December 1993 Sketchbook

Copyright 1993 by Robert L. Gidley. All rights reserved.

Messages

Face it. As soon as people hear the click on the line, they know they are dealing with an answering machine. They know that you are going to say something, they'll hear a beep, then they can leave a message which you may or may not return.

Somehow, people who own answering machines still feel they have to explain this to people. Most of the answering machine messages you hear go along the lines of "This is Fred. I'm not available to take your call right now, but if you'll leave a message at the tone, I'll get back to you as soon as I can."

What kind of message is this? "I'm not available"? Tell the truth, Fred! You're not home, or you don't want to answer the phone, or you're too hungover from last night to deal with answering the phone. If Fred were an honest kind of guy, his message would sound like this: "This is Fred. I'm standing here listening to your message. If you're someone I want to talk to, I'll pick up the phone. Otherwise, it will be a cold day in hell before I call your back."

Or you can take the minimalist approach. Don't leave any message. When people call you, they hear a beep. Either they can figure it out and leave a message or they won't. And you might get some interesting messages ("Hello? Hello? Is anybody there?").

Leaving Messages

Not only can people who call leave messages, they can engage in the thrilling new game of the 90's, Answering Machine Wars. All it takes is a phone and someone, friend or enemy, with an answering machine.

The goal of the game is to drive the owner of the answering machine crazy. There are a number of ways to do this:

Write out your message. Each time you call, leave one word of the message. When the victim plays back the messages, he hears: "Hello <beep> Greg <beep> this <beep> is <beep> Robert <beep>." This is even more entertaining if the answering machine tells Greg how many messages he had, as even a short message can quickly add up to a substantial number of calls ("I've got 80 calls on my machine!?!").

If the victim owns an answering machine that keeps recording as long as you keep talking - keep talking. Most answering machines use a half-hour tape. Ever wonder how much of War and Peace you could read in half an hour? Find out.

Call and leave a message. Then call back, and in exactly the same tone of voice, leave exactly the same message. When the victim plays back the message, she hears exactly the same message twice. Is the machine broken?

A good follow-up to this is to leave a message, but omit phrases: "Hello Susan, this - I just called - should be a great party - at 8:00, see you there." Not only does this drive the victim crazy, but think of the answering machine repairman, trying to figure out how the machine could drop phrases from the message.

Find someone the victim doesn't know and of the opposite sex. Have this person call the victim and leave a message calculated to drive the victim crazy with frustration ("Why haven't you called? I had to cancel the flight to Rio because I didn't hear from you.") This is more fun if the victim is married.

You are officially declared the winner if: a) the victim flings the answering machine out the window; b) the victim is admitted to a mental institution; c) the victim threatens to break both your legs if you don't quit it.

Computer Calls

As long as we're on the subject of automated phone calls, let's deal with the computer phone calls. These are machines that call numbers at random, ask stupid questions, and record the answers. The computerized phone call typically begins like this:

"Hello. I'm calling about life insurance. Have you thought about your life insurance lately? <beep>"

Most people's reaction to this is to hang up. This is the wrong move. As soon as you hang up, the computer detects this, stops the sales message and moves on to the next number on the list. The computer can now bother someone else.

If you really don't like computers calling people, you need to work on screwing up the system. Think about it. The computer records your message. But a human has to sit and listen to it and write down your answers. Instead of hanging up, talk. Waste some tape. Better yet, play with their minds:

"Hello. I'm calling about life insurance. Have you thought about your life insurance lately? <beep>"

"What do you mean, life insurance?"

"We're offering a wonderful term life insurance program that is guaranteed to triple your available earning credits over any competitor's single phase full life. Are you interested? <beep>"

"Are you guys with the mob?"

"Just to keep our records straight, please leave your phone number at the beep <beep>"

"This is some kind of shakedown, isn't it? Well, I'm not buying in!"

"And now, your name and address, <beep>"

"You can bomb my house! Blow up my car! I'm not giving in!! You guys aren't going to extort me!! You think you can push people around because you have guns!! Well, I'm getting a gun, too!! And I'm coming after you!!!"

Imagine the surprise on the part of the person transcribing the tapes, when they hear a message like this. With any luck, they'll quit and move to a different city.

