I went to the Kennedy Space Center last week to watch an Atlas V launch the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The closest spot to view Atlas launches from pad 41 without some special arrangement is the Apollo Center, about 5.4 miles or 8.7 kilometers away. To get there, I had to take a bus from the main visitor center.
The TOM was the bus driver. He introduced himself as a space nut; emphasis should be placed on nut. He talked the whole time he drove, telling several stories and factoids. I didn’t mind it at all. It was a good break from the videos I kept seeing a day earlier when I came for the first launch attempt. Those videos wanted to tell me that I couldn’t imagine certain things. Even stranger was the device someone at NASA was (is?) working on using the latest in aviation technology to tell parents when they leave their kids in their car. They didn’t tell me that I cannot imagine what the stupid-parent-alarm needs that wasn’t available as an off-the-shelf component ten years ago, but I just can’t until I start thinking about how to make it needlessly complex. I should hope most parents are responsible enough not to need such a device.
The TOM kept me from the dull videos, which was nice even though he repeated a few details at least three times. I didn’t mind that he kept using the phrase “the whole wide world.” Then he stopped the bus, but didn’t open the door. He kept talking. Other buses arrived behind us and unloaded, but he kept talking. The TOM didn’t shut up and open the door for five minutes after the bus arrived.
The TOM had only once joked that his name was an acronym. Clearly it stands for Terribly Obnoxious Man. I wanted to get a good view of the Atlas V launch, something the TOM knew was happening, but he was not helping.