REPORTING THE BARE FACTS

Two little boys went out to explore

the nudist camp that just opened next door.

“What’s it all about?” asked one.

“Mommy says they worship the sun.”

“Climb that tree and look over the fence.

Report what you see if it makes any sense.”

“I see lots of people, about a hundred and ten.”

“How many ladies and how many men?”

“There’s some of each, I suppose,

but I can’t tell them apart, they’re not wearing  clothes.”

OLD HAT BUT STILL POPULAR

When archaeologists in the far distant future are examining the artifacts of today’s society they’ll probably decide, after finding millions of baseball cap remnants, that we were a nation of ballplayers who, in the off seasons, built skyscraper cities, invented electronics and other marvels and went on trips to the moon  and around our solar system.

The baseball cap, according to some historians, was invented in 1849 by the New York Knickerbockers baseball team.  It had the distinctive visor and was made of straw. Succeeding designs were worn almost exclusively by ballplayers until the mid-20th century when non-athletes began to wear them instead of fedoras, derbies and berets. And whoever sees a lady wearing a pretty bonnet these days?

Suppose the caps had become widely popular from the start. Can you imagine Abraham Lincoln visiting the Union Troops around 1861 without his trademark stovepipe hat? Matthew Brady photos would show him wearing a cap from a hometown team called the Springfield Yankees.

The caps were invented to keep the sun out of the players’ eyes. Sunglasses weren’t around until 1929, so the visor was a great idea, especially for flyball-chasing outfielders. Cowboy hats were probably considered, but they would have gotten in the way of batters’ swings and pitchers’ windups, and how would a catcher get his face mask straps around a Stetson?

Since the cap is now worn in all kinds of weather by non-players, the visor also blocks rain, snow, sleet and hopefully, lightning bolts. They’ve been found to be useful by various tradesmen.  For instance, lower level painters are protected from the spillovers of their upper level colleagues.

Modern caps also serve as cranial billboards to advertise the wearer’s allegiance to sports teams, exterminating companies, breweries, etc.  Some proclaim accomplishments such as  WWII service or an opinion like “I Love NY” or “I Hate Disco”.

Some cap wearers with a rebellious streak have done away with the face-protecting feature by wearing the visor in the rear or halfway around in a desperate attempt at coolness.  It’s not a new idea. The old Sherlock Holmes style deerstalker cap has both front and rear visors and retractable ear flaps with stylish back tie strings. How cool can you get?

ACROSS A CROWDED ROOM

I was invited to a cocktail party many years ago during my freewheeling youth and, after looking around the room, I realized I knew no one there except the host and he was busy schmoozing with other guests and refilling glasses, including his own.

I ended up exchanging cliches and platitudes with a fellow in a green seersucker suit who, unfortunately, turned out to be an insurance salesman. He adroitly switched from small talk to actuarial matters and started out alphabetically with accident protection  and annuities .  By the time he got to major medical and mortality tables I was looking around for the nearest exit.  That’s when I noticed the attractive girl across the room who was staring at me fixedly and not paying much attention to the host who had just handed her a glass of wine.

I looked again when Seersucker Suit had finished surety bonds and was starting on travel coverage,  Miss Pretty Girl was still staring, but now she was actually walking toward me and smiling.  This could be the start of something big, I thought.

“Excuse me,” she said, reaching up and touching my shoulder.

“That’s quite all right,” I replied. “What can I do for you Miss?”  She smiled again. What a great  smile!

“I noticed your jacket collar is all twisted and it was driving me crazy.   Please let me straighten it out.  It’s just one of my quirks.”

As she worked with  my collar I was hoping this was just one of her opening gambits, but then she turned to Seersucker Suit and said,  “I think we should be going home now, Dear.”

It wasn’t a total loss. The next day I called and arranged a date – with Metropolitan Life.

 

BURNING AMBITION

We complain about growing old, but do we really want to stop growing old ?

A friend told me he’d just turned 80 and it made him feel old and feeble.  “Oh yes,” I agreed. “Eighty is terribly old, a really awful age. I’m so glad I’m not 80 anymore.”

Although I feel hale and hardy I might be getting close to the final bell.  I thought I heard the warning buzzer the other day, but it was probably just the wax building up in my ears again.  Anyway, I’m making some hereafter and here-under plans. For instance, I’m opting for cremation.  The old graveside prayer, based on Genesis, reminds us of our “ashes to ashes” fate.  But what to do with the ashes?  I wouldn’t want to be stuck on someone’s closet shelf next to the mothballs box until Gabriel finally blows his horn.