The other thing to bear in mind is that this method of sales probably has a 3 to 5 percent "hit" rate. That is, about five out of every hundred people actually are mildly interested in what they have to sell. If only one out of ten of us who are not interested start playing with the system, there will be twice as many junk messages as there are "real" messages.

And just think of the results if it really caught on. We could swamp the system with junk, and make this a much less attractive means of advertising.

How I Melted My Summer Vacation

I didn't end up in Phoenix on purpose. Well, okay, I did end up there on purpose but it wasn't entirely my fault. You see, I need someone to blame for the fact that I managed to winter in Seattle and summer (read melt) in Phoenix. This is known colloquially as "the worst of both worlds."

But at least winter in Seattle I was prepared for. I've lived in Seattle for more than ten years. I own a down vest and a raincoat, and I know where all the taverns with the big screens for watching football are. In other words, I have the equipment necessary to survive the winter.

Cruising into Phoenix, I didn't have a pair of sunglasses (these are not essential items in Seattle), air conditioning (ditto), shorts, and I only had a few Hawaiian shirts. After six months, I've managed to remedy all these except the sunglasses (it's really hard to look cool with sunglasses perched on top of regular glasses).

After living in Phoenix for six months, I've noticed a few tiny little differences between Seattle and Phoenix. Probably the most obvious concerns the weather. Summer in Phoenix is not one of those things that Travel Agents recommend, unless you are looking to lose weight and can't afford a sauna.

In Seattle, 90 is hot. It hits 90 and the city slows down, everybody hangs out by the frozen food section of the supermarket, and sweats a lot. Air conditioning in buildings breaks down from the overload.

In Phoenix, in the summer, 90 means it's early morning. And it goes up from there (usually about 20 up). Unless you've experienced that kind of heat, it's difficult to explain. You suddenly gain a tremendous empathy for all the poor souls in those desert movies who start eating sand and embracing cactus. You start worrying because your thermometer only goes up to 120 and it just might explode. People warn you to leave the windows down when you park your car so that it doesn't explode from the heat.

There are some advantages to temperatures like this, though. When the honey crystallizes, you don't have to mess around putting it in a pot of boiling water. Just stick it outside for a couple of hours and presto - it's liquid again. Butter softens up really nice after a half hour outside, and you can quickly defrost frozen foods without resorting to a microwave.

Travelers tip: You will not make it through the summer without air conditioning in your car. In Phoenix, air conditioning in your car is known as "air." They are not kidding. If you want to breath, you get "air" in your car. I wrestled with this one until July - my car didn't have air conditioning, I knew I would be back in Seattle in September, and I didn't want to invest $600 in something I would use for only two months.

After I watched the asphalt on the road start melting one afternoon, and I got tired of always looking like I had just gotten out of the shower whenever I drove someplace, I broke down and got air conditioning installed. To me, air conditioning always meant 72, with the threat of getting cold. I found out that air conditioning in a car is not likely to lower the temperature 40. It doesn't make it cold to drive around, it makes it tolerable.

There are some cool things about Phoenix, though. For one thing, it is practically impossible to get lost in the city. Imagine a large flat piece of land with a grid placed on top of it. This is a map of Phoenix. To get to anywhere in the city, you know you will go on a North/South road for a while and then turn onto an East/West road for a while.

They even have a system for marking the roads so you know whether you are East/West or North/South of a particular point. If it's a street, you're east. If it's an avenue, you're west. Of course, the first couple times I looked up an address, I didn't realize this, so I would write down the address as "39th and Dunlap." Unfortunately, there are two 39th's (39th Avenue and 39th Street) and they are about 8 miles apart. It only took a couple of times of driving across town muttering before I started paying attention to the word following the number.

Chicken wings. Phoenicians are nuts about chicken wings, although they do have the good sense to take them off the chicken and cook them first. They spice them up and cook them and eat them and then walk around with greasy red hands for the rest of the day. There are Pizza and Chicken Wing parlours, Sandwich and Chicken Wing shops, and even entire stores that sell nothing but Chicken Wings. You can get buckets of chicken wings to take home and eat for dinner. I just wonder what they do with all the "leftover" parts of the chicken.

