Sunday, September 2, 2012

Memphis Sky... and the Vah-Too

Sunday night, or Labor Day Eve as the Nuke might term it. There I am, sitting in CIC (Combat Information Center) at Chez Sarge, fooling around on the computer as I am wont to do, when the phone rings. It's the WSO.

Me: "What's up sweetie?"

The WSO: "Oh, we're all huddled in the closet. Waiting for the storm to pass."

The hair on the back of my neck stands up as I order that the Intellicast weather site be brought up on the main display.

Imaginary Subordinate (IS): "Intellicast coming up on main viewer Captain!"

Me: "Center the display on Memphis."

IS: "Memphis as in ...?"

Me: "Tennessee of course. Make it quick!"

IS" "Making it quick. Aye!"

(Some of the events in this post have been overly-dramatized for, hopefully, comedic effect. No imaginary watch standers were injured, abused or otherwise perturbed in the writing of this post.)

As the weather display comes up, I can see that there is a tornado watch in effect for much of the area around Memphis. And to the southeast there is a tornado warning in effect. As you may gather at this point, I have family in Memphis.

The Nuke lives in Memphis. The Missus, the WSO and Little Bit are visiting Memphis. So some people who are near and dear to me were, potentially, in harm's way.

Now the huddling in the closet bit? We learned that while stationed in Omaha, Nebraska. An area prone to tornadoes and such. For some reason, base housing did not have basements. A very useful thing to have in tornado country. (Ah, I know the reason! Cheaper to build base housing if you don't put in a basement. Probably a fiscally sound decision made by some spreadsheet cowboy in the Pentagon. But when you're observing a funnel cloud on it's way ground-ward a mere mile from one's position, it feels like they SHOULD HAVE BUILT THE HOUSE OVER A DAMN BASEMENT! But I digress...)

Those who know such things will advise those without basements to head for an interior room in the house. A closet under a staircase is good. (We had one of those.) A bathroom on a lower level is also good (all those pipes and such provide reinforcement, I guess.)

So there were a number of times in Omaha that the Old AF Sarge Tribe huddled in the closet, listening to storm reports on a battery-powered radio. I'm very pleased that the Nuke and the WSO did not forget their early Air Force training. (Yeah, yeah, I know. The Navy probably teaches that stuff too. Just trying to give my old service SOME credit.)

While talking to the WSO, she informed me that the "All Clear" had been sounded and the troops were returning to their positions. In front of the TV, watching a movie. And as she normally does, the WSO said "Well, Dad. I've got to let you go."

She always says that like I imagine a supervisor would tell someone that they've either been laid-off or fired. "Gee Jonesy, you've been a good worker. But times are hard and we're gonna have to let you go."

And yes, she does it intentionally. She thinks it's funny. And really it is. It's just part of the shtick for me and the WSO. As I've mentioned in the past, her sense of humor is as goofy as mine.

So the WSO let me go. So to speak. And I returned to my computing activities. (Well, I wasn't actually doing any computing. Just goofing around you know. Surfing the web, reading my blog-buddies' latest posts, etc., etc. - May have been a game of Free Cell or three in the mix as well, I dunno.)

Then the Nuke calls. Immediately I'm thinking the storm has intensified or some other natural disaster is about to commence. Nope. She just wants to know if I received the video she made on her cell phone of the lightning gracing the Memphis sky.

Checking the old e-mail account, sure enough, there's a short video. Upon watching it, I can hear my wife, daughters and granddaughter in the background. And I catch something which always gives me a chuckle. (That's a hint that I'm about to address the second part of the title of this post. And I'm sure you're all wondering, "What the heck is a Vah-Too?")

At about the five-second mark of the video, you can hear Little Bit exclaim "My Vah-Too!" And for a second or so she's trying to get the attention of the adults in the room.

Now a "Vah-Too" is what Little Bit calls her pacifier. Don't know why. We've consulted the family's linguistic expert (that would be me) and other sources and we cannot for the life of us figure out why Little Bit calls her pacifier a Vah-Too. But she does.

