Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Breaking Up Is Hard To Do"; Breaking In Can Be Very Difficult, Too

In this blog I strive to share and document my experiences, experiences that others most likely have not had or will ave the opportunity to experience for themselves.

Living back in America has not eliminated my experiences but the types of experiences has definitely changed.

Last Sunday was no exception.  In 1962, Neil Sedaka recorded a song, "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do", which became a big hit, a smash recording.  Last Sunday I had the opportunity to do something that I suspect that many people have not done too many times or done recently.  Last Sunday I got to break into a car.

Neil Sedaka sang about the difficulties of breaking up a personal relationship.  I am going to write about the unexpected difficulties in breaking into a car.

A young woman had locked her purse and car key in her car.  She was at work and miles from her home.  Her second set of keys were in Hawaii.  She had called and determined that it would cost $100 for a locksmith to come and unlock the car.  I asked her if she knew what it would cost to replace a window on the car.  I had a side window replaced in 2002 when I lived in Curitiba, Brasil for $35.  Well as the saying goes "That was then and this is now.  That was there, and this is here", she checked and the estimated cost to replace a side window was $200.

She asked me to break into her car.  I went out and checked the car.  The keys were laying face up on the driver's seat.  The "Unlock" button on the key was facing up so tantalizing close to us.  I inspected the window and door frame in search of a crack or seam where I could insert a wire coat hanger or flat piece of metal strapping.  It did not look very promising.  I had seen rubber wedges utilized on the top of car windows to create some access for a "Slim Jim" to be inserted to open the door.  For this car such a technique would not work.  Inserting a wedge would only press the window more tightly against the metal frame on the other side of the window.  That same metal frame extended well below the top of the window there by requiring a wire coat hanger or a Slim Jim to be bent 180 degrees to get inside of the car - something that I was not sure would be possible.  This was a moot point because we had neither a wire coat hanger or a Slim Jim.

I got a bright idea of perhaps disconnecting the battery in hopes that it would disarm the lock and security system.  It may or may not have been a great idea, I was not able to find out.  To open the front hood of the car, you had to first release it from inside of the car.

The car owner made an informed decision for me to break a side window of the car.  I was confident that I could do that.  I was given a small hammer with a metal shaft.  I struck the window with a strong blow.  The hammer bounced off window without leaving a mark on the glass.  I repeatedly struck the window with the hammer with ever increasing force.  Each blow had the same effect - bounced off the window and left no marks on the glass.  I ceased my efforts with the hammer when my last strike bent the hammer head 90 degrees on the shaft.  The hammer was broken but the glass was unblemished.

I next tried breaking into the car using a tire iron.  I was able to generate more force with the tire iron but the end result was the same; the window was unblemished and intact.

I did a little thinking, and decided that I needed a more pointed object to break the window.  I found a large pruning shear and plunged the sharp point three times into the glass.  The result of my efforts was to bend the tip of the shear 180 degrees with the window remaining just as I had found it at the start.

I was now getting angry as well as somewhat embarrassed.  I was determined to prevail.  My masculine pride demanded that I succeed.  I had an audience of three women, one of them being my wife who believes that I can do anything, expecting me to break into the car.  Failure was not an option.

I found a 5 foot long 18 pound steel digging bar that had a chiseled point.  I raised the bar and thrust it into the window.  The window deflected as the heavy bar bounced off of it.  The car window remained in tact.  I joked with the woman about was she sure that the window was not bullet proof glass.  I had noticed that there was a Marine Corps Base Hawaii sticker on the windshield so I decided to make a joke about the car being specially prepared. My joke had no effect upon her tears and distress.  I thrust bar once again with greater force but with the same result.  On my third attempt with some rage behind my thrust, the car window finally shattered.  Mission accomplished!

Finally succeeding in breaching the window, I reflected upon the difficulty of breaking automobile glass today.  My efforts of the day reinforced the need to use seat belts.  I remarked to the others how much force some one's head must exert on a windshield to break the glass.  It is a force that I would not want to experience or have any one else experience.

I also thought about being trapped underwater in a car.  I have seen movies where someone escaped from their submersed vehicle by kicking out the side window.  I am not going to say it is not possible but I do believe that if it is possible the person must of had some martial arts training and skills that the vast majority of people do not have.

I even had thoughts about coming upon the scene of a burning car with locked doors and unconscious victim.  How could the victim be rescued?

All that thinking and exertions of the afternoon, convinced me of the need to purchase and have readily available in our vehicle a rescue device for breaking car windows.  The device is a very small hammer like device with a special tip which allows a window to be broken with a relatively small blow.  Many of these devices also have a means for cutting seat belts.

The devices cost around $7 to 20 dollars and are available many places as well as through Amazon.

Breaking in can be difficult, but not if you have and use the appropriate safety device.

Be safe, but also always be prepared

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Let's Not Forget

Events in life can sometimes be thought of as rivers.  Just as with rivers events have creative as well as destructive influences on people far removed from the source.  Just as with rivers, events are difficult to control and often times efforts to control them have far reaching negative impacts well beyond our imagination.

