Tag Archives: travel

The Robots And The Writer

8 Jul

The Robots just suddenly arrived.

They landed on Earth in droves, tall…about 8 or 9 feet in height, dirty metallic bodies, 3 wheeled tank like contraptions on their legs for movement, 3 tentacle-like arms with 6 tentacle-like appendages and on each one, claw like hands and fingers.

They came and they conquered. They conquered in a mere 72 hours.

The entire world in only 72 hours.

After they conquered and killed all the leaders of the world, they kind of left everyone else alone.

Sort of.

The robots made everyone stay inside their dwellings whether it be a fancy million dollar home, an apartment complex, or  a hobo’s cardboard box. It had been about two weeks of the house arrest.

Twice  food rations were left on the doorstep. Apparently the Robots thought our diet consisted of nothing but Spaghetti-o’s. TV was cut down to one channel that just played the same five movies over and over; A Christmas Story, Groundhog Day, Porky’s 3, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Casino. No one could make heads or tails of the selections or whether their was a theme or message to them. Some thought it might be a some secret symbol of the robots intent. Radio was down to one frequency, 104.1 FM. This station only played Frank Sinatra, but luckily it was his whole catalog and not just five select songs like the TV.

The internet, shut down.

After pretty much everyone in the world could quote Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure from start to finish, an announcement came over the TV and Radio:

“Greetings, people of Planet 279. You will be hearing this broadcast in your native language since you choose to complicate your race with such nonsense as separate languages. Tomorrow will begin your sorting. I will assume, you 279ings do not know what a sorting is, so I will explain. Each one of you will be individually interviewed on your worth to this planet and to us, your new masters. If your skills are deemed worthy, you will live to serve us. If your skills are deemed inadequate, you will be killed on the spot. We have already eradicated Rappers, Weather Men, Fruit Snack Packers, Walmart Customer Service Employees, Mark Zuckerburg, and Network TV Executives.   One of our kind will be knocking on your door sometime between 8 am and 5 pm to begin your evaluation. That reminds me, we need to add all cable installers to the inadequate list. Do not try to run. Do not try to resist. Do not try to fight. Do try to cooperate. Do try to answer the questions truthfully. And if you are deemed unworthy, do try to die quickly and without crying. That is all.”

And then Casino started playing on the TV again.

I was a novelist. I don’t know what Robots would want a novelist for…especially based on their taste of movies, but I couldn’t give up hope. There had to be a place for someone with my skill set for them. I didn’t have to write novels, I could write about anything…be a reporter, keep records, or something. My youngest daughter, who was 6, pulled on my pants.

“Daddy, I’m scared!” she said with big teary eyes.

“Oh,” I said as I brushed her long blonde bangs out of her eyes and kissed her on the forehead. “Don’t be. Daddy will be okay.”

“But Daddy,” she responded, tears running down her cheeks. “Who will pack the Fruit Snacks now?”

I gave her a hug and said, “I don’t know, honey. I don’t know.”


Eight AM came quickly the next day, and you could see the robots lining up along the suburban street. The had enough robots for one to stand outside each and every door, and at precisely 8, a unison single knock hit the aluminum doors, followed by a metallic warning;

“You have 30 seconds to answer your doors. 30, 29, 28, 27, 26….”

I opened the door. The faceless machine looked at me, and it pushed me aside as it bent it’s large frame down to fit through the opening. Once inside it said,

“Are you Planet 279 inhabitant also known as Frank Baum?”

“I am, and it’s called Earth, not Planet 279,” I responded weakly.

“What you know of as ‘Earth’ is no more. You are now an inhabitant of Planet 279. If you are deemed worthy of service you will be given a new name. Your new name will be 279.0943783749894590834590349.”

“Wow, I don’t know if I could remember all of that,” I said a little worried.

The robot responded, “It will be branded to your forehead. No worries.”

“Oh, great.”

The robot pulled out a clipboard. “Please answer these questions, briefly and completely or you will be eradicated. Please answer the questions truthfully or you will be eradicated. I will be monitoring your heart rate and your brain wave patterns. You will be recorded. Let us begin. For the official record, what is your Planet 279 name?”

“My Earth name or the bar code you just gave me?” I asked.

“You have not earned your worthiness, therefor you currently do not have your official citizenship of our planet. Your ‘Earth’ name please.”

“My name is Frank Baum.”

The Robot checked something off on it’s clipboard. “This is just for show by the way, it seems to make you Planet 279-ers feel more at ease. What is your current occupation?”

“I’m a novelist. I write books.”

The Robot put down the clipboard and raised what looked like a big scary laser gun.

“What is that for?!” I screamed.

“Eradication,” the robot replied.

“Why?! For being a novelist?! What the hell? Do you Robots not read? Or think that the people who will survive this won’t want to read?”

“You will be eradicated because all of the books have all ready been written,” the robot replied coldly.

“What?!” I laughed. “How can that be?!”

“Our writers have written all the books there ever will be, every subject has been written about. There is not a story that hasn’t been written that we already don’t have a book for.” The Robot raised it’s gun to my head.

“Wait!” I yelled. “How can you be so sure? What if I come up with a story that hasn’t been written yet. Then you have to keep me to write it for you.”

The Robot said and did nothing for a moment. “I will download all the books into my database. If you think you can come up with a story that I don’t have a book for, then you may live.”

The Robot raised one of it’s arms and shook for 30 seconds and then said, “Ready.”

“Ok,” I thought a moment. I had to come up with something incredibly wild and out there. “Do you have a book about an octopus with 6 dog’s heads that falls in love with a squirrel after terrorizing the citizens of Alabama?”

The Robot holds up a Kindle and says, ‘Yes.” On the Kindle is story entitled, ‘Bang The Squirrel Slowly.’

“I’ll be damned!” I said as the Robot raised his gun again. “Wait! Do you have a story about an octopus with 7 dog’s heads that falls in love with a squirrel after terrorizing the citizens of Japan?”

The Robot once again holds up the Kindle and displays: ‘Bang The Squirrel Slowly II: A 7 dog headed octopus falls for the orginal squirrels Japanese half sister.’

The robot raises it’s gun again. “It is futile. All books have been written except for 5. You will be eradicated.”

“Wait? What?” I stammer. “All but five? Originally you said all books have been written. Now your saying five haven’t. What five?”

The Robot lowers it’s gun. “The sacred five. They have been turned into movies. We show only the scared five on television.”

A dumb look has to cross my face. “Are you saying Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is one of the sacred five?”


“And there is no novel form of the movie?”

“Yes, only a screenplay. ”

I scratched my head, “Well then I’m your man to do that!”

The Robot raises his gun and fires. The laser hits me square in the chest knocking me back. I fall as I feel the burning of my heart and lungs inside my chest. I see the Robot standing over me. It bends over to my face. I can barely see it’s head as my eyes darken with death. I hear the robot say,

“We have already spared Steven King for that.”



Editor’s Note:

I awoke from a horrible dream drenched in sweat and drool the other night. Of the dream I don’t remember, I only remember the echoing of these words as I arose from REM state, “We have already spared Steven King for that.”

Thus was the inspiration for that stupid story.


