Thursday, August 31, 2006


Most of you do not, nor will you ever, understand the tie I have with my cell phone. That’s okay. My family understands and has for a matter of years lived with this little obsession of mine. The following conversations actually took place among my family members the day I lost my phone. Please keep in mind these people are suppose to love me.

When Char and Tiffany were talking, Tiffany said, “Mom, all I could imagine was a little old man curled up in the comer of the airport whimpering ‘I lost my cell phone. . . I lost my cell phone.”

When Char told our son Nate what had happened he asked in a very serious tone, “Is Dad still alive?”

Yeah – that’s love.

So knowing that the most dramatic part of my day was losing my cell phone that makes going through security three times in an hour a walk in park. Except, losing your cell phone will rarely land you in jail. Not ‘behaving right’ at security can.

Security Visit One: After getting my ticket, I stood in line at security. Security had been elevated so the lines were somewhat longer than normal. Finally, it was my turn to hand the TSA (Transportation Safety Authority) agent my driver’s license and ticket. Without a smile, without a ‘hello”, she looked at me, studied my drivers license and then scribbled on my ticket. The line kept moving and before long, I had my backpack, my shoes, my billfold, a pen, and thirty-seven cents in a plastic tub to be ran through the x-ray machine. I reached for my cell phone and – GONE! My cell phone was gone! I stood there for a minute staring, just staring, at the plastic clip where it should have been. I grabbed all my stuff and hurriedly got out of line. That's when a TSA agent told me to get back in line. There was no stare down, there was no stand off, I just told the guy I lost my cell phone and I was going to go look for it. Surprisingly, he just walked away.

After an exhaustive search (you had to be there) for my cell phone, I finally concluded it was lost. So, having aged somewhere between three and five years, I decide to go back through security and get on with my day.

Security Visit Two: Standing in line this time was a little different. I am sure my face was red, I know I was sweating (I had ran around that airport for thirty minutes) I handed the TSA person my drivers license and my ticket. She looked at my ticket and questioned me, “You’ve already been through security?” I explained to her I got out of line to go look for my cell phone. She gave me a stern look and told me I was to never get out of line once I started the security process. She then studied (yes, studied) my drivers license and ticket, made another mark on the ticket and told me I would be getting ‘extra’ security. Once again, I got half-naked in the center of the airport and emptied all my possession in the tub. Immediately upon walking through the x-ray, someone grabbed my arm and the plastic tub and asked me to get out line. There I stood in the center of security, spread eagle as they waved the wand over my body, not once but twice. They wanded my shoes as well. I was asked if they could go through my backpack. My official answer was, “Yeah – sure.” Unofficially, I wanted to say, “If running your hand through dirty underwear turns you on go right ahead.” Soon me and my dirty underwear were on our way.

I bought a phone card and called Tiff who told me my cell had been found. This had to be miracle. So, without giving it a second though I left the secure area and went back to the main terminal to get my cell phone. It was a happy reunion between my cell phone and I – we laughed, we cried . . . okay, that might be a little much. But, I do remember giving it a kiss right before I called Tiffany. With that done it was time to go back through security for the third time in an hour.

Security Visit Three: So there I stood, my drivers license and ticket in one hand, my cell phone in the other, and a backpack with dirty clothes hanging off my shoulder. The TSA agent took my ticket, looked at it, and blurted out, “How many times have you been through security?” I explained to her only once completely. She turned and summoned over two more agents. The three of them and I had a conversation on why I had been through security so many times in a short period of time. Finally, the agent standing behind the lady said something to her in a low voice and she marked my ticket and handed it back. The line was moving and I was still happy when suddenly there was commotion behind me. When I turned around there was a thirty-year-old man and a fifty-year man pushing and shoving each other. It drew a lot of attention including that of five TSA agents and three police officers. It seems like the younger guy had spit of the old guy for whatever reason. The TSA agent who marked my ticket walked up to me and asked if I had seen how it started. I didn’t. The older guy stated he wanted to press charges and both men where pulled out of line and lead off. Once again, all my worldly possessions made it through x-ray, and I walked through the screening area. Once again, someone grabbed my arm. Once again, I was wanded. Once again I was asked if they could go through my backpack. When everything was done, I was asked to go with a TSA agent for ‘additional’ screening. Fine with me, I had my cell phone. We went over to an isolated part of security and I was asked again, why I had gone through security so many times. I explained in a very calm voice all about my cell phone. They then asked me if I could prove I lost it. Now, that kind of set me off. I whipped out the phone calling card I had bought and told them that was the biggest scam I had ever seen, I then produced the receipt for it so they could see when and where I bought it. Finally, I realized now would be a good time to settle down and just try to get through security. I was asked how the fight behind me started. When you don’t know the answer is easy. Finally, the TSA agent looked at me and said, “That cell phone story is so ridiculous it has to be true.” And with that, he sent me on my way.

