Here in Annapolis, we have all the usual signs that summer is nigh—the lush grass, the fulsome green of the trees, temperatures climbing into the 80s, even the occasional thunderstorm, missing for all those months of winter. But here in Annapolis—home of the U.S. Naval Academy, which sends some 1,000 newly minted Navy ensigns and Marine lieutenants out into the world every May twentysomething—we also have angels. Blue Angels, that is.
Or, put another way, if your windows are rattling, it must be commissioning week. Specifically, it must be either Tuesday or Wednesday of that week—because those are invariably the Blue Angel days. Tuesday's the rehearsal; Wednesday's the show. It's the same thing every year. On Tuesday afternoon you're sitting there, staring at your computer screen, trying to buckle down and get serious about the July issue deadline (another immutable fixture, at CBM anyway, in the week of May twentysomething). First you hear a distant rumble. Next time it's a bit louder, and louder still after that. Then, just as you turn your head to the window and wonder . . . two thunderingly loud fighter jets streak across the sky outside the window—barely 500 feet up, rattling not just the windows but pretty much everything in the room, including your brain, and then vanishing, quick as a wink, beyond the tree line. And that's when you say, "Ah, yes, the Blue Angels. Commissioning week." And then you go back to work.
No, who am I kidding? You don't go back to work. You go outside, to the corner of the parking lot where you can see the most sky, and you try to guess where you'll see the next pair or quartet of gleaming blue F/A-18 Hornets with yellow Navy insignia. I say you guess because, once they're out of sight, that crackly, rumbly sound is far more confusing than it is helpful. They always seem to be about half a sky ahead of their sound. I've tried to take that into account, to look ahead of the sound, but that usually doesn't work—because when you can only hear them you don't really know which way they're headed, and therefore you can only guess which way "ahead of the sound" is. So that's how Tuesday goes. And on Wednesday you go back to work.
No, who am I kidding? On Wednesday you're back out in the corner of the parking lot, trying again to guess which direction they'll come from. Or sometimes, if you're lucky enough to have feckless and dissolute coworkers—one of whom keeps her boat on nearby Back Creek and another who knows your work ethic is in fact adjustable—you might end up out on the Severn River, with a front-row seat to the air show, along with about a thousand other boats.
And that is indeed what happened this year. "Hey, wanna go out with us on Jody's boat tomorrow to watch the Blue Angels?" said managing editor Ann. "Naah," said I, "It's deadline, and I've got this whole work ethic thing." Said Ann: "Ethic, schmethic, you're the boss. C'mon out with us." Said I: "No, I'm not the boss; our readers are the boss." Said Ann: "Oh, shut up, you're just saying that so you can put it in your column." Said I: "Hmmm, good idea."