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Robert A. Mills

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CELL PHONE
10/22/2011 3:24:00 PM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

Youngest daughter Alex* called via her iPhone to tell me she near the house in Marietta, and I should open the garage door. She was visiting for the weekend with 8-month old grandson Hutson* to assist her mother “T”*, her aunt Sue-Sue* and oldest niece Nicky* host a bridal shower for the other niece Emily*.

Reminded me of the time in the late ‘80s a guy named Frank Holman** called me up and asked if I’d like to try out a new cell phone. Cell phone? I had no idea what he was talking about.

“What’s a cell phone?” I asked.

“The opposite of a landline, of course,” he said, like I was some sort of Cretin from another planet. “No cost or obligation — just use it for a few weeks and report back what you think of it. The day’s coming, you know, when everyone will have one.”

“Yeah,” I mumbled. “Sure it is.” Anyway, the price was right, so why not?

Motorola manufactured the device; it was about the size of a WWII field radio. The battery recharger looked like my mother-in-law’s Mix Master. I agreed to give it a shot, and although I owned but one jacket with a pocket big enough to hold it, I took it with me everywhere and called friends and relatives so frequently they said, “Why do you keep calling me, you dummy!” and hung up.

As I was enamored by the novelty of the machine, I kept it near my ear. I became a special source of curiosity at the RIT ice rink, Howard Johnson’s, Dunkin Donuts and Carvel’s bakery and ice cream store where little Alex and I habitually hung out on weekends.

My ad agency was prospering back then. I had twenty-three accounts including two auto agencies and a major furniture store, and I was making money hand-over-fist. I phoned my clients several times an hour — from my office, my car, from the bathroom. My travel agencies had been sold off, and I was well rid of the broadcasting burdens; my wife and I had installed a swimming pool at Maison d’Fonthill in Brighton, and Alex was just getting her feet wet, so to speak, in ballet. Life was good.

Lazy and bored, I became an advertising account exec with a local agency that soon became affiliated with Roger Lemay** and his broad-based industries. Lemay called me into his office one day and said he was moving the ad agency to Atlanta. “You wanna go, too?” he offered.

Did I! It was just the opportunity I had been waiting for! On May 15, 1993 I packed up my Cadillac and headed south. Alex (then age 8) and her mother were not thrilled. The cell phone, barely used and badly damaged as the result of a tumble I took at the ice rink, was returned to its rightful owner in pieces. “This thing will never fly,” I told him. “Too heavy and cumbersome. It’ll never replace Ma Bell’s wired horn.”

“Yeah,” he said, staring in dismay at the broken parts. “We’ll see.”

This was the culmination of my many years in Western New York. The decades in radio and TV came to an end in the mid-70s when the station sold out to a greeting card company. “You guys make too much money,” the new owner, Les Diamond**, said. “When your contracts expire, we will not renew — unless you agree to a one-third cut in pay. Whaddya say to that?”

“How about ‘goodbye’?” was my snappy comeback.

I was replaced by someone named Francis Johnson**, a good looking youngster who spoke passable English with a midwestern twang, a person of limited experience and who knew nothing about meteorology (not that any of us did back then,) but unquestionably more attractive than my anchor, Tom Decker*, or me. Decker and I had ratings they told us exceeded the other channels’ combined. Once we were gone, the numbers tanked and, to my knowledge, never came back— to this day. C’est la vie.

Decker went to work for the National Safety Council in Chicago; we are both now retired octogenarians; he lives in Florida and I reside in Georgia. I have no idea what became of Melrose, but it’s a safe bet broadcasting was not a paramount career.

My home here in metro Atlanta is, by my standards, much nicer and more comfortable than Maison d’Fonthill. We have been here for eighteen years now, and both my wife and daughter have graduated from prestigious colleges. Alex is now married to another University of Georgia alumnus, a dentist named Phillip Faucette*, and they have a baby son named Hutson*.

Since my first novel, THE BETTER ANGELS, was published in 2000, I have written five more. I have gone through a handful of agents, and I’m entertaining the idea of one or two others. I have yet to find the one who deserves me. I am in no hurry.

These op-ed columns absorb the majority of my time. I wander into my basement office each day about 9 AM, armed with a bowl of cereal; I work here at my keyboard until 5 or 6. By late afternoon seven days a week I might crank out as many as 5,000 words. Not bad for a curmudgeon pushing 81.

I am in remarkably good health, except for the malfunction of my right hand. All the MD’s I have seen are in a quandary, even after multiple MRIs and brain scans, suggesting I may have had a mini-stroke or been stricken with the onslaught of Parkinson’s disease or MS (all of which turned out negative and none is plausible.)

I have no pain or discomfort other than the frustration of not being able to hold a pen, button my shirt, tie a tie, slip on my socks or zip up my fly. I have taught myself to type with my left hand, and I have lost twenty pounds due to my inability to cut meat or open a bottle. It could be worse.

Currently, I am seeing a chiropractor Brian*, and I am seriously considering (thanks to my friend David Roberts*) acupuncture. As for the former, the jury is not only out, it is sequestered in the Land of Hopeful Results. I will be surprised and gratified if he can do anything for me, but he is, after all, my nephew-in-law by marriage — it’s easier to humor the in-laws and outlaws even when I suspect otherwise.

Who knows? He has the benefit of the doubt; I will keep an open mind. Maybe he can actually help. I’ll let you know. Anyway, there’s always the Chinese.

*a real name
**NOT a real name


Copyright©2011 by Robert A. Mills, all rights reserved


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She Waits in Atlantis by Will Clark

In this sequel to The Atlantis Crystal, Digger and Jeannie flee from unknown assailants while they try to solve a seven thousand year old mystery...  
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