So Much for Status Symbols

This little story is true.  It actually happened though I decided to leave the names out.

Some might find this difficult to believe, but there was a day when beepers were expensive and few used them.  They were carried by doctors, lawyers and rich people who just wanted to look important.

During this time, I repaired computers.  I didn’t rate a beeper, partly because they were expensive and partly because I worked mostly in one place.  I did have colleagues who did carry them, mostly because they were more important than I was.

At that time, when you went into a hospital, you could almost tell the doctors because of the little things that were proudly fastened to their belt.

Okay, my apologies to the doctors.  They did have legitimate reasons for wearing them.  Still, to this day I do wonder about some of them.  I got the feeling they had no desire to hide them.

One of my colleagues, whom I will call Joe, (not his real name) carried a beeper.  He moved around from place to place and people did need to contact him from time to time.

One day, Joe was in a hospital.  He stepped into an elevator along with a few others.  Then there was the unmistakable sound of a beeper.

For those unaware of it, when in an enclosed environment like an elevator, determining which beeper beeped can be a little tricky.  The noise seems to be coming from everywhere, yet nowhere.

The two doctors checked.  “Not mine.”

Joe checked.  “Not mine.”

The sales rep with his little cart of drugs.  “Not mine.”

There was just the one left.  The African-American maintenance man who had been sitting in the corner trying to get a few seconds of rest, said, “Rats.  Must be mine again.”

Nowadays, I carry a cell phone, as does my wife.  I don’t guess we really need to.  I do like to have one when I get in my car.  I never know when something might happen that I need it.  In one instance, I actually did call in an accident.  I also used it one time when I had a flat tire.

Thing is that everyone has them now, even those on welfare.  This was not always the case.  When I first got out of the Marines, I met a man who had a mobile phone, not a cell phone.  It required a big radio in his trunk and it cost him a bundle just for the service.  The instant he used it, the cost went up very fast.  I suspect not too many people knew his number.

Then they came out with cell phones.  The first ones were big and heavy.  Some of them came in two parts, the handset, and then something a little smaller than a shoebox that contained the electronics.

One day I took my wife and kids bowling and I noticed a man carrying around one of these things.  Being as my background is in electronics, I was mildly interested in it.  After a glance or two, we went over to our assigned lane and started changing our shoes.

Then I heard an announcement.  “Someone left their cell phone at the front counter.”  The man apparently forgot it.  After a short pause, the woman making the announcement added, “I think it’s ringing.”

It goes without saying, the man did not walk, but ran to the front desk.

At any rate, those days are over.  My cell phone is so small I can barely keep from pushing two buttons at a time on it.  I actually wish it were bigger, though I am glad the shoebox-sized ones are outdated.

Now if we could just get those who have them glued to their ears to turn them off when the plane is ready to leave.

Indefinite Pronouns

I’m hardly an expert in English.  Over the years; however, I have learned a thing or two.  One of the things I learned was to avoid over using a word.  Things get annoying if a word, such as “thing”, gets used too much.  “Thing,” is an especially bad word to overuse for a number of reasons.  So, instead of using thing, it is better to use a word more specific.

The thing that makes thing especially bad is that it is weak, or so I’m told.  However, I’ve noticed it competes with something, nothing and everything, for example.  Therefore, I bend over backward to avoid the word thing, or for that matter, too many words ending in “ing.”

Sometimes, when proofreading my stories, I get tired of it.  I’ve found passages where words ending “ing” occur two or three times in each paragraph.  Sometimes, it seems unavoidable, but I do make an effort at it.

There is another thing us storytellers need to avoid.  It is what I call the indefinite pronoun.  Okay, my definition of indefinite pronouns is not the same you find in the books, but I feel it is still just as important.  This story in a somewhat humorous way illustrates my point.

My son, Josh wanted to cook something.  In his way, on the stove was a hot pan.  To the left of the stove was a sink full of dishwater.

Well, with the pan being hot, he didn’t know what to do with it, so he called out, “Mom, what should I do with this pan?”

“What pan?”

“This hot skillet.”

“Get a potholder and put it in the water.”

“Okay.”

