THE DAY THE MACHINES WENT DOWN – REDUX

Dateline: Uxbridge, Massachusetts 

It was an ordinary day. A sunny day. Autumn in southern New England. Cool. Crispy. The leaves had changed and shone bright yellow and orange. The best time of the year.

An ordinary day. Except, we ran out of half-and-half and tragedy struck the town.

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In any other home, this might not have seemed important. It surely would not have required an emergency trip into town. But in this household of addicted coffee drinkers, we could not survive a day without half-and-half. To avert the crisis, it fell to Garry to go to Hannaford.

Hannaford’s is our grocery store, the one we patronize. Not big or fancy. Even by Uxbridge standards, it’s a modest store, but that’s one of many reasons we like it. Prices are pretty good and the produce is fresh. They offer locally grown stuff in season.

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They are close to home, easy to get to, and have ample parking. You don’t need a special card to get the discounts — and they offer a 5% Senior Citizens discount every Tuesday.

I was in the middle of a book — I usually am — so I didn’t pay a lot of attention as Garry went out. Not a big deal. Get the half-and-half, pick up something for dinner. He came back a couple of hours later. It had taken rather longer than an errand of this type should take. Garry looked amused. Bemused.

“There is shock and confusion in downtown Uxbridge, today,” he announced.

“Shock and confusion?”

“Yes,” Garry said. “I thought it might be delayed PTSD from 9/11 or changing seasons. Everyone in Hannaford’s looked stunned.”

“Stunned? Because?” I questioned.

“The credit card readers were down. You couldn’t pay with your bank or credit card. Everyone had to pay cash or use a check. They looked shell-shocked. Thousand-yard stares. Stumbling, vacant-eyed around the store.”

“Holy mackerel,” I said. “I can only imagine.”

“You could see them mumbling to themselves. They kept saying ‘cash!’ I could tell they were confused and unsure what to do.”

“Wow,” I said. “How dreadful! What did you do?” I asked. Garry seemed to have survived with his sense of humor intact and brought home the half-and-half.

“Oh, I paid with cash. I had enough on me.”

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He went off to the kitchen chuckling to himself. I hoped everyone would be okay back in town. A shock like that can haunt people for a long time. Cash. Imagine that. Everyone will be talking about this for weeks.

The day the machines went down at Hannaford’s. That’s huge.

THE BIGGEST WIN

OUR BIG WIN

I just won $1,000,000,000 — that’s one billion dollars — from the lottery. Tax-free. Mystifying as I don’t remember buying a ticket, but I’m not going to argue the point.  What’s next?


It’s fantasy time here on the Kachingerosa. I don’t know about you, but I lull myself into a pleasant sleep imagining what I’d do if a huge amount of money — so much that I don’t even have to count what I’m spending — were to come my way.

The only time I inherited money was when my father died. It turned out to be exactly enough to fix the dying septic system and buy a new camera. Five years, it was. Must be, because that’s when I had cancer. The money and the cancer arrived more or less together. Everything has a price.

It was the defining moment of my unfortunate relationship with my father. He was much too dead for me to thank him, but it was the single nicest thing he ever did for me. No longer being alive, he could not, this once, ruin it with a lot of snarky not-funny jokes at my expense.

After the executors finally coughed up a check, we had the septic system repaired. So we wouldn’t have to abandon the house and live in the car. We should have had the well done at the same time, but who knew? It wasn’t enough money anyhow.

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With no windfall, we’ve been paying things off. With a billion dollars … well, that would definitely turn the tide. I could pay everything off all at once. Knock this house down. Build a new one more suitable for people our age. Without stairs. Insulated windows. New heating and cooling systems. Showers with real water pressure. Hopefully, the well would coöperate. Some things money can’t buy. Apparently, water pressure is one of them.

Two new cars. The non-winter vehicle will be something entertaining and sporty, perhaps with top down possibilities. When bad weather comes, little sports coupé goes into the garage. The second car will be our winter truck, an all-wheel driver that can plow through snow drifts and laugh.

We’ll have a multi-car garage. Not just for storing junk. We’ll make sure there’s plenty of room for cars.

And there will be a garden tractor to mow the grass and clear snow off the driveway. We’ll have a guy to come tend the gardens, clear away the leaves in the autumn. Run heavy errands which involve hauling and lifting.

We won’t forget our friends. We’ll make sure everyone we care about has what they need. Maybe we’ll have a compound so we can live in close proximity. Visit without driving long distances.

Beyond this? Security for whatever years we have. Life won’t have to be so hard. We can grow old and enjoy ourselves without wondering what weird laws the government will to pass or which strange new rules will make it impossible to get medicine I need. It won’t buy us more time on earth — money doesn’t matter when your number is up — but it could make the time we’ve got a lot more fun.

More fun for us and for our friends. Maybe for you, too.

I COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER

I must have been brought up wrong. I was misled. I believed working hard and doing my best was the key to success. For decades, it was true. Then the world changed — and I learned otherwise.

Many (most?) companies no longer tolerate excellence, much less encourage it. Excellence upsets the balance of office relationships. It makes less talented workers uneasy. They take your excellence as a personal affront. It makes bosses nervous, too, because they are often less competent and knowledgeable than the people they supervise.

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Out in the marketplace, it’s dog-eat-dog. To be a contender today, you should drink the company Kool-Aid. Fit in with the company culture. Be careful how well you do the job because excellence stands out, and that’s dangerous. People who stand out get laid off first (or never hired at all).

Don’t complain. Turn out volumes of work and keep your head down. Worry about quantity, not quality.

Smile. You’re sure to make it to the top.

PHOTO TECHNO CRISIS

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I was playing with a camera this morning, trying to capture flowers in the morning light. In the middle of this artistic endeavor, I had a minor, yet memorable techno-crisis. It is a classic example of the kind of problems that beset us because of the technology on which we depend.

I’ve been taking pictures for more than 40 years. I know my way around a camera.

My first cameras were mechanical. Film. I took a lot of rolls of black and white because I could develop black and white film. A lot cheaper than sending it out to a lab. I also did my own printing, mounting, and framing, though I’ve completely forgotten how.

Olympus PEN PL-5

The only electronic part of those film cameras might be the light meter. My first half-dozen cameras didn’t have built-in light meters, so I used a Weston Master V. It was a standard part of my equipment for years. If I forgot it, the piece of paper that came with Kodak film was a pretty good substitute. We affectionately called it “the paper light meter.”

A while back, I bought a handheld meter almost exactly like the one I used for so many years — and realized I had no idea what to do with it. It has been a long time.

Pentax Q7 plus lenses camera

Cameras might break and need repair, cleaning, or adjustment, but basically, there wasn’t much to go wrong. As long as you didn’t drop it, soak it in salt water, or spill coffee in it, it could last forever. To prove my point, there are a surprising number of these old film cameras still in use.

There weren’t many moving parts: shutter, film winding mechanism. You set film speed (ISO), shutter speed, f-stop. Aim, frame, focus, press the shutter. Voila. Photograph.

Today, my camera wakes me in the morning and starts the coffee. If I ask nicely, it will do the grocery shopping, though it draws the line at laundry. Not really. But close enough.

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If something goes wrong, it’s crazy time.

This morning, I removed the lens cap and turned the camera on. I unlocked the lens. The menu came on, but no picture appeared. Flashing on the screen was something I’d never seen before. Without a clue what it meant, I double-checked to make sure I really had removed the lens cap. I had.

So I did what I do with my computer. I rebooted. I turned it off, waited, then turned it back on.

More flashing. No picture.

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I removed the battery and the memory card, counted to twenty. Put them back. Still flashing. Still no picture.

By now, I was in full panic mode. My camera wasn’t working. Fear gripped me. Eventually, it occurred to me to check whether or not the lens was properly seated.

