"When Martians Tee Off In The Spring," by B. Elwin Sherman

 We've all heard and seen the expression: “Well, now I've seen and heard


Most of us have used it, usually when addressing small children

who've done something that defies gravity or any other natural law.

I remember my mother practically making it a mantra during my boyhood,

beginning about the time I thought it practicable to jump off the barn roof with

an umbrella.

I've never used it. I'm saving it for the day I see and hear a politician

say: “Well, we may have lost the election, but you fools are on your own and I'm

keeping the bus.”

I did come close, recently, when I heard and saw retired NASA engineer Jim

McLane's proposal that we send a manned spaceship to Mars. This is nothing new.

We can all agree that sending a human to Mars is somewhere in our future but

isn't really realistic, not until we've first advanced our earth-based

technologies enough to provide us with some other basic needs: like how to

travel at the speed of light and make a truly squirrel-proof birdfeeder.

I'm not romantically-minded enough, however, to only see the pioneering

grandeur of going to the Red Planet in person. We've already been there with an

unmanned explorer, and the first legacy we left behind was a junk car.

We did this before on the lunar surface, and since then, I can't look up into

a moon-bright night sky without seeing lost golf balls and an abandoned buggy on

what is now our earthly satellite's biggest sand trap. For me, the man in the

moon is now a duffer with a dead electric car.

Engineer Jim claims that we do have the capacity to set out for Mars today,

but with one sticky caveat: The Martianaut pilot would have to stay there. Well,

this is like saying that a parachute is not necessary to jump out of a plane …

unless you want to do it again.

To this end, check the message boards. I love the message boards. They are

those meeting places on internet news websites, where readers respond to a story

by giving their opinions on the writer and the story, but mostly inject

expletives on how they feel about other message boarders:

“Oh yeah? Well, Crazy Cyber Boy can go (expletive) his (expletive) if he

thinks that voting for that (expletive) will make us (remaining message

deleted)!!!! Signed: Sane Cyber Girl.”

For this story, I found more people out there ready to fly off to this

interplanetary cul-de-sac than you might think. One woman wanted to know how to

volunteer her husband. Another said he'd go if he could bring his Game Boy and

junk food. One guy said he'd be glad to live there, because it was the only

place he'd never run into his ex-girlfriend. My favorite was from a reader

named: “Already A Martian In Manhattan,” and I think you know all you need to

know about him.

I'm holding with Woody Allen on this one. He once wondered why on earth

anyone would waste time trying to find the secrets of the cosmos, when it's

impossible just finding your way around Chinatown.

But, I'm willing to go starry-eyed for a moment and don my scientist's cap.

One warning: My technological prowess is limited to still wondering how

scientists can make toothpaste come out of its tube pre-striped, so don't quote


Engineer Jim also suggests that we could send TWO Martianauts on this

historic flight, which “might even consist of a male/female team.” For this

journey, it's estimated that the couple will need a million pounds of supplies

(fuel, food, instruments, a hair dryer and one humongous beer cooler).

Okay, imagine a young, adventurous Adam & Eve planning a comparable

honeymoon trip to Disneyland:

They'll first need to agree on a “launch window.” For this trip, one comes

around approximately every 26 months. This has something to do with what

scientists call an “apogee,” which also makes striped toothpaste possible, and

is not enough time for the average couple to agree on what not to pack or when

they'll leave.

If, by some miracle, they do make the launch window, they'll have to travel

non-stop for a year without ever leaving their car, while towing the equivalent

of 13 tractor-trailer shuttles. This doesn't allow for the extra time needed

when the male (driver) Martianaut ignores the female (passenger reading the map)

Martianaut's directions, and they then find themselves having to back up and

turn around as they zoom over what looks like West Neptune.

If, by some further miracle, they do finally get to Mars, they'll be stuck

with only each other's company for eternity in a bleak, unforgiving environment

cold enough to make ice freeze, or as we rookie New Hampshire scientists call it

here: Spring.

Meanwhile, Houston, standby. The Eagle has birdied!”

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B. Elwin Sherman still won't play golf on this planet or in his home town of

Bethlehem, N.H.  He can be reached via his website at:

elwinshumor.com.  Copyright 2008 B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved.

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