A Bit About Me

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Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

10 January 2010

Two Guys, a Girl and a Tube Tester: Blogger Idol - Round 2

Back when I was a kid, it would've been pretty standard procedure to have had the television repairman on speed dial...had there been speed dial back then.

Like clockwork, and always right before something great was about to come on one of the three channels that were out there, the television would go on the fritz. No amount of aluminum foil on the antennas or adjusting the horizontal hold was going to fix it.

The repairman would come over and he'd always be some guy my family knew, although for the life of me I don't ever remember my parents having friends over and we never went to anyone's house. How we knew these guys on a first name basis is still a mystery to me and always will be.

But he'd come around lugging a giant suitcase rivaling the size of our television cabinet and pull out tube after tube and systematically "trial and error" them until one magically turned our black and white behemoth on again.

There'd be some exchange of money and we'd all converge back around the set, me on the floor right up close enough to get a good megawatt dose of electronic exposure (I was, after all, the family-designated remote control) but back then we were oblivious to the perils of such things...and such things probably made us much stronger anyway. Yes, Nietzsche probably owned a really big television as a kid.

Then one day the television didn't work and to save a buck...as heaven knows how much it cost for a TV house call back then, my father decided he'd try a new angle. A newfangled machine was at the local "Two Guys" department store...and when I say "local" I mean a good 45-minute drive. All stores in Jersey were a good 45-minute drive away. I swear no one ever lived close to anything there...going to the grocery store was pretty much an all-day event...so when we'd pile into the car to go to "Two Guys", well it was akin to an expedition to the Himalayas...we'd be gone for hours. Hours to a kid is like days to a grown-up...and as usual, no drive would be complete without my sister and I asking the never-ending series of "Are we there yet?"'s.

"Are we there yet?" my sister would eventually ask.

"No." my father would grumble back.

Ever the smartass, I'd quip, "How about NOW?" two minutes later.

In another two minutes, I'd do it again. Antics such as these are why my father invented such "awe-inspiring" games such as "For every Volvo you see I'll give you a nickel. For every red Volvo, you'll get a quarter."

Now, I don't know about you, but back in my childhood, a quarter was a big deal. I never got an allowance so the value of a coin, any silver coin...was astronomical to me. It didn't matter much to me that in 1967 they probably sold 11,000 Volvos in the whole country...and probably only 10 were in the state of New Jersey. There was serious money to be had and all questioning of when we were getting there ceased. 'Hell, take the long way around, Dad. Go on the Turnpike!'

But, we'd end up at our destination in no time after that - and I'd be no richer.

And back in those carefree days of my youth, you were given free reign in the stores. Sure, I'd start out with my mother...but I'd go off and always manage to get lost and found again -- and this time was no exception. Only this time I was going with my father.

He had an assortment of tubes he plucked haphazardly from the back of the television set and standing right smack in the middle of the store -- was an amazing thing. A thing I'd never seen before. A tube tester.

It was wonderful. It had lights and I think it made a slight buzzing sound...and a set of needles would go to and fro when you placed a tube on one of two metal discs that shone like...well, like shiny quarters. The buzzing would raise in pitch and I believe some clicking noises were involved somehow. This indeed was something special - I knew it was. My father let me place a tube on one of the discs. Like magic, the needles flicked. I got to do it again. And again. Some tubes made them flick with lightning speed into the green and some just slightly budged as if in a slow-motion sequence on television itself.

Then it, like the "Volvo game", ended all too soon. We packed all the tubes back up and walked away from it; the buzz getting fainter and fainter with each step.

Oh, it was all too much...the allure of the machine beckoned me to come back to it. As soon as I was left to my own devices, I found my way back over...probably through my astute hearing...honing in on the buzz like a bee back to the hive.

I carried out the motions exactly as my father did: Flip the switch on. Check. Needles spiking left to right and back down again. Check. Tubes? Hmmmm...what can I do?? I have no tubes! Fingers. I have fingers! Left index finger on the left shiny disc...right index finger on the right shiny di...

"Oh, what the HELL!"

I swear to God I was zapped with enough wattage to power up two electric chairs. I was thrown back about 10 feet and if there would've been a weight-bearing pillar in back of me I would have been knocked unconscious for sure. In fact I'm not sure that I WASN'T knocked unconscious. All I know is that my fingers, hand, arm and pretty much the whole side of me was numb and tingling.

I got up and ran off.

