heard in my life:

"I guess we should have closed the hatch. "

Yeah, that probably would have been a good idea.

Oh, and did I mention that I'm a bit accident prone.  Yeah...

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails