Flash Fiction #191

Vacation

PHOTO PROMPT © Ceayr

AM I BLUE? NO!

Ah, to be a Canadian Snowbird in South Carolina, for a week in October. Not really Snowbirds – snow hasn’t actually fallen in Southern Ontario – yet. Warm like summer at home, but not yet crowded with boorish, Speedo-wearing Quebecois.

The beaches are delicious – tanning and soaking up sun. It’s easy to tell tourists from townies. Canadians are frolicking in the surf, while the natives are dressed in down-filled coats, like Canucks will be in a month, when they have to shovel that snow. They stare, wondering why we build sand-castles, and not igloos.

Nobody in Canada owns a powder blue villa. 😀

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Friday Fictioneers

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On The Ball

Selectric

The wife and I are not ‘Retro,’ we’re just old fogies.

It’s not that we’re technophobic. Lord knows, we embrace technology to the limits of our non-Electronic Age brains. In our house, there are 2 PCs, a laptop, 2 tablets, 3 Kindles, 2 Kobos, 2 Smart Phones, and a Smart TV that’s smarter than both of us together. Still, sometimes we like to relive The Good Old Days, in The Good Old Ways.

The QWERTY keyboard was originally developed when early typists got faster than the rudimentary machines, and jammed letter strikers against the platen. It put the usual letters in unusual places, to slow typists down, and prevent jamming. It was touted by its proponents as, “More efficient,” a lie with a bit of truth in it.  It reduced the words per minute typed, but almost eliminated having to stop and unjam the machine, resulting in more total words typed at the end of the day.

The development of the electric typewriter smoothed out the jamming problem somewhat, and also eliminated the need to manually move the heavy carriage with the left hand/arm.

Selectric Ball

In 1961, IBM re-invented the wheel – actually, a ball. They produced the Selectric, a typewriter with no keys to jam. Instead, it had a little ball with all the characters on it. The smart machine rotated the ball – nicknamed a ‘Golf Ball’ – to the right position before smacking it against the paper. Different balls, with different fonts could be quickly snapped in and out.

Several models, with different features were developed, including one with a rudimentary 40-character memory. If a typist noticed a mistake while typing, (s)he could hit a special ‘Hold’ key, back up in the memory, change the error, and free the machine to continue.  There was no more heavy carriage to move back and forth. Instead, the ball and ribbon moved smoothly and quietly across the platen. This was the precursor to the computer word-processor.

Sadly, because of that, they didn’t last long, and soon became extinct – but not before over 2,000,000 of them were sold. The wife worked on one, in one of the offices where she was employed. She loved it. Recently, she had a couple of typing projects – recipe cards, and knitting patterns – where a computer and printer just didn’t work out well.

She found one offered for sale on Facebook Market. The woman wanted $40 for it. I asked where I had to go to pick it up. She’s had me drive 10/15 kilometers locally, for other items. This one, she said, was in Oshawa, the other side of Toronto. I told her that it would cost another $40 in gas, to drive there and back. Without any other offers on it, the price reduced to $35.

Driving completely across metro-Toronto, on Highway 401, is not the worst traffic in North America, but it’s definitely in the top 10. When I checked the location with a map program, the actual mileage (Canadian kilometrage) wasn’t all that high, but the program warned that, at the time that I checked, based on current traffic conditions, estimated trip time is 2 hours and 8 minutes.

We planned the trip for the middle of the morning, after the get-to-work onslaught, but before the lunch-time rush, and made the 160 Km/100 Miles in 1Hour/40Minutes. We waited till 2:00 o’clock to start back and, aside from some slowdown from the ‘memory of an accident’ we saw on the way there, we got home in 1Hour/40Minutes again. We immediately stopped at Costco, and put $45 of gas in the car.

The wife wanted some proof that the machine worked, but the woman getting rid of it was a young Real Estate agent, charged with disposing of an estate. She was so young that she’d never heard of or seen such a contraption. She plugged it in and turned it on. It hummed. She hit a couple of keys, and it clacked a couple of times.

Since she’d still not had any other offers for it, and since we were coming from so far away, she reduced the price to $20, which she may have quietly pocketed. When we got home, the wife plugged it in and turned it on. It hummed! She tapped a couple of keys…. but the little carriage didn’t move. She sat down and pored over the included owner’s manual – to no avail. A part may be broken/missing.

Mennonite

With the existence of so many Mennonites within a 50 kilometer radius, it is probably easier to locate a Ferrier (one who shoes horses), than to find a local typewriter repair shop. There was one, but the old gentleman who ran it was 83 in 2015, and the website is dormant. The wife has located one in the city of Hamilton. It’s not quite so far away, and in a different direction. It should only cost us $35 for gas – TWICE – once to drop it off, and again when we pick it up, plus the charge for Barney Rubble to fix it.

