Tag Archives: transportation

Random Impulses

Camping

Generally, as most of us get older, we have a very good idea of what our likes and dislikes are. Recently, though, I have been thinking about doing some things that I know I do not enjoy or usually want to do. It’s an odd feeling.

As I wrote before, I don’t like to be outdoors. Maybe I spent too much time outside when I was growing up, but the great outdoors has far too many hazards and discomforts for me to want to spend hours there. I know there are people who love the outdoors and spend a lot of time there, and that’s all right. They can have my share.

The odd thing is, I’ve been thinking about aboriginal Americans who lived very close to nature. Whether their shelter was a lodge or teepee or pueblo, they had to have been aware of the elements. With a fire for heating and breezes for cooling they were right in the midst of nature.

I have been camping exactly once in my life. I was ten years old, and I remember not sleeping much and just about starving since each of us was responsible for his own food. Lately, though, I been wondering what it would be like to stay outside in a tent. I could pitch one in my back yard and not be that far away from the comforts of the indoors. Of course, I’d have to buy almost everything I need, including a tent. I do have a sleeping bag from my daughters’ Girl Scout days. It’s a thought, but a strange one for me. Still, I find myself thinking that being outside with nothing but a thin nylon wall between me and the outdoors would be intriguing, although I’d probably wait until spring to try it.

Then there’s traveling. I’ve decided I don’t like to travel. Oh, I like to see different places, particularly places with history and good restaurants and good bookstores, but actually getting there is pain. I don’t care for driving, which is mostly monotonous and occasionally terrifying. My wife is a great driver (and a wizard parallel parker, even left-handed), so she does most of the driving when we go somewhere. I do the navigating, and I’m good at that, except when I’m not. That’s a subject for an entire column, but not just now. Anyhow, if there were a Star Trek-style transporter available, I’d use one, even at the risk of scrambling my molecules. To be able to be some place instantly has a huge appeal for me. And don’t even think about flying. That used to be fun and an adventure, but I don’t have to tell you what a pain it has become. No, I’m comfortable where I am, with everything I need right here. That’s why my travel impulse is a strange one. I’d like to fly around the world. I’m not talking about flying around the world non-stop on one tank of gas. What I’m thinking would be fun would be to fly around the world using scheduled flights. I’ve checked and it’s possible. It would take about three days. I think I would like to go business class since I would plan to be on an airplane most of the time. I wouldn’t even leave the airports or clear customs—I would just go right on to the next flight. This is even crazier when I consider that I am mildly claustrophobic. That’s why business class. I could leave on a Friday and be back Monday if my calculations are correct. It would be cool to say I had done it.

Then, I’ve been having an impulse lately to have another career. That’s not that unusual for an early retiree like me, but I’m talking about an entirely different career. When I was in my early teens I wanted to be a rocket scientist. (I was too tall to be an astronaut then.) What dissuaded me from this career path was the sad reality that I was not very good at math, and math is important to being rocket scientists. My impulse is to take science and math classes and earn a degree in astronautical engineering. I figure with the coursework I’ve done already I can skip the core classes and things like phys ed. and go right on to advanced science classes. It would be a whole lot easier for me to earn an M.F.A. in creative writing, but becoming a rocket scientist in my 60’s sounds much more appealing, even if I am probably worse at math than I was in high school. Grandma Moses started painting when she was in her 80’s, so maybe I do have a future with NASA.

So I have these random impulses, but I’ve found if I lie down for a while, they soon pass. Thank goodness for small favors.

 

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Codes

British Postal Codes

I don’t know if you pump your own gas these days or not. I suspect you do, like most of us these days, unless we visit to New Jersey where it’s against the law to do so. This fact of modern life was satirized in a scene from one of my favorite movies, Back to the Future, where Marty McFly is astonished to see four attendants at a filling station launch themselves at a car to check the air in the tires, clean the windshield, pop the hood to look at the oil and coolant levels, and take the driver’s order for gas. Now, those were the days!

Of course, if we’re paying cash, we have trudge over to the attendant—the horror of it all!—and schelp back to the car where we can then fill the tank ourselves. If we’re using a credit or debit card, our lives are somewhat easier. Indeed, if we used plastic to pay for gas, we rolled up to the pumps, got out, swiped our card through the reader, waited for the screen to respond, chose a grade of gas to our liking, and started pumping. Those days are gone, apparently, because the little magic screen now asks us to enter our zip code, a security measure in case we have stolen our own credit card and are trying to use it a half mile from where we live. I understand the need for this little addition, since having a credit number used and abused by someone else does not make for a good day in the life of the card holder, but I also have to confess it took me back a bit when I first had to enter the number with my little index finger. The screen also told me that if my postal code included letters, I had to see the attendant. Huh? I thought. There ain’t no letters in a zip code. What’s with that?

As it turns out, there are letters in postal codes of many countries around the world. Say you want to send a nice letter to Oxford Press in Oxford, England. You write your nice letter, put it in an envelope, and after putting on proper postage, address it to:

Oxford University Press
Great Clarendon Street
Oxford
OX2 6DP

My little experience pumping gas showed me, once again, there is always more to learn. And I’m glad. Think how insufferably dull life would be if we knew all there was to know by the ago of, say, 30. As it is, the older I get, the less I think I know. And that’s not a bad way to be.Please note that the “postal code” includes letters and numbers, so they got it about 1/3 right. Not bad for a former mother country. They’re not alone, however, in using letters: about 250 other countries do as well, including, in some cases, the U.S. So, we’re in a minority by using only numbers. Who knew this? Not me!

