Laying Down on the Job

Laying Down on the Job
The Santa Monica Easy

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sonic Ka-BOOM!

Last month the Shuttle Discovery returned from its mission to re-supply the International Space station.  Due to uncooperative weather, instead of returning to its home in Florida it was diverted to the ever-sunny Edwards Air Force Base in California.   I've always wanted to watch the Shuttle -- any NASA Shuttle -- land there.  I knew NASA might re-route "Discovery" to Edwards so I planned to drive there to watch the Shuttle land.  It landed there alright, but I only found out about 3 hours before the landing and it's a 5 hr. drive from Santa Monica.  Drat!  However, I did HEAR Discovery because its flight path was somewhere over Los Angeles on the way to Edwards.  It startled me and reminded me of the first time I heard a sonic boom.  

My mom, U.S. Air Force dad and I lived in Columbus, OH, -- I was about 12 or 13 at the time.  I was at home alone, in the kitchen fixing a snack when a tremendous booming blast hit the neighborhood.  It was not only loud, it felt like the house was slightly lifted from its foundation and gently shaken like a Godzilla-sized martini.  It scared me and I was completely disoriented by the combination of unexpected and very loud sound and vibration.  I stood there, frozen, trying to figure out what the hell had just happened and I finally "decided" that the attached garage must have collapsed -- and I was sure my mother would blame me somehow so I was frantically calculating how to point the finger of blame at our young German Shepherd and three cats.  

Once I was relatively confident there wouldn't be another bang/shake event, I opened the front door tentatively, gingerly stepped out onto the front yard, looked around the neighborhood in case it was a neighbor's house that had collapsed then warily looked toward our garage. I was both surprised and relieved to see the garage completely safe and sound just as all the other structures along the street.  Anyway, I was pretty sure I could never convince my mother the family pets were somehow responsible had the garage actually collapsed!  I spent the next few hours trying to figure out what in the world that ear shattering, earth rattling could have been.  When Mom and Dad returned home later that day I was a bubbling caldron of words trying to explain the fearsome bang, and the shaking and then I heard Dad say, in his ever-so-casual-all-knowing way, "Oh, you probably heard the sonic boom..."  I knew what a sonic boom was, I simply couldn't believe breaking the sound barrier could be so violent and insisted it had to be something else.  A nuclear bomb test maybe -- something with a dark, rising cloud at the very least.  Dad assured me, yes indeed,  he knew about the flight but had forgotten to mention it and after all, we lived under one of the final approaches to what was then Lockbourne AFB, so the aircraft was actually not that far away.  Dad started to explain the event with math and my eyes glazed over.  I don't remember much after that.  Even then I tended to blackout whenever someone tried to dazzle me with numbers and formulas.  The end result was, I never forgot that sound and vibration and math still turns me comatose. 

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