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Monday, April 29, 2019

Dialing All Friends...Smarty-Pants Car—Where Are You?


I know you’ve all been there.  At least if you have an iPhone or other smarty-cell phone.  Sometime your cell phone has made a call for you that you did not intend.  If you are lucky, you stopped the call before the other person picked up.  Though, despite your best efforts to hide the fact your pocket made a call, the call’s recipient probably could tell you had called.

How did we ever manage without Caller ID?  I remember thinking it was a silly idea when I first heard of Caller ID.  Why did I need to know in advance who was calling?  Wasn’t that the purpose of telephone etiquette—where the caller says “Hello, I’m John Doe. Is this Dorothy?”  I only took Caller ID service because I worked for a phone company, and my assistant got some points if we all took the service.  Or maybe she lost points if we didn’t.  Despite my skepticism, after one day with Caller ID I was sold.  I wondered, “Caller ID, where have you been my whole life?”

I don't think I’m the only one.  No longer do most people answer a phone call blind.  We’ll want to know who is calling.  We also no longer need to be able to recognize the voices of our family and friends. Even mental telepathy and ESP are obsolete.  We now have Caller ID.

But back to that butt or pocket-dial.  Your friend or acquaintance whom you called by mistake--they either called you back or pretended to not notice you'd inadvertently placed a call.  If you’ve been less lucky, some friend or relative listened to you while you muttered over grocery prices as you pushed your cart through the aisles, or pumped gas or, worse yet, engaged in a real-life conversation with a companion that they could overhear.

I think I’ve done all those things.  I even butt, or pocket-dialed an acquaintance while walking my dog and--as I bent to pick up my dog’s deposit--dropped my sunglasses into that deposit.  Sort of the trifecta of screw ups.

You might be surprised at the words I used to express my dismay at the sunglass/dog poop situation.  I was surprised at the words I used.  Suffice it say—they would not have been acceptable to the nuns who taught me.  Or to my Mother.  And the person I had inadvertently called on my cell who was listening to the whole verbal deluge was a friend of my Mother’s.  No doubt, given the luck I was having that day I probably said a number of things that would not have been acceptable to any of my Mother’s friends.  Oh well...it was that kind of day.

Recently, I’ve topped even the “pick-up-dog-poop-drop-sunglasses-in-dog-poop-butt-call-disaster” incident.  Now my cell phone has taken to making phantom car calls on its own.

We bought a car that communicates with my iPhone through Bluetooth.  Sounds pretty cool, eh?  My car stereo (do they even call them stereos any more or is that a sound system?) will play audio books, podcasts and music from my cell.  How wonderful has technology gotten?  The car-cell collaborative strategy also will play GPS directions and probably will drive my car when I’m not paying enough attention.  I think the artificial intelligence collaboration between my cell and my car has reached the awareness stage.

I may start to call my smarty-car-cell collaborators “Car 54”.  If you are not old enough to remember the TV program “Car 54, Where are you?”  I’ll summarize it briefly.  Two police officers patrolled in a police car assigned that numerical designation.  The officers were always up to hijinks and rogue behavior.  But only in the nicest, most humorous ways. You can watch a bit at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQfXPGCYlfI 

As I think my car and cell are likely well intentioned, and since I am so much at their mercy, I will give them “Smarty Car 54” as an affectionate, but nostalgic  name in the hopes they use their considerable combined power in a helpful and benign manner.  Also, that way, when my car and cell phone team up and go rogue, I will have a named entity to blame.

Recently, my Smarty Car 54 decided to call one of my sons.  I had not touched my cell phone or even said anything to it.  I think perhaps I turned on the windshield wipers.  But I had no awareness that I had done anything that would result in a call to my son.

What takes the cake is the occasion when my husband’s call was answered in my car while neither my husband nor his cell were in the car.  I was leaving for an appointment, pulling out of our garage in Smarty Car 54, when a woman started talking to me from my car.  The woman appeared to think she was talking to my husband who happened to be sitting not in the car but back in our kitchen.  He had been on hold on his cell phone when I left the house.  Apparently, my husband’s cell through Bluetooth switched the call to my car sound system just as the called party picked up the call.  Luckily, my husband was not engaged in any smarty-pants behavior.  Unluckily, I was suddenly talking to his insurance provider.

So now both of our cell phones were ganging up with our car to confuse the hell out of us old folks who were just trying to do normal stuff like make phone calls on a phone.  Or drive a car.  But not at the same time.

The only thing I could think to do was to drive the car into the kitchen and let the lady talk to my husband.  No, I didn’t actually do that. I did run back inside and ask my husband to get in the car and talk to the lady who was talking to me and see if he could get the call back on his phone rather than in the car I was planning to drive away.  He did.  I drove away a bit later.  The Smarty Car 54 hijinks certainly gave me an excellent excuse for why I was late for my appointment—my car had been tied up on a call with my husband’s insurance company.

Currently I am lucky if I can get my car to play the radio. I do not even try to  replicate any of my smarty-car-cell phone hijinks, at least not intentionally.  But apparently, I can do it unintentionally.  My brother recently told me he had received a phone call, supposedly from me, and the call sounded like it was from my washing machine.  I assured him it must have been the Smarty Car 54 that called him.  As I told him—the washing machine has had it phone privileges taken away until it gets the laundry done without my having to sort the clothes, lift the baskets, add detergent and fluff or fold.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Redbuds in bloom


Redbuds and Dandelions


As if by secret signal known only to them, the redbuds burst into color one day last week. Appearing in between tall trees, by the wave of springtime's fairy godmother’s wand, the bright purple blooms suddenly are everywhere: in clumps and copses, on manicured lawns, and in the midst of deeply wooded parklands. Some are tall and gangly like teenage boys. Others, pruned and shaped, sit more like well-endowed, plumpish matrons, smartly attired and residing amongst pristine surroundings.


This week pink dogwoods have joined the color parade, along with yellowish-white dogwoods that in time will be more of a true cream. Purple phlox and bright yellow daffodils, along with the host of other early flowers, brave enough to face the occasional evening lows in the ‘30’s, are scattered everywhere. Along with perky dandelions and other wildflowers. Or weeds as some would call them.

Tall trees are covered with yellow-green foliage that looks from a distance like a Monet. Upon closer inspection, the “foliage” is not new leaf growth but little seed pods so delicate they quiver in the slightest breeze, giving a blurry impressionist view of pale chartreuse. From our sunroom windows I daily calculate by the foot the growth of underbrush. A week ago, our neighbors’ houses were fully visible. Now, only the rooftops can be spied. In a month’s time or less I will live in the midst of a forest.

The female cardinal who has tapped on our windows incessantly for the past months finally has quit. The ornamental cherry tree she had inhabited while tapping on our dining room and study windows now looks like a virginal bride, covered in full, fluffy-white blooms. Perhaps the blooms help Ms. Cardinal see that the window is only a reflection and not another female cardinal she needs to furiously run off. Or perhaps there’s a better explanation, she now is busy pursuing more urgent tasks, such as nest-building.

The days are almost summer-like at times. Then other days I pull out my winter coat even for a park walk on a sunny afternoon. A woodpecker on the roof has taken over the tapping for Ms. Cardinal.  Each day we check our collie for ticks. Despite flea and tick preventives, we often pull at least one from her thick fur. “Aa..ah..ah..choo…" Bless all us allergy sufferers. It’s springtime in the Ohio Valley. Wish it would last forever.