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Poem of the Week: A Boy’s Wish

Sailboat

A Boy’s Wish

I want to live on a tidy sailing ship
Painted blue with sails of white
Not too big but just the right size
I’d call it the Mighty Mite.

I’d not go sailing on my boat
But live in it like a house
And I’d have some pets, maybe a cat
In case I had a mouse.

My boat would be so neat and trim
With everything in its place
A little kitchen and stove and all
Tucked in to save some space.

And in the night when it was dark
I’d read by lantern light
And go to sleep in my little boat’s bed
And snore all through the night.

I’d go to school like a regular kid
And they’d all envy me
And ask if they could visit
And I’d say, “Yes—just two or three.”

A sailor’s life is not for me
But I like to be afloat
With calm waters rocking gently
My pretty little boat.

So come on down and join me there
You can live on one as well!
There’ll be two of us then, you know,
And we’ll have lots to do and tell.

We’ll play pirates or pilots or adventurers
And pretend we’re not afloat
And then settle down and read some books
In my happy little boat.

–Dan Verner April 29, 2013

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Looking Back

the heavens

It was about a year ago that I had eyelid surgery to correct what is technically called “droopy eyelids.” As my optometrist said when I checked with her a year ago in September, “It’s no wonder you can’t see—your eyelid is drooping halfway over your pupil.”
I haven’t said didn’t say a whole lot about this surgery because I don’t like to call a lot of attention to myself, although my appearance certainly did afterward. I looked like I had gone about three rounds with Muhammad Ali–and lost.
I experienced my drooping eyelids as not having enough light to see. If I held my eyelid up, there was much more light, but I looked funny walking around holding them up. Same thing with holding them in place with duct tape as some people do. I chose surgery, and it took six months from the time I saw the optometrist to the day of surgery.
Becky drove me over to a well-appointed surgery center in Chevy Chase last May where I was promptly taken back and prepped for surgery. I won’t go into too many details except to say I was given a “twilight sleep” sedation so I could follow commands. It worked: I was awake but didn’t care what happened to me. I had my eyes closed as the surgeon worked and as he finished, he said, “Open your eyes.”
The room seemed flooded with light. “There’s so much light,” I said, and there was, especially since it was an O.R. with O.R. lights. The surgery crew laughed at what I said.
After a short time in recovery, Becky drove me back home where we arrived about 2 PM. I was to spend the rest of that day and the next flat on my back with frozen peas or lima beans on my eyes to keep down swelling and bruising.
I found it hard to keep still and lie down. Becky kept reminding me, sometimes forcefully, how important it was to do just that. I eventually settled down, and in the next day and a half discovered some things to do while lying on your back unable to see because you have gauze pads and iced vegetables on your eyes. So, here is what I did:
I listened to the radio, particularly news, traffic and weather from the glass-enclosed nerve center of WTOP. Their frequent times checks made it easy to tell when it was time to switch the somewhat thawed peas for a freshly frozen pack. By the way, it you want to thaw about a quarter pound of peas or lima beans, hold them on your head for about half an hour. That’ll do the trick.
I listened to Pandora, the internet music service, grooving (but not too much) to the likes of Dan Fogelberg, Gordon Lightfoot, Art Garfunkel and Jim Croce. I found that I could add percussion by tapping on the wall as well.
I listen to several televised baseball games and finally switched to radio broadcasts where the descriptions were more complete.
I did some gentle yoga exercises to keep from getting stiff from lying around.
And I talked on the telephone with anyone who called, except for solicitors.
I was able to get up to go to the bathroom and eat, and then promptly go back and lie down with my iced eyeballs.
I decided after trying to make my way around the upper floor where I am familiar with what’s there that I would not make a good blind person. I kept running into things and was afraid of falling down the stairs and setting back my recovery. Vision is truly a gift. I did try playing guitar, thinking that some famous musicians like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Doc Watson and Blind Lemon Jefferson were blind. I could barely play my guitar by holding it on my chest but I didn’t find songs by these artists such as “Deep River Blues” and “See that my Grave Is Kept Clean” much help in healing. I gave that up very quickly.
With my eyelids lifted, I have had more light coming into my pupils. With more light, I also see details better. I also gained 30 additional degrees of upward peripheral vision through this procedure. I hadn’t thought about this until I was walking into the church one afternoon a couple of weeks after surgery and I thought, hey! there’s a whole sky—a whole heaven up there and I didn’t even have to raise my head to see it.

My eyes have been opened and I have seen the light.

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Back in the Saddle Again–A Letter from My Brother

Image

Martin D-45GA. List prince somewhere north of $17,000.

 

(Part of an  email from my brother Ron, who had some serious health problems a number of years ago, recovered and went on to a twenty-seven year career as a pilot for Delta Airlines.)

Hi Dan,
I thought of that song as I was driving to the church for my Wednesday volunteer work. I only worked one day in March, due to my virus and dental surgery. Even though one of today’s jobs was to clean  off some playground equipment, it was nice to be back.

Gene Autry’s song also is a good one in my memory, because the instructor pilot who was in the right seat for my first 767 flight sang it when I made my initial takeoff. This was my return to flying, after being off for 1 1/2 years with health issues. He said he knew things would go well on the trip when I punched all of the flight management system buttons correctly, and in rapid speed. I guess he forgot that I had been instructing the system in the MD-88 simulator. Amazing how today’s pilots are judged by punching buttons, not stick and rudder skills.

I probably should look around for a Martin D-45GA ( pictured above), as his signature song has a special meaning for me. Unfortunately, the price on one is pretty special too.

More later.

Ron

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