Sunday, August 18, 2019

"Pooling Our Resources"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Now that we are in the dog days of summer, and the heat makes dogs pant so much that they don’t even wear pants, it can safely be said that most people would give their right arms for a pool, which kind of defeats the purpose because they’d end up swimming in circles.

Nonetheless, a pool not only provides watery fun for homeowners — as well as their neighbors, who may or may not have been invited for a swim and often refuse to leave, causing the owners to either call the cops or put the house on the market — but it is a sure sign of status.

This leads neighbors without such luxuries to ask the following questions:

How can the Zezimas afford a pool?

Why don’t they invite us for a swim?

And, most pertinent, what the hell is gunite?

According to Merriam-Webster, who has a dictionary-shaped pool, gunite is “a building material consisting of a mixture of cement, sand and water that is sprayed onto a mold” and is used in luxury swimming pools.

I don’t want to brag, because the neighbors might hear me, but we have not one, not two, but three pools.

That they are of the kiddie variety is beside the point.

The kiddies are my granddaughters Chloe, 6, and her sister, Lilly, 2 and a half, who love to frolic in four inches of grass-flecked water while my wife, Sue, and I sit poolside in rickety beach chairs, attired stylishly in saggy T-shirts and ketchup-stained shorts while quaffing lukewarm summer ales straight out of the bottle, a sure sign of status.

Instead of gunite, these pools are made of good, old-fashioned, earth-destroying plastic and come in small, medium and large.

The biggest is 70 inches across and is lined with pictures of dinosaurs, which probably reminds the kids of their grandparents. It is filled not with special water from massive delivery trucks used by the rich and famous for their elaborate pools, but with what comes out of a garden hose. It is invariably cold enough to give a walrus pneumonia.

We use an energy-efficient heating system powered by either the sun or, if it is playing peekaboo with the clouds, boiled water from a teakettle.

Whereas the elite surround their pools with sophisticated landscaping that includes colorful pavers, sculpted rocks and finely manicured hillocks, we have a natural look featuring a broken walkway that hasn’t been repaired in more than a dozen years.

On one side is monstrous vegetation that includes an out-of-control holly bush, two ugly hydrangeas and Sue’s garden, which has so far produced only a handful of hot peppers and even fewer tomatoes. On the other side is an above-ground oil tank that is utterly useless for heating pool water.

You may have seen how Hollywood stars adorn their pools with elaborate waterfalls or artificial geysers that shoot water high enough to splash their private jets.

We have a little round sprinkler with plastic flowers. It sends water about 10 feet into the air. The girls like to run under the falling spray, which sometimes gets cut off if there is a kink in the hose. It is my job to fix the problem and get soaked in the process.

This vastly amuses my granddaughters, who then want me to stand in ankle-deep pool water with them and play with their toys. These aren’t battleship-size floats but squirt guns and action figures we otherwise keep in a soggy shopping bag.

For the girls’ next pool party, Sue has gone all out and bought a box of ice pops. The neighbors, I am sure, will be jealous.

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, August 4, 2019

"Don't Call Me, I'll Call You"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
As a man who has always had a lot of hang-ups about the telephone, especially since the only people who want to talk with me are scammers and telemarketers, I wouldn’t be sorry to know that Alexander Graham Bell is spending eternity being bombarded with robocalls.

It used to be that all you needed to know about the telephone was that you said “hello” when you picked it up and “goodbye” when you put it down. Now you have to take a class to learn how to use the latest system.

That’s why I recently found myself, along with about two dozen colleagues, in the auditorium at work to get a crash course in the “softphones” we would soon be using.

The phones are soft not because they are made of Silly Putty, which would at least make them fun, if a bit messy since they’d stick to our ears, but because they don’t, physically, exist.

According to two very nice IT guys named Brenden and Vinny, who conducted the class, the phones will be embedded in our computers.

“You won’t have phones on your desks anymore,” Brenden told the group.

“If you want to make or receive a call,” Vinny added, “you’ll have to do it on-screen.”

I raised my hand.

“If I’m doing something on the computer and a call comes in, I have to stop, right?” I asked.

“Yes,” Brenden said.

“So if I’m on the phone all day,” I wondered, “does that mean I don’t have to do any work?”

“I guess so,” Vinny replied.

“That’s all I wanted to know,” I said to the appreciative chuckles of my co-workers.

One of them, Christine, who works in advertising, sat next to me.

“Let’s exchange phone numbers,” I said.

“If I talked with you all day, I wouldn’t make any sales and I’d lose my job,” Christine noted.

“If I lost my job,” I countered, “nobody would notice.”

“What do you do?” she asked.

“As little as possible,” I told her.

Someone else asked a question that, unlike mine, was actually pertinent: “If I’m having computer problems and need technical support, how am I supposed to call you?”

Brenden and Vinny looked at each other.

“We haven’t quite figured that out,” said Vinny.

“Call us on your cellphone,” Brenden suggested.

Christine leaned over to me and said, “So we need two phones to replace the one we’re losing.”

“Modern technology marches on!” I responded.

The technology is named Cisco Jabber. According to an online dictionary, which I couldn’t use if I were on the phone, jabber means to “talk rapidly and excitedly but with little sense.”

“I do that even when I’m not on the phone,” I told Christine, who smiled politely but did not disagree.

Brenden and Vinny used a large screen to show us the new system, which was pretty impressive. A week after they finished the employee classes, the system went live, though we still, for now, have our old phones, too.

That gave me a chance to call myself. I put on my headset, logged on to Jabber on my computer, punched in the number of my desk phone and clicked. My desk phone rang. I picked it up.

“Hello?” I said in a loud, clear voice. “Oh, it’s me. How are you? Slacking off again, I see. Don’t you have any work to do or are you going to stay on the phone all day?”

My colleagues stopped what they were doing, which included the work I wasn’t doing, and listened.

“Well,” I continued, “I have to go. It’s time for a coffee break. Bye!”

Then I called Christine, but she didn’t answer. I guess she was on her new softphone, making a sale. It beats talking with me all day.

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima