Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sign Confusion: "Feed the Horses, $1.00"

It's a beautiful summer day, and as I walked out of the restaurant, I glanced at the carriages lined up to give tourists horse drawn tours of the area. It's a nice thing, and I'm glad they're there. I like to see people enjoy the rides, and I admire the animals.
   For the first time, I noticed they had a basket of paper bags of feed, and a sign that said, "Feed The Horses. $1.00"
   I thought I would save the young driver some work. So I said, "I'll feed your horse for a dollar."
   He thanked me and handed me a bag of feed.
   "Where's my dollar?" I asked.
   "Excuse me, sir?"
   "I prefer to be paid in advance, but only because we just met."
   He looked perplexed for a minute. Then he said, "Sir, you pay me a dollar."
   "Why would I do that? This is your horse, isn't it?"
   "Well..." He thought for a second. "Yes, but the feed costs money."
   "The horse is going to eat with, or without me, isn't it?"
   "Of course."
   "Then why would I pay you a dollar to use your feed to feed your horse. I'm doing you a favor by feeding the horse so you can stand there and relax." I smiled. "I know you probably get paid more than a dollar to feed and care for the horse, but don't worry. I don't mind doing this part of your job for only a dollar. You seem like a hard-working young man, and you should get the profit from my work."

...Strangely, he decided he didn't need my help.*

*This conversation took play only in my head, not in real life. The imaginary conversation was enough. I paid myself a dollar for giving me something to laugh about as I walked to my car.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Never Again Will A Watch Battery Bite Me On The...

   It's always a headache when a quartz watch needs a new battery. You move along through life with it ticking away on your wrist. It's a happy little thing, the quartz watch. It ticks reliably. It ticks once per second. It is unquestionably an accurate, low-maintenance (except for batteries) timepiece.

   Quartz Watches!
   They're accurate. They're easy to maintain. They're on wrists all over the world. I have several of them. Some are expensive, and some are not so expensive. I have one that's Swiss (that's one of the expensive ones).
Quartz Movement -- Battery and electronics
   Know what I don't like about quartz watches? Batteries. They all need batteries. Sure, the battery lasts a long time. A year, or two, or three. Some watch manufacturers brag that the battery only needs to be replaced every five years. Some claim longer times.
   Yeah. They might be right, or they might be wrong. I don't know. I do know this: when the battery stops, so does your watch. No warning. You just wonder what time it is and suddenly find...you don't know.
Automatic Watch Movement -- gears and weight
   Literally -- one second your watch is humming along, the next second is just like the last second except your watch has gone from being correct every second to being right twice a day. It'll be right at the time it stopped in the AM and right in the time it stopped in the PM, just like a clock face painted on a rock is right twice a day.

   I know it's old school, but I remember happily the days when a stopped watch was an easy fix. There was no need to take the watch to a jeweler or person with a cart in the middle of a mall. I just took the thing off my wrist, with a mental shake of my head for neglecting the simple task of twisting a knob, wound it, set it, and went along my merry way.
   The good old days weren't always good, but they weren't all bad either.
   Some of the younger people I work with say I'm old school. I accept that as a compliment whether it's meant that way or not. There's usually an undertone of admiration...and if there isn't, I pretend there is.
   The watch movement (the guts of a watch) on the right is an example of the type of movement I've always admired and the kind of movement in the watch I'm wearing now. Instead of a battery, my watch is powered by a spring. The spring is powered by winding when the weight turns a gear (or 12) or when I twist the crown with my fingers. If it stops, it will be because I neglected it either by not wearing it, or not winding it after I let it sit for a couple of days.
   I like my old school mechanical watch. I guess I'm not the only one. Automatic watches are making something of a comeback among younger people. I hear they're not as accurate as quartz watches, and with all the gears inside that have to work together precisely, I'm not surprised they're not as accurate. By "not as accurate" I mean they might lose or gain a few seconds a day. It's a good idea to check your watch against a reliable source every once in a while whether it's quartz or mechanical. All watches lose or gain a few seconds here and there. If you have to punch a time clock, I suggest you make sure your watch matches that clock...whether that clock is right or wrong. Unless you sell your wristwatch, it won't pay you like your employer does.
   Uh-oh. I just looked at my watch. Yes, it's still running. It's telling me it's time for bed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

From Contempt to Convinced -- Defense of Fountain Pens

   Last evening I had the pleasure of talking to a couple of guests at the restaurant where I serve as a greeter. They looked to be in their late fifties, a nice couple visiting from out of town. They were on the other side of the desk from me and asked me for directions to a local attraction. I was more than happy to help.
   I grabbed a piece of paper, uncapped my pen, and started to draw a map and write directions. The man looked at my hand. He grinned and with just a hint of mockery in his voice--okay, a little more than a hint--he said, "What, are you from the sixties? Is that a...fountain pen?" He laughed to show he meant no harm.
   The difference between him and me at that moment is that I was prepared for that conversation and he wasn't. One of the many things that delights me about my fountain pen is that it surprises people.
   I said, "Actually, I am from the sixties. I was born in the mid-sixties and I'm pretty glad my name isn't Moon Puppy or some other hippy concoction." It wouldn't surprise me if I found out that the couple in front of me were hippies from the sixties, but that's a different story. They both laughed and I could see them checking my name tag to see if it did, indeed, say Moon Puppy. It doesn't.
   He asked, "Why would you use a fountain pen?"
   Ha! Thank you for asking. Muhahaha...
   "I'm a lefty, and the fountain pen ink soaks into the paper. Ballpoint pens smear ink on my hand when I write, and roller ball pens don't last long. With this thing, I can write all day without smearing ink on my hand or sleeve. One bottle of liquid ink lasts me about three years, and I have the pleasure of using a fine writing instrument.  The best part is that highly curious, educated people ask me about it."
   "Can I see that?"
   I could tell he was no stranger to fountain pens. Like a lot of people who grew up before ballpoint pens were commonplace, he peered at it like it was some sort of malignant piece of history. Morbidly fascinated.
   "I haven't seen one of these in years," he said. "Where did you get it?"
   Welcome to my lair. "I got it online. Fountain pens are expensive anymore, but I found this one for $20 at www.xfountainpens.com
    He handed me my pen. "Would you write that website down for me?"