All right.  I guess I don’t need to tell you what happened after that.

“Josh!  What did you do that for?”

“It’s what you told me to do.”

“You knew what I meant!”

“You told me to put it in the water.”

“The pan, Josh!  The Pan!”

“That’s not what you told me.”

Okay.  He knew what she meant.  He knew to put the pan in the water.  He was just having a little fun.  As storytellers though, we have to be careful about such possibilities (aren’t you glad I used possibilities instead of things?)

By proper definition, this was not an indefinite pronoun, but I still like to think of it as one.  Though the pronoun was supposed to refer to the pan, Josh – though he knew better – he assumed it referred to the potholder.  After all, how was Josh supposed to refer to the word, ‘pan’, which was not even in the instruction.

Maybe I go to extremes sometimes avoiding a misunderstanding.  I certainly have been accused of it enough times, but I don’t like it when someone reads my stories and has problems with matching the right pronoun (such as he or she) with the right character.  If you come across such a reference, maybe you can tell me.  Also, if you find me overusing words, especially thing, I’d consider it a good thing if you’d let me know.

 

This story is a true one.  As a writer, my novels are fiction, in some cases, even fantasies.  If I am given the choice of believable or interesting, I try to choose interesting.  When I choose between realistic and romantic, I choose romantic.  If I must choose between plausible or humorous, I try to choose humorous.

In addition, there are a few stories that are really tall tales.  I made no attempt to make them believable.  Sometimes, it is just so the reader can have fun following me in my imagination, such as “The Prepper.”  On the other hand, some have a little basis in reality.

If you go to my author’s page at:

 

http://www.amazon.com/author/story_teller

 

You will find more than 30 stories from which to choose.  Hopefully, you will find one or two there you might like.  (By the way, there is an underscore between story and teller.  I know it may not be easy to see.)

Also you can just log onto Amazon.com and enter my name.  This, however, is less desirable.  You will need to avoid looking at any other books listed there.  They are no more distractions.

The Beauty of the Backspace Key

I prefer to refer to myself as a storyteller rather than an author.  I write stories.  Most of them are fictitious tall tales, but this one is both personal and true.

I entered high school in 1960, a long time ago.  I looked around for a while and took notice that typing would be a useful skill.  So, being the brilliant person I am, I arranged a class during summer school to learn how to type.

After all, most people know that type written term papers usually get at least half a grade point higher than one that was handwritten, sometimes more.  Besides, my handwriting skills weren’t the greatest, speed or quality.  Adding speed as well as the quality would have been a big advantage.

I want you to know I gave up a lot for that class.  Not only did I give up many summer activities, but I also trudged through the summer heat every day to get to and from school.  Well, I did have a bicycle.

I put a lot of effort into the class.  I worked hard.  I gave it all I had.  I worked my fingers to the bone.  Failed it miserably.  Managed a blazing speed of 17 words a minute with three mistakes.

Actually, the seventeen words a minute was not a problem.  It was likely fast as or faster than my handwriting.

However, I want you to know, I suffered all through my life, to this day because of those mistakes.  They came out with all kinds of wonderful stuff, just for me.  They came out with a tape that I could put just above the paper and type the erroneous character and it was as if the wrong character was never there.  Well, not quite.

Throughout my life, the typewriter and I have had our battles.  Volumes could be filled with stories about them, but I’m trying to keep this story short.  It’s not supposed to be a book.

Let’s just say my type written papers had almost as many corrections as characters.  It would have been nice to avoid them, but my job required them

Then, during the mid-eighties, they came up with something wonderful.  The computer.  Not only did the computer keyboard have a backspace key, but also, when it is used, it makes it as if the errant character never existed.  What a wonderful thing!

Then they came out with something even better, an undo function.  Nowadays, if I make a big mistake, I can undo it.  If I realize that it wasn’t a mistake after all, I can redo it.

I want you to know, for those of us that had to work on dinosaur type typewriters: this is no small thing.  Today, it is taken for granted.  Today, I type about forty or so words a minute, but I still make a ton of mistakes.  However, I can now reach up there with my little finger and make them magically disappear.  (By the way, it is one of the most used keys on my keyboard.)

