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Story Time (previous tales)

Time Will Tell:

I have this thing about clocks and watches that sort of borders on obsession. If I lived alone my house would be like one of those creepy rooms you sometimes see in movies, where a slightly odd man lives with hundreds of clocks that all chime the hour in the middle of important conversations.

My fascination began early on when, to keep my childhood yap shut, I was given a big alarm clock to dismantle. Applying my screwdriver and pliers I realized that something as complicated as time was being counted by a very simple machine. It amazed me then. It amazes me now.

Time has always been a hot-bed of invention. The first mechanical clocks were expensive and huge affairs beyond the means of an individual. The oldest survivors, from the mid-1300s, still live in European towers. Personal clocks, definite status symbols, appeared near the end of that same century. About a hundred years later some der Besserwisser gave birth to portable clocks when (s)he replaced ungainly ropes and weights with the force of a metal spring.

Vertical escapements gave way to wheels, and clocks began to shrink. Wristlets, or wristwatches, initially considered feminine, grew popular for men in the trenches of the First World War where changing positions to pull a pocket watch could get your head blowed off. The first self-contained, battery-driven clock appeared in 1906. The "synchronous electric motor clock," analogous to the one your mom had in her kitchen, showed up in 1918. The first quartz-clock, in 1929. The atomic clock arrived 20 years later. A person doesn't think much about it, but I figure it could be argued that uber-accurate time-keeping is the basis of much of the technology that runs the world today.

A friend, who only recently discovered the joys of wristwatches, asked if I had a "dream watch."

I was childhood fan of the comic strip Dick Tracy, with his two-way wrist radio that was upgraded, in 1964, to a two-way wrist TV. I sure wanted one of those! Funny thing, now that we're closing in on what Dick Tracy and his crew took for granted I find myself rejecting the latest trends and longing for simpler days.

I own a number of wristwatches. None particularly valuable, but most far more accurate than I require. Really, why does a person need to track time within seconds a month? I have to admit that, more and more, the watches I enjoy most are those I wind by hand, like the timepiece bequeathed to me by my childhood neighbor, Virgil Paul Rizzo. It's a slightly beat-up, square-faced, 1920s, art-deco beauty that, acceptably enough, loses a few minutes each day.

Knowing the batteries for today's watches won't be available forever, I have begun the search for the perfect, above-average mechanical watch to pass on to my son, along with his grandfather's and great-grandfather's watches. I hope it'll be the seed of another generation's search for the perfect measurer of time.

Though, I'm considering having the minute-hand removed from my future dream-watch. I figure knowing the hour is good enough. Anything more precise is superfluous. Don't you think?

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Can we buy real poo next time?


So... This morning I get into the shower.


I’m carrying a brand-new bottle of shampoo. My favorite brand. I use it all the time. Really. It enables what little hair I have to be soft and glowing. Sure does. Yep. I saw it in a commercial. So it must be true.


I’m in the shower. I’m soaking wet (no surprise there). I snap open the lid of the shampoo bottle and hold it over my upturned hand... Nothing comes out. I squeeze the bottle. Nope. Nothing. At all. I unscrew the cap. Beneath, I find a plastic seal.


What the heck? On my shampoo? A plastic seal? Against what? Shampoo thieves? Shampoo diluters? Shampoo adulteraters?  Shampoo switchers with hair removalers?


What's this world coming to? I bought the same brand and size bottle a couple of months ago. There was no plastic seal. Probably some Homeland Security rule or something. The Shampoo Czar declared an orange state of emergency for all bottles. I shouldn't joke, I know, I'll end up on the watch list - if I’m not there already.


I try to remove the plastic seal. Should be easy, there's a little tab to pull. I pull on the tab. The tab pulls off. The seal stays on. I curse (out loud) at the wonderful engineering behind such a design. Now what? I’m nekked. Soaking wet. In the shower. What might I have that has a chance of piercing a plastic seal? My teeth? For a shampoo bottle? Even *I’m* not that dim.


I have a valve at the shower head that lets me turn off *most* of the flow, to save water while I'm soaping up. I don't use it, of course, being a Wasteful American, but it's there nonetheless. I manage to rip open the shampoo bottle's plastic seal using the edge of that shower head valve-handle. A couple pieces of plastic manage to escape. They hurry down the floor drain. To wait several months before causing a clog. At the worst possible time. Plastic's bad that way. Ornery plastic. Mind of its own, plastic has.


I screw the cap back on, trying not to get any water into the shampoo. That'll change the composition of the shampoo. And, somewhere, give a shampoo chemist bad dreams. I hold the shampoo bottle up and, with vim and vigor, snap open the top.


Hold on... What's that coming towards me? It's a big blob of un-watered-down shampoo. Heading straight for my right eye.


!! BLINK, FOOL !! My brain screams.


"Who, me?" Asks my eye. My eyes are sort of slow, sometimes. They've been headed downhill ever since I started wearing bifocals.


Blam! The shampoo lands right on the lashes of my right eye.


!! DON'T BLINK !! My brain screams.


"Who, me?" Asks my eye. And it blinks. I told you they were sort of slow, didn't I? My right eye is now filled with searing shampoo-lava. It burns. With a big B. And a big URNS, too. I hear a shampoo chemist giggling, somewhere (later, when I’m thinking more clearly, I'll put some water into the bottle to get even). I stick my face into the shower stream to flush the chemicals from my eye.




I don't know what mornings are like at your house. But here, it's a whole lot of people vying for limited resources. That's why I’ve always crawled outta bed first. No matter where I’ve live or whom I’ve lived with. I want to be at the top of the schedule. The first in line. I always want to kick off the schedule. It comes from being a second child. Really - ask any second child you know. If they say it isn't true, they're fibbing like a sack of (sham)poo.


Top of the schedule I am. Still, during mornings, everything has to run like clock-work. Everything. It's like the tides at Normandy on D-Day. The orbits of the planets on a moon launch. Everything has to be lined up just so. Bing. Bang. Boom. Including the amount of time *I* spend in the shower.


It's not that somebody's waiting to use the shower. Nope. But. There are only so many butts and only so many commodes, y'know? And, in a house this old, butts, commodes, showers, and faces are all connected by pipes. All in one nice, neat, sweet, perfectly connected string of events. Like the co-incidences that brought you to this point in time.


I'm running behind my regular schedule because of the sealed shampoo. And my face is in the shower because I’m rinsing shampoo-magma outta my eye. My right eye. My left eye wonders what's going on.


Somebody else, somewhere else in the house. Lifts their butt from a commode. Relieved at finishing one of their first tasks of the day, they push the flush handle... I feel a drop in the water pressure - the cold water pressure.


!! FACE...BACK !! My brain screams.


My face (which isn't nearly as slow as my eyes) pulls back from the soon-to-arrive flash of heat. I even manage a step back and away. Some reflexes, huh? Of course, it takes an instant before the water rises to scalding temperatures and another instant before I realizes that the course of the shower spray is now aimed directly at what some would politely term my “naughty bits.”


My brain screamed something at that point. I don't recall what it was. Except it started with bad words and went on with bad words and ended with bad words. I think I used every bad word I know. That's a LOT of bad words. Trust me. Lots. Luckily I was ‘way too busy dancing around the too-hot water to listen very much to what it was I was saying.


I was kind of tender toweling off. My shampooed right eye looked as if I smoked a bale of weed (perhaps I should say what I have read a bale of weed eye would look like. Homeland Security and all that). My left eye looked more angry than anything else. And slow.


Stupid shampoo.