Archive for April, 2007

Scared Sleepless

What was that noise? 

I woke with a start and looked at my digital alarm clock/tape recorder/radio/phone I had received the previous December for my 10th birthday.  The green numerals flashed through the darkness:  1:30.  To that point in my life, I don’t believe I had ever been awake at 1:30 before, unless you counted the screaming incoherence of my infancy. 

There it was again.  A loud creak on the stairs leading up to my bedroom…and another! 

I sat up in bed and listened carefully, taking only shallow breaths in my effort to be as quiet as possible.  There was a very strong wind outside, and the house was creaking in rhythm with the forceful gusts.  The creaking, I had been assured many times, was just “the house settling.”  But the sound on the stairs was different, somehow.  Heavier.  It was as if someone was taking a step, then pausing for a while, then taking another step toward my room. 

The stairs in my parents’ house have always creaked in a very specific way, depending upon the person who was using them.  To this day, I can tell which of my brothers, sister, or parents are on the stairs; just by the unique creaking noises the steps produces for each of them.  This sound wasn’t any of my siblings, however, since all of them had moved out of the house, nor was it my parents, who were asleep in the room across the hall.  I would have gone to get them, but to do that meant crossing the top of the stairway.  To scream would risk waking my parents for no reason if my imagination was playing tricks on me again; like that time I had called the police for noises that had turned out to be nothing. 

My eyes adjusted to the darkness and I looked around the room in quiet desperation.  I saw that the door to my room was open, just a crack and beyond it was the darkness of the hallway.  Next to the door, I spied my wooden baseball bat, its barrel burned with a copy of Reggie Jackson’s signature, leaning against the light blue wallpaper next to the door of my room.  The five feet between my bed and the wall seemed like a mile, and I was sure that any move for the bat would alert the being on the stairs to my presence and provoke an immediate attack.  I was stuck and defenseless. 

A strong gust of wind rocked the house…and was that another creak on the stairs?  My imagination began to trot away with me tucked safely under its arm as I thought back to the previous week at school.  We had all been huddled around a lunch table at school while a kid named Marco told a story about how he was crouched under his bed, whispering to the police on the phone while a burglar was walking around in his house.  That criminal had been caught, thankfully, but what if there was a group of them in town? 

I tried to comfort myself with the words that my parents told me over and over again:  This was a small town.  Very few robberies happened here.  But, I thought, hadn’t someone broken into one of the houses down the street a couple of years earlier and taken some stuff?  I remembered it because some nude pictures of my friend’s mother had been stolen and she had asked people to keep their ears open in school for talk of the pictures.  The thought made me chuckle a little to myself – there it was again! 

Another creak on the stairs.  Closer now.  I turned and considered the phone again, but it occurred to me that I would have to go down the stairs to let the police into the house.  I wished that my bedroom door was closed.  I usually always closed my door tightly before bed, because I was afraid of waking up with someone looking at me from the doorway, which was similar to my fear of looking out a window at night to see someone staring back in at me.  But, for some reason, on this night the door was open, and the darkness of the hallway stretched beyond the open door, hiding the intruder in its blackness…if there even was an intruder.  Maybe I was imagining the whole thing.  Maybe it was just the wind. 

I stared into the darkness of the hallway and strained to focus my ears away from the settling of the house.  Nothing.  It must just be the wind.  I relaxed back onto my bed and closed my eyes. 

Then I heard it, and sat bolt upright.  There was definitely someone on the stairs, and he was moving quickly now…he was on the landing right outside my door.  I grabbed the only weapon I had – my pillow – and tensed for the confrontation.  The pillow was at least a little heavy, so maybe if I could hit him I would have a chance to escape. 

The door of my bedroom swung open and I shouted “GET OUT!” as I threw the pillow with everything I had.  The pillow flew toward the door, and sailed over my startled dog, who had just nosed her way into my room. 

Suddenly, I heard loud footsteps, and then my parents’ bedroom door was wrenched open.  The footsteps continued over to my door, probably stepping over my pillow in the process, but all there was to see from my doorway was an innocent, sleeping boy who was, at that very moment, resolving not to tell this story to the crowd at lunch the next day.

