I feel like I should write a post today, yet I have no idea what I would like to write about. I could tell you that it has been a hectic week and I am frazzled. I could tell you about my brother reading this post about my mother – and then heading over to my parents’ house and reading it aloud to both my mother and daddy, much to my embarrassment (they liked it. Whew). I could tell you about all the things piling up that I have to do before going out of town this weekend to visit my parents. I could tell you about the deep religious discussions and debates I have had this week that have both uplifted and horrified me.
But, eh, I am not going to do any of that. Instead, I am going to tell you how I lost my sunglasses. No, now don’t stop reading. It really is a good little story.
Some of you may remember my inspired parenting in The Cunning Use of Batman Stickers. So that was where we were. A very good friend of mine had invited me and my family to his Change of Command Ceremony in Norfolk, VA. Now, I had not seen Doug in many, many years before going to Norfolk. We were not even in the same class at school. However, we were in the Dothan High School production of Westside Story. Doug did an outstanding job as Bernardo, leader of the Sharks, who dies in the Rumble – I was in the chorus (and, oh, yes, there will be a post about this at a later date, I assure you. I still have pictures).
Anyway, as things are bound to go in the day and age of Facebook, Doug and I renewed our friendship and he invited me, Jay, Ezra and newly born Sawyer to Norfolk for the ceremony, a party that evening and a tour of the nuclear submarine, the USS NORFOLK (SSN-714), which you have to admit is cool as hell. I was on maternity leave and had the time off, so you bet your ass we went.
On a cool and breezy Saturday morning in November I found myself on a pier with my boys and Jay, Doug and his wife, Kelly, and another couple who were friends of theirs. Ezra was on Doug’s shoulders and I had Sawyer in a baby sling wrapped around me. Now, the day before Jay had tried to take Ezra on a tour of the sub, but Ezra had refused to go down the hole, which I admit I had thought was kind of weird when Jay told me about it. It was just going down a ladder, right? No big deal. Um, I was fixing to completely understand his trepidation.
Doug had suggested we give Ezra to him and he would carry Ezra down whether Ezra wanted to go or not. This sounded like an excellent idea. Ezra really liked “Mr. Doug” and was happily riding on his shoulders. It had been decided that I would carry Sawyer down in a baby sling. This was mainly because Jay, at 6’3, would have a bit of a tighter fit down the ladder than me. I, of course, saw no problem with this. I would be just fine. And I was – right up until I got to the ladder.
Doug very easily navigated the ladder with Ezra clinging to him and, once down, Ezra was just fine. Jay went next.
Kelly was great. She seemed to understand that I was going to have a bit of an issue with this way sooner than I did.
When I looked down the hole, my stomach fell all the way in and splatted on the floor in the dark below. My heart picked up speed. It was dark, it was much too narrow and it would be very unforgiving to a newborn’s head (remember, Sawyer is sleeping soundly in a sing wrapped around me). And suddenly that sling did not feel very safe AT ALL. [Doug has since informed me that this was just the 10 foot ladder and there was another 30 foot ladder he decided against trying to take us down. It is smart decisions like that which a commander is called upon to make. 😉 Good call, Doug.]
Anyway, Kelly sat down and helped me place my feet on the ladder and go down while Doug reassured me from below. I will admit here that I was trembling a bit, although at the time I was trying to be all calm and nonchalant. I am not sure I pulled that off.
I wish I could say things got better from there.
I managed to get Sawyer down without bouncing his head off the sides of the sub causing permanent brain damage. Once down, I thought it did not seem so bad.
We walked along a small corridor to the command center. It was awesome. There were guys working and doing submarine stuff around us. Doug explained what the amazing number of things we were looking at did. Unfortunately for me, I was feeling a bit nauseated. Nothing I could not handle, mind you, but it was interfering with my ability to pay attention to what was being said.
Jay, on the other hand, was grinning ear to ear taking it all in and Ezra was perched in a chair holding on to the controls which drove the sub. He was completely and utterly over any fear he had earlier. I was just hoping, though my building nausea, that he did not hit a wrong button and launch something. I was pretty sure this billion dollar submarine was not toddler proof. Eventually, Kelly did me a huge favor and kept an eye on Ezra as we toured so I could pay attention, look around and take it all in (and keep a check on my growing claustrophobia).
Doug explained the room to us and then we got the chance to look through the periscopes. There were two of them.
Now, for some reason, I had decided to wear my glasses that day. Jay likes it when I do (he had, in fact, commented on it earlier in the day, making me smile). They are wire rimmed totally librarian-style (which I am guessing is what Jay likes about them) and they have this cool magnetic sunglass attachment.
Then it was my turn. With Sawyer still strapped around me, they lowered the periscopes so my short self could reach and look through them. Jay told me to hand him the camera and he would get a picture of me.
So I reached into my back pocket and pulled out the camera. Unfortunately, my magnetic sunglass attachment was also in that back pocket. And when I pulled out the camera the strap hooked onto the little magnetic hook on the sunglasses and pulled them out as well. Before it even registered through my nausea, I had whipped out the camera and sent my sunglasses flying out of my pocket where they fell under the periscope. Cradling Sawyer’s head, I bent down to pick them up (and hide my bright red embarrassed face), but they weren’t there. I started looking around on the floor. Jay had seen what happened and started helping me and explaining to Doug. Then I noticed that there was a hole in the floor that the periscope came out of – and it had about a 2 inch gap around the periscope.
So now I am explaining to everyone in the room (Doug, Kelly, his friends, and sailors) what had happened and one of the sailors offered to get a flashlight. I was mortified. When this guy came back and shone the flashlight down around the bottom of the periscope, I knew my sunglasses were gone.
There was apparently a lot of submarine under where we were standing. And the sailor informs Doug my sunglasses have gone down the “periscope well.” Yep, all the way down to the bottom of the sub.
I tried to brush it off and hide my embarrassment. It was no big deal, they were gone. Let’s move on; nothing to see here. With promises that when the periscope well was cleaned and if my sunglass attachment was found, they would mail it to me, Doug moved on with the tour.
As we started to leave the command center, Doug offered to carry Sawyer for me as he knew the sub like the back of his hand and where all the little pokey-outey things would be that I could knock Sawyer’s head against as we went along. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to hand my baby over to him.
My embarrassment had increased my heart rate, thereby increasing my nausea. And I do not like close spaces at all. I am one of those people who have problems breathing on crowded elevators. As the tour went along and we got further into the sub, my claustrophobia increased.
Jay was fascinated. And I have to tell you that it was the most impressive thing I have ever seen. Not one inch of the boat went to waste. Hell, not one millimeter. Everything had more than one use. There were torpedoes and sleeping berths that didn’t seem big enough for me to get into, much less Doug or Jay. There were air filtration systems and fire suppression systems (or maybe those are the same thing) and all manner of technology that goes far beyond anything I have ever seen. I have to say that it is the most impressive usage of my tax dollars imaginable.
And that is only what he could show us. After all, this is a Los Angeles class nuclear submarine. There are things on there the general public are not allowed to see. Not even if we have the distinction of having appeared on stage in high school with the commander. Funny how they are about those classified things. Jay was even smart enough to ask some questions to which the answer was “I can’t tell you that.”
And to be perfectly honest, my claustrophobia could not have taken much more anyway. I will not attempt to describe anything else. My memory is not that good and I don’t want to try and describe stuff the use of which goes beyond my ability to understand, thereby highlighting my ignorance. Suffice it to say that Sawyer and I made it up the ladder without incident and I was glad to be out. It was at least an hour before I stopped trembling.
I am not sure whether the claustrophobia I suffered is something I could get over and that, given enough time, I could acclimate myself to such tight quarters. I can assure you there will be no way I will find out. I didn’t even allow myself to think about the fact that that tube is submerged in very deep water and doesn’t exactly have portholes you can look out of, either. And they are underway for weeks and months at a time. Gulp.
But I will say that I greatly appreciate the invitation and the experience. It certainly deepened my respect for the people who do jobs I cannot imagine that keep this country safe. Not to mention the fact that it solidified Doug as officially having the coolest and most awesome job of anyone I know.
I won’t be holding my breath expecting to get my sunglasses back, but to be honest it would not surprise me, even if it takes a while, if I get a little package in the mail. After what I saw, I am pretty sure the Navy pays attention to detail and follows through with things.