A Wing and a Prayer

Just because a machine is designed to go incredibly fast, that doesn’t mean it should never slow down at a crosswalk, hit the brakes for a hairpin turn or come to a halt for a stoplight.

This is the mental message I beam to my fellow drivers during every commute, but we must not be on the same wavelength. They never seem to pick it up.

That’s why I so enjoy these images of the space shuttle Endeavour creeping through the streets of Los Angeles over the weekend.

Yes, Endeavour, you’ve done 17,500 miles per hour on the open range, but this is a 2 mph zone with no allowance for thrill seeking, especially with so many amateur photographers milling around.

Reports say a million people came out to watch and the preparations took months. Power lines and sign posts had to be moved to allow the orbiter to pass, and hundreds of trees were taken down to provide clearance for Endeavour’s wingspan – unlikely sacrifices to America’s urge to explore space.

When have you had to carefully maneuver through a tight spot?

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85 thoughts on “A Wing and a Prayer”

    1. A purely flippant remark, made at 2:04 am. Now awake and ready to start my first ride, I am thinking how so much of life is careful maneuvering with the tongue. Home should be one of the places where you should be able to relax your tongue the most often, which has always been true in our marriage. The therapists on here must go home mentally exhausted after spending a day of very careful tongue maneuvering. I did some like that as a part time pastor and found it very tiring mentally.

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      1. I think you are right about the need to keep some of your thoughts to yourself when trying to help someone. You can tell that what your are thinking will not be helpful from the way the person is acting or what they are saying. Your are showing respect for them by not saying something that is really not right for the situation.

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  1. Good morning. Sometimes it seem life is nothing but tight spots. As Clyde has indicated, marriage certainly has it’s tight spots. I was just at a meeting where I was in a tight spot. Some people had behaved very badly, as far as I was concerned. I think they even knew that they had done a bad thing. I had to keep my mouth shut because it wouldn’t help to say anything. This was very hard for me to do, but I did manage to hold my tongue.

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      1. It is a problem that I should only talk about in private with people who understand the situation. There are some problems that I think I could share here. This is not one of them.

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  2. This is a tough question for me. I can think of only one “tight situation,” and I might as well tell the story. There was a party the day before I was to graduate from Grinnell. The party got out of control. A girl I didn’t know picked me up as a partner for dancing. We ended up spending the night in an empty room in my dorm. I could have slept in my own bed, but I somehow felt responsible for her, and she had no place to go. I slept in the upper bunk while she slept in the lower. It was all perfectly innocent, although that was not my original intention.

    The “tight spot” came when maids showed up to clean the room at 6 AM. When they saw that a man and woman had spent the night in the room, they began screaming and locked the door. I was trapped like a rat. I could have jumped to the ground, as we were only on the second story, but the girl lacked the nerve for that. Meanwhile the maids were howling like air raid sirens, running in circles in front of our room’s door. In a John Wayne voice, I ordered the girl to “Follow me!” Shirtless and barefoot, I ran at the door and blasted through it into the hallway. I ran right into the whooping maids, sending them flying, and went down the stairs to the ground level.

    What followed was not as fun as crashing into the maids. Although I made my escape, a shirt left in the room had my name on it. I had an interesting conversation that morning with the Dean of Men. When my parents arrived to see the first person named Grooms graduate from college they were told I was not a welcome to spend another day in the town of Grinnell, so we drove home in ignomy while others marched to claim their diplomas. I’ve left out some details.

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      1. That was a basic part of the dormitory setup. I’m sure the administration knew that without maids, the dorms would get mighty stinky and trashy. They came once a week to clean up and change the sheets.

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    1. Thanks for the story Steve. I believe your intentions were honorable.

      A story from my son at college last year:
      It’s night, he’s getting ready to go out, but he can hear water running or something. Goes to the living room and there’s a puddle of water under the dorm door. Hmmm, that’s weird, but he figures pranksters. Opens the door and there’s naked student pee’ing on his door. Course my son jumps back and yells at the guy, who calmly finishes what he’s doing and staggers back down the hall.
      Son calls the RA. He knows who the kid was and they find him, drunk out of his skull, in his dorm. And this is the kids third strike. They do make him clean up and he’s expelled.

      And this is part of the reason my son has no interest in alcohol.

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      1. I was at an indoor rock concert where a guy behind us was extremely drunk and decided to pee on the floor right behind us. I have seen people pee out in the open various places and this doesn’t bother me, but to do it right next to other people in a packed indoor place or in a dorm room is not good.

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        1. Some years ago a friend of mine, on an SAS flight to Helsinki, was peed on buy a guy in the seat behind her. He stood up, unceremoniously whipped out his tool and peed all over her.

