Tag Archives: columnist

How I Became A Writer, Extended ©

Hello, All!!
I came across the following.  I’ve probably sent it to you before.  But it’s a humorous bit of writing that fits into the GENERAL theme of how I got my start as a foreign correspondent and ended up an ol’ humor writer.

Miss Bunker  (I can’t remember her first name)  was principal of East Side School in Idaho Falls, Idaho, circa 1945,  when I was in Miss Melton’s (I can’t remember her first name) fourth grade class. Dean Larsen, who sat in front of me in Miss Melton’s  class, wrote a smart aleck note and passed it back, unnoticed, to me.  I wrote “Screw You!” on another piece of paper and passed it back.  Miss Melton saw me pass the note back to Dean, and told me to bring the note up and put it on her desk.  She went on with the class.   I forgot about the incident until the next day when Miss Melton told me to go see Miss Bunker.  In the Principal’s Office, Miss Bunker had the note in herhand.
Miss Bunker: “What does this mean?”
Me: (scrubbing my foot on the floor and looking down) “I don’t know.”
Miss Bunker:  “What does this mean?”
Me:  “I don’t know.”
Miss Bunker:  “I’m going to call your mother on the phone.”
Me: (in desperation) “It’s the title of a story.”
Miss Bunker: “A story?”
Me:  “Yes.  I’m writing a story about a boy who gets a tool box for Christmas.”
Miss Bunker:  “I want to read that story.  Bring it to my office by the end of the school day or I’m going to call your mother.”
That’s how I became a writer.  From that time to the present I’ve written a lot of fiction. Some of it was written for  newspapers and international new  services.  I’ve reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register, The  Deseret News (Salt Lake City) The United Press International  (from Buenos Aires), the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, The Miami Herald, the Kansas City  Star, Universal Press Syndicate. Everyone knows that newspaper stories aren’t supposed to be fiction. But  with tight deadlines, and because  journalism is more art than science,  a  lot of  creativity is involved in covering the news.
I’ve written news stories from the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean (including Cuba), the Sudan (Africa) Botswana (Africa) (the old) Yugoslavia, England, Hong Kong, and Letongaloosa (a fictional  town in the U.S. Midwest).  Many news stories, carrying my byline,  were actually published by newspapers or by news services.
For the past dozen years I have been writing  humorous fiction for the Kaw Valley Senior Monthly of Lawrence, Kansas.  Do I notice a difference between the fiction  writing I do now and the news writing I did as  a journalist?  Yes, I do.   Fact checking is more rigorous on the Kaw Valley Senior Monthly than  fact checking  was during the days when I  covered coups and earthquakes in Latin America.
-30- (that means “the end” in journalese)

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Hadley & the Robo Caller

 

 

Mark Twain’s 19th century quote, “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” has a 21st century counterpart:  “Everybody complains about robocalls but nobody does anything about them.”  That was true  until Hadley Wilkins decided he was sick and tired of getting robocalls.

Hadley Wilkins is the electronic genius.  You’ll probably recall that it was Hadley who made super hacker Henry Histoid  stop hacking residential cell phones all over the country.

It’s a fact that thousands of people have called to complain about robocallers—those electronic phone nuisances who call several times a week.  Ring!  You answer, a robo voice says, “Please press one now.”  When you press “one” and wait a bit, a live operator tells you he/she can do something good for you like cut your credit card interest rate.   Next the operator asks for the number on your credit card.   Then you’re done.

Consumer support organizations can’t shut down the robo callers because the robo calls are produced by untraceable digital auto-dialing machines. It doesn’t do you any good to be on the national “Do Not Call” registry.   Robocallers ignore the registry ban. Robo call centers make  thousands of calls a day.  You can’t avoid robocalls with “caller ID” because robocallers use technology to disguise the originating phone number.

One day, Hadley said,  “I’ve had it.”

He designed a robocall system of his own.  Hadley’s robocall message was a loud “btfsplk.”  That’s the sound you make when someone has  annoyed you and you stick your tongue between your pursed lips and blow out air. Some people call “btfsplk,”  a  “Bronx cheer.”

Once Hadley perfected the “btfsplk,”-sound, he found the  name and personal phone number of Cody Wolfeson, the chief executive officer of the nation’s largest robocall corporation. Mr. Wolfeson received Hadley’s robocall on his personal phone about five minutes after he got home from work.   He checked the caller ID.  It was blank.  He ALWAYS got a caller ID.

“What the….?”  Said Wolfeson and pressed the answer button.

A loud “btfsplk,” came  from the earpiece. “If you would like to hear this message again, please press “one” now.  If you wish to cancel any further ‘btfsplk,’ calls, please press “nine” now.”  An angry Wolfeson pressed nine.

A raucous braying sound erupted from the phone.  Wolfeson pressed the “off” button.   The phone remained on and connected to the   to the robo call.  “That was frustrating, wasn’t it?” the voice on the phone said. Then, “If you wish to hear a pig grunt, please press ‘seven’ now.  If you wish to hear a rooster crow please press ‘five,’ now.”  Enraged, Wolfeson hurled the phone across the room.  It struck a far wall and fell to the floor.  The robo voice continued to rise from the plastic shards that remained of the phone…

Wolfeson carried the shards to the garage, slammed them on the cement floor and tromped on them.  The voice continued.

By now Wolfeson was thoroughly spooked.

“What do you want?”  he screamed at the ghostly robo voice.

“Stop robo calling my home,” said the voice.

“Who ARE you? asked Wolfeson.

“I’m an angry citizen who your benighted company has been calling three times a day.”

“But who ARE you?  How can I stop the calls if I don’t know who you are?

“You’re an electronic genius, figure it out.  You have forty-eight hours.  If you don’t stop robo calling my phone, every business you work with, every person you know will get “btfsplk,” calls from me. Goodbye.”

The ruined phone went silent.

That night Wolfeson assembled a crack team of robo call experts and gave them the task of shutting off  robo calls to “the voice’s” phone.  Thirty six hours into the project they had narrowed the possible phones to several thousand, but could make no more progress.

“Stop robo calls to all of those phones,” ordered Wolfeson.  “I don’t care what it costs the company.”

After 48 hours with no call from the voice Wolfeson decided he was safe.  It was only then that he gave orders to limit robo calls to any one phone to two.

But Hadley never got another one.

-30-

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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