Viewpoint: Pack your parachute

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    By STEPHEN SMITH

    About a year ago, I was sitting on an airplane flying over Georgia at about 8 p.m. A normal flight except that I and the 40 other folks on the plane were wearing Army fatigues and backpacks that we were told contained parachutes. Oh, also about four men at the end of the plane were intent on making sure the plane didn’t land with us still inside.

    As the plane flew near the drop zone, two doors opened on either side and the cabin was filled with the roar of the passing air and the faint glow of a green light that was just above these small doors. The light might as well have been and exit sign, because that was the only way I was leaving. I was guaranteed by one of the four men that his boot to my back side would ensure that I took the appropriate exit. The next thing I knew, I was headed straight for the door. The line in front of me quickly diminished and y friends were mercilessly sucked out into the night air. And then, there I was, standing at the door. A scene of blackness, the thundering sound of the plane cruising at 120 miles per hour and the feeling of my stomach doing as many RPMs as the engine has been seared into my memory whether I was assisted by the boot of the onboard sergeant or left on my own will, I don’t quite remember.

    For me, that experience at the U.S. Army Airborne School has served as my own personal benchmark of terror. That experience hits about a 7.8 on my own fear-Richter scale. From this, I have been able to place other terrifying events in my life on the scale and gain a little perspective.

    For instance, a root canal is about a 6.7. The kitchen sink in my apartment ranks about a 5.8 with my roommate’s laundry trailing close behind at a 5.6. Finals week is a nice and even 7.0. But here’s the kicker. Living the rest of my life as a bachelor only marks a 4.3 on the scale, where as just asking a girl on a actual date is completely off the scales.

    Send up the red flags and call out the psycho-therapists.

    Don’t get me wrong. My fears and my desires are unrelated. I’m all for having relations and yes, Mom, I do want get married. It’s the getting there that is frightening.

    For some reason my brain has hard-wired the “I’m talking to a female” portion to the “I’m married with 10 kids, a mortgage payment six-times the size of my yearly income, a dead-end job and now I’m completely bald” portion. Somehow, though, the “I’m jumping out of an airplane” section in my noggin was never wired to the “my neck is broken” section.

    It’s weird.

    Sure, I could have broken a few bones, split my chin open, lost a few teeth maybe, when I jumped out of that plane last year. But I figured, “Hey, the teeth can be replaced, the wounds will heal and I’ll be a better man.” However, the second I make an attempt to converse with a good sister with the intention of asking her out, all the horrible possibilities come to the surface inside my brain. What if she laughs loud when she is eating and spews spinach on me? What if she hates my mother? What if she’s Canadian? These questions and more race through my head and the next thing is, I’m half way across campus.

    With the substantial population of older un-married men here at BYU, I know I’m not alone. There needs to be a solution and I think the this one is just crazy enough to work; arranged marriages done by the records office.

    C’mon, it’s not that off-the-wall. The folks in “Fiddler on the Roof” did it. The Moonies did it. Just think about the time, money and heartache this will save.

    Just like the jumping-from-a-perfectly-good-airplane scenario, with an arranged marriage, by virtue of the fact that the records office has my name and I’m single, I’m “strapped” in so to speak. There’s only one way out and that’s through the big white door in the big white building on the hill. Once I pass through the door, there’s no going back. Soon I’ll be floating down on a blissful cloud of marriage and my contractual obligation to BYU to find a young lady and wrap a golden band around her finger will have been fulfilled.

    So records office folks, start crunching the numbers and assinging souls to other souls. I have full confidence in your ability to match me with the love of my life.

    Just call me a few days before the wedding. I have to pack my parachute.

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