Saturday, November 13, 2004

Sincerely yours

Sincerely Yours

I’m on my way from Lexington, KY to Lawrence, KS. It’s two p.m. and I’ve been driving westward steadily since five a.m. except for a two-hour stop in Paducah.

I’m on I-70 a few miles north of Jefferson City. It’s time for a cigarette, so I light one.

And now I see flashing lights in my rearview mirror. I jerk the Cadillac onto the shoulder of the highway and stop so rapidly the tires almost screech.

In the side mirror I watch her. So cute in her Missouri Highway Patrol uniform. Short brown hair, blue eyes. I lower the window and she smiles and mumbles something but her words are drowned in the roar of the passing traffic.

“I’m deaf,” I tell her, and I hand her my Hawaii driver’s license and the Registration Certificate for this 1988 Cadillac that Ralph lent me. With effective sign language she tells me to get out of the car and I still can’t understand what she says, so she invites me into her patrol car. Cars, busses, and huge trucks continue to zoom past us, creating a deafening roar in my hearing aid.

“But you’ll have to get rid of that cigarette,” she says, eyeing my freshly lit Lucky Strike.

I flip the Lucky out into the waving Missouri grass and get into the Patrol car.

The digital read-out on her Radar machine says “83,” and I figure that must have been my speed. Only eight miles over the posted 75-mph limit.

“Nobody seems to pay much attention to the speed limit,” I comment, and she says, with a giggle, “I do.”

She talks into her radio, which responds immediately, repeating the license number on Ralph’s car. “... to a Ralph W. Parker, 501 W Moana Lane, Reno, NV no wants or warrants.”

I explain, as usual, the anomaly of my Hawaii driver’s license and ... “Did you stop me because it’s a Cadillac, or because of the Nevada plates, or because I wasn’t keeping up with the flow of traffic?” I ask.

She giggles and says, “It’s sort of random. What do you do?”

I tell her I’m a retired teacher and writer and former Police Dispatcher in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“Pretty place,” she says. She starts filling out a form.

“I sincerely hope you’re not going to give me a ticket,” I say, and she giggles again.


The word seems to tickle her.

“Yes, sincerely! You are in a position to give me three tickets, and any one of them could ruin my whole beautiful day.”

“THREE tickets????” she protests.

“Right! Three tickets. One for speeding, another for not using my turn signal when I pulled onto the shoulder, and another for littering.”

She’s giggling so hard she has trouble speaking.

“Look,” she finally is able to say. “I’m just giving you a Warning, and it won’t affect you.”

“Whaddaya mean ‘it won’t affect me’?”

“It won’t go on your driving record.”

“Well it certainly WILL affect me! It will make me drive even slower from now on. At least until I get out of Missouri!”

She giggles again, and she lets me go. And I thank her. Very sincerely.

I take the next exit and fill the gas tank in Fulton. Returning toward the Interstate I see her again. She’s writing a ticket to the driver of a huge semi. Maybe that trucker wasn’t sincere enough!


Friday, November 05, 2004



9 July 1998

by Jerry Thomas

"There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold ... ... ..." Robert Service's popular poem boomed out from the sound system at the Akebono Theater last Saturday evening, heard by an audience of about 160 Punatics. Due to my hearing impairment, however, I heard nothing -- nothing but a loud roar. There are strange things done in Puna, too. Take for example R. J. Hampton's big Fourth of July 1998 party.

This is a report on that event, but first, a word (a sentence? a paragraph? a chapter?) about "Punatics.." Unlike lunatics, politics, nervous tics, and wood ticks, Punatics are mainly and uniquely found in Puna.

The Big Island of Hawaii -- Hawaii County -- consists of a number of "Districts," (clockwise from lower left) Ka'u, South Kona, Kona, Kohala, Hamakua, Hilo, South Hilo, and Puna. These "unincorporated" districts contain unincorporated towns. Such as Pahoa, in Puna. Many of the people in Puna "fit the profile" of Punatics. Like helium-filled balloons, most of us have no visible means of support.

