REACTING, REACTIONARIES AND RIDICULOUSNESS – BY TOM CURLEY

I went to work yesterday. It’s something I don’t do much anymore. I retired a few years ago, so I work part-time. This year, I’ve only worked five days out of the whole year. I’m a director for CBS News in New York City and work at the CBS Broadcast Center. It’s a big place. Takes up an entire city block.

I’ve worked there for more than 40 years. These days, I work less and less. Increasingly, I’ve noticed how things have changed at CBS. Not for the better. A few months back I came into work and noticed this billboard in the lobby.

Yeah, we have to point out the obvious these days. But yesterday I noticed this as I was leaving the men’s room.

THE MEN’S ROOM. I went to a few other men’s rooms. They all had deadbolts on the inside, too.


This is the world we live in these days.


A while back I read a story about how a mother went into their bathroom. Her pre-school daughter was standing on the toilet seat. It was so cute she took a picture of it.

Then she asked her daughter why she was doing that. You know what she said? She said she was practicing because that is what you are supposed to do at school when the shooters come.


This is the world we live in today.


Every time there is a mass murder in this country, stocks in gun companies go through the roof. Why? Gun nuts are afraid that we are going to pass gun legislation and they have to collect all the guns they can while they last. This, despite the fact that our government has NEVER EVER passed any kind of realistic gun control laws. Nor is there any indication they ever will.


This is the world we live in today.


CBS has a reputation for overreacting to things. Especially terrorist types of things. After the attack on Charlie Hedbo in Paris, they put electronic locks on every door in the Broadcast Center. Except the bathrooms. For any other room, you needed a coded key card. Even to get into your own office — or anywhere else, for that matter.

My office.


This is the world we live in today.


At this point, I have to confess that I’m a little disappointed in myself with this particular post. I usually try to see the humor in the insanity of the world we live in today. But I’m not coming up with anything this time.

Instead I’ll tell you a story. A true story. It happened a long time ago. It’s sort of related. It turns out that CBS has a long history of being worried about terrorism. In the late 70’s I was an engineer for WCBS-FM in New York.

WCBS-FM was famous for creating the “Oldies” format. They are still using it to this day.

That was a great job. I spent 8 hours or more every day playing rock and roll music. The job didn’t suck.

Our General Manager, as it turned out, was ahead of his time. He had a bit of an obsession with terrorists. Back then, there weren’t many terrorist attacks. There was the Munich attack at the 1972 Olympics, but really nothing in America. None the less, our GM was convinced terrorists might attack WCBS-FM. Why?

Nobody knew. Too much Chuck Berry? Not enough Chuck Berry? Didn’t they know they could just call the request line?

Who knows?

Anyway, he instructed our Chief Engineer, a great guy named Torchy, to install a big button on the central equipment rack in our control room.

If you pushed the button, it would shut down the transmitter located at the top of the Empire State Building.Apparently, the scenario he envisioned was as the terrorists broke into the control room and shot me in the back, I would reach up with my blood-stained hand. Using my last breath on Earth, I would push the button and deny the terrorists any more Chuck Berry.

Give me more Chuck Berry!

Torchy explained to the GM how this was illegal. Back then, you needed what was called an FCC First Class License to operate a transmitter. Not everybody in the control room had one. The GM ordered Torchy to do it anyway. So, he did. There it was. A big button right in the middle of the control room.

Now, you have to understand: I was an engineer. My job was — literally — pushing buttons. I wanted to push that button. I really, really wanted to push the button. But, of course, I couldn’t. If I pushed it, I’d take a multi-million-dollar radio station off the air. This would have been frowned upon. So, for more than two years I lived with the button. That God-Damned, untouched button.

Then it happened.

It was Sunday night around 3 AM. I was working the overnight shift. Probably obvious, in that I was there at 3 AM. The private tech phone rang. Which was unusual because I was the only technical person there. Hell, I was the only person there. I answered it. A voice at the other end said he was the engineer on duty over at the transmitter at the Empire State Building.

He said, “Do you guys have a kill button for the transmitter over there?” I said yes, we do. He said, “press it.” I said I couldn’t do that. It would take us off the air.

He then said “Oh for Christ’s sake. Just push the fucking button.” And there it was. I was gonna get to push the button! The forbidden button. The only one I never pushed. I relished the moment. I reached up, and  I pushed the button

The engineer said “Yeah, I didn’t think the thing actually worked.” And then, he hung up the phone.

I was in shock. I went behind the rack and looked at the back of the button.  There were no wires hooked up to it! The next day I told Torchy about what happened. He said “I told the GM it was illegal. He wanted a button, so I gave him a button. I knew nobody would ever test it.”

True story. Really happened.

Those were the days. No deadbolts on bathroom doors. Little girls didn’t stand on toilet seats. Big buttons which didn’t do anything solved our problems.


That was the world we lived in back then.


A TUESDAY FANTASY WITH HAROLD – RICH PASCHALL

The Wizarding World of Harold, a neat and mostly organized man


Harold needed to get back on track. He would not let A Tuesday Mystery throw him behind his perfectly planned schedule. He finished dressing by selecting socks from the mystifying sock drawer, then hurried to the kitchen where coffee had been waiting an hour for his arrival. He poured a cup, set it on the table and opened the porch door to collect the newspaper.

“Where is it?” Harold wondered. Was this another schedule attack? He looked around. The paper was leaning against the house behind a shrub. “I will have to talk to that paper boy about his accuracy,” he thought as he hurried back to the kitchen.