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        1. Yup. I don’t remember why now. Probably because they hadn’t come out with wash-n-wear fabrics that didn’t need ironing, so a lot of folks used dry cleaners for what we would do now with machine washing. Or maybe I was just stupid.

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  3. working on my car last month left me in a tight spot where i couldnt get my hands or a hammer or anything in to where it need to be to get the job done. it is frustrating to be in that position. you sit under the car with your arms in a contorted reach and you try to extend your fingers to get into a little area where the can barely reach and then you try to move them to screw or unscrew something with enough power to make it go in or come out. it is an impossible task and yet you know people do this all day every day. what a challange to figure out how it is supposed to be done. there are tricks you can assume others have learned that you must learn or else you can go to u tube and see if there is someone who will share the secret. it is amazing how many of lifes little trials and tribulations have been documented on u tube. the anticipation of being in a tight spot so that you can cut down all the trees must be helpful. i personally would have looked into building a cradle that could be raised and lowered over the telephone poles and trees. it seems like such a waste to cut down all the trees in a two mile trip down the road to accomadate a one minute passing by of an item for public adoration. the change from 17,500 miles and hour to two miles in three days makes a different mindset take over. forward forward never back. that is the way to do it. tight spots are bound to happen if thats the equation. do what you need to when you are there. you dont need to enjoy it but you need to get past it.

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    1. Nicely described, tim. Actually, having rheumatoid arthritis is just like being stuck under the car, unable to reach or use the tools you need to do a job. About a year ago I had a particularly painful attack. My pharmacy delivered painkiller pills right to my front door. But they were locked up in a childproof pill bottle! Most of those bottles can only be opened if you have the strength in your hands to push down the top while twisting it. I spent about two hours trying to find a way into that bottle, using vice grips and pliers to no effect. What saved me was the humor of the situation–here I am with a cure for my pain, and I can’t get at it! I was laughing while cursing and twisting.

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        1. You also have a telephone, Steve. Should the be a next time, call your neighbor or a friend. I’d have gladly come and helped you, as I’m sure would Jacque who works not far from you.

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    2. The kind of thing you are talking about, tim, often happens to me when I try to repair something. The big problem is how do I get the thing apart and will I be able to put it back together?

      I had this problem of not being sure what to do when fixing a dripping faucet recently. I finally found that I had to pry a top off the faucet which exposed a screw that was in a tight spot. Fortunately the faucet had a turn off valve which allowed me to protect myself from getting water all over the place if I damaged the faucet.

      I was barely able to get the screw to turn and then I could get at a nut that I could tighten. That almost stopped the dripping which was good enough for me. Any additional efforts at repair might not have went well.

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      1. i have a faucet i have 14 dollars in tools into and 1 hour in an ackward position under the sink after all the timeless artifacts have been brought out into the light to make room for me under the and my repair lasts at best a total of 2 days before the problem resurfaces. a new superdeluxre faucet is 100 bucks and the same one hour of discomfort under the same mildew scented cavern beneath the work space but you ought to be able to fix the damn thing you know?

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        1. Yes. Fixing plumbing is almost always a stretch for me and usually requires several trips to the hardware store before I am done if I get it done.

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        2. About a year ago, Hans replaced a leaky kitchen faucet with a new one from Ikea. After an hour or two contorted under the kitchen sink, he declared the new faucet installed. Problem was it dripped, perhaps even worse than the one he’d just replaced. It really bugged me. A few weeks ago, I put a big empty bowl under the faucet before I went to bed; the next morning the bowl was full; overflowing actually! Hans can’t stand wasting water, yet for almost an entire year, that damn faucet had been leaking. That prompted him into action. Ikea accepted the leaky faucet back for a full refund and many apologies, and we now have a much more expensive faucet that doesn’t leak. Yeah!

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  4. As I’m sure Ben would agree, theater gets you into many tight spots – figuratively and literally. Like being under a car, being on your back under a low platform can be snug. I have memories of being under one to repair a section in the middle where the bracing had given way with a headlamp and an arsenal of tools…and a solemn wish that I would have enough clearance to actually do something with my drill. I had to slip under on my back, dragging the tools I figured I might need (with a few to spare so I wouldn’t have to go back until I was done). I believe that was one of those times when I muttered a lot about “this just doesn’t pay enough…” But I got it fixed, and that was satisfying. Tight spots where I can stand up and not wear a headlamp to make the repairs or connect a couple of flats can also be dicey, but I’d rather stand up in a tight spot than take it lying down (literally and figuratively).

