Zero visibility and I was driving in it. All I could think of was those disturbing images of fifty vehicles smooshed in some fog-caused pileup. Thankfully, I made it. But it is scary driving when you have no idea what's ahead. Which pretty much describes how a lot of folks feel about the times we're living in right now. I mean, as Bob Dylan said, "the times, they are a changing." We're just not sure where all the road's going.
It's pretty funny how far some advertisers will go to convince you that you should buy their product. Years ago, I remember there were some Samsonite luggage commercials. They had a suitcase in the gorilla cage, taking every form of abuse a gorilla could give it. And then there was the one where they threw it out of a plane and it survived. But the pioneers of this kind of "hammer it to prove it" advertising were the makers of Timex watches. Their motto was really hard to forget, "takes a lickin', keeps on tickin'." I don't remember all the ways they beat up on their watches, but it seems to me that they attached one to a ski boat and one to the underside of a truck that was bouncing along a bumpy road. They gave it all kinds of hammering that proved the quality of their product.
Okay, imagine a train traveling about 1,000 miles and the passengers are almost all teenagers! I was one of them. You say, "You mean they had trains back then?" (Leave me alone!) Yes, they had just been invented. Thousands of us were on our way to this national youth convention on specially chartered trains. And don't you wish you could be a chaperone for something like that? (Oh, a dream come true!) Well, our train was traveling all night, and I decided I wanted to beat the morning rush in the bathroom so I got my suitcase and I started making my way through one car after another to get to the one that had a men's room in it. Unfortunately, most of the other people on the train were sleeping in every conceivable position, including various body parts hanging out in the aisle. Here's the picture: dark railroad cars, boy moving down the aisle with a big suitcase in his hand, trying to keep his balance on a speeding train, and bodies hanging out into the same aisle. You get it? Bonk! Clunk! Uhh! Many unsuspecting sleepers had a rude awakening that night and I was very unpopular, and obviously very un-smart. Unfortunately, the problem? My baggage kept hitting other people!
We knew our grandson was about to learn to walk. He was showing all the signs. He'd been crawling. He'd been pulling himself up to a couch or a table. And he would just laugh when one of us took him by the arms and, you know, let him walk step by step in front of us. And then one day he tried it by himself. And you know how he learned to walk? Same way I did, the same way you did. Step-boom! And when he fell, he had a couple of choices. He could have just laid there and said to himself, "That's it! I tried to walk. I'm not cut out for this. I failed." Can you imagine? So, let's say he is 18 years old still lying there in the middle of the living room! His mother is vacuuming around him. His friends are rolling into his room with him. That's not what he did. He did what every other baby has always done. He got up. And he went step, step-boom! Then step, step, step-boom! And he learned to walk pretty well because he got up when he fell down!
It may be a common term in the military, but I don't think I ever heard it before until I saw an interview some years ago with some American soldiers who were working to establish an air base at Kandahar in Afghanistan. They were busy finding and clearing land mines, repairing and expanding the runway – and, at the same time, carefully defending their perimeter. The soldiers pointed out that there were still Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters hiding out – and waiting for an opportunity, of course, to do some serious damage. That's when one soldier referred to what he called "high value targets". He said the enemy still had the capability to take out some "high value target" like an incoming aircraft, for example.
She was only 21 years old – but she was well on her way to becoming a superstar. Aaliyah was enjoying huge success with her music, and she was beginning to emerge as an actress with a great future. But all that ended in one awful moment in the Bahamas when the plane carrying her and her crew crashed shortly after takeoff. What made the crash even more tragic was the fact that apparently it was avoidable – at least on the preliminary findings of the investigators. The plane had been loaded with something like twice its maximum baggage capacity. And investigators believe that it was all that weight that made the plane go down.
It was a beautiful day for sailing, and our friend Dave had invited us to go out on Long Island Sound with him and his wife. It was not hard to decide whether to go, believe me. The Sound was actually relatively calm that day. There was a very gentle breeze and not a cloud in the sky, but suddenly Dave announced to us, "We're heading in." I couldn't think of a single, rational reason to waste the rest of such an idyllic afternoon. I said, "Why Dave?" He said, "To beat the storm." Right?
I remember seeing it first in the news from the first Gulf War, and then in Afghanistan. Well, you continue to see it as we have conflicts around the world; those amazing high-tech weapons that hit their target with this pinpoint accuracy. Oh, yeah, they say that there are "targeting errors", but for the most part, those weapons go right to their intended target – weapons like Cruise missiles or what they call "smart bombs". I still remember back in that first Gulf War, a correspondent was in Baghdad, and he described this Tomahawk missile roaring in over the city. It paused, and then it literally made a sharp turn to the left and went straight down into this military facility. Apparently, its tracking system determined that it was slightly off course, so it corrected it, and "boom!" it went right to the target. That's amazing stuff!
Maybe it was the dumb voices I did. But the kids used to love it when I read "Winnie the Pooh" to them. Tigger with his irrepressible "hoo-hoo!" bouncing everywhere. And Eeyore with his head down and his ever-present gloom. I'd rather be Tigger than Eeyore maybe without the bouncing. I mean, I want to be the one to leave sunshine in the room, not storm clouds.
One summer our staff had a picnic at the home of one of our volunteers. And this volunteer has a swimming pool. Actually a few people came prepared to go in the pool that day, but I knew one of them would be our son-in-law. He was there only minutes before he was in his swim trunks and diving in. What I didn't expect was who was in the pool with him – our one-year-old grandson. He looked so small in that big pool. But he was loving the water and floating along fearlessly. Not because he could swim, of course. Look, he was advanced – of course, our grandson, but not that advanced. No, his daddy had him sitting in his own personal inner tube, so he had no trouble staying afloat.