Truly, what were they thinking?

March 3, 2012

There has been a rash of robberies of drug stores in our area.

So, someone in a position of authority with one chain of drug stores passed down instructions for a way to solve the problem:

From now on, an employee would stand at the door and greet customers as they walked in.  And if someone was wearing a hood they would ask the person to take it off.

The woman who was telling me this works at one of these drug stores and is about my age.  She would have to take her turn during her shift as the “greeter”.  She was dismayed, and I don’t blame her.

Let’s think about how this would work.  A drug-addled young man might be in a withdrawal frenzy, desperately in need of a “fix”.  But he has no money, so he goes to a drug store to do anything he has to to get some drugs.  Just before he walks into the store, he remembers to put up his hood in hopes that he won’t be recognizable on the surveillance cameras.

But when he walks in the door he is immediately confronted by an “old lady” who tells him to take off his hood.

So, how do you think this scenario would play out?

I hope that he would just turn around and leave.  But, depending on how high he is, this could be very dangerous for the person who confronted him as well as anyone else around, especially if he is carrying a gun.

But, luckily, this plan of action didn’t last very long.  So many of the employees rebelled at being put in this position that the management backed down from the plan.

I also wonder if some of the managers might have taken their turn at the door and maybe that made them realize what a vulnerable position the “greeter” was being put in.

I sympathize with the managers who are trying to figure out ways to thwart robbers, but I don’t think this particular plan was well thought out.

The plan reminds me of one of my favorite sayings:  “Nothing’s impossible if you don’t have to do it yourself.”

What a Crock(pot)!

October 4, 2011

In 1974 I started at the major truck manufacturer as a secretary.  That first Christmas, Bob my boss asked Hubby what he could get me for Christmas.  His question surprised Hubby (I’d never received a gift from a boss before, but it was common at my new company) and Hubby said the first thing that came to mind, “Well, she’s said she would like to have one of those new slow cookers.”

So, I got a kind of unusual gift from a boss that year:

But even if it wasn’t a typical gift from a boss, he couldn’t have given me one that I would enjoy more over the years. This slow cooker has been one of the most valuable tools in my kitchen and is still going strong.

A few years ago I did buy one of the new big, oval slow cookers, but this is still my faithful back-up.

When I was going to make a big batch of chili a couple days ago as well a the frankies I talked about in my last post, I served the chili in the new cooker and the frankies in this one.

Granted the brown plaid design on this cooker kind of dates it but, “Pretty is as pretty does,”  so this old girl is still pretty to me.

Hubby’s Best Friend

April 6, 2011

Maybe the best friend Hubby ever had was a dog!  His name was E.J. and he was Hubby’s police dog.

When Hubby was a young patrolman on the Sheriff’s Department, he was a K-9 officer.  That meant that he had a patrol car retrofitted with a cage where the back seat would normally be so that he could patrol with a K-9 partner.  When his beautiful Lassie-look-a-like partner, Duke had to be put down because of hip displacia after just a short partnership, he was told that a new dog had just been donated (that’s the way they got most of the patrol dogs) that might work as his next partner. But the trainer warned Hubby that this dog was so anti-social that he might not work out as a K-9 partner.

A little information about the dogs that became K-9 officers back in the early 70’s:  They had to be trainable, yet aggressive.  They were trained in agility, to bite on command (trainers used a thick padded sleeve to train this) and to protect their human partner.  Dogs that showed themselves in training to be fear biters (bit as a reaction to being startled or scared) were immediately washed out of the program because it was important that the officer be able to control the dog with voice commands even in tense situations.  And before they were allowed to actually patrol with an officer, they and the officer had to go through months of rigorous training which included all kinds of agility work.  When you think about it, that makes sense.  If a K-9 is pursuing a suspect, you want it to feel routine to him to jump over a fence, run across a bridge or jump up on or down from a wall.

The K-9 officers mainly worked third shift because that’s when most of the activity that might require them happened.  So a few nights after being told about the new dog, while patroling, Hubby stopped out at the training center to take a look at E.J.  The trainer had been right — E.J. wasn’t interested in having anything to do with this new stranger.  So the next day Hubby contacted the trainer and told him to stop feeding E.J.!  Well, not really make him go without food, but to leave the food where Hubby could get to it, and he would start stopping out at the kennels every night and feeding E.J. himself.  Gradually that worked, and E.J. bonded with him.  And little did Hubby know what a friend he had made for life!  The anti-social E.J. became absolutely devoted to him, while still not really liking anyone else.

