Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hats Off to the MPs

A friend from Company A and I were between trains and wandering around Union station in Chicago. We had been on furlough and were headed back to the Army Life. Two military police accosted us and asked our names, ranks, serial numbers, what outfit we were in, etc. I assumed that they were just checking on wandering servicemen to see if they were legitimately in transit. As they left they told us to put our hats on. Weren’t we indoors, we asked? We certainly were under cover – there was a roof up above our heads. They gave us a cold, MP look and moved on. The lesson for the day – never get smart with the Military Police.

We were greeted at our camp in California by a very angry Company commander who was waiting for us. He had fire in his eye. He had received a telegram from some hot-shot MP in Chicago requiring the Captain to “reply by endorsement” as to why we had been in Chicago Union Station with our caps neatly folded over our belts instead of on our heads. As he raved, it gradually became apparent he was really much more angry at the MPs than at us.

That was the kind of leader you would follow anywhere.


It was early. I am nervous about any day that starts that way.

I was getting my orange juice and instant coffee. I got out a cup and a glass. I put the instant coffee "crystals" in the cup. While waiting for the water to heat, I got the orange juice from the refrigerator. I promptly poured the juice into the cup on top of the instant coffee "crystals". It was either drink caffeinated orange juice or pour the whole mess out and start over. I chose the latter.

When your first thought of the day is a stupid thought, you have to be nervious about the rest of the day.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

My Correspondence

Notes I need to be reminded to write:

• To the weather man reminding him that is to dry season in Florida and it is not proper that it is raining cats and dogs.

• To Medicare asking if they will pay to have racing stripes painted on my electric wheelchair.

• Multiple letters to the editors on the subjects of Bush - Hillary – Gingrich. And a special one concerning Edwards reminding the populace that a president with a Southern drawl has invariably been a flop. (I made this up. My memory fails beyond Carter).

• Explanations for not sending Christmas cards this year and thank you’s for presents received.

• To “morethandonuts” asking that she please stop giving priority to her job and start blogging again. We miss her.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hold That Plane!

This happened long ago, before airports enjoyed the security measures now in place. We had been at a convention at Boca Raton. When it was time to leave, we decided to take the leisurely, scenic route back to Fort Lauderdale Airport via A1A. We completely misjudged the time it would take to get to the airport. About halfway there, we panicked. We returned to the main highway, and sped the rest of the way. We arrived at about the time our plane was supposed to take off. I dropped off my wife with the luggage and hustled off to return our rental car. But the return area was a long way from the airport, so I simply stopped the car in the middle of the airport road and ran for the gate. Passing the Hertz counter, I ducked to the front of the long line, without a word I tossed the keys to the girl behind the counter, and continued running for the plane. My wife was standing in the door of the plane, explaining to the stewardess that her husband would soon be there. We got on the plane. They closed the door and we took off. We never heard from Hertz again and had happy memories of our trip. Just imagine trying that stunt today.

Ps. Of course, our luggage missed the plane, but it did catch the next one.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Strange Travel Adventures

One of my weirdest travel adventures took place in Chicago. A group of us had flown out early in the day for a meeting with a Chicago company. We were met at the airport by representatives of the Chicago company and taken immediately to our hotel right on the airport grounds. Told that our rooms were not ready yet (as expected), we checked in and checked our luggage. Next, we were taken for an exciting ride in their company helicopter around the city of Chicago, zooming in on buildings and waving to people in office windows. Funny, I am afraid (but brave) of airplanes, but love helicopters. After the "attack the Sears Tower" episode, we were flown out of town to company headquarters for our meetings. As night fell we, of course, had to go out to dinner at a fancy Chicago restaurant. (Oh, the travails of company life.) It was11:30PM or later when we returned to the hotel. A bellman met us at the door and took our checks for our luggage. He came back with it piled on a cart and led each of us to our room. He told me that my room had been changed and traded the key I had for a new one. It was a comfortable room and I slept well that night. But the next morning when it came time to check out, the stereotypical gentleman behind the desk downstairs told me that they had no record of my being at the hotel. After much discussion including my suggestion, rejected. he go see that the room had been used, I wrote my name and business address on a slip of paper and left to catch my plane home.

Several days later at work I received a letter from American Express. It’s said that I had a guaranteed reservation at that hotel but had not used it. Therefore, I would be charged one night room rate. I called both American Express and the hotel and we finally decided, “what the heck” just let American Express charge me and let’s not bother to figure out what happened.

This worked for everyone except the company accountants. When I tried to explain it to them, they threw up their hands and said, “Oh for heaven’s sake, just give us a simple, logical lie, and don’t confuse us with the facts.” I did, but I avoided that hotel from then on.

Over decades of corporate existance, among the conclusions I drew were that accountants will take more shortcuts than a flock of geese.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Easy Chair

I went to the dentist yesterday. Going to the dentist is easier these days than the olden days that I remember. I even dropped off to sleep yesterday while I was having my teeth cleaned. In my youth the dentist chair was simply a modified barber chair and slightly less comfortable. In the early 50s we lived next door to a young industrial designer. He worked for a famous industrial designer in New York. One day after a few beer he explained what his group was working on. It was a comfortable, reclining dental chair. That may not seem like a radical concept today. But it was in those days.

I didn't appreciate this genius at the time and only gave him credit for being a pretty good surf fisherman on weekends. Funny how a revolution can stare you in the face and all you see is the light pole it is leaning against.