Click. The flashing stopped. A picture appeared. The lens had been loose. I must have accidentally pressed the lens release button, so it wasn’t quite locked. Ergo ipso, the camera wouldn’t work.

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With all the ridiculous, useless functions built into modern cameras, how come they don’t have anything that alerts you that the lens is loose? Or for that matter, that your battery is about to die? The next time someone is adding bells and whistles to the software, please consider adding something useful. If necessary, remove one of the many pointless menu options and add something we might use.

I felt like a moron. Then, I took some pictures.

A SEASON OF PAIN

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The look of sudden shock and pain on Garry’s face was alarming.

“What’s wrong?” I cried. He was obviously hurting.

“I just saw the score,” he said sadly. Which is when I realized he had turned on the Red Sox game. They were playing the Angels, the first game of a double-header on the left coast. “It’s eleven-to-one,” he explained.

The agony of defeat!

The agony of defeat!

“Ouch,” I said. “I don’t suppose they’re going to stage a come from behind victory.”

“Actually,” he replied, “I was wondering exactly how bad they’re going to be in the second half of the season.”

There seems to be no bottom for this year’s Sox. No pitching, no bottom. No hope. (Houston put the seal on the deal. If you don’t know what I mean, maybe it’s best you don’t find out.)

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Indeed, I had seen correctly. It was pain. Mental, not physical, but the look of agony on his face will stay with me a long time.

There’s no medication that can take away the pain of your team in the dumpster. This will be a season of pain in New England. It’s not our year.


 

If you follow baseball and especially, the Red Sox and Fenway Park, check out Fenway Park 100.

HI YO SILVER … WHATS-HER-NAME RIDES AGAIN!

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #29

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a cowboy. Not a cowgirl. A cowboy. With a horse. And a band of followers. We were going to ride the range righting wrongs, sort of Robin Hood-like. A version of the Lone Ranger, but not necessarily with a mask.

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The horse was a must-have — the mask? Undecided. I am pretty sure I still would like to be The Lone Ranger as long as Silver was part of the deal.

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What was your favorite food as a child? Do you eat it now? 

Chocolate. I eat a little, occasionally, but I’m not as fond of it as I was in past decades. Taste changes.

If you were invisible, where would you go?

I have no idea. Honestly, I can’t think of anyplace I want to go that I can’t go right now. Now, if I could transport to anyplace, invisible or not, I have a list. A long list.

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Would you rather forget everyone else’s name all the time or have everyone forget your name all the time?

I already forget everyone else’s name. I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten yours.

TINKER’S WORLD

FOR JUDY DYKSTRA-BROWN AND MORRIE

Can you set a price on love? Can you set a number to it? Can you calculate it by the cost of veterinary care? Squeaky toys? Greenies?  Dog food? Grooming?

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Tinker Belle was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, usually called PBGVs or Petites. They are a medium-sized, shaggy rabbit hound from the Vendée region of France.

PBGVs are not the dog for everyone. Smart, sometime scarily. Natural clowns who will do almost anything to make you laugh. Noisy, nosy, and into everything.

Tinker Belle was special. From the day I brought her home, she wasn’t like any other puppy. Incredibly smart. As a rule, hounds are intelligent, but she was something else.

Housebreaking? We showed her the doggy door. She was henceforth housebroken. She could open any door, any gate and close them behind her. She would open jars of peanut butter without leaving a fang mark to note her passing. All you’d find was a perfectly clean empty jar that had previously been an unopened, brand new jar.

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She was sensitive. Probably a born therapy dog, she knew who was in pain, who was sick. She knew where you hurt. The only dog who would never step on a healing incision, but would cuddle close to you, look at you with her dark, soft eyes and tell you everything would be fine.

She never hurt a living thing, not human or anything else … except for small varmints she hunted in the yard. She was, after all, a hound. A hunter, born to track, point and carry prey back to a master.

She was the smartest of our dogs, the smartest dog ever. Not just a little bit smarter than normal. A huge amount smarter. When you looked into Tinker’s eyes, it wasn’t like looking into the eyes of a dog. She was a human in a dog suit.

