MORE PRIDE – LESS PREJUDICE

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SANTA and SWEETY TWINKLETOES

 

As I blogged earlier on, this year I had the privilege to be a Santa at a national chain store, during which I engaged with over 3000 (recalculated figure) children and parents. I was very ably supported by Elf Sweety Twinkletoes (she selected her own name) who did a great job of taking photos as well as handing out candy canes to all kiddies, and in some cases the adults as well.

Of course one makes mistakes – some of them based on perspectives, perhaps even prejudices – during such engagements.

  • I was no different.

Apology is – as I also wrote in my most recent book “50 PERSPECTIVES – The Value of Things Unseen” – good for both body and soul.

So today is a good day to report on myself and then to apologize for some of my prejudices and laud the prides of those who pointed out the error of my perspectives. And most of them were children, which makes me hold out hope for the future!

Case 1:

A somewhat overweight child walks up to me, short hair and long pants with a T-shirt and the conversation goes like this:
Santa “Have you been a good little boy this year:”
Child ‘ I am actually a girl”.
Santa ‘I apologize and thank you for correcting me. So let me ask, have you been a good little girl this year.”
Girl “Sometimes”.
Santa “Honesty gets you to the front of the class” after which she does me a favour and poses for a photo (yes, and for those who think I am in the child-snatching business, with the permission of her mother. And yes, it was her mother – not her father.)

Case 2:

A boy (this time it is a boy, with dark glasses and a big smile approaches me with his mother a close step behind him.
Santa “Is the sun shining very bright outside?”
Mom “My son has a problem with his eyes”.
Santa apologizes. Photo gets taken in a friendly milieu.

Case 3:

Two youngsters approach us, one clearly on the verge of being around age 17 or 18. Santa and Sweety Twinkletoes are not allowed to take photos of any child under 16 unless accompanied and permissioned by a family member of age older than 16. So Santa obtains permission, poses for a photo and wishes the children a Blessed Christmas, only to see the parents approach – with smiles – and the mother, with a short jilbab (in this case the Muslim headgear, not the whole coat-like garment) whispering smilingly in her husband’s ear.

  • Santa writes this down to a learning experience. Both parents thank us as they walk away with a giggle and a rib-pump.

 

LUNCHTIME SANTA

Following my 7 weeks as an in-store Santa I was asked to be lunchtime Santa at a hotel on Christmas Day. What an opportunity! 450 paid diners with only food, drink and celebration on their minds (their plates and in the glasses).

Santa waddles through the crowd, spreading cheers and stops to lighten up the face of a child with longer-than-shoulder length curly hair.

Santa “Hello, and have you been a good little girl this year?”

Child “I am actually a boy!”

Santa (taking off his classes “Apology young man! Of course you are. Look at MY long white hair!”

What is astounding is that the boy remains friendly, has a lovely chat with Santa and then gives him a High Fives.

  • The forgiveness of children is something to marvel at.

(Interjectory note: When this Santa was 35 years old and going through a 3 year back-packing trip his hair was shoulder length and often worn in the Prince Valiant cut). As I am now double that age I believe that memory loss also has something to do hairloss!

Santa writes this down to being a slow learner.

And finally, the little boy who wore dark glasses in Case 2 above runs up to Santa with “Hello Santa! I remember you from the store. Merry Christmas to you!”

Santa is at a loss for words a bit – and High Fives the boy!

 

TAKEAWAYS

  • Takeaway Line 1.

Girls can have short hair.

In fact half of my work-life managers (whom I respect very much) are ladies with short hair AND may I add, some of them are younger than I am. Glad to say I hold no prejudices there. My wife is younger than I am and not only do I love her, but also respect her very much. So here is my question to those men who cannot work for a female manager “How do you respect your wife – more so if she is younger than you?” GROW UP and MATURE.

 

  • Takeaway Line 2

Not all people – especially children – with long hair are girls. Some of them are proud boys, with the guts to stand up and correct even Santa!

 

Brilliant!

 

  • Takeaway Line 3

Not everyone who poses with Santa is a Christian.

