Friday, July 10, 2015

Fun Times on the Party Line

Thanks to the invention of the cell phone, almost everyone, from young children to senior citizens, now has a private phone line. It wasn’t always like that. Too bad cell phones weren’t around when I was in high school. Cell phones would have made my friends and me very happy and kept people from getting annoyed with us.

Until the early 1960s, we had to share a line with four other telephone customers. One of them was the elementary school; another was a family who lived near the school. I think the third customer might have been an organization that didn’t have anyone working there on a daily basis. I have no idea as to who the fourth party was. Apparently, those people didn’t use the phone much.

When I was a junior in high school, I would come home from school, drag the phone into the hall closet, and call my best friend who went to a different school. Yeah, I confess that sometimes we tied up the line for well over an hour. Or more.

The grandmother of the family living near the school frequently interrupted our conversations, asking us to get off the line because she had to “make an important phone call.” Grandma was polite about it, and so were we. We always hung up so she could use the line.

Her grandson, whom I’ll call “Jack,” was a different story.

One afternoon, Kate and I must have been discussing some really interesting teen gossip. I never heard the click that indicated someone was checking the line. Then again, maybe Jack liked eavesdropping, just in case we mentioned someone he knew.

After putting up with us for what probably seemed like hours to him (but really wasn’t) he broke into our conversation, yelling, “Get off the phone. You two are on the phone twenty-four hours a day. Why don’t you move in with each other?”
I was stunned by his outburst, so I had no words. Kate started arguing with him. I don’t remember what she told him, but I’m sure it was something I wouldn’t repeat here. Anyway, we did get off the phone. And I think I stayed off the party line for a while—maybe even for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I Would Have Been More Scared Than Bored

A few days ago at the neighborhood cafĂ©, I heard a woman mention the name of a small town in New Mexico. I so wanted to butt in on the conversation, but I didn’t. Doing that would have been rude, and I was brought up to be nice.

Why, yes, I do have a story to tell about that place.

Way back in the Late Jurassic Period, Ken and I lived on a ranch in Arizona. Ken worked there, but the bookkeeping job I was supposed to get fell through. I could tolerate watching the soaps with the foreman’s wife for only so long. I spent most of my days moping about my present circumstances and wondering if I would ever get off the ranch and back to civilization and a job.

After a few months, Ken became discouraged with the rather chaotic management of the ranch. He thought we probably should move on. I wanted to move to Tucson, but Ken vetoed that idea. He wanted to move to a small town in New Mexico. He told me there were a lot of ranches in that area. He was sure he could get a job at one of them.

I had never heard of that town before, or if I had, I didn’t remember. Most of the small towns we previously traveled through in New Mexico were in shabby shape, with little to offer someone like me who bored easily and thus preferred city life. I thought we would be trading one ho-hum place for another.

I did not want to move to Roswell, New Mexico. And, as it turned out, we didn’t.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Yikes! Two Guys Thought I Was a What?

A recent Facebook comment about a questionable area in a Certain City reminded me of the times I was mistaken for a hooker.

Yes, it happened twice, and in different cities, the first time in 1983, and the second in 1992.

One Saturday, after breakfast at Ken’s favorite greasy spoon, I asked him to drop me off at the Tucson Mall. He said he would do that after he got a haircut. I didn’t want to wait for him, so I decided to take the bus.

I had dressed appropriately for a cold February morning on the desert. I was wearing a pair of old, comfy jeans and a turtle neck top worn under a bulky sweater. The heavy wool car coat I wore over everything else made me look like I weighed about 300 pounds.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of NOT standing next to the bus stop sign. I was standing about ten or twelve feet away when a man in a late model white car pulled up to the curb and parked in front of me.

At first, I thought he might be someone I knew from work or school, but when I made eye contact with him (which I probably shouldn’t have), I realized he wasn’t. I wondered what the heck the guy was waiting for. About two minutes later, it dawned on me.

Yikes! I was standing on the Miracle Mile, a road that people often referred to as Hooker Highway.

I forgot about going to the mall and fled to the barber shop. Ken walked out the door just as I got there. “Ken,” I shrieked, pointing back in the direction of the bus stop, “Some guy thinks I’m a hooker.”

Ken was not amused. I didn’t get to the mall that day, but I did get a lot of mileage out of that story. I often joked that I was going to have a T-shirt custom printed with the words: I am not a hooker.