I wrote a feature once  about a fellow named Pete who’d left instructions for his ashes to be dropped from a plane into Giants Stadium, an imaginative idea, but the stadium back then had AstroTurf and he wouldn’t have been able to settle in and fertilize the gridiron grass. A lot of his remains were sure to be picked up by the cleats of visiting teams and eventually Pete would be scattered around all the NFL stadiums.   Maybe that’s what he had in mind.  He’s probably had a bugs-eye view of some great Superbowl games, the lucky stiff!

I have a more personal destination for my ashes.  I’ve lived beside beautiful Lake Parsippany for over half a century and I’d like most of my ashes sprinkled into its blue waters. Since the lake has a catch-and-release rule I won’t end up as part of a fisherman’s dinner.

Taking a cue from Pete, I’d like a very small part of my grainy remains, just a teaspoonful, eventually deposited in Citi Field. I have a feeling that the New York Mets are about due for a great season and I’d like to be there when it happens, if possible in the on-deck circle.

THE CALLEE STRIKES BACK

The very first annoying phone call was made on Friday, March 10, 1876 to Thomas Watson in Boston, Massachusetts.   Watson was Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant and was probably on his break and having TGIF thoughts when he received the world’s first telephone call.  It was from his boss down the hall.

If Watson thought fast he could have replied, “You have reached Thomas Watson. Your call is very important to me. Please leave a message at the signal and I will get back to you as soon as possible…..BEEP!” Then he could have finished his coffee and donut.

Actually, that wouldn’t have worked because Thomas Edison didn’t invent the recording machine until the following year. Faking a busy signal wouldn’t have been a good idea either since Bell knew that he and Watson had the only two telephones on the planet.

It’s remarkable to learn that Bell foresaw that his wonderful creation might not be completely beneficial to the civilized world and could become an instrument of intrusion. When he later went on to other scientific endeavors he refused to have a telephone installed in his study to avoid interruptions of his thought processes.

By 1886 over 150,000 Americans had telephones, but they couldn’t call Bell until after working hours when he was eating his dinner, a situation we’re all still stuck with.  How painfully prophetic the great inventor was!

Although I’m on the official Do-Not-Call List with over 200 million other Americans, the uninvited, unwelcome calls continue in spite of the risk of a $16,000 fine for one illegal ring up and higher penalties for repeaters.

Since Bell anticipated this negative offshoot of his invention he should have incorporated some kind of proactive element or at least the suggestion of one. It would be satisfying if we could press a button to send a mild, but unpleasant electric shock into the headset of a meddlesome telemarketer or perhaps demolish the circuitry of a robotic peddler.

TELEPHONES PAST AND PRESENT IMPERFECT

There are more cell phones than people in the USA.  You can look it up. The cell phone population passed the people population in 2011 and it’s still climbing.  Our 328 million souls now own about 360 million cell phones.  Don’t forget, most of us have two ears, so we probably have a way to go yet.

You can’t swing a shopping bag in a mall these days without interrupting three or four mobile conversations.  I’ve suggested having cell phone booths in malls and other public places where those annoying loud talkers can be sound-proofed. Booths would also help reduce the frequency of distracted walking-and-talking accidents. Just last week I saw two cell phoners collide in a hurtful head-on. They were still yakking into their chatterboxes when the EMT’s arrived.

There were no cell phones during the Great Depression in the 1930’s and many families couldn’t afford a landline phone. On rainy days we kids were housebound and out of contact with our neighborhood pals unless we put on our bathing suits and splashed through the gutter  puddles until a distant clap of thunder brought on a retreat call from home.

Most of us had radios but, trapped inside on a stormy day, we had to listen to Mom’s soap operas. After a few depressing episodes of “One Man’s Family” and “Ma Perkins” we would get quite unruly.

Then Frankie, our gang leader, had a brilliant idea. We could actually have phones to converse with nearby friends that wouldn’t involve Ma Bell and would be cost-free. “What kind of phones?” we asked.  “Megaphones!” Frankie replied.  We made them out of available cardboard and pretty soon the neighborhood was reverberating  with shouted out-of-window messaging.  As long as we shut down at sundown no one objected to the noise except for a few panicky dogs.

I could recreate my boyhood megaphone and take it to a mall to shout an impolite message to the first annoying  loud cell phoner I encounter.  I have unlimited minutes with my megaphone and also Medicare insurance, just in case.