Clearing security three times in an hour – something I wouldn’t recommend to anyone.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Miracle at O'Hara

Last night I sat down and typed out my ordeal with the lost cell phone at O’Hara International Airport. By the time I was done, I had six full pages. Yes, it’s probably just the right length for a made for TV movie, but it’s a little long for a post. So, I decided to give some of the ‘top’ highlights in bullet format. I will still do a short story about my three wonderful trips through security later.

-- Stopped at the kiosk to print out my ticket, the printer failed. Went to another kiosk as instructed and was informed that the ticket had already been issued. Pushed the button for assistance and to my amazement I only had to explain what happened twice.

-- Had all my worldly possessions in a plastic tub at security when I noticed my cell phone was missing. Without going through security, I gather my possessions and went looking for my cell phone.

-- Had an opportunity to talk with two of Chicago’s finest. We had a nice discussion on why I was going outside the airport after having my ticket issued.

-- Had an informative discussion with a Transportation Safety Authority (TSA) agent on how many phones get lost at O’Hara and how I would never find mine. He did say 2,000 – 3,000 cell phones get lost each month at that airport.

-- Went through security the second time this one involved the “wand’.

-- Bought a phone card and called Tiffany. That's when I found out my cell phone was alive and well.

-- Met Kat! The lady with United Airlines who found my cell phone.

-- Went through security for the third time in an hour. In the process, I probably came closer to going to jail than I realized after an outburst when asked if I could prove I lost my cell phone.

-- Had a fight start just behind me in the security line between a 30-year-old man and 50-year-old man. Fortunately, I didn’t see how it started. However, during my third security screening I was questioned about it. It could have been a great diversion for a shady character like me trying to get through security so I could board an airplane I really didn’t want to get on in the first place.

-- Bought a cup of coffee, sipped it slowly at the terminal, patiently waiting to board the plane.

-- With my feet back on the ground and my cell phone tucked deeply in my pocket, I meet Cliff in Omaha. I told Cliff my story. I’ve spent a lot of time with Cliff, but I had never seen him chuckle quite that much.

-- For the next several days, I “grabbed’ myself a lot – making sure my cell phone was where it belonged.

So what will happen to the six-page version? It should air later this Fall on a major TV network.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Caller Beware

Some post are funny. I’ll write one in a day or two that is funny now. But, it wasn’t when I lost my cell phone at the airport.

Some post are informative. I’ll write one in awhile about going through security at O’Hara international airport three times in an hour. Trust me this is something you want to read about, rather than experience.

Then there is this post. It falls into the Public Service Announcement category. It uncovers one of the greatest scams of our time.

This picture shows two objects. One is my cell phone, which I lost and later found at O’Hara airport. That in itself is a miracle. The other is a phone card. That's the scam.

When I thought my cell phone was lost at O’Hara, I realized I had to make two phone calls. The first was to my daughter. She dropped me off at the airport at 4:30AM and like any nervous father, I had asked her to call me when she when got back to her apartment. I knew she had tried to call and probably got a little worried when I didn’t answer. The second call was to Cliff when I landed in Omaha.

I went into a gift shop at the airport and bought a 30-minute phone card, at a cost of $15. That’s fifty cents a minute. But, if you need to make two calls – you need to make two calls. Both calls could easily be completed in thirty minutes. So, after breaking into the package to get my card I followed the instructions on the back.

1. I dialed in my phone card number. (No problem)
2. I then entered the menu of instructions, “For English press One, for . . . (This is where I remarked in a rather loud voice, “Why the %^$& do I have to push one for English?” Of course, the automated voice on the other end had no answer.)
3. I was prompted to enter my pin number. (No problem)
4. Then there was a message telling me how I could donate a phone card to help the needy. (This is where I stated in a rather loud voice, “Right now I am the needy.” Again, the automated voice on the other end didn’t care.)
5. I was then asked to enter the phone number I wished to call. (I did)

Here is the phone conversation that took place:

DOR: Hello.
Ralph: Tiff, this is dad. I lost. . .
DOR: Dad, Kat at mod three has your phone. She answered when I called.
Ralph: Who’s Kat?
DOR: She works for United and is at mod three with your phone.
Ralph: Where is mod three?
DOR: I don’t know. Maybe you could call your phone and find out.
Ralph: Yeah. Did you get home okay?
DOR: Yeah, I just worried when a lady answered your phone.
Ralph: Talk to you later Tiff

Now, Tiff had a good idea. I had no idea where mod three was and calling my cell phone wasn’t a bad idea if Kat would answer. So, the phone card process started again.

1. I dialed in my phone card number. (No problem)
2. I then entered the menu of instructions, “For English press One, for . . . (This still really frustrated me but I pushed one.)
3. I was prompted to enter my pin number. (No problem)
4. Then there was a message telling me how I could donate a phone card to help the needy. (I didn’t say anything but still felt I was one of the needy.)
5. I was then asked to the enter the phone number I wished to call. (Which I did)

This is where the scam began. Another automated voice came on and in a rather stern voice informed me, “You do not have enough remaining minutes on your card to complete this call.”

I had made one phone call with my thirty-minute card! That is when I read the back of the card and noticed in four point font a statement which reads, “A surcharge of at least 13 minutes (subject to increase) applies to all pay phone calls.”

Now, that’s a crock! Where do they think most people will use the phone cards? Pay phones!

So, if you need to make one phone call a thirty-minute phone card at a cost of $15 should do it. Just remember to push one for English.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Gone For Awhile

Yesterday, I took Tiffany, DOR (Daughter of Ralph) out golfing. It was the first time she had ever been on a golf course. Oh, she had been at the driving range but never on the course. We stopped for coffee on the way. I got this napkin. Now, when you’re playing a little par three course – this is not a good napkin to get.

DOR and I had a great time. We did go to the driving range, had a little breakfast, and then played the par three twice. She actually did quite well.

Tomorrow she leaves to finish college. She will be gone for awhile. Starting tomorrow Char and I will be gone for awhile as well. We will be driving to Tekamah to see this Cliff and Marilyn. I will then drive to Chicago with Tiffany. When I get back to Omaha, it will be time to head to Lincoln. Cliff and Marilyn’s youngest son is getting married. Dan, his older brother, has also arranged for some golf.

So, I’ll see you in about a week.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Letter From a Farm Kid

I received this e-mail letter the other night. By reading it all the way to end it gave me a pretty good laugh. Hope it does the same for you.

(Now at San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Training.)

Dear Ma and Pa,

I am well. Hope you are.

Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled.

I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m. but I am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot, and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing.

Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there's warm water. Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food. But tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you till noon when you get fed again. It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much.

We go on "route marches," which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it's not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. The country is nice but awful flat The sergeant is like a school teacher. He nags a lot. The Captain is like the school board. Majors and colonels just ride around and frown. They don't bother you none.

