Please Feel Free to Call Me

I’m not a fan of the text message. Family members and friends constantly text me and it’s driving me insane. Why spend the time typing a message when a simple phone call will suffice?  Plus, the rules of grammar tend to be ignored and words are often substituted with emojis, a testament to the downward spiral of the English language.

I can see a short message being acceptable; for example, “Are you running late?” However, questions which need a lengthy explanation require a phone call. Also, “Dad just died” definitely justifies a phone call and not a sullen faced emoji laden text message. I would like to make a connection, sender to receiver in real time. Also, the anonymity of texting disturbs me. Social filters tend to be switched off and the danger of hurt feelings or misunderstood intentions becomes real.

So,  in summation, please call me whenever possible, my oversized stubby fingers will thank you.

Mom, About the Kitchen Floor…..


Way back in December 1966, an excited thirteen year old boy ripped through what seemed to be an endless amount of gift wrapping to reveal a forty piece Gilbert chemistry set. This was the king of all chemistry sets. It contained test tubes, beakers, glass tubing, measuring cups and best of all…lethal chemicals! Mysterious jars of powders and liquids with unpronounceable names were at my fingertips, just waiting to be mixed into compounds of mass destruction. Some of these chemicals included Potassium Permanganate which is highly poisonous, Ammonium Chloride which is a component of homemade bombs and Strontium Chloride which is the source of redness in fireworks.

The set came with an instruction book which included a series of supposedly harmless experiments. For example, Experiment One was “How to make an Explosive Mixture.” A warning came with this experiment stating that you should not increase the quantities of the mixture under any circumstances. So, you are telling an adolescent boy not to do something? Good luck with that!

I feverishly mixed chemicals with abandon, often going off road and ignoring the instructions altogether. I remember making a sulphur stink bomb which prematurely detonated in my kitchen. My father nearly had a stroke. My apartment stunk of rotten eggs for over a week. Another time, I mixed two randomly chosen chemicals in a test tube. I heated the concoction with a burner which was essentially a cotton wick in a glass bottle filled with alcohol. Isn’t this a Molotov cocktail? The result was an eruption of foul smelling liquid which dripped onto our linoleum kitchen floor and burned a hole in it. This time, my mother nearly had a stroke. My mastery of chemistry had come to an abrupt end.

Needless to say, despite the fact that the Gilbert Chemistry Set had the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, saner minds prevailed. The Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act, the Toy Safety Act and the Consumer Product Safety Commission sealed the fate of the toy chemistry set.  The A.C. Gilbert Company closed in 1967.

Non Standard Standards

Some say technology has made our lives easier and far more enjoyable. Smartphones, personal computers, on demand video streaming and home theater systems were at one time the stuff of science fiction. Now, they are common place. When everything works properly, life is wonderful. However, when a glitch occurs, the remedy is often elusive. Disparate operating systems, incompatible software and non standard standards often thwart any attempt at making these devices play nicely with each other. You know you are in trouble when customer support is flummoxed. The fun begins when you are given conflicting advice and the problem persists.

The root of the problem is obvious. There are no standards which allow simple plug and play functionality across different products and brands. This opens the door to software conflicts and concomitant agita. Competition spawns innovation which dilutes standardization. As a result, I still can’t get an answer on how to simultaneously turn on my Samsung television and Sony sound system so sound actually comes from the speakers.

Breaker, Breaker….


Back in the late-sixties, Citizens Band Radio, or CB for short, was becoming a popular form of communication, similar in some ways to current day Instant Messaging and Facebook. It was originally intended to be “the poor man’s business radio.” Radio hobbyists soon discovered that CB was inexpensive and perfect for informal short distance communication and it quickly morphed into a full blown social medium.  Fueled by movies such as Smokey and the Bandit, Breaker! Breaker! and Convoy, it gained even more popularity.

Since I love all things radio, I was hooked. My parents got me a CB radio for Christmas and I went on the air December 26, 1968. My hands shook as I made my first attempt to speak with someone. At first, I couldn’t press the transmit button out of fear that I would be labeled a novice or worse, say something really stupid. So, I decided to just listen.  After a few hours of channel surfing, I picked up some of the slang and learned proper etiquette inherent to this medium and I went for it. “Breaker, Breaker, channel eleven, does anyone copy?” I got my first reply and from then on CB’ing became a daily part of my life.

Over time, I upgraded my “rig” and installed an outdoor antenna atop the five story apartment building where I lived. This allowed me to chat with even more folks at greater distances. Sometimes, during the summer months, a radio propagation phenomenon known as “Skip” allowed me to contact CB’ers in other states.  On occasion, a group of us would meet at a local diner for what CB slang called a “coffee break.” The attendees were from diverse backgrounds and quite interesting. On the air, we used “handles” which were nicknames. My handle was “Invader.”  Others in my group of CB friends were “Dondie, Centurion, Cossack Bob, Big Momma, Red Man and Viking.” It was great fun to actually meet the people behind the microphone. I had mental images of what I thought they looked like and my perceptions were way off when we actually met.

As time passed, CB fell out of favor. What was once forty channels crowded with lively conversation became just static. Today, some long haul truckers still use CB radio to break up the monotony of driving endless miles. It was fun while it lasted.