Category Archives: Writing

Indentured Servitude is STILL alive and well in the U.S.


Back in October of 2013 I posted my most read blog article . . . by far. It garnered an astounding 7,368 views. And now, unfortunately, that article becomes timely once again. Only, this time, substitute President Donald J. Trump for any references that were previously made about Senator Ted Cruz (another absolutely despicable human being). And this time the hissy fit isn’t Obamacare. This time it is over a wall that nearly everyone acknowledges will neither add anything to national security, nor mitigate crossings along our border with Mexico, all at a cost that would eventually exceed $40 billion if completed along our entire southern flank. Besides, the president has had two years now to make Mexico pay for that wall, right?

And here is that reprinted article:

An Airport Traffic Control (ATC) Tower

An Airport Traffic Control Tower (ATCT)

Take it from a former controller who has in his 34 years in the business worked at some pretty busy facilities under less than ideal conditions with obsolete or failing equipment and uncooperative weather:  There are few if any jobs more stressful than air traffic control.  Period.  It’s certainly more stressful than being, say, a congressman or a senator.

Imagine working New York TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control) during a busy inbound rush of air carriers, failing equipment, and a line of thunderstorms pushing into the area from the west.  Throw into that mix an inflight emergency or two and perhaps an aircraft with minimum fuel that needs to get on the ground right now.

Then let’s add to all that stress.

Let’s tell those controllers that they have to go to work, but a group of about thirty congressmen and a senator or two who didn’t agree with the results of the last election are going to refuse to allow the United States Congress to pay them.

These already overworked, stressed controllers have mortgages to make, utilities to pay, car payments, grocery bills, kids in college . . . but none of that makes any difference.  They are required by federal law to work.  For free.  Indefinitely.

Think that’s fair?  That’s what’s happening right now, this very second.  In New York.  In Dallas.  In Atlanta.  In Chicago.  In Los Angeles.  In myriad other busy facilities across this great nation.  All because of thirty-some-odd Congressmen and at least one delusional, grand-standing Senator from Texas who has ambitions beyond the senate seat he’s held for less than ten months.

Tomorrow, these controllers will be paid for only 48 of the 80 or more hours they worked — the 48 hours they worked before the shutdown that occurred just thirteen days ago.  Those controllers received that bad news when they got their “pay” statements last Thursday.  Two weeks from tomorrow the amount in their paychecks drops to Z-E-R-O despite working another 80 or more hours during the next pay period.

How long do you think you could financially hold on under such conditions?  How long do you think it’ll be before some of these controllers have to resign to find jobs that pay the bills?  How long do you think it’ll be before retirement-eligible controllers with 20 or 25+ years of badly needed experience and who are currently mentoring an already far-too-young and inexperienced group of new controllers decide that they should go into retirement just to pay the bills?  (Controllers, by the way, are only allowed to work to the last day of the month in which they turn 56 because of the stresses inherent to their jobs, and because before that reduction in the retirement age, very few controllers could make it to mandatory retirement because of failing health and deteriorating abilities and reaction times.  These are the professionals who your congressman is stiffing on pay for work they’ve already done.)

How long before that radar control room guiding your airliner is staffed like this?:

The Control Room of a Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON)

The Control Room of a Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON)

And while these people are working for free, I’d like for you to consider this:  Those congressmen?  The ones who before the last election proclaimed the 2012 elections a “referendum on Obamacare?”  The congressmen who are now having a temper tantrum because, at their core, they apparently only believe in democracy when it suits them?

Those congressmen work on average just two days out of every five-day workweek, earn at a minimum $174,000 a year (Speaker Boehner gets a whopping $223,500 for not doing his job), are vested for retirement benefits after only five years on what I laughingly call “the job,” get federally subsidized healthcare (which those thirty want to deny people who make one tenth as much as they), and they continue to receive those pay and all those benefits while your air traffic controllers are forced to do without.  Those congressmen certainly aren’t hurting financially during this self-induced “crisis,” but your air traffic controllers certainly are.

How dare any elected representative do this to employees who work for them?  How dare any elected representative put employees’ families through this kind of stress and uncertainty?  How dare anyone whose job is given to them by a democratic process repudiate the outcome of a democratic election because they do not agree with the results?

It is way past time to start reducing the stress levels of your already overstressed air traffic controllers, and to start raising the stress levels of your elected representative.  And if you live in the state of Texas, as do I, it’s way past time to tell the wealthy Senator Ted Cruz (55th wealthiest member of the U.S. Senate) that if he doesn’t agree with democracy, then it’s well beyond time to democratically terminate his employment come next election.

These people, quite frankly, disgust this former Republican who, effective October 1 of this year, no longer affiliates himself with what once was truly the Grand Old Party . . . but is no more.

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Filed under Author, Aviation Safety, Opinion Piece, R. Doug Wicker, Social Networking, Writing

A Spillane Christmas Carol (Humor)


Time for a little more Christmas humor. Below is the investigation into the murder portrayed in yesterday’s poem. A word of explanation about the inside joke on word counts. This story was originally written for a contest that had a 1,500 word-count limit. That was up from a 1,000-word limit the preceding year. So, here is:

A Spillane Interpretation of A Dickens Christmas

It was the best of times, Christmas.  It was the worst of crimes, murder.  She was a store clerk at the Old Curiosity Shoppe.  Her name was Lenore and she lay dead upon the floor, strangled with a ribbon of rain checks by an irate Christmas shopper.  The suspect’s name was Ollie, and I knew then that this murder had a twist.

It was time for the “bad cop” routine so I slipped into the role, not that it required much acting on my part.  “Okay, Ollie, what’s your last name?”

“Co . . . Co . . . Copperfield.”

“This your first offense, Copperfield?  Murder goes down easier if it’s a first offense.  You’ll probably be looking at two to ten.”

“Years?”

“Weeks.  Probation.  This is California, you know.  Now spill it.”

“I’ve never been in trouble before today.  Well . . . except for those two incidents, one in London and the other in Paris.”

“Just what I don’t need right now, a tale of two cities.  Let’s keep it simple, Copperfield.  Why’d you do it?  Passion?  Robbery?  Lust?”

I secretly hoped it was lust.  I’m kind of partial to lust.  Passion comes in a close second.

“No,” Copperfield whined.  “It wasn’t any of that.”

Rats, I thought.  Another long story with, like, no gratuitous . . . well, you get the picture.  “Start from the beginning,” I prodded.

Copperfield yelled in anguish.  I turned off the prod.  “Come on, spill it.”

“It was my son, Quasimodo.”

“Wrong author.  Save Dumas for next year’s contest.”

“Actually, that was Victor Hugo,” Copperfield corrected.

I shook my head impatiently.  “Never mind.  Go on.  We only have 1,242 words remaining to wrap this whole thing up.”

“And last year, you would’ve only had 742.”

I’d had enough of this.  I started to prod Copperfield for more information.

“Wait,” he yelled in anguish.  “I’ll talk.”

I put the prod back under my coat.  I yelled in anguish, then reached inside and turned it off.  It was a shocking miscalculation on my part and now I was really burned.  “No more stalling, Copperfield.”

“Quasimodo wanted this year’s hot toy . . . .”

“You mean the Super Fly-A-Saur?”

“You know it?”

Know it.  Been trying to lay my hands on one of those damned, cursed, hellish things for three weeks.  I got a nephew in Newark who wants one.”

Copperfield’s face twisted in horror.  “Newark . . .  how awful.  Tough break.”

“Precisely.  Poor kid would’ve been better off as an orphan in London.  He should get whatever he wants.”

“Well,” Copperfield continued, “I didn’t even start looking for one until yesterday afternoon.”

I was incredulous.  “Let me get this straight . . . .  You didn’t start looking for the most popular toy of the year until Christmas Eve?”  I gave him a suspicion-filled glance.  “You settin’ up for an insanity plea?”

“No . . . .  It’s true.  I swear.”

“Quasimodo . . . he got any brothers or sisters?”

Copperfield nodded.  “He has a tiny brother named—“

“Let me guess.  Tim, right?”

“No.  Pickwick.  Pickwick Chuzzlewit Copperfield.  We call him ‘Boz’ for short.”

“Of course you do.”  I was duly impressed.  A four-fer.  Very good.  Tim would’ve been too easy.

It was then that my partner, Nick Nickleby, entered the crime scene.  Nick was the consummate “good cop.”  He never prodded the suspect.  He immediately grabbed Copperfield by the lapels and propelled him into the nearest wall.  “Sing weasel, or you’ll be looking at hard times.”

I grabbed Nick’s arm.  “He’s singing already.  Relax, would you?”

Copperfield massaged his head.  “The chimes.  I’m hearing chimes.”

Nick laughed.  “You idiot.  You hit the wall of the cuckoo clock section.  Of course you hear chimes.”

“Oh, yeah.”  Copperfield straightened.  “Silly me.”  He brushed the cuckoo bird from his mouth, removed the chain from around his neck, the weight from his left nostril, and spit out a feather.  “I was in the middle of my confession.”

“Ah HA,” Nick crowed.  “Then you confess.”

“He just said that.  We’re way past that, Nick.  We’ve already established intent and opportunity.  We’re working on motive.  Now, go sit down before I prod you to do so.”

Nick’s eyes grew like saucers.  He quickly stepped back.  “Don’t mind me.  Just pretend I’m not even here.  I’ll just listen while you question our mutual friend.”

I nodded approval.  An obscure reference, but well placed by a relative novice.  I turned back to Copperfield.  “You were saying?”

“Well, this store clerk, Lenore Dorrit, led me to believe she had some Fly-A-Saurs in stock.  I mean, just look at the window.  They’ve got ads for it hanging all over the place.  I’d been to twenty-seven stores before this and I was desperate, even though their advertised price is 1,200% above the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.”

“So, you entered the store with great expectations.”

“Precisely . . .  only to have those expectations dashed upon the rocks like some sixteenth-century galleon caught in a South Pacific cyclone.”

“You’re losing focus again.  We did Robert Louis Stevens last year.”

“Defoe.  That was a Daniel Defoe reference.”

I started to prod, but Copperfield hastily continued.  “Anyway, she led me on.  She enticed me upstairs in the worst way.”

“In the worst way?”

“Yeah.  I mistakenly got on the down escalator.  Took me half an hour to make the trip.”

“Wow.  You were desperate.  Then what happened?”

Copperfield pointed to the raven-haired beauty.  “See those coupons?”

I nodded.  “Rain checks.”

“That’s what she had.”  He broke down sobbing.  “I went through hell, and all she had to offer was a rain check.  Can you imagine little Boz playing with a rain check on Christmas morning?”

Suddenly there was a commotion at the doorway.  A little, gray-haired old man burst through the tape and brushed past Nick.  Actually, the little squirt picked Nick up by the lapels and smashed him into the nearest wall.

“Get out of my way,” the old man yelled.

Nick rubbed his eyes.  “I’m seeing stars.”

I shook my head in disgust.  “Of course you are, you idiot.  You’re in the autographed celebrity pictures section.”

“I thought I was having a religious experience.”

“Get out from under that Madonna poster.”  I turned to the intruder.  “And you are . . . ?”

“Barnaby Rudge.  I got over here from Bleak House as soon as I heard.”

I nodded my approval.  I was wondering how in the world I was going to get those obscure works into this.  “What’s your connection to all this?”

He pointed to the body.  “My automated sales clerk.  She’s been destroyed.  Who did this?”

My jaw clenched.  I shook.  My knees went weak.  I reached inside my coat and switched off the prod again.  Damned faulty switch.  Someone was going to pay for this.  “You mean to tell me that thing’s a robot?”

“Yep.  Made for me by Dombey and Son.”

This guy was good.  Really good.  I’d have been lost without him.  I walked over to the body.  “Yeah . . .  now it all makes sense.”

Nick rushed over.  “What?  What makes sense?”

I pointed to that irritating service smile locked on her lips, the one that just drives you nuts.  “She’s still smiling.  She looks like a damned Barbie doll.  I should have known.  And look at what she was ‘strangled’ with.  That roll of rain checks should’ve broken before she even started to turn pink.”  I turned back to Mr. Rudge.  “I’ve never seen one of these.”

“They’re brand new, different models for different occasions.  The ‘off/on’ switch is in the throat.  This one is the Carol model, specifically made for the holiday season.”

“Ah . . . .” I nodded knowingly.  “A Christmas Carol.  Tell me, why did you name her Lenore?”

“Why, that’s easy.  It’s the raven hair.”

I slapped my forehead.  “It’s so . . .  so . . .  obvious.”

I turned to Copperfield.  “You’re free to go, sir.  I won’t be prodding you for anymore answers tonight.”

“Thank God.”  He hurried off, lest I change my mind.

Nick clasped my shoulder.  “Come on, partner.  Let me buy you a drink.  Martini, right?”

“Yep.”

“Olive or twist?”

My eyes narrowed.  “Been there.  Done that.  Let’s go.”

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If Edgar Allan Poe Had Written A Christmas Carol (Humor)


Now time for a little Christmas humor (tune in tomorrow for the sequel on the subsequent murder investigation, written in the style of Mickey Spillane):

A Poe Christmas

Once upon a snowstorm dreary, through which I trudged all weak and weary,
Past many a quaint and curious number of advertisement lore
I saw the ad, above some wrapping; on the door I started tapping
At first it was a gentle tapping, tapping at the storefront door
I must gain entry to this store, as there was nothing then I wanted more

Searching for this and nothing more

The toy was here for which I search, leaving me in quite a lurch
Having waited far too long to shop for “The Super Fly-A-Saur”
Eagerly I watched the clerk, beckoning me not to shirk
I quickly entered, nearly berserk; “I must have it,” I said with a smirk
“Where, oh where, be that damned flying dinosaur?”

Quoth the clerk, “The second floor”

Up the escalator I ran, fighting against its downward span
I cursed its descending stairs as I glanced to the ascending flight before
Casually the clerk began her ascent, chuckling at my predicament
“I fear, sir, you shall be spent, before you reach the next department”
I ran, and ran, for far too long, fighting against this tiresome chore

Vowing “Not up the down escalator evermore”

I stopped, bent over double, breathing hard for all my trouble
Crying out with all my might, “Where is this cursed Fly-A-Saur?”
She smiled that stupid service smile, the one that sends me shaking
“Tis over here,” she said, “Right behind that great big door”
“Tis over there, I swear, or my name is not Lenore

“Tis what you seek and nothing more”

I pushed the double doors apart, what I saw gave me a start
“There’s nothing here, I’ve been tricked, where is this hellish dinosaur?”
She smirked again, mocking me, sending me quaking
I felt rage in the making, “Tis right there,” said this shrewish bore
“You see, we’re all out at this store; here’s your rain check, nothing more”

Thus I strangled the fair Lenore

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