My longtime friend, Ron Koch, who has written for H&FC from its very first issue, way back in November of 1999, didn’t always write about decoys. He often wrote about people – real people, but characters who were a little bit different, a little bit strange, and often a little bit funny. I guess as publisher of this magazine, I really don’t have to justify what I write in my very own column, but I’ll use Ron as an excuse for the content of this present declaration which has absolutely nothing in the world to do with decoys or rods and reels, or vintage guns, or anything at all connected to hunting or fishing.
In 1889 Rudyard Kipling published a poem, the first line of which declared, “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” His poem, so the literary critics say, had roots in historical and socio-political events; but I’m not interested in them. I just want to pick up on his “East is East, and West is West” line. We live in a very scientifically, sophisticated world today that has made it possible for us to no longer be concerned about whether East is really East, or West, or maybe even North or South. We have GPS – Global Positioning System! We just Google-up the cell phone Genie and tell it where we want to go…. And Whamo! We get instant visual and audio instruction for how to get there.
Gas stations (We used to call them Service Stations) used to give out free state road maps. No longer! Who needs them? We’re not focused on going North for 45 miles and then East for 17 more. All we have to do is follow the Google Wizard’s “Yellow Brick Road.” Who cares about East or West? A writer for H&FC once joked about his trip from Texas to hunting grounds in North Dakota and said, “It was good to discover that you pass through Kansas and Nebraska on the way from Texas to the Dakotas.” He was joking, of course, but his joke actually had a sharp edge. A whole generation of Americans has lost the knowledge, geographically speaking, of what’s “in between” where they started from and where they are going. Sad case. Too bad.
But there’s more! More what? I’m going to call them “Knowledge Vacancies.” First example: A few months ago I took our SUV to the dealership for its periodic checkup. I had noticed that the front left parking light had a problem, like, not working. So I mentioned the fact to the suit-and-tie attired young Service Representative. “Which one?” he asked. “Front left,” I said. He was silent for a moment and then said, “Is that from the driver’s seat or from standing in front of the car? For a second I thought he was joking or being a smart a__. But just then he repeated his question, “From inside the car, or outside looking at the front?”
Not being “a man of few words,” I launched into a detailed explanation of the SUV’s anatomy. I said, “Look, here’s the deal. A car is just like a person; it has a left side and a right side. In the U.S. the steering wheel is on the car’s left side. It doesn’t matter whether you are IN the car, in FRONT of the car, BEHIND the car, ON TOP of the car, or even UNDERNEATH the car, the side with the steering wheel is the car’s left side.” The Service Rep seemed somewhat dazed by my passionate outburst. I searched his facial expression in order to gage whether he was now enlightened, confused, or just bored with my bombast. He didn’t say anything. I thought he looked rather numb, but I may have confused numb with dumb.
I reflected on the whole thing later as I was driving home. I could have told him a lot more, but I didn’t. Maybe I should have. I could have told him, “If you get confused with the left/right designations, you could refer to the ‘Driver side’ and the ‘Passenger side.’” And then, too, maybe I should have told him that in England the left side would actually be the Passenger side since the steering wheel there is on the right side. Ah, well, maybe I told him enough; I was just trying to help.
Then just last week Deb dispatched me to a certain Drive-Thru food place to pick up a quart of cole slaw. You may think that’s a lot of cole slaw for just the two of us… And it is… or would be, if you were thinking that we would eat it all up at a single seating. But, you see, we were thinking more along the line of eating it over a period of time. I don’t mean a long period of time, but, you know, maybe over or 3 or 4-day period. But I digress. The thing is, I told Deb that I would do it; and I was pretty sure I could. Who couldn’t order a quart of cole slaw at a drive-in restaurant.
So, when I got my turn at the speaker-phone, the “Order Here” station (if you can really call it a station), I told the voice at the other end of the line (or whatever it is that gets the customer’s voice to the Order-Taker inside), “No, I don’t want the Day’s Special triple-decker, double bacon, and all-beef burger combo. No, I just want a quart of cole slaw.” (Pause) “A quart of cole slaw. Is that all you want? That’s a lot of slaw, you know.” “Yes, that’s all I want.” (Pause) “Drive to the next window, please.”
So, I arrived at the next window, payed my money, and watched the young lady disappear into a crowded kitchen. Sooner than I had imagined, she returned with a small plastic foam cup with a lid on it. It looked, to my trained eye, exactly like a one-pint container. She looked at me and said, “There you are!” I said, “That’s not a quart.” She said: “Yes it is.” I said: No way: that’s not a quart!” She replied, “Weighs 16 ounces; It’s a quart all right!” I said: “Sixteen ounces is a pound, but it is not a quart. Weight and volume are two different things.”
Now she began to look at me with a frustrated expression. “Well,” she said, “It’s a quart, but we don’t call it a quart or pint here. We just have ‘Large’ and ‘Small.’” I could tell she didn’t want to discuss the matter further, so I said, “Well, just give me another one of those.” She looked at me and said, “That’ll be 2 pounds, you know. Each one holds 16 ounces.” “Yes,” I said, “You’re right. It will be two pounds and one quart. That’s just what I need.”
I tried hard not to stare at her order-window as I pulled away, but like Lot’s wife in the Old Testament, I just had to turn my head and look baok. I’m fully certain that she was standing there shaking her head. I wished I could have been more help to her by way of explaining the difference between weight and volume measurements. Maybe another day.
Then just yesterday evening I was at the meat counter in a local supermarket. My mission was Salmon fillets. I told the friendly young guy behind the display case, “The two at the front, please.” He smiled and replied, “At the front for you? Or at the back here by me?” I swallowed a quick, meditative, calming swallow. “The two in the front of the case by me,” I said; and he replied, “OK, sure!”
I guess if there’s a “bottom line” to this rambling recital, it would have to be that… Oftentimes the things that are clearest and most fully understood by one person are yet mystifying to someone else. “But you, Dear Reader, feel free to conclude whatever you choose. I bid you a most pleasant journey over the next two months until we meet again on this same page.”