Then one day a thought occurred to me.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had backspace keys in life?  I say something I know I shouldn’t have; I just hit the backspace key.  I do something that hurts someone; I just press the backspace key.  It’s gone, poof—as if it never happened.

Unfortunately, we don’t have that option.  Every page in life is written in indelible ink.  It can’t be erased.  It can’t even really be covered up.  When I say something or do something that hurts someone, I have to live with it as well as the person I hurt.  Then again, if we all did have such a key, there would be no need to be careful.  Maybe that wouldn’t be so good.

Then there are those who don’t care.  If they hurt someone, it’s of no real significance to them.  In the world of psychiatry, they have names for such people.  I have a few names for such people too, a long list of them.

At any rate, when I hurt people, It is somewhat of a relief.  I feel bad, and I sometimes hurt.  It’s a reminder to be careful.  Besides, it separates me from those who have no pain when they hurt others.  I think that’s a good thing.  It’s just a little thought from an old man who enjoys telling stories.

Please visit my Author’s Page at

http://www.amazon.com/author/story_teller

There are many books to chose from.  You will not find one with profanity or adult passages.  Though a few of them get have some violence, they are far less violent than what you will find on network TV these days.  More important, the violence has purpose.

Sometimes, It’s Better to Smile and Say Nothing

This story is true and a bit long.  A foundation must be set to appreciate my situation completely.

When I was a young man of twenty, I joined the Marines.  This eventually brought me to NAS Memphis for aviation electronics training.

Today it is considered politically incorrect to call a woman in the Navy a wave, but back then, it was commonplace.  We had a woman in our class, and to say she was outspoken would be a bit of an understatement.

To utilize the training equipment, during lab assignments we worked in pairs.  Thinking back over it, I guess I was fortunate not to have her as a lab partner until the last unit of the school, RADAR.

I suppose I should explain that the situation was made somewhat worse by the fact that she was attractive.  Other than her outspokenness, she also had a pleasant personality.

During the RADAR unit, we had assignments that required us to get close to a display to count dots on it.  By both of us getting close to the display, we had to get close to each other, in this case, the sides of our heads were almost touching.  The only alternative was for us to take turns which we did for a while.

At first, I felt awkward about it and I think she did too, but as time went on, we didn’t even think about it.  As the instructor was walking by, he noticed it and asked, “All right.  What’s going on back here?”  I’m not sure, but I don’t think anyone in the class heard his question.

It was a joke.  He knew it.  I knew it and she knew it.  We all just laughed but she just had to add her two cents, “Don’t you know?  He’s my necking partner.”

Though a bit awkward, it still didn’t really bother me.  It was a joke, and the instructor knew it.

 

A couple of days later, while we were in the classroom, the instructor made a remark about me.  I can’t even remember what it was, but it was less than flattering.  It might have had something to do with my large ears.

At any rate, the wave apparently didn’t like the remark.  So, for everyone to hear, she said, “Don’t knock my necking partner!”

Now it wouldn’t have been that bad if all the others heard the previous conversation, but none of them did.  That information was known only by the three of us.

Experience told me that trying to explain would only make the situation worse.  She and the instructor were the only two that laughed.  The rest, I know, were looking at me.  I kept thinking, “Where’s a good foxhole to hide in when you need one.”  Not finding anywhere to hide, I smiled and said nothing.  Right then, I thought it was the most prudent thing.

 

I went on to another advanced nine-week school before leaving Memphis, as did she.  Hers was in training devices, mine in radios.  Once I finished the school, I started the check out process.

As I walked along the street to my next destination, I heard a voice behind me.  “There’s my necking partner!”

I don’t guess I need to explain who I saw when I turned around.  If she’d been much farther from me, I don’t think she could have yelled loud enough for me to hear.

Beside her was a bewildered woman marine.  Needless-to-say, there were a few others that looked over, first at her, then at me.  We talked for a while after that.  Then, we went our separate ways.

We haven’t seen each other since, but for some time after that, I lived in fear of meeting her again, especially if she saw me first.

 

Please take a few minutes to look at my books on my author’s page at

amazon.com/author/story_teller