The Streetcar I Desire

new orleans streetcar

Barring something unforeseen, I will be turning 65 tomorrow. I will spend most of  the day driving to New Orleans where I’ll be doing some business next week and occasionally popping into the Bouchercon host hotel (as well as assisting Jim Born with his excellent Weaponry panel at 9:00A on Saturday September 17, for both of the attendees who do not drink even when they’re in The Crescent City). The major milestone for me, however, will be riding New Orleans’ iconic streetcar line…for 40 cents a ride. Senior citizens in New Orleans get to do that.

An elderly friend told me that getting older is actually like aging in reverse. When you’re just a few years old people are constantly taking things away from you or putting them out of reach, a practice which we now call “childproofing,” You get trusted incrementally with objects, privileges and responsibilities until one day you wake up and you’ve got a whole collection of those, which include but are not limited to driving and automobiles, jobs, voting, drinking, military service, intimacy, and child rearing. You think you’re overdue for most of them by the time you get them, but the truth is that you’re probably not ready. Experience is the best teacher, however, and we all muddle through a continuum that runs between success and disaster and all points in between.

After several decades, though, things begin to change. People start taking things and choices away from you again. The guy at the hardware superstore asks if you need help carrying any purchase that weighs more than a pack of light bulbs. Your children think that you have early dementia if you are unable to keep their schedule and yours straight without a calendar. The question “How is work?” is replaced with “When are you retiring?”. Your first birthday congratulations at 65 is from the federal government: it’s a red, white and blue Medicare card. And that driver’s license that was so important to obtain five decades ago is possibly only an accident or three from being retired. As for me…everything still works. I can carry an old-fashioned microwave up two flights of stairs without sustaining a heart attack (though it was a very near thing). I can drive nine hundred miles in one day (though I’m split it up out of caution). Things aren’t being taken away from me yet, even though I am more  Mickey Donovan than Harry Coombes at this point. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I am going to ride those streetcars next week —on every line I can — for 40 cents a trip like they are a pack of 3-dollar government mules.

So let’s open it up. What was your favorite birthday celebration? Do you have a tradition? What would you like to do, but haven’t had the fortitude or the ability to do, at least at this point in your life?


Inspiratus Interruptus

I have a home office. I love it. There’s no commute. I can get a couple of hours of work in while most people are still asleep. I have a secretary named “Joe,” a gofer named “Joe,” and a personal manservant named “Joe” who makes me coffee and breakfast and lunch. What a team we are. We all get along just fine. I don’t have anyone hassling me about “Rrrrr, rrrr, rrrr, your billable hours are down, rrrr rrrr rrr, what about rrrr, rrrr, and why are you on the internet again, rrrr?” Yep, it’s a sweet deal. I can do my big boy job, write a bit, do my big boy job, lather, rinse, repeat.

The only problem I have (for purposes of this discussion) is having to deal with non-work, non-personal interruptions. I have my office line and my home line in the same room. I have been getting a lot of calls on my home line because I will be turning 65 in a few short months. Yes, I know, I know, you wouldn’t expect someone of my countenance, libido, and good cheer to be that old but it is so. Here is a warning: when you are about to turn 65, everyone starts calling you to 1) tell you what’s what about Medicare and 2) sell you the exact policy that you need. I began acquiring all sorts of new imaginary friends, such as “Medigo,” “WhatsMedicare,” “Medsuppins,” “Marketplace,” and the alluring, mysterious “Name Not Found.” Ignoring them didn’t help because the phone would ring four times before sending the call to voicemail. That’s a distraction, even when you are screening your calls. And we haven’t even talked about the fine folks from the help desk at Windows Security who have detected a ‘wiwus” on my computer, or the guy who is willing to give me a free vacation if I’ll just watch a short demonstration video, or the woman who keeps calling me to ask if I’m interested in my cable company’s latest product. Uh huh. The “do not call” list?” It’s pretty much a joke. Muting the ring isn’t an option for me, either, as I have a daughter in college and a granddaughter in grade school, both of whom need me at unexpected times.

My life was changed for the better, however, when I came across an article in a newsletter from the Community Senior Center which my wife belongs to (and, no, I’m not a member. That stuff is for old people). The article touted a gentleman by the name of Aaron Foss, the designer of a called “NoMoRoBo.” Foss is GIVING this thing away. No strings, no deposits, no nothing. It’s a true public service. What it does is block robo calls — those things that dial five thousand numbers at a time — and telemarketers. You go to the “nomorobo” website, watch the very short video, click on “get started now” button, fill in the blanks, and within a day or so you’ll see results. Your phone rings once, gives a little purr, and “pfttt”…the annoying caller doesn’t even have a chance to leave a voicemail. They are gone. “Nomorobo” doesn’t work with every landline phone service, or every cell phone service provider, but it works with mine, and they’re adding more and more constantly. Oh. Oh. And. It supposedly will not block or divert political fundraisers or surveys, but I’ve had several blocked already (“Poll_Quest,” to name but one). “Nomorobo” constantly learns new numbers to block and you don’t have to do a thing, other than write your next bestseller without interruption (other than for that initial ring). And every time the phone rings once and disconnects during dinner, my wife and I look at each other, and smile.

Authors, readers, doctors (Hi Steve!) and all who fight the good fight on all fronts each day: try this out. I have absolutely no interest in this, financial or otherwise. It is free and it does work and no one puts your name or number on a mailing list, either. And Aaron Foss? I’d stand in front of a tank for him.

Having shared this marvelous invention with you, I want something in return (Aaron Foss, I am not). Please tell us: what devices do you use to give yourself privacy, and to keep yourself from being interrupted? And what is your favorite personal story that concerns dealing with telemarketers, solicitors, and the like?