Corollary : does it matter? No, I don’t think so. I have lived in a Muslim country for a quarter of my life and posed for many photos with Muslims. That does not mean I am a Muslim or that I cannot wish my Muslim friends blessed returns of the days that they celebrate.

 

  • Takeaway Line 4

Santa makes mistakes like all people do. And there is nothing wrong with that and Santa feels better for being corrected and after apologizing for his (yes in this case it is “his”) mistakes.

I trust all my Christian friends had a Blessed Christmas, and to my non-Christians friends, a great festive break. May you all enjoy a safe, healthy, prosperous and memorable 2016, and here we open a new can of worms, since some people count the years in a different way than Christians do!

I wish you peace and no prejudices, regardless of your religion and perspectives.

 

oooooOOOOOooooo

LAKE PLACID (Jakarta, Indonesia) – 5 JUNE 2005 (part 2 of 2)

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Thumbnail of Part 1: I had myself an appointment with a friend one Sunday morning and called to confirm our meeting time. When the appointment time was delayed, I decided to wash our clothes (to surprise my wife who was visiting friends) and relax on the balcony. On hearing a noise from the kitchen I opened the cupboard door to be surprised by a gushing stream of water which started to fill up the kitchen floor. I blocked off the water with a bedcover and tried to find the shut-off tap in the servant’s room that runs off the small back balcony and in so doing I hear the balcony door shut behind me – with disaster still in full swing in the kitchen.. now read on….

Ok., no water mains shut-off tap here either. Turns around. Extends hand onto the outside kitchen door knob,…and touches a confused and out-of-breath white dove with a olive branch in its beak, trying to balance on it. Paunchy whoosh-whooshes the dove energetically away with a vigorous wave of arms, nervously looking if there are any other strays about, such as maybe a lonely vulture that might have drifted in on the back of the dove. Paunchy the Hopeful grabs the door knob with renewed fervour. And turns it. No left-right motion. And turns it. Still no turning motion. Shit. Translate that into SHIT!! Re-translate that into SHIIIIT!!!. The door is on auto-lock from the inside. (This is where the reader is kindly reminded to recall the earlier reference to the fireman’s axe).

Instant Consternation!

Paunchy the Severely Concerned is now a Permanent Resident in the Land of Disbelief.

Let us take stock for the reader’s sake: A drum-roll of gushing water. Rising Tide on both sides of the door. Mobile phone on dining room table. Paunchy out on tiny 9th floor balcony with door locked from inside. Four locks and thief-proof latches on the apartment’s front door. Sunday lunchtime.. A bewildered dove. The possibility of a circling vulture… No Axe.

Paunchy the Disbeliever (reminding himself to go to church tonight, if not earlier, given certain conditions are met) scrambles around in the servant’s quarters and finds a few plastic cups, a plastic bucket, a small plastic chair, and yes of course a mattress. But sleeping is very low on the Totem Pole of Desired Solutions. Even Maslow and Freud would have a problem trying to place the comfort of a lonely Sunday afternoon nap into the right context here. Bucket, Cups, Chair, Bucket, Cups, Chair. Plastic. Panic.

“Help! Help!!” Listen..

„H E L P !! “ More listening..

“AITCH EEE ELL PEE !!!” More INTENSE listening..

Not a beep. Not a bat of even a mosquito wing. It might as well have been the Sahara. 500 miles from the nearest well. On a moonlit night. In the 12th century.

Hey what have we here now? Aha a one meter length piece of wood, forgotten by some careless workman. EUREKA! Thank you dear God for careless workmen! They should all be given gold-rimmed Certificates of Carelessness. And large bonuses.

Paunchy the Jailbird, trying to stay above the Rising Tide from under the kitchen door – balances himself like a drunken two-legged circus elephant on the small wobbling plastic chair. Aims. Wobbles. Hits. Wobbles. Connects with a Bang! Bang!! It does not even take the paint off the door. But it puts some splinters in Paunchy the Carpenter’s hands and fingers. Minor concern.

Maslow was right. Safety is higher than Comfort on the Hierarchy of Living Needs, and Fear is a Powerful Motivator. Fear Factor. Has anyone ever heard of a program called “Comfort Factor”? or “Safety Factor”?)