Driving in Phoenix is a little different than driving in Seattle. Both cities have one main freeway that goes through town (I-5 in Seattle, I-17/I-10 in Phoenix). The real difference comes when you hit the surface streets. Most of the surface streets in Seattle have speed limits of 30, and a few have speed limits of 35. This means that most Seattle drivers go 40 to 45 on the streets.

In Phoenix, most of the surface streets have speed limits of 40 to 45. This means that most Phoenix drivers go 30 to 60 on the streets. In the parking lots, the average speed is 45 on account of all the four wheel drive vehicles that figure if anybody gets in their way, they will just climb over the top of them. The people not in 4 wheel drive trucks are trying to get the hell out of the way.

Both Phoenix and Seattle have their "rich" suburbs. In Seattle, it's Mercer Island, in Phoenix, it's Scottsdale. This is important to know for two reasons: a) so you understand the local jokes; b) so you can be properly impressed when people tell you where they live. On Mercer Island, people display their wealth with large houses and landscaping. In Scottsdale, they do it with water. Fountains, reflecting pools, lakes, whatever. The important criteria is that the water not serve any useful purpose - it's just there for decoration.

In Seattle, a swimming pool is a swimming pool. In Phoenix, this is like saying snow to an Eskimo, who will ask you what type of snow is it? There are diving pools (pools that are deep, but not too long), wading pools (pools that are long, but not too deep), and lap pools (pools that are neither).

The similiarity is that in both places, the pools are used for two months out of the year. In Seattle, these two months are July and August, when the temperature finally gets up to around 80 and the pool no longer induces hypothermia. In Phoenix, it's too hot to use the pool during the summer, and during the winter, when the temperature drops to 70\deg , it's too cold. This leaves April and May.

Why Phoenix is Cool

I'm a Seattlite. No, that's not a typo, and no I don't orbit the Earth. I just live in, and like, Seattle. Recently, however, in a fit of poverty, I agreed to make money for six months in Phoenix, where people are called Phoenicians, like the blinds. Near the end of this self-imposed exile, I decided to make a list of things that make Phoenix cool.

Of course, bear in mind that I did the winter in Seattle and the summer in Phoenix, which according to my travel agent, who is the same person who stranded me in the Las Vegas airport at midnight when I had an important meeting at 9:00 AM the next day that was not in Las Vegas, is known as "taking advantage of the off-season."

 

Country Car Repair

I am not a country boy. I don't know that I'll jump right up when they ask for "city slickers" either, but the fact is I have spent most of my life in cities. I grew up in a city (Honolulu). Since I moved to Seattle too many years ago, I've lived in the city.

One of my criteria for where to live was how many feet it was to a 7-11. If it was more than 200 feet away, I'd keep looking. "What if there was a snowstorm and a terrible wind storm and the power was out and I needed to get a pack of cigarettes?" Two blocks I could handle. More than that...

Last year I made the mistake of getting married to someone who lives in the country. Well, the mistake wasn't marrying Laura, it was that Laura lived in the country. And we're not talking Gentrified country. We are talking 163 acre farm! Not only is it more than five miles to the closest convenience store (which isn't even a 7-11), it's almost half a mile to the mail box!

So it's taken some adjusting. I am still getting used to waiting in line at the store while the person ahead of me fills the cashier in on the latest with her kids (who went to school with the cashier). And occasionally waiting for the cows to get out of the driveway so I can leave.

Recently, though, the thing I had dreaded the most happened. My car broke. I had been subconciously hoping that either it wouldn't ever happen, or if it did, it would happen somewhere in Seattle. The thought of my miniature imported car getting lodged in a small town garage didn't appeal to me ("Well, golly! Ain't that a cute car! Never seen one quite like that before!").

And it wasn't broken in such a way that I could ignore it. If it had developed a mysterious little noise, I could just turn the radio up. If it had started pulling to the right, I could have blamed it on Reagan and leaned to the left.

But I wasn't so lucky. It happened in my driveway as I parked it. And the wheel was smoking! Not little tiny whisps of barely visible smoke, but large plumes of smoke that made me frantically try to remember where we put the fire extinquisher. The smoke died down and no flames appeared, but it was pretty obvious to me that I was not going to leap into a flaming Toyota and attempt to drive to Seattle.

