9 April 2011
MAUNA KEA, HAWAII -- If I had to make you a recommendation between the flight from New York to Hawaii and the agonizing trek up the intimidating slopes of Mauna Kea, I would recommend just shooting yourself in the kneecap. Some airlines accommodate handicapped customers with more leg room and Mauna Kea is very welcoming to visitors who want to brave the crags without using their legs. Problem solved. Suck up the pain.
That's what crossed through my mind when I finally reached the visitor's center to find the same wheelchaired prick I'd left behind me when I began my drive up the unpaved road.
At the visitor's center, a guide told me that everyone had to stay in the building to acclimatize to the altitude - now a paltry 9,200 feet - or risk their head exploding from the lack of atmospheric pressure at the summit or, more embarrassing, passing out up there from lack of oxygen. Disgusted with the general incompetence of the public at large and the rules put in place to make sure they didn't kill themselves and then sue, I stepped into the center's bathroom. Hallelujah, a window, I thought. Boosting myself up on the sink, I slid the tinted glass to the side, pushed open the screen, and let myself fall to the ground outside. From there, it was just a quick, conspicuous run to my Jeep, a turn of the key, a sputter, another turn of the key, and I was on my way to the summit. No lack of oxygen would slow me down from the top of this mountain: I'm a journalist, not the incompetent public! I'd thought about hiking Everest! I threw my mixed CD into the player and listened to 16 consecutive tracks of Spose's song I'm Awesome.
You can imagine how pissed I was to find the wheelchair fuck already up there. He was talking through this machine that made his voice sound like the really smart wheelchair character in a couple of the Simpsons episodes, which I found hilarious. He must be infatuated with the Simpsons to make his talking machine sound like such a minor character from the show - only freaks would get the reference and it makes him come off looking retarded. He was talking to this other person and walking - well, he wasn't walking; he couldn't - across the parking lot and towards a huge dome in the distance. I remembered hearing something about a black hole and solar prominences, which was just dumb.
"Are you here for the tour?" someone asked from behind me. I played it all cool and said that yes, I was.
Half an hour later, I was in one of the domes and was shocked to see a huge telescope in it, pointing at the sky through a crack in the dome. "We're doing some daylight viewing of the moon in here, the Keck I reflector," the tour guide said, making my ears perk up. This was the story I'd been sent to cover. My magazine was trying to jump on the Twilight bandwagon by running a special issue on werewolves. Several of my lesser colleagues had been sent to Transylvania in search of the real thing, another to Hogwarts to interview Professor Lupin, and I'd gotten this assignment to study what effect the moon really had on the creatures. I'd originally intended to book a seat on a rocket to the moon, but funding didn't cut it, so I had to content myself with this substitute. My editor would be hearing about my hardships as soon as I got back.
"You can take a peek in the visitor's eyepiece right here," the tour guide went on. I couldn't believe it. Everyone knew that the moon only came out during the night, yet here this tour guide's trying to tell me that it was in the sky during the day? Instantaneously, I knew this was either some sort of joke or a conspiracy, and it was up to me, a journalist, to see through it. So when it was my turn to look through the lens, I readied myself to scrutinize the shadows and look for any discrepancy, sure that it would be some photoshopped image or a hologram or something.
I looked through the eyepiece, to find that weird light gray thing that sometimes appears in the sky during the day, surrounded by light blue. I peered up through the split in the dome to find the sky the exact same color as in the eyepiece, and, to my great surprise, that roundish gray thing was there, right where the telescope tube was pointing. This was far too expensive to be a joke, I realized. I was in the middle of a government conspiracy. The sheer impact of the realization made it hard to breathe, as if I were running out of oxygen. I looked back in the lens; it looked real; I couldn't see any obvious mistakes. Choosing my words carefully in an attempt to not blow my cover and gain as much information as possible, I asked, "So, you say that's the moon?"
The tour guide took the question in stride, not even thinking about the motivation behind my question (I'd phrased it so well), and answered, "Yes, that's the moon."
As I looked, however, things began to get a little blurry. The illusion was giving out; my mind powers were conquering the government conspiracy. I looked up in triumph, only to find that the entire world was a government conspiracy; it was all blurry. The dizziness was incredible, but nothing could wipe the smile of victory from my face, not even the killer headache that had suddenly...
When I next gained consciousness, I was back in the visitor's center with an oxygen tent over my face. The memory of what I'd found out came rushing back to me, and I quickly ran over what I'd learned: Breathing pure oxygen is awesome. Sometimes, when you pass out, you shit yourself. There's no reason good enough to not bring spare underwear on a trip. And, lastly, that weird gray thing in the sky is the moon. Trust me; I'm a journalist.
|This article features first-hand journalism by an UnNews correspondent.|