"Where were you? We were looking all over the place. What were you doing all this time?" my mother half-chidingly inquired.


Well, it wasn't like I could really tell her I was zapped within an inch of my life and was probably unconscious for the last half hour. I envisioned the loudspeaker lady blurting out, "Clean-up in aisle 7!" Nah...best I keep this little incident all to myself.

And it's nothing that a couple orange-flavoured St. Joseph Baby Aspirins couldn't cure when I got home...ah, the good old-fashioned taste treat from my youth.

It's not like they could kill you or anything like the tube tester...

This is my blog entry for Round 2 of the Blogger Idol competition. Please go HERE (or click the image below) to vote. Voting ends Wednesday, 13 Jan 10 at 8:00 p.m CT...so, please, get your vote in. Thank you!


  1. we had repair guys for everything... when the extent of your "fix-it" abilities maxed out at changing light blubs and sewing buttons, you need an army of handymen at your disposal!

  2. Great story. Loved it. Brought back alot of memories. Going to follow along and see what other stories you have up your sleeve.

    Drop by and visit sometime.

  3. I am so voting for you this week, great story but the real reason is I remember Two Guys. Oh the memories of that store, and of the tv tubes. My Dad would have been the next man in line behind you, laughing his ass off when you got jolted. I must have bought a hundred 45's there. It was less than a dollar for a 45, two songs who could beat that? My sister's and I would argue and barter, if you DONT buy that crappy song, I wont buy the one you dont like. We only had one record player to share, and the three of us shared a room so music was important. Thanks for the memories

  4. That's funny! And here I thought it was only boys that went around getting themselves electrocuted within an inch of their lives.

  5. Sue - Yep! I remember getting my album collection there - $3.98 for an album...cheaper when they were on sale! Those days can't be beat.

    Screwdestiny - No...apparently it was also bright-eyed girls wearing dresses their mom's made. I swear, if I concentrate really hard...I can still conjure up the imagery and pain! Oh, the pain! I think, to this day - I never played pinball because the machines looked too much alike!

    Respectfully - Thank you - I have a backlog of stories that could keep you reading until well until Spring thaw.

    Jaime - Yep, I even remember the insurance agent making a monthly trip out to the house. Always some tall gangly-looking dude with ill-fitting clothes. I was too young to understand any of it - but no one comes around here to do anything...I'd never be able to afford them.

  6. Holy crap! Where did you grow up? We used to go to "Two Guys" down in Dover, or Rockaway, I can't remember where. I have those memories of TV tubes and repairmen coming to replace tubes. I lived in a lot of areas in Jersey! There used to be a three sisters restaurant in front of the two guys department store haha!

  7. You are in fact lucky you're not dead! My father, an electrician, used to send me to Walgreen's to buy the repair tubes and then install them. He always warned me not to touch a certain area in the TV because it can carry up to 600,000 volts. That's enough to throw you across the room -- as you learned -- or even kill you. Nice story!

  8. Otin - the Two Guys store we used to go to was on the outskirts of Trenton - I think it was Bordentown...it was right there up the road from the White Horse Circle. We used to live in Hamilton Township...no one knows where that is out this way - but when I say it's "where the first anthrax letter was sent out" - they all go "Ohhhh yeah". Also, I remember my father driving all the way to Dover (my sister used to live there - her husband was at the Navy base) just to buy a major appliance because there was no sales tax.

    Mike - Wow! I'll now impress everyone by saying I was zapped by 600,000 volts. Sounds a lot more impressive than "the tube machine".

    Thanks for reading...and the comments! :)

  9. My "Two Guys" was at Blue Star Mall in North Plainfield, I think. Somewhere out there on Route 22.

  10. First of all, I appreciate anyone who can slip in a Nietzsche reference in a childhood anecdote.

    Secondly, where were you living in Jersey? I, too, am a (former) Jersey gal, having had a Two Guys just a few minutes from my house. It is where I got to see Sherlock and Flapper of the "Magic Garden"-- another Jersey staple for a while. :)

    How much energy do you think we absorbed from those TVs?

  11. St. Joseph aspirins were good, but I don't know if there were as good as the Flintstone vitamins.

  12. Love it Mariann, I don't remember the tube tester, more than not Dad went by himself for something "that important", and wouldn't trust us (us meaning me) to see something like that machine as I would be the first (well, the second) to try it using only my fingers.

