A To Z Challenge – A

 

Challenge2017

Another year – another Challenge.  Is it April again, already??  I guess I have to start with

Letter A

I was thinking about doing a series about animals from A to Z, Ants to Zebras, but I discovered that, if it didn’t involve gravy or barbecue sauce, I didn’t really know much about animals.

I also considered a themed series about rock groups, from AC/DC, to ZZ Top, but when I got to the bottom, with the Top, I decided that the post would be about Assholes.

On the old WKRP In Cincinnati TV show, the character of Les Nessman had to do the sports reporting without knowing anything about sports.  He insisted on calling the golfer Chi-Chi Rodriguez, Chai Chai Rod-rig-weez.

When ZZ Top was still tooling around the airwaves in their Eliminator, whether through honest ignorance, or just an attempt to prove the ‘We’re Canadian, Eh’, a local asshole DJ always introduced them as Zed Zed Top.  American is a ‘foreign language’, just as much as Spanish is.  Learn to use it and pronounce it correctly!

Despite every other radio DJ making it sound like ‘Jamaica,’ a recently promoted female announcer missed the apostrophe, and the double entendre joke, and introduced Led Zeppelin’s song, D’yermaker, as ‘dyer maker.’   The Mr. Big candy bar ads used to claim, “When you’re this big, they call you Mr.”  When you’re this clueless, they call you Mr. Asshole.

Now you know my ABCs will be coming at you for another year. 😳

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Screw You

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This is another in the series of ‘Old Shit I Own.’ Do any of you know what this thing is, or what it was used for?  It’s another piece of long-lost memorabilia I discovered in the protracted Autumn Housecleaning.

The younger ones in my readership may find this hard to believe but, there was a time, not that long ago, when homes were not provided with numerous electrical outlets – or power points, or even wireless recharging of all those indispensible electronic gadgets.

This is a screw plug. It was used in rooms of homes where there might not be even one wall-socket electrical outlet.  You unscrewed the light bulb from an overhead fixture, screwed this in instead, and had a place to plug in things like my Mother’s washing machine, which rolled out to the middle of the room on little wheels.

Double socket

The problem then was, all work had to be done during the day, or the room would be dark. That problem was quickly solved by the development of the above little gadget.  You could screw the bulb back in to see what you were doing, and insert the socket on the other side of the Y.  I used one of them for a while, until I managed to install a light fixture over my basement workbench.

I know I am truly older than dirt, and born and raised out on the frontiers of the universe. I was too young to do so, but I have seen people using telephones which were a big box on the wall, with a speaking funnel on the front, and an earpiece dangling from the hang-up hook on one side.  You picked up the earpiece and turned a little crank on the other side, which attracted the attention of a real, live, operator.

CFL Bulb

Edison’s incandescent light bulbs, with an output of 60 watts or more, have been outlawed in Ontario, and replaced with CFL Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs, or now the LED style which produces more light and less heat, and save power. The only thing more ancient than incandescent, may be wall sconces with flaming torches – and you can’t plug a radio into one of those.

Flash Fiction # 81

Piano

PHOTO PROMPT © Jan W. Fields

IN THE KEY OF F. U.

As a young lad, my parents provided me with piano lessons.

My teacher thought I was very musically declined.

After three years of intense study, I could finally….spell P.I.A.N.O.

Soon, I could carry a tune….in my studies briefcase.

I learned to play piano by ear. It sounded better than when I used my fingers.

As piano players go….I was often ordered to.

A neighbor once requested that I play ‘Far, Far Away’….preferably the next county.

The best thing that I ever played was….the radio.

When I decided to become an accountant, the Mayor gave me the key….to a different city.

***

And there you have the history of my musical career. Despite Rochelle’s theme, sadly, little of it is fiction.

***

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

Old Stuff – Part 3

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So I’m back to posting about sharp/pointy things.  This lovely little letter opener was a gift, about 45 years ago.

