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Sunday, July 7, 2013


The Fourth of July weekend started to wind down on Monday.  A lot of people had left town, and there were more heading out at the beginning of the week.  Most of our phone calls and emails started with the usual, 'This must be served by.....', and as usual, everyone's crises became our drama.  Anyone who was 'still around' on Wednesday morning were even more surprised that we were not leaving town at lunchtime for the duration of the week.  

By Wednesday morning, Congress Avenue looked like it had been closed.  I was almost the lone car, on the roads of the capital, of the Lone Star!  However, the remainder of the twenty five people left in town, took up all the parking spaces outside the courthouse!  I was, once again, on a mission!  On my second trip around the block, I found a space that had been vacated, and (dare I mention this) a ticket stuck to the parking payment meter, which still had two and a half hours worth of time on it!  (For the first time, I had come prepared with my car door magnets, but the commercial zone was full.)  I looked around, as one does when one is not quite sure, took the ticket, and placed it in my window, before locking the car and going through the security scanner.  'It's my back-scratcher', I announced, as the security guard scrutinising the camera, pulled my bag back to go through the x-ray machine for a second time, and motioned for her colleague to 'take a look'.  They were surprised and announced, 'wow, it is a back scratcher', as they removed the bear claw.  The metal hand attached to the expendable handle obviously looks like something other than what it is!  After a brief discussion about its attributes, and advice on where to obtain these must have items (and for me they are a must have), I continued to my destination. 

The criminal files are stored on microfilm.  Presumably, this is to ensure that they cannot be eradicated from computer memory, as is seen so often on the television. (I have no idea, nor do I wish to know, how this is achieved!) The room where they are stored has some public computers, and a machine that resembled the old 'cine' projector that my parents had.  The difference was that this one had its own screen, and a few extra buttons for brightness, clarity, etc.  If I wanted the clerk to make copies I required, it would have cost me a dollar a page.  If I took the copies myself, I would be charged 25c.  I opted to 'DIY', without thinking that the time it would take (and for which Dana would charge) may actually be less if a professional took the proverbial wheel.  However, the office was very quiet, and the very nice ladies behind the desk loaded the first spool for me.  After setting up the contraption to the page I needed to copy, one lady simply said, 'press print'.  That was easy!  As there was another file on the same film, all I had to do was turn the dial to the forward position, and wind it to the next page.  With two files printed, I only had five to go, and it had taken me less than five minutes. 

The next reel was quite old.  It was rather the worse for wear, and there were a few creases in the plastic.  Adamant that I could work this, (after all, I watched my mother set up our projector and connect the spools, wind on the film, etc etc, for years,) I rejected the offer of help.  Unfortunately, the film scrunched up under the glass, and was not going to slip through as easily as the previous one.  Help was at hand, as despite my confidence, the clerks had seen it all before!  Having dismantled half of the machine, the film was gently wound back on to the original spool, and the process was repeated by the expert.  I watched helplessly, apologising profusely.  The very important files were kept on film, rather than computer chips, for safety reasons, then along comes moi and within five minutes I have potentially destroyed years of criminal records!  It then became obvious why there was an inordinate amount of blank tape at the beginning of the film.  I did wonder how much had to be cut off after each amateur had insisted, 'I've got this!' 

By the fourth film, I was becoming an expert.  Talking my way through, as us more mature students of life tend to do, I slowly threaded the film through the glass, turned the wheel under the screen very slowly, watched it emerge the other side, and manually massaged it onto the opposite spool, before turning the dial to 'forward'.  The clunking and spluttering sounds were not good!  Microfilm spewing onto the desk sent even the security guard into a panic, and all were relieved when the machine automatically stopped.  Thankfully, the bright spark who invented the projector, had the foresight to put in an idiot fail safe guard, should Mrs General Public decide that she no longer needed the tutelage of the teacher.  Before the entire audience had reached my side, I managed to compose myself, hit the 'reverse' button, and get the film back onto the original spool, thus confirming that there was 'nothing to see here, folks!'  Almost everyone returned to their positions, leaving the two clerks who were in charge of the precious relics (myself not included in that category) at my side, not convinced that their machine would have a tantrum if nothing was wrong!  'What did you do?' was the cue for me to walk them through my actions, and I repeated each step.  I do not think they understood my mumbling, that I had in fact not released the catch on the left side, to ensure that the film was tucked safely in place, before sending it forward onto the opposite reel.  Of course, it worked perfectly the second time around, and I felt the burning eyes leave the back of my neck, as everyone returned to their duties, convinced it must have been a 'fluke'. 

I did feel rather guilty accepting the praise of one of the clerks, that I was the 'best' they had ever seen in learning the art of the microfilm projector.  I laughed, nervously, and explained that I now understood why my mother had always set up the viewing of the home movies, rather than my slightly less patient father who had done his part by filming them.  The $2.25 worth of papers were handed to me, and it was confirmed that I had save myself $6.75, on the day, and that they probably would not have completed the task any quicker.  Obviously the projector was having a bad day, and the malfunction 'could have happened to anyone'.  It is sometimes a blessing that I am not understood, due to my accent, and ability to verbalise indistinctively, and I left, thanking them for their help, wishing them a happy fourth, and headed downstairs to complete the second part of the copy project.

The next set of documents that had to be retrieved, were from the General Division of the courthouse.  This was to be a nice simple exercise of clicking the incredibly useful and amazing piece of equipment, the computer mouse, (ironically, I extol the virtues of the small apparatus, as I used it the day after the death of its inventor, Douglas Engelbart,) a few times, on a few well placed icons, the final one being 'print', and within ten minutes retrieving 41 pages of beautifully clear images.  I was delighted to observe, with a clear conscience, that I, Mrs General Public, could not accidentally destroy these files!  However, at a dollar a page, they were decidedly more expensive to retrieve! 

I left the courthouse, (after a 'show and tell' performance, by the scanner, of the bear claw, to an additional couple of very interested security guards, both of whom were off to Office Max to buy their own,) and replaced the parking ticket, which still had an hour's worth of time, back on the meter machine, for someone else to reuse.  After all, the time was paid for, so it wasn't really cheating! 

The rest of the day was quite uneventful, and we left the office shortly after five, and headed home for a one day vacation!  As I am writing this before the 'Fourth of July weekend' has come to its conclusion, I shall leave the events of my birthday, and the celebration of a nation, for another time.  In fact, the celebrations continue, as it becomes that of two nations.  Andy Murray wins Wimbledon; a home grown on home ground!  The first male for 77 years to 'bring it home', or 'keep it at home!'  Yes, I am excited!  Although one can never be certain, I plan not to leave it 77 years before I write............another story!

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