  13. Jenn - I lived in Hamilton Township - the outskirts of Trenton. I lived in Trenton when I was very small. Then when I was 11, we moved to Browns Mills - which was near Fort Dix, McGuire and Mount Holly. That's when we'd go to the Cherry Hill Mall.

    Where were you?

    Unfinished - I was way too young for those Flintstones vitamins...every medicine cabinet had the baby aspirin, tho...and my mother asked why they'd disappear so quickly.

    Nan - I'm thinking this happened a few times and they had to remove them. Some time in the 70s I think they did away with them. I think it was before bulbs had been all replaced - plus people usually couldn't afford a new TV when they came out. You watched your old one until it died...only then did you get a colour one. I remember the three colour screen: green on the bottom for the grass, beige in the middle as we know all people are beige, and blue for sky on top. Oh yeah - that worked SOOOOOOOO well...but I'd like to have one just for the fun of it. People don't believe me when I tell them they actually sold them to attatch to your television.

  14. This is GREAT! I used to love going to the Rexall near our home when I was a young kid, with my mother carrying a sack full of tubes, and then testing them. A totally lost thrill (for some of us, anyway) and I thank you for reminding me of it. Way cool.

  15. Funny story. It brought back long-lost memories of using a bottle opener to change channels.

  16. You're welcome, Suldog. Now we know how old you truly are. ;)

    mr loser - Somehow I think there could have been a major electrical jolt doing that. You are talking one of those simple silver metal things with the pointy end and the blunt end? Sticking it IN the channel thingy and hoping death doesn't happen, right? ;)

  17. I grew up in Hamilton Square and yep that was our Two Guys,in Bordentown. And now I live in Vincentown, closer to Mt Holly than to Browns Mills. I remember our first color TV, Dad was so proud and excited and got really mad at us when he caught us watching black and white tv shows. "I broke my back to afford a color tv and you are watching THAT?" There were only like 7 channels because we received both Philly and NY stations, so 3 and 4 were the same channel, 6 and 7 same, 2 and 10 same. OH how did we ever survive? Remember Million Dollar Movies? Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

  18. Well, to be fair, Sue...the programming back then was a LOT better than it is now...so three channels was equivalent to about 210 of them now.

    I LOVED the "Million Dollar Movie"! Every week I'd anxiously tune in hoping it would be a Marilyn Monroe one. Wow...the days you'd patiently wait for things like a movie and cartoons that only came on - on Saturday mornings.

    Those were truly "the days".

    And I wonder if I somehow know you - you aren't as old as me, are you? If you are - maybe we went to the same school?

  19. By the way, even if you don't win the contest, you're still a winner. That's not just feel-good twaddle; I've given you an award. You asked for it, and you got it. You should have aimed higher.

  20. Wow, and I thought I was old! Tubes in televisions? Next think you know you'll be reminiscing about watching them land on the moon, Nixon resigning, or listening to Fireside Chats on the radio during the "Big One."

    Honestly, I was one of those kids who figured out what the tubes did, found a self-service test station, and fixed the TV when my dad said I'd have to live without it. HAH. No Lone Ranger on the radio for this kid!

  21. Thank you Suldog...I think. ;)

    Nah, Curmudgeon...the moon landing was faked. C'mon, I saw that thing they went up in...MacGyver made more intricate things with a rubber band, paper clip and a sheet of aluminum foil.

    Sorry, Lone Ranger was before MY time! So hah! back to ya. :)

  22. And to you - um - "blue link made with Chinese-looking symbols" guy. Thank you! Thank you! Wow...what a compliment? Really? Seriously, you think so?? Oh, you are making me glow with pride now.

  23. glad you survived the tube tester!

    *your father was a genius!*

  24. i think the chinese stuff is spam. but hey, its chinese spam.

  25. Chris - I Babelfished it about an hour ago - I was very curious...and it is indeed Chinese (woohooo for me)...and it's all about porn and more porn and I think they put all the key porn words to direct someone to the link...but if it gets them here...who am I to complain, ya know? ;)

  26. I dont see where I can email you? I am 53, went to Reynold's when it was called Junior High. We then moved to Maryland for most of hs. Moved back into the area at age 18.

  27. Sue - I think it shows up when you click the "See the full profile" bit - but I'm not sure. It is Cadeaux@aol.com - feel free to contact me.

    While I never went to Reynolds (that was junior high - or what we called jr high in Jersey - 7-9th, I believe) - I only lived there until I was 11...so I went to Robinson. Steinert (spelling?) was the high school if I remember correctly.