You may never get a hand-written letter from me – for which you should be thankful. With my essential tremor getting worse, the doctors’ scribbles that I mentioned in my Griffonage post, seem clear and legible, compared to my handwriting. I’ll tell you whether we are successful at this technology resuscitation project, and you may get a hand-typed letter to prove it.

Insecurity Blanket

security blanket

I was recently reassured that, as a person, I have value.  That’s not something that I usually worry or am in doubt about.  In my usual, humble way, I am normally pleased with who and what I am.  That did not hold entirely true before my recent trip to visit BrainRants.  Online, he seemed like a nice guy, but in person, he would be

 A GENTLEMAN AND A SCHOLAR
AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN

Could I keep up?  Would I fit in?

He has two university degrees, and a small string of subsequent educational certificates.  He has more letters after his name than Noah Webster.

I have a Grade 12 education, and a few minor employment-related post-secondary courses.  Of course, over the course of a lifetime almost twice his, I am a continuing scholar of the English language, communication, amateur psychology, and the human condition.  Would that be enough?

Hero

He left the Army as an officer.  While I have respect for people in uniforms – police, fire, ambulance, etc. –I am not necessarily impressed with just the fact that someone is an officer.  Too often it merely indicates a slavish, unthinking addiction to rules and regulations, the established system, prevailing policy, and current convention.

He earns five times what the wife and I receive together, in our paltry retirement pensions.  I’ve met some monied ‘gentlemen’ – business owners, and captains of industry.  Some of them were nice.  Others had homes where commoners mowed the lawn, not sat on the furniture.  Would I be accepted?

I had concerns that I was travelling to meet a cultured, scholarly, conservative, socially-judgemental ‘Gentleman.’  I need not have been concerned.  All my petty fretting and worry was for naught.  The true mark of a gentleman is his ease with any company, in any situation.  True gentleman that he is, he immediately and completely put me at ease.  I kept up.  I fit in.  What I was, was accepted and enough.

We spent a glorious week, discussing a wide range of topics, unaffectedly bouncing erudite words off each other in normal conversation – and letting the other know that we’d noticed (Paucity – Ding!  There’s another.)

He was the stereotypical common man, who just happened to have more formal education and income than me.  He was the kind of guy that I might have been, without my learning disabilities.  I will never doubt myself again!  Thanx, Rants, for providing far more than just a great getaway vacation.  😀

I Spy With My Little Eye

Pirate

I’m going to get my chance to pace the poop-deck, (Heh, Heh, I said poop 😆 ) and do my best pirate impersonation.

When eye wrote of having an impending eye operation, eye expected to be given a couple of weeks warning, so that we could adjust our sleep schedules.  We are unlike most retirees, staying up late partying reading, and sleeping in.

Eye got 93 hours – less than four days – notice.  A lovely tech named Olivia (Suddenly eye’m surrounded by Olivias.) called, at 11:30 AM, Thursday, January 3rd. to say that eye had surgery scheduled for 8:00 AM, Monday, Jan. 7th, and to be at the hospital by 6:00 AM to register.

It was bad enough getting the wife to a local hospital by 6 AM for her two knee surgeries, but this hospital is an extra hour and a half drive away.  We’ll have to be ready to leave by 4.  I might as well just stay up. I could peacefully sleep through the operation, but the wife would need sleep to drive me home.  Then I need to be back at the same hospital by 7:30 the following morning, for assessment and removal of my pirate eye-patch.

Eye’m posting this note a day ahead of my normal schedule, just to give you the heads-up that I threatened promised.  Just after midnight, eye’ll click publish on my regularly scheduled A To Z Challenge.  After that, eye may not post for a few days, or a week.

Eye’ll see you here soon…. I hope.   😎

Canadian Thoughts On An American Trip

Canamerican Flag

I’ve said that I treated the invitation to visit our D.C. hosts as a Royal Summons, but it was us who got treated like Royalty when we got there.  Here’s a shot of us arriving.

Harry and Meghan

More through coincidence than any planning,, we had three successive, different ethnic-food lunches.  One day it was Greek food at a strip-mall restaurant.  The next day, our kind hosts took us to an upscale Afghan establishment.  On the third day, while trying to find decent coffee, (we never did) we stopped into a Thai restaurant beside a Drunkin DoNuts.

Canada is getting screwed for gasoline, even though we pump more oil than the United States.

