My Hero

[A repeat from March 20, 2016] In my post of October 9, 2014 (“I Need to Invent Something“), I discussed the public’s irritation at people who yabber loudly on their cell phones while sitting on the train.  Some conversations are so loud they can be heard in Dubuque.  That’s why each train now has “quiet cars” (cell phones and conversation are verboten).  In my post, I suggested someone should invent a device that would deliver an ear-piercing screech to these inconsiderate boors. 

Well America, we have a new hero.  Dennis Nicholl – a 63 year old CPA from Chicago – was armed with a “black box” while riding on a CTA train.  Some around him were talking loudly on their cell phones — heedless of their neighbors’ auditory space.  Mr. Nicholl flipped the switch and – POOF – all the cell phones around him went dead.  Instead of cueing Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” or giving the man a standing “O” –  an undercover police officer arrested Mr. Nicholl.  And charged him with a felony — a violation of an FCC regulation.  I was pleased to read that the charges have now been reduced to a misdemeanor.  But still Mr. Nicholl remains under the shroud of this case.  

My only disappointment with Mr. Nicholl is that his black box did not cause cell phones to emit an ear-piercing screech. . . . .

Rosa – The Denouement. . . .

[My same friend asked me “how is this Rosa thing going to end?  You have to finish it up.”  Soooooooo . . . .]

Rosa’s ticket was swiped at the gate.  She walked down the jet bridge and onto the plane.  Pulling her small suitcase – to seat 25-A.  She pressed her carry on into the overhead compartment, adjusted her skirt – slid in and sat down.  Closed her eyes.  And breathed in.   Out.  In the four years they had been together, Alonzo had been demeaning, hurtful and at times physical.  And often absent.  There were sadly no children and – in the last three and a half years – no love between them.  And now.  San Francisco in some eighty dollar a night dive so Alonzo could leave her to smoke weed, gamble and heaven knows what.  She shook her head ever so slightly, fastened her seat belt and glanced out the window.  Seeing nothing.  Rosa looked down at her left hand.   She pulled off her wedding ring and dropped it in her purse.  And closed her eyes again.

Ted Wingate was thirty years old.  Almost.  He was a graduate of a small Midwestern school.  With a JD from a fancy law school out East.  He was fluent in Spanish and French, blabbered in Mandarin and was a hotshot moving up the ladder of one of the “Big Law” firms.  Heading to San Francisco for a meeting with senior partners and some of the orchids of Silicon Valley.  25-B he thought as he pulled his bag through the plane – his ticket clasped in his hand crinkled against the handle of his carry on.  And he saw his seat. . . . next to a young woman.  Whose eyes were closed.  Her arm resting on his seat.   

Would you excuse me please?” he asked.  Rosa jumped. “Sorry” she said and pulled her arm up.  “Thank you” he said.  He smiled at her.  And she at him.  “I’m sorry.”  She waved her hand.  “I was resting,” she offered.  No – no worries,” he said.  

The flight took off.  And they began to talk.  Conversation flowed.  Like a gentle stream.   As they approached San Francisco, Ted pulled out his business card.  “I’m at the Hotel Nikko.  Where are you staying?”  Rosa thought of Alonzo’s credit card in her bag – “what a coincidence!  I am too.”   He leaned back and smiled – “I’ve got a ride waiting.  We can share.  Maybe dinner tonight?” 

That would be nice,” said Rosa.          

Rosa’s Revenge

As a result of my prior post, a good friend suggested I write a scenario – that might explain how the wedding ring of Rosa’s husband ended up on the floor at the American Airlines check in station at O’Hare Field So. . .  here ’tis.

[A play in one act]
A loudspeaker announces “American Airlines Flight 346 to San Francisco will soon be boarding at Gate H8”  A couple is walking quickly – the man several steps ahead of his wife.  
Alonzo: [Angrily]  Move it, Rosa – I wanna get to the gate.
Rosa: Wait a sec. I may have left my sandwich at the TSA check poi . . .
Alonzo: Your SANDWICH? @X&*%x!! I mean come ON woman. . . .
Rosa: Sorry Alonzo. But I spent six dollars on th. . .
Alonzo: Get a move on. [Snarling] I’ll buy you a bag of pretzels on the flight.
Rosa: Yes Alonzo.
Alonzo: Geeesh. . . .
Rosa: Alonzo?
Alonzo: What NOW?
Rosa: [Looking at Alonzo] Where is your wedding ring?
Alonzo: (Looks at his hand) My we. . . . .
Rosa: I saw you fiddling with it back at check in when you were staring at that young woman who walked by.
Alonzo: [Growling] It’ll turn up.
Rosa: What do you mean ‘turn up’?
Alonzo: I. . . I . . . . I. . . mean uhmm. . . . .
[At that moment a pair of Chicago Police officers walk by]
Rosa: Officer?
Officer One: [Stops] Yes ma’am?
Rosa: This man is harassing me [points at Alonzo]. He’s a stalker.
Alonzo: But but but but but. . . . .
Officer One: Sir [grabbing his arm] come with us.
Alonzo: But but but but. . . .
Rosa: Thank you officer.
[Rosa continues walking.  She smiles and begins whistling as she approaches the gate.  Minutes later, an observant, older and very handsome gentleman finds the ring, calls out “Rosa”??   And reports the find to authorities]

