One of the fondest memories I have from my Air Force Brat childhood is of fighter jets. I loved the sound of them flying overhead. From the screaming engines to the sonic booms, everything about them made me happy. I also loved that there were no barriers between us and them.
During air shows at the base, we would walk freely around the planes. When the Thunderbirds would show up, I would take pictures with the pilots and get their autographs. I was a total groupie!
Flash forward to the early ‘90’s. I was the Property Manager of an apartment community on the edge of the desert in Odessa, Texas. (Go ahead, look it up, I’ll wait.)
So you saw that it is basically a desert surrounded by desert, right?
One Saturday afternoon, I heard the sound of jets overhead, and one of the girls who worked for me mentioned that there was an air show happening between Odessa and Midland (that would be the desert between two deserts) I quickly conjured up an “errand” I needed to take care of, and ran outside, jumped into my Suzuki Samurai (don’t judge) and sped off toward the… desert.
I parked in something resembling a field on what was once probably grass. I hopped out and raced toward the airstrip. There was a large hangar on my right. It was full of families and funnel cakes and touristy crap. I didn’t have time for that stuff. On my left, and just beyond a velvet rope (maybe it was a chain) were the fighter jets. Pretty maidens all in a row!
It seems that when they have air shows at civilian airstrips, they put a rope between the crowds and the planes to keep the idiots out. I didn’t need any ropes, I was an Air Force Girl! I hopped over, and began walking toward the jets. Between me and the fighters was a large plane. I can’t tell you what it was, because I never got a chance to see it. The pilot was ready to go, and apparently did not check his rearview mirror. The engines fired up, but I never heard them. I was too busy getting knocked to the ground by the blast and covered by blowing dust. I could hear people yelling. Sand had blown into my eyes, so I couldn’t see. I began crawling on my hands and knees toward the voices. (Did I mention that I had come straight from work? Any guesses as to what I was wearing? If you guessed a skirt, you are correct!) My eyes and nose were running, and I was coughing and spitting out sand. Eventually my head hit the chain, and at the same time a pair of hands grabbed me by my shoulders and pulled me straight up. I was helped over the rope, and a second set of arms helped move me toward the hangar. There was a small water fountain against one of the walls, and they helped hold my head as I splashed water into my eyes so that I could see.
This would probably be a good time to mention that I do not get embarrassed. Just ask my kids. They hate it. However, I have been embarrassed exactly two times in my life. One of them I will write about in a future blog I’m sure. This was the other one.
I just wanted to get the hell out of there. So I mumbled some thank-you’s, and waved off the concerned looks by others as I hastily made my way back to the Samurai. (Did I mention that the Samurai was topless?)
I drove the 20 minutes back to the office, and when I walked in, I am certain that my coworkers wished they had a camera. I will never forget the looks on their faces. In my haste to get back, I had not checked myself in the mirror. (Although I’m fairly certain that no mirror would’ve shown the extent of the damage.)
Let me try and describe the scene. My shoes, which were sensible flats, were scuffed and covered in dust. My legs were dusty except for my bloody knees. My clothes were also covered in dust, and my hair resembled something out of “Twister”… sand-filled and dreadlocked. All of my make up had relocated to other parts of my face and neck. My eyes were bloodshot, and encrusted with sand. And my eyebrows were caked with… mud. Yes, it turns out that when water and dust combine, they create mud. As for the rest of my face and neck, it was a combination of dried mud-streaks and dust.
I resembled an aborigine.
Or maybe an idiot.