A LARGE DROP IN THE BUCKET

Hero

I am agog – not to be confused with a fool, a nerd, or a nosy parker – although I’ve successfully been all of those. I have been within 8 feet of Queen Elizabeth.  I have seen and touched Her Royal Yacht, Britannia, when it put into the harbor at my home town for fuel.  I had a brief, 5-second conversation with the singer, Roger Whittaker, and I got a hug, and a kiss on the cheek, from the female Canadian Minister of the Exterior.

These all pale into insignificance. I recently got an invitation from BrainRants, to come and visit him and his wife this summer.  Actually, all that happened was that he made a casual inquiry as to whether the wife and I intended to be in his area this year, and when – but I’m treating it like a Royal Summons, and it snowballed from there. I’m So Excited (click to hear the Pointer Sisters tell you how much)

He’s the one responsible for unleashing me on an unsuspecting blogosphere, but don’t blame him for that. He was distracted at the time with saving the world and the American Way Of Life.  It was the Law of Unintended Consequences.

A couple of years ago, when we were doing the ‘Doctor Ericson, I presume’ tour, I asked if we might drive down for a quick visit.  Rants was preoccupied with a son going off to college, and a few other pressing domestic situations, and said ‘no,’ but not necessarily “NO” forever.

Last fall, I asked again about the possibility of an eventual visit, just to know whether or not to remove it from my bucket list. Rants took this as an indication that I wanted it to happen soon.  Apparently not a lot of people make plans years ahead, especially old geezers like me.  It’s happening sooner than I anticipated.  Rants and his lovely wife are welcoming us this summer.  Not only are we visiting, but we are being put up in a guest room to save motel costs –and, Rants is booking some well-earned and needed vacation time to be with us for several days.

I asked if it was some kind of competition between him and his wife to be nice to us, but apparently this is what kind, intelligent, generous people do. Aside from visiting my parents for weekends while they were alive, I have never been a house-guest in my life. Dear Miss Etta Kett; How do I conduct myself??

It is well that the wife’s birthday is in mid-Feb. This year she had to renew her Ontario Health Card, and her driver’s licence. One of three photo ID options recommended to do this, is a passport.  When I dug hers out and she was transferring information, she realized that both our passports had expired.

Apparently the bureaucrats do not send an email renewal reminder, and since we didn’t travel outside the Province last year, we had not noticed. It would have been a catastrophe to make all these delicious plans, and be turned back at the border for incomplete documents.  We had the time to get them reissued.

I am so giddy that I’m twirling around the house like a little pixie….or maybe a wolverine on meth. We’re going to Rants’! We’re going to Rants’ I’m taking along our digital camera, but there’s no promise that any photos will show up here on the blog-site.  I’ve already had to sign a non-disclosure security document, and a black helicopter will pick us up at the Virginia Welcome Center.

Surprisingly, the wife warmed to the idea quite quickly, to the point that, if we can’t put aside enough to pay for the trip in the next couple of months, she’s willing to raid her cache of Loonies and Toonies coins that she’s been stashing away for years.

If she’s warm now, just wait and see how warm DC is in August. We may drive past the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Pentagon in an air-conditioned car, but this visit is all about meeting two people who have been so very nice to me for years.  We can do that with a shady back deck and some cold beer.

More to come, I will reveal all as much as I can.  Be happy for me….and maybe a little jealous.   😎  🌯

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Flash Fiction #158

Hot

PHOTO PROMPT © Yarnspinnerr

HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN

He’d thought through this move and job change well…. At least he thought he’d thought it through well.  More money, better perks, better advancement chances – yup!  Best of all, no more Pennsylvania winters, so cold they froze his ballpoint pens off, and shovelling snow, drifted as high as an elephant’s aah…..  eye.

Only after moving did he think – if Atlanta’s that warm in the winter, how hot is it in the summer?? Don’t Georgia houses automatically come with air-conditioning?  Praise Saint George Carrier!  What was his promised installation date again??  He might have to sleep in the office until then.  😯

***

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

***

Click on the title if you’d like to hear Leon Redbone sing A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight, a happy little ditty from 1927, a time of Flappers, bathtub gin, and no worries about nuclear war.

Friday Fictioneers

Flash Fiction #150

Twins

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

DOUBLE THE PLEASURE DESTRUCTION
DOUBLE THE FUN

To have one rambunctious teenage son was….interesting. To have two – and twins – was stressful.  So different, and yet so much the same – and so competitive.  She almost needed a counsellor on speed-dial, and Valium in a Pez dispenser.  One for her; one each for the boys.

