Why You Should Always Wear Clean Underwear

Post by Benjamin “Tracy” Minish

Benjamin “Tracy” Minish holding a NASA sign in front of an artificial space backdrop.

Benjamin “Tracy” Minish

I have been married for over thirty-six years and have three wonderful sons. My wife is totally wonderful too – let’s just say I married above my pay grade!  I’ve worked for NASA for over thirty years and plan to keep on this amazing rocket ride for at least five more. I have a BS in Computer Science from the University of Georgia (go Dawgs!) and I currently serve as the Chief of NASA’s Mission System Operations branch.  Ouch, I had to pinch myself to see if it was true, and dang if it’s not.  I am uno lucky man and I fall asleep each night counting my blessings.

And, oh yeah, I also only have about five degrees of my field of vision remaining, and those five degrees stink, but I believe my vision loss has made me stronger.

It does lead to some interesting situations, though. One day I told my division chief I was stinkin’ tired of running the ISS Recon branch and was in need of a change.  He came back a few days later and asked if I was interested in traveling the world as the ISS Ground Segment Control Board Chair.  He knew I was legally blind, but still provided me the opportunity.  I strongly believe this is the way the world should spin: give people with physical challenges the opportunity to make their own decisions.  I went home and prayed it over with my wife, and took him up on his offer.

No, no, that ain’t the story – that’s just the intro, so fasten yourself in for warp speed:  I arrive in Moscow after a very long trip – about 18 hours between stepping out of my house and arriving at our hotel.  The hotel is like a maze and has step-ups and step-downs in every room. A nightmare for the “walking dead” – and I’m dead tired!

I wake up several times, trying to adjust to “rocket lag,” and at one point I stumble to the bathroom, half asleep.  I see myself in the mirror and step closer.  Strangely, my image in the mirror turns and briskly walks away.  I do that pinch thing again, and nope, I am not sleeping.  I look around and notice my bathroom is incredibly large, so large it could be… A HALLWAY.  Yikes!

I turn quickly, but the door is shut closed.  I rattle the door knob, and yes, it is locked.  I reach instinctively for my key in my back pocket, but my “tighty-whities” have no pockets. “Moscow, we have a problem!”  I reach for my cell phone in my trusted holster, but dang it, I forgot to attach it to my Fruit of the Looms.

“Yep,” I thought. “I am screwed.”

A younger Tracy sitting in a space shuttle cockpit, operating the controls.

Crazy things can race through a man’s head in times like this, and my first thought is: “My mamma always told me to wear clean underwear in case I was in an accident.”  After a quick inspection, they are clean; my mamma would be proud of her little boy.

Then my wife’s voice blows through my brain like a downtown train: “You are too old to be still wearing ‘tighty-whities,’ why don’t you switch to boxers?” Just goes to show: a man should always listen to his wife.

Now right now you are thinking “Go knock on a friend’s door, stupid!”, but there were two problems with that: I didn’t know their room numbers… and I am blind.  Besides, I knew none of them were on my floor.  So I pull myself together and hit the elevator button.  I begin praying no one will be on the elevator – especially the fella I saw in my mirror (well, the hallway, actually).  Luckily, no one is there, so I step in and the door shuts.

Dang, I don’t have my magnifying glass and I don’t know braille.  But then I say to myself: “Even if I knew braille, it wouldn’t help. I am in Russia, and I still wouldn’t know Russian braille, so it would be worthless.” Now that I think about it, I believe braille is universal, always the same even in a far, far away universe or Moscow.  I get up real close and friendly with the numbers and hit “1.”

One is the loneliest number… 

I’m all alone in a Moscow elevator in my Fruit of the Looms and humming a 3 Dog Night song.  “Get a grip,” I say to myself.

Now I try to visualize the lobby.  I remember it is like an obstacle course for the visually impaired, but I remind myself, “I am an American (USA, USA!), and I will represent my country well in the Lobby Olympics.”

The doors open and I think, “I hope it’s a man, I hope it’s a man… or do I?” A man may just give me the dreaded Siberian Wedgie, while a female might have pity and compliment me on my cleanliness.

I just don’t want to do a face plant in my underwear in the middle of the lobby, is that too much to ask?  With deft skill I get to the counter.  Hmm, it is a “he”… now, if he only speaks English. In true NASA form I exclaim, “Can I have a spare key to my room? And failure is not an option.”  In my only smart moment that night I add, “Can I have a towel too?”

Believe it or not, I get back to my room and run into no other people.  Ever since that night I sleep with my boots on (I’m from Texas) and, more importantly, my pants.  And finally, if I ever get in this type of stinkin’ mess again, it won’t be in Loom of the Fruits – boxers all the way, baby! Lesson learned, I listen a tad bit better to my wife these days.

An older picture of Tracy's wife pinning the Astronaut Office's "Silver Snoopy" award to her husband's tie.

Tracy’s wife pinning the Astronaut Office’s “Silver Snoopy” award to his tie.

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3 thoughts on “Why You Should Always Wear Clean Underwear

  1. Additional remarks from Benjamin “Tracy” Minish:

    But underwear aside, here’s some other advice and observations I have for others in my predicament (living with vision loss, that is):

    – I find it humbling to have to ask for help on occasion (men don’t even like to ask for directions). Plus, I want to be able to go faster, and it stinks not being able to drive, but true character is how you handle yourself during adversity, not when it is all going your way.

    – Education is the key to leveling the playing field for folks with disabilities. Some states allow free tuition for the blind. Move to a state that does if you have to, but get a degree or a trade.

    – If you have a job, you are a role model. Act like one. Some may think role models are limited to the movie stars and athletes, but they screw it up all too often. People will be watching you, so work hard and give your best ever day. We can change opinions one by one, and remember that how you carry yourself may open a door for another.

    – Volunteer! We have a lot to offer. When you give, it impacts others and inspires them to do the same, but the main reason is that it is good for the soul. Some think of us as only as a drain on society, but that is not true – we are contributors and givers, and we just need the opportunity. I’ve never heard of someone not accepting a volunteer or firing one. Volunteering will build your self-esteem and open doors. Even for the non-handicapped, it is a path to a “show me the money” job. Opportunity and need abound!

    – Get out and try new things. Get a blues harp, start running, jump out of an airplane, or get involved in a group. There is a line from the movie Braveheart: “All men die, but few ever truly live.” Live to the fullest and let it overflow!

    – Finally, take heart and be encouraged. You are wonderfully made, and God don’t make no junk. You are strong, but even stronger than you know. We have “special” problem-solving skills. We are tough and full of tenacity. Businesses need “out of the box” thinkers. We have unique POVs, special skills, and character traits that can add to the bottom line. There is a Bible verse in Corinthians 2, Chapter 12, verses 5 – 10 that ends with, “When I am weak, then I am strong,” so be strong, have faith, keep hope and LOVE!

    Link to NASA disability success stories: https://efedlink.org/allqual/resource-shared-media-productivity.cfm

  2. Hi Tracy, I found this on FB tonight! I love your spoken thoughts. This one takes the cake! Miss the old bldg. 5 bunch. Glad your still out there going to bat for the Space Program at NASA JSC! Hope to see you in person again, sometime!

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