Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Location: United States

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Houston, we have a problem." - Tom Hanks, Apollo 13

Oh, it looks fun . . .

I don’t know what made me buy the suit.

I think it was the book. I was reading a book and the general point of the book was that sometimes we as people forget the big picture, and focus on the small. Few people (none, really) from my first job are going to come to my funeral. The important thing is the love and the family surrounding us now, because, after all, we’re all going to die. I know, loser talk. But in this case, it worked.

That, I think, led me to buy the suit.

It was bright orange, and baggy like a clown suit with a big zipper up the front. Thankfully it had web mesh belts sewn on the front.

I debated. It was expensive, but, then again, fashion always is.

It wasn’t a clown suit – it was an astronaut suit. And, it wasn’t for me, it was for The Boy.

When I was the age that The Boy is now, I we marched up and down the streets dressed as astronauts. This was before school boards went nutty, so I brought a toy pistol with me to stick in the belt of my space suit.

Teacher: “Astronauts don’t need guns.”

Young John Wilder: “And you would know that exactly how?

My butt hurt for a week. Oh, yeah, teachers could do that forbidden thing, too.

Anyhow, I gave it to The Boy when I got home. He was ecstatic. The Boy put it on at lightspeed, and I suggested he go outside and play. He ran off to his room. The Boy emerged two minutes later, again dressed in his jeans and t-shirt. “Where’s your astronaut suit?”

“I don’t want to get it dirty.” When The Mrs. finally revived me, well, I was still as stunned as Willie Nelson when he first heard of deodorant. (Just me, or do you think the red-haired stranger might stink up a room, too?)

Given The Boy’s love for his new suit, off to the Johnson Space Center we went the next day.

Death, taxes, payment for parking.

Perhaps our expectations were too high. To start with, we were charged $5.00 for parking. Minor, I know, but really. Next, the admission was about $20.00 a head for the complete tour. We opted for the family membership. You can go back anytime for a year, right?

Hmmm. I wonder if there's a way I could just donate my kidney instead . . .

The TSA guy at the door asked us if we were carrying knives, umm, whatever you’d do in a tourist attraction with a knife. Perhaps whittling isn’t allowed at the Space Center.

Well, now I know what Disneyland would be like if it were run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or your local DMV. It would be . . . boring. Admittedly, having young Pugsley with us, we couldn’t do a whole lot. At 18 months of age, he weighs in at 120 lbs (2.1kg). It’s not like the stroller goes up the stairs, and heaven forbid attempting to carry him without undergoing a strict weight training program first. We wandered a bit, and noticed the biggest kid’s play area (think a McDonald’s Playland on a government budget) I’ve ever seen, three stories high. The Boy had neglected to wear socks, and was thus banished to the outer darkness of not being able to climb on a congressionally funded tornado slide.

I was looking for the membership desk. We got there at 12:45 PM (that’s AM in metric) and saw a sign that said, “MEMBERSHIP WILL REOPEN AT: 1:00” so I kept an eye on the desk.

There were some displays (we didn’t get to the trams since it was raining, nor pay $4.00 for The Boy to crash a virtual jet, nor $56.00 for a kid’s order of fries) but we finally got to the kids’ hands-on area. The Boy got to pull some levers and launch a toy rocket with a blast of air. The next attraction was an air fan that kept a ball floating on a cushion of air through the lovely pressure balancing act providing experimental evidence of the Bernoulli principle. You could modulate the airflow with a valve and change the height of the ball. Simple, right?

An eight year old was acting like a hyperactive baboon, putting the ball in the air, and swatting it and then running after it like a terrier on crack. His mother saw The Boy and I patiently awaiting the apparatus so I could explain what those crazy Bernoulli brothers figured out. She said, “Spot, let’s go. This little boy wants to play.”

Play, hell. It was time to introduce The Boy to some straightforward math:

Well, rather than go through basic fluid mechanics with The Boy, Spot decided to ignore his mother, and keep playing with the apparatus like a crazed weasel. She looked at me apologetically, as if to say, “Hey, you understand. Spot’s in charge.”

