“What is the task?” I inquired further.
“I will be working on the electrical patch panel, behind this wall here,” he replied as he pointed to the now infamous panel covered with stowage bags hiding the fingerprints left previously by Fyodor and me.
Now I was pissed! Exhibiting a level of anal-retentiveness not part of my character on Earth, I fumed at the inefficiency infecting our timeline. Why didn’t the ground have us do all three tasks the very first time we pulled down the stowage and removed the damned panel? What the hell were they thinking?
Frustration peaking, I grabbed the handheld microphone of the auxiliary terminal unit, hit the button for space-to-ground line 2, and keyed the microphone.
“Houston, Station on Space-to-Ground 2 for inefficiency,” I called.
“Station, this is Houston. Go ahead on two,” came the friendly callback of veteran astronaut, fighter pilot, retired air force colonel, and now Capcom Jim “Vegas” Kelly.
“Yeah, Vegas. Clay here. Just wanted to let you know that the three of us all did separate and distinct tasks this week in Node 1. Each task was behind the exact same panel. They all required removal and temporary stowage of the exact same set of bags; they all had us remove the same forty-four fasteners and then we had to put it all back in place. Three separate times. I just wanted to let the ground know that we did it, but we are not happy about it.”
A pause in the conversation, lasting nearly thirty seconds, was broken as Vegas’s voice came back on the line: “Clay, we copy and concur.”
The line went silent as I floated weightlessly above the airlock floor, trying to calm the frustration that had undoubtedly raised my blood pressure. I had launched another turd, this time a weightless one, but it would have the exact same impact on its target.
The total number of weightless turds I launched from ISS escapes me, but no doubt it was substantial. Safely back on the ground after a sometimes combative five months, I was sentenced to what I would call the astronaut version of “community service,” otherwise known as the astronaut penalty box.