She knew. We called her Tinker The Thinker because she planned. Remembered. She held grudges. Nonetheless, she was at the bottom of the pack hierarchy.

We thought it was her own choice. She had no interest in leadership. Too much responsibility maybe? But the other dogs knew her value. When they needed her, other dogs would tap into her expertise in gate opening, package disassembly, cabinet burglary, trash can raiding, and other canine criminality.

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Throughout her life, she housebroke each new puppy. A couple of hours with Tinker, and the job was done. It was remarkable. Almost spooky. She then mothered them until they betrayed her by growing up and playing with other dogs.

When Griffin, our big male Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen came to live with us a few months after Tinker, they became The Couple. inseparable, deeply in love. They ate together, played together, slept together, sang together. When about a year later, we briefly had a little Norwich Terrier pup and Griffin (what a dog) abandoned Tinker to go slobbering after Sally.

Tinker’s sensitive heart broke. She became depressed, would not play with humans or dogs. For the next decade, Tinker wouldn’t even look at Griffin. She apparently blamed us, too, her humans for having brought another girl into the house. In retribution for our crimes, Tinker began a Reign of Terror.

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Tinker took to destroying everything she could get her fangs. She was three years old when the destruction began.

She’d done a modest amount of puppy chewing, but nothing extraordinary. She was more thief than chewer. She would steal stuff and hide it. Shoes, toys, towels, stuffed animals. After Griffin betrayed her with that stupid little bitch — Sally was indeed the polar opposite of Tinker being the dumbest dog I’ve ever known and ill-tempered to boot — Tinker was no longer a playful thief. She was out to get us.

Nothing was safe. She had a particular passion for destroying expensive electronic devices. Cell phones, remote controls, portable DVD players, computers. If she could get a fang to them, she killed them.

She would do enormous damage in under a minute. We couldn’t leave the room unless we put everything where Tinker couldn’t get it. She struck quickly. When we went to bed for the night, every item had to be locked away. If she couldn’t get to an electronic item, she ate the sofa, the rocking chair, the coffee table, a lot of books, many DVDs.

For dessert, shoes were yummy. I didn’t own shoes without tooth marks. We called them “Tinkerized.” We had a grading system from 10 – Utterly destroyed, to 1 – Only shows if you look closely. Most of my shoes fell into the 2 to 3 range and since she tended to start at the heel, I figured most folks wouldn’t notice.

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During one memorable intermission, Tinker dismembered the remotes. She pulled off the backs, tore out the batteries (but did not eat them), then ripped out the innards — in under two minutes.

She didn’t waste time. If she had leisure, she’d also tear out keys and mangle cases, but if time was limited, she went straight to the guts of the thing. She was good.

For her entire life, we lived under siege. If you didn’t want it Tinkerized, you couldn’t leave it exposed, not for a minute.

For the last year of her life, after we brought Bonnie home, Tinker became a real dog again. With Bonnie, Tinker ran around. Played tag. Joined the chorus when the pack pointed their muzzles at the sky and sang.

Hounds have beautiful voices and Tinker’s was the best.

Three years ago, Tinker died of cancer. She had shown no symptoms except a slight slowing down. One day, she collapsed. A couple of weeks later, Griffin had a stroke and died too. They were exactly the same age and I don’t believe for a minute that their nearly simultaneous passing was a coincidence.

After the two hounds were gone, the pack did not sing for half a year. One day, mourning ended and they started to sing again.

Great Griffin

Griffin, who broke her heart

What was Tinker’s true cost? We paid $700 for her as a pup. She caused thousands of dollars of damage to electronics, furniture, shoes, books, DVDs, videotapes, dolls, stuffies — who knows what else?

She paid us back and more. When I was ill, Tinker never left my side. When I was back from surgery, missing another piece of me and in pain, Tinker was there, never placing a paw where it would hurt me. How much is that worth? What is the true cost of a lifetime love of a dear friend?