Many Punatics draw "crazy pay" from various welfare departments. My friend and computer guru, OhZone, used to draw about $450 a month due to his "depression disability." When crazy pay was reduced last year his depression grew more severe. So severe that he flew off to Chicago, where he risked losing his "certified Punatic" status by getting a job! Last month he returned to Puna, and he's been my house guest ever since.

Pahoa hosts the only "needle exchange" program on the Big Island, and some say that's the reason so many suspected dopers congregate in Puna. An observant visitor once described a (fictional) Pahoa street dance as "four junkies arm in arm trying to make it across the street."

To balance the ever-popular annual Ironman Triathlon athletic event in Kona, it has been suggested that participants in the proposed Pahoa Triathlon follow these simple rules: Instead of swimming 2-1/2 miles, bicycling 112 miles, and running 26 miles, as they do in Kona, the Pahoa version's participants would all meet at Kaimu, in Lower Puna, inhale three fat joints, drink a 12-pack of cheap beer, and see who can be the first to hitch a ride for the nine miles into Pahoa for more supplies. When this idea was discussed, several of my Punatic neighbors "went into training."

R. J. Hampton is a Punatic, and she's full of energy and artistic talent. True to Punatic form, R. J. doesn't have a steady job. Chosen by popular demand to be MC at the Pahoa Christmas Parade and many similar events, she does an outstanding job. R. J. lives just down the street from me. She is in her late 30s or early 40s, very slender and tall, toothless, and until a few months ago she kept her head shaved; now her hair is slowly growing out. Before coming to Puna, R. J. lived in San Francisco, where she assisted her father in producing, directing, and performing on Public Television and in Grand Openings for galleries. She sings, dances, and is a talented stand-up comedienne. Her father passed away about four years ago. R. J. told me the main reason she loves performing is "I'm doing it for my father!"

My own father used to enjoy reciting poetry. Among his favorites was "The Cremation of Sam McGee. " To follow his example, I memorized the poem and have been known to recite it for almost any audience I can capture. Sometimes I remind myself of the old professor in "Night of the Iguana," who frequently asked his companion - guardian, "Do they want a recitation, Dear?"

At my birthday party last month when I gave a Sam McGee recitation, R. J. Hampton became one of my most devoted fans. She invited me to participate in the variety show at her Fourth of July party. Her invitation thrilled me, filled me with delight -- and a small measure of stage fright. "But that Canadian poet's creation has nothing to do with American Independence Day," I protested. "Call it Co-Dependence Day," R. J. said. "I'm depending on you."

So on the Fourth of July at about six p.m., OhZone and I headed for Pahoa in my 1974 Datsun pickup. R. J. Hampton has been publicizing the fact that she had managed to reserve the Akebono Theater for a big FREE Fourth - of - July Party; posters say "Admission FREE to the first 10,000!"

The party, "Freedom '98," was to start in the Akebono Parking Lot at noon, with a blessing by Sparrow Hawk, country music by Ernie Cruz, pastor of the New Hope Church & Fellowship, other music by a band called "Volcano," and a variety show on the Akebono's stage from 7:30 to 9:30.

To match my red face, white beard, and blue eyes, I chose to wear a red t-shirt, long white pants, and my blue Chinese cap, complete with its red star.

OhZone and I admired the scenery along the Red Road while we drove the three miles from Kehena to Kaimu --- Ohi'a trees loaded with red lehua blossoms, the vast blue ocean decorated with whitecaps in the moderate breeze --- and the towering steam-cloud landmark a few miles to the south west, marking the place where Kilauea's lava continues to pour into the ocean. Passing through Kaimu junction and starting up the six-mile-long hill on the highway to Pahoa I yelled at OhZone, "Clear for takeoff?" and OhZone answered, "Clear!" I accelerated, eager to see what R. J. had wrought.

I was feeling "cocky" about my 24-year-old Datsun. Just last week I had, alone and unassisted, fixed it. The alternator was not charging the battery, so I diagnosed its problem as a loose fan belt, which I had tightened -- simple for an experienced mechanic, but complicated enough to give me a feeling of personal pride for having accomplished it. All I had to do was loosen the nut holding the alternator in place, move the alternator, and tighten the nut. I had made that fan belt good and tight. My cockiness was tempered by a bit of mature wisdom brought on by my increasing age: Whenever I get TOO proud of myself, disaster strikes.

Reaching cruising speed, exceeding the 55-mph speed limit on Highway 130, we moved rapidly toward the 1,100-foot summit. And continuing my little "airplane pilot" game, I scanned my instruments. All normal. All, that is, except the temperature gauge, which was definitely NOT normal; its needle was moving rapidly toward an indication of HOT. "I smell something hot," OhZone yelled, and I slowed just enough to make a tire-squealing U turn.

We coasted back down to the Hawaii County roadside water spigot near Kaimu junction. We filled the empty radiator and a spare water jug , and headed up the hill. Just this side of the summit it heated up again, but we went on over the top --- it's all downhill from there to Pahoa's 500-foot level.

Coasting into Pahoa, I wondered where I was going to park, assuming that the Akebono Parking Lot would be overflowing (Punatics are known to turn out in great numbers for anything that's FREE), but we found the lot surprisingly near empty. Not quite as empty as my hot radiator, however. I parked and OhZone raised the hood, releasing a cloud of steam large enough to compete with Kilauea's steamy landmark.

Hot radiator water gushed from a hole in the lower radiator hose -- a hole worn by the alternator's pulley. While OhZone stood beside the pickup I went around to solicit some duct tape from whatever Punatics might have some. None did. I returned to the pickup just in time to see my neighbor, a professional auto mechanic, approaching. Surely he would help me solve my problem. He said something that to my deaf ears sounded like, "Mumble mumble mumble." I looked at him and yelled, "What?" He increased the volume of his mumble to ask what I had for sale. Everyone knows that if you park in the Akebono Parking Lot with your hood raised, it's a signal that you have some kind of dope for sale. By this time, the mechanic had peered into my engine compartment and was standing there wisely nodding his head.

"What would you do if you had my problem?" I asked. His wise giggle-inspiring answer: "GET A HEARING AID!" With that, he strolled away toward the porch of the Akebono where a young woman was busily painting clown faces on people. Then Gil Costa da Sa approached me, smiling. Gil is a recent arrival from Brazil. Years ago he was an exchange student and his English is perfect. As is his Spanish, and, of course, his Portuguese. Permiteme resolver tu problema," he said. Astonished, I replied, "No sabia que eras mecanico." He grinned and said, "I'm a Punatic."

Gil thrust his clean hands into the greasy bowels of my engine and said, "There's a big hole in this hose." Then he said, "I'll get you a new hose." Not meaning to dampen his enthusiasm, just being realistic, I wailed, "You can't! Everything's closed. It's the Fourth of July!"

Being anxious about my forthcoming stage performance, I told Gil I'd be right back and I went into the Akebono Theater. It's said to be Hawaii's oldest theater; like me, it reeks and creaks with old age. (On December 7, 1998, the Akebono Theater will be 81 years old). In the men's room, I got the grease off my hands. Pat Rocco, who has a long-term lease on the Akebono Theater, filled my spare water jug for me, and I delivered it back to the ailing pickup. No one was there, so I closed the hood.

Then I found R. J. Hampton, near the Akebono's back door, surrounded by a plethora of Punatics. As I tried to get her attention I felt that I was behind the scenes at a circus. Off to one side a juggler was rehearsing his act, juggling three or four two-foot-long scimitars; the face painting artist was now doing a clown face on the bald pate of a bearded old man who sat patiently erect while a queue of her potential clown-face clients stood waiting their turn; if an elephant had walked by or if a caged lion had roared I would have taken it for granted. Everyone was there except The Fat Lady, and although most Punatics are extremely slender, I saw a couple of possible candidates for that position.

R. J. and I went inside and tested my voice on the microphone. The house lights were up, and I could see that about one tenth of the theater seats were occupied by other potential performers. "That's good," I thought, remembering that the best prospects for a salesman are other salesmen. Unaccustomed as I am to ... ... using a microphone, I protested, only to learn that the microphone was necessary because the whole show would be recorded. "Just take it off its stand," R. J. said, "and make love to that microphone!" For a rare moment I was speechless, pondering that advice.

Outside the Akebono's back door the fireworks had begun. I saw people silhouetted against the midsummer sunset's afterglow, children swirling lighted sparklers, thick clouds of smoke; I heard the rat-a-tat-tat of exploding packages of firecrackers. It looked, smelled, and sounded like a war zone. What appeared to be a medic administering to a wound victim was really a Punatic masseur manipulating the muscles of a very relaxed client. Dr. "High-Strung" Hyson, the neurobiologist who talks to dolphins, walked by wearing a striped, star-spangled shirt, carrying his 7-foot-long didgeridoo as if it were a weapon. I looked forward to hearing him play it again.

When the variety show began I found an unoccupied seat in the second row. On the stage, R. J. went through a comic routine that left the audience well warmed up to welcome Christian Cullen, who had promised (threatened?) to create more than a hundred balloon animals in an hour. His assistant, Beth, started handing him one balloon at a time from the huge heap of unblown balloons on the table at stage right. As he finished each "animal" in a flash, he hurled it over the footlights to group of waiting Punatic waifs. Meanwhile, R. J. did an intricate dance with a small paper American flag as a prop. Julia, aka/Butterfly Girl, the face-painting artist, by this time had set up her studio at stage left. At the climax of R. J.'s dance she lay on her back on Julia's bench, the little flagpole in her mouth, waving Old Glory from side to side with her tongue.

Next came David Sauer, the smiling juggler, who progressed from juggling tennis balls to Indian clubs to scimitars, ending with great balls of FIRE. Cindy, Chico's lovely (and stone-deaf) wife, performed beautifully, singing with a keyboard accompaniment, then with ukulele. And then?

And then R. J. was beckoning to ME!!! The time had come. My turn. I bounded up the steps at center stage, took the microphone that R. J. handed me, and faced my audience. A Black Hole! Because of the Akebono's excellent lighting system I could see nothing. Darkness there, and nothing more. "Turn on some lights!!" I screamed. "I have to see my audience!!" The full auditorium came into view. As I started "making love" to the microphone, telling it about my success in fulfilling my promise to Sam McGee, I was able to discern a few interested faces. Although I was hearing nothing but that loud roar from the resonating sound system, I pretended I was being heard and put all I had into it. When I had succeeded in warming up Sam McGee, R. J. gave me a hug and a kiss and I descended from the stage and zoomed up the aisle and into the lobby. There I was met by a glowing man who said Robert Service is his favorite poet. He shook my hand enthusiastically and I was glad to have reached at least one listener.

Out in the parking lot, Gil had removed the damaged radiator hose and had installed a brand new one. I started the engine, and the alternator's pulley immediately chewed a hole in it. Gil suggested I move the alternator a little, and while he did surgery on the hose and reattached it, I found a happy medium location for the alternator so that all systems worked in harmony.

I was delighted to have my pickup back in running condition. "It looked so hopeless," I said to Chico, who smiled and reminded me, "To a true Punatic nothing is hopeless."

Eight additional acts followed my own, including Smiley with her guitar singing two original songs, white-bearded John singing Nature Boy and Summertime, both a capella, Zipphra reciting an original poem on Love, Joy and Kunti with a belly-dancing demonstration, Pana playing the umbera, an instrument from Africa, and so on.

