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Tuesday, December 11, 2012
I stopped reading for a moment, so I could let my mind explore what kind of circumstances that might result in a man falling from the sky. My first thought, of course, was "Superhero Malfunction". I hastily poo-poohed the notion, recognizing that I am probably the only adult over the age of 45 that actually believes in superheroes and that it would seem silly if I said it out loud. "Absent-Minded Sky-Diver" came to mind, as did "Faulty Landing". The idea of murder began to form in my mind and I wondered what kind of skullduggery might have been going on to have the streets of London raining men from the sky. Perhaps there was one of those James Bond-type spy-fights and a deserving villain had been tossed haughtily from a hot air balloon or a single-engine Cessna that was now on its way to a Carribean rendezvous with an exotic beauty on a fancy yacht.
I read on.
Apparently, it was no murder or spy-based villainy. It appears that a man had most likely stowed away in the undercarriage of a passenger jet from Angola, having scrambled up into the plane via the craft's landing gear. There are no leads on what might have led the man to attempt such a dangerous feat. Authorities found no identification and have no idea who the man was or what type of life or trouble from which he might have been fleeing. A tragedy, plain and simple. That said, I have a couple of thoughts.
Angola is not land-locked. If one needed to get out of the country, perhaps a boat heading out into the Atlantic Ocean might be a safer place to attempt the stowaway move. Sure, it wouldn't be as quick, but at some point safety must trump haste. If the man did not need to escape the continent, he might have simply walked, driven, bicycled, rode a horse or tunneled into the Congo, Nambia or Botswana. I've always heard that if you want a new start, the Congo is the place to go. However, if leaving the continent was not negotiable and speed a necessity, then perhaps actually boarding the plane and sitting in a seat might have been a much better option. The flight attendants will even serve you drinks and give you peanuts and you can nap comfortably, listening to the soothing music of Kenny G, rather than squeezed into a cold, dark - undoubtedly loud - metal box with your back pressed against a huge rubber tire.
As a last resort, if stowing away with the landing gear is the only option available to you, please do a little research. Experts say the man probably died of lack of oxygen and hypothermia within an hour of takeoff, due to the altitude at which passenger jets fly. When the gear came down to land at Heathrow, the body simply spilled out. He was wearing jeans and a sweater. You've got to dress for your trip, as my mother used to say. If a spacesuit is not available for your travels, buy a good warm coat. And maybe one of those oxygen tanks, like the old folks wheel around. You won't look as cool when you scramble up into the gear-port, dragging your oxygen tank or your spacesuit, but again, safety first.
I hope this helps any other would-be stowaways. Remember, the grass is always greener on the other side of the border - please think twice before you bolt. And dress for success!