Reflex Actions

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The machine wouldn't read my credit card.

That's not uncommon ... sometimes the contacts on my card are dirty, sometimes the contacts on the machine are dirty ... no big deal. Just lick your thumb, rub the contacts, and try again.

So I did that. Or at least, I tried to do that. But I was wearing a mask. Have to say I felt rather stupid.

Still, it reminded me of a story recounted by Charlie Duke.

Brigadier General (ret'd) Charles Moss Duke Jr was the tenth man to walk on the Moon, and CapCom for the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Neil Armstrong personally requested that Charlie be the CapCom, and it's Charlie's easy-going Southern Drawl you hear on the famous recording saying: "Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground."
Recording of the descent and landing:
Rachel Wright and I saw him speak in 2012, and he was engaging, informative, charming, and a real delight.

But one of the anecdotes he told us was about changing the film magazine on the camera that was mounted on the front of his space suit. He'd finished one film, removed the magazine, and was about it insert a new one when he noticed it was a little dirty. So he went to blow the dust off.

Well, that doesn't work so well when you're wearing a space suit, with a space helmet, in the (near) vacuum of space. He said:

  • "The guys at Mission Control didn't say anything, but I could hear them laughing."

OK, so trying to lick your thumb though a face mask isn't all that much like trying to blow dust of a film magazine when you are on the Moon, but maybe it's a little like it, and I'm happy to feel a little kinship with Charlie Duke.

Even if I do still feel a bit stupid.

Is there a moral to the story? Probably not, but it's worth the observation that reflex actions and reactions are sometimes inappropriate, and yet incredibly hard to prevent and change.

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