This will kill Walt and Elmer with laugher, I keep getting medals for shooting. I don't know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don't move, and it ain't shooting at you like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain't like fighting with that ole bull at home. I'm about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake. I only beat him once. He joined up the same time as me, but I'm only 5'6" and 130 pounds and he's 6'8" and near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter,

Friday, August 04, 2006

Rocks, Rocks, and More Rocks

During our vacation, we spent a lot of time looking at rocks. We were in Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Red Canyon, Kodachrome Basin, Anasazi State Park, and Capital Reef.

Over the course of the week, I took four hundred pictures. Char took about the same. Two things should be pointed out. First, the pictures in no way do the parks or scenery justice. You really have to see it for yourself. Secondly, I am not going to bore you by posting 400 pictures. But, here are a few.

Our first official ‘rock stop’ was Zion National Park. This is located near the town of Springdale, Utah. As we entered the park Char read a quote from Henry Gannett with the U.S. Geological Survey. It was, “If you are old, go to Zion by all means, but if you are young, stay away until you grow older. . . it is not well to dull one’s capacity for enjoyment by seeing the finest first”. My ‘official’ reaction was, “What are we doing here! We’re not old.” Unofficially, Henry was right. I watched the kids we passed on our hike up Canyon Overview Trail and then along the Riverwalk Trail. We were in awe by the beauty of this park, the kids we passed had that ‘lets go back to the hotel where I can at least watch cable television’ look.

Our second ‘rock stop’ was Bryce Canyon. Last night I dug out an old National Geographic magazine that had photos of Bryce Canyon. Their photos were better than mine but still do not do justice to this spectacular canyon. This is a place you have to see to appreciate.

Red Canyon was ‘rock stop’ number three. Located outside of Escalante, Utah, this canyon is full of . . . rocks. The rocks have a dark red color making spectacular views as you drive along Scenic Highway 12. This is the only highway I have driven in a long, long time where people don’t speed. Yeah, the scenery is that good.

‘Rock stop’ number four had us at Kodachrome Basin State Park. This area was featured in a 1949 issue of National Geographic magazine. The area was originally named Kodachrome Flats, after the trade name of Kodak’s color film. This is Chimney rock. To put it in perspective, Char is standing at the base of the rock.

Capital Reef made 'rock stop' number five. The early pioneers named this area Capital Reef because the huge doomed rock formations reminded them of the nation’s capital. It is here you can see the petroglyphs. A thousand years ago, the Fremont Indians chipped images into the rocks.
Well, I still have about 394 pictures remaining but I’ve probably bored you enough.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Travel Signs

Signs are amazing things. Some signs are natural, others are man made. By watching the signs you can tell whether the trip will be good, or not so good. Here are a few signs of our recent trip.

Below is the first sign.

I really wasn’t looking forward to going. Things like, “I’ve got a lot to do”, “It’s a bad time of year”, and “What the #$%%^ is in Utah? I was there once, I didn’t leave anything”, were going through my head. But, Char kept insisting we take a trip. Char is standing next to a small tree. Notice the leaves. They are heart shaped. Heart shaped leaves and Char – need I say more.

You might be wondering if Utah is hot this time of year. The answer is YES! The second and third signs down are funny only because it was over a hundred degrees.

Sure glad we didn’t slip and fall. Otherwise, we might have needed one of these. . .

. . . a handmade casket. Now that’s something you don’t see in every tourist town across the country. While I was looking for the perfect souvenir, this wasn’t it.

But, as hot as it was you could have died if you did not eat and, more importantly, drink enough water.

Here is a picture of Char having a little picnic lunch. Evidently, she didn’t see the sign. (Okay, I made her sit there so I could take the picture.) This picture was taken in Zion National Park. One of our many wonderful National Parks.

Most of National Parks now have free shuttles to transport visitors, ease the traffic, and preserve our national treasures. By taking the shuttles you can get a great overview of the park, get off where you want, and not have to deal with traffic. The shuttle drivers also can answer many of your questions and make some great recommendations. The shuttles run every six to fifteen minutes, which explains why they were not crowded. Here is Char on one of the shuttles. . .
. . . by clicking on the photo, you can read the blue sign next to her. I’m pretty sure she would have moved.

So, as the signs indicate – it was good trip.