Dr. High-Strung told me he enjoyed -- once again -- hearing about Sam McGee. He was still carrying his didgeridoo and I asked why he had not performed. "Nobody invited me," he said, looking sad but hopeful.

R. J. joined us the next morning for coffee on my lanai. I told her I still had some doubts as to how well my recitation was received. "Didn't you hear the thunder of applause?" she asked.

"No," I said. "I'm deaf."



A few days later Dr. Hyson was here for the morning coffee session. I heard him say, "I have a rubbish service, too." I knew he was into all kinds of enterprises, but that one surprised me. I did a reality check, asking him, "Did you say you have a rubbish service?"

"NO," he said, "I said I love Robert Service, too!"

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

What to do about Marijuana Convicts

The sudden death of Judge Joe LaTurner is sad to think about. He was a great man.

Two years ago I had the pleasure of visiting with Joe for an hour while he sat in for his brother Jack at Jack's Self-Serv while Jack went to lunch. Jack was my classmate in the GHS Class of 1948.

The Judge and I talked about our nation's current drug policy. He agreed with me that the entire drug policy is based on myths and falsehoods, as pointed out in the books I have donated to the Galena Public Library. I told him that I have my own ideas as to the ideal direction our Drug Policy should take, and my ideas are based on several years of rather intensive study.

I believe that all laws prohibiting marijuana should be abolished. Furthermore, I believe that all of the people in prison for violations of those unjust laws should be pardoned and released.

The part that really impressed His Honor Judge Joe LaTurner was this ==> I believe that each and every one of those pardoned and released prisoners should be offered a full four-year scholarship to the University or Vocational Training of their choice.

When I said that, Joe's jaw dropped, and, wide-eyed, he said, "That's a good idea!"

At that moment Jack returned from lunch and I never saw Joe again.

PS ==> Any interested citizens, particularly Law Enforcement Officers, are invited to investigate -- and join -- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition "L.E.A.P,"

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Letter To The Editor

This letter was published in the Hawaii Tribune Herald one day last week.

Pahoa, 11 September 2004

Dear Editor:

We residents of Hawaii are gambling, and the odds are not in our favor. Recent weather News from Grenada and Jamaica and Florida carries a strong message. It's a message of warning for us, and we would be wise to pay attention. Are we listening?

Early hurricane news stories always tell us how many hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands were suddenly and tragically left without electricity when the wind destroyed their power poles and power lines.

Last month when one power pole fell across one of our highways, traffic was obstructed for hours.

My friend the retired meteorologist tells me that the only reason our Big Island has not had a direct hit by a major hurricane is Pure Luck. Perhaps our luck is running out.

How will we deal with the thousands of downed power poles that will inevitably result from hurricane-force winds? How will we cope with powerlessness while we wait for the heroic linemen to repair the damage? Let's not be pessimistic, but realistic. It could happen here.

A major hurricane on the Big Island is a disaster just waiting to happen. We can avoid a large part of the trouble and prevent a large part of the damage before it happens. Let's give the overhead utility hardware a decent burial.

Representatives of our local electric company have been known to say that underground installation of their hardware is impossible due to the rocky terrain. If this is true, then why don't we see water and sewer pipes up on poles?

These are questions that should be considered seriously by the County Council, the Public Utilities Commission, Civil Defense, and the People.

/s/ Jerry Thomas
12-447 La'au Loke Street
Kehena, Pahoa, HI 96778-8001
(808) 965-7199

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Drug Policy

Drug Policy -- As I See It

by Jerry Thomas

31 March 1999

Our country is in critical condition. The United States of America has a drug problem, and the people of Galena can help to solve this problem. We are not addicted to a drug, but to an idea. As a Nation we are addicted to Prohibition.

