Friday, August 27, 2010

tap or die

Terry Stephan

The news recently reported on an Atlanta woman who got out of a terrible situation by typing a “help” message on her computer with her toes. A young man with a gun broke into her house around midnight.
The victim, Amy Windom, wasn’t going to be taken advantage of easily and put up a fight. In the struggle, the robber whacked her in the head with the gun.
She began to cooperate. He led her around the house, she identified what and where her valuables were. He then tied her to her bed by her wrists. He stayed another 40 minutes or so, coming back to her bedroom occasionally, asking for pin numbers and other information about her possessions. He then left with her car.
It must have been a terrifying incident, but the woman kept her wits about her. When it came time to take her laptop, she told the thief it was a company laptop and could be traced. He left it at the foot of her mattress.
She remained tied to her bed for hours, occasionally shouting for help. The shoelaces binding her were cutting into her wrists. She flipped her legs over her head to shut off the bedside radio. She wanted to hear if anyone was passing by and possibly get their attention.
She knew the computer was there, but thought the robber would have cut the phone lines, so she would have no internet service. She unlocked the laptop by hitting the control, alt and delete keys all at once, with her toes and was surprised and pleased to see she had wireless internet.
She operated the mouse pad and clicked on the mouse buttons with the big toe of her right foot. With her left foot she typed with the stiff end of the laptop’s power cord held between two toes, instant messaging her boyfriend to call 911, shortly after five in the morning.
Their communication went something like this;
BOYFRIEND: Yea? Your’e up?
BOYFRIEND: I was going to ping you before but- Sure
BOYFRIEND: What email?
A few more keystrokes and scant seconds later, Windom’s boyfriend John, dialed the police.
If it happened to me, my case would have ended differently. I’ve stretched my foot out to grasp an errant slipper between my big and second toe and gotten a foot cramp so bad I couldn’t stand up for an hour. Pressing control, alt and delete all at the same time with my toes is probably out of the question; with my fingers I can just manage to pick out and hit those three keys all at once.
I use a cordless mouse but, it isn’t tied directly to my computer with a wire so sometimes it wanders away all by itself. Operating the curser with a mouse pad or anything other than a hand held mouse usually brings out my latent feelings of discontent towards micro engineered electronic equipment. This forces me to express myself with language unbecoming a gentleman.
I digress. My point is, if I got that far, and sent an “IM” to Emmy, her response would have been very different from that of Amy Windom’s boyfriend.
Emmy: “What? You write everything with your ‘caps lock’ on now?”, “Are we animals?”
EMMY: “What email? We’re instant messaging; did you take one of your happy pills? Have you gotten enough sleep? You do know ‘read’ doesn’t have a ‘3’ in it, right?”
ME: Call the police.
I don’t think she would have taken me seriously at this point; she may have come back with something about being busy and not having time to fool around.
Either way, the cramp from typing would be causing excruciating pain; I would have to remain tied up for at least another hour.
Just practicing…

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I received a complimentary comment on my most recent post, "Speed Shopping", also with the suggestion that I post more photos with my writing. I appreciate the suggestion. I have included few photos in my past posts, finding it difficult to put them where I wanted them, and having the forethought to take the photos in the first place. I am learning all the time and will work on inserting more photos in future submissions ..

