Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Adventures in Flying or Curse you, stomach!

Since I can remember I've been susceptible to motion sickness. From when I was really little like 5 or 6 and I'd puke after riding up Pacific Coast Highway, to my teenage years when I tried one roller coaster at Six Flags (Flashback) and then promptly found other things to do that day after it made my spine and neck feel so bad that they tried to remove themselves from my body, all the way until now. A great partner of mine got annoyed at this and showed me a neat trick that cured me 99% of my motion sickness that I’ll share with you. I would get nauseous in the black and white when I would be updating the Log of Activities. My partner told me that I don’t need the car stopped to avoid getting sick. If we were parked in a crummy neighborhood, that was not a very strategic position to be in. He said to look up, look straight ahead and reset your eyes on the horizon whenever the car accelerated, decelerated or changed direction. This would reset my equilibrium and avoid nausea. It’s worked so far every time in the black and white and elsewhere.

Among the perks of working for a big metropolitan police department is the sheer variety of jobs available, well over 200. You can be a patrol copper, like Taylor and Zavala from End of Watch, you can be SWAT, K9, Bomb Squad, a detective (within detectives there are a bunch more options) and on and on. Then, there's the Air Ship (or what non-coppers call the police helicopter). The Air Ship is our eye in the sky. If coppers on the ground are pursuing a stolen vehicle, or in foot pursuit of a suspected criminal, if we can get the Air Ship overhead our chances of catching the person go from really good to almost certain. The Air Ship provides the department with a distinct tactical advantage. It always has at least two police officers, one pilot, one observer. The pilot’s job is to fly the Air Ship - no small task. The observer's job is to do everything else: watch what's going on on the ground, give direction to officers on the ground, coordinate with news helicopters and airplanes to avoid collisions, etc., etc. These also guys get paid much more than the rank and file who push a black and white. It's also fun! Hence the two reasons I wanted to be in the Air Ship, money and fun. What else is there? So a few years ago I took the first step, I went on a "fly along" in the Air Ship. Air Ship officers get to wear cool looking hybrid police flight suits/uniforms. Seriously how fucking sweet do those unis look? Most of these guys are more than a little cocky. After going up all I can say is they have reason to be. FLYING IS THE SHIT! Flying over Los Angeles in a helicopter is amazing. First off, no traffic. If you want to get from the tip of San Pedro down in Harbor Division all the way to the very northwest corner of the city in Chatsworth which is Devonshire division (over fifty miles) you’re talking fifteen, maybe twenty minutes flying . This would be a two hour drive most days, a little over an hour at night without traffic. The craziest thing is how fast everything moves. I mean what would take you twenty to thirty minutes to drive to in your car takes under five minutes in the Air Ship. The landmarks look wild from up in the sky and it’s like you’re seeing a lot of the stuff for the first time. MacArthur Park still looks like a shit hole. The LA Memorial Coliseum is surreal. There wasn’t anything going on, so it wasn’t lit up. The lights from the city cast the biggest shadow over the inside, it looked like a giant, black void. I was observing the pilot and the observer work when a Back Up Request came out in 77th division, possible burglary suspects at Locke High School. The Air Ship abruptly changed course, and flew directly there. Once near the high school, the Air Ship began its orbit, which is a hard and continuous left turn. Our Air Ships don’t hover because a) it’s really difficult and b) in case of a catastrophic engine failure, forward momentum gives you the best chance at survival. The pilot sits in the right seat, so the leftward orbit is so the observer can see best. If it went the other way all he’d see looking out the side would be sky. So after about five minutes of this my stomach decided it had had enough and immediately began trying to free itself from my body. I must have looked awful because I felt green. The observer had told me to tell them if I got ill. Before going up I contemplated Dramamine, but I decided against that because I wanted to be awake and alert the whole time. So I chose a mega dose of Ginger, which is supposed to naturally do what Dramamine does. Sadly, Ginger was no match for five minutes of orbiting. I grabbed the airsick bag, told the observer I wasn’t feeling well and he said over the engine noise, “Alright, no problem! We’ll head in quickly. Just fix your eyes on the horizon and BREATHE DEEPLY!” I did as I was told and felt like I was going to spew my guts out but somehow didn’t until they were done orbiting. I was a little better once they leveled off and then made the seemingly 2 minute flight from 77th to land at Air Support headquarters. Once we landed I felt awful and sweaty in a cold and gross sort of way. I took my time and had a Diet Coke, the carbonation really agreed with my stomach and I then went home. I’m glad I went up. I used to seriously daydream about being the observer, getting paid well to ride in a police helicopter all day and tell everyone where to go and what to do. This dream was no more, but now, onto other adventures.

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