Are you busy today?

Engineering notes from a 1978 engineering project.

Engineering notes from a 1978 engineering project.

The other day I ran into my friend Brian. “How are you doing, Brian?” “Over worked and underpaid. Terribly busy, this is my peak season you know.”

Almost everyone I know gives me a paraphrase of that same answer. It’s been the standard answer for at least a hundred years, and maybe through the entire history of Western Civilization. There’s always more to do than there is time. The boss always has something extra that needs doing. The family is always asking for something, and you know that the house and yard absolutely need to have that spring maintenance work done! Soon!

I don’t like the “So busy!” response. It’s too easy and really doesn’t say anything. Kind of like: “Hi, how are you?” “Fine.” The answer bears no relationship to what’s happening in life. Our culture seems to demand that we be busy and fine. Sure, there are people who claim to not want to hear an “organ recital” from this old man, but sometimes “Fine” just isn’t the right answer, and if one of us needs help, advice, or an ear to bend, another answer is the right one.

That said, the main thing that irks me about the “Busy!” answer is that the opposite is probably the worst thing that could happen to a person.

Here’s my story:

This was a long time ago, within a year or two of my taking a job at IBM. They had hired me for a major project, and they even had to move us to a temporary expansion site to make room for all the new people on this project. Then the project was cancelled. If I remember correctly, there was some new technology that was essential for the product. The new technology failed, so that called the entire project into question. Continue reading

Road trip!

Jamestown, ND, 1966


We were a couple of kids. Patty and I wanted to go to a basketball game. We’d been to lots of games at the high school. They’d all been at the school we went to, the one a few blocks from my house. This was an away game. We wanted to drive over there on a Friday evening. I’d been on trips before, but this would be the first time on our own.

We were both loners, not a lot of friends. There never was a discussion about getting together with a group of friends to make the trek, we just wanted to go. Just the two of us.

Looking back on it, I wonder how we ever figured out how to make it happen. The freeway did go from Jamestown to Valley City. This was the mid sixties, wasn’t it? Compared to what we have today, so much was missing. I probably had a map. It would have been the good old paper map produced by the North Dakota Tourism board. It had detail on every exit of the freeway, so we knew that there were only a couple of options to get off the highway to get into town. The map also had an insert describing the town. It might have had the local high school marked. Continue reading

Why do I do this?

1973 Masters Thesis

One of the treasures from the attic

Sometime earlier this year someone pulled up a page from my blog and read it. Not that unusual. A few of my friends and family members do look at the blog now and then. If I were into marketing and paying attention, it could have been a big day for me. On that special day WordPress served up the 10,000th page view for GrandPa Guy’s Stories.

On most days I’d brush off a number like that, saying it doesn’t matter. I don’t check the statistics all that often, so I was several hundred page views late in seeing the milestone pass. Several more days passed before I actually thought about what that meant. Last month a friend sent an email thanking me for a post that struck a chord with her. That morning I made a difference.

You don’t suppose that’s happened other days, too? Out of those 10,000 page views, maybe a few other of my musings have given a friend pause, let them think a thought out of their daily trance? One day in church a friend whom I hadn’t seen in about a year (We’re both C&Es at this church.) stopped me to thank me for my blog posts. I had no idea she was reading them, so was pleased to hear that they were good for her. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my two month break in writing would start within the week.

When I started writing the blog two years ago I wanted to make it easier for my family to remember some of the stories from our shared past. The real reason has become clear as I continue to write these old stories. Part of writing old stories involves digging around in the boxes from the attic. You know those boxes. They moved into your house years ago and you haven’t opened them since.

I opened them. Treasure! Continue reading

It’s a long way home

A better way to fly?

A better way to fly?

The other morning a friend of mine told me about his recent trip home from a convention in Denver. He had to wait three hours in Minneapolis for his connection. I really don’t like sharing stories about travel horror, but that one was far too easy to top.

We had been in Denver for a wedding. My brother Eric and his wife Anke were there, too. After all the festivities, we left Denver in the morning. Eric planned to drive back to Rochester and we took the airplane. We dropped off the rental car at Denver International about the time Eric drove past the airport east of Denver. We breezed through security. There wasn’t much for security in the Nineties. The flight to Minneapolis was uneventful. We arrived in plenty of time to catch our flight from MSP to Rochester. There was a layover of more than two hours.

We called Eric. He was in Omaha. We’d beat him home easy. They announced boarding for our plane and we dutifully lined up to get on board. We stood patiently. One moment, please; a mechanical problem with the airplane. Sit and wait. No problem they said. There’s another airplane available and we’ll get it right out for you all.

In two hours. They moved all the luggage, the food, the crew and all the freight from the hold. Again we dutifully line up to get on board. Nothing to it. We get settled in and wait. And wait.

“Sorry folks. There’s a problem with this airplane.” A cracked windshield. The airline can handle this. Believe it or not, there’s another airplane available for us to go to Rochester. They herded us off the airplane to wait in the concourse for the next bird. They find an airplane, get it into position, move the luggage and freight, wait for a new crew and get everything ready. We are now over six hours late.

Finally the ground crew finished fueling the airplane and hundred or so grumpy people get on board and wait for the plane to back out of the gate. It does! We’re on the way! Takeoff is easy. It’s a short flight, maybe twenty minutes total if there’s a headwind.

A half hour into the flight the pilot comes on the PA. Continue reading

Did you miss me?

Grandpa Guy

Grandpa Guy

More precisely, I missed sharing my story with you. But I needed a break. Cancer got in the way. (Now totally resolved). Holidays got in the way. (Is another coming?) A vacation got in the way. (Another trip of a lifetime.) Given all that was happening, I just needed a break. Since writing a blog doesn’t pay much, I figured a time out would be easy.

Everything that got in my way this year is now behind me and I’ve started writing again. This morning when an idea popped into my head and I sat down to type out the story it felt good. Writing is the strangest hobby. None of my friends seem to enjoy it. They’re into fishing, boating, biking, shooting, politics, golfing, music, arts, skiing, television, and the like. I write, among other things, but writing gives me the most energy.

Since we returned from vacation I’ve been accumulating new stories and reviewing things written last year. There’s some good stuff and a few clunkers. After my filter gets done with them, you can decide how many clunkers got through. Watch for some new stories soon. I’ll share some stories from familiar people and relate how what they did fifty years ago relates to today.

It’s good to be back. I hope some of these stories keep you coming back.

Let’s do coffee. Soon.

Grandpa Guy Havelick