Need a nap. - go to the dentist.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sgt. Bilko Reporting

In the Philippine Islands, immediately after the surrender of the Japanese, there was a period or a wave of "relief", "let down", "relaxation", or whatever the psychologists might call it. Discipline went AWOL. In the supply room, through the use of night forays to unprotected warehouses, we were able to obtain sheets for every bunk in the company. That was unheard of in the Infantry. We got a walk-in refrigerator and whiskey and gin to fill it. We decorated the interior of the day room, also borrowed, with colored parachute, glass brick, and sheet aluminum. It was a fun time in the Army. A time to frolic.

It was also the time for my first flight in an airplane. Several of us dressed in our finest and drove a jeep to the nearest airport. It was a common thing in that day to hitch rides on airplanes all over the South Pacific. For reasons which I forget, we wanted to go to Guam. But try as we might, we could not find a flight going that direction. In fact, we couldn't find a flight going anywhere exotic. We had to settle for a flight from our airport (Then Nichols Field, now Manila International) to nearby Clark Field ( which I believe is no more).

Seeing the plane that we were going to fly in, one of the fellows volunteered to drive the jeep to Clark Field and meet us there. He was wise. The plane was a very old, war-weary, C-3 ? cargo plane. There were no seats for passengers. We simply sat on the floor back in the cargo area. There was a window through which I could see the wings bend as the pilot gunned the engine on the ground. I lost all confidence then. But later in the air, when they flapped as we went through clouds, I approached a state of near-terror. Our flight lasted perhaps the longest 60 minutes of my life. Our driver picked us up and the defeated world-travelers drove home to our comfy bunks. I wasn't in a hurry to fly again. (But, of course, I did.)

Darning Egg

Does any one darn socks anymore. My grandmother used to have the neatest porcelain egg with a handle that made it easier for her to darn socks. I haven't seen one of those around lately. Now I get a hole in a sock and I just throw the pair in the trash basket. Wastrel!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Mulling-Look that up in your Funk & Wagnall

I occasionally mull, and one of the subjects I mull over is the marking of books. When I was very, very young, I was scolded if I scribbled in a book. Later, in school I learned that the 11th Commandment was, “Thou shalt not mark in books”. This had a practical reason, since the books belonged to the school and were given, the next year, to another student who was similarly told not the mark the book. If you broke this commandment, of course, your parents received a bill from the school board. This would lead to harsh repercussions. After leaving high school and getting to college I could see some practical use for marking in books if, in fact, the prof had indicated some particular part of the chapter that he intended to test on. However, there was an economic side to this, since the purchase of books each semester was expensive and was often financed by reselling the previous semester’s books to the bookstore. They would markedly (attempted pun) reduce the price if they found that scribbling, underlining, highlighting*, or other sins had been practiced upon the book. So it’s never been clear to me, I often feel I bought it; I paid for it; it IS my book. Why can’t I mark it? Well on further mulling, it occurs to me that when I finish with a book I’m either going to give away, in which case my markings are no value to the receiver, or I am going to stick it on a book shelf, up on the top shelf, and probably never look at it again. My markings will be for naught. So what am I to believe, should I mark books when the urge strikes me, or should I not?

* Who am I kidding? Highlighters had not been invented when I was in school.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Being Outsmarted

Basic training in the Army in the 1940s was more than just being taught which end of the rifle to point at the enemy. It was, for instance, a crash course in the fine art of cursing, but it also included how to push yourself to new physical and emotional limits. We learned to live on our own without parents to pamper us and how to take criticism without pouting. - and each day had more criticism in it than we had experienced in each year of our former life.

Near the end of our 13 weeks we came to the dreaded "20 mile March with full field" (back pack full of heavy stuff). I was a little taller than the average GI. My normal pace was longer than the average GI. Thus. it took intense concentration on my part to stay in step. This should not have been a problem, because normally on a hike we were allowed to walk at our own pace. But our sergeant was meaner than our corporal, who in turn was a certified sadist.

For the first several miles, the sergeant had us marching in step in tight parade formation. He soon noticed I was skipping a step or two occasionally to get back in step. He called me to his side and ordered me to run to the rear of the formation, past all those companies that weren't required to be marching in step, to the sergeant bringing up the rear and ask him for a cigarette. On this personal errand, I was to carry my rifle high over my head in two hands. On securing the cigarette, I was to return it to my sergeant, still running and still holding rifle over my head. He, of course, then sent me back, following the same procedure, to get a lighter for his cigarette. When I returned with that, he noted that it was not allowed to smoke during the march and told me to return the cigarette to the end of the formation. When that was done, of course, I had to return the lighter. He was having a good time. I was not.

When he was finished with me, he started on a number of other fellows in the company. His reasons were always silly and inappropriate but that didn't seem to bother him.

After 20 miles in the hot Georgia sun we were totally pooped when we staggered back to the company area. Nonetheless, when the word "dismissed" was heard, the entire company raised their rifles over their heads and ran as fast as they could back to the barracks. (Shouting obscenities in defiance of the sergeant all the way).

Several months later, I had an "aha" moment. It struck me, that SOB got exactly what he was after. He turned an unorganized bunch of kids into a tight, proud team of soldiers. We thought our final run trumped him. It was just what he wanted. He outsmarted us.

Monday, January 01, 2007

. The new Blogger

I hope that the management of Google understands that I do not like the changes to Blogger made since Google took over their operations.