Month: February 2006

  • Thursday, February 16, 2006


    Why my Wife and I Have Cell Phones


    In 1977, Mari and I lived in Silvercreek, Washington with our six-month-old son Brennon. We lived on an isolated, twenty acre piece of land in a little five room farmhouse that shook when you walked across the floor.


    Silvercreek is about five miles down the road from Mossyrock, just fifty miles or so North of Mt St. Helens.


    In those early days of our marriage, we had only one car, a Dodge panel van; it was a hundred miles to the nearest airport. I was doing two concerts a week on a pretty regular basis, Friday and Saturday nights, so that meant leaving home early Thursday morning and not returning until late Sunday evening. That left Mari (no cell phone) stranded without a car for four days a week. We only knew two or three families living in the area and of course, there in southern Washington, it rained for weeks at a time without a break.


    It was early spring, and I was singing at a youth convention in Oshkosh Wisconsin. My part of the program ended on a Saturday night. I had been talking with Mari (no cell phone) on a land-line (that’s all we had in those days), and I knew she was really feeling alone, vulnerable, and abandoned. So I told her I’d try to catch an earlier flight the next morning and do my best to get home before dark.


    So, instead of leaving Oshkosh at 9:A.M., I left at 6:A.M. That meant I had to leave my hotel room at 4:30 to catch the shuttle to the airport. Not wanting to wake up my roommate, I didn’t even turn on the lights that morning. I just tiptoed around the room getting my stuff together and then quietly pulled the door shut behind me as I left.


    On the connector flight from Oshkosh to Chicago O’Hare, I realized I had left my van keys back in my hotel room. As soon as we landed, I called Mario, my roomy (no cell phone), to tell him about the keys, but he was already off into his day. So, I left a message for him at the desk, telling him what I had done and asked if he could send the keys out to the Portland Air Terminal (PDX) on the next flight. Then I called my concert coordinator, Jerry (no cell phone) Melrose, who lived in Los Angeles. I told him about my situation, and asked if he could follow up on my call to the hotel in Oshkosh and try to get my keys sent out to PDX. Then I called Mari (no cell phone), telling her all that had happened and I told her I would do my best to get home as soon as possible.


    They called my flight to Portland and off I flew.


    Upon my arrival at PDX I once again called the hotel in Oshkosh, trying to get in touch with (no cell phone) Mario. I was out of change, so I asked the operator if she would charge the call (no cell phone) to my home number. She went off line for a moment and then came back on saying, yes, the charge had been accepted, and my call was put through. Mario was still not in his room and nobody knew where he was. So I asked the desk attendant if anyone there had received a call from Melrose about my car keys.  He asked around and came back with a big “NO”, nobody knew anything about a phone call from a Jerry Melrose.


    So there I was, at the Portland Air Terminal, nearly a hundred miles from home with no keys to my van.


    I went out to the gas station located in the airport parking lot; and asked the attendant if he knew how to hot wire a car. He said, “no, he didn’t”.  I asked if I could use his phone (no cell phone) to call the Police station, maybe they could tell me how to get my car started. The Police told me they didn’t give out that kind of information. I told them I couldn’t find any car thieves listed in the phone book and that’s why I’d called them.  Then the officer got a bit snippety with me and that was the end of our conversation.


    The gas station manager had a thought saying, maybe his boss might know how to hot wire the car. So he gave him a call (no cell phone). Yes!  His boss came right over and wired up my car. Then using a screwdriver to short the starter motor, zoom, zoom my car was running. The only problem was I had to break the wind wing on the passenger’s door to gain access to the inside of the van, but hey, I was on my way home, so I really didn’t care.


    I pulled out onto I-5 heading north and I was one happy camper… thinking all my troubles were behind me; I was on my way home.


    Then it started to rain… Hard. A hard, hard, downpour. I couldn’t use my windshield wipers because my ignition wasn’t turned on. I could barely see where I was going so I thought I’d better turn on my headlights so no one would run into me. But because my van was hot wired, when I turned my lights on, a full charge from the alternator totally bypassing the voltage regulator, zapped its way into my electrical system through the light switch. Instantly, every light bulb in my van blew out. As soon as I saw the lights flaring I turned off the lights, but it was too late. The electrical surge had fused the points in the distributor and I was now running on two barely firing cylinders.


    Popity, popity, Chugady, pop, Chugady, pop, chug, chug. I was driving a doomed automobile and I knew it. The best I could do was get this thing off to the side of the road. As I pulled onto the apron, the rattling engine gave up the ghost and totally died.


    In order to try and restart the car I knew I’d be getting soaking wet in the downpour. So, I popped the hood, grabbed my screwdriver and opened the door. Just as I swung the door open, a big eighteen wheeler doin’ about sixty-five miles an hour went roaring past and the back draft caught my door and slammed it all the way forward, springing the hinges and warping the door.  So, now my driver’s side door is sprung and won’t close properly.  I get out of the van and slam the door shut half a dozen times trying to bend the hinges back so the door will stay closed. Then I’m off around the front of the van with my screw driver and start shorting out the starter motor, trying to get the engine running again. It’s like standing under a waterfall but I do get the engine, cough, cough, sputter, sputtering and I run around trying to get my foot on the gas peddle before the motor stops.  I’m pump, pump, pumping the peddle like crazy, the engine rattles and sputters and then it backfires to a stop. So I get a packing box from the back of the van and wedge it against the accelerator, grab my screwdriver and I’m back out in the rain doing my newly learned car starting trick. This time when it kicks over, it actually starts to rev up a bit, so I slam the hood and charge around leaping into the van slamming my right foot down on the accelerator and pop sputter pop I have a barely running engine and it’s five miles to the next off ramp. But I had just passed an off ramp so I decided to back up and exit off the on ramp.  It was still raining so hard I couldn’t see what I was backing into so I ran into the guardrail and wiped out the right side of my van.


    Finally, I got back on I-5 heading south and found a service station that was open. As I pulled into the parking area my van once again died a horrible coughing and wheezing death.


    I used their phone to call Mari (no cell phone) at home. She was worried sick, not knowing what had become of me. I found out that when I called Oshkosh and billed it to my home phone, the operator had phoned her and asked if she would accept a long distance charge from Barry McGuire. She said, yes she would, and then waited for me to say “hello”. She waited and waited.  She thought I was calling home.  I wasn’t, I was calling Oshkosh, but she didn’t know that.  She wanted to tell me that she had Kathy take a set of van keys to the Greyhound bus station and they were waiting for me at the Portland bus station. Also, Jerry Melrose had called her and asked if I had picked up the keys that were waiting for me at the United Baggage claim at PBX. He had reached Mario after all, and the keys had been sent out on the next flight to Portland.


    Mari called Kathy, asked if she would drive down to pick me up, and give me a ride home.


    I finally got home that night about midnight. Three days later, they called me and told me my van was ready for me to come and pick it up.


    And that’s why my wife and I have cell phones.


    That’s it for now.