E.J. was already intimidating when Hubby’s first met him because he was a big, black German Shepherd.  But during one of their training sessions, E.J. caught one of his canine teeth in a chain link fence, and it was broken off.  And it hurt so bad, that E.J. couldn’t bite the padded sleeve that was used in the training to train the dogs to bite on command.  He was in danger of being washed out of the program!

But before that could happen, Dr. A the vet who took care of the department’s canines, came up with an innovative idea.  He contacted a dentist friend (apparently another outside-the-box thinker) and they came up with a plan to replace E.J.’s tooth.  The dentist made a gold cap for  E.J’s canine tooth and when it was ready, E.J. was put to sleep and the gold cap was put on.  Success!  And, let me tell you, if you think a big, black German Shepherd is intimidating, he’s even more so when he “smiles” and you see that he has a gold tooth!

E.J. didn’t like to be touched.  He tolerated it from his “one true love” Hubby, and surprisingly from our two young children, but he realllly didn’t want anyone else, including me, to touch him.  Hubby always said he thought E.J. must have sensitive skin.  Maybe so, or just an attitude!  He had a bad habit of coming when someone would call him, as if he was going to let them pet him, but when he got close he would instead bite the person.  Not a break-the-skin kind of bite, but just a little firm-grasp-of-your-hand bite to let you know that he didn’t want you to touch him!

Some of my favorite stories about the partnership between Hubby and E.J.:

There was a sliding gate in the cage in the car that opened to the front seat.  When they were patrolling, Hubby would leave that gate open.  And because he was well-trained, E.J. would stay in the cage, but he would occasionally stick his head through to give Hubby a nuzzle or lick on the side of the face, just to remind him that he was there.  And, of course, the reason Hubby left the gate open was because E.J. needed to be able to get out quickly if he was needed.  When Hubby would stop a car, and in the middle of the night who could know what he might encounter when he approached a car, he would leave the driver’s side window open.  That way, if  he called for E.J., he could get out of the car through the open gate then out the open window.

This open door (cage) policy did have one little draw-back for anyone riding in the front seat with Hubby.  Ever his cop’s protector, it made E.J. a little nervous if someone got too close to Hubby.  So, if the person while talking to Hubby would lean toward him in any way, E.J. would immediately stick his head out of the cage to insert himself between the person and his beloved cop.  Hubby said that only had to happen once, and a person got the idea to stay on their own side of the car!  (I don’t remember E.J. ever doing that to me when I would be in the car so apparently, even though he wasn’t crazy about me, he didn’t see me as a threat.)

One night while on patrol, Hubby drove down a country road and saw a young woman walking away up the road and a car stopped on the berm.  Hubby went to the car where the young man behind the wheel said he and his girlfriend had had a fight on their way home from a date and she had insisted he stop the car and let her out — she would walk the rest of the way home.  Well, he said they were several miles from her house, so he didn’t want her to make that walk, but he couldn’t get her to get back in the car.  Hubby agree that they couldn’t let her walk there on dark country roads in the middle of the night by herself.  So he called after her to stop so that he could talk to her.  But she just kept walking, and even started walking a little faster.  So in order to catch up, Hubby started running after her.  What hadn’t occurred to him is how E.J. was viewing all this from the car.  What E.J. heard and saw was Hubby yelling “Stop!” and then chasing someone.  Those triggers told E.J. loud and clear that he should help.  He immediately jumped out of the car and the next thing Hubby knew, E.J. raced past him on his way to “apprehending” the “perp”.  Luckily, E.J. was well-trained, so Hubby  was able to call him off before he got to the girl.  The commotion behind her did make the girl stop and after some conversation among the three of them, she agreed to let her boyfriend take her home.

On another night Hubby and a whole group of other police from several agencies raided a huge party.  When Hubby arrived and walked in the door the officers who had already arrived were announcing to the room who would be arrested and what everyone was expected to do.  The room was standing room only, so when Hubby and E.J. stepped in the door, they were immediately sandwiched in among a crowd of people, some very drunk.  One of those “very drunks” was standing on the other side of E.J.  When he looked down and saw a dog, he reached down and patted E.J. on the head.  Luckily for him, E.J. thought it was Hubby’s pat.  But Hubby said to the drunk “Don’t pet the dog.”  Common sense and drunk just don’t go together, do they?  The drunk looked Hubby right in the eye, and with a loopy smile, patted E.J. on the head again.  Hubby told him again, “DON’T pet the dog!”  Hubby’s raised voice got E.J.’s attention, so just as the drunk deliberately reached down to pat his head for a third time, E.J. looked up and saw the strange hand — and did what was his habit to do with strange hands that got too close — he bit it.  And I suppose because they were working, this wasn’t one of those gentle “don’t pet me, stranger” bites, but one of the serious, “I have to protect my cop” bites.  While the other cops rounded up those being arrested and took them to jail, Hubby took the slightly wiser and more sober drunk to the hospital for stitches in his hand.

And on one night Hubby and E.J. were searching a dark warehouse.  Suddenly a rat ran out of the darkness and it was coming in Hubby’s direction.  I assume it wasn’t going to “attack” Hubby and would have veered off into the darkness again before it got to him.  But E.J. saw it as a threat to his cop and intercepted it.  The result was that E.J. and the rat had a short battle during which the rat bit E.J. on the nose.  The rat, of course, ended up dead and E.J. ended up having to have rabies shots.

One time Hubby and E.J. were tracking a burglar across plowed fields toward a woods.  There had been tracks leading away from the scene to show them which way to go, but Hubby had only seen an occasional footprint as they raced across the fields — he was just trusting E.J.’s nose.  But when they came to the edge of the woods, E.J. stopped and just looked into the pitch blackness.  Hubby couldn’t see anything in there.  Why had E.J. stopped?  Had he lost the scent?  But when Hubby turned on his flashlight to look at the ground, he immediately saw a couple more footprints, so this was the way the guy had gone!  Hubby then squatted down beside E.J. and encouraged him to continue tracking, but E.J. seemed to have his eyes set on something.  So while down there at the dog’s eye level, Hubby peered into the dense woods again but this time on the same line as E.J. was looking, and he almost had a heart attack!  His flashlight had suddenly illuminated two eyes looking back at him from less than a foot away!  He ordered the exhausted burglar out of the undergrowth and he said the guy seemed relieved.  For one, he was exhausted from running, so was glad he didn’t have to do that any more, even though jail was where he was headed.  But probably also because he had seen that big black police dog coming across the fields looking for him and he was glad the dog hadn’t had to “catch” him.  I wonder if maybe he might have even seen moonlight reflected off what looked like a gold tooth in that big, mean-looking dog’s mouth!  And, of course, he had no idea how fortunate he was that the dog didn’t see him as a threat to his beloved cop.

A few years later when Hubby was promoted to a command position and didn’t patrol on the road any more, E.J. wasn’t happy because he wasn’t getting to “load up” in the police car for eight hours a day any more.  So he was transferred to another officer, but it just didn’t work out — that wasn’t “his” cop.  So he was retired.

My husband couldn’t have had a better partner.  And in a willing-to-lay-down-your-life-for-a-friend way, E.J. was probably the best friend Hubby ever had, and for that reason alone I loved him too.

You might be surprised at what God is preparing you for!

February 27, 2011

Much of the twenty years Gunny served in the Marines, he was managing (and mentoring) young men in a shop that tested and repaired helicopter parts.  And during that time he got his degree in business and finance with the plan to use his degree to get a job after the Marines.  When he retired after 20 years, he took a job as a manager with a roofing manufacturer, and his favorite part of that job was that he did safety training for employee’s at the company’s plants all over the country.   He really enjoyed that job, but he worked long hours, traveled alot, and he spent almost three hours commuting every day.  So, last year he started looking around for what he could do closer to home.  And when he really thought about it, he realized that what he had enjoyed most in the Marines was working with and teaching young Marines.  And in his civilian job, what he had enjoyed most was training people.  So, he contacted Troops to Teachers and they directed him on the path to getting the training and licensing to become a math (a subject he loves) teacher.  He has just become a high school math teacher in Tulsa and is excited about teaching.  I can imagine that if you had said to that young Marine all those years ago that someday he would be a high school math teacher, he would have said, “No way!”  But apparently God had a plan for him to teach teenagers to not be afraid of math and maybe even come to love it as he does.  And God used his other jobs to prepare him for what I think is going to turn out to be his dream job.

DD was downsized from a very good position as VP of Human Resources with a furniture company last year.  And even though she has diligently sent out resumes and done interviews, she still hasn’t found a job.  But we are proud of how she has handled these trying times.  She is trusting in the Lord to show her what her next job will be.  In the meantime, she is coaching club volleyball, and enjoying it.  Who knows what job is in DD’s future.  But we too are trusting that at some point God will show her the perfect job for her, the one He has prepared her for with all the other jobs and experiences she has had up to now.

More Adventures in Babysitting

February 26, 2011

The post I did last week about The Babysitter brought to mind some other babysitting stories I thought I would share.

My Brother the Babysitter:

My brother was the youngest of my older siblings.  He was 12  years older than me and my sisters were 13, 15 and 16 years older.  So, when I needed a babysitter and all the girls had plans, Jimmy got the job.  I don’t remember for sure, but I think he may have been my favorite babysitter.  If one of the girls stayed with me, it was probably pretty routine — we’d stay at home, they’d read me a few books, and then they’d put me to bed and tell me to go to sleep.  Boooooooorrrrriiiinnnggg.  But if Jimmy was my babysitter, if his friends wanted to go to a movie on a night when he had to babysit, no problem.  They would just take me along!  And Mama always said that when Jimmy was babysitting, it wasn’t unusual to come home late at night and find Jimmy and Sandra laying on the living room floor sleeping … in their clothes, no blankets or pillows.  That had to have been alot more fun for me than sleeping in my bed.  Almost like camping out, but without the tent!

My Favorite Babysitting Job:

As I’ve said before, when I was old enough myself I didn’t babysit very much.  But there is one babysitting job I will always remember.  A friend of mine had a standing once-a-week babysitting job and was going to be on vacation with her family for two weeks.  So she asked me to fill in for her for those two weeks.  The job was in the new neighborhood next to ours which was all beautiful long, low ranch-style homes, in contrast to the small 30-year old bungalows in our neighborhood.

All I had to do was feed the two little kids, give them their bath and then put them to bed.  They were very sweet, agreeable little girls so the job was snap.  But this was a very unique babysitting job in lots of ways.  It only lasted a couple hours.  It was early in the evening.  Because it was for such a short time, the parents paid double the going rate … a dollar an hour.  And it gave me a glimpse of a lifestyle that I thought only existed in the movies.

What was most unique about this job is that the parents were there the whole time!  When I got there the mom, who I remember as being beautiful and dressed in the classiest at-home style of the day, capris, would have an easy meal ready for the girls, which I would supervise them eating.  While I did that, she would start dinner for her and her husband.  Shortly, the handsome husband would arrive home from work in his suit and tie, carrying his briefcase.  He would immediately go change into perfectly pressed slacks and a sports shirt and then go to the patio to start a fire in the grille.

After the girls had eaten, I would take them in to give them their bath.  While I was doing that and putting them to bed, the house would fill with the wonderful smell of grilling steaks.  By the time I was done putting the girls to bed and was ready to walk the few blocks home, he had brought in those wonderful steaks to put on the beautifully set table where she had already put the rest of the meal.  He paid me and I left as they sat down to dinner.

Can you tell that this couple’s sophisticated lifestyle made my 13 year old self absolutely starry-eyed?  Don’t get me wrong, my parents provided a nice life for us.  But my parents were older … and Mama wore house dresses … and we didn’t even have one of those new outdoor grilles, mainly because we never ate steak!  Nope, we were more the pot roast kind of people.  And when Daddy got home from work, he would just take off his jacket and shoes and sit down in his favorite chair to read the paper and/or doze until dinner was ready.  (He was a general foreman in a manufacturing plant, so he wore slacks and a sport shirt to work.)

It’s interesting when you arrive at the time in your growing-up years when you realize that not everyone’s home life is just like yours.  This babysitting job was definitely one of those moments!  I was truly sorry when my friend returned from vacation and I didn’t have to go to that job any more.

My Most Unusual Babysitting Job:

There was a brother and sister who lived across the street from us.  He was a year younger than me and his sister was two years younger than him.  Most of the time Mike and Pat got along pretty well, but when they got old enough to stay at home by themselves apparently Mike would become an alpha male and boss Pat around, and even locked her in the basement one time.  So, their very smart mother thought of a solution.  She hired me to “babysit” for Mike them.  I was 13, Mike was 12 and Pat was 10.  Pat was fine with that because she liked me and besides it would give her an ally.  But, no surprise, Mike was beside himself that his mom would hire a babysitter for him — especially when the “babysitter” was the girl across the street who he went to school with and who was only a year older than him!  But his mom wouldn’t relent and apparently her plan worked.  I only “babysat” for Mike and Pat one time.  My guess is that from then on, all their parents had to say was that they would get a babysitter again if things didn’t go smoothly when Mike and Pat were left home alone. Problem solved.

Don’t Hire Sleeping Beauty to Babysit:

When our children were very little we sometimes hired the girl next door to babysit.  One time when we came home the door was locked (we normally didn’t lock our doors) so we knocked and the babysitter didn’t come to the door.  When we knocked again and she didn’t come, Hubby went to a window and looked in.  She was sleeping on the couch.  We knocked and knocked and could not wake that girl up.  So we did the only thing we could think to do … we went next door to her parent’s house and called her on the phone.  At least the phone woke her up.  Any surprise that we didn’t use “sleeping beauty” any more?  And it didn’t hurt our relationship with the neighbors because I don’t think she liked to babysit anyway.

By the way, in case you’re wondering why we didn’t use a key to let ourselves in … we didn’t have one!  This was around 1970 and we lived in a very old house in a small, safe town.  We didn’t need a key because we just didn’t lock the doors.  The babysitter must have gotten scared and locked them.

Our Own Babysitting Service:

I don’t remember how we first met this family, but they had four daughters and all four of them babysat for us at some point.  They were great girls and terrific babysitters.

Case in point, one time when we came home we immediately knew something was wrong because there was an unfamiliar car parked in the driveway and it seemed like every light in the house was on.  We went inside to find out that DD had gotten sick.  But rather than call us, the babysitter had called her mother.  So her mother hod come over, taken care of sick little DD with the efficiency you might expect from a mother of seven children, and DD was cleaned up, feeling better and back in her bed on her way to sleep.  Not only that, but because her mother was already there, all we had to do was pay the babysitter and then her mother took her home!  Any questions why we used these sisters as our babysitting service until the last one went away to college and the babysitter “well” dried up?  I think I did mention to Mrs. R. one time that I wished she would have more daughters.  She laughed.  I guess that was a “no”.  A great family who when you hired a daughter, you got the mom too!

Ralph, the Babysitter:

When our kids were almost old enough to stay by themselves, but not quite, we hired our only boy babysitter, Ralph.  He had been recommended by someone I worked with, and he was a mixed blessing, depending on who you asked for an evaluation.

Gunny loved Ralph as a babysitter because Ralph would play whatever Gunny wanted to play, like Stratego or Monopoly.  But DD was used to having girl babysitters who naturally tended to play whatever she wanted to play.  So DD was not impressed.

Ralph was our last babysitter and I think at least one of our children would say he was the best!

The Future-Marine Babysitter

Both of our children babysat.  And there was one family whose first choice for a babysitter was always Gunny.  They had two very adored adopted children — a sweet little boy and his bratty younger sister.  This little girl would fool you if you just saw her in public — she was a beautiful, fragile-looking little blonde.  But apparently she had another, not as sweet side to her personality, and it was used on babysitters.  Gunny told us one time that she had picked a little desk up over her head and would have thrown it at him if he hadn’t been quick enough to grab it first.

I think successfully babysitting for that very strong-willed little princess was probably one of the things that made Gunny a great Marine!

I think that babysitting provides many life lessons for those who babysit and even, sometimes, for those who are the babysitt-ees.

The Babysitter

February 16, 2011

Judy was in her early teens and just getting her feet wet in the world of babysitting.  But, unfortunately, with one of her first jobs she had not just put her tootsies in the water but had apparently jumped in at the deep end!

A young couple were going out for the evening and had asked Judy to babysit for Maggie, six and Jake, eight.  There was also a yappy little dog, which made Judy almost as nervous as the kids.   She lived on a farm so even though her family had a dog, it was an outside dog.  She had never had any experience with a dog that lived in the house.

She quickly found out that these were some really high energy kids. They were runners, jumpers and yellers and constantly asking her questions and wanting her to play a game with them or let them eat a snack.  Judy had three little brothers so she was used to some chaos, but these two took chaos to a whole new level!

About mid-evening, even to Judy’s untrained ear and over the loudness of the kid’s antics, she could tell that Yappy was getting more and more excited and, if possible, even yappier.  So Judy asked Jake and Maggie what they thought was wrong with Yappy.  They said he probably needed to go outside to potty and that Mommy and Daddy always took him out the back door.

So Judy and the kids went to the back door to let Yappy out.  But as soon as Judy barely opened the door, Yappy shot out the door like he had been shot out of a cannon.  And then as Judy watched in shocked disbelief, Yappy didn’t stop in the yard (which she now realized wasn’t fenced) but disappeared into the night, still running at full speed when last seen.

