I love the extraterrestrial tale that's all over the web this morning. It's just so American, and at the same time so human, but no Star Wars screenwriter would dare to invent such an unlikely affair. The gist of the story, if you haven't seen it already, is that a 43-year-old female astronaut named Lisa Nowak was arrested for the attempted kidnapping of another woman, an Air Force captain, whom she apparently considers as a romantic rival with respect to a male astronaut. Although the term "kidnapping" is used, it would appear that Nowak's actions could be described more correctly as a premeditated assault, since she concealed her identity by means of a wig and used a can of pepper spray to get a hate message across to her rival. After the attack, police discovered that the astronaut had been carrying, besides the pepper spray, a pellet pistol, a knife, a steel hammer and a meter of rubber tubing... which is almost enough to deter space invaders. If an ordinary passenger tried to get aboard an airliner with such equipment, it would surely arouse suspicions. It might be a fact that this is normal stuff carried around in their handbags by female astronauts. After all, would you expect amazons in that line of work to go around with lipstick and powder puffs in their bags?
One would imagine naively that the Nasa would carefully screen their candidates [click here for news] to reject individuals capable of getting enmeshed in such an imbroglio. Even the mother superior of a nunnery would surely be smart enough to detect signs of vocational inadequacies in the case of a woman who's capable of expressing her charity towards others by means of pepper spray.
Medical authorities in the Holy City have long been aware of a kind of hysteria—known as Jerusalem fever or Jerusalem syndrome—that attacks pilgrims every now and again. The victim (usually, according to hospital statistics, an American male protestant) suddenly goes mad. He throws off his clothes and starts to cry out prophecies in the street. Fortunately, the victim gets back to normal after a calm day or so in a Jerusalem psychiatric clinic.
It's possible that I have a mixed-up mind, but I've often imagined that the euphoria of floating around the Earth in a spaceship could bring on the same kind of ecstatic affliction. I'm convinced that an imaginative astronaut would be capable of creating such a crazy entertaining happening. In any case, the next time they send Lisa up in the air, I'll be glued to the TV news accounts, on the off-chance that she might provide us with a spontaneous space act of one kind or another.
PS Maybe I should cease to joke about these events. Since writing my post this morning, I've learned that Lisa Nowak is charged with attempted murder. So, I'll leave today's blog intact, but I'll say no more about this weird affair. Meanwhile, I can hear the bells of electronic cash registers ringing already as literary agents vie to purchase the film rights of this fabulous story.