An alarm may be annoying but, face it, most alarms are your friend. The alarm clock in the morning - without which you'd lose your job. The smoke detector. The fire alarm. Now most us don't carry an alarm with us, but for some people, it's a very positive idea. Recently, my wife was in a nursing home on an errand of mercy when suddenly this loud alarm went off. Immediately, a nurse came running to a door where she intercepted one of their elderly residents who was headed for that door. The manager explained that some of their residents are afflicted with serious memory loss or disorientation, so much so, that they have left the building and wandered off, not knowing where they were - including right into the middle of the road! So the woman who triggered the alarm has been fitted with a special bracelet - one that triggers an alarm whenever she is on the edge of a possible danger zone. Apparently, she does remember what the alarm is for. When it went off, she instinctively stopped where she was. That alarm could literally save her life.
If you don't know how to swim, it's just not cool to let your friends know it - and it's just not smart not to. Especially if you're going into the lake with them to swim. This is not theory we're talking here. It's history - my history. The scene was Lake Michigan. The ten-year-old who couldn't swim was me. And I was too proud to tell my friends. Suddenly, as I waded deeper and deeper, I lost my footing, and I began drinking the lake. My friends thought it was funny. They just laughed and said, "Look at Ronnie. He's such a clown!" I was dying. I had gone under for the second time - and I can almost feel the terror of that moment even now as I'm telling you about it. Now obviously something happened or I wouldn't have lived to tell you about it. I was helpless. I couldn't contribute a thing to my getting back to shore. Thankfully, someone came who could. And that rescuer did it all.
As a New York Knicks basketball fan, I've had some victories and some play-off games to cheer for. But I've had my share of disappointments, too. And too many of them have come at the hands of one particular opponent - a player named Reggie Miller. This man has done more to stop my team than just about anybody I can think of because something happens to this man in a close game, when there's suddenly just a minute or two left. He's on fire! He may or may not have had a lot of points earlier in the game, but somehow he seems to save his best for last. With time running out, Reggie suddenly becomes a scoring machine, making fantastic shots, often scoring enough points to send my team home for the season. Any player is a powerful force when he knows the end is near and lights up to makes a difference!
There are two words that will inevitably cause a look of excitement to appear on any face in our family - Ocean City. That's the name of this charming town on the Jersey shore where our family has made a lot of memories over the years. Not long ago, several of us rendezvoused there for a couple of days of time together and making a few more memories. As I was riding my bike along the boardwalk there, I passed some Herculean young men, jogging the boards. Their shirts had four letters on them: OCBP. That's Ocean City Beach Patrol. Actually, they recently celebrated their centennial - not the young joggers, but the Beach Patrol itself. A century ago, as Ocean City was becoming a tourist mecca, the number of drownings began to increase. So, the Beach Patrol was formed. They have a record to be proud of. In 100 years, they have never lost anyone at a guarded beach. Now I do remember a time some years ago when a young Amish woman drowned in the Atlantic Ocean, but that was on an unguarded beach.
Florida has many beautiful things about it - great beaches, great theme parks, great weather. But to be perfectly honest, it is not one of the most exciting states to drive across. We're talking about terminal flatness here. There's nothing wrong with the South Florida landscape that a nice mountain, or even a hill, wouldn't help. Well, in West Palm Beach there is one. A hill, that is. It actually rises to the breathtaking height of 55 feet above sea level. My assistant Gayle has a sister in that area who loves to go hiking on and around this beautiful hill. It's wonderfully landscaped, there's some water there, some biking, hiking, jogging trails, recreational areas. Now anyone who knows the topography of South Florida would wisely ask, "Where did this hill come from?" Garbage. Yup. This lovely spot used to be an ugly, old landfill. But someone had the brilliant idea of making something useful, something even beautiful of what had just been a lot of garbage.
Remember the first day of school when you were little? New crayons, new pencils with sharp points, a new notebook with nothing written in it, maybe even some clothes you'd never worn before. Then as you get older, that first day of school means there are no grades in the teacher's book yet, no absences, no tardies - it's a nice feeling. Actually, you can have, in a sense, a lifetime of those first days!
As our kids were growing up, Saturday was always chore day at the Hutchcraft house. It was the day we got our leaves raked and bagged, rooms got cleaned - or hosed out like a monkey cage - it was the day the garage got dug out, the dirty clothes got clean, broken things got fixed, you know. Now it wasn't that kids jumped out of bed on Saturday morning saying, "What do you have for me to do today, Dad?" No, Saturday mornings often involved some delicate labor negotiations - especially when it came to someone getting a job that meant more time and more dirty work than some of the others. That child might say, "I don't want to do Job A. I want Job B." To which I would reply, "I pay the allowances and the bonuses around here. (See, usually there was extra pay for extra work). Don't forget lesson #1 of working - you don't pick your jobs. The person who pays you decides the jobs you'll do."
Ahhh, Laurie. She may have been my first romantic crush. It was 7th grade - I was insecure (that's a synonym for 7th grade) and I didn't know how she felt about me. So one day I went to the store, I spent all the money I had - which wasn't much - on a little rhinestone necklace. And then I wrote this mushy little note to Laurie and put it in an envelope with that necklace. The next day, as I was sitting in study hall, (the only class we had together), I smelled that perfume. I knew Laurie was approaching. I handed her that love-filled envelope, which she took with her to her desk. The next day - study hall, approach of the killer perfume - my heart was beating out of my chest. Then, as Laurie went by, something very familiar appeared on my desk. It was that envelope - with the necklace and the note inside. Ouch. Of course, it didn't really bother me that much. Then why am I talking about it so many years later?
"They had to use the paddles on him." Now that sounds like something we might say about an exasperated parent's response to an out-of-control child. But the paddles we're talking about here were the ones they used on our neighbor recently when he was rushed to the hospital with a heart attack. His wife said they saved his life by using the "paddles" on him. Actually, what they used was a device called a defibrillator. Now you see why most people call them the paddles. The defibrillator has two paddles that, after they are placed on the patient's chest, generate a strong electric jolt to restart the heart. More and more ambulances are carrying them and more and more emergency medical technicians are being trained to use them. Even commercial airliners are beginning to have them on board. When the heart stops, something has to be done to get it going again - even if it takes a big jolt.
My wife accuses me of being a creature of habit. I prefer to think of myself as "structured," you know. But I do exhibit some behaviors that are a bit compulsive. I don't think I'm dangerous, though. For example, it does not matter what time I get in from the airport or the interstate after a trip, there is one thing I will do before I got to bed. I will unpack. Sure, it's 2:00 A.M., but I will get everything back to its proper place. An unpacked suitcase will pursue me all night long if I don't. Now sometimes my sweet wife will try to inject a little common sense by simply asking, "Why not unpack tomorrow?" Of course, she doesn't know that's totally illogical. I'm not home until I'm unpacked. Neither are your children.