Saturday, March 26, 2011


For nearly a month I’ve had a watch problem. It all began when my reliable solar wrist watch stopped abruptly, and nothing short of mouth-to-mouth could revive it. Now, after some dozen jeweler visits with other watches that gulp down a new battery, submit to a cleaning, then fail to run longer than a day-and-a-half, the “watch thing” is playing games with my head. I talk about it constantly.

Two days ago, in the midst of all this, the computer also failed. Like other non-techies, I have a love-hate relationship with my computer. When it works I adore it. When the thing fails, I’m ready to do what a few men have done to their televisions—take a pistol and shoot it in the heart.

That morning my e-mail messages refused to “come out” or “come down” or “show up” --whatever they do. Even tapping the send/receive button like a telegraph key tapping out the Morse Code produced nothing. Since the machine was working the night before, I gave it a few hours to rest. Finally in desperation I began calling people. The wonderful man who set up my web sites. My web server. I was ready to call Bill Gates, but I’d run out of time. Anyway, I hoped the mule might yet come around.

That night, at 9:30, in desperation I called Cox. To my amazement, an actual person answered the phone. Graciously, he put me through enough routines to operate a nuclear plant, but produced nothing useful on my screen.

At last he said, “You know, we don’t actually support Microsoft Outlook.” By then he’d given me a new e-mail password, and a few keys to a secret kingdom of Cox e-mails that I never knew existed. Not a great site, but okay as a fallback for the truly desperate. “Guess you’ll have to call Microsoft.”

“But Microsoft charges,” I said. “They cost a bundle.” I heard the equivalent of a telephone sigh. “Best I can do.”

We signed off and I looked down at my newly-repaired watch. It was still 9:30. I stared at the face, at the non-moving second hand. Suddenly I realized it had been 9:30 for quite a few hours.

A creepy feeling came over me and I began thinking Twilight Zone. The computer was down. My just-fixed watch was down. Was I dead and didn’t know it?

Could I even walk away from here? I pinched my leg and took a deep breath and was relieved to feel them both. Still . . . my computer stopped. My watch stopped. Would my heart stop too?

I was actually afraid to go to bed. Gotta stay awake and keep breathing.

Downstairs, Rob heard the story over and over, until he finally said, “I’ve heard it three times, Babe. That’s enough. Let’s go to bed. It’s one in the morning.”

I was thinking, “How do we know it’s one? My watch has been ticking perfectly for three days. It says 9:30.”

I opened my mouth, but he gave me THE LOOK.

Next day, instead of paying a ransom to Microsoft, I called Cox again—for a lady tech’s long and useless session, until finally she said as an afterthought, “You might try turning it off and back on.” I did. And the computer worked.

Back at the jewelers, the man took out the latest battery and found it dead. We talked Twilight Zone. As he installed yet another battery, he said, “This really does smack of voodoo.”

And indeed it does. Because this morning that watch is once again dead.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


We could have gone to the Gala. At the Performing Arts Center, Gustavo Dudamel had just led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a stunning Bruchner symphony, and all the program’s most ardent supporters were dressed for The Ritz and ready for a sumptuous, post-event dinner.

Then we learned the price: a thousand dollars. Each. Perhaps we didn’t love the symphony quite that much. So instead, Rob and I went to In And Out. (My choice, as long as they continue serving juicy hamburgers, which for me compete with steak.)

Anyway, in the next booth sat three male high-schoolers and a younger boy, all wearing Loyola tee shirts. For awhile I watched them. They all had decent haircuts, their conversation was subdued, and their laughter not too raucous. I thought they were behaving extremely well. Good kids, the kind you wish there were more of.

When they got up to leave, I suddenly decided to run after them. Outside the restaurant I yelled to their retreating backs, “You kids seem like really nice people. I was impressed with how well you behaved.” One of them turned around and grinned. They didn’t actually stop, but I could tell that the one, anyway, was pleased.

As I re-entered the restaurant, a woman stood just inside. She said, “What did you tell those boys?”

I stared at her.

“I’m their mother. Just wondered what you said.” Clearly, she was expecting the worst.

“It was a compliment,” I said, and told her how impressed I’d been.

She grinned, and it was obvious I’d made her day. “People never say nice things to kids. It’s always something negative. We just got back from a Loyola basketball game. They were pretty happy. I was hoping that wouldn’t change.”

“Well, I was thinking good thoughts,” I said. “Why not say them?”

“Yes. Why not?” she said, and we shook hands.

She’d made my day, too. The whole episode took maybe five minutes. I can’t vouch for the Loyola family, but for weeks those five minutes gave me little zings of pleasure.