Saturday, March 30, 2013

Teaching Somebody to Ride a Bicycle Over the Phone

My wife called her mother to wish her a happy birthday on Saturday night. We have grandchildren ourselves who are grown adults so you can imagine how many birthdays that my mother-in-law has stacked up. My wife handed the phone to me after a few minutes.

“Mom wants to talk to you.”

Mom and I get on well enough but it’s unusual that she wants to talk to me over the phone. However, she stayed a few months with us during the past winter to get away from the northern winter. During that time she got a few samples of my writing and especially liked the humor stories.

Having misplaced the copies of my stories that she took home with her she was asking me to snail mail duplicates to her.

“Mom, you can pull them off of the internet yourself,” I told her, “and have them a lot faster.”

“Oh, okay, but how do I do that?”

I started to tell her how to find where the stories were posted. It wasn’t working. In addition, I realized that she would struggle to find the five or six stories that she wanted out of the dozens that I had posted.

“I’ll tell you what, Mom. It might be easier if you just search my name in Google.” I did so myself as I spoke. When I saw all of the things popped up I decided that might be bad idea, too. Mom could have found my name attached to Search Warp but she would still struggle to find what she wanted to read.

I had another idea that we could just friend-up on Facebook. I have an author page on there and she is familiar enough with Facebook. Unfortunately, Mom has a fairly common name and that made searching for her, to do friend request, a difficult task.

“Do you have an email address?” I knew the answer as I asked.

“Okay, does Nicole have an email address?” Nicole was the daughter that she lived with.

There was another voice for a time and I wasn't sure who was talking to whom. Finally, Mom asked if I just couldn't snail mail the stories to her.

“If that’s the only way,” I promised her, “but you could have them instantly via the internet.”

I left her with the promise that I’d get her Facebook identification from my wife and hook her up that way. As it turned out my wife also had her sister’s email address and I sent all of the six URLs via email. I also made the Facebook connection so that she could find, at least, some of the articles linked on my author page or the news feed.

Later I looked at my wife and said, “You know, that was quite like trying to teach somebody how to ride a bicycle over the phone.”

“That’s just wrong,” was her response.

Friday, March 29, 2013

I Was A Human Remote Control

"Somebody change the channel," my father directed from vantage of his kick-back chair. There were no Lazy Boys in those days. Dad was slouched back into an overstuffed arm chair with his feet on the footstool in front of him.

'Somebody' means any kid within earshot and do it quick. If the lion's first growl doesn't get results then he doesn't growl twice. The next time he will ROAR!

If the ROAR doesn't get instant results then the cubs are going to get cuffed by either The King of the pride or the she-lion. Either way, it isn't pleasant. Being the eldest, and in interest of self preservation, I was usually first to launch myself toward the TV to twist the channel knob.

There were thirteen numbers and a UHF position on the knob but only three channels were broadcast. Figure that one out. Neither cable TV nor electronic remote controls ever existed in my father's lifetime.

The danger for the human remote was going too slow or too fast when changing the channel for The King. Let's say you had channels 2, 5 and 9 that received crystal clear into the old Motorola. Then you had channels 7 and 13 that would receive from distant stations but not clear enough for viewing.

With the channels that had no reception at all, you could twist on through them without much pause. With the strong-reception channels the human remote was required to pause until commanded to "change it again." Weak-reception channels also required The King's command before turning to the next channel on the first time around all of the channels. On the second pass the human remote understood not to tarry on the weak-reception channels lest he wants to suffer a ROAR.

The problem came in with the commercials. When a channel change was desired by The King, it was often also the time when all of the stations were running commercials. Hence, after about the third or fourth time through a full rotation of channels it was natural, on the part of the human remote, to increase the tempo between station switches. Then the inevitable ROAR would come.


Eventually, the commercials were over and The King would settle on one channel that had an old movie running. Within a few minutes, however, there was a good chance that The King was going to growl anyway.

“I’ve seen this one before. Change it again.”

By this time the commercials were on again and you have to get through three of four cycles of the “CALL
FOR PHILLIP MORRRRIIIIISSSSS” or the ever suave Aqua Velva man. Then there was “Brylcreem, a little dab do ya’ but watch out! The gals will all pursue ya’….They’ll love to get their fingers in your hair.”


Attitudes Are Contagious

The traffic was slowed to 20 MPH on the south bound lanes of a highway with a posted speed limit of 50 MPH. The cars were holding tight with about 15 feet from one bumper to the next. However, motorists were trying to enter southbound from an eastbound side-road that was controlled by a stop sign. The right lane slowed more as some the southbound drivers opened their tight formation to allow the eastbound traffic to turn in front of them at a rate of every other car.

One black car had on a left turn signal indicating that the driver wanted to go north but no one was yielding. I slowed to crawl about 100 feet before this car. I never give hand signals of encouragement but the driver was astute enough to assume my intention.  He eased out in front of me.

The tailgater In the Chevy Tahoe behind me sounded her horn. I ignored her and held distance from the black car. Gaining the confidence that I was going to yield to him, he pulled out to block the right lane in front of me. The activity got the attention of another southbound driver in the left lane. That driver also yielded so that the driver of the black car could pull safely into the median and wait for an opening into the northbound lanes.

Looking into my rear view to see how Ms. Impatience was doing in her big Tahoe, I was pleased to see that she had opened the distance between us to about 50 feet and her passenger was waving to the next driver on the eastbound side road to signal that it was okay to merge into southbound traffic.

The only thing wrong with the scenario was the hand gesture. If a driver isn't smart enough to understand the opportunity put before him without a hand signal then he’ll need to wait for the next opportunity. The trouble with hand gestures is you never know for certain how someone will react. If they do something stupid that causes an accident then you bought into the responsibility for it with your hand gesture.

On the positive note, the Tahoe driver was impatient with me at first. However, when she realized what I was doing, then she in turn, showed some cooperation and kindness to another driver. How do you suppose that she might have reacted if I had flipped her off for sounding her horn at me?
Attitudes are contagious. It’s as easy to infect a positive one as it is throw anger about. The result is safer and less stressful driving.

Now you’re probably thinking of your stories about the super jerks that are always on the roads. Yes they are there but they are far less noticeable when, in my experience, I don’t engage them. They’ll probably have an accident eventually. I have chosen not to participate.