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Sunday, November 8, 2009

My Ear Hurt. Our Horrible Terrible Very Bad Day.

Hello Troops,
Whew...... Last week we had one of those days.

Renaissance and Freedom Charter Schools were on the schedule for the 9:30 A.M. field trip last Wednesday. Renaissance called the day before to request the 9:30 A.M. mission. There was an issue with one boy leaving early. I agreed. We also had a reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune coming at 10:30 A.M. to take pictures of the Renaissance kids for an article they are writing on our sale of the old Galileo.

I informed the staff that Renaissance would fly first, Freedom second. Everything seemed fine. What followed next had be my fault. For some reason I forgot Space Center Rule One:
  • Space Center Rule 1: If everything seems to be fine - BEWARE. A catastrophe will be forth coming.
Fortuna is a cruel mistress, always cutting our string of good and favorable fortune once we, the recipients, realize that good fortune. That realization dawned on me as I walked to school Wednesday morning. Thoughts of how easily this new school year was unfolding played through my thoughts as I walked down 1100 North. That's when I knew that Fortuna knew I had just realized our good fortune. A dullness of color and sound enveloped me. The air thickened, giving me the feeling I was walking through molasses. I saw Harry Potter's Death Eaters swirling overhead in my mind's eye. I attempted to create a Patronus but failed. I couldn't do it properly. It was like trying to start a fire with damp matches. Every spark of happiness was immediately snuffed out.

Two hours later Aleta came into my math class to relieved me so I could load the first class on the Bridge. I stood on the Bridge waiting. I heard the children's voices. The first ones rounded the spiral staircase. I saw a problem. This crew was wearing red school shirts. Renaissance wore white shirts. Why were Freedom students coming up my stairs? Where was Renaissance? I stopped the loading and removed everyone from the ship. I 'fast walked' to the Starlab to fetch Renaissance while Lorraine followed behind with the now confused and bewildered Freedom students. Precious minutes disappeared from the day's mission times as I tried to sort the mess out. I knocked on the Starlab dome and told Shiela she had the wrong class. The Renaissance teacher chimed in and told me it was OK. They would take the afternoon mission.

Now, thoroughly embarrassed, I took the Freedom kids back to the simulators. Loading started once again. This time the students ascended the winding staircase without their Voyager and Odyssey uniforms. There was no one in the crew quarters dressing and organizing the campers.
"Oh Fortuna, you vixen," I thought with a growing sense of respect for this Goddess of Fate.

We got the mess sorted out and the mission commenced very late. I did everything I could to speed the crew through the story, only to find resistance from the command officers. They were indecisive. They seemed like deer in the headlights. We worked the story and reworked the story doing everything we could to push them.

The 11:30 A.M. flight started late because of the extra time I gave Freedom. The Renaissance command officers also seemed shell shocked by the experience. It was slow going all through Midnight Rescue. By 1:40 P.M. it was all done. We sent both groups home.

That's when I noticed one of my tension ear aches coming on. Some people get headaches, others get sour stomachs - I get an earache in my right ear when I'm stressed - and that ear ache was a doozey! At 2:00 P.M. another bus arrived, bringing two classes of sixth graders from J.A. Taylor Elementary. I had the 2:00 P.M. mission. Bracken was scheduled to take the 4:00 P.M. Midnight Rescue was their choice of mission. That meant four tellings of that story that day. We were all sick of it.

Training went slowly. I was once again pressed for time. I did my best to push them through the mission. It was 4:00 P.M. I was suppose to stop. I wouldn't. I was determined to finish this mission come heck or high water. The Voyager was at the Federation border. The mission was at its climax. Tension was everywhere. I clicked my mouse to advance to the next card and that's when she struck again! My computer shut off. Luckily the tactical showed an 'Intruder Alert'. I stalled for time as I restarted the computer. A few minutes later I was running again. I logged on and once again clicked the mouse to move the Tactical forward. My computer shut off a second time! SHE STRUCK AGAIN. NOW IT WAS GETTING OLD. It was 4:10 P.M. I had no choice but to stop the mission. The other class was lined up in the hallway waiting to board and I had an flight computer that wouldn't stay on.

We removed the disappointed crew the Voyager. I sat perplexed, wondering why my computer kept shutting down every time I clicked the mouse. That's when I remembered Space Center Rule 5:
  • Space Center Rule 5: When facing a problem, always start with the easiest solution first.
The easiest solution was to check the power cord. I did. I found it lose. I removed it, then reinserted it and the computer ran fine. Once I got the program loaded I clicked what I thought was the 'reset' button. Instead I accidental pushed the 'restart' button. All the simulator's computers restarted instead of refreshed! Aaaaaaaargh............
That's when I remembered Space Center Rule 21:
  • Space Center Rule 21: Old flight directors are required to wear their reading glasses when running a mission.
"Nice one Fortuna, Nice one," I thought as the staff conducted one of the fastest start ups on record. The 4:00 P.M. mission started really late. Luckily Bracken had that one. I went back to my desk and rubbed my aching ear.

At a bit passed 6:00 P.M. J.A. Taylor Elementary pulled away. We had less than 30 minutes before 50 teenagers were scheduled to arrived from some LDS ward in Orem. All the simulators were either started or reset for the new arrivals.
"Come on Fortuna, you can't be finished with me yet," I mumbled from my desk. "There has to be more. I know you all too well."

At 6:15 P.M. Brittney, Magellan's Set Director, approached my desk and stood there. Of course, that meant a problem.
"The Admiral's computer is dead. It won't stay on," she reported. There was the faint sound of a woman's laughter. It was a voice from Mt. Olympus, carried on the winds of Fate. Fortuna made her presence known once again.
From memory, I reminded Brittney of Space Center Rule 32:
  • Space Center Rule 32: Deal With It.
"Deal with it," I replied. And deal with it they did. The Magellan staff did a bit of shuffling and a switchero or two. By 6:30 P.M. the Magellan was ready for the new storm swirling into the school's lobby - LDS teenagers on Mutual Night, out for a bit of fun.

Bracken stepped up to the plate and attempted to organize the mass confusion. He took everyone into the Discover Room for sorting. I stayed out of it. My ear hurt. A few minutes passed. One of my flight directors came by my desk.
"How many are here?" I asked.
"57," came the reply.
"57!" I shouted. Now, we all know 45 is the maximum number we take for private missions. I got up and went into Discovery to help with the mob. I informed the chaperons that there wasn't enough room in the simulators for them to take positions. Most of them would have to wait in the lobby or the Discovery. I left all other problems to be sorted by my capable staff.

I grabbed my coat and walked out. It was time to unwind during my long walk home in the dark. I knew they had a tough crowd. Now don't get me wrong. The teens were really great people, but...... put that many teenagers together, on a school night, after having been shut up in school all day, and ask them to role play a space opera...... see what I mean? You have the potential for disaster.

As I walked home I wondered if a message would be waiting on my answering machine. There was. Why didn't it surprise me?
"Mr. Williamson, this is Jon. One of the girls on the Magellan threw up. Emily is trying to clean it up. We can't find Rosa. Thought you might want to come down. Well, bye..."
Later I discovered the truth behind the vomit. One of our own staff hurled. That was followed by one of the campers vomiting twice.

My apologies to Emily, but I didn't go back. I went to bed and hid under the covers - except for one outstretched arm waving a white shirt. I surrendered to Fortuna on behalf of the entire Space Center staff. I proclaimed her absolute Victor and vowed my staff and I would never again take a string of good luck for granted.
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