How To Fly Home In Twenty One Steps

26 Sep
{This is an email from my Mom about her trip from Ireland to Ohio. You’ll feel as exhausted reading it as you imagine she was living it.}
{I added the pictures.}
When no one wants to get you back to the States……
 First…..heavy fog in Manchester grounds Aer Lingus commuter planes in Cork and Shannon….because they cannot land in fog…..no computers on the little planes.  So we sit in the plane for over an hour and a half.   They did give us free water!   Aer Lingus charges for everything.  Fell asleep on the flight.
{The name of the Irish airline company: Aer Lingus makes me laugh. I know it’s childish…but come on!}
Second…land in Manchester  after circling for a while and while sitting in the plane waiting to go to the gate…..see my connecting A A flight taxiing down the runway……
Third….ask where AA is…..in Terminal 3….we landed in Terminal 1.  Walk extremely fast to 3 and find AA desk…too bad for me!!  That was the last AA flight of the day.  Aer Lingus has to rebook …AA would have to charge….AL not because it was their fault.  Their desk of course is in Terminal 1.   Hike back.
{*Snicker….Aer Lingus}
Four….hunt for Aer Lingus desk…..find AL signs about size of carry ons….but no desk.  Start over….no luck.  Ask a housekeeping lady and she sends me back to the second bank of desks.,…..see Meintz ( or something like that )…..they handle several airlines including AL.   Very nice chap there.
{Spent too much time in Ireland Mom, your using the word chap!}
 Five…..chap thinks I may have to stay over….noooooo….ask about my checked bag.  He makes a call, they have it and someone will bring it to us….He hunts and finds me some flights home…..getting in at 11:30 PM.    I’ll take it!!   On British Airways…..in yep,  Terminal 3.  He helps me with the big suitcase……and we hike back.  Luckily it is a “parfect” day as the Irish say….so all the walking back and forth is not in rain but nice sunshine!
{That picture is my version of a chap}
Six…..a nice man  ( looks and acts like Gupta from “Outsourced”)….there they work the touch screen kiosk for you, change my seat to the very last one in the plane to get an aisle seat…..get to counter and present itinerary and get boarding passes…..good bye checked bag.    Ask where the computers are…..find them, 2 men from somewhere in the world are using them.  Finally one is finished.  Drop 3 Pounds and contact those who need to know things have changed.  Only way of contacting those who need to know of the changes…… ( In England the gates of departure are not posted until 1 hour before leaving.  You go to the “lounge” or holding pen to wait….or you can shop in the many, many stores in the terminals.)
{Never watched ‘Outsourced’. I hope that is Gupta because looking at that picture makes me laugh}
Seven……on the way to the holding pen,  stopped to get something to eat….it is now about noon and I am hungry.  I have a 3 Pound voucher which the place will not take….so pay $4 American for a very good fruit salad….very fresh.
Eight….off to the holding pen.  Finally the gate is posted and off to the gate for my 1:25 PM departure.
{Those are sheep in the picture if you can’t make it out}
Nine….air bus to London with tons of flight attendants for a 65 minute flight….very nice roomy plane.  Had some sparkling water and some sort of Indian chips…good.  Decided I did not want flat or still water….needed a “treat”!! (Flat or still water is just plain water…..) Fell asleep on this flight.  Great view of London from the plane…..and people across from me were giving their friend a “tour”….very helpful to me too as I looked out.  ( Ireland was definitely green but England is brown!)
{Having to work with many Brits myself, you can also treat yourself to fizzy water like Perrier. And apparently Lay’s sells potato chips in India…or did you mean Native American?}
Ten….arrive in Heathrow on time!!!  Go to the massive holding pen…..and wait.   All times are posted in military times….so have to watch for 17:10.
Eleven…..BA has 3 gate areas….A, B and C.  There are times posted for how long it takes to get to the gates…..C  takes 20 minutes….hmmm…..1 hour leeway with gates closing 20 minutes before departure…that is clearly posted on boarding passes.  Customer service woman says…there is no way to know which gate….they have to shuffle planes all the time and do not know where they will end up.  Suggests I stay there in the general holding pen.
{Baaaaa! Baaaaa!}
Twelve……when gate shows up…..of course it is C…..so off to find the shuttle….get to the gate and on board……got the last seat because it was an aisle seat…..and I did not want to be in the middle of the 3 sections of 3 seats.  Only 2 seats in the rear.  Close to a rest rooms and the galley…..we got served first.  Had the seat changed with “Gupta”.
Thirteen….nice plane roomy.   Good dinner….and a sandwich toward landing time.  Kept the drinks coming….again a huge cabin crew…..got some sleep…..but not much.  Lost my passport….seat mate went to the rest rooms and when he came back…must have dropped it on the floor.  We were filling out our customs forms.  He found it between our seats when the full lights came on.  Whew!!
{My Mom is not a drinker, so me adding the martini to her statement of ‘Kept the drinks coming’ is now even funnier than before.}
Fourteen….land at Dulles 30 minutes late….headwinds.   Had a 2 hour time frame to catch the next plane  but now an hour and a half time frame.   US Customs for Americans as well as non citizens was very busy and of course another journey to get there….get thru with no trouble….get checked bag with no trouble……then off to find US Airways…..time is running out.  The girl who sent you to the officers told someone ahead of me that this day had been unusually busy.  Going right along with my luck!
Fifteen…..find the desk with some help from air port workers….it is closed.  Have to fly United….which turned out to be the flight.  United desk at the very end.   Tick…tick…tick….people emptying there stuff over weight, foreign family having to spend night….finally get there.  Oh dear I am so late, not sure she can get me on, might have to spend the night….beg!! ….bag not checked thru….oh the Brits….no liking for them on her part…..  I beg….so goes ahead and checks the bag……good news the TSA machine is right there….bad news…the gate is far away….The bag guys put mine on ahead of the huge pile up of luggage.  Thank them.
{What a nice chap.}
Sixteen….time is running out….find the C gate….go thru security that is taking its good old time….tell them I am going to miss my plane….so they X-ray me….guess I was too antsy. 3 people going thru…..but they were on night time,  I guess……middle eastern looking girl gets the full service…and a bag needs examined!!  Good Grief!!  I have been thru 2 other security checks  that day with no trouble….welcome home!!
{Side note: There are no funny x-ray pictures on the internet that do not involve insertions of foreign objects in places they should not go…you know…just in case anyone was wondering….}
Seventeen…find the shuttle…the only rider but can’t leave until the appointed time as we sat there for the 3 minutes before leaving….terribly long ride…….get to the C gate with 15 minutes to spare.
{I know she said she was the only rider, but these guys look so happy in their little airport shuttle picture! Probably because they did not fly Aer Lingus.}
Eighteen ….after much power walking   all day long end up running to the gate….of course far down from the shuttle area……the gate attendant is falling asleep on his feet…..says I am the last passenger…..but I did make it despite all the of the snags. Nineteen….storage bins full….so my Carry on bag is tagged and sent below.   Whew!!  Have flat water….oops in the States…had water.
Twenty….land on time at Columbus….again “100 miles” from baggage claim.  Hit the restroom…no time in DC,,,,,bags come fairly fast on a carousel that says it is a United flight from  Vegas….but our bags were there.  Both of mine did make it….whew.
{Your lucky that whole stays in Vegas thing didn’t happen with your bags}
Twenty-one……lots of cabs available and homeward bound.   Got in at 12:30…….yea. That is saga of getting home from the UK!!   No one can say I did not get my exercise yesterday…..with walking, running and weight lifting!!
Must have walked/ran at least 5 miles maybe more!! 
{Glad to have you home. Love ya Mom!}