“Attic Salt” column for Oct. 21, 2012

Felix Baumgartner’s 24-mile-high step into space last Sunday helped put the weekend into perspective for me.

Baumgartner, a 43-year-old Austrian skydiver, had been carried aloft in a 55-story, ultra-thin helium balloon that, on television, looked like the clear plastic suit bags from the cleaners.

Standing in the doorway of the capsule, carried aloft by the balloon, the skydiver saluted a remote camera and stepped into space.

While Baumgartner was breaking the sound barrier and setting records for highest manned balloon flight and highest jump, I was planting lettuce and snow peas.

Efficient use of one’s weekend is in the planning.

Baumgartner, a former Austrian paratrooper with 2,500 jumps under his belt, had prepared for his record-breaking Sunday with balloon ascents and jumps of 15 miles and 18 miles.

I’d gone to Naylor’s Hardware a couple of weeks before Sunday’s plantings of four kinds of lettuce seed, snow peas and some multiplying onions.

Warm weather set in and planting had to be delayed.

Joe Kittinger, 84, was one of the people on Baumgartner’s team. Kittinger tried to break the sound barrier, while not wearing an airplane, in 1960 from almost 20 miles up. In free fall, he reached a speed of 614 miles an hour. Baumgartner hit 833.9 miles an hour or Mach 1.24, faster than the speed of sound.

Sunday was a go, no-go day for lettuce and snow pea planting. Wait for sustained cool weather, which might not come for weeks, or go ahead and plant and hope the lettuce seedlings don’t pop up in the middle of a heat wave.

My Joe Kittinger, gardeners with experience planting snow peas, advised refrigerating the seed before planting to trick the seed into thinking it was fall.

I walked to the garden solemnly, a watering can in one hand, the handles of gardening tools in the other, a cool pack of snow pea seed in one of the pockets of my shorts.

We know Baumgartner captured the world’s attention with his giant leap because there were 8 million simultaneous live YouTube streams. Red Bull, the sky diver’s sponsor, got 216,000 Facebook likes, 10,000 comments and more than 29,000 shares in less than 40 minutes.

Baumgartner could not have been so wildly successful were it not for coffee shop patrons around the world and people lying on their couches on a Sunday afternoon wondering what they would communicate next to their friends similarly situated around the globe.

But would the highest jump in history trend as indicated by the PII or Planet Idleness Index?

On Twitter, half the worldwide trending (most popular) topics had something to do with Baumgartner’s jump.

I should get ignition on the lettuce seed later this week, if the armadillos don’t dig them up.

Ed Cullen welcomes comments by email to ecullen@theadvocate.com.

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