Post by 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.”
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.