"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ready or not, here I am.

Huh? Oh, already? I wasn't quite prepared to start blogging this soon. I thought maybe I'd just tinker around trying to figure out what this is all about. Now here's this big empty box waiting to be filled with words. So, I'm wingin' it.

Let's see. First I'll tell you a bit about myself. I'm a fairly new member of the Age of Medicare, for all the good that does me because I think all the physicians in Alaska have opted out of the program. I've lived in Alaska since 1948. Why did I move so far north from Detroit, Mich? I didn't have much to say about it--I was six years old. One of these days I'll tell you some stories about that.

I'm one of those people who can't remember what year something happened unless it was momentous. That's why I remember I graduated from Anchorage High School in 1960. I remember that because it was pretty iffy there that last year. I'll tell you some stories about that, too.

A week later I went to work for a newspaper as a cub reporter. I was supposed to be a summertime replacement for vacationing reporters. By September I was a permanent reporter--covering the courts. What a time that was in Alaska. We'd just gained statehood and our court system was brand new. I did that for three years, covering everything from murder trials on down, then I worked for a radio station.

I survived the great Alaskan earthquake of 1964, worked as a legal secretary for a couple year. Then I ran away to work at a ski resort down the road about 35 miles. Let's see....I've been a cook, a janitor, a gardener, a condo manager, a construction worker on the building of the Trans Alaska Pipeline, a bookkeeper, and the owner/operator of a restaurant/bar/motel. Some say I've had a varied career. I say I have a short attention span.

In the past two years, after a life-changing event, I returned to my writing roots and began to act on a dream I had when I was 21: writing Gullible's Travels. I had started it back then, intending it to be a story about my travels through life. It didn't take long for me to figure out that I should live a while before I told my life story. So, here I am. And, boy, do I have some stories to tell you.

I should warn you that though I am widowed, I live with two assertive beings: my Mexican Double Yellow-headed Green Amazon parrot named Pablo, and a muse that leads me around by the keyboard. She is demanding in her quest for my attention, unforgiving should I ignore her, and--above all else--quirky.

She led me to some writing classes at an online site called ed2go. Here's a story from one of the exercises I did. The assignment was to chose four numbers at random, then use those numbers to find the corresponding words on a list. These words gave us a subject, place, action and twist, from which we were supposed to write a story. Here 'tis:

Human Resources

Gizmo was well aware that he replaced three men after he was hired by the Empress Cruise Lines. The other guys in the engine room made sure he knew, and that they weren’t at all happy about it.

They called him names behind his back, not realizing how keen his sense of hearing was. Even over the loud twin diesel engines he could hear things they didn’t want him to hear. They called him “Gizmo” to his face, though, and that wasn’t even his real name. That was fine with him. He’d been called Gizmo ever since he could remember because his real name was almost unpronounceable in English.

He was a little sorry about putting three men out of work, but he had to work too, didn’t he? Maybe if they worked out the way he did they would have the physical strength to do the things he did. Every time there was a lull in engine room work the other guys started a poker game while Gizmo practiced chin-ups on the overhead rigid hydraulic lines that ran from the bow thrusters to the hydraulic reservoir tank. Over and over and over, hundreds of times. Sometimes he’d swing back and forth, trying to keep the rough calluses built up on the palms and fingers of his hands so he could work on the hot engines without those clumsy gloves.

But mostly Gizmo kept his head down and his rear end up, in the manner of employees everywhere who just want to do their job and not cause trouble. His knowledge and strong body and work ethic were tailor-made for his success. He’d been taught that at the diesel mechanics vocational school he’d attended.

He was happy to have the job, even if he was lonely aboard the ship. The other guys in the engine room made attempts to talk to him in the beginning, but after a while they said they couldn’t understand him. Gizmo figured his accent was still too thick, so he’d been practicing and working on it. He’d try to mimic the words the others said, but they’d just laugh at him.

The food was great. He had no complaints about that. Gizmo was a vegetarian and the ship served lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to the crew. He could eat all the salad he wanted, too. The steward had given Gizmo an extra large salad bowl. He preferred it without those nasty, oily dressings.

He had no interest in the casinos or in the poker games that sprang up in the crew’s dining room after hours, so he was able to save all his paychecks. He gave them to the ship’s purser, who put them in the ship’s safe.

The ship sailed Alaska’s Inside Passage every week, and Gizmo appreciated the spectacular scenery. Sometimes when they reached the northern port of Haines the weather would be cold and rainy. He didn’t care for that at all, because Gizmo was from the south and preferred hot weather. He wished he could transfer to a ship that sailed the Caribbean. Maybe even Hawaii. First, though, he had to prove himself on this ship before he could put in for a transfer. The cruise line had taken a big risk in hiring him and it had received lots of complaints from the Seamen’s Union about the loss of three jobs.

Gizmo fondly remembered his biggest achievement. The main propulsion engine had started leaking oil quite rapidly from the rear main seal while out in the middle of Queen Charlotte Sound. This was the only open water on the voyage and more than half the passengers and crew became seasick after the ship’s Captain shut down the engines so the men could replace the seal. Such was their hurry that the foreman told Gizmo to hold the main shaft while the men removed and replaced the seal. They had an overhead crane for such tasks, but having Gizmo hold it with his brute strength was ten times faster. Not OSHA approved, but faster.

Even the Captain and the First Mate sent their thanks down to the engine room after that feat. That made Gizmo feel warm and fuzzy, even though he knew they, too, resented him. Those unions were a problem.

What made Gizmo drop a letter in the mail was the loneliness. He longed to engage others in conversation as he had at vocational school. He wanted to discuss philosophy and technology (he’d minored in computer engineering at school) and—most of all—females. The letter was addressed to the Human Resources Department at Hewlitt-Packard, the big computer company. It was a job application.

An answer finally arrived in the mail near the end of the cruise ship’s season. Gizmo ripped open the envelope, read the message and jumped and jumped for joy. He’d been hired and was to report to HP as soon as he was laid off from his present job.

“Finally!” yelled Gizmo in his native language. “Finally I will get to talk to people.”

But even Gizmo knew the true reason why he was being hired. He also knew he’d be able to handle the work of at least three people there. He wasn’t a stupid ape like the other mechanics called him. He was a strong, proud mountain gorilla, and he knew HP wanted him because consumers who called tech support wouldn’t be able to understand him at all.


(Words: gorilla, fixing a machine, cruise ship, career change)

That's a sample of one of my styles. Please note that all stories posted here are copywrited. Thanks for joining me and come back soon. I'm full of stories.



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