Judy turned to Jake and Maggie and said, “I thought you said we should let him out the back door!”  And Jake replied, “Yes but Mommy and Daddy always put a leash on him before they open the door.”  Well the omission of that little piece of information was water under the bridge now.

Judy immediately stepped out on the back stoop, even though it was winter and even though she had taken her shoes off, and started calling Yappy’s name.  But she didn’t realize that Jake and Maggie had also stepped out on the stoop, also in their stocking feet … until she heard the door slam shut.  She immediately turned around and tried the door handle.  It was locked.

Okay, none of her babysitting friends when describing what easy money it was to just watch people’s children for an evening, had ever told Judy how to handle problems like dogs that run away or what to do if you and the children get locked out of the house.  So she did the only thing she could think to do — she herded her no-coats-or-shoes charges next door, where thankfully someone was home.  Then she used the neighbor’s phone to make the call no babysitter ever wants to make.  She called the parents and told them they might need to come home because the dog had run away and her and their children were locked out of the house.

I’ve heard this story many times over the years (since I’m related to Judy), but I’ve never heard about what happened when the parents got home.  But in my adult life I did happen to get to know this couple and they are/were (he has passed away) a great, fun-loving couple, so I can’t believe they gave Judy too much flack about what happened.

And the reason I’m pretty sure the parents weren’t too upset is that I know Judy babysat for them at least one more time after that.  And the reason I know that, is because there is an interesting story about that night too.

The other story I’ve heard about Judy babysitting for Maggie and Jake was that when she let them out of her sight for just a few minutes, they disappeared!  She called and called for them and could N.O.T find them.  So, she again did the only thing she knew to do.  She called the parents and told them she had lost the kids.

Sometime between the time Judy called the parents and the time they arrived home, Jake and Maggie reappeared.  They had been hiding on the shelf in a closet and thought it was hilarious that she hadn’t been able to find them and had had to call their parents again.

This may have been the last time Judy babysat for this particular family.  And I can’t imagine that she would have been sad about that.  I would think by this time she would be thinking, “No amount of money I make for this babysitting job is worth it.”

Judy grew up to be a wonderful mother, wife and RN and was eventually able to see the humor in her two Jake and Maggie stories.

Jake grew up to graduate from a military academy and have a very successful career in the military which culminated in being an instructor at his alma mater.

Maggie grew up to be a loving mother of three boys (I wonder if her boys ever gave her as much grief as she and her brother gave Judy.) and a well-respected high school teacher.

So, all’s well that ends well, I guess.  But I never babysat very much and every time I’ve heard these stories, it’s made me very glad that I didn’t.

Our days as “old ladies with box cutters”

December 18, 2010

My dear friend Linda at To Behold the Beauty just wrote a post about something that happened while we were working at the Jail. That post got me to thinking about that interesting job and the subject of box cutters quite naturally came to mind.  Box cutters were an integral part of that job.

Terry and Mike were the two guys who delivered the majority of the products we sold to the prisoners.  When they would make a delivery (several times a week), they would bring in cart after cart of products, with the carts piled so high that they couldn’t see over them; they had to look around the boxes to see where they were going.

Terry and Mike would open some of the boxes for us while they were there, but there were lots more that we needed to open as-needed.  So, we all had a box cutter.  Those of us who audited (the usual three were Marie, Linda and me) would keep ours in our desk drawer and just get it out whenever we needed to help re-stock.

But the fillers (there were usually four of them, mostly women about our age too) were constantly needing to restock in between filling, so they would each have their box cutter either laying on the table at their “station” where they stood to put together their orders or in a pocket.  And, as you can imagine, everyone was very vigilant in regard to keeping track of their box cutter — not only because they were constantly needing to use it, but also because it would be a serious mistake if one happened to inadvertently get put in a sack with a prisoner’s order, and then sent to him!

But there were just a couple of times when someone’s box cutter did disappear.  And as soon as it was noticed that it was missing, EVERYTHING STOPPED.  That became the most important mission — FIND THE BOX CUTTER.  Was it in the person’s pocket?  Had it been laid on a shelf when two hands were needed to arrange some boxes?  But, most importantly, could it have been put into a sack along with a prisoner’s order?  THAT was our upmost worry.  So as soon as the search had started, some of us would start dismantling the bags, one by one, beginning with the last bin of orders that had been filled and working back.