The wife’s next-oldest brother was always interested in cooking.  He worked at a large snack bar of a local department store through high school.  He earned a scholarship to a chefs’ college in Huntsville Ontario, and after graduating, spent three years training in the prestigious restaurant of a snooty department store in London, England.

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He’s a couple of months older than me.  We married while he was away.  During his sojourn in Old Blighty, The Who became famous, far more so there, than here in Canada.  While he was gone, the Canadian band, The Guess Who, became famous here, but were unknown over there.  When he returned, he experienced some confusion during his radio listening.

We got along well, and he eventually became the manager of the in-store restaurant of a local Hudson’s Bay store.  He met a new girlfriend, who soon became a fiancée.  He was living in a small basement apartment, and, as the wedding day approached, he located a flat suitable for them both.  We needed to move out of the lower half of a rented house, and, as luck would have it, both moves happened on the same end-of-month Saturday.

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I was at work on the Friday afternoon, when my phone rang.  It was him.  “You’re moving tomorrow?”  “Yes.”  “Do you have a moving truck reserved?”  “Yes.”  “Do you have an appliance dolly rented?”  “Yes.”  “Do you have guys lined up to help you?”  “Yes.”  All yes, two weeks ago!

“I just called U-Haul, and they don’t have any trucks available tomorrow.  I asked about a dolly, and they said they’re all committed.  I phoned a cousin and a couple of brothers-in-law, and they told me they’ll be helping you.  Do you think we could move two lots of furniture tomorrow?”  He’s still a great chef, and has become a much better organizer.

I picked up the rental truck when U-Haul opened at 8 AM, and drove to my old place.  With his added help, we stuffed our belongings in, drove to the new place and quickly unloaded it, at least in the proper rooms.

Leaving the wife and kids to deal with it as best they could, we all drove to his old apartment, loaded his things, drove to his new domicile and unloaded, where everybody stayed, to help him unpack.  I returned the truck to U-Haul before noon, all done in four hours.  Well, perhaps not done.  I returned to a home piled high with boxes, no-one to assist, an unhappy wife, and 24 bottles of a brand of beer I didn’t like.  Maybe I should have organized that better??!

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At my place, I used the dolly to move the refrigerator with ease – in, out, on the truck.  The bachelor had a tiny fridge, a foot shorter, and a foot narrower than ours.  I went to rock it back, to put the dolly under it – and it wouldn’t move.  Probably stuck to a waxed floor!  So I pushed again – and it moved a tiny bit.  I looked inside – empty! – closed the door and body-checked it.  Finally got the dolly slipped under it.

Where most fridges were aluminum and plastic, he had one that had been built in the late ‘40s, sheet steel, with copper and LEAD piping.  Half the size of ours, it weighed twice as much.  It took three of us young, healthy lads, straining and wheezing, to get it up the half-flight of stairs.

While we were loading things, I noticed that the professional chef had some high-quality knives in his kitchen.  We discussed them, and he asked what kinds of knives I liked.  I never suspected an ulterior motive, but a month later, when I served as an usher at his wedding, he presented me with this vaguely Scottish broadsword-looking tool, as a thank-you gift.

 

BTW, FYI, and a bunch of other meaningless, random letters, the wife has worked too hard over the years to become too good a cook to be able to claim that she poisoned me accidentally, so today, Dec. 2, 2014, we celebrate our 47th wedding anniversary.  I get an extra cup of Geritol, and a shot of Lipitor with dinner.  If she’s lucky, it’ll be like Remembrance Day, and she’ll get two minutes of silence.    😀

Under Pressure – Overtime

Recently, the son climbed out of the car and left his choice of radio station on.  When I climbed in, I left it playing.  Because of this, both of us heard David Wilcox’s, sexual innuendo, double-entendre song, Layin’ Pipe, with its line of, “Eight shifts a week is never enough.”

People like young, up-and-coming doctors and lawyers put in huge amounts of hours to guarantee future success, but often, hourly-paid workers will do the same, working two or three jobs, to get ahead.