The contractor had said that the cost to repair the “Me first! No, Me!” front door would be reasonable, but would take a week.  Their automobile dealer said that the now-air-conditioned car would financially be another matter entirely.

Smart Car???! If they’d been smart, they’d have bought an old Police van with handcuff restraints.

***

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

Flash Fiction #62

Storage

PHOTO PROMPT – © Claire Fuller

COMPUTER STORE

Welcome to the Computer Museum. Nothing in Man’s development has changed as much, as fast, as computing.

This is ENIAC’s grandson. In 1955, a crew of 9 men took almost a month to solder together 37,000 tubes. A large Montreal company used it mostly for payroll. My pocket calculator will do more than what they paid $2.5 million for.

Moore’s law says that speed doubles every 2 years, while size halves. You see that here in data storage also, rows of cabinets of tape reels, rolled by triskele arms for reduced space. School kids’ flash drives now hold this much.

***

In 1976, an erstwhile co-worker told me of being the design engineer in charge of the installation of Ferranti-Packard’s ENIAC successor, in a hall as big as 8 bowling lanes. Fortunately, Carrier had invented the air-conditioner, or all those tubes throwing off heat could have baked bread in the room. Dot-matrix tractor-printers had to be properly grounded, or the static electricity they generated could wipe the core.

***

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

#498

Up In Smoke

Cigar

A defendant in a lawsuit involving large sums of
money was talking to his lawyer.

“If I lose this case, I’ll be ruined.

“It’s in the judge’s hands now,” said the lawyer.

“Would it help if I sent the judge a box of cigars?”

“Oh no! This judge is a stickler for ethical
behavior. A stunt like that would prejudice him
against you. He might even hold you in contempt
of court. In fact, you shouldn’t even smile at the judge.”

Within the course of time, the judge rendered a
decision in favor of the defendant.

As the defendant left the courthouse, he said to
his lawyer, “Thanks for the tip about the cigars.
It worked!”

“I’m sure we would have lost the case if you’d
sent them.”

“But I did send them.”

“What?? You did???”

“Yes. That’s how we won the case.”

“I don’t understand,” said the lawyer.

“It’s easy. I sent the cigars to the judge, but
enclosed the plaintiff’s business card.”

***

I have enough money to last me the rest of my
life….unless I buy something.

***

A man with a winking problem is applying for a
position as a sales representative for a large firm.

The interviewer looks over his papers and says,
“This is phenomenal. You’ve graduated from the
best schools; your recommendations are wonderful,
and your experience is unparalleled.

Normally, we’d hire you without a second thought.
However, a sales representative has a highly
visible position, and we’re afraid that your
constant winking will scare off potential
customers. I’m sorry….we can’t hire you.”

“But wait,” he said. “If I take two aspirin, I’ll
stop winking!”

“Really? Great! Show me!”

So the applicant reaches into his jacket pocket
and begins pulling out all sorts of condoms: red
condoms, blue condoms, ribbed condoms, flavored
condoms; finally, at the bottom, he finds a packet
of aspirin. He tears it open, swallows the pills,
and stops winking.

“Well,” said the interviewer, “that’s all well and
good, but this is a respectable company, and we
will not have our employees womanizing all over
the country!”

“Womanizing? What do you mean? I’m a happily
married man!”

“Well then, how do you explain all these condoms?”

“Oh, that,” he sighed. “Have you ever walked into
a pharmacy, winking, and asked for aspirin?”

***

Too bad all the people who know how to run the
country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.

George Burns

***

Mexico doesn’t have an Olympic Team, because anybody who can run, jump, or swim, is already in the United States.

***

The biggest shithead and the person in command
can generally be shot with the same bullet.

***

An engineer dies and reports to the pearly gates.
St. Peter checks his dossier and says,
“Ah, you’re an engineer you’re in the wrong place.”

So the engineer reports to the gates of hell and
is let in. Pretty soon, the engineer gets
dissatisfied with the level of comfort in hell,
and starts designing and building improvements.

After a while, they’ve got air conditioning and
flush toilets and escalators, and the engineer is
a pretty popular guy.

One day God calls Satan up on the telephone and
says with a sneer, “So, how’s it going down there
in hell?” Satan replies, “Hey, things are going
great. We’ve got air conditioning and flush
toilets and escalators and there’s no telling what
this engineer is going to come up with next.”