Shortly after the repeal of the Prohibition of alcohol, we got our next “fix” by establishing the Prohibition of Marijuana. Our national addiction is just as destructive to our Nation as an individual junkie’s addiction is to that individual. The junkie will do ANYTHING -- lie, cheat, steal, and/or kill, just to get his next “fix.” The Drug Enforcement Administration is the nerve center of our collective problem; its behavior is precisely the same as the junkie’s. The Prohibition of Marijuana is fundamentally based on lies. The time has come for sober, reasonable, respectable citizens to educate themselves on this point and to take action to remedy our Nation’s affliction.

I feel duty bound and morally obligated to do my best to help the growing number of those who seek a rational solution to that problem. I believe that to do otherwise would be offensive to God and my Country. I sincerely hope that the readers of this article will join me in that belief.

Fifty-seven years ago when I joined the Boy Scouts of America I stood on the steps of the Galena Elks Club and took an oath. Raising my right hand making the Scout Sign, I swore: “On my Honor I will do my Best to do my Duty to God and my Country. ...”

Forgive me for quoting from the Bible, but Saint Paul’s advice to the Apostle Timothy (Second Timothy 1:6) seems relevant and appropriate. “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance,” wrote Paul, “that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.”

One of the many gifts that God has given me is the ability to think, to speak, and to write. During my years of experience as a Teacher, Law-Enforcement Communications Specialist, and Sales Manager, I have picked up a few ideas that enhance those gifts of God. The time has come for me to “stir them up.”

Most of us law-abiding citizens feel far removed from the War On Drugs, yet when our nation is at War, all of us are involved, directly or indirectly. I became directly involved exactly one year ago. The War On Drugs became, for me, a very personal matter. Officer Ortiz, of the Colorado State Patrol, stopped me and decided to perform a thorough search of the vehicle I was driving.

Because I live in Hawaii and because I like to visit Galena, Kansas, my old home town, and because I really enjoy solitary long-distance driving, I feel especially blessed by my friendship with Ralph. Ralph lives in Reno, Nevada, where he is an auto mechanic and part-time used car dealer. Last April I flew to Reno, borrowed a white 1988 Olds Toronado from Ralph, and headed east. A mid-April snowstorm at Vail Pass in the Rocky Mountains had necessitated the imposition of the Chain Law by the Colorado State Patrol. Reluctant to use chains, I spent a couple of days and nights in Glenwood Springs, waiting. Early in the morning on April 13 Interstate 70 was open at Vail Pass. I zoomed up and over the Rockies, down through Denver, and out into the High Plains.

In the past ten years I have done considerable research into the history of Kansas. As I approached the Colorado-Kansas state line I was thinking of the tens of millions of buffalo that once lived on the Great Plains. Symbols of freedom. A natural resource that was harvested for a number of reasons -- hides for factory belts needed in the Industrial Revolution; bones for fertilizer; meat to feed the people back east and the construction crews building the Railroads. An unexpected consequence of the buffalo slaughter was the starvation of the Plains Indians, but that’s another story. I was about to leave my native state and enter the state where I spent my childhood. “Ah! Kansas!” I shouted. Then I saw the flashing lights in my rearview mirror.

“We stopped you because you were weaving,” said Officer Ortiz. “Thought you might be asleep.” Then he asked to see my Driver’s License (Hawaii) and Registration (Nevada).

Weaving? Well, perhaps I had been weaving. I felt safe in the watchful presence of the Police. Assuring Officer Ortiz that I was alive, fully awake, and alert, I handed him the documents. We discussed the ownership of the car and my friendship with Ralph. This is routine.

What happened then was not routine. “Do you have any drugs or weapons?”


“Are you sure you don’t have any drugs or weapons?”

“I have no drugs and no weapons except this.” As I dug in my pocket for my Swiss Army Knife, I saw Officer Ortiz’s hand move toward his sidearm. But he smiled as I showed him my knife.

“Would you mind if we look the car over? Would you consent to a search?” I considered his question for a couple of seconds. The car belonged to someone else; how could I be absolutely sure?

“Sure,” I said. “Go ahead. I have nothing to hide.”

“Leave the keys in the seat and go with him,” said Officer Ortiz, pointing at his youthful partner. The Rookie took me away from the car. His lack of experience showed in such statements as, “You shouldn’t even have a driver’s license if you’re that deaf.” (The noise of the passing traffic, plus the wind whistling across my hearing aid had caused me to say, “WHAT?” several times). Then he said, “We stopped you because you fit a profile. Big old car, Nevada plates, traveling alone.” (Not to mention “weaving,” I thought).

“Profile of a tourist?”

“Profile of a drug and weapons runner.”


“You look like an aging hippie, too,” he said, peering at my beard and my long hair. I noticed that I was trembling uncontrollably. The fifty-degree temperature, the strong wind, and the impressive idea of this personal assault by armed Drug War soldiers was taking its toll on my emotions. Part of my trembling was due to a growing anger.

Suddenly three more Colorado State Patrol cars arrived, all of their emergency lights flashing. I asked the Rookie what ... .. ?

“They just came to help with the search,” he said. Six more officers? AND their DOG ?

I watched them get out of their cars -- two Officers per car -- and I watched a pair of them struggling to control their eager Dog.

I had recently read an article about these modern police Dogs; I had learned that they are so well trained that they can detect a marijuana cigarette hidden in a bale of hot chili peppers.

The Dog, small, black, short-haired, was on a leash. The Officer let the Dog pull him toward the Toronado and removed the leash. Excitedly the Dog jumped into the car, leaped from front seat to back seat and back again, sniffing, probing, whining with excitement. Meanwhile, one pair of Officers raised the hood and checked the engine. Two more Officers were going under the car, probing. Two of them opened my large suitcase and dumped its entire contents on the back seat. The Dog kept on leaping and sniffing. It checked my suitcase and its contents thoroughly.

“That tall skinny guy is our supervisor,” said the Rookie. The Supervisor looked at me and grinned. Then I saw him reach into the car and bring out my long yellow notebook. I watched him slowly go through it, page by page. Apparently he found nothing incriminating in my notes on the much-neglected history of Cherokee County, Kansas.

They unlocked and opened the Toronado’s trunk. “Are your drugs and weapons in the trunk?” asked the Rookie.

“There’s nothing in the trunk but some auto parts,” I said.

“I guess it takes a lot of spare parts to keep an old clunker like that running,” the Rookie guessed.

Finally the show was over. The smiling Supervisor came to me and shook my hand and said, “Thank you for your time.”

Officer Ortiz shook my hand and said, “You’re clean. Have a good trip to Kansas.” The Officers -- and their Dog -- got into their respective Patrol cars, turned off their emergency lights, and went in search of another victim.

Thinking thoughts I could not utter, I headed for Kansas.

This incident was routine for the Officers and their Dog, but it was new to me. It sparked a personal interest in what I now refer to as our Nation’s Addiction.

Ergonomics (January, 1993)

by Jerry Thomas

Friday 29 January 1993

Yesterday’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald has a special section on Health and Community Help. It lists sixty-two different places to go and people to contact if you have problems with your health or if you need help. Through these agencies and organizations you can get medication, meditation, and mediation. You can get legal aid, first aid, and aid for AIDS. In addition to this long list of helpers, this section of the newspaper has ads for massage parlors, clinics for treating the pathology of all parts of the human anatomy, the mind, and related subjects.

It has articles about diet, exercise, chiropractic services, ways to overcome addictions, and the one that caught my attention : NEW WAYS TO BEAT PAIN AND FIGHT STRESS, by Debra Lee Baldwin, of the Copley News Service. After a discussion of headaches, backaches, and pains in the neck, under the sub-head CTS and PMS, the article says,

“Computer users, is your keyboard too high or too low? Think ergonomically: Your wrists and hands should be level with the keyboard. Avoid extension (hands angled upward) or flexion (hands angled downward). The danger is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS); symptoms include numbness, tingling and pain in the hands and fingers ...”

The article goes on to tell about how the members of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons deal with this problem, using braces, splints, and “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or cortisone injections.” Then the writer went into PMS, which I don’t have, so I went back to see how she suggested that I, as a computer user, should THINK. “Think ergonomically,” she wrote.

Help!! I studied the list of agencies and individuals that help the community with its problems. I needed help with that big word. Before I could begin to think ergonomically I needed to know what it meant. Should I call the Public Library?

Suddenly I remembered the dictionary that is electronically connected to my computer. I went to my bedroom/office. Placing my keyboard in its usual position, on my lap, I extended and flexed my hands, moved them to where they were level with the keyboard, and started typing in the usual manner. If I could overcome the numbness, tingling, and pain in my hands and fingers long enough to type “ergonomically Alt-W,” I might learn how I should think.

For “ergonomically” my computer dictionary’s response was “none found.” But when I entered “ergonomic,” my computer’s dirty little mind, lurking down there in my hard disk, suggested that I might mean “erotic.”


With my numb, tingling, pain-ridden hands and fingers, I reached for my dust-covered “Merriam Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary,” opened its mildewed pages, and found not ergonomically, nor ergonomic, but ergonomics. Close enough for me! I thought maybe the word came from the Latin “ergo,” meaning “therefore,” as in “cogito ergo sum.” But no. It’s from the Greek “erg,” meaning “work.” As in “ergophobia,” which I and a lot of others suffer from. It says,

“ergonomics n. pl but sing or pl in constr [erg- + -nomics (as in bionomics)] (1949): an applied science concerned with the characteristics of people that need to be considered in designing and arranging things that they use in order that people and things will interact most effectively and safely -- called also human engineering.

And now, as I really get immersed in the “work” of typing this article, my hands and fingers begin feeling less numb. The tingling is diminishing, too, and the pain is going away. “Working” has taken away all of my symptoms of CTS.

But where had those symptoms come from? Not from an improper arrangement of my keyboard and my hands (which, ergonomically speaking, might have led to unsafe, ineffective interaction .. ) but from some other interaction between my hands and things. In the old way of putting it, my hands were asleep. I had been sitting on them. Working awakened them.

After breakfast this morning I had been sitting on a barstool at the counter between my kitchen and dining room. With nothing else to do, I spread yesterday’s newspaper on the counter and read it again. It’s an unusually chilly morning for Hawaii. My hands felt cold; I warmed them by slipping them between the stool’s seat and my own seat. Sitting on my hands. Concentrating on the newspaper, forgetting about my hands, I devoted my attention to Debra Lee Baldwin’s article.

As I read about headaches and pains in the neck, I thought of my hands again. They felt uncomfortable. A kind of numbness, tingling, and even a little pain was creeping into my now warm hands. By then I was into CTS: these were the very symptoms I was reading about ! Were I employed, I might sue my employer for exposing me to CTS; being a retired teacher and part-time self-employed writer, I am forced to rely on my own resources.

When I found out about ergonomic thinking, and forced myself into that unusual activity, the source of all those symptoms came clear: I should have been working, instead of sitting on my hands. This revelation might be useful to some computer users in government agencies, and to those keyboard operators having problems with their hands in the private sector. Thanks to my new-found knowledge of human engineering, I might be able to get some writing done today.


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Getting acquainted ....

Click for the Cherokee County (Kansas) Community which I founded some time ago...... this

For an assorted partial anthology of some stuff i have written,
~~~~ jerry

Under Construction for the next 100 years

This is the first post in my brand-new blog.

Yesterday I had never heard of a blog, and now i own one.


Come on in !!