One of my fellow auto-workers put in an 8 AM to 4 PM shift every Saturday at a cookie factory in the next city.  There was no problem when he was on day-shift, or afternoons, but, when our week ended after a midnight shift, Saturday at 7 AM, he had an hour, to drive 20 miles, and punch in by 8.

The son has a co-worker who works as a bus-boy/prep chef at a local family restaurant every Sat. & Sun.  On a straight midnight shift, he gets a few hours sleep, and works Saturday, from 2 till 10.  The plastics plant has offered a couple of Saturday midnight shifts recently, and he took them.  Leave the restaurant at 10 PM Saturday, drive across town and put in an 11 to 7, grab a few Sunday ZZZs, and back to the diner.

Fortunately, they were the weekends before, and after, Easter, giving him a week to recuperate.  The son worked both weekends also.  He had a four-day week with Easter Friday off, but followed by a six-day week.

My auto plant had a five-year stretch of prosperity, where there was overtime available every week and weekend.  As a union shop, the work went first to the person on the required job, and then by seniority.  A young man hot-forming vinyl sheets went through two packs of Hall’s Mentho-Lyptus cough candies per shift, to keep his mouth moist.

Someone suggested doing something on his day off, and he replied that he hadn’t had a day off work in 17 weeks, and many of them had been 12 hour days.  It was either the work stress, dextro-methorphan poisoning from all the Hall’s, or a combination of both, that lost him his job.  Not once, but twice, he phoned the plant manager’s house (who, of course, wasn’t home) and screamed at his wife and daughters and threatened them with violence and death.  I’m not sure if he demanded less overtime, or more.

The inspector/packer on my Jeep line was a little, Muslim, Turkish Cypriot.  As such, he had a great need for male children.  His wife first presented him with two daughters.  He bitched at her, but she was sufficiently Canadian to tell him that he only got back what he put in.

She finally gave him a son, but – Oh Horrors – the boy’s right ear was malformed, and he held it against her, loudly, constantly.  They had a nice little house, with a nice little mortgage.  She must have felt that, if he was going to either ignore her or belittle her, she wanted something that included room away from him.  Before long, they had a nice big house, with a nice big mortgage.

Soon, between abandoning her and paying down the mortgage, he was spending huge amounts of time at the plant.  One day, the supervisor distributed our pay checks and, without thinking, I asked, “Did you work any overtime last week?”  Then I slapped myself!  I worked the standard 40 hours.  He had a slow week at 80, 24 at time-and-a-half, and 16 at double-time pay, and yet, his check was exactly double mine.  All the premium pay had gone to the government as taxes.

He would work four hours over, each day – five 12-hour days by Friday – then come in on Saturday and Sunday as well.  If he wasn’t asked for overtime, he had a system.  Even if he worked till 11 PM Friday night, he was back at the plant by 6 AM Saturday morning, “Just to get something from his locker.”  He knew that, of a crew of 10 or 12, at least one would get drunk, or forget to set an alarm, and he would be invited to fill in.

He had another trick.  He would work the Saturday day-shift, come back at 11 PM and work the overnight midnight shift, get a bit of food and sleep, and return once again and work the Sunday afternoon shift, getting in three shifts over two days.

A few times, he managed to stretch one of the weekend shifts to 12 hours, giving him a total of 88 hours for the week.  Wilcox’s “eight shifts a week” is nothing; that’s eleven! At least once that I know of, he managed to get 12 hours on two of the weekend shifts, setting his record (and anybody else’s) at 92 hours.

He showed me a picture in his wallet once, of a handsome young man.  I thought it might be a younger brother or cousin.  It was just him, shortly before I met him, pinched, dried, wasted!  I own an 11-year-old car that I may not be able to afford to replace.  At 70, my mortgage isn’t paid off yet, but people still don’t believe I’m as old as I am.  I worked to live.  I didn’t live to work.

Huge work hours, and dedication to a job or career can buy you lots of “stuff”, but it often doesn’t leave you enough time or energy to truly enjoy your stuff.  I tried to attain a middle ground with my employment, and still often shake my head at those who don’t leave time for life or family.

Change

I took the wife to a nice hotel for a change and a rest.  The bell-boy got all my change, and the hotel took the rest.