(Unbeknownst to Paunchy the Batsman, the Emergency Services have arrived outside the front door but is being denied access to the apartment, as well-documented above). Aims for the door knob. Bang. Bang! Bang!! 50 Bangs! Paunchy the Banger drips from a mixture of water, sweat and deep concern. Has the dike held? Is the water Niagara-falling over the outside balcony? Are We Adrift? What if there is an earthquake NOW!

Who said THAT?

Liver is now competing with Heart to be the first to jump from Paunchy the Panter’s mouth. Rest awhile. This is important. We have to pace ourselves here. Panic leads to stupidity. hmm now there is a thought to savour. Don’t get into heart-attack territory by over-banging the door knob, which is by now giving way as slowly as an un-cooperative traffic cop on a lazy Sunday afternoon.. Shit what about the 3 pm meeting? What time is it?

Who Cares?

Bang! Splinter. Puff. Drip Bang!! Puff-puff. Drip-drip. Bang!!!. Splinter. Wiggle. Knob and lock is now as bent as a New York City Cop, but still as un-cooperative as a 300 pound folded-arms “Momma’s Big Worry”-tattooed bouncer at a rock concert. With dark glasses on. That is the bouncer, not the concert.

100 Bangs!!! More splinters. Puff-puffs. Drip-drip. Bang! Splinters. Puff. Drip. Rest. Bang. Puff. Drip. Wiggle….

The lock yields with the grace and speed of the Tumbling Walls of Jericho! The door swings open … to a tsunami.. and the sweet smell of a flooded kitchen.. FREEDOM!

Paunchy The Freedom Fighter skims the surface like a jet-skier, over the still-holding bedcover-dike, skids around the dining room table to unlatch, un-lock, un-emergency-proof the by now almost bulging bang-assaulted front door…(nice to know someone else was also banging away on a door).

On the dining room table the mobile phone is ringing its little battery flat. The clock on the wall says 12:20…

Further inspection showed that the washing machine was an innocent bystander. The Prime Offender was the kitchen wash-up sink feeder-pipe that broke off flush against the wall.