After calculating for US gallon/Canadian liters, and US dollar value vs. Canadian dollar….
Exiting Southern Ontario, gas was selling for about $1.30/L.  I bought gas 3 times in the US – 83.8cents/L, 76.7/L and 72.7/L – 1/2 to 2/3 the cost in Ontario.

Usually, the closer to the highway, the higher the price.  Pleasantly, surprisingly, this was not the case on the Pennsylvania and Ohio turnpikes.  All the rest centers sold regular for $2.749 (73.8/L).  When I got off in Toledo, the city stations wanted $2.849.

Gas Cost

When I crossed the bridge back to Windsor, the in-town stations wanted $1.269/L.  Twenty miles down the superhighway, where they’ve got you by the short and curlies, where it’s ‘pay or walk,’ the price was $1.369/L!  And there’s 4 liters per US gallon, so that’s another 40 cents/gal rip-off.

Something else I found, that pissed me off….  We wanted to keep all purchases on this trip on a credit card, so that we could keep track of them.  When I went to buy gas with the credit card, the screen on the pump said, “Enter 5-digit ZIP code.”  I’m from Canada.  I don’t have a ZIP code.  I tried entering our host’s ZIP.    The screen now said, “Does not match billing address.  Please prepay at office.”

Now I have to walk a pilgrimage to Coventry….and back.  Not too bad in the city, but I felt sorry for the guy waiting behind me at the Ohio rest area.  This is like gassing up at the Costco, only there, the prepayment authorization is for $150.  Some pimple-faced kid asks, “How much do you want?”  Enough to fill it up.  “Well, I have to put something in the machine.”  $50! Put in $50!  It only took $38.50 to fill it, instead of $75Cd.

Like the jaunt to find John Erickson a few years ago, we again circumnavigated Lake Erie.  Only, this time the trip wasn’t so much a circle, as a deeper oval.  The total trip, from door, back to door, amounted to 2243 kilometers, or 1402 American miles.

There are 12 houses in BrainRants’ little cul-de-sac.  Four of them, including him, fly American flags.  Only yesterday, a letter to the editor urged Canadians to show patriotism by flying Canadian flags.  No need – we know who we are.

On our hosts’ kitchen wall hangs a repro of an old station clock, with the hands at 8:45.  I assumed that it was just a rustic piece of art…. until one morning I was having orange juice and my morning pills all alone, and – tick, tick, tick.  So it works, it’s just jammed and not going anywhere.  I was reminded of The Mamas And Papas’ song, 12:30, or The Guess Who’s, No Time.

I estimate that Rants’ subdivision was hacked out of the woods about 40 years ago.  The developers left lots of trees, in some cases, too damned many.  Our stay was almost like camping in the piney woods, although most of the trees were cut-leaf Maple, and Oak.  It allowed me to commune with nature.

There were many birds, some of whom, by their calls, aren’t present in Southern Ontario.  Rants isn’t much of a bird person.  When asked about them, he identified them all as grey-breasted, Northern Virginia Shit-birds, so-called because of their ability to put white polka-dots on parked cars, so aggressive that they eat holes in the paint-job.

I love birds.  In my de-forested area, both the bright Blue-Jays and Cardinals are skittish creatures, hiding high in trees, sometimes heard, but seldom seen.  As I watched Rants at his forge in the garage, a Blue-Jay landed on a branch in the Maple in front of the house, barely above the garage door, and sat in plain view for several minutes, while we were disgusted by discussed Trump.

As I went to get a beer, through the back door of the garage, I saw what I first took to be a dried Oak leaf, fluttering in the breeze.  It turned into a bright-red hummingbird, which eventually brightly flitted into the neighbor’s yard, and molested some flowers.  The daughter gets the occasional green hummingbird at a feeder behind her house, but red ones are uncommon here.

Baby Cardinal

Later, as I went for another beer, I thought I saw the hummingbird again, but it magically transformed into a bright red Cardinal, apparently unafraid of humans.  It lingered for a few moments, then it too casually flitted to the neighbor’s yard.  Wow!, three usually unseen birds in the course of an hour – Mother Nature must really like me.

I took a walk, early one morning, while waiting for the wife to arise.  Ambling through the nearby woods, I met a lady walking her dog.  She told me that his name was Giggs, a Welsh name, after a well-known (to her) Welsh football (soccer) player.  Strangely enough, she had met another woman with a dog, also named Giggs, after the same soccer player.  There’s an Ontario transport company named Gigg Express.  Now I don’t have to research that name.

White Lady In The Hood, if you’re still out there and reading this, I still haven’t met a stranger.

