I know I speak for millions when I admit to struggling with today’s ever-changing technology; I wouldn’t have been able to create this blog without my son’s help. Years ago I attempted to write a spy novel and most of the gadgets I invented for my spooks are now in the hands of high schoolers. But I can recall a time before smart phones, iPads and laptops, when I was ten and thought the coolest gadget to own was a walkie talkie.
An ad in a ratty magazine I pinched from our barber shop offered a genuine wireless walkie talkie for only $1.39, a reasonable price for a device sure to make me the coolest kid in the neighborhood. I had 90 cents hidden in a cigar box under my bed. Not enough, so I hit up my older brother David for the rest.
“Hell no,” he said. “Real walkie talkies cost a bundle. If this thing costs less than two bucks it must be a piece of crap.”
“But look at the ad,” I said, handing it to him. “It says, ‘No Wires.’ C’mon, I promise I’ll pay you back.”
His answer was still, “N-O!”
Danny Holloway across the street financed the rest with a fifty cent piece his grandpa gave him for his birthday, after first extracting the promise that I’d let him keep one of the handsets at his house, which only seemed fair.
I filled out the tattered order form and dumped the $1.39 into an envelope, addressed it—which would have been easier before sealing all that lumpy change inside—and dropped the envelope in a nearby mailbox.
Then I waited.
Waited some more.
It felt like an eternity, but in just over three weeks a parcel arrived for me. I’d expected a hefty package, but this one was light as a box of Q-tips. I tore it open. Inside, I found a walkie talkie constructed from two tin cans connected, not by wire, but with stretchy string. David was right. What a rip off!
I slinked across the street to show it to Danny. He tried to put a positive spin on it. Examining one of the cans he admitted, “These sure don’t look like the walkie talkies in war movies, but they still might work.”
He held on to a can while I carried the other one back to my side of the street. With the string stretched tight between us, I yelled into mine, “Testing, one…two…three…” We were close enough to hear each other without listening devices.
Just as Danny was about to say something, the tin cans shot out of our hands. With a loud clattering sound, the cans and string wrapped around the bumper of the police car we hadn’t noticed cruising down our street. The cop inside must have though he was under fire. He hit the brakes and jumped out with his hand on his gun.
That day I learned that $1.39 isn’t enough to purchase coolness, but it is enough to teach you how to run like hell!