PS: The white dove and olive twig were just added for dramatic effect. The vulture was for real (he..he.. gotcha).

~~~~~

LAKE PLACID (Jakarta, Indonesia) – 5 JUNE 2005 (part 1 of 2)

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Dateline Indonesia

 

Backstory:

This is a true story. Indonesian apartments will normally have a servant’s room that runs off a small back balcony whilst a large front balcony would face outward with nice views over the city. It is one of those that we rented. We did not have a servant. Where I grew up you did things yourself. My wife was visiting with friends and I was enjoying a lazy Sunday morning…now read on. Part 1 of a 2-part blog)

Couple of Sundays ago, having just moved into his “new” 9th floor apartment overlooking a placid sun-splashed golf driving range, yours truly (call me Paunchy for short, since I have a bit of a beer belly) had himself an appointment to visit with some friends around 12 noon.

Following tried and tested standards Paunchy the Organized calls in advance to confirm the appointment – thus trying to align the local custom of perpetual lateness with western values of punctuality.

Lucky break! Paunchy’s friend asks to delay the meeting till 3 pm since he still has to fly back from another island.

Ok, so Paunchy the Delayed, now with a clutch-full of free time (a.k.a. as the Devil’s Pillow) on his hands, and with a “waste not, want not” attitude, pops some clothes into the washing machine. Regulation activity. And to complete the picture Paunchy the Relaxed decides to hang loose on the front balcony for 20 minutes or so, taking in some sunshine and relishing the panorama. Ah what a life…Relaxation at its best. Unadulterated Freedom!

And …hm? What is that.. uh… gushing?…sound? Paunchy the Nonchalant strolls into the kitchen Noise emanating from the cupboard below the sink? Bends down. Opens door. Regulation activity. Doors are made to be opened. Normally….

…. And a jet-stream of water gushes straight past Paunchy the Slightly Bewildered, hits the fridge door on the other side of the kitchen like a torrent from a fireman’s hose. Without the regulation clanging of bells and screeching of tires…Also without the regulation brass-buttoned uniforms and long-stem axes (an insignificant but insightful little detail that the reader is advised to remember for later consumption).

Instant TURMOIL.

Downtown Bagdad!

Slam! Shut goes the door.

Disbelieve.

Open goes the door.

No change in activity. Gulf Stream still in full operational mode. Shut goes the door. “Shit” goes Paunchy. And nearly adds action to words.

Disbelief is fast becoming a pressing pastime. Then turns into a fulltime personal trait.

12:01: Fast-thinking Paunchy the Dutchman grabs the bedcover that is still on the lounge suite from watching “The Perfect Storm” on TV the night before, throws it down and molds it like a dike to contain the water in the kitchen. Aha at least any flooding into the rest of the apartment is now (temporarily) under control. Paunchy the Electrician slips on his rubber-soled Noahs and shplonks into the little upstart lake now placidly assembling in the kitchen – to unplug any electrical appliances. Smart Thinking Paunchy Einstein. Better safe than sorry. Self-confidence grows again with every stride – just a minor inconvenience. A pre-lunchtime burp so to speak.

12.02: Paunchy the Telephonist searches the mobile phone directory for the Emergency Services number… No such number…. OK. Not a problem, Paunchy the Unfazed calls the owner of the apartment – to ask them to contact Emergency Services. The connection is made. Paunchy the Pedagogue explains the situation with the calmness of a Tourist Board Guide on a downtown City Bus. Control is all important and Paunchy the Confident is still in (slightly less than full) command of the – by now – slow forming little Lake Placid in the kitchen.

Paunchy to Owner: “By the way, can you tell me where in the apartment is the emergency shit-off…I mean, shut-off tap?”

Owner to Paunchy: “Hmm let us see, if we are not mistaken (and we might be, by the sound of the confidence level in the voice of the owner) it is either in the cupboard where the problem is (hmm) or in the servant’s quarters where the geyser is located – just behind the kitchen. Just open the kitchen door that leads onto the small balcony and the servant’s room in the back. We are sure it is there…”

Paunchy the Unconvinced, now sounding more and more like Noah: “Roger”.

Option One. Opens the cupboard again. Tries to put his hand in front of the Jet Stream. Which hits him in the face. And dislodges his glasses. Damn! Scramble. Tap. Splash! Feel. Be careful. You don’t want to do this without glasses. Feel. Tap. More Feel. Ah. Lady Luck is a Kind old Bitch, sorry, Nanny. Glasses are found. Returned to both ears. Drip, but not dry. Impaired Vision is better than No Vision.

No Emergency Shut-off Tap Here. Ok one more to go.

The servant’s quarters now starts to figure in Paunchy the Hopeful’s mind with the same urgency and determination as a light-house does in the mind of a ship’s captain on a stormy night. Paunchy the (Now Much Less) Confident steadies himself in the Rising Tide, splish-sploshes to the kitchen door, opens it and splashes out onto the tiniest of balconies that leads into the servant’s quarters…

…. and hears the kitchen door slams shut behind him by virtue of a slight daft.. er, draft.…

(part 2 of 2 will appear Monday)

YEARS TOO LATE

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(Another true story – 7 Cans. 1 Hour)

Back story:

  • I found a job in Jakarta, Indonesia and still rented a weekend house in the small steel town 85 km from the city where most of my friends stayed. It gave me an opportunity to get out of the city for Fun Runs which predictably invariably ended up with more Fun than Run. It also afforded a welcome break from the IT business, choked traffic, eternal protest rallies and glitzy shopping malls.
  • I used to drive myself out of the city on those Friday evening and to get into the mood I would buy two or three 750ml bottles of local Anchor beer and soak them up on the way home. Translated it would mean about 7 standard cans. The journey would normally take about an hour in the dark once you leave the city.

Seven cans. One hour.

There I was, buckled up and belting down the toll road out of a partially pyrotechnically and incrementally infantile protesting Jakarta. Friday evening! On my way “home!” La Dolce Vita clenched between my thighs, in the form of the second bottle of half-sipped luke-warm beer, windows wound down to let in Mother Nature – listening to “Hey Jude” on the radio at 160 clicks an hour. Alone.

It was 10 p.m. and getting unsteadily later. The road sign reflected 45 km, and two more exits to the final turn-off. And home. Choices multiplied: switch radio stations, switch destinations, switch brands. Matrices of Madness with unclear interim destinations but a predictable end-result. Life in the Fast Lane – 30 years too late. Woodstock had come and gone. Even Bob Dylan has changed religion twice.