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    1. Yep.
      Right now I’ve got a show that opens on Saturday the 27th (Our kids play; an adaptation of the poem ‘Jabberwocky’) and I’m starting to wonder what idiot designed this set??! (me! Darn it! And I say that on most every set about this time. But I’ve got Mt. Dew in the fridge so it will be OK. And clean socks!)

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      1. Yeah, it’s a pain when the idjit who designed the set is the same one who looks back at you in the mirror. Only once did this bring me to actual tears, though – okay twice – once i was overtired from having built one too many shows in a row, the second time I blame hormones. The second one was the set where I learned I was pregnant 2 days before the first tech meeting with the director…good thing he was a friend, and a parent besides. Killed him not to be able to say anything to his wife until the show was open – we both knew she’d have a fit if she knew all I was doing “in my condition.” I made accommodation to wear a mask while I was painting, but that was about it. Well that and admitting defeat that I was too too tired, and more than a bit a slave to my wavering body chemistry, to get the floor painted the way I wanted to (hence the tears) – bribed a friend with beer to get it done for me.

        More fun during the years when I had really talented students to help me and I could do things like design stuff I would never have been able to build or get done without their help (like a big spiral staircase, elaborate paint jobs – fun stuff).

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    2. Just reading that description, Anna, makes me feel claustrophobic. Upstairs we have a deep narrow closet. Thirty years ago, when I didn’t take up quite so much space in the landscape, and was way more agile and flexible, I thought it a good idea to store some “stuff” way in the back of that closet. Now I’m wondering if it will ever see the light of day again. I’m also wondering what that “stuff” might be.

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  5. You probably have four times the tools I do, Anna, but I make the same offer to you and all other baboons that I made to tim. I’ve got power drills, electric saw (a little one), a rotary sander, etc. Free to anyone who can give them a good home.

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  6. Back in the old days, Like the late ’70′s or early ’80s when we stored oats at home, it was quite the process to back the wagon up the elevator to unload. It was all on a hill so you drove up parallel to the elevator, then back up at a 90 angle to get the wagon square to the elevator hopper. This in a tractor with a hand clutch so you could at least keep your feet on the brakes, but it was hard to look over your shoulder while leaning ahead on that hand clutch.
    Other times in other barns, the elevator would end up at an odd angle leaving you some weird corner to drive into with the hay wagons. Stuck against the fence and barn. Or you backed in with a wagon full of hay you can’t see around; sort of like the ” ‘Mon Back” brothers. Back, back, back, CRUNCH. That’s good’…

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      1. Not the first time I have been mistaken for male – the most memorable one was during those tenuous adolescent years when my brother’s high school choir teacher/director invited me to join her boys’ choir. Mom jumped in (bless her) and quickly explained that perhaps her *daughter* might not fit in, even if I was a decent alto. :)

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  7. Maneuvering on a Bike
    I went out for my bike ride, after talking myself into it, after getting only three or four hours of choppy sleep, after dosing myself with pain relievers to help with the heaviness in my legs. I looked at the temp and winds, but did not look at the radar. Tuned in Navaho flute music.
    After two miles, I noticed the ground was wet. Looked up. In the east the sun was bleaching the benign cloud tops white, but in the west low dark clouds. I like riding in light rain, so I turned that way. Then heard a low rumble of thunder, which only made the vibrancy of the morning complete. But soon the thunder was getting louder. Then two intensely bright lightening strikes hit three seconds apart, less than half a mile away. I was not near any safe cover, none anywhere to the east. So which way to ride. The low clouds did not make it clear which way it was moving. The pattern of rain fall hinted to the southwest. But storms usually move to the north east. So I rode south toward the MSU, where I could find cover.
    But the thunder and lightening was done and the rain was moving northeast. I ended up riding 16 miles, one of the best rides ever. It made me so alive.
    This is what was playing on my Ipod as the lightening was striking.

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  8. The first thing that comes to mind is playing flashlight hide-and-seek, or for that matter, ANY hide and seek – Kick the Can, Sardines… I love to play this with nephews and grandkids and neighbor kids – there is something so thrilling about finding that perfect spot, squeezing into it, and then the excruciating WAITING till they find you.

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  9. OT I failed to mention yesterday how much I liked the guest blog by the Baboons that made the trip to the Swedish Institute. Very nice pictures and story. Also, that video posted by Holly on the crayola song was really great. Thanks, Holly.

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  10. Morning all..mine is a literal tight spot. About 20 years ago I was on a cruise ship that went through the Corinth Canal in Greece. This clip is way too long, but starting at the 2 1/2 minute mark, you can see exactly how little space there is between the ship and the walls of the canal. You really felt like you could reach out from the ship and touch the rock. Very eerie.

