I suppose I should preface this by saying that I don’t make a habit of eavesdropping on people!
About 18 months ago I was sitting in a cafe/bar, drinking coffee and bashing out a few hundred words on my trusty laptop. I was only vaguely aware of the two couples – one in their 30s, the other in their early 60s – that occupied the table next to me. Busy with my work, I paid no attention to their conversation. Until, that is, I heard an acronym guaranteed to pique my interest: U.F.O.*
For the first time I took an interest in the two couples. To my fairly well-honed senses they seemed articulate, well spoken, sober and rational.
So, as subtly as I could, I stopped typing and pretended to read some notes I’d brought with me, my ears straining to hear what was being said. I half expected to be treated to a shaggy dog story about a distant light in the night sky that *might* have been anything from the pole star to a Jumbo Jet, but I was more than a little mistaken about that.
The story, as recounted, was that the older of the two couples were walking close to the local airport, which incorporates a Naval Air Station, when they noticed something odd in the sky. The subject of their attention was a cylindrical object that appeared to be hovering when they first saw it. The object then moved towards them before once more coming to a halt. It hovered for a short time (I couldn’t quite hear how long) then, in the words of the man, ‘took off across the sky’.
Perplexed and at a loss to explain what he had seen, the man telephoned Air Traffic Control and asked if any aerial traffic had been in the vicinity at the time of his sighting. He was told that there was no record of any traffic at that time. Undaunted, he contacted the Naval Air Station and asked the same question with regard to military aircraft. Once again the answer was in the negative. He neither told the ATC and NAS that he had seen a U.F.O. nor did he make a formal report of his sighting. Indeed, I’m fairly sure that he didn’t give them his real name either, for fear of – as he put it – being thought of as a ‘nutjob’.
And therein lies a problem. A very serious problem, in my opinion.
If we, the public, are ever to get to the bottom of the U.F.O. mystery then it is essential that people who sight anomalous aerial phenomena both report it to the relevant authorities and, perhaps more importantly, share the details of their experience with the wider world. As it stands, however, there is little or no incentive for them to do so.
There are two main reasons for this: bigotry and ignorance. Take the press, for example, and their dismissive (and, for that matter, moronic) habit of including the words ‘little green men’ and ‘flying saucers’ in any article dealing with unexplained aerial phenomena. And then there are the sceptics. Now I’m not saying that a sceptical attitude is wrong – quite the reverse, in fact. But there’s a world of difference between taking a cautious, considered approach and, as all too often happens, treating reports of unexplained phenomena with closed minds and hostility.
Sceptics will no doubt say that U.F.O. reports are often made and promoted by hoaxers and charlatans. But whilst there is some truth in that, an approach that tars all U.F.O. reporters with a pejorative brush** simply ensures that genuine, honest people who observe strange things in the sky keep silent about what they observed. And that can never be a good thing.
*Actually, he pronounced it ‘Yew-foe’, but you get the picture.
** It also serves to put off sensible, grounded people with a genuine interest in the subject from openly discussing it lest they be thought of as cranks or, as the chap mentioned above put it, ‘nutjobs’. Mind you, I’m not sure what that makes me. Apart, that is, from an occasional eavesdropper…
NOTE: I have kept my comments on hoaxers, charlatans, sceptics and the media deliberately short. I will rectify this in a subsequent post, but be advised: it is not my habit to miss targets and hit the wall…
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