The day I taught the National Guardsmen how to sandbag, the lesson was interrupted several times because of the sounds of low-flying aircraft.
Some of the apparatuses were crop dusters and carrier planes, but the loudest of them all was the Black Hawk Helicopter.
The Black Hawk, used for troop transport, medical evacuations, C2 missions and other military procedures I'll NEVER understand, was the envy of every man in uniform. Take us with you, they’d cry to the craft as they pumped their arms up in down in a motion not unlike the gesture a small child to a semi-truck from the backseat of a minivan.
Man, I wish I had that job, one said to me, heaving what was likely his 67 millionth sandbag that week. And that week was Week No. 5.
But nope, normal Guard personnel didn’t get those perks. Those helicopter rides were limited to dignitaries, emergency and government officials and soldiers with metal broaches on their ACUPAT.
So many of them ached for an air lift, but few if any got the chance. In fact, several civilians would likely pay for such a privilege.
I, however, am not one of them.
In fact, if anyone is unworthy of flying in military aircraft, that person would be me. I don’t do so well with orders and I don’t coordinate my outfit with nature.Yet somehow, I managed to creep onto one of the coolest and most sought-after rides in town.
The military invited members of the media as well as other important people (although few are AS important) for a tour of the flood from the air.
Despite my lack of skill in all things video, editing and otherwise photographic, I accepted.
Soon some lady in a one-piece jumper-suit and ear muffs the size of cereal bowls straight-jacketed seat-belted me into the aircraft, three feet from the window and facing backwards.
If the motion sickness doesn’t kill me first, my editor will, I thought, uncapping the smallest camera on the plane and wondering how I was going to shoot through a window I could barely see out of.
If only I can get a few steady, in-focus shots with at least A LITTLE water in them, I promise to stop flirting with the solija-boys while they rescue the universe or whatever, I prayed.
Soon, me and seven other journalists, officials and people with initials after their names lifted off the ground, just high enough off our feet no longer touched the pavement. No air-sickness at this altitude, I thought. Or so I thought.
Normally, I can take a little up and down, over-, under-type action... a childhood spent on balance beams and uneven bars will do that to you. But there, when I flipped my legs over my head, my whole body followed.
In the Black Hawk, when my appendages flew both left and right at the same time, my core remained stapled to the seat. So with each new direction, my arms stretched longer and my stomach got queazier. So much so, my face matched the color of my kelly green jacket.
Plus, my video got shakier.
It didn’t help that I was both in the back of the craft AND riding backwards. As if my liver hadn’t jostled enough. I could stuff my liver, pancreas and kidneys into a smoothie maker, and I’d end up with the same result. Minus the delicious strawberry taste and brain freeze hangover.
So I did my best to hold a camera with one hand, not knowing where we even were, let alone where we were going. If that didn’t make my recording awful enough, the lady across from me kept sticking her mobile phone in my view finder. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it she’d say, Look at that.
My eyes flashed her like a pedophile on a playground.
I’d love to, I said, and so would my readers. Too bad they can’t with your giant BLACKBERRY in the way.
Since I don’t believe in details and because I always used Brian Norton to edit my video anyway, I figured this exploration was no different. Here you go, I said to a co-worker, handing him my tape and wishing him luck. Minute 19, 27 and 31 have the best footage, I think.
My co-worker edited the video and didn’t say much. He didn’t want to take the Black Hawk ride for fear of heights, motion sickness, etc. But after editing my video, the real deal was likely less offensive.
One view of my footage was enough to drain the color from his face. By the 10th take, I think he revisited his supper.
Some other organizations have offered flights and other overland footage opportunities. I wouldn’t mind going as I seek opportunities to hone my skills.... and shake hands with the in-crowd. I, however, am no longer invited.