Friday, August 20, 2010

Speed Shopping and Stan

Often, when I don’t really have time to shop, but need to pick up a dozen or fewer items I ‘speed shop’ at our local grocery store. I don’t pay much attention to prices or quantity but push the cart through the store at a good pace; the objective is getting the job done quickly.
This may include skipping an aisle where I could be lured into conversation by an acquaintance. When I encounter someone I know, I try to get away with a nod. I feel as though I am being rude but many times I am not the only one who wants to get in and out of the store quickly.
When I’m not in a hurry, a phenomenon occurs which happens all over small town America, probably all over the world. You see a friend in the first aisle of the store and exchange greetings. You concentrate on your shopping for a bit, then look up to see the same person in the next aisle, you exchange a few sentences. You may skip an aisle but then run into them again, by the time you both roll up to the checkout counter; you’ve caught up on most local events and are talked out. You could probably call this experience, ‘social shopping’.
Recently my friend Stanley saw an old ally in that first aisle. He had not seen the woman in a number of years and he couldn’t remember her name but seeing her filled him with a surge of familiarity.
They worked together on several volunteer projects two decades earlier. They became comrades. She was particularly easy to work with, and would take on a project with vigor and see it through with a smile on her face. He was ashamed that he couldn’t remember her name.
She was concentrating on ‘specials’ in the first aisle, pasta sauce in hand, examining the nutrition label. Stanly came up beside her and said, “Hello, how have you been?”
The woman responded with a sort of double take, and then a big smile, “Fine, how are you?”
Her big friendly smile pleased Stan, she remembered him fondly, as he had her. She didn’t say his name - so maybe she was in the same quandary as he. The name would come back to him he just needed to ruminate a bit more.
He left her to read labels and pushed onward, certain that not only would her name come to mind, but also they would have a chance to “catch up” in aisles to come. He slowly collected items from second row shelves, trying to remember. Was it something with an ‘R’, “Robin” maybe?
She rounded the end of his aisle. The carts very close now, her name came to him. “Ruth” he said, “I have to tell you what happened to ….”
He filled her in about one of their co-workers on the project which had seemed so important back then. As they both assumed would happen, the co-worker and his wife did get a divorce.
In the fourth and fifth aisle he told her about his kids and grandkids, all doing well.
She seemed reluctant to talk about her own children; she had two girls, around the same age as his boys. Ruth and Stanley had things in common, their kids were the subject of many a discussion all those years ago. Maybe she just wasn’t happy with the way her offspring had turned out.
He ended up in line right behind her at the checkout, as she was paying her bill. He felt uneasy because he had dominated their conversation.
Stan said, “Ruth, you haven’t told me how your kids are doing, did your oldest girl ever…?”
Her face flushed and she looked almost belligerent as she interrupted his sentence saying, “I’m sorry, I’m not your friend Ruth.” She turned and quickly pushed her cart, full of bagged groceries, out of the store.
Now Stanley understood why she had been so quite.
He would be better off ‘speed shopping’ more often.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Paradise lost

This is a column from just a few weeks ago when the news seemed much bleaker from the Gulf of Mexico..

Paradise can be more than just a place, sometimes it refers to a place and a time, maybe more. I can name only a few trips Emmy and I have taken where things were near perfect and we referred to that place (and time) as ‘paradise’; one was a paddle/portage trip in Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.
We stumbled upon some sort of Twilight Zone or time continuum slot between the black fly and mosquito seasons, our insect repellent went unused! It was 14 days of perfect weather. We swam and studied wildlife and did nothing resembling our day to day grind in the ‘real’ world.
Our other “paradise” was in and around the Gulf of Mexico. Emmy and I have fond memories of our time spent there. A few months before Katrina, we explored beaches and marshes in Texas and Louisiana. We had a fantastic time on the beach, reading and dozing and wading into water just slightly cooler than air temperature. We saw alligators and armadillos and a huge sea turtle. We saw exotic birds, so colorful I thought they must have escaped from a zoo.
Emmy Lou is far more adventurous than I when it comes to water sports. I found this out just a few days after we were married and still on our honey moon. In the middle of Tupper Lake, she stood up in our canoe and dived into the water and swam away. I thought maybe it was something I said.
As she swam away, I hollered after her that she was on her own; I wouldn’t be able to do anything to save her should she start drowning or meet another calamitous fate. My definition of swimming was well put by Paul Stookey; to me, ‘swimming is, staying alive while I am in the water.’
Through the years I have cautioned Emmy to stay near shore or near the boat- she doesn’t listen.
In the Gulf, the water was waist deep for what seemed like miles. I saw no need to wade further than fifty feet or so from shore. As I sat enjoying the shade from our camper’s awning, Emmy Lou waded out so far she was barely a spec in the flat water. I saw a dorsal fin slicing its way past in the shallow water, not seventy five feet from where I sat. With my knowledge of sea life, it could have been a great white shark or a beagle fish. Emmy was too far away to hear any warning from me, so I said nothing. Someday that girl will be consumed by something higher up on the food chain than she, all I will be able to do is say wistfully, ‘Told you so’.
At dusk, as we lay on a blanket, watching the water and the light of day fade, we noticed specs of light popping out in the sky. After the first night, we realized that not all of the dots were stars. Low on the horizon, some were the lights on oil rigs, their iron work not visible in the brightness of day.
In my ignorance, I could never imagine that just one of those far off specs on the horizon could be the cause of so much damage to the shore we enjoyed, or that vast body of water. I guess BP didn’t think of that either. The difference is; I never drilled an oil well, British Petroleum has drilled more than a few and should know better.
After making the mess, adding insult to injury, BP followed the practices of many highly successful insurance companies by ‘slow-walking’ business owners and others through claims, saving money when the process overcame the claimants and they gave up and walked away.
Each day there is more news of oil spreading, damaging another business, or destroying another beach or marsh or killing another type of animal. We are losing the Gulf a little at a time.
I can’t help but wonder how much of paradise will be left when BP proclaims “Mission Accomplished”...