The Wedding Ring

[An update from March 10, 2013]   I find things.  As a kid I found Indian artifacts and detritus on Civil War battlefields (see post of 2/12/12).  Today, I find wallets, money, cell phones and jewelry (see post of 8/1/12).  Just by being observant. 

In January 2013, I was at O’Hare Field with my family.  Terminal 3 American Airlines.  Standing in front of a self-service check-in thingee.  Going through the ritual.  And I looked down.  There was a circular object on the floor.  At first it looked like a small bare key ring.   My gaze sharpened.  I bend down and picked it up.  It was a wedding ring.   A man’s wedding ring.  I looked around then squinted at the inside.  There was an inscription – a date in 2002 and the name “Rosa.”  I raised my voice inquiringly to those nearby — “Rosa”?   The only looks I got were the curious — not the that’s me or someone I know look.   I padded over to one of the AA stations (no. 39 as I recall) and I told the woman behind the counter that I’d found a wedding ring and that the inscription said “Rosa.”  I asked if she could make an announcement.  And she did.  Inside the entire terminal.  “Anyone losing an item that relates to Rosa please report to station thirty-nine.”   Now I had to catch a plane so I gave the woman my card and a few details on the ring and went on my way.   Ring in my left pocket.  As we walked, I heard the announcement a second – then third – time. 

Since reporting the find, I heard nothing.  I called the TSA and AA Lost & Found stations.  Gave them the details.   American Airlines posted the find on Facebook – and it generated over 600,000 “hits.”  Yet – no response. 

I kept the ring on my desk at home.  Waiting.  In the bowl where I keep “found” money – and things.  I wanted to get a call.   I could envision Rosa standing there, arms akimbo, asking her hubby “where did you leave your wedding ring” and the poor soul is going “duhhh I dunno.”  [Update – the ring remained on my desk for several years.  It has now – regrettably – been deaccessed and the funds donated to a charity].  Sorry Rosa. . . . .

Facials for Men

I wouldn’t think of having a facial. I’m a man. Grrrrr. . . . Snort snort. But I will confess. . . . I had one a few years ago.

I’m still in the dark as to how or why this happened but one Christmas, Lauren and Donna presented me with an envelope. Inside was a coupon for a facial. I remember looking up and saying something like “I can’t have a facial. I’m a man.” Grrrrr. . . . Snort snort. But the two of them looked at each other and giggled.  They must have thought that it would be a stitch to see my reaction. Or maybe they thought my face was in serious need of help. Either way, I agreed. And had a facial.

So I went into this spa place and I’m sitting there. With a bunch of women.  Yes – of course I was self conscious. But I’m a man . . . . Grrrrr . . . . Sn . . .   Anyway. . . .they called my name “MISTER PETERSEN” loud enough for guys in the sporting goods shop next door to hear.  I was led into this darkened room and the female “therapist” smilingly had me place my head over a steam thingee. Then she put a towel over my head and told me to “be still.” Hoookayyy. . . . I was “still” for a while.   When she came back, she had me lay back and started squeezing heaven knows what out of my cheeks, nose and forehead. Then she wrapped my face in a towel that smelled of something unmanly. After an hour or so, there was a freezing cold towel and I was done. I puffed out my chest and strutted out of the room, through the waiting room and out the door. And exhaled.

I’m sure I’ll never have another facial though I can say without a blink “Yeah – I’ve had a facial. Wasn’t bad. . . ” Grrrrrr. . . . Snort snort. . . .

Did you ever use a bad word?