And basically only one of the three Big Walls remained: Checkpoint Charlie is now checking out a vanishing heap of Berlin rubble. Pink Floyd helped educate those protesting voices of a past generation who “don’t need no education” whilst the Great Wall of China continues to be visible from the moon – probably the only safe place to watch the increasingly lunatic economical and political wobble on Planet 3.

But, hello, what the human eye fails to see, is the biggest human artifact – the worldwide telephone network. Socket to me, you, and whomever else is plugged-in, powered-up and pass-worded. It only needed another w (the web). Funny what just one character can do. But that is just the point. It needs character do worthwhile things. Character, the Anchor of the Spirit. Unbottled. And Stirred.

But the one BIG worry is when, stirred, the alphabet soup of beer misspells your name. Then you are really in the wrong soup. And that brings us full circle: Souped-up wheels, with souped-up drivers, bottling at souped-up-speed-an-hour down souped-up toll roads will land you in the soup. Almost always. With only one destination. You don’t need the pick. And the shovel they will use to dig the hole.

Anchors Away!

15 clicks till exit. One more bottle to go. Aha! But what is that they say about beer? Once you “break the seal it keeps on leaking”. Not a challenge where I am on the “Highway to Hedon”. Pull over to do the “number three”. Cigarette in mouth and with Pink Floyd now belting from the speakers I walk around the front of the car, unzip and turn the relief valve open.

Heaven. Is. A. Roadside. Pee…

…and a Highway Patrol car slides by, windows down – and just keep moving right along.

New-found democracies tend to be more flexible.

Can’t image the scene had this been somewhere else. The USA. The UK. South Africa.

Cilegon, Indonesia. Friday 15th October,1999.

“COME PICK UP THE OTHER HALF ON THE DROP ZONE” (part 3 of 3)

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Recap: After ridiculing friend Martin’s weekend skydiving plans one Friday night in a pub he publicly challenges me to come pick up one half of a R10 (close enough to USD10) note on the drop zone – if I dare. I accept the dare and do the jump – with less than perfect results: I cannot seem to get up and stand on my right leg after, and having landed in a cow patch I now spot a bull and my friends bearing down on me from different directions. On arrival at the hospital it becomes apparent that the medical attendant’s national sport team had just won a significant event – and he had been celebrated prematurely… Now read the concluding part of this real-life story:

And so opens another chapter in the Saga of Saturday.

I am placed on a high medical bed. He prods here. Bends the foot there. Oohs and Aahs as doctors do. Its part of the final exams for a doctor, the Ooh and Aah bit.

“Ouch!” that was me.No Ooh and Aah out of me. I am not qualified.

“Hm. Worst sprain I have ever seen in my life”, and with that he arms himself with a crepe bandage and proceeds to wrap my ankle – which of course requires it being moved about and lifted a bit.

More “Ouch”. Less Ooh and Aah.

“Ok you can get up now” and with that he stands back to admire his medical skills and for me to get off the bed.

It is starting to dawn on me that this is going to take more than an Aspro and a week to heal.

I slide off the bed, put my foot experimentally down – and it just folds sideways, collapses.

Make that two Aspro’s and two weeks.

We look at each other. The smile on his face had – hopefully – very little to do with my wobbly foot.

Two of my earlier rescuers went outside and came back with a “dropper” which is basically a thin metal pole that is used in South Africa to do wire fencing. They bent it into a walking stick and handed it to me.

We hobble back to the truck and camp. Someone produced a bottle of Scotch which was to be my comfort for the night and which I stood swigging at until it was empty. Yes and there was a certification ceremony and a barbeque to celebrate my jump. The bottle of scotch was of course a mistake. The midnight pee was agony.

But the morning was worse. I now had to content with a “severely sprained ankle” and “roaring campfire” in my head. And the leg was by now swollen into the size of a watermelon. Bulging over the crepe bandage.

So, up we packed. Off we went and straight to The Groote Schuur Hospital, made famous by Dr. Chris Barnard for performing the world’s first heart transplant there. Hopefully I was not going to need any transplants. Hopefully.

“So, what is wrong with him?” At last a doctor is attending to me. A doctor with white clothes on. Not a swaying sport fan with impeded faculties dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. And victory on his mind.

By this time it is late afternoon. I am thirsty. In pain. Hung over. Hungry. My impatience led to ehm .. a difference between me and the doctor. I was declared unruly, un-co-operative and forthwith kicked out of the hospital without treatment.

Doctors 2. Kris 0.

Ok. Let’s go back home. That is a good place. Maybe.

There was a deep sigh, a worried look, and sympathetic eyes. With a tear in them. Mom said little other than “ai” which can probably translate (in this instance) to “and what now?” And a few other sentiments. Subdued was not the word to describe Martin and the other blokes. Silence is golden. I now know where Simon and Garfunkel got the idea for the name of their famous song.

“Ok Ma’am. We are sorry. And we have to go now.”

The night was long.

Gillian (a colleague) arrived during the course of the next day with a get well card which features on the cover of this book. Together with Mom they decided to take me to another doctor. I made a promise not to fail this test.

X-rays showed what we suspected. Ankle broken in two places. Fibula (outer of the two bones in the lower leg) snapped and broken in half.

The sporting doctor was right: Worst sprain ever.

I pleaded with all not to put my right leg in plaster, having had my left leg from toes to hip in plaster of Paris for extended periods when I was in primary school. It is not fun.

”No, of course not. We know the agony people go through. Your Mom told me about your childhood struggles in plaster of Paris. Don’t worry. But we will have to put you under narcosis to attend to things because the leg is quite swollen”.

Doctors talk in understatements. Swaying or sober.

So I woke up with my leg in plaster of Paris.

Doctors 3. Kris 0.

And a dent in my trust towards doctors. Do they also get taught this in medical school?

Mom was good enough to go buy me a bottle of whiskey as a bedside buddy whilst I struggled with the inconvenience of stiffening knee muscles.

I went back to work as soon as I could to submit my resignation in preparation for my emigration to Australia – by ship – which is another story in this book.

Brian, the IT Manager of our Section took one look at my resignation letter.

“How can you resign? Look at you. You can hardly walk”.

Footnote: Now 32 years later I found out that the first doctor was actually a radiographer and doubling as a vet! And he did not spot three breaks in my leg! Glad I am not a sick dog in his town. I will have no legs left. I copy Martin’s informative line “Do you recall the radiographer[1] at (place name) that gave you a clean bill of health also worked for the local vet .”

My comment: Glad I am not a dog or a cat…