For amusement she likes to fling her Vah-Too away from her to make the adults fetch it. Normally she will fling it into anything nearby which is dirty, dusty, unswept or otherwise unclean. So of course, part of the game of fetch involves cleaning the Vah-Too off prior to returning it to Little Bit.

On family outings, each member of the family is detailed to carry a spare Vah-Too. Sort of like carrying extra ammo for the machine gun I suppose. WSO, as Little Bit's Mom, acts as the Assistant Vah-Too. Which means she usually has a zip-lock bag with 4 or 5 spare Vah-Toos. Believe me, on a long outing Little Bit can go through a lot of Vah-Toos. Primarily because of the inability to rinse off the Vah-Too (once it's been flung) on an outing around town, or at the beach, or at the zoo. (When we rode the train at the zoo in Virginia Beach, Little Bit threw her Vah-Too from the train. Not to make us play fetch, but because she was perturbed and annoyed at being made to ride the train.)

Now in the video (corroboration was provided by the Nuke post facto) apparently, when Little Bit proclaims "My Vah-Too!", she had just flung the Vah-Too off of the balcony of the Nuke's apartment. Where they were watching (and filming) the lightning. As the adults continue to chat, Little Bit again indicates that her Vah-Too has gone over the side. As it were.

Eventually the Missus (Grandma) realizes that something is amiss, and asks Little Bit if she has lost her Vah-Too. The "oh oh" you hear in the video is Little Bit indicating, "Why yes Grandmother. Apparently I have tossed my Vah-Too off of the balcony. And at the moment I am sans Vah-too. Be a dear and get me another, would you?)

Well the Nuke tells me that she dashed out in the storm (which was winding down) and rescued the discarded Vah-Too. Little Bit caught everyone's attention in time in order to activate the family "Vah-Too Overboard" drill and the jettisoned Vah-Too was rescued. And apparently none the worse for the experience.

I forgot to ask the Nuke if it was necessary to perform a "Williamson Turn" during the Vah-Too Overboard evolution.

Probably not. I don't think that would be a reasonable or even possible maneuver in an apartment building. I'll ask her later. Just for the record, I like keeping my facts straight.

It's the amateur historian in me I guess.

Apparently I did not have all of my facts straight. While debriefing the Nuke and the WSO it was made clear to me that the Nuke did not personally rescue the Vah-Too. Seems she was the Officer-of-the-Deck (OOD) during the storm viewing evolution and actually saw the Vah-Too go over the side.

At this point she ordered a fellow watch stander to recover the Vah-Too. Which he did.

That Nuke. A Surface Warfare Officer through and through. Someday I'll have to tell the story of the Nuke and "her" sonar dome. Entertaining. But as I said, a story for another time.


  1. Great post... aren't grandbabies the MOST?

    Apropos o' severe weather... I lived in OKC for a lil over two years and actually bought a house without a basement... or a tornado shelter. Basements are pretty rare in that part o' the world for some reason but tornado shelters are pretty common for yet another reason. The Second Mrs. Pennington and I spent many an anxious moment cowering in the bathroom during springtime.

    1. Yup. I live for the grandkids. Lived in OKC? Man, you must have seen more than a few funnel clouds in THAT area.

  2. Love your stories about the grandkids...its good that the chain of command is clear in that little girl's life!

    1. Oh yes, she pretty much has most things figured out in her little corner of the world. She speaks, the rest of us jump. And I don't mind not one little bit. (Pun intended!)

  3. Vah-Too. Trying to figure that out from a distance and ... nuthin. Kids are cute.

    1. At first I thought it was some Asian language, perhaps Mongolian, but I had misheard "Vah-Too" as "Bah-Too". So nope, no solution. Oh, the WSO's theory as to why Little Bit flung her Vah-Too over the side? Seems she was trying to "pacify" the storm. Heh. Yup, the WSO and I have a similar skewed outlook on things.


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