Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Getting Older

As we get older, things change. Of course, everything around us changes, but I'm talking about us as individuals. We are more mature (though many people I know would dispute that I act like an adult), and physically we gain and lose various abilities. In fact, I'm really not the same person I was twenty years ago. I'm pretty sure all of my cells have been replaced with new cells.

I digress. On Saturday I learned about motion sickness. I have always been immune to it, with only three exceptions: I was spinning excessively on a ride at the State Fair when I was nineteen, and had a hint of the feeling beyond dizziness. Then again in 1987, while in San Francisco for spring Break. My friends Jerry, Dave and I drove out towards Napa Valley, and we stopped at a small airport (near Sears Point Raceway) that offered biplane rides. Jerry had done this previously, and I was all for it. The "menu" had choices: The Scenic Ride, Thrill Ride, and The Kamikaze. I chose the kamikaze. After paying my money, I went to the airplane, which was already running. My safety briefing consisted of this: "Don't touch anything. If you have to get out, pull this [seat belt release], pull this [another belt release], get out, and pull this [parachute rip cord]." I keenly awaited the coming maneuvers as we climbed to 3,000'. Once there, we started doing loops, spins, dives, more spins, rolls, and some really violent spins (tail yawed heavily while spinning). As all of our maneuvers were conducted between 2,000'-3,000', I quickly realized the parachute was useless. The spins were such that I would never be able to get out of the plane (say, in the event of a catastrophic failure), and if I could, would be batted like a baseball. And if the flight was controlled enough that I could get out, there wouldn't be a need, as the pilot could just land it. Anyway, after my flight, I wasn't sick, but I wasn't quite right. My equilibrium was off, and I had to lie down in the car for a bit while we drove to wherever it was we were going.

The third time was in 1991. I was in San Diego, on my way to Hawaii, where I stopped in to see a buddy from Airborne School. He was an Air Force dude (commissioned about the same time as me), and had recently finished his initial training as well. He was training to fly F15's (which would be sooo cool). He had just completed an aerobatics course (for fun), and was eager to show me what he had learned. We rented an airplane (rated for this endeavor) and went flying over the bay in San Diego. The experience was similar to what I'd had a few years earlier, and I wasn't sick, just not right with the world.

All of my life, I have enjoyed rides that spin, roll, and turn you over: thrill rides. The Son of Beast is the most violent roller coaster I have ridden, but I have no qualms about eating chili fries from Skyline Chili while waiting on line for the ride.

Saturday was something new. I learned I can do something, and in no time go beyond "not right with the world" to the realm of "Oh my, I must stop this now." So what was it? What was the diabolical device that caused me to reflect on my age and realize that I too can be vulnerable to a motion-related issue?

A commercial grade tire swing…On a children's playground. Yes, forty-three years of motion, and a playground brings me down. Yes, this is the actual swing. Those are not my kids. I found the picture someone had posted on flickr. This swing is a large construction grade tire, with a bearing and swivel at the top. The bearings must be of NASA grade near frictionless ceramic type, because it spins so smoothly, and with the mass of the large tire, seems to have perpetual motion, as the tire spinning does not slow a bit once started. I spun Sam around like crazy, and he merely got dizzy, wanting to spend over thirty minutes playing on this evil device. I figured I'd give it a try. Sam started spinning me, and in less than two minutes, I was brought to my end. I had to get off. I had to maintain my composure. I was hot and sweating. I was dizzy. I felt ill. I had such a headache. I had to sit. What just happened? Holy schnikes! Stay cool for the boy. Now he wants me to chase him. Running after him, every impact of my foot is compounding what I just felt. After leaving the park, and returning home, I had to take a nap to shake it off.

I have always wanted to somehow get a flight in a fighter jet. I used to think I might fare better than many, though I might well get sick. Now, given the opportunity, I'm pretty sure I would have an experience similar to the one described in this funny article from Sports Illustrated.

I still wouldn't pass it up.

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