I considered (briefly) having it towed to Seattle. I do have towing insurance. But I didn't relish trying to explain to my insurance company why I had my car towed from my house in Fall City to Fremont ("Well, alphabetically speaking, it was the closest place").

I opened the phone book to the Yellow Pages. After the three dictionary sized phone books that Seattle has, the magazine sized phone book was a shock. Of course, picking a place was pretty easy. Eliminating places farther than ten miles away didn't leave a lot of choices.

So I called. My car's broken, I explained, can you look at it? "Well, sure, bring it on in." Today? "We're not goin' anywhere." Already I was nervous. In Seattle, I have had cars towed into Service Stations where it took them three days to get around to looking at it ("We're busy, alright!?!").

Do you work with a towing service? "There's this guy Tom who does a good job, let me give you his number." Tom had just pulled the engine on his tow truck to do some work on it, but he gave me another number and eventually I found someone with a working tow truck, who was willing to drive out to the farm.

I sadly waved goodbye to my little car as the tow truck bounced down the driveway. I was convinced that I would never see it alive again.

"Howdy, this is Laverne, down at the Service Station." Probably calling to ask me where the engine was. "What's wrong with it?" The wheels smoke! "No kiddin'?" No kidding. "Okay, we'll get right on it." Maybe I could drive it into a car place, quick douse the smoke with an extinquisher, and trade it in on a new car.

"This is Laverne, again." Oh good. "Wheel's don't smoke when we drive it." They did when I drove it. "Hmm. Well, I'll put Wayne on it." Better yet, I could take out an ad, have someone drive to my house and buy it there. Maybe they wouldn't want to go for a test drive.

"This is Wayne, down at the Service Station?" Yeah, Wayne. "We sure can't find what's wrong with your car." Ask me if I'm surprised. "'Course, we figure you didn't just bring it in for fun." What an idea, have your car towed to a Service Station and have them try and fix a non-existent problem! "We'll keep lookin'." You do that, Wayne.

"Wayne, again. Still can't find what's wrong. Needs brakes, tho', which might be what went wrong. So we figure we'll replace them and see." I suppose it's progress if we get it back to where the wheels smoke again.

All these phone calls took place over the course of a day, and every time I pick up the phone and hear about another test drive, my mental calculator is trying to figure what $45 an hour times four or five hours is. When I hear the car is finally ready, I'm not sure if I should bring my checkbook or the car title. Maybe I could just sign it over to them.

I get there, and steeling myself for the worst, look at the bill. I am only charged for the parts and labor to replace the brakes. What about all the time they spent trying to find out what was wrong?

"Well, shoot," says Laverne, "we didn't know what was wrong, so how can we charge you for that? We only charge you for what we fix, not for what we don't know." Car runs just fine, now. No smoke. From the wheels or anywhere else.

You know, I could get to like it here in the country.

The Ferry Race

Those of you who live and work in Seattle regard the ferries as something quaint and colorful. A fun excursion for a day, or part of a day.

Those of us who live on Vashon have a slightly different view of the ferry system. Some of those views can't be expressed in print. Catching a ferry is like catching a bus. It doesn't matter if you just miss the ferry, or miss it by half an hour. You still get to wait for the next one.

Consequently, ferry riders keep timetables stashed at numerous locations around themselves. And, they know how long it takes to get to the ferry docks from any given point.

This leads to what I call "The Ferry Race."

It's 8:55 pm in Edmonds. The ferry dock is 26 miles away. 6 miles to the freeway, 15 miles on the freeway, and 5 miles through West Seattle.

The ferry leaves at 9:30 pm. The next ferry is at 11:00.

Glancing at my watch, I run out to the car and start the engine. 26 miles in 35 minutes. If I can average 45 mph, I can make it. No sweat.

I pull out of the parking lot at 30 mph. Too slow. Got to go faster.

At this point, the commentary begins in my head.

"Welcome to ABS Wide World Of Sports. Tonight, we'll be covering The Ferry Race."

"That's right Jim. And tonight's contestant is a Vashon Island resident anxious to be home by 10:00 pm."

"And he can just make it, Bob, if he plays it right."

"Jim, it looks like our contestant has gotten off to a good start. He's made it past the first two lights in Edmonds and is now maintaining a good 50 mph speed."