God replies, “What??? You’ve got an engineer?
That’s a mistake – he should never have gotten
down there; send him up here.”

Satan says, “No way! I like having an engineer
on the staff, and I’m keeping him.”

God says, “Send him back up here, or I’ll sue.”

Satan laughs uproariously and answers, “Yeah,
right. And just where are you going to get a lawyer?”

#485

Getting The Word Out

I guess I got my work ethic from both my parents.  Mom was content to just get a job and do it, in a time and place where women working outside the home, and especially in a factory, were unusual.  Once Dad got a reliable factory job, with a regular salary – paid in cash, in an envelope, every week – he often looked for other minor ways to supplement income, whatever it took to support self and family.

Like me, he’d got some secondary education, but no concrete idea of what he wanted to do with his working life.  Out of school, he worked for a year at a flour mill, then a year in the lumber industry.  He trained as a butcher, and refused to eat any fowl for the rest of his life because of how messy they were to clean.

He worked as a grocery store clerk, as a taxi driver, and then as the taxi dispatcher.  He worked as a poolroom attendant.  Not exactly glamorous, but it paid the bills.  As I was growing up, he devised several ways to supplement income.

He organized a weekly Saturday night party/dance at the local Legion, and took it from a dozen drunks who didn’t want to go home to their wives, to a couple of hundred people dancing and being entertained.  He hired the little band and sang and told jokes and made public service announcements.  It gave him and Mom a social night out, and put a few dollars into the family coffers.

He talked a printer into running him some advertising sheets for “SMITTY’S CARWASH”, and put them on posts on Main Street, and down near the beach, in the tourist area.  I could be mowing the lawn or eating lunch, and someone would roll into our driveway.  A rag, a bucket of hot soapy water, and the garden hose, and ten minutes later they had a shiny car.

Speaker

Another “Remember When” thing that he/we did, that no longer occurs because it’s been outlawed almost everywhere, was mobile public broadcasting.  He got a pair of speaker horns, attached to a sheet of plywood. We would wrestle them up, and attach them to a roof rack on a little British, Vauxhall station-wagon.   A feed cord ran from them to an amplifier in the back.  Power was supplied by a charged auto battery via a cord with alligator clips, because cars didn’t have cigarette lighters.

From when I was about 10, to 14, after I helped him set it up, I would ride with him.  He would drive, and speak into a mike.  Do one block, move to the next, and blast out the same announcement.  Up one street, and down the next, then back and forth across the town.

This was a summertime activity only, for when people were outside their non-air-conditioned houses, or the windows and doors were wide open.  There never seemed to be any dearth of clients – the town was holding a Bingo on the lawn beside the Town Hall – the Softball League had a playoff game – the Anglican Church was holding a pancake supper – the local snake-oil salesman was having a sale at his appliance store – somebody had brought Donkey Baseball to the local park – the Ladies’ Auxiliary was touting their Fish and Chips supper at the Masons’ Lodge – the circus was coming to town.

When I entered my teens, one day my Dad suggested that I take up the mike, and broadcast the spiel.  It would have been much easier for him not to have had to drive one-handed, and be able to concentrate on the road, but I was still a shy little nerd with a squeaky voice.  By the time my voice deepened a bit, and I had taken public-speaking training for assertive projection, times had changed.

This was the stone-age equivalent of social media – just without the internet, but people were waking up to the idea that they didn’t have to put up with things like spam noise pollution.  Churches in town were told to stop ringing their bells, because the faithful now had clocks, and knew when to come to worship.

The one church which had already removed its clanging bell, had replaced it with speakers on all four faces of the tower, and used them to blare out the chimes from their new electronic organ, and the entire service.  It was right across the street from a large Bed and Breakfast, as well as a 9-unit Inn.  The guests, and their hosts, strongly protested that they had the expectation of peace and quiet.

My father sold the amp and speakers.  The churches kept their bells quiet and their sermons indoors, and technology continued to create newer and better (?) ways to get the word out.  Now, if we can just pry the word out of the cell-phone-addicts’ ears.   😕

#464

Feel Free To Think

I’m sitting here staring at my own title with ironic amusement.  I know what I want to say.  I just can’t seem to marshal my thoughts to say it clearly and tactfully.  Well, that’s the beauty of electronic editing, I can always change it.  Here goes.

