Tag Archives: George Orwell

Thoroughly Broken at the ATT Store

Last week I blogged 2+2=5 at the ATT Store. This is the postscript, “Read my next post to see how my interrogator left me thoroughly broken.”

Slippy Pants looks at the screen where my name blazes alone. She approaches me but doesn’t sit as she had with all the previous customers. She looks down at me. “What can I do for you today?”


“My modem quit. I need to buy a new one,” I said.

Slippy Pants (SP) takes on a role similar to O’Brien, Winston’s interrogator in George Orwell’s 1984. “How old is your modem?”

Me: “Six years old. I bought it in this store in 2012.”

SP: “What kind is it?”

Me: “ATT.”

SP: “I mean what type?”

I hand her the note with the information I had copied from the Device Manager file on my hard drive.   She draws her heavy blackened brows together. Her ruby mouth painted larger than her lips frowns into a deep scowl. “I can’t read that.”

I stare at the associate young enough to be my great-granddaughter. “Oh, I guess  you can’t read cursive.”

SP: “Oh yes, I can read cursive. Just not yours. It’s messier than most.”

Chastised—broken—I read the details aloud.

SP: “Never heard of that modem.”

ATT probably stopped selling it when she was in ninth grade.

SP peppers me with more questions. “How do you connect? Is it dial-up? Broadband? Do you have to use the yellow cord?” Before I can respond, she says “One minute while I check something.”

SP stops Smiley, the other associate still assisting the puzzled man with the iPad. “A quick question,” SP says. She hands the cursive note to Smiley. “What kind of modem does she need?”

Smiley reads my written note, or perhaps she overheard the conversation and pretends to read it. “The standard modem.”

SP: “I wasn’t sure because she doesn’t know how she connects to the internet.”

Me: “Wi-Fi.”

SP: “Oh.” She turns to Smiley. “Does the regular modem work with wireless?”

“Yes, it should work with all connections,” Smiley says. She hands the note back to me without speaking, an apology in her eyes softened by wisdom.

“I’ll be right back,” SP tells me. She tugs her pants up, strides to the back room, and returns with an unmarked plain brown box. She processes my credit card and hands me a receipt, staring at my silvery hair. “Keep the receipt in case this modem doesn’t work, and you have to return it.”

Why wouldn’t it work?

SP continues her lecture. “But first you have to call the number on the instruction sheet.” Staring at my hair again, she says, “If they can’t help you, they will send a technician to your home. But, you’ll have to pay for that.” She thrusts the box into my hands and turns toward the exit. Dismissed like a misbehaving child, I follow. She pushes the door open and says, “Have a nice day.”

I leave not only convinced that 2+2=5 at the ATT store, but with my confidence to install a new modem thoroughly broken.

Side by side on my desk, the identical Net Gear/ATT modems remind me of an old perm commercial, “Which Twin Has the Toni?” With no curls to guide me, I’ll keep the twin with the green lights. The one on the left will go to the hazardous waste recycling facility.

Can you read cursive? I aced the test. (Could it be because my handwriting is so poor?) Let me know how you fared.




Filed under Blogging, Events, Memoir, Rants and Raves, Reading, Writing

The Thought Police

Livermore Civic Center Library

Winston Smith, George Orwell’s main character in 1984, a futuristic novel published in 1949, defies “Big Brother” who sees every move Winston makes in Oceania. The telescreen monitors his heartbeats, emotions, and thoughts. One evening he finds a small corner in his flat where he escapes and writes his musings in one of the last blank, bound journals that escaped destruction when the world went paperless. He shapes his destiny when he uses ink, not pencil, to record his thoughts on quality cream-colored, pages.

Grammar Police Award

Last October I blogged about editing (“Grammar Police” post October 17, 2013). English grammar, both in speech and written form, are replete with multiple rules that require writers to employ a team of editors before submitting manuscripts to an agent or publisher. Since George Orwell’s fantasy more than 65-years ago exposed the limited thought process, it would seem that writers are finally free to fly. Ah, but not so. Although the “Thought Police” Orwell painted exists only in his novel, a new guardian force rules today’s writers.


Instructors and mentors, whether academic or associated with for-profit publishers, have formed a new stratum of Thought Police. Every paragraph, perhaps every sentence, is monitored for point of view (POV). Authorities justify this “Big Brother” scrutiny with a single question: Whose story is this? Thoughts are limited to that character.


In Next of Kin, I have two main characters, Captain Luis Rojas (male), and Detective Taylor Madrid (female). Rojas has more than twenty years of experience in law enforcement; Madrid less than half that. It’s impossible for them to see the world of crime through the same eyes, so I chose a dual POV. Supervisors and associates clamber for their individual POV rather than be seen through the eyes of the duo. That can’t happen. Why? because modern Thought Police have blown the whistle on verbs like thought, believed, recognized, realized,  reflected, ruminated, understood, considered, wondered, imagined, concluded, presumed, mused, surmised, commiserated, envisioned, pictured, conjectured, guessed, anticipated, expected, speculated, pondered, brooded, despaired, sympathized, and dozens more.

Tree chopper

I can only hope (Oops! That’s the narrator’s POV) that neither of my main characters fall prey to the misfortune of Orwell’s Winston Smith. When tortured by the Thought Police, he was brainwashed to believe that two plus two equals five. If that happens, future agents and publishers might require a math class as a prerequisite to writing. I hope I publish my novel before then.


Filed under Blogging, Editing, Writing