Thursday, January 3, 2008

BEST OF: Scrambled dregs for a new year

The original version of this column ran March 4, 2004, in The Cambrian.

Baryshnikov does Verizon:

It could be a new Olympic sport, but too many people are good at it. It's not particularly graceful … but then, neither is wrestling or shot-put. And this posture is just as identifiable as those struck by a golfer at the tee, a figure skater preparing for a triple axel or a diver bouncing on the end of the board.

The modern version is what I call feng shui of the body, because everything has to be arranged just so, aligned with mystical broadcast waves, the wind and the pull of the moon.

Envision rigid shoulders, clenched fist, tilted head and distracted expression of someone standing in the middle of a busy street, and you'll be seeing a cell-phone user trying to complete a call in Cambria.

"Can you hear me now?" Probably not.

The posture mimics frozen poses of yore. Remember holding a rabbit-ears TV antenna out the window so somebody else could watch a show? Or trying to hail a taxi while out in the rain, without looking like a drowning Pomeranian?

There are few areas of Camabria where you can actually walk and cell-talk at the same time. At my house, a cell phone will ring only when it’s on the charger, but the call won’t stay connected if I unplug the phone.

Yes, technology has a long way to go here. And the debate continues about whether to allow disguised cell-phone towers on the protected land of Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.

In the meantime, here's a fund-raising idea for Caltrans, county Public Works or even the Cambria Community Services District: Find the 10 places in downtown Cambria where most cell-phone systems work, and put up street signs identifying same.

Then charge 50 cents a minute to park nearby.

My “to don't” list:

What a mess: Bills, letters, cryptic notes I can no longer decipher, messages, catalogs I'll never peruse, grocery, shopping and chore lists, magazines I'll never read, newspapers, things I've printed out but haven't tossed out and ticket stubs from a 2002 vacation.

The towering stacks of paper form a veritable monument to fallen trees, a wobbly edifice that threatens to take over our world.

The paperwork congregates on counters and tables, our desks, my files (if they get that far!) and a footstool between our easy chairs. Then the papers go forth and multiply, like field mice, wire hangers and unmated socks.

Eventually, most Tanner paperwork winds up in baskets. For an ambitious piece of paper, being sentenced to “the basket” is a fate worse than last year's file-storage boxes.

Paper-Amnesty International has a special strike team for Tanner baskets.

We’ll just muddle along in our documentary chaos, and then we'll get word that company's coming to visit. Awk! Panic!

There are two possible courses of action: sort through the papers and clean the baskets, counters, chairs, etc., or pile everything in a bigger basket that can then be hidden in a closet.

If I did the latter, Fire Chief Bob Putney would start issuing mandatory demolition orders.

So, I recently began to dig through the stacks, resulting in an image not unlike a chunky dachshund digging in a badger hole.

Now we have a new unwritten Tanner law: never, ever keep "to do" lists.

It’s plumb discouraging to find a year-old record and realize how little of it I’ve accomplished during the past 12 months.

Worse yet is realizing how many things I did do that now have to be done again.


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