After each bag was filled with an order, the top of the bag was folded over and the order slip was stapled to the top of the bag.  So to check an order you had to take out the staples and then dump out the order on the table to make sure the box cutter wasn’t in the bag.   Then you had to reassemble it.  Very labor intensive, but necessary.  Luckily, both times this happened, the box cutter was located shortly and somewhere other than in a prisoner’s order, but it reminded all of us how easily it could happen if we weren’t always vigilant.  A valuable reminder.

I guess it’s no surprise that there were occasional accidents with the box cutters too.  In order to open boxes cleanly and quickly, the blades in the box cutters were replaced regularly, so they were always very sharp.  And the fillers were always working very quickly.  So, another occurrence that would make everyone freeze in their tracks was if someone said, “Ouch!”.  Sometimes “ouch” meant a paper cut from an order form or even from the edge of a cardboard box, but a couple time in the four years I worked there, it meant that someone had sliced their hand with their box cutter.  In those cases, the “injuree” was send to the nearest Redi-Med for treatment.  As I remember, there were no stitches required in either case — just a good cleansing and a butterfly bandage.  But there was another “ouch” involved for me when this happened — all the paperwork I had to fill out because it had to be reported as a “work place injury”.  So, I had an additional reason to encourage everyone to be very careful with their box cutters.

When I was a young woman just starting out my working career, if you had told me that my last and most interesting job would involve having steel doors clanging shut around me regularly, having interesting dealings with inmates in orange jumpsuits and using a box cutter regularly in my job,  I would have thought you were crazy!

Soon I’ll tell you the story of why taking Linda with me to work at the jail was the most valuable contribution I made as Matron.

One of those little mysteries of life

October 8, 2010

We have traveled to Tulsa to visit Gunny and his family and arrived at our favorite Tulsa hotel around noon.  Gunny came over to greet us and help us move our stuff in.  And I asked him “while you are at it” to set up the wireless connection for me so that I could get on the internet — thank you God for children who can help us with technology that “we” (that would be me) can’t figure out for ourselves.

Then while Hubby and Gunny went to run some errands, I unpacked.  One thing I like to do at a hotel like this where you actually have some glass glasses in the kitchenette, is to take one of the glasses into the bathroom and put it next to the sink to stand our toothbrushes in during our stay.

When I looked in the cabinet where the glasses were stored there were four, and I made a mental note to buy some plastic ones when I go to the grocery because Gunny, Dilly, Niki and Jay will be in and out all weekend, and even with some drinks being drank out of cans, we would surely need at least four glasses.

Four minus one equals three.

After I finished unpacking, I sat down at the desk area to use my now connected computer.

Soon after I had started working on the computer, I heard a key in the lock.  I assumed it was Hubby returning.  But when the door opened it was a maid.  She looked surprised to see me sitting there, but she recovered quickly, smiling and saying something in Spanish.   She then held up the glass she was carrying and proceeded to walk to the cabinet where I had just removed a glass and put the one she was carrying in its place.

I rattled off something about how handy the extra glass would be because we would be having company, but she didn’t seem to understand and left, still smiling, after saying a few more words that I think included the word “sorry”.

This is a fairly new, kind of high-tech looking hotel.  So, do you suppose they have weight sensors in the cabinets so that they can tell that the weight of a glass is missing and they immediately send a maid to replace it?  Naa, I don’t think so either.  It’s more likely that she got the wrong room and some other room where there were still only three glasses, had to call again for a replacement.

But it was certainly an interesting coincidence.

The Final Ride-Along

September 16, 2010

When Hubby was a young cop, all new officers began in the jail.  The next step in their career would be to become a road patrolman.  So, the new officers worked in the jail as confinement officers until a spot opened up on “the road”.  But until that happened, they could get some on-the-job training by riding along with a road patrolman.  Not only did it look good to their superiors that they were doing this on their own time, but it was also a chance for them to get a taste of being a “real” cop — at least what many of them pictured a “real” cop doing.  Hubby did some of that when he was new, and he has always said that he really learned alot from just actually watching an experienced cop do his job.

Hubby was a road patrolman for many years and he was the lieutenant in charge of the third shift road patrol for 15 years.  He enjoyed the work and had quickly developed a reputation for being very good at it so he was popular with ride-alongs.

But among all the ride-alongs Hubby had over the years, his most memorable and fun one was one of his first … Joe.

