Pinkies On The Firing Line

We toured the Alamo yesterday.  As we walked the grounds, we happened across three volunteers who demonstrated the multiple steps of loading, tamping down, and firing the arms used by the defenders of the Mission against the overwhelming forces of Santa Anna.  The process was cumbersome and posed a special risk for the humble pinky.  The leader of the trio explained that the men of that era were trained to use the pinky to tamp down the charge, so that if the firearm discharged prematurely only the pinky would be lost.

Remember the Alamo, but remember the pinky, too!  Its sacrifice helped secure the American West.

Meanwhile, Back At The Shuffleboard Court . . . .

You have to wonder whether it ever bothers the people of Florida that everyone else in the country views it as an enclave for octogenarians.  No surprise there — Florida has the largest percentage of senior in the country, with almost one in five residents above the age of 65 and one county where more than half the residents fall into that category.

wvc_seniorgames_0920123Stories like this one, about a “shuffleboard rage” incident in St. Petersburg, aren’t going to help Florida’s retiree rep.  It reports that an 81-year-old guy was charged with battery after getting into a fight with another man during a shuffleboard tournament at a seniors center.  The feisty octogenarian reportedly punched the victim in the face and hit him with his shuffleboard cue, scratching the victim’s face.  Unfortunately, the article doesn’t report certain crucially important details, like what provoked the incident, and whether the two men were wearing colorful plaid Bermuda shorts hitched up to nipple height and support hose at the time of the altercation.

What would it be like to live in the Sunshine State, home to millions of slow-walking, bad-driving, loudly attired seniors wearing bulky hearing aids?  I think it would be strange and depressing to live in a place where there are so many older people relative to the rest of the country.  Now we learn that the state might be somewhat dangerous for the many shuffleboard fans among us, too.

News Flash: People Who Talk On Cell Phones While Walking Aren’t Cool

Lately I’ve seen more pedestrians walking and talking on their cell phones at the same time.  It bothers me.

It’s not the lack of politeness, necessarily.  Although it is impolite — imposing your side of your inevitably loud cell phone conversation on every hapless person who unfortunately happens to be within earshot — anyone who lives in the modern world has long since learned to endure thoughtless louts who can’t conform to basic social norms in more ways than we can count.

popupNo, what really bothers me is that people talking on their cell phones while walking always act like they think they’re the coolest thing ever.  They’re inevitably walking, the elbow of the arm holding the phone jutting out just so, with the smuggest imaginable look on their faces.  It’s as if they think that getting or making a phone call in a public place is somehow an affirmation that they stand alone at the center of the universe.  “Look at me!,” their demeanor screams, “I’m an incredibly important person!  And I’ve got friends, colleagues, and clients who want to talk to me even when I’m crossing the street in a busy downtown area!”

This must be a carryover from the early days of cell phones, when handhelds were rare and people were curious to see people talking on bulky wireless devices.  But those days ended during the Reagan Administration.  Now cell phones are like opinions and certain body parts — everybody has one.  The difference between the walking talkers and the rest of the world is that the walking talkers don’t have the decency to remove themselves from the public right-of-way, by sitting on a bench or standing off to the side while they complete their call.  Everyone else has the good sense and manners to not inflict their conversations on random passersby.  Unlike the walking talkers, everybody else has the instinct to not act like a churlish buffoon.

So here’s a news flash to the walking cell phoners — you’re not cool, you’re boorish.  Please recognize that, and if you can’t stop talking on your cell phone in public, at least have the decency to wipe that smug look off your face.

The Grilled Meat Bond

Tonight, Kasey and I are bonding.  She likes meat cooked over a fire, and so do I.

Tonight, we are recreating the early days of the human-canine connection.  It probably started over a fire, eons ago.  I’m grilling a steak and some brats — okay, our ancestors probably didn’t have brats — and’s she’s waiting patiently, looking at me with those big, imploring eyes, hoping for a morsel.

It’s hard to resist those eyes, isn’t it?  Our ancestors probably felt the same way.

Running On Empty

Kish calls me the Uptight Traveler.  That means getting to the airport more than an hour before the departure time of any flight, making sure that we’ve got hotel reservations lined up rather than winging it when we’re on the road, and a host of other rules of thumb designed to avoid the last-minute activity that often can mess up your travel plans.

gas_gauge_emptyIt also means that, when driving, I pay careful attention to the fuel gauge.  When the needle moves below a quarter of a tank, I start to look for the nearest self-serve station.  And if I get in the car after someone else has been driving it and the fuel light comes on, it pretty much makes me break out in hives.

In more than 40 years of driving, I’ve never run out of gas.  I’m proud of that record, because I think running out of gas is one of the most avoidable self-inflicted wounds Americans can experience in our car-saturated culture.  I can’t imagine how I would be kicking myself if the engine stopped and I had to coast to the berm on a highway because I was trying to go one exit more after the light showed I was running on empty.

Other people, however, are different.  The devil-may-care sort think it’s fun and exciting to flirt with roadway disaster and tempt the sadistic highway gods that might throw a traffic jam in their path when the fuel gauge shows empty.  These fate-tempting risk-takers pooh-pooh the legitimate concerns of anyone who reacts to things like fuel gauges — even though that’s exactly why fuel gauges were created in the first place.

To those preening daredevils, I offer this handy chart from Road & Track that tells you, for the 50 most popular cars sold in America, how much gas is left in the tank when the fuel light comes on.  And I ask:  would you rather roll safely into a gas station to fill up with a reasonable amount of gas still in the tank, or run the risk that you might soon be trudging down a highway berm, gas can in hand, or leaning against your car calling the nearest towing service so you can be gouged for the price of a rescue run?