The reason I originally came here for a job, was that, for 150 years, this area has been known to be in the forefront of industry – insurance companies, breweries, distilleries, and all kinds of manufacturing jobs, often with companies that were on the cutting edge for their time.  While I bemoan the passing of the manufacturing jobs, the region continues to reinvent itself in the service, and technology theaters.

Despite over 80% public disapproval, the mayor and several councillors continue to midwife the birth of an ego/memorial, street railroad.  They want to be remembered as the visionaries who breathed life back into a downtown area which has been moribund for 30 years, although their project may be years too early.

Even though my taxes will go up, it seems to be working.  New, upscale restaurants and clubs are already opening, down the main street, and an old, ex-Sears store has been converted to apartments.  A block below my auto-parts plant, at a major intersection, the main plant and head office of my bankrupt shoe company has been converted to condo lofts.  Yuppie acceptance was so avid, that move-in dates were delayed for over a year, while they built two more stories on the old four-floor building.

Between the two buildings, a new bus/train/LRT station is going in.  Across the corner, a U-Haul office was torn out, and a ten-floor apartment is being built.  On the final corner, the Community College has erected their School of Optometry, and School of Pharmacy, where the chiropractor’s son is studying.

Up the hill behind them, and over the railroad tracks, across from my old workplace, the owner of the strip-mall property has just announced a complete rebuild.  Gone will be our tacky watering-hole bar, and a Tim Horton’s outlet which died after our plant closed, because of poor access and parking.  Built before drive-throughs, it moved two blocks up the street and took over a failed Wendy’s.

Research In Motion, also known as the RIM Corporation, was founded in our sister city to the north, and made BlackBerry Phones, until the company name finally changed to BlackBerry.  When they had almost as much money as Carlos Slim, or Oprah Winfrey, they endowed a think-tank known as CIGI, the Centre for International Governance Innovation, who try to show political entities all over the world, how to run their fiefs cheaper, smoother, fairer.

RIM Corp also created the Perimeter Institute, a collection of mathematicians, cosmologists, theoretical physicists and quantum mechanics experts, guys with really tiny wrenches.  Supported by BlackBerry, they’re busily trying to develop things like FTL space-drives, teleportation systems, and quantum computers.

It’s been visited by the likes of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who is bringing Carl Sagan’s Cosmos back to TV.  Steven Hawking has stopped by to bless and anoint it, and is returning this spring.

After RIM/BlackBerry became rich and famous, the two inventive, innovative founders were eased out by the shareholders, and a bean-counter administrator was hired to run it.  Run it he did – almost into the ground.  While it was in its death spiral, he grabbed his $55 million Golden Parachute and bailed out.

The latest CEO seems to be turning it around.  A 3000 unit order by a major US police department is not enough alone to revive it, but is a vote of confidence which may have caused Ford Motors to decide to put BlackBerry technology in their cars.

When they were carving BlackBerry’s tombstone, Panasonic moved into my old auto plant.  Merely a marketing and R&D office at first, they soon made it clear that they were willing to purchase real estate that RIM was selling off and use it to manufacture Panasonic Smartphones locally.

A couple of years ago, Google opened an office in a rehabilitated tannery, a block beyond the new pharmacy school, sharing space with automation and robotics firms.  The area is so promising that they have decided to expand, moving up the street beside Panasonic, into a space where I used to make Jeep parts.

When I started working there, my favorite local radio station played good, solid, baby-boomer Rock and Roll.  Over the years it changed to Soft Rock, and then to Pop, and finally to Bubble-gum, not fit for anyone over 22 to listen to.

A young man at the plant introduced me to his station.  Coming from just at the edge of clear reception, 35/40 miles away, it loudly and proudly called itself The Hawk.  For years it played only Classic Rock!  Sadly, commerce and changing demographics forced it also to change to Soft Rock, and finally Pop, under the inspiring moniker, More Radio.