Three events this past holiday weekend have created a confluence in "Allen's World".  These events have converged and reinforced in me a common theme and reaffirmed the importance of history.

The first event, which I have already written about was the commemoration of the Battle of Groton Heights which is also known as the Fort Griswold Massacre.  On September 6, 1781, a local man, Benedict Arnold of Norwich, CT lead the British raid on New London, CT.  The attacking force of 1,700 regular British Army soldiers was opposed at Groton's Fort Griswold by 164 citizen soldiers.  In the end, the colonists lost the battle with casualties of 85 killed and 60 wounded.

Some 230 years ago common people; farmers, merchants, tradesmen rose to the challenge, left their families to defend their cause with many never to return to their loved ones.

The second event, also a far away event but in distance rather than in time, was a phone call from my oldest son.  He called to inform me that his 24 year old brother-in-law was in the ICU of the hospital fighting for his life after a four story fall on September 3rd. It was shocking to learn that someone so young and healthy was so quickly in life threatening circumstances.  No one had expected it.

The third event was having a former teacher befriend me on Facebook.  I had been one of her students 50 years ago.  It was a reconnection to my past.  It is an opportunity for me to show her the impact and influence that she has made upon my life from her doing her job so many years ago.  Just as events mold and shape our world so do people to our lives.  I have expressed gratitude in general for the education that I received in the Groton public schools.  However, I have yet to personally demonstrate my appreciation on a personal level to one of the teachers that helped to motivate me and give me some of the tools to use later in my life.  I now have an unexpected opportunity.  However I do have some trepidation that my former English teacher may start to hand out grades on these blog entries.

This coming week also marks the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 terror attacks.  I have written of that day before.  My perspective on that day is a little different than that of many of my friends in that I was living in Brasil.  Much of what I experienced of that time was through BBC International television.  However in the aftermath of that horrible day I was struck by a couple of things.  The first were the final calls from victims in the buildings and planes to their loved ones, the final good byes, and the last words that they felt compelled to express.  The other thing were the countless stories of remorse of survivors of the victims of how they had not kissed them or told the victims how much they were loved or how much they meant to them that day.  The victims had gone off about their lives just as any other day.  Just as any other day they were expected to return home.  Things that needed to be said or should have been said were reserved for a later time; a time that never arrived for so many people.

I remember that in the time after the tragedy of 9-11, we all were more appreciative of each other.  We all held our loved ones closer and dearer to ourselves.  I suspect that we were also much more expressive of our feelings and emotions regarding each other.

Over the passage of time, for many of us, old habits have reestablished themselves.  We may not kiss our loved ones every morning upon waking.  We delay telling someone how much they mean to us or how much we appreciate them because we expect there will be tomorrow or some other day to do it.  But there will always be a September 3, September 6, or a September 11 for someone and no tomorrow for them.  There will be no later time to say or do what should or could be done today.

As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9-11, let's not forget to tell those around us how much we love them, how much they have impacted our life, and how much we appreciate them being in our life.

Monday, September 5, 2011

History Re-Written?

Last Saturday, 3 September 2011, was a special day in Groton, Connecticut.  The commemoration of the 230th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Griswold, sometimes referred to as the Massacre of Fort Griswold, was held.  I will be writing a more detailed blog on this event later.

As part of the festivities, people from throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island came to Fort Griswold State Park to participate in reenactments of colonial period military and civilian activities.  Just as their are people who join Renaissance, American Civil War or Medival re-enactment organizations, here in New England there are American Revolutionary War groups representing American Patriots, British, Hessian, and French soldiers.

These people bring to life our history and make history more interesting to especially small children.  Surprisingly even old history buffs such as me end up learning or seeing something new.

Could He REALLY Be Who I Think He Is?

Well Saturday was somewhat of a shock for me.  I was wandering around taking photographs of the various participants when I came upon a group of "British" soldiers from Rhode Island.  I immediately recognized one of the soldiers for he is one of my favorite heroes.  Although I had studied history four years in high school and even four years of college, I was amazed to see "The Little Corporal", The Sacred Emperor Napolean Boneparte in a British uniform!

Never in all my classes or any of the books that I have read was there any mention that Napolean had fought in the American Revolution.  He had fought in the French Revolution but it was actually against the rebels.  He had served in the French Army and never as a "Redcoat".

Napolean?  In the British Army?
I asked the British Sergeant if he was aware that one of his men was perhaps the Emporer Napolean.  He seemed astounded at the possibility.  As for "Napolean" he claimed that he did not have any French blood in him.  He claimed to be of German, Irish, and Italian extraction.  "Hmmmm" I thought to myself; "Napolean was actually from Corsica which is part of Italy".  This soldier was showing some deftness typical of statesmen.  He denied being French but said he was descended from Italians all the while not admitting he was from Corsica.  I did not have the time to fully investigate but there appeared to be a conspiracy here.  I will perhaps leave it to Glenn Beck and others to pursue this further.

As we engaged in small talk, I noticed that the soldