From The Publisher’s Desk: Knowing how it works isn’t vital

10:09 am | November 5, 2012

I’ve gotten to do a lot of amazing things over the years.

But one of the most extraordinary was getting to hug — and get kissed by — a dolphin while standing in the Caribbean Sea. It was part of an excursion we took while on a Caribbean cruise a few years back.

Amy and I have spent a great deal of time flying back and forth between Tennessee and Louisiana since I moved back here to become publisher of the Elizabethton STAR.

Despite the long lines and endless headaches of air travel, I am, nonetheless, pleased with the opportunities travel brings to us. It keeps us all connected. It, quite literally, broadens our horizons.

It’s extraordinary that by simply boarding an airplane or a ship, I can be transported to a place I’ve only seen in pictures. I still don’t understand how an airplane gets in the air or stays there, but there are some details I don’t need to comprehend. It’s enough for me that someone else — that is, the pilot — understands how it works.

I don’t really get nervous anymore about flying. Years ago, I confided in Cindy Tipton, a co-worker of mine at the Johnson City Press, that I was getting jittery about an upcoming flight.

“Mark,” Cindy said, “it doesn’t matter if you’re on the ground or in a plane. If it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go.”

That’s always been OK with me until my mind begins to wander and comes back with this question: “What if it’s the pilot’s time to go, and I’m on his plane?”

You can overthink things.

I’m equally amazed at how those massive cruise ships float. The ship we were on when we took the dolphin excursion had almost as many people aboard as the number who live in Hampton. How do you put that much stuff and that many people on the water, and it doesn’t sink? Again, I don’t really need to know how it works. It’s enough for me that someone else — that is, the captain — understands how it works.

Not that my mind doesn’t wander.

“Amy,” I said while we were sitting on the balcony of our cruise ship, “do you realize that the Titanic wasn’t even half as big as this ship?”

“Uh huh.”

And, I continue, “How far away was the ship that didn’t answer the Titanic’s distress call?”

“I don’t know,” Amy said, “and, besides, we’re off the coast of Central America. I don’t think we’re going to hit any icebergs.”

I still don’t understand how a plane flies or a ship floats, but I do know how to hug a dolphin. So that this column isn’t a total waste of educational information, I shall share with you what I’ve learned. Hey, look at me, I’m broadening your horizons and you don’t even have to get off the couch!

Our guide at the “Dolphin Encounter” introduced us to our new sea mammal friend, Gracie, who took turns sliding up to us as we dropped down to our knees in waist-deep water and extended both arms under the dolphin’s belly. With each hug, Gracie would raise her tail — sort of like when you pet the dog and you get a wag of the tail. After a hug, you could present yourself to Gracie for a peck on the cheek.

Before we were in the water, the instructor showed us a series of photos, pointing out important things like Gracie’s navel, genital slits and mammary slits — areas to be avoided. “You don’t want to start something,” the instructor said, “that you can’t finish.”

That I understand.

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