Sarah, it’s time to come home

Please. Just move into your gated and reinforced compound, hide there for thirty years or so, and fade away. You’re just too damn polarizing to even consider as a public servant anymore. You’re beautiful, but you’re scary, and you’re too mean to take seriously anymore. Come home to Alaska. Hide. Please. For the good of the nation.

The Hoist Operator’s Glove

My experience over the years has been that the conversation during most middle of the night searches eventually devolves to potty humor. Surprisingly, the flight mech in this story never became particularly famous, though for a long time I was half convinced that some fisherman would recover the glove, and turn it over to police thinking that he had found a dismembered and rotten hand, still inside the glove — the result of some mafia related event. I don’t think any of us who survived it were quite able to do this tale justice, no matter how many times we told it over the years.

I was still an Ensign, flying second seat in an HH-65A out of Group/Airstation Cape May on an early morning search for an overdue canoe that was lost in the Chesapeake. Just as we crossed into the search area on Chesapeake Bay, the cabin filled with the most abnormal stench our LCDR Aircraft Commander had ever smelled.

The AC said, eyes watering, “What is that smell? Do you think there’s been some kind of industrial accident?”

Our Rescue Swimmer responded, “No sir. I think that was our flight mechanic.”

The AC said, as tears began to stream from his eyes, “No, no. Nobody alive could make a smell like that. Bill, call Group and see if there are any factories near here. Maybe there’s something in the news.”

I said, “Well, okay, but. . .” I looked back, and the rescue swimmer was sitting in the flight mechanic’s seat. “What are you doing there?”

He couldn’t decide whether to laugh or die of embarrassment. “Flight mech made me move up here.”

“What’s he doing?”

“He’s back in my seat,” which was up against the rear wall of the cabin, as far from the rest of the crew as he could get. “And he doesn’t have a stitch of clothing on.”


“Sir, he made me come up here, went back there, and took off every-thing. He’s just took a shit in the hoist operator’s glove.”

The aircraft commander was one of the more flexible officers I ever served with, but he just couldn’t accept that story, and argued that it couldn’t be happening as reported. I thought that the smell alone should have convinced him.

As it happened, the flight mechanic was producing liquid only, and had done a truly magnificent job, considering the circumstances and the complete lack of warning to the two pilots. He completely filled the hoist glove, until the fingers were inflated, so that it looked almost like there was a hand in it, and hadn’t spilled a single drop in the cabin.

The flight mech tied off his impromptu porta-potty, and we used a modification on the “Deploy the Marker Beacon” emergency procedure to jettison the glove.

The aircraft commander tapped a steady rhythm on the instrument cowling and didn’t speak at all for about five minutes after the glove deployment. He eventually asked, “What the hell caused that?”

“l’m sorry sir, but my wife gave me some chicken tacos for dinner last night, and I just haven’t felt right ever since.”

“Why the hell didn’t you go to sick call?”

“Sir, I didn’t have any idea that might happen, I promise.”

Somehow we believed him.

The AC finally said, “Never do that again. If you have to do something like that, you tell me. We’ll land and you can get out.”

“I’m sorry, sir. But where would we have landed?”

“I don’t care. I’d rather crash than have that happen in my aircraft again. I’ll do anything to never have that happen again.”