Up, Up and Away: Steve Fossett plays his games

Funny story written by Chuck Terzella

Sunday, 30 November 2003

I recently caught sight of a news item that Steve Fossett is trying to get really high. In a glider I mean. You may remember that Mr. Fossett was the first moron to fly solo around the world in hot air balloon. Why is he a moron? Well, that's a good question and I'm glad I asked it. I'll tell you.

Mr. Fossett's first successful attempt to solo in a hot air balloon in 2002 was the sixth time Mr. Fossett had attempted that particular trick. He'd spent millions trying to do something that won't in any way, shape or form benefit mankind. It's not like there was anyone out there saying," You know, if only someone could circle the globe in a hot air balloon, then we can finally get rid of all these ships and planes and get global transportation back on the right track."

Now, don't get me wrong. I definitely like hot air balloons. They're pretty and it's a real trip to see them gathered together for those balloon festivals. (That reminds me, I really should go to one of those Balloon Festivals and see if they're really as pretty as I just said they were. It might stink, but hey, let's not let reality get in the way of a good story. I mean, I don't even like reality to get in the way of, well, reality.)

Perhaps he just wanted to set a record. If that's the case, I think he can relax, since he already has, more than one, in fact. Aside from the big one, which is of course floating around the planet all by himself ( that still just gets me) he gets my vote for setting the record for spending the most cash on a completely pointless endeavour.

Every time Steve got the urge to go for a float, he got some airplay on radio and TV ( at least I think he got on TV, but since I don't watch it I can't really be sure. But since one of the reasons I stopped watching TV was that they kept showing rich egocentric dopes doing things like wasting money trying to fly hot air balloons around the world, I think it's a safe bet that there's been some footage on the evening news.) and the press refers to him as ‘The American millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett'. I guess that's kind of cool, being referred to as a millionaire adventurer. It draws me a picture of L.L. Bean shirts and rugged good looks ( although to be fair, I've never seen Mr. Fossett; he could look like a wanker). I bet you he owns at least one Land Rover or Land Cruiser that he tools around the streets of Chicago in, looking, well, rugged.

I guess there's the aspect of being the first at something, pitting yourself against the elements and achieving some personal goal. My problem is it shouldn't cost you millions each time you want to pit yourself against the elements; hell, I could face the elements quite comfortably with an extra couple of grand in my account. Mr. Fossett should try a winter in the Catskill Mountains (for the edification of UK readers the Catskills are as the name implies, mountains. They're northwest of New York City and is the home of the famous village of Woodstock, where in 1969 the Village Elders would most definitely not allow a music festival with a half million lice infested hippies anywhere near their pristine little enclave, forcing the promoters to move it to Yasgur's Farm in Bethel, New York some sixty miles away. Bethel already had lice, so no one there cared.) with only a wood stove for heat and no money in the bank. That's adventure.

As for the personal goal thing, I might be way off base here, but I'd have a whole lot more respect for the guy if he said," You know, I got several million I don't need; maybe I should help some of the millions that are less fortunate than me. Maybe I'll go to Africa or South America and help some people drill a well or get electricity to their remote villages. Then they can have a drink of clean water and watch some idiot on TV doing something really useless, like trying to fly a balloon around the world.

I don't know, maybe I'm just looking at this the wrong way. Perhaps Mr. Fossett has the right of it. Perhaps by trying to do something that very few people care about, much less would feel like doing themselves or even be able to afford to attempt, he cuts down his chances for competition to a point where he's got only one or two other serious contenders for the stunt he's attempting. And let's be honest, this is just a stunt, like the guy who encases himself in a glass cube for forty days or someone who eats thirty seven hot dogs at one sitting (to hear my wife tell it, eating even one hot dog is a crazy and dangerous stunt. Do you know what's in those things?). So the only one Mr. Fossett has to beat is himself.

(While Mr. Fossett is beating himself, I'd like to digress for a moment. I'm trying to quit smoking. My doctor gave me some anti-depressant tablets which he says has a side effect of helping smokers to give up cigarettes. I'm still smoking, but at least I'm not depressed about it.)

Yet for all his advantages, money, lack of competition and rugged looking shirts, Mr. Fossett still can't seem to be satisfied. Do you think he feels down about this? Does he lay awake at night thinking," Well, they're all laughing at me, thinking I'm an idiot for doing this and of course they keep showing my failures on TV. And for that matter, even if I do succeed, in two years, if you ask someone who was the first to circle the globe in a hot air balloon or get high in a glider or whatever no one will even remember my name?"

Well, Mr. Fossett, if that happens don't worry too much. My doctor has these pills that will make even you feel better about yourself.

The funny story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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