By Matt Gordon
I reflected this week on the civilians who are taking an eight-day journey to Mars. It will cost them approximately 900 billion dollars each and here is what they will do: almost die being launched into space, then almost die in floating through space, then almost die by landing on the surface of Mars, and then spend the week almost dying in some Martian bunker. I mean, have these people heard of Key West? This Mars expedition, aside from all the near-death moments, is going to be a frightfully boring vacation. How much is there really to do on an undeveloped, non-watered, un-aired planet? Disney hasn’t even broken ground there yet!
But aside from the boredom of the whole endeavor there lies an irritable tendency of humankind displayed in this expedition. We are quick to boldly go where no person has gone before without finishing things up where we are. In short, there are plenty of untapped frontiers here on earth, explorers.
One area, in particular, has me carrying this frustration about. And it is in the unexplored world of carrying things about. I recall flying on a discount airline once. This was the sort of plane where you aren’t assigned a seat number in part because you can’t guarantee you’ll find a seat at all. You don’t actually know what lies in wait inside of this probably-stolen airplane. You could be nestled up with cattle; you might end up flying the plane because someone has to. Might be chockful of the convicts from Con Air. Peanuts and drinks? Don’t make me laugh. The slogan of the airline was taken from Caddyshack, “You’ll have nothing and like it.” The flight cost me about a nickel, and it was a massive overpay. One other part of flying with this particular airline is that you could take no checked luggage—they likely figured their patrons were too poor to actually own much anyway. Nope, if your hands couldn’t hold it, it didn’t fly. That is when I took possession of a particular angst about human limitations.
In that setting, I looked around and everyone had a handbag or satchel or purse. It was all predictable. Inside the box. Mundane. Limited. No one was willing to strike off and take a risk; everyone was earthbound and the same. All but one brave, intrepid soul. One man—nay, one hero—landed in Brno with an ice skate in each hand. Yep, out of all the handheld belongings in this man’s life, he chose to fly the high skies and walk city streets with a pair of figure skates unhidden by burly bag. Did he know something about an ice-slinging weather pattern that the rest of us didn’t? Was he an underprivileged professional ice skater? Were those blades sharp and was he planning an act of terror with them? Questions triple-axled through every mind about this mysterious wanderer. When we got off the plane I followed the man for a while through the city streets, but eventually he lost me. In more ways than one, I stopped following him, resuming my rote tote propensities—messenger bag tethering me to the pitiable norms. Just like everyone else.
I’m in a coffee shop right now and surveying how the people have carried in their journals and books and computers: bag, bag, bag, purse, back bag, box. Box? Box! Yep, that’s right. One person has a box full of cords and a projector. And that someone is me. A friend stopped by to see how I was and saw the box full of cords and wires, “Going to a rave?” he asked.
Actually, I was going to test an event I’m helping with and was tasked with bringing the projector. I didn’t tell him that. I told him to “shut up” and “get lost.” But even though I was just headed to a backroom to test an event, I may have well been headed to Mars. I was helping to thrust humankind forward. I was, after all these years, the man with the skates! It is liberating for me and wakes others from their daily stupor. It has me thinking about how vast the universe of carry-ons and carry-withs really is. It is a multi-verse of possibilities and otherworldly potential, a walking icebreaker. A genteel top hat? The board game Jumanji? An iron? Go therefore! A hatchet? A mannequin head? A bag of human hair? Go west young man! A bugle? A dodgeball? A pair of ice skates? Ad astra!
As those billionaires bound off to space, I just hope one of them truly reaches for the stars. As the rest load up their Louis Vuitton space luggage on the spaceship, one oddball champion shows up ready to soar by being ready to glide, skates in hand. It would indeed be a very large step for mankind and really throw their alien captors for a loop if they get abducted. Shoot, the anomaly itself might be the very reason they don’t get abducted. The aliens can’t risk making a move on something they fail to understand.
But as for me, I know my place. It is right here on this earth. The one with the air and water and theme parks. I am bound to the reality set out before, one that takes nickel flights to Brno not billion-dollar ones to space. Limited I may be, but as I load up my computer and coffee into my special box, people look after me. They gape in awe-filled wonder about the man with the box and all that is inside, both him and box.
Five-Four-Three-Two-One . . . I press on, box in one hand, bag of human hair in the other, to infinity and beyond.