Joe was an eager young cop with puppy dog eyes and a self-deprecating sense of humor.  When he started riding with Hubby, Hubby had only been on the road himself a year or two, so it was fun for him to have a “rookie” ride along and watch him do his job.  Although at first Hubby wasn’t exactly sure how to take this young, eager, funny rookie who made no bones about the fact that he idolized Hubby!  But once Hubby got to know Joe, and his humor, they got along great.  In fact, we started getting together socially with Joe and his wife, Sue.  (Sometime I’ll have to tell you a funny story about Sue and I eating cheesecake.)

After about a year working in the jail, Joe came out on the road too, and did a good job.  But one of the things young cops find out, especially on a large county department, is how many other jobs there are in police work besides the road patrol.  I don’t remember all the divisions Joe worked in, but I think I remember him working in Warrants for a while and he ended up as a detective.

Over the years, Joe and Hubby didn’t see each other regularly, but they always enjoyed any time they did get to spend together and they always had that bond from when they were young cops and Joe looked up to the “veteran” cop, Hubby.

The last time I remember seeing Joe was at their daughter’s wedding reception.  It had been quite a while since we had seen Joe and Sue so it was great to have a chance to do some catching up.  Joe had, of course, gotten older but that great sense of humor was still there and I could still see that young, enthusiastic cop in his eyes.

Not too long after that we heard that Joe had cancer, and we were shocked when we heard not too long after that that he had died.

Funerals are never easy, but are especially hard when you’ve known the person a long time.  And apparently being at Joe’s funeral made Hubby vividly recall all those nights that Joe was his ride-along many years ago when they were both just “kids”.  Because after the funeral when the cars were lining up to go to the cemetery, I saw Hubby talking to the funeral director.  And then he came over to me and asked me if I could drive myself to the cemetery and told me why.

The funeral director had agreed to let Hubby drive the hearse to the cemetery — Joe’s last ride-along.

This was years ago, but even so it brought tears to my eye when I typed that previous sentence.  I was so surprised when Hubby did this because he’s not one to make a “grand gesture”.  But he told me later it just felt right to do that one last thing for Joe and he thought Joe would like the idea too of him taking him for one last ride.  I agree.

Our paths crossed briefly …

September 3, 2010

… but it was a memorable encounter for both of us.

I saw her coming and wondered if she was the one.

I studied her as she approached.  She was in her mid-30’s, about my age.  She was attractively dressed in the style that we then called “preppy” — oxford cloth shirt, chino pants and loafers.  I had been prepared to feel instant disdain when I finally saw “the one”.  I had pictured  someone hard and foul-mouthed, or someone slovenly — certainly someone without any social graces.  But this was a very pleasant-looking, well-dressed woman.  She was probably very pretty when she looked you in the eye and smiled, but she wasn’t doing either right then.  She looked uncomfortable and reluctant to meet my eye.

From her demeanor even as she was still walking toward me, I’m guessing she could feel me watching her.  I’m sure she wondered if I knew she was the one.

As she got closer, she said without preamble, “Were some earrings found?”

I said, “Yes.  Can you describe the ones you lost?”

She described the earrings that I had found exactly — she was the one.

I handed her the earrings and our eyes met briefly.

She said thank you and hesitated as if she would say more.  But in the end she just gave me a guilty little smile.

Several things ran through my mind to say, but (totally out of character) I didn’t say any of them.  Seeing her discomfort made me think that was enough.  The fact that she knew I knew was enough.  So, I just said you’re welcome, and she walked away.

What I would really have liked to say to her was, “Didn’t your mother teach you better?!”

I was working part-time at a department store.  About an hour earlier I had gone in to do the routine pick-up of any clothes left hanging in the dressing rooms. But, when I opened the door to one room, I was shocked.

There was a huge pile of clothes thrown in one corner of the little room, and a pile of hangers in the other corner.  I couldn’t believe that someone had treated all those new clothes they had tried on like trash they had thrown away.  I immediately started re-hanging, buttoning and tying.  But as I worked, I noticed something on the little shelf in the corner — a pair of earrings.  I immediately thought, “So … I wonder if I’m going to get to meet the person who did this when she returns for her earrings?”  And I did.

I like to think that it was uncomfortable enough for that woman to have to come face-to-face with the person who knew what she had done and probably had had to clean up after her, that she never did that again.

And seeing her was a good reminder to me “not to judge a book by its cover.”  I had a preconceived notion of what kind of person would do something like that.  A notion that was dispelled when I finally got to see “the one”.