I took the daughter to another meeting of the Free Thinkers Society.  It is possible to be a free-thinker and still be a Christian, although many “Good Christians” and all “Good Catholics” will deny that.  Free Thinkers, atheists, agnostics and *science* don’t wish to be enemies of Christianity, but they are all thinkers, and Catholicism in particular, denies the right to think for yourself.  I commented to my *recovering Catholic* wife, one time, about reading a Bible passage when she was a child, and was astounded to find that Good Catholics are not permitted to read the Bible.  They might *misinterpret* it.  They had to wait for a priest to tell them what it meant.

With the Catholic Church at the top of the list, all Christian denominations present their particular set of views, as a monolithic whole, indivisible, and unquestionable.  The Catholic Church rails against “supermarket religion”, and says that its followers can’t pick and choose what they will and will not believe.  Yet the same church picked and chose among divinely inspired gospels, written at the same time, by the same group of holy people, and found among the same scrolls.  The Church included in the Bible the ones which solidified their position and ignored the ones which did them no good.

The Catholic Church changes its dogma from time period to time period, and from place to place, yet its followers are expected to believe that it remains uniform.  I worked with a young woman who was the child of an English Catholic couple who had moved to Canada.  In England, when a child was taken in to be baptised, any name could be chosen. 

They had picked the name Lynne for her, but the priest demanded to know what saint’s name they had chosen.  He told them he could not baptise a child without a saint’s name.  He told them that they could pick any holy name except Jesus or Madonna.  Under time pressure, they chose Virginia, after the Virgin Mary.  Every third Latino is named Jesus (hay-sues), and the Detroit Madonna is still trying to keep British riff-raff from walking through her back yard.  The British Catholic rules are not observed in Canada, and Canadian Catholic rules are not obeyed in the US, or south of its borders.

It is said that some people believe they’re thinking, when all they are doing is rearranging their prejudices.  A recent column in the local paper would be amusing, if the writer wasn’t so darned serious.  He doesn’t say that he’s a vegetarian, just that he’s a member of Toronto Pig Save.  What he doesn’t say is as telling as what he does say. He wants to prevent pigs from being trucked and slaughtered at a large Toronto plant.  He plays the same language games that the churches play, and, to one who pays attention, sounds just as foolish.  He tries the *Own the Definition Gambit*, but fails, quickly and miserably.

He immediately stakes out the high ground by asking, “Is it moral to slaughter pigs just so we can have bacon?”  He quickly reckons that most Canadians would answer yes, to this.  “Moral” means actions or behavior based on right and wrong.  He would like most people to think his viewpoint is right, but morality in this case is subjective and the majority says he’s wrong.  I’m happy he’s got a hobby trying to save pigs, but he never mentions cows, steers, veal calves, turkeys or chickens.  Why so much heat about hogs, while ignoring the rest?

He writes about people from his group standing on the street, taking pictures and videos of pigs on their way to the slaughter-house.  He points out that the temperature one day was 36C (95F), and the trucks were not air-conditioned.  It would be illegal to leave a dog in a car on such a day – but a dog would be sealed in a car, whereas the pigs were in a trailer with airflow though many openings.  In fact, the pigs would be covered by the top of the trailer, and probably a lot cooler and more comfortable than the idiots out on the sidewalk taking pictures.

He feels the answer to his question above might change if the word pigs were changed to puppies.  Now he’s trying to play the *Define Cute* game.  Someone said that, if baby seals looked like lobsters, no-one would say a word when they were clubbed to death.  He says that pigs are notoriously smart, and have a habit of looking you in the eye – as if to say, “I know what you have in mind for me, and I’m disappointed in your lack of character.” He need have no such worry.  I’m sure even the pigs consider him quite a character, standing out in the sun, peering into passing trucks, in an attempt to change the millennia-old eating habits of the human race.

While I’m sure he wants to keep the pigs from being slaughtered, the main thrust of the article is their handling and transportation.  He complains a couple of times about the lack of air-conditioning.  How would he suggest they be delivered, one at a time, in limos?  That would stop people from eating pork.  It would drive the price as high as a communications satellite, with beef and chicken right behind it.

Do you want to be fed, or do you want to be Nice?  Here’s a nice tofu sandwich while you consider.  Pigs also provide ribs, roasts, stews and sausage.  Ignore that man behind the truck wheel.  Just click your heels twice and return to brunch.  He wrote a nice (there’s that word again.) little feel-good article.  I just don’t think that much thinking went into it.