~~~~~

They tell me the second jump is more fearful than the first. Although I am ready to go out and face my fear our doctor advised against it. My wife is currently also winning the argument against a second jump however many times I point out that former US Pres George Bush (Sr.) did his number eight jump at age 90.

[1] Radiographer: An important member of a diagnostic health care team. Responsible for producing high quality images to assist medical doctors and specialists in diagnosing/monitoring injuries / illnesses. Where is Superman with his X-ray eyes when you need him?

“COME PICK UP THE OTHER HALF ON THE DROP ZONE” (part 2 of 3)

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Recap: This was a real event: After ridiculing friend Martin’s weekend skydiving one Friday night in a pub he publicly challenges me to come pick up one half of a R10 (close enough to USD10) note on the drop zone – if I dare. Being painted into a corner, I had to accept the dare (meaning that I was going to do a jump) and was picked up early on Saturday morning. I did some training and due to a possible rainstorm in the late afternoon, the co-ordinator decided that we would jump immediately.

Now read Part 2 of 3.

Quick vote. Tonight we’ll have a BBQ, so let’s do it now.

My toast just got burnt!

“OK tog up, we will jump soon”.

Into the shed.

“Hm, you should have a 32 foot canopy for your weight. We only have a 28 footer”.

“Hm, you take a size 6 boots. We only have a spare size 10. With no laces.”

“Guys, anybody got two pairs of thick sox for Kris to bulk up his boots. And can someone get two pieces of soft wire that we can use as laces?”

