- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
" Tallahassee," he said, pointing down. "First checkpoint."
He made another note on his pad and then jabbed his pencil at a big dial. "This is an instrument hop," he said. "That's the instrument. Bird-dog needle. It points to a radio signal you set it for. Set it for Tallahassee, it points there. You get to Tallahassee, it'll flip around. Just flipped." He pointed to another dial, a bizarre and overexcited clock with its three hands all turning at once.
"Fifteen thousand feet," he said. "Better put on your mask."
I pulled up my mask, cupped it over my nose and mouth and snapped it to my helmet as I had been taught.
"Turn that little knob. Every time you inhale, that window next to it should go white. That means you're getting oxygen."
I breathed and the little window winked reassuringly. We flew without saying anything, and the bright line of the horizon dissolved into a continuous gray wash of cloud and sky. Finally the bird-dog needle did another dainty turn, the earphones squawked and my pilot held up his thumb. " Memphis," he said. "Right on. We're cleared in, so let's go down."
A dark dive
We rolled on our side and nosed over into a toneless dark, as if someone had painted over our windshield. I tried to see through it and found nervous lines writhing across the glass.
"Rain," said my pilot. "Lovely." He leveled the wing, I sagged hard into my seat, and the next minute we were over a wet web of lights on the ground. The pilot said something on the radio and, forming from out of the web of lights the sudden solution to a puzzle, I saw the converging dotted light lines of a runway. Then we were between the dotted lines, the plane gave a compound thump and we were back to the awkward grounding staggers. We stopped in front of a low building, climbed out of the cockpit and my leg collapsed on the ground from cramp and soreness. I sat on the wet concrete, laughing, until my leg's feeling tingled back.
There was a cafeteria in the building and we ordered a cup of coffee and a sandwich. Then my pilot went somewhere to check on the weather. He reappeared in 20 minuses, doing something to his life vest. 'Come on," he said. "It's getting thick most of the way. I don't want to stay here all night, God knows. If we get out right now we ought to make it. I got a clearance O.K."