During Harold’s working years, his schedule had been periodically disrupted. Machines broke down, employees took leave or got sick. Materials ran short. And then there were the inevitably unproductive meetings,  more obstacles in Harold’s path. If these events had taught Harold anything, it was time lost could be regained if you stayed your course and focused on your goals.

Harold left home more or less on time, a small personal triumph. A blast of the hot, humid Florida morning greeted him. The heat was not part of Harold’s plan. When he had moved south for pleasant year-round weather, tropical heat wasn’t what he had in mind.

With the car’s air conditioner on high, Harold headed straight for the library. He parked and entered the foyer of the modest building. He paused to think about his next book. It is not as if he did not think about it in advance.  He had a list in his pocket of the books in the library which might interest him. He had read most of what the small library had to offer about engineering or design, so it was probably time to move to another genre.

Maybe history was next. There were great books about World War II to read. Duty by Bob Greene, The Greatest Generation Speaks by Tom Brokaw were on top of Harold’s list as well as a few others acquired by the library. But which one shall it be?

As he approached the history racks, he noticed a handsome young man, perhaps in his 20’s, reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. He could tell by his face he was absorbed by the story and quite emotionally involved in the final book on the young wizard.

harry-potter

“I wonder what’s the big deal with those books,” Harold thought to himself. He guessed he was one of the few people who had neither seen any movies nor read any books about the boy wizard.

Harold was aware of the phenomenon, of course, but spending time on the books and movies didn’t fit into his idea of a well-ordered life. He could not imagine devoting hours to stories about a magical boy who could fly on a broom.

“Excuse me sir,” Harold said impulsively. “Where are the Harry Potter books?” The man just pointed. In a most un-Harold fashion, he went to the shelf and started scanning the titles.

When he spotted Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harold froze.  Should he take the book and start reading … just to see what the fuss was about? Harold wasn’t sure he could let himself read a book not on his list — a children’s fantasy at that. Caught on the cusp of a dilemma, Harold stood there, mentally paralyzed.

After an internal debate, Harold pulled the book from the shelf and went to the table where the handsome young man had earlier been seated. He had disappeared, as if under an Invisibility cloak. Harold sat in a different seat, lest the man come back and wanted his chair. He opened the well-thumbed book and began reading — “Chapter one, The Boy Who Lived.”

A few minutes later, a boy of perhaps eight who held no book, took the empty seat opposite Harold.  As Harold read, the youngster just stared at the picture of Harry Potter on the cover. It made Harold uncomfortable. He was awkward with children, never knowing what to say. So he asked a question instead.

“Can I help you son?” The boy shook his head. “Perhaps you’d like to find a book to read … for yourself?” Harold would have continued, but the boy gave him a sad look and sat there quietly.

Harold returned to the book, but even while he read, he could feel the little library lad’s eyes on him. It made him so uneasy, he soon got up to leave. It was earlier than he had planned.

He had found the Potter story so engrossing he decided against all logic to take it home. He checked it out at the desk, then went to the small parking lot along side the library.

“This certainly has been a strange Tuesday,” Harold declared to no one in particular. The mysterious lost egg had equally mysteriously reappeared. Now he had impulsively taken a book home from the library which was not on his reading list.

When he got to the parking lot entrance, something made Harold look back toward the library. The boy who had been staring at Harold was now standing on the sidewalk watching Harold leave.

“I hope that little guy has a good home to go to,” Harold thought as he moved out of sight of the boy. When he got to his sweltering car, Harold thought he should check on the boy. Something wasn’t right though he couldn’t figure out what.

When he got to the sidewalk and looked back toward the library, the boy was gone, as if someone had thrown an Invisibility Cloak over him too.

Related: The “Harold stories” in order: “Soup and Sandwich,” “The Case With The Missing Egg,” “Come Monday, It Will Be Alright,” “A Tuesday Mystery

FLYING TIME, FLYING BY

December is going to be a complicated month. It usually is. It’s not that we have a lot of holiday stuff going on here. Other than putting up our little tree and a few other decorations … and generally cooking something interesting on Christmas Eve for whatever family drops by … mostly, we watch old movies. Especially “It’s A Wonderful Life” which I never can see enough.

And yet, it still gets complicated. A visit for a couple of days. Two Christmas parties, invitations accepted. Doctor appointments. His. Mine. Ours. And then … there’s the email.

I’m really good about answering email, but we were out most of the day. Garry had two long appointments, the first with an audiologist and the next with an otolaryngologist, a title that means “a doctor specializing in ears,” and which I cannot pronounce. I keep trying, though. It won’t come out of my mouth. It just sits there like a giant, verbal lump. There will be more about this subject pretty soon, I’m sure.

Regardless, by the time we got home, it was dinner time for the dogs. It was also dinner time for us and we’d missed lunch, so dinner was no small thing. And, of course, there was mail (the snail kind), bags and packages and unpacking and by the time I was done, it was no longer afternoon. Or early evening. Full night, which I grant you comes earlier this time of year than it ought.

I’m tired. I opened the computer and the mail I hadn’t had time to answer this morning? There was triple that amount. I gave up and deleted almost all of it. If I couldn’t do it today, there would be twice as much of it tomorrow. By Sunday, I’d be virtually buried. To one and all, sorry. I was uber-whelmed.

I believe we have more outside-the-house stuff to do this month than we typically do during a multi-month interval.

It always happens like this, doesn’t it?  You’ve got weeks … sometimes months. Nothing much going on. But don’t worry. Life arrives in waves. A little dull right now? Next month, you’ll be buried. I guarantee it.