Precautionary Chopper Tale


I’ve seen reality TV where the sweet young thing is impressed with the new suitor treating her to a helicopter ride over the city. She trots on board in a mini dress and stilettos. Someone should tell her these rides can get ugly.
And they don’t get much uglier than my first and only helicopter ride. We left early in the morning to meet the chopper at a small airport. My husband and I were shooting video for a forest industry company. He told me it could get chilly if they took the door off to get better shots. I dressed in multiple layers including tights and heavy sweatpants and a winter jacket.
Our flight was delayed several hours and all that was available at the airport was coffee. After about five cups, the chopper arrived and we boarded in a rush just before noon. We were packed into the two back seats, shoulder to shoulder. All I saw in front of me were the backs of two front seats. The side view wasn’t much better. The windows were a thick solid plastic so the view was less than clear, which was the least of my problems.
The pilot wouldn’t remove the door for safety reasons, so Tony had to use a little door in the side window that slid open to allow his camera lens a clear shot. The pilot told us how to use our radio headphones to communicate with him. I understood why once we took off, the noise inside the cabin made any other kind of communication impossible.
I was feeling a little claustrophobic, a little overdressed and my belly was sore from going too long without solid food.
“You okay?” Tony smiled.
“Great!” I lied.
As we left the airport and crossed the Canso Causeway, we were both shooting. At precisely one minute and a half on my camcorder, I felt a heave. It came on quickly. I just had time to grab the barf bag and shut the camera off. For the next few minutes, I heaved and heaved, gasping, choking and barfing into the bag. Breakfast was closer than I thought.
“You sure you’re okay?” Tony asked.
What he saw was a pale faced sweating woman with her head in a bag.
“Fine,” I lied again.
The pilot and his passenger, the man with the maps, thought the opening for the camera let in the cold, so they cranked the heater. My menopausal body responded with the hottest hot flash. For anyone who hasn’t had one, picture molten lava under the surface of your skin and the only way to get relief is for you to tear off all your clothes and run naked through a snowdrift. But there wasn’t room to even remove my jacket, or my turtleneck sweater, or the warmest, sweatiest sweatpants I had ever put on.
So I sat still, while sweat ran down my front and my back and curled my hair, while my skin felt like it would erupt; and then I smelled it. Diesel fuel. Just as my flash subsided, my sinuses inhaled the strong scent of diesel and my belly revolted again. This went on for at least an hour as we flew from one tree plantation to the next. When we got to each new one, the pilot would dip down suddenly to give Tony a better angle. It was during one of these sudden drops, when my belly heaved and my sides ached, that I thought life couldn’t get any worse, and then it did.
Let’s just say a river ran through me for the rest of the afternoon. Heaving only made matters worse. Fortunately, I was too sick to care.
The pilot pointed out Barney’s River. I looked down and prayed with all my heart for sudden impact. Dead or alive, I just wanted out. Tony took his eyes off his camera for a second and gasped as he looked at me. My face was green, my eyes bulged and I smelled really bad.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Fine,” I said, little trooper that I am.
We finally returned to the airport. Getting out, my legs wobbled and I couldn’t face the pilot. I wrapped my jacket around my waist to cover my lower half. I went directly into the bathroom. When I looked in the mirror, I saw that I was soaked to the knees. Fortunately, I was too sick to care.



D D’Amour

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