Summary for the reader: Drank Friday night till midnight. Short on sleep. Long on hangover. Left a worrying Mom at home. 2 hours in a car. Bit of theory. Bit of practice. Bit of lunch. Brewing storm. 28 feet canopy instead of 32. Size 10 boots instead of 6. Wire for laces. 2 pairs of sox. And a brewing storm. Sorry, I think I repeated myself here.

Perfect! What can go wrong?

So. Off comes the Cessna’s door and we all pile in.

“Kris, you get in last”.

LIFO. Last In First Out.

I am sitting in a plane with no door. And I have to jump. FIRST. If I freeze there will be some very angry jumpers behind me who have all paid for their jumps.

Neat trick.

Climb. Circle. Climb. Circle. Climb. Circle.

“Ok get ready. We are nearing the drop zone”. I start to move out the hole where there once was a door. And a gush of wind changes my nervous smile into a lip-flapping cavity. I reach out, grab the strut and put my right foot on the step.

“OK, GO!”

I let loose of the strut. Fling my arms out. Arch backwards and see and hear the plane roar away!

Piece of toast. Hope it stays unburnt.

FLAP! And I stop falling. Suspended in the air. I HAVE DONE IT! Or rather I am busy doing it!

I look up and see the canopy flapping freely. There is no sound. But the ropes are a bit twirled and I start to spin around slowly. 90. 180. 270. 360. 450. 540 degrees. And slowly back again.

THIS IS IMMENSE! Is this what birds experience with every flight? The FREEDOM. The VIEW. The CALM. The EXHILIRATION!

HOOKED! LINED. And SINKERED!

Can we do it one more time!

The stunning panoramic view lets you merge into a 3-D one-ness with it all. You are hanging in the air. This is fun! More than a sport! It is Living with a capital L.

But why is the earth coming nearer so fast?

Can this please last for a bit longer?

What is that sound?

“Keep your feet together! And legs stretched out!” yells someone from below.

Oh yes. Theory. Practice. Feet together when you hit the ground. Collapse at knees towards the right.

Then collapse the chute by pulling on the straps closest to the ground.

Theory. Practice. Theory. Practice. Practice. Practice!

I try to climb up the chute but it does not help.

I extend my right leg to protect my hip and left leg (which is 1 inch shorter than the right leg due to a childhood ailment).

Thump! Hm. Not enough collapse at the knees.

The wind drags the chute along towards a cow. I landed in a cow patch. Lucky I missed the brown bits.

Collapse the chute. Collapse the chute! Bump. Bump. And I come to a halt.

My right foot is at a strange angle. I try to get up but cannot stand on it. And as I look I see two things boring down on me from opposite angles. A flatbed truck. And a bull! A jealous bull!

Who will win?

“Ok guys, get him on the back of the truck. Ok lets go! And lets get him to a doctor”.

During the rather bumpy ride I try to figure out how to get my foot standing up into its normal position. No luck. Well wait and see. Its ok, don’t worry.

What will Mom say about this?

What is now going to happen about my emigration to Australia, which is due in 6 weeks?

We enter a medical facility next to the doctor’s house. I am put onto a high medical examination bed. I can hear a TV blaring. And then a huge eruption! Oh yes the Curry Cup is on today[1].

A “YES! We won!” emanates from the room and the doctor sways through the door.

“We have won! We have won!” And it is quite clear that he had something more than milk and cookies to get him through the match.

I supported the losing team that year and here I was in the camp of the enemy about to be treated by an “enemy doctor.” It all started to make sense.

And so opens another chapter in the Saga of Saturday.

[1] The Curry Cup was South Africa’s premier domestic rugby union competition trophy for which the provincial teams or substantial teams within each province competed throughout winter into October. It was the ultimate in domestic rugby union and the final match was closer to a civil war than a closing match for the season.

“COME PICK UP THE OTHER HALF ON THE DROP ZONE”

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Part 1 of 3 from Chapter 1 of my next book “WELCOME TO THE ONE BROKEN LEG CLUB”


 

“COME PICK UP THE OTHER HALF ON THE DROP ZONE”

 

I am sure there are other versions of this story.