"Yes, Bob, and once he gets past

Forming my own political party

Recently, the Republication party in Washington State adopted their version of the Magna Carta, only this time declaring their independence of reality. I've pretty much come to expect some pretty wacky ideas to come out of anything even remotely related to the Political process, but this time the Republicans did an outstanding job.

In addition to their regular diatribes against abortion, sex by anyone under 30 and arguments for prayer in the schools and government subsidies for Ivy League Alumni, they also decided to come out against Yoga - that's right. The Republicans have decided that they cannot, in good conscience, support anything that smacks of relaxation. Why, people start relaxing and the next thing you know, they're doing drugs and having sex and buying Japanese cars!

What I found interesting about this, aside from the clear case of space aliens stealing massive amounts of brains from the Republican party, leaving them - as an Alien Joke - pots of oatmeal in their heads. I'm sure that Goo'r!Chak, the leader of the Space Alien expedition is even now saying to the Human Study Team: "Okay, let's see if anyone notices that we've stolen the brains out of a bunch of Republicans and replaced it with oatmeal."

Anyway, what I find interesting is how easy it is to relate to this plank of their platform. All the other things in the platform, like should Johnny be taught that Attila the Hun was an Environmentally Correct Invader, require varying degrees of anguish to come to a decision about ("Well, yeah, I don't actually do anything with the continental shelf, but should we drill holes and pump oil of them?").

Yoga, though. I mean, you know right away if you're for it or against it. It doesn't require any deep philosophical discussion to come to a decision about. Either you say "Yeah, I never did like that Yoga stuff" or "Yeah, I like Yoga, also his little buddy Boo Boo Bear."

This is true "Lite Politics" in action. Which lead me to today's plan of action: I'm forming my own political party, called "Lincoln Lite" where our entire platform is something that everybody can immediately decide if they like or not.

For example, Lincoln Lite comes out strongly and firmly against

Protect Your Computer

Your computer is humming along as you move the black Queen to the red King, when suddenly - nothing. Mr. Mouse is asleep, Mr. Keyboard has taken a vacation, and Mr. Computer is no longer on speaking terms with you. And just as you were about to win!

Is this just coincidence? Hah! The mischievous computer spirits decided they weren't going to let you win this game. They were unhappy - so they grabbed your attention in the only way they know.

How often has something weird happened to your computer and then suddenly it starts working again? The technician rattles his pens in his pocket protector and mumbles "Some transient in the power supply," or "Cosmic rays from outer space."

(Actually, real technicians never blame things on cosmic rays, although we are constantly bombarded by zillions of these little bitty bits of radiation that cause mutations and make geiger counters in 1950s B-movies click like crazy. Which may explain why you never see geiger counters any more.)

Scientists say that each little chip in your computer contains thousands and thousands of teeny tiny transistors and other electrical doo-dads. Each mini-micro inch of a chip (they say with a straight face) contains a bunch of circuits carefully etched into silicon. (If a scientist ever asks you up to look at his etchings, be sure to bring a microscope.)

Scientists expect us to believe these transistors are so small that we can't even see them, and even more absurd, that they can put bazillions of these little transistors next to each other, without messing up anything. These are the same people who didn't even bother to look through the Hubble telescope before launching it into space ("Hey Ernie! We got any lens paper that's 10,000 miles long?").

How do we know what's inside a chip? Easy, open one of those suckers up. Do we see teeny tiny transistors? No!

We see what looks like (and is) a miniature city with little roads running all around. A miniature city full of miniature computer spirits. They have their own little freeways and parks and restaurants and motels. Each chip contains thousands of tiny little spirits who go to work in tiny silicon skyscrapers and take lunch breaks and chase little nymphs around silicon desks.

By the time all these little cities are assembled into a computer, you have a teeming metropolis of spirits, all busily adding and subtracting and multiplying and making your computer run.

And, because we believe the scientists, sometimes these little spirits say "Hey! This guy thinks we're all a bunch of little electrons whizzing around inside of rocks! Electrons, hah! We'll show him!" The next thing you know, your computer has stopped. Transient in the power supply, indeed!

Is there anything you can do about this? You bet! Like all spirits, your computer spirits just want a little attention.

