Sunday, April 22, 2007

A long day spent tinkering with “time saving” devices

Jim Banholzer

Remember the good old days when you used to drive down your (much less expensive to maintain) gravel driveway and drop off an annual firewood load onto your porch? Now with an electronic starter for your gas fireplace. You’ll never have to worry about keeping your axe sharp or ask where you wheelbarrow machinery is again. Or will you?

If the fragile lifeline of gas or electricity the feeds this valley were to suddenly cease due to fire, severe windstorm, earthquake, massive computer crash or some other disaster, you’ll be wishing that you’d stuck with that old fireplace, because this will be the time you will need it the most.

Unless that long suppressed “free energy” whirls around soon, you may find yourself soon winding around in the crawl space like a bull snake on your belly, to duct tape some hand warmers onto your frozen water pipes.

Well, brush off those coveralls now, because you can merely e-mail your local utility companies and find out when power and gas is expected to arrive back in the valley. Oops, their servers are down! Well perhaps you have a satellite connection and possibly a small generator. Now you’re okay -right?

In the meantime, your brother has been laboring in the flickering candlelight. He’s pushed your faux logs with the blazing Sun Valley logos aside. And now he’s breaking a sweat in this crazy freezing indoor weather, trying to reverse engineer the fireplace back into simple caveman days. He’s already pulled the gas piping system apart. Now you have agreed it’s time to go out and cut up some deadwood to get a real blaze a-going. Just need a little gas for the chainsaw from the gas station. Oops, that’s not going to work, because all the fuel pumps are inoperable. Where’s that handsaw then?

Finally you get going. Siphoning what little gas you have left in your car’s tank ought to be enough fuel to cut up a couple nights wood. You’re chugging up Phantom Hill and suddenly see some plentiful yellow pine deadfall. You quickly pull over to the side of the road, but are sucked in by a snowbank. No darn shovel in the car either, because you’ve been relying on that gas snow-thrower at home. No other vehicles seem to be coming by and you’re not quite sure how long a hike it is back to town, because those GPS receiver batteries drink up battery juice faster in this cold weather and now they’re done.

So, you decide not to hoof it back. You won’t be returning to a warm house anyway. Still no cars come by. It’s been hours. Eventually you dig out with a clipboard, but by now, your car battery is dead. Can’t push-start the rig either because you invested in the extra convenience of automatic transmission!

Your car clock is kaput and you never wind up that old family heirloom in the glove box, grand-pop used to rely on for years. After waiting for an eternity, a nameless lumberjack wearing preacher’s clothes gives you a jump-start and helps hoist a couple of the best yellow pine logs into your back end. After sensing that you’re fit to drive back, he drives off into the mountain mist. You try to wave your hand out the window for thanks, but the electronic windows are frozen shut. (Lucky thing you didn’t slide off into the Big Wood River)

In the immense quiet, you descend again down Phantom Hill. There’s been absolutely no traffic since your encounter with the nameless preacher. You’re almost home, when the traffic light turns red to let through some phantom traffic. You don’t mind though, because you suddenly realize the red light means that electricity has returned!

You’re glad to be back on your super-addiction to the grid and worked up a nice appetite to boot. If no one calls your recharged cell phone, you’ll have time to purchase some farm-raised salmon for supper. How convenient it is for those struggling fish to be spared that arduous nine-hundred mile journey from the Pacific has somehow become the accepted wisdom. Tame schoolchildren speak of how nice it is for those truckers to have driven the salmon clear around those dangerous dams in their newly approved 300 foot long hot-dog rigs.

In the meantime, you download some holiday music and hyper-record it into gifts in less than a minute. Some day you say to yourself -after the yuletide turns- you’ll make time to absorb a festive Christmas song or two. Then you pause for a millisecond and tinker with the idea, just what are some other cool labor saving gadgets that can be quickly grabbed up to help speed up the holidays this year?

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