Did you ever use a racial, religious, ethnic, body shaming, gender or other epithet when you were in 3d grade? 8th? 12th?  Did you ever call someone a “name”?  Or use such a term in a joke?  Or while talking with others?  If you say “no” – I’m not sure I would believe you.   Either way, it leads to the vexing question of whether a man or woman should be judged by the worst thing they ever said (or did) when they were a child? Or teenager?  Yet that seems to be the demand of some self-righteous souls who are quick to condemn others for things that happened in their adolescence.  

As time goes on, and the maturation process continues, we learn.  I am not the “boy ” I was when I was 16.   I’m probably guilty of using bad words when I was 9 years old.  Or 18.  You want to see what happened to me when I used a slur when I was 12 years old?  Read my post of July 30, 2017.  But the child of then is not the “me” of today.   Yet the current demand for adolescent accountability begs two serious questions:  what if at the time (50 years ago), such commentary was viewed differently.   Is it appropriate to judge people for words and deeds in the past by the selective moral compass of today?  Then there is the question of whether there should be forgiveness for words or deeds done in one’s adolescence — when one’s current life is exemplary — and does not reflect the “bad words” spoken in ages past.  We forgive criminals when they get out of prison.  Christians seem to forgive Saint Paul for once being Saul of Tarsus.  Why not forgive those who use bad words in adolescence?  How about forgiving those older folks who are contrite and repentant about stupid comments?  Is there a difference between an “offense” and “insensitivity”?      

I have grown up.  As just maybe you have too.  While you and I said and did stupid things when were were 12 years old – or 18 – we are not the same person today.  This notion of maturation is even Biblical (I Corinthians 13:11):   When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  So tell me — should your son or daughter be condemned forever and denied occupation — because of some ill-chosen words spoken or acts of stupidity when they were in grade school, high school or college?  How about an ill-tempered word in adulthood?  If you believe they – and others – should be condemned, then you – who are without sin – pick up the first rock.   And let ’em have it. . . . .  


Do you believe in conservation?  Do you want to save our planet?  Of course you do.  Think about small steps.  A “zarf” is one of those coffee cup sleeves that baristas slide up the cup to keep your pinkies from getting too hot. Every “take out” coffee cup has a zarf. Heaven help the coffee shop that doesn’t use one. Plaintiff’s lawyers will crawl out of their holes to sue. . . . .

Think of the “take out” coffee that is consumed.  And the zarfs, cups and tops that are bought, used and tossed. Into the trash. Think of all those trees. And the energy to produce millions (billions?) of zarfs.

Some years ago, I got a cup of coffee at Hannah’s Bretzel and carried it to my office. I finished and tossed the cup into the garbage.  I looked down.  And reached into the garbage, fished out the cup and slid off the zarf. And put it the bag I carry around. The next morning when I stopped for coffee, I pulled out my zarf and handed it to the chap behind the counter. He looked at it.   I said “I’m recycling the sleeve.” He smiled, went “ahhhh” and reused it. When I got up to my office and finished the coffee, I slid off the zarf and put it back in my bag.

Would you believe that zarfs can last for months? Three months translates to a hundred zarfs spared.  Reused.  I’m not sure if this makes any difference in the world but I’d bet if each of America’s 150 million coffee drinkers recycled one zarf once each month, the tree population — and the earth — would collectively breathe a sigh of relief.

The Talmud – Part II

Unlike Rabbi Steinsaltz’s compendium, the Talmud is more than just a single book. It is volume upon volume. More than 6,200 pages consisting of at least 63 “tractates” (or treatises). It is not authored by one or two people. It has been penned by hundreds of hands and collective minds.  The Talmud is divided into two parts: the Mishnah (circa 200 A.D.) which is a discussion of the oral Torah; and the Gemara (500 A.D. to present) which delves into a wide variety of social and cultural issues.

Originally, Jewish scholarship was passed down from generation to generation in oral narration.  Then – with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D., there was a move to memorialize this oral tradition.  And so it began.  The Talmud is written in Hebrew script but the language is Aramaic — the language of Jesus.  Arguably the Talmud is no longer open for further edits.  However it continues to be open to discussion, commentary and footnote.  Thus, in a way, the Talmud will never be completed.

What are the topics discussed?  Apart from the social and cultural matters referenced in my previous post, the Torah plays a large role.  For example, when the Commandment says “Remember the Sabbath Day to make it holy,” just what does “Remember” mean?  That admonition (along with so many others in the Old Testament) has prompted extensive discussion and debate about the meaning of certain words, statements and commands.   

I may never become a Talmudic scholar but I am glad I took the time to read Rabbi Steinsaltz’s book.  And further investigate this important chapter of our Judeo-Christian heritage.