I probably should have followed through on the T-Shirt idea. I could have worn it in January 1992, on the Sunday morning I walked Pacific Avenue in Tacoma. Hey, I was just doing a little amateur detective work.

I was minding my own business—well, more or less—when a man driving a beat-up blue car came along, slowed down, and stopped a couple of yards past me.

After my Tucson experience, I guess I should have expected that. I was a woman walking alone on Pacific Avenue, which, at that time, was Tacoma’s version of Tucson’s Miracle Mile.

But it was Sunday.

Oh, for gosh sakes, give it a rest.

This time, I didn’t hang around wondering what the man had in mind. I fled across the street to Denny’s restaurant, squeezed into the last available seat at the counter, and pulled a bus schedule out of my backpack. I sat there sipping really bad coffee for almost an hour until I could catch a bus that took me far away from that area.

In hindsight, perhaps I should consider staying out of cities with names that begin with the letter T.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Getting the Kahlua (aka Yet Another Weird Title)

My recent weekend in Mexico made me think of something that happened when late Other Half and I lived in Tucson. Sometime in the 1980s, I forgot exactly when, my non-drinker aunt went on a Caribbean cruise and discovered Kahlua.

Ken and I traveled to New England every year, in late August or early September. My aunt asked me to bring her a bottle of Kahlua. The liqueur is made in Mexico, so she thought we could get it cheaper in Arizona.

I knew we could get it even cheaper In Mexico, and I knew who could help us do that. We had a friend who lived in the city, but her family lived in a small town in the U.S., across from the international border. So one Saturday, Ken and I and our friend, whom I’ll call “Maria,” made a trip to Agua Prieta, Sonora, to buy a bottle of Kahlua.

First, we stopped at a shop on the U.S. side of the border and changed about twelve dollars into pesos. Then we borrowed a car belonging to Maria’s family, crossed the border, and went to a shop where Maria was acquainted with the owner.

Maria did her best to persuade the owner to give us a lower price, but he was having none of it. I really wanted the Kahlua, so I reluctantly paid full price. I don’t remember what that was, but I do know that it was less than I would have paid in the States.

When we crossed back into Arizona, Maria took a shortcut down a dirt road. A pack of four or five stray dogs appeared out of nowhere and ran in front of the car. Sadly, one of them didn’t make it to the other side of the road. I freaked, but there was nothing we could do.

On the way home, we ran into a thunderstorm near St David. I wanted to pull over to the side of the road and wait it out, but Ken vetoed that suggestion. As we approached Benson, the storm worsened. Sheets of rain and high winds pummeled the truck, making it difficult to see any vehicles in front of us.

That’s when Ken decided to get off the road. He pulled into a truck stop on the outskirts of Benson. We sat at the counter because a lot of people apparently had the same idea Ken did. And there was a private party going on in the dining room.

Shortly after we arrived, the power failed. The lights blinked twice and went out. About a minute later, a woman in the dining room screamed. Her scream was followed by a very loud crash. I figured someone had dropped a tray loaded with glasses and dinnerware.

I turned to Maria and said, “I think somebody goosed the waitress.”

Friday, April 24, 2015

Not Funny, But I Laughed Anyway

Last week, when I went to the transit center to catch a bus to the mall, I saw a man who supposedly was in charge of his small daughter. Daughter looked about two years old, but she might have been younger. She wasn’t that steady on her feet. At first, she careened around, straying away from Dad and getting in the way of people who were rushing to catch other buses.

Our bus wasn’t scheduled to leave for 15 minutes. The bus door was open, and the bus driver was sitting in the driver’s seat, taking a break. Daughter soon discovered the open door.

Dad stood around grinning, presumably with pride, as the toddler awkwardly and repeatedly climbed into the bus, struggled to her feet, turned around, and jumped onto the sidewalk. She thought that was just great. What the bus driver thought is not known. I thought it was an accident waiting to happen.

Later, about halfway through their trip, Dad took an over-the-counter medicine bottle from a tote bag, opened the bottle, and knocked back a pill or two. Then he grabbed Daughter’s sippy cup and washed down the pill(s).

While he was busy doing that, Daughter retrieved the medicine bottle from the tote bag and proceeded to whack Dad in the head. And she wasn’t doing it gently. She hit him five or six times, but he didn’t try to stop her. I so wanted to say, “Well, we know who rules the roost in your house.”

