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.

Sleep Walking

I spent nine years in the Marine Corps.  There are many stories I could tell about my enlistment, but I suspect something would get lost in the translation, as they like to say.

I reported to MCRD San Diego in late 1968.  I have been told there are two things worse than boot camp, but for the next eight weeks, I just had a hard time figuring out what they might be.

I had good drill instructors and they did a lot to help to prepare me for the ordeals to come.  I thought I was done with the hard stuff when I left MCRD, but I had a rude awakening when I reported to Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) at Camp Pendleton.

They have magical mountains there and I became very familiar with them.  The troop handlers claimed that our destinations in the morning would be all up hill.  Then, in the evening, it would be all up hill on the way back.  Never could figure out how they did that.

At any rate, everyday was too little sleep and too much marching.  When I went into boot camp, I weighed 140 pounds and was six-one.  When I finished ITR, I weighed 160 pounds.  Most of the weight gain was in my legs.  It was from carrying backpacks all over those mountains.

At any rate, when that was over, they sent us to something called casual company.  I have no idea where it got that name.  There was nothing casual about it.  They kept me there until I received my orders to school.  Well, at least they gave us some freedom at night and I did recover some of my sleep.

From time to time, they needed people for various details, one of which was guard duty.  If I remember right, there were about eleven posts.  Two guards walked the fence around the armory, one on the inside of the fence, one on the outside.  I’m sure there was a reason for that, but they didn’t tell us.

Once every half hour, we called out to the next closest post, something about the post being secure.  This was relayed from post to post until it reached the sergeant of the guard.

Everything went well through the night until early morning.  The post that was supposed to report to me, didn’t.  At fifteen minutes late, we decided to report his absence, when he called out to us.  Once we made the relay, I asked him why he was so late.

“Fell asleep,” said he.

“You’re not supposed to lie down,” said I.

“I didn’t,” said he.

“How did you fall asleep?” asked I.

“I just kept walking,” said he.

“While you were asleep?”

“Yep,” said he.  “Walked right into a building.  It made a lot of noise and a gunnery sergeant came out and asked what all the noise was about.  I told him I tripped.”

To this day, I find it somewhat unusual.  I have heard of sleepwalking, but I don’t think that’s normally how it’s done.


If you like stories on the unbelievable side, you might like to visit my authors page.  The above story is true.  My books aren’t.  More than that, some are very unbelievable.  They are written for enjoyment and occasionally provoke a thought or two.  Some of them even have things floating around in them.

If you would rather, you can simply do a search on my name, Ben Rhodes within  Be careful to ignore all the books by the other authors.  I promise.  They aren’t as good.

My most purchased book is “The Prepper.”  I don’t know why.  When I started writing the book, it was more-or-less as a lark.  It’s not about prepping.  As the title implies, it is about a person, a prepper.

Thank you for visiting my blog site.

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.”


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:


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 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.