Thursday, September 17, 2009

Communication Is A Fascinating Way To Communicate...

Driving to work (45 minutes one way) each morning affords me lots of time to think. One thing I do is to pray. It may be that more people draw closer to God while driving on Houston freeways than anywhere else. Besides praying, I formulate column outlines in my mind and later transfer those columns to paper. Also I enjoy listening to the radio.

In a previous column I told you about listening to my car radio while trying not to exceed the freeway speed limit. Remember that weird announcement I shared with you? It went something like this: “And now for some good news for all of you who are driving north on I-45. The fatality accident that blocked the north-bound lanes for more than two hours finally has been moved to the shoulder. Now you should have smooth sailing on to Conroe.” I mused over the announcer’s choice of terms. Was that traffic update good news to the family of the deceased?

There is another type of news bulletin that comes over the airways on occasion. This one gives rise to some questions. Recently I heard the following:

“We interrupt this program for an emergency weather alert from the United States National Weather Service. ‘(tone)Buuuuuuuuuu…(noise)Braaaaaaack… Braaaaaaack…Braaaaaaack.’ This is an emergency weather alert from the United States National Weather Service. ‘Buuuuuuuuu’ There are extremely high winds in excess of 70 miles per hour approaching the South Houston vicinity. You are advised to take cover immediately. Secure outside lawn furniture and pets. ‘Buuuuuuuuu’ This has been an emergency weather alert from the United States National Weather Service. We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming, ‘ Braaaaaaack.’”

First I want to commend the personnel associated with the United States National Weather Service for all of the valuable services they provide. They do a great job of keeping us updated on what is happening in our world of weather.

However, I do question the procedure of making emergency weather alert announcements on the radio. While it is great that we can have those alerts in times of danger, think about it.

Winds traveling at 70 miles per hour are covering in excess of one mile per minute. Winds traveling at such high speeds really are covering ground. I timed one of these radio weather alerts recently and here are the results. The announcement that told of the impending emergency alert, the “Buuuuuuu’s,” and the “Braaaaaaacks.” and the second announcement that the alert was now ready to be shared, took almost 20 seconds.

My question is: How many people listening to their radios were blown away in the rapidly approaching high winds? By the time the final “Braaaaaaack” sounded, the wind storm may well have rushed through injuring many who were waiting to hear the weather alert. It seems like the alert could just say, “We interrupt this program for an emergency weather alert from the United States Weather Service.” The tones and noises could be saved for a rainy day (pun intended).

Then there is that radio commercial for a popular prescription medication. The disclaimer goes so fast that it cannot be understood. But if you record that disclaimer and play it back slowly you will hear, “Side effects may include daytime drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, constipation, diarrhea, dry mouth, memory loss, fast/pounding heartbeat, unusual tiredness, new or worsening depression, and on rare occasions may cause mental/mood changes, rash, itching, swelling, trouble breathing and thoughts of suicide. If you notice these or other effects not mentioned, contact your doctor or pharmacist immediately.”

I ask you, “Which is better…the malady or the cure?”

Communication is a fascinating ability of God’s creatures. Isn’t it also fascinating how we can at times get it so messed up?

Winston Hamby

Friday, September 04, 2009

Aunt Cora Was A Danger Zone...

Cora was my favorite aunt. She had three sisters. Their names were Hazel, Nora and Annie who was my mother.

The Whittington’s raised their four daughters in Glenmora, Louisiana. This was a small town you passed through on your way to Alexandria from Lake Charles. If you want it more precise, it was between Oakdale and Forest Hill.

Cora married Bynum Nelson and they lived just outside of Glenmora. I remember visiting my cousin there when I was a boy. I recall that Glenmora had a train depot, a water tower, a general store and a picture show.

The Nelsons bought additional land and built a new house. That land included an old cemetery that had long before been closed. Their front yard consisted of ten acres. A portion of this acreage had sink holes every so often. One day I asked Cora about those dips in her land. She replied, “Oh that’s the old graveyard. The sinkholes are where they buried somebody.” Later the Nelsons had everything all leveled out. They thought that in time to come it might hurt the value of their property if word got out that their front yard used to be a cemetery.

Cora was good at telling scary yarns to my cousin and me. She would not help us get sleepy by coming to our bedroom at night and telling creepy tales. Often she used that graveyard to good advantage in her eerie descriptions.

My cousin and I talked of going out and digging in the graves. He told me, “Folks back then buried gold coins with their deceased family members for good luck.” We thought we might dig up a fortune. However, we never did any digging. Cora got wind of our idea and threatened to blow us away with her old 12-gauge shotgun. I don’t think she would have gone that far but then again, there was no point in getting her riled up.

I had seen Cora in action and knew that if she ever said something, she meant it. One day when I was there, Cora went out to the barn behind the house. They owned seventeen head of cattle and she knew each one by name. She would go out to feed them every afternoon when they came home from the pasture.

It turned out that one of the cows was in heat. When Cora walked out to do the feeding, this frisky cow ran at her and butted her, knocking her to the ground. I was horrified at witnessing this from the back porch. What happened next was amazing. Cora got up and walked over to that cow. She cussed and hauled off and punched that cow right on the nose with her fist. The cow’s front legs buckled to the ground. That old cow got up and scampered away. I could not believe that Cora actually knocked down that cow with her fist. That incident plus others I could relate are why I never again mentioned digging in the old cemetery.

One day back in the 1940s Cora came to visit us for a week. That’s when we lived on Pipkin Street in Beaumont. She had our front bedroom to use during her visit. One day I saw her take something out of a little box and eat it. Later, when I had the opportunity, I sneaked into her bedroom to get a little of whatever Cora was eating. I thought maybe it was candy. When I popped the top off the little box, a cloud of dust filled the air. I had just burglarized Cora’s snuff box.

None of the other Whittington girls were like that. Cora marched to her own drumbeat.

Maybe that’s why Cora was my favorite aunt.

Winston Hamby