Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Manual Transmission

No one really believes that the world will come to an end this coming Saturday. Or in 2012. Still, it’s a big planet and a big universe. The notion that we have any real control over it, that we can affect it in any way that it can’t reverse, or that Mother Earth can make changes that we can reverse, is childishly ridiculous, bordering on a madness of the Napoleonic Complex variety.

This past Tuesday, our area experienced a rolling variety power outage. Suddenly, all our electronic gizmos – our televisions, computers, cell phones, Ipads, DVD players, refrigerators, washing machines, and for some, stoves – were totally useless. The grid came back on in a few moments. Our rehearsal hall operated on generator power until the power came back.

But what if it didn’t come back? Look at how long it took to get power restored to Lower Manhattan on 9/11. The area was without power for three weeks. What would we do then? We’re a resilient, resourceful society. We would find a way to get our power restored. In the short term, though, we’d be in quite a fix.

What if the unthinkable happened, though? What if we had such a calamity, that not enough people survived to keep our society going? It happened during the Bubonic Plague. Hundreds of European villages were simply wiped out. The earthquake in Japan, the Mississippi floods are teaching us that we’re no match for Mother Nature.

Or God.

Last night, my mother and I were talking about the End of the World Day. If we survive this one, we should make it a national holiday, as a reminder to think and plan ahead, and not take everything we have for granted. As the prediction is for a 6 p.m. major earthquake, we decided to hold our End of the World Celebration on Friday evening instead. We’re going to go out to dinner, then come home and feast on all our favorite goodies while we watch Mom’s favorite movie – Gone with the Wind.

She asked if I had all the necessary items. Food? Plenty and to spare. Candles? No, not yet, but I’ll pick some up at the store. Matches? A whole box full. In a major quake a lot of trees will probably come down, so we’ll have plenty of firewood. Mom has all sorts of garden implements – saws, axes, and the like – and my very strong younger brother to wield them.

We all have bicycles and a bicycle pump. Plus, Mom has two manual typewriters. I just need to order ribbons for them. She says there’s a store in New York City that still services manual typewriters. I’ll have to invest in some carbon paper, by which means I’ll still be able to publish my blog, delivering it on my bicycle to my customers.

The typewriters are Remington Rands. Remington Rand (1927–1955) was an early American business machines manufacturer, best known originally as a typewriter manufacturer. Ironically, in a later incarnation, RR manufactured the UNIVAC line of mainframe computers but with antecedents in Remington Arms in the early 19th century. For a time, the word "univac" was recognized as a generic synonym for "computer". Remington Rand was a diversified conglomerate manufacturing other office equipment, electric shavers, etc. The Remington Rand Building at 315 Park Avenue South in New York City is a 20-floor skyscraper completed in 1911.

Remington Typewriters were the first to use the QWERTY keyboard layout. Remington Arms had bought the design from Christopher Sholes. The Remington No.1 was the first model released. All keys were uppercase. Remington Arms spun off Remington Typewriter Company in 1886, and after the 1927 merger, the Remington Rand Corp. continued to manufacture and sell typewriters.

If the world as we know it comes to an end in 2012, and I survive whatever catastrophes strike, I’ll be like Victor Lazlo from Casablanca, printing revolutionary tracts in my basement.

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