Umm, no, not really. My vote? Neuter Spot and spay mommy so we don’t spread the “weak mommy-hyperactive controlling brat gene.” Or, vice versa. I could never keep “spay” and “neuter” straight. Biology’s not my thing. (If I were to devise a taxonomic system for the classification of species, it would include three categories: “can make beer with it”, “otherwise edible” and “firewood.” Everything else would be ignored or hastened into extinction.)

The Mrs. is not noted for suffering fools or the weak willingly, so we left the kids’ area before I needed to scrounge up bail money out of the seat cushions of the Wildermobile.

I went back to the Membership Desk. Now the sign had been replaced: MEMBERSHIP WILL REOPEN AT: 2:00. Somehow, they had snuck back in the thirty seconds the desk had been out of my sight and swapped out the sign. It was 1:28. I marched over to the (staffed) Information Desk.

John Wilder: “I want to get my membership processed, or I want a refund.”

Clerk: “Umm, they’ll be back at (squinting) 2:00.”

John Wilder: “No. Don’t trust the sign. Don’t believe the sign. The sign lies. It said they’d be back at 1:00. They weren’t. I want a refund, or my membership. Now.”

Apparently this was a first for them, someone demanding service who’d paid for it. Being unfamiliar with how government works, they got somebody more familiar with government over to the membership counter and promptly misspelled our names on the identification cards.

The Mrs., though starving by this point, is also not noted for paying $56.00 for fries.

We left.

We hit the Golden Arches (complete with astronaut on top) and headed home. I looked at The Boy, happily munching a Chicken McPart™ in the back seat.

The Mrs. said, “The Boy asked if you wanted an astronaut suit, too. I told him you probably did.”

Yeah, The Mrs. is right, as usual. But I still think astronauts should carry guns. There might be bears in space.

By the way, a shout out to Tiffany in PA for doing the right thing, namely getting a copy of The First Seal. Tiffany, you have a beer waiting for you whenever you get to Houston!

You can, too. Do the right thing, well, not get a free beer. Well, maybe get a free beer, since we're always looking for a reason to have a beer, anyhow:

The Mrs.’ book is online and available at Amazon.com at this link.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing how different things are in TX? Do you sometimes feel as though you came to a different country?

And I got a shout out! Now you made me very happy.

Seriously folks, buy the book. I haven't emailed my addy yet to get that name plate but I will think about it. Don't want to be stalked, you know? lol

11:06 AM  
Blogger Dame Koldfoot said...

Hey, I got the book too! I'm just waiting for the next three day weekend sans kids, dog and spouse so I can stay in bed and read it straight through. *Smack* Jeez, thanks for waking me up from THAT daydream. I'll start reading tonight. Will the esteemed author, who I note holds advanced degrees in both communications and engineering (isn't that YOUR field, John?), still autograph a dog-eared, coffee-stained, pack-worn copy?

1:05 PM  
Blogger Carolyn H said...

I just think you couldn't stand living in Houston any longer without using the "Houston, we have a problem..." line.

Carolyn H

6:54 AM  
Blogger John said...

Yup. Especially when I try to pay with Alaskan money. That irritates them. Especially because I printed it myself.

Thanks for the plug!!! But, I doubt The Boy will be ready to stalk for a few years. He's still stuck on the whole nap thing.

dame koldfoot,
Good luck on your whole nap thing. Let's just say we had fun with the autobiographical text. If The Mrs. sells a few million of those, well, I bet your copy will be wort bunches!

As far as the autograph, well, you're on!

As far as the free time, well, good luck with that.

carolyn h,
I almost used it for the first one . . . but I decided to wait for the NASA themed thingy.

5:23 PM  
Blogger GoGo said...

I gots an idea.

Tell the Boy that in order to be an astronaut he must prepare for extreme temperatures.
Then make him wear his winter clothes at all times.
Then make sure he is included in all your photos with a tree or bush in the background (no buildings).
Then photoshop snow into the pictures and tell everyone that the Texas thing is a spoof.

That or get trans-transferred BACK to Alaska. I miss reading about AK. And im not a fan of Texas. I hope you guys are liking it though.
Maybe you could do a short story series. Like 20 minute shorts. Something that could be easily animated or made into a short movie. hint hint

7:04 AM  

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