Al Batt: Watching cricket races while thinking about flutophones and eating some Twinkies

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

Al Batt

The garage door opener is a wonderful invention.

I used to have to get out of my car in the pouring rain and dodge lightning bolts while I yelled, “Lower the drawbridge” or “Open sesame” before grunting the door open manually. No more.

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I pressed the garage door opener and the door lifted as I sat comfortably in my car and marveled that the door knew where to go and when to stop.

The door’s brush seal had barely left the floor when an orchestra of field crickets came out of the bristles like the ghost players at the Field of Dreams and rushed into the garage. There must have been a back-to-school sale inside. Field crickets are the black or dark brown insects that make the quintessential cricket chirp by rubbing their wings together in a process called stridulation. That action results in chirping, chafing and cramping. Crickets are kept as pets in many countries, so I’d saved myself a bundle at Fish and Cheeps Pet Shop.

Back-to-school sales were fun and no fun. I didn’t gallop off like a cricket toward them. Shopping for school supplies was fun. The school sent each student a list of things needed. The No. 2 pencils (they were splendid and should have been the No. 1 pencils) came in a plastic roll-top case with a crappy plastic handheld pencil sharpener. I preferred using the pencil sharpeners the school provided in each classroom. I needed to raise my hand and ask my teacher, “May I sharpen my pencil, please?” The sharpener was mounted on the wall and required me to hand-crank it like a mini-Gatling gun to bring the pencil to a proper point. Sharpening a pencil was a great way to kill an hour.

I needed lots of pink erasers because mistakes would be made. My pens advertised a bank, implement dealer, seed corn company, insurance company or hatchery.

I began my school career with Big Chief writing tablets and advanced to spiral notebooks. In grade school, I learned to play a flutophone, which required no stridulation. My teacher reminded me daily that it wasn’t a percussion instrument. I was an action figure. In high school, I learned to forget how to play a flutophone.

Then there was the shopping required for me to make a fashion statement. No fun. I needed to adhere to a dress code. Despite my objections, that required new pants, shirts, socks, underwear, shoes, a winter coat, rubber boots and the jacket Mother kept reminding me to take. She was good at picking out the best things for me and I had little input other than being cooperative when trying things on and keeping my whimpering to a minimum.

I didn’t need a lunch pail with the Lone Ranger and the great horse Silver on it. If I required a pail, I’d use one of the 5-gallon variety scattered about the farm. That’d be perfect for me because my mother was a marvelous cook and I had a thing for Twinkies. Why have a lunch pail when the school fed me as if they were fattening me for market?

I should have gotten a bus pillow as our driver never missed hitting a pothole. Mother refused to get me a cellphone. She used the lame excuse that they hadn’t been invented yet. Mothers, right?

Mom shopped as much as possible in the small town nearest our farm for the things to enhance my school experience and I got clothing from relatives who had outgrown it, but back-to-school shopping took us 10 miles one way or 16 miles in the opposite direction and involved stores like Montgomery Ward, J. C. Penney and the Put It Back Store.

I gave my teacher a gift on the first day of grade school each year. What do you get someone with eyes on the back of her head and deer ears? Food that Mom had baked, that’s what. I gave my teacher a gift because my parents had concluded that my best chance of getting through school was to suck up to my teachers.

Back to the cricket races. They weren’t hurrying to a back-to-cricket-school sale.

They were on their way to an important cricket match.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday in the Tribune.