After extensive research into this topic, using such scientific instruments as a magnifying glass and a six-pack of beer, I have managed to catalog the spirits that inhabit your computer.

Disk Drive Demons are the most aggressive types of spirits. If they feel the least bit slighted, they pounce on the master copy of your $800 software and chew holes in a few sectors.

Or they race through your hard disk and move stuff around, so your letter to Aunt Agnes gets mixed in with your Quarterly Report. ("And in the southern region we found that hand-knit argyle socks were really great! It keeps my little tootsies nice and warm and makes me think of home-made cookies.")

Disk Drive Demons want you to know that they are in control, that you respect their power over your data. The best way to placate them is to sacrifice a floppy disk to them weekly. This also satisfies their ferric oxide lust and keeps them from munching on your working disks.

CPU Sprites are the hardest working of the computer spirits. In the world of computer spirits, CPU Sprites are the "executives." They are constantly giving orders to the other spirits ("Hello, Disk Drive Demon Central? Fetch me a few megabytes of data, would you?").

Everyone knows that magnets and computers don't mix. Not many people know that this is because magnets are repositories for tiny demons. These demons are always eager to get near good spirits so they can try to change them - which is why magnets stick to metal surfaces.

You can make CPU Sprites happy by occasionally taking a small magnet and whapping it to pieces with a hammer. CPU Sprites like to see this kind of wholesale carnage of demons, and you can look forward to months of trouble free service after a good demon bashing session.

Monitor fairies, their tiny paintbrushes in hand, race around inside your monitor and paint colorful pictures on the screen.

Monitor fairies are most annoyed by boring graphics. If you listen carefully while you are creating a bar graph, you can hear little voices crying "For this I went to art school for four years?!"

Since the liveliest graphics are found in games, the best approach for placating the monitor fairies is to play games at least once a day. This lets them limber up their paint palettes and do some serious drawing.

Lastly, there are the Keyboard Gremlins. These little guys like nothing better than to sneak into your keyboard and make the keys send out wrong characters. Especially in word processing programs - which accounts for the large number of typographical errors in the world.

The best way to deal with Keyboard Gremlins is to keep a full cup of coffee next to the keyboard. Announce in a loud voice "Boy, I sure hate typos! They make me really nervous! So nervous I knock things over, like this full cup of hot coffee with a cup of sugar in it!" Keyboard Gremlins hate hot coffee, especially with sugar because it makes them all sticky.

So throw away that can of anti-static spray, cancel your maintenance contract, and forget about that streaming tape backup. Invest your money in some garlic, a few talismans, and you can work in harmony with the spirits in your computer.

Tabloids

How many of you buy tabloids?

You know what I mean. The cheap weekly newspapers that grace every check-out stand in America. Their front pages crawl with a dozen headlines promising revelations, news, smut and exclusive pictures (or interviews).

These papers claim readerships in the millions. Yet, no one admits to buying them.

I buy them. I like them. Where else can you read about the English bag lady who sold dead bodies to a dog food factory? This is not the sort of story that Time magazine is going to run.

Everybody sneers at them. Yet, buy one and leave it lying around and see how many people read it. Notice the following pattern of behavior:

  1. Sneer at the magazine. Make some comment about wasting good money on trash.

     

  2. Walk over to the tabloid. Pick it up and make disparaging comments about the headlines. "Two guys kidnapped by space aliens? I'll bet the aliens names were Jim Bean and Johnny Walker."

     

  3. Open the tabloid, obstensively to find more things to sneer at.

     

  4. Start reading an article. "Hmmm. Yuck! Ahh, come on!"

     

  5. Begin ignoring the outside world, including the boss wandering by and clearing his throat behind you.

I figure it really is true that these tabloids have readships in the millions. They sell about 100 copies nationwide, but those 100 copies get a lot of "second-hand readership."

Useless Information

Americans seem to be in love with useless information. A few years ago, the hottest game on the market was "Trivial Pursuit," which rewarded people who could remember the greatest amount of useless information.

The worst type of useless information is the kind that doesn't seem to be useless. When you first hear or read it, it seems valuable. So you waste a few brain cells committing this fact to memory, and anxiously await an opportunity to apply your new found knowledge. Unfortunately, as time goes on, you find that you have now permanently memorized yet another piece of useless information.