But I didn’t. Instead, I started laughing. And then Dad started laughing while Daughter continued to whack him in the head. About a minute later Daughter stopped hitting Dad and noticed the open window. She drew back her little arm, aimed the bottle at the window, and made an attempt to pitch the bottle into the street.

Dad grabbed the bottle just in time.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Don't Try This at Home---or Anywhere Else

Teenagers do crazy things today, but then, they always did. A few days ago, I was telling an acquaintance whom I’ll call “Sue” about one of my high school friends. After celebrating St. Patrick’s Day just a bit too much, he ended up unsuccessfully trying to outrun a police car.

Sue thought that story was really wild, but I knew I could top it. So I told her about the night, or rather the early morning, that we changed drivers in a moving car.

“Why would someone do that?” She asked.

“There was a state trooper coming after us.”

I had been to a party with four friends, whom I’ll call “Kate,” “Ben,” “Don,” and “Duke.” (Honest, those were not their real names.)

We were heading home around 1:30 on a Wednesday morning. Duke was driving; I sat in the middle, and Ben was next to the window. Kate and Don were in the back seat.

Duke was flying down the road when a car raced by in the opposite direction. He glanced in the mirror and said, “That’s a statey, and he just hit the brakes. He’s turning around. They’ll hang me. Don you’ve got to change places with me.”

Oops! News flash. Duke had no license. Neither did Ben (yes, I knew that). But poor Don sitting in the back seat did. So, with Ben leaning in front of me to steer the car, Duke and Don changed seats. I was lucky I didn’t get kicked in the face.

The trooper initially was so far behind us that he didn’t catch on to the switch. Don wisely pulled over when the cop hit the lights and siren. Unfortunately, after an appearance in court the next day, Don also was without a driver’s license for about six months.

I told Sue that I learned a few lessons from that escapade: 1) Driving without a license is a dumb thing to do; 2) Switching drivers in a moving car is even dumber; and 3) Taking the blame for someone else’s wrong choice is beyond dumb.

“Wow, people don’t do things like that anymore,” Sue said.

Yeah, they do. Check the Internet.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

ACK! Annoying Telemarketers and Mystery Callers

A politician from a state in the Northeast recently announced her intention to refile a bill aimed at reducing telephone solicitations. Apparently there wasn’t enough interest in the bill when she first proposed it during the last session. Good luck to her in getting it passed this time. I wish a politician would propose something like that here. Unfortunately, in the long run, it probably wouldn’t discourage scammers and other annoying callers.

Last month, I got a phone call from a telemarketer who claimed he was calling on behalf of a legitimate charity. I politely told him I couldn’t take the time to talk right now. He ignored me and went into his spiel. I decided not to be nice and hung up on him. For the past couple of months, I’ve gotten what I suspect are scammer-type phone calls. So although the charity the man mentioned is a legitimate one, the caller might not have been a legitimate representative of that charity.

The telephone was a great invention. However, from what I’ve experienced, telephone sales pitches from strangers generally are beyond annoying. And then there were those phone calls that made me wonder what the heck was going on. When we lived in Arizona, we would pick up calls when we were at home. In 2000, over a period of three or four months, we got an unusual number of hang-up calls that I know weren’t from telemarketers. Maybe several people simply punched in the wrong number, but I really don’t think so.

During that time, we also found mystery messages on our answering machine (I’ve blogged about this previously).We never did find out what those were all about. Maybe we offended a couple of people in 2000, and they decided to annoy the heck out of us. Why do I think that? I guess it’s probably because at least two people left messages asking to speak to Other Half, and one of them asked to speak to me. Oddly enough, no one ever called when we were available to answer the phone.

These days, I usually let the digital answering system screen calls. If no one leaves a message, I know the call wasn’t important. I picked up on the telemarketing call last month because I was expecting a call from someone I wanted to talk to. Unfortunately for me, after telling the telemarketer I was busy, he hung onto the conversation like a piranha fish hangs onto its prospective meal.

I’m convinced that telemarketers are so focused on selling something that they never listen to their "targets." They just hope to wear people down by yakking away faster than an announcer relating the possible side effects of a medical product hawked on TV.

In, I think, 2001, I wrote an essay about telemarketers and published it on the late, but not lamented, Themestream site. Sometime, but not soon, I might revise that essay and publish an updated version on the nonfiction page of my other website.