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Just when you thought you’d seen it all

Ladies and gentlemen, I think I’ve seen it all. When I first wrote the account you’re about to read — on Aug. 20, 1997 — I thought this story was about the most outlandish I’d ever heard. It was so bizarre that — with my columnist career less than a month old — I developed the highly unfair reputation of stretching the truth right off the bat, something you and I know I don’t do at all.

I may make the truth prettier than most, but I generally don’t stretch it hardly at all. I would be willing to testify before Congress that what I write always vaguely resembles the truth, mostly.

Twenty-one years ago when I first penned this story, I never would have imagined that it would pale in unbelievableness to the facts that surround us daily in this generation. But, still, I think I will nominate our story for the annual and well-known journalism unbelieveableness award and see what happens.

I offer one small disclaimer in the beginning. I do not remember all the details of what happened in our story. But I shall give you the facts as I remember them. When I can’t remember them, I promise that I will fill the gaps with something else and you probably won’t know the difference.

What we know is that there was this fella — I don’t know exactly when or where, except it was sometime before 1997 because that was when I first told the story — and this fella apparently got a few wires dangling loose in the hippocampus of his brain. As I understand it, that is the section of the brain that says, “Are you nuts?” right before you do or say something really stupid.

Anyway, the fella in question got tired of the same-old, same-old down on the ground. So, he decided he’d like to live life for a while a little higher. He took his lawn chair, attached four big helium balloons to it, and planned to go up in the air and hover 30 or40 feet in the air right above his house. And to show us that he was in tune with the hippocampus of his brain, he took a pellet gun with him so he could shoot a few of the balloons out whenever he decided to come down.

He also carried along a six pack of beer for the ride, although there is evidence that he consumed one or two before liftoff.

When asked if that were true, he said he could not remember but that under no circumstance did he black out.

If the fella had just taken the time to read Mr. Steinbeck’s warning about the best laid plans, he surely would not have ignored his hippocampus.

As soon as this fellow cut the rope that held the chair down, he shot up in the air like a rocket.  The next thing he knew, he was 30,000 feet in the air, and his bladder was completely empty. That is a fact, because, scientifically, the bladder cannot elevate suddenly 100-miles-per-hour into the air without emptying. Look it up, if you like. Now, since your brain, much like the bladder, cannot absorb sudden shocks, I will pause a moment for you to absorb the 30,000 feet detail. As you absorb it, don’t you wonder, as I do, what the man’s hippocampus was saying to him on that ride? I don’t know if the hippocampus curses, but it does now.

Now, unlike what is common in today’s news, I am going to tell you that at this point in our story I may fill in a few gaps with what I think maybe could have and might have happened, possibly.

As this man’s chair skyrocketed 30,000 feet, his hair stood up on the back of his neck like a scared porcupine.

His heart fell all the way down to his toes — part of it down one leg, the other part down the other — and his lungs went the other way and got hung in his throat and would have deprived air flowing properly to his brain if it were not for the fact that air stopped flowing properly to his brain when he absolutely did not black out earlier.

Sometime later, a plane flew by and saw the man up there in the air. For the record, I couldn’t make this up if I tried. We can only imagine the pilot’s call-in to the air controller: “Come in, this is 907. We are at 30,000 feet, and we just spotted a man sitting in a lawn chair with four helium balloons attached. He is armed and presumed dangerous.”

We’ll close the curtain on the remainder of that scene. We will just say that the messages eventually were conveyed sufficiently, but not without difficulty, and, after some time, a helicopter was dispatched to rescue the man.

You and I both know it would take more than a helicopter to rescue a man whose brain convinces him that hovering 30 or 40 feet above your house is a bright idea. Obviously, his brain wasn’t right. When he dies, I hope somebody has the foresight to do a thorough scientific study on that man.

I recommend they start with the hippocampus.