The ancient Bob’s Big Boy restaurant that has been in front of our Taylor, MI, Red Roof motel for years, since April of this year, has been turned into a Wahlburgers.  Marky Mark and his two brothers should stick to acting.  I was not impressed – with the concept – or the service.  On a four-item order, one was missing (which I didn’t pay for, but should have noticed its absence), and one was wrong.

To the rest of you who are out there reading this – Thank You!  Let’s do it again, soon.  😀

That Fills The Bill

SW - 1

SW - 2

My recent host and hostess were not interested in money.

I took along a few foreign bills, and odd coinage, to show them.  There was some vague interest in the mis-cut American $1 bill, the somewhat rare American $2, and some chuckles over the ‘Slick Willy’ Bill Clinton $3 fake bill.  The lack of interest may have been because he’s a soldier who has been posted all over the world, and seen much of these firsthand.

BAF - 1

BAF - 2

The interest ramped up when I showed the collection to her younger son and his girlfriend.  We played a game of, ‘You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.’  Only partly because his step-father is a soldier, he has amassed a promising collection.  Going through my catalogue, we found a British Armed Forces, £1 occupational scrip which Rants might have been interested in.

india - 1

india - 2

He kindly offered to let me take any of his bills and coins, because he merely keeps them, not mounts and displays, as I do.  He had 16 or more countries’ bills.  I could have asked for all of it, but restrained myself to three countries that he had duplicates of.

sri lanka - 1

sri lanka - 2

As luck would have it, they’re all from the same general area of the world.  The Indian 10 Rupee, and the Sri Lankan 20 Rupee, are both paper, and printed about the year 2000.  The Singaporean $2 is newer, and made of polymer plastic with all kinds of security features that prevented me from taking a photocopy of it.  I did my usual money laundering, and washed and ironed them.  Singapore had a hard fold in the center, which even mild heat wouldn’t flatten completely out.

Singapore - 1

Singapore - 2

Pawing through his coins, suddenly I had British King George V looking up at me from a large coin.  I knew it wasn’t Canadian.  Might it be from England – or Jamaica – or Australia??  Turning it over, I was amazed to find that it was a 1919 Newfoundland Half Dollar.

Newfy 50 TailsNewfy 50 Heads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I explained to him that Newfoundland was the 10th province of Canada, but didn’t join
Confederation until 1949.  Until then, they had their own coins and bills, minted and printed in England.  I have long wanted at least one Newfy coin to add to my collection.  Not produced for almost 70 years, I had long ago given up much hope of finding any.

Since he didn’t even know what it was, and it plainly meant something to me, he insisted that I take it.  A caring mother has obviously raised a kind and generous child.  Before I left, BrainRants gave me a quarter-sized United Arab Emirates 1 Rial coin, which he didn’t obtain while he was serving in the army, but rather, he found it, going to work on the bus, in cosmopolitan Washington DC.

Rial

I have many other foreign bills that I will publish pictures of in a post one day, as soon as I work off the procrastination.  Till then, I am always happy to have you visit.  Come again, y’hear!   😀

Vulcan At The Forge

Gods

My friend BrainRants is paving his back yard with beer cans.

SDC10026

Actually, he’s only paving a 20 foot diameter fire pit – less the 5 foot diameter central concrete burn area, and he’s using more than just beer cans – but it makes a great story.

SDC10047

I don’t want to use the word ‘unusual,’ because many may read it and think strange, or weird.  It’s not strange or weird (or maybe that’s just me), it’s just uncommon.  He melts aluminum down in a homemade furnace, and casts 6 inch hexagons.  His input may include discarded patio tables, or salvaged broken storm doors.  Cans often include soft-drinks, but beer cans comprise the bulk of the base stock.  14 cases of mixed cans produce 10 of these tiles.

SDC10046

He built his own little furnace, in a 5-gallon metal pail, using special, high-heat concrete and chicken wire for support.  He also poured a concrete lid with a breather hole and handles.  A purchased propane burner is inserted through a hole in the side to provide the heat, and crucibles, purchased online, contain the molten aluminum.

SDC10048

He made his own wooden hex replica, and uses it to form wet-sand moulds, into which he pours the hot metal.  This project is nearly complete.  He had 820 hexes when I arrived, including a few bronze ones, and I helped him by staying safely out of his way, drinking beer, while he poured his self-imposed weekly quota of another 20, over two days.

SDC10051

Here is Vulcan, beginning to pour 5 tiles.

SDC10050

He’s getting closer, and that stuff is HOT!  Stand well back.  All of this was done in a garage, on a hot, muggy DC August day.  I can think of no better excuse for a couple of cold beers….and another to celebrate a safe, successful conclusion.

Dos Equis