This is mine because I was the guy on the back of the flatbed truck …

 

Martin, colleague, friend and parachuting aficionado, and I had a few beers on Friday night 30 September 1983 in my favourite pub around the corner from my apartment. Note that I can pinpoint not only the date but also the day of the week.

I: “So what are you guys doing this weekend?”

Martin: “Skydiving”.

So I let it slip for a beer and a few songs.

I: “Silly to throw yourself out of a fully functional aircraft with just a handkerchief above your head, isn’t it!”

Not silly, just stupid. And on second thoughts, it’s not a sport. Running is a sport. What’s so fancy with sitting in an airplane and then just jump out? No sweating. No muscles required. Just jump.

As the pub band was finishing their night’s entertainment with “Sweet Dreams” from the Eurythmics Martin took a R10 note out of his change on the table, tore the note in two and placed one half in front of me.

Martin: “Come pick up the other half on the drop zone tomorrow – if you dare. Or better still, we can pick you up at 6.30 a.m. That way you don’t have to drive there and back. You are not chicken are you, hmm?”

I stubbed out my cigarette, looked at the half-torn note like it was diseased, then looked up at Martin to see if this was a joke. There were more than twinkles in his slowly narrowing eyes. I was painted into a corner. This was my regular pub nearest to home. The band had stop playing. Other patrons overheard the challenge.

My fear of ridicule was greater than my fear of fear. And the slowly spreading sly smile told me that Martin enjoyed the stab at my fear – and pride.

Acceptance was the better part of valor. I reminded myself to review our friendship and drinking habits, especially on Friday evenings. Now to get this story past my Mom who was living with me due to a family circumstance.

It took three cigarettes (me), two cups of coffee (Mom) and all the skills of a defense lawyer trying to break up a hung jury to get Mom to see it my way. Or rather Martin’s way. I prayed for severe storms all night. Daybreak left me less of a believer. And the Ten Commandments didn’t help either.

Can I call in sick?

Not many hours later there was a cheerful knock on the door. You know the sort of “tap tarra rap tap – tap tap I got your number” type.

Martin: “Good morning Ma’am. Is Kris ready? Don’t worry we will look after him and bring him home, no problem” (well for Martin that is, I thought, but silence was the better part of a rather stretched friendship at this point).

I felt like Atlas as we shuffled off to the elevator.

The 160+ km ride was – well – less than cheerful, from my side that is. The other guys were in much brighter spirits, looking forward to another adrenaline kick. My thought were more of the pillow-and-mattress type kick. And my hang-over talked back in capital letters.

The camaraderie was tangible as we arrived. The talk infectious. Friends from a few places were arriving one after the other and were greeted with a cup of coffee, talks of the weekend’s impending jumps and stories of past jumps.

I was pulled aside into the shed to fill out the obligatory paperwork and answer a few questions on any reasons that would stop me from jumping – which we sailed through without a hiccup.

And missed my chance of being disqualified and declared incapacitated.

On to a look at the training gear. A dummy parachute much like a backpack (hmm I hope I get a real one to jump with) and I started to feel the slow creep of excitement.

The agenda was to include some theory, then two practical sessions in which to climb onto a tower (about 3 meters high) and jump from there with the objective to learn how to land, to collapse the legs and to fall towards a preferred side.

Easy. I can do that. Piece of toast. So I practiced a few times before lunchtime. There was another practice session scheduled for after lunch. Right?

“Ok guys, what’s for lunch?”

Things were shared and then someone handed the weather report to the co-ordinator.

Co-ordinator: “Guys, the forecast says we will have rain late this afternoon, so the options are, we get ready and do our jumps now, or we delay till tomorrow morning”.

I saw a heaven-sent opportunity. My challenge was to “come pick up the other half on the drop zone tomorrow”, which was – well- today. So if there was no jump, then I will just walk onto the drop zone and claim the other half of the note.

Easy. I can do that. Piece of toast.

Quick vote. Tonight we’ll have a BBQ, so let’s do it now.

My toast just got burnt!

Co-ordinator: “OK tog up, we will jump soon”.

(Part 2 of 3  will be blogged in two days from now)