Thursday, March 8, 2012

Previews of Coming Avocations

Way back in about fifth or sixth grade I was selected to go to some sort of children’s outer space…  



Following a series of lectures and slide shows, they broke the auditorium up into groups and tasked us with designing our very own NASA missions.
We would have totally been there first.
One of the other guys on the team and I came up with a concept based on the Viking landers for going to Saturn’s moon, Titan: the only moon with an atmosphere (years before the Cassini–Huygens mission was birthed, might I add). There’d recently been discoveries about its climate, or the possibility of organic molecules, or an invasion of alien kinkajou. I forget the details, but he was all over them, and I had enough space in my head (that didn’t come out right) to be valuable.  The plan and scope were not terribly original or exciting, but it was fairly reasonable and achievable (for an interplanetary mission designed by ten to twelve year olds, anyway.)  We were joined in early development by one of the girls on the team. She and I got along really well that day, and then I never saw her again. (Sadly, this describes almost every relationship I had up through college.)

Our craft was due for some heavy revisions, though.  The chosen team leader was an all image, no substance, class president type; and most of the rest of the team followed him blindly.  They continuously spewed forth a bunch of ridiculous ideas with no technical or logical support that our fearless leader would add to the “must have” list. 

By the time the group planning period had ended, our mission was transformed into this insane, enormous, manned, space behemoth that somehow managed to ride on solar winds, and didn't do much when it got where it was going.

The other guy with a clue and I spent a half hour trying to name it:

Searching for
Information on

Unfortunately, one of the ditzy cheerleaders chosen as presenters (and destined to grow up to become the "booth babes" of Dilbert comic strip fame) caught on.  Our crack technical squad renamed it some bizarre series of words that yielded the acronym SEFAP, which sounds a great deal more like a bad comic book sound effect for a fish slipping off of a playground slide than a cross solar system excursion.

Of course our wonderful squad of presenters managed to answer every single question posed following their scientific exhibition incorrectly, removing any last vestige of technical merit from good old SEFAP.  By this point, the three of us who started the idea had long since given up on trying to fix anything as only the presenters for each team were allowed on stage.  We remained in our section of the auditorium, quickly passed through the shaking our heads sadly stage, and eventually ignored the proceedings entirely. The girl and I spent most of the remaining time drawing “Pac-Man” cartoons back and forth on one of my book covers. (A cover which I flatly refused to change for the rest of the year, even when it had worn down to individual paper bag molecules.)

If only someone had told me what a perfect preview this was for a career in engineering, I might have become a paleontologist instead.

Or perhaps a writer…


MOM said...

I really enjoyed this. It was entertaining and nostalgic. Anyway, I didn’t know some of those things and I think they were the foreshadowing of your intelligent and amusing way of looking at life.
Ironically, I was driving over the Throggs Neck Bridge last week and I looked out over the water and saw the Maritime College where this took place. I remembered bringing you there but I couldn’t remember what for. I was going to ask you but I forgot. Now, you have answered the question without my even asking it.

May said...

I cringed when I see "project" "team" and "experience"...I thought the post was about something completely different! Thank god i was wrong!! ha the way when i was prompted to prove I "was not a robot" I typed "the two words"... Actually I guess a robot would probably do that.

May said...

Brilliant! I though about it and then it hit me..The layers of meaning in there were pretty great! Upon quiet reflection I think your MOM nailed it.

Jeff McGinley said...

Many thanx to both for the praise. (OK, one's my mom, but praise is praise.)

May, I've occasionally suspected you might be a robot, we'll have to run a Turing test...of course I"v ealso been accused of being a robot so we may need a negative control.

Mom, thanx much, I had no idea where this was (I thought it was much more local) That's a nifty peek into my brain. I can remember details about conversations from when I was eleven, but have absolutely no clue where they took place.

Bruce Fieggen said...

Loved the last sentence the best.
"If only someone had told me what a perfect preview this was for a career in engineering, I might have become a paleontologist instead." Substitute Project Management for engineering and it also works.

I'm really curious about the verification words I received: ystruct ompartas. Sounds like the kind of training you give to workers in Willy Wonka's factory.

Jeff McGinley said...

Thanx. I think many of us cube dwellers wake up one morning and realize, "I'm not sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I don't think this is it"

I love the verbal ink blot test that are verification words.