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    1. It works in a weird way to play Clyde’s Amazing Grace and then watch this one with the sound turned off. In parts, it reminded me of Titanic when they pan past the gigantic ship with some majestic music playing.

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  11. Well, I’m in a tight spot with my mom. She has been working us toward it for a couple of years now – I always push it off, defer it to some unknown future time, but I think that time is closer and closer to right now.

    She’s been forgetful for years – that’s no surprise. Everyone forgets things sometimes, but my mom is unusually forgetful and has been forgetting whole conversations, appointments, obligations, etc. She recently displayed her confusion when we went to Subway. She could not figure out how to even begin ordering a sandwich. We had to help her all the way through the line. Her personality has been gradually changing too. She was extremely judgmental, passive-aggressive, and irritable over our recent family outing at Goodrich Lake, putting a big damper on an otherwise stellar weekend.

    I’m the one with a medical background in our family. I’m the one who has worked with geriatric and mentally and socially challenged patients. I’m the one who is trained to notice, and who has been noticing, the changes. I’m the one who will have to have a talk with my mom. A wing and a prayer for sure!

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    1. Krista I hope that conversation goes as well as it can. I’m sure it’s a frightening thing for your mother to be experiencing, and I doubt that she’s oblivious to it; she’s probably scared. What will become of her?

      A friend of mine was in a situation similar to your mother’s a few years ago. One of her other friends suggested that they have her tested to figure out what was going on with her. At the Mayo Clinic tests revealed early onset Alzheimer’s. I thought the diagnosis would be devastating to her; instead she seems relieved to know that what’s happening is not her fault, and beyond her control. This friend was nurse, and that may have been helpful. I’m hoping you can find a similar acceptance of her condition, but the personality changes that you describe don’t bode well. Good luck, my friend.

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    2. My mom refuses my help. She denies that she needs help. She has good friends who are RNs. I’m hoping they’ve noticed some changes and will tactfully suggest screening for dementia to her – if that is possible. You’re right – I think she knows and is scared. She views me as the kid who will take her independence away and there’s the tight spot! She did put her house on the market but no one has made her an offer. She wanted to buy a townhome but has expressed interest in an apartment in a senior living community, if a suitable place can be found. I just want to be able to talk with her about the changes she’s experiencing and how she’d like me to help her.

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      1. If she doesn’t trust you implicitly, that makes a complicated and delicate problem just that much more complex. You might not be able to convince her to go to a senior citizen community until she has some incident that scares her. And if you are hoping to talk her into that big change, it might help to have a meeting with her and those nurse friends. I like your way of putting it: “I just want to talk to her . . . and how she’d like me to help her.” That’s just right. Good luck!

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    3. I hesitated about this post. Now I’m kind of regretting it. It was selfish of me because I really needed to get it off my chest. Thanks, Baboons.

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      1. Krista, that must be quite the burden for you, thanks for sharing. Does your mother live close to you? Is she retired or still working? Perhaps the best thing you can do is find some allies who can help you navigate your way through a confusing maze. I’m no expert on this, but I’m pretty resourceful when it comes to finding resources that can help. Feel free to lean on me if you need help, even just someone to talk to privately.

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      2. As you can see, Krista, baboons like to help. I wonder if she would be open to this information: “I just want to be able to talk with her about the changes she’s experiencing and how she’d like me to help her”
        in a letter… I know someone who had a hard time communicating in person with their parent, but they were able to do it in writing quite successfully.

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      3. Wish I had some wisdom, as I should after helping my sister deal with our mother and taking many folks through this in my elderly congregation. All I can say is plow ahead and make siblings make it clear to her that this is not you alone forcing the issue.

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      4. Sometimes being able to talk to other folks is just the thing you need. You may not be able to talk to your mom – or more, as you noted, she may not be wiling to listen. If she has a regular doctor, you could perhaps mention it to that person to have her screened during her next visit. My mom, in a similar situation with a childless (and widowed) friend worked with the parish nurse at the friend’s church. My mom had tried to talk with the friend about moving to an apartment, about her changes in her capabilities, etc, but the friend would have none of it – the parish nurse was able to help since she was a different voice than a friend.

        Seeing a parent unravel and lose their memory, both short and long, is a difficult thing. There is a show from the “On Being/Speaking of Faith” series that Krista Tippet did about Alzheimers – there were some good insights in it that I found helpful ways to frame what I was seeing and experiencing as I watched my dad go down that path. Best of luck to you – and know that Baboons are here.

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  12. OT – Just wanted to pay tribute to George McGovern. A great friend to the American people, a man of great courage and conviction. He has entered hospice care at age 90. He has lived a long and fruitful life and been a great public servant. May his passing be peaceful.

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