For example, consider the fact "When women have orgasms, their toes curl." I was first informed of this over ten years ago by a nursing student, and I have no reason to doubt its truthfulness.

As soon as I heard this I knew this was important, useful information that would help me live a fuller, more satisfying life. Here, I thought, was a basic principal of life. Sort of like the fact that lightbulbs always screw in clock-wise.

No longer could I be fooled by imagined or contrived orgasms. I had a quick, easy way to verify ecstasy. Nobody could fool me (or at least no women could).

Unfortunately, there is slight problem with this fact, as I quickly discovered. How do you look at your partner's toes at the critical moment?

This is, after all, the crux of the matter. Unless you can see the toes, you don't know if you are being hoodwinked.

However, any normal position - one which is conducive to producing orgasms - doesn't provide a vantage point of the feet. In fact, unless you have a shoe fetish, you are not likely to be gazing at your partner's feet at all.

I was determined not to lose this piece of information. Okay, so it can't be used under ordinary circumstances. How else could this be applied?

Pornographic movies! I had a reliable litmus test to determine if the actresses in these movies were really following the Stanislovsky Method of acting. Or if they were concentrating on their paychecks.

Quickly I grabbed my raincoat and hat and slunk into the local den of cinemagraphic iniquity. The acid test, I thought.

Once again, my hopes were dashed (although a few other things were raised).

Either pornographic moviemakers had also heard this fact, or they were more interested in displaying other parts of the anatomy. Not once, in the hundreds of orgasms I witnessed, were toes a prominent feature.

So, here I am, with thousands of brain cells devoted to remembering this useless piece of information. If I have a stroke and a major portion of my brain gets wiped out, I'm convinced that this one fact would somehow survive.

I can just picture it. Drooling, semi-catatonic in a wheelchair, gazing at nurses feet.

Call Me At the Wheel Sometime

One of the more annoying things in modern life is car phones. Actually, it's other people's car phones that annoy me. I always end up cruising down the freeway behind some bozo who's yakking away on his car phone, gazing at the scenery, and only every once in a while glancing at the road to make sure it's still there.

And I just know that he's not closing some multi-million dollar deal with a Japanese conglomerate, or negotiating for a film deal. His conversation is going something like:

"And could I get extra pepperoni on that? Great. I'll be there in ten minutes."

Personally, I kinda like not being reachable in my car. I can fool with the car radio, weave in and out of traffic at high speed, and sing at the top of my lungs, secure in the knowledge that the President himself couldn't get ahold of me (well, if it was the President, he could probably send an Army helicopter to fly over and pick my entire car up off the freeway).

I would never own a car phone, unless...

Everybody's car phone number was the same as their license plate number. Then I'd get a car phone in a heartbeat, and have conversations like this:

"You idiot! Did anyone ever tell you what a turn signal is? Have you ever used it?"

"Hi, how you doing? This is the guy you just cut off. That was real considerate, you know? In fact, I'm going to call the car in the lane just ahead of you, and ask them to cut you off."

"Excuse me, pal, but the speed limit on this road is 55, not 45. Drive the speed limit, not your IQ."

Imagine the fun! Imagine the sudden courtesy we would all acquire, knowing that if we zapped across three lanes at once, we would be innundated with phone calls advising us of just how big a jerk we were.

It wouldn't take long, however, before the free enterprise system kicked in, and I'd be getting calls like this:

"Say, neighbor, I couldn't help noticing that your windshield has a few cracks and dings in it. Don't you think it's time to get into Acme Windshield repair and get it fixed?"

And, of course, the inevitable:

"I couldn't help noticing that you're driving around an old beater. Wouldn't you rather be cruising in the lap of luxury in a new car from Acme Motors?"

Another cool thing about car phones would be when I was stuck in a traffic jam. I'd just call the car ahead of me, and ask them to call the car ahead of them, until we finally reached the head of the line to find out what was going on. We could put together a 400 car conference call!

"What's the problem?"

"A blue Toyota is broken down in the left lane."

"Has he checked his distributor cap?"

"I don't know, let me get him on the line."

"I used to own a blue Toyota, and you gotta jiggle the little thingamabob under the hood when it won't run."


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