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Friday, September 23, 2011

Apparently smoke detectors lack intelligence...

My embarrassing experience with the Houston fire department began in Kansas City. A seasoned traveler commented that steam could remove wrinkles from a shirt. That information appeals to one who can’t figure out which side of an iron to hold.

I arrived in my room and promptly removed my shirt from the suitcase. I hung the shirt in the bathroom, turned the shower to its hottest setting, and closed the door. Proud of myself for planning ahead for the next day, I called my sweetheart. Time flies when you’re having fun.

After about 45 minutes of conversation, I remembered my shirt, the shower, the hot water, and the closed bathroom door. As I threw open the door, a volcanic burst of steam hit my face. By the time I fought my way through the fog to turn off the water, I heard a disconcerting sound.

Smoke detectors don’t make good elevator music. They don’t produce pleasant and soothing sounds appreciated by those on the 18th floor of a hotel. They also apparently can’t tell the difference between smoke and steam. I quickly called the front desk to confess my blunder. Doors began to open and slam in the hall as my fellow travelers expressed curiosity and concern. One voice proclaimed, “Some idiot is smoking!”

I stuck my head out into the hall way, and thought about agreeing, “Yeah, some idiot is smoking!” But instead, I ‘fessed up. With a sheepish grin, I said, “I’m the idiot. I was trying to steam my shirt in the bathroom.” At least everyone seemed happy that evacuation was unnecessary.

Then I heard the sirens.

I love happy endings. No firemen dressed in battle gear stormed the hallway. No axe was swung, and no idiot was arrested or publically humiliated. In fact, the rest of the evening was quiet and uneventful. And on top of all that, my shirt looked really good the next day!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Apparently I had writer's block

Sometimes I notice strange things and ask goofy questions.  For example, why do the question mark and exclamation point reside at different corners of my keyboard?  (For the historical background, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QWERTY). Generally speaking, the arrangement places the keys you use the most right under your fingertips, while you must stretch for keys that are used less frequently.  Other characters even require the combined use of the SHIFT key, presumably because they account for even less activity.

My little pinkie is the weakest finger on my hand, and I have to use both of my pinkies to access the question mark and exclamation point.  The exclamation point has become my nemesis.  I have to think about it each time I want to use it@1!  (There, I finally got it.)  I don't have many problems doing commas and periods; I use them more often, and they come naturally.  But exclamation points give me fitsQ@#!

You know something?  In an indirect way, the arrangement of a keyboard reveals something about who we are.  We all tend to make a greater number of bland, traditional statements that need nothing more than a period to complete them.  We live most of our lives in the "ordinary" mode and need only to signal others when we're through with a thought or action.

Why don't we live more in the exclamation mode?  Why are the question marks not more numerous?  Is it simply because we must stretch a little farther on the keyboard to access them, or is it because we must stretch our spirits more than what we feel comfortable with?  (OopsQ1@!  I ended that last sentence with a preposition.) 

History remembers men and women who lived their most noble moments in the exclamation or question modes.  They changed the world not with the ordinary and bland, but with actions that require powerful punctuation to describe them.  Live your life so that others require both pinkies to capture your essence!  (No mistakes there!, I’m getting used to this!)  Live with passion and exploration!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Apparently NM Officers Like Sunsets

Last spring I traveled between Albuquerque and Alamogordo, NM, and the sunset took my breath away.  I stopped along the side of the road to take pictures.  When I continued my journey, I remained far more aware of the sunset than my speed.  Enter a state trooper on the opposite side of the road.

I watched in terror as the “Serve, Protect, and Defend” guy slowly pulled out, made a U-turn, and started following me.  States generally love foreigners (Texans) who break the law.  (Don’t ask me how I know this!)  He followed me for what seemed like an eternity until we emerged from the construction zone (even worse!).  Then he turned his lights on.  It was dusk.

 I sat with my window rolled down, interior light on, and my hands visible on the top of the steering wheel (something all officers appreciate, but again, don’t ask me how I know this).  After a slow exit from his vehicle and an even slower death march to my window, the following conversation occurred.

Me:  I sure was hoping you’d ignore me.

Officer:  Oh, why’s that?

Me:  Because I was speeding.  (I know, this is an unusual approach!)

Officer:  May I see your license? (I handed it over.)  Mr. Riggs, is there a reason why you were speeding?

Me:  No, Sir.  I even pulled over on the side of the road to take pictures of the sunset.  I’m really not in a hurry at all.  Did you see it?

Officer:  Oh yes.  We had some really pretty sunsets here a week ago.

Me:  Yeah, well, I was actually texting pictures of this sunset to my family.  That’s why I wasn’t paying attention to my speed.  (What was I thinking???)

Officer:  Mr. Riggs, did you know that traffic fines have increased around here?

Me:  Are you trying to cheer me up?

Officer:  I tell you what we’re going to do.  Are you going to speed all the way back to Texas?

Me:  No sir.  I’m only going to Alamogordo tonight.

Officer:  (I wish I could describe the look on his face!)

Me:  (In response to "the look")  But I’m not going to speed there either!

Officer:  That’s what I was looking for!  (We both busted out with laughter as he handed my license back without a ticket!) 

The sunset now remains my second favorite memory of that lonely stretch of road!