I don’t think I was exposed to Justin Bieber, but I heard his girlfriend, Selena Gomez, and the entitled and irritating Taylor Swift, who I never, never, ever want to have to listen to again.  One evening recently, the son wanted More information about the ex-Hawk station, so he accessed their website.  He came rushing out of his room and turned the stereo in the living room on.

Apparently, at 5 PM on a Friday evening, without any hoopla, or even a warning announcement, they quietly changed to All-Country, all the time.  I have become my father.  The radios in the house and car have gone silent.  It’s all right though.  If any of you have words of consolation for me, I can’t hear them.  I took a screwdriver and poked my eardrums out.

Some of it’s good.  Some of it’s….meh.  I’d settle for a lot less, “Plus Ça change,” and a bit more of “la même chose”!  Alas, woe is me!    😉

That’s Gratitude For You

Once upon a time, long, long ago, and far, far away, there was a great king, who ruled over a large kingdom.  He was a good king, who ruled fairly, and well, but there are always malcontents, and so there were in his kingdom.

There arose a plot to have him assassinated, and replaced by one of the Noblemen from the court.  This man wanted desperately to be King, and convinced three of the other Counts to abet him in his nefarious scheme, telling them he would make a better King.

He hatched a plan whereby the other three Counts would kill the King, while he was out of the country, so that no suspicion would fall on him, and the people would accept him as the new King.

The plan failed, however, and the three Counts were captured, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.  The King decided to give them one last chance though, and went to see them in prison.  “I know that you three are not the ones responsible for this plot.” he said, “So if you will tell me who the ringleader is, I will set you free if you swear never to try such a thing again.”

The nobles steadfastly refused to say a thing, so they were marched out to the headsman’s block.  One by one, they were placed on it, and each time they were asked for the ringleader’s name, they stonily remained silent.  Two of them met the blade without a word.  The third man was placed on the block.  Just as the axe descended, he shouted, “I’ll tell!  I’ll tell!” but it was too late, and the King never learned who was plotting against him.

The moral of this story is; Never hatchet your Counts before they chicken.

 

MY  MOM

St. Mary’s Home for the Aged

Kitchener, Ontario

February 30, 1967

 

Dear Gentlemen:

I want to thank you very much for the lovely gift of the table radio.  It’s just wonderful that absolute strangers such as yourselves remember people like us.

I am a lady, 86 years old, and have been here at the home for 25 years.  They treat us well, but the loneliness is sometimes difficult to bear.

My room-mate, Mrs. Finney, is a very nice person, but the lady is very stingy.  She has a table radio, but she won’t let me use it.  She even turns it off whenever I come into the room.  Now, thanks to you, I have my own radio.

My son and daughter-in-law are very nice, and they come to visit me once a month.  I do appreciate that, but I understand their sense of obligation.  This makes your gift all the more wonderful, since it was not given from a sense of pity, but from a feeling of compassion for a fellow human being.

Today, Mrs. Finney’s radio went out of order, and she asked me if she could share your wonderful gift, and listen to my radio.  I told her to go fuck herself.

Again, please accept my heartfelt thanks.

Sincerely yours,

Mrs. Smith

 

 

THE RULES

 

  1.  The Female always makes The Rules.
  2. The Rules are subject to change without notice.
  3. No Male can possibly know all The Rules.
  4. If a Female suspects that a Male knows all The Rules, she must immediately change some or all of The Rules.
  5. The Female is never wrong.
  6. If the Female is wrong, it is because of a flagrant misunderstanding, which was a direct result of something the Male said or did.
  7. If Rule 6 applies, the Male must apologise immediately for causing the misunderstanding.
  8. The Female can change her mind at any given point in time.
  9. The Male must never change his mind without specific written consent from the Female.
  10. The Female has every right to be angry or upset at any time.
  11. The Male must remain calm at all times, unless the Female wants him to be angry or upset.
  12. The Female must, under no circumstances, let the Male know whether or not she wants him to be angry or upset.
  13. Any attempt to document these rules could result in bodily harm.
  14. If the Female has PMS, all rules are null and void

Smiles everyone!  Smiles!