Back in the Day Tim 27 Apr 2007 No Comments

What I Don’t Know

I don’t know stuff. 

I’m not talking about the kind of stuff you get curious about, then look up on the internet and become The World’s Leading Expert because you took the time.  I don’t mean sports stuff, because I already know too much of that, and I don’t mean stuff like who played the Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner) or who was the voice of The Incredible Mr. Limpet (Don Knotts).  What I mean is the type of little, yet seemingly crucial stuff that people expect me to know. 


I have no idea what the square footage of my house is.  I have never known, and I strongly suspect that I will never know.  I also do not know the dimensions of any room, nor do I know the dimensions of my pool.  Some Curious George once asked me how many gallons of water my pool holds and seemed perplexed when I laughed and told him, “That’s exactly the sort of thing I would not know.”  I also do not know how far away anything is, nor do I have any idea how tall a horse is when it is described as 15 hands high. 

I do know, however, that a mile is 5,280 feet. 

My Oldest Brother’s Birthday

With apologies to my oldest brother Mike, I admit that I have no idea when his birthday is.  It has nothing to do with how I feel about him at all; it’s just one of those things that won’t stay in my brain.  I’m not so bad at the other important birthdays in my life; my wife’s birthday is the day before mine, so it is impossible to forget, and my other siblings and parents have birthdays that are easy to remember because they are grouped, either together or around other birthdays or holidays.  My eldest brother’s birth date, however, no matter how many times I look it up on the calendar, is lost to me – buried in an ocean of summer days. 

Also, the only way I can remember how old my any of siblings are is to remember what year they graduated high school – facts that I seem to have no problem remembering – and count from that year. 

How to Get Anywhere

I don’t know how to get anywhere.  I have no sense of direction, and therefore I cannot drive somewhere once and then remember how to get there again (or how to get home the first time, for that matter).  People like me are the reason why navigation systems were invented for cars.  I once got lost for 3 hours on Long Island while trying to drive to a place 10 minutes away that I had been to the day before. 

For me, it’s directly to work and then straight home.  I do not take the time to explore side roads or shortcuts or to discover hidden little shops, because I might end up anywhere.  I have worked in Cambridge for about 8 years, and I don’t know how to get anywhere that is not literally next door to the offices I have worked in.  I lived in Boston for 6 years and yet had to ask for detailed directions from my roommate, who I swear is part homing pigeon, before going anywhere that I hadn’t already been 15 times. 

When I was in high school in Northborough, I drove to my senior dance in at Mechanics Hall in Worcester.  I got there fine, but, on the way home I somehow ended up in on the Rhode Island border. 

Strangely, I am very good at reading maps; I just don’t own any. 

People’s Names

I have written about this before, but when I meet someone in a social situation, I hear his or her name, and 5 seconds later I have completely forgotten it.  It is totally embarrassing when I have to ask again (and again) for the name of someone I have just met, and some people get highly offended when their names don’t make enough of an impression to stay in my brain.  Even if I try to use some sort of trick, like rhyming, it doesn’t work for long. 

I’ll meet a thin guy named Jim and I’ll think, “Slim Jim, Slim Jim, Jim is slim, Jim Rice was an outfielder for the Red Sox. He took Carl Yastrzemski’s place in left field.  Yastrzemski is harder to spell than Matsuzaka.  Will the Red Sox ever score any runs for Daisuke?  Who is this guy I’m talking to, again?” 

The strange thing is that if I have heard or read a person’s name ahead of time I will easily remember it. 

When People Pass Away

This is something that I could easily remedy if I just took the time to read the obituaries in the local newspaper.  I like to think that I’m an optimist, and that I never assume that anyone I know is going to die, but it’s probably more laziness than anything.  The result of this is that I never plan ahead to go to a wake or funeral and it always involves rushing around at the last minute to see if I have a clean shirt and tie and whether my suit needs to be pressed.  Another incredibly embarrassing result of this is something that happened to me a while back. 

I was the secretary for an organization, and one of the members of the organization had been quite ill.  I thoughtfully purchased a get-well card, had everyone in the organization sign it, and then left it in the glove compartment of my car for a couple of weeks.  Then, one day on my way home from work, I remembered the card and stopped by the post office to mail it.  When I got home that night, I was feeling pretty good until The Megger came home and asked me if I was going to the wake that night. 

“What wake?” I asked. 

Yes, it was that wake.  The man had unfortunately passed away, and his obituary had been in the paper a couple of days earlier.  Since I don’t read the obituaries, I had totally missed it, and out of mere chance I hadn’t seen anyone from the organization in the days since his passing. 

So, not only had I sent a get well card to a man who had died days earlier, but I sent a card that had been signed by every member of the organization.  I can’t even imagine what the man’s family thought when they received the card.  It remains to this day the most embarrassing thing I have ever done, and I still feel terrible about it. 

I’d like to say that, following that incident, I started reading the obituaries, bought a map, memorized my brother’s birthday, and began carrying a notepad on which to write people’s names; but I didn’t do any of that.  Instead, I now no longer send get well cards.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 20 Apr 2007 No Comments

Hot Flashes

Some random thoughts from the vault: 

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will cause me to meet with the Governor, consult with my family, and hold a press conference.  This is the lesson I have learned from the recent “scandal” regarding radio host Don Imus and the Rutgers basketball team. 

Does anyone believe that the players on the Rutgers team were in need of therapy because some self-important radio boob commented on their hair (according to, “nappy” means “kinky”) and questioned their moral character?  Come on.  When some wrinkly old coot who has never met you calls you a name, you just shake your head and laugh at the guy.  No grief counselors necessary.  No matter what Al Sharpton and Jesse “Hymietown” Jackson might say, I find it hard to believe that any of the women from Rutgers were in need of extensive consolation from anyone following Imus’ comment. 

That being said, it was wild to see the media react like a school of piranha to this story.  Mr. Imus might find that the teeth marks on his hide match those sported by Rush Limbaugh, Howard Cosell, Al Campanis, and John Dennis. 

Speaking of John Dennis, I was surprised to hear the WEEI morning radio host say that he wished a longer suspension for Imus.  I would have assumed that Mr. Dennis, who had a similar dust-up a few years back, would be more sympathetic toward his morning drive-time competitor’s situation.  I do love a hypocrite… 

…On to the less serious side of life:  I was eating at a local seafood chain recently and received a pair of chopsticks with my meal.  The chopsticks came in a red sleeve with colorful Chinese characters on it, and featured the following blurb (sic):

Welcome to Chinese Restaurant.

please try your Nice Chinese Food With Chopsticks

the traditional and typical of Chinese glorious history.

and cultural 

What was particularly interesting that the words “glorious” and the term “and cultural” were in a different font, as if they had been added later; by an editor.  Classic… 

…I’m having a particularly difficult time hating Peyton Manning these days.  As recently as the the Super Bowl, I wished nothing but heartache and pain for the prima donna whose face was constantly on TV trying to sell me things but who couldn’t seem to win the big game.  I felt that if Manning had the receiving corps that Tom Brady was stuck with, he wouldn’t have won anything at all.  Rooting against Peyton Manning kept the Super Bowl interesting; until he won it. 

Then, I saw him on “Saturday Night Live.”  He was funny.  He was likeable.  He talked about the fact that Tom Brady has more rings than he does.  He did a skit where they made fun of “Peyton Manning” as a term for someone who chokes in the clutch.  How can I hate someone who has such a great sense of humor about himself? 

I can’t.  I’m a Peyton Manning fan now.  I have been converted.  Unless he’s playing the Patriots, I just can’t bring myself to root against him.  Soon I expect that I’ll be voting for “American Idol”, watching “24”, and wearing Crocs… 

…Have I mentioned that I have a good feeling about the Red Sox this year?  The problem is that everyone I speak to feels the same way.  Red Sox Nation is supremely confident.  All we need is a feeling of snotty superiority and we’ll be, well, Yankee fans. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go prepare for yet another April snow storm.  I don’t want to be a cranky old man, but when I think back to my youth, I remember a time of year when the snow was melted and everything began to grow and the weather got warmer; I think people called it “spring.”  I sure do miss “spring” now that we seem to leap directly from winter to summer every year.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 10 Apr 2007 2 Comments