Wednesday, April 8, 2015

air-to-air refueling

Back in my day, literally before the internet came to our town,1 we entertained ourselves by playing outdoor games with our neighborhood friends. And by "outdoor games" I mean we played Nintendo at Scott's2 house because he had one and we didn't and his parents weren't strict tyrannical nazis, and by "strict tyrannical nazis" I mean they let him do whatever he wanted3 and our mom made us do our homework when she could remember our names.

This wasn't your grandpa's Nintendo. This was more your great-grandpa's Nintendo. There were approximately four colors and three of them were faded red. Mario and Luigi were more gigantic floating gumballs than they were plumbers in a love triangle. The best game on this machine, however, was Top Gun.

That's because Top Gun was a famous movie with Tom Cruise, and this was back in the day when people were naive enough to think that a cool movie translated into a cool game. Never mind that we had never seen Top Gun,4 just the idea of it in a game made us feel old and wise in the ways of the world, and for a brief few moments we were rough-and-tumble F-14 fighter pilots instead of totally clueless kids from suburban Utah where the most worldly thing within five hundred miles was a Catholic church instead of a Mormon one.

And I literally mean a brief moment because none of us ever passed level two, which was the air-to-air refueling maneuver. This is where you pilot a big black box, and try to line up a target with an unspecified point on another big black box until you crash and then Scott takes back over and you have to go home to re-tape your glasses and practice your seventeen instruments for three hours a piece.

However, not all is lost.

Because not all air-to-air refueling techniques involve fictional black boxes. Some involve a fussy hungry child who doesn't quite understand that eating something equates to satiation. This morning as I made the airplane sounds and brought in the refueler to the entrypoint, there was split second when the turbulence in the two vehicles subsided, the warning alarms died down, and working with a very small moving platform, I deftly deposited the fuel payload, and completed the second mission.

Many years have passed; the Nintendo is long gone, and the chemicals have long since leached out of the dump into our water supply, but for a brief moment this morning, I was the Top Gun.

1. I may have made this up, but I distinctly remember reading a headline in the local paper, "World Wide Web Comes to Utah" as a child.
2. Names have been changed mainly due to memory loss.
3. I'm told he was addicted to marijuana by the age of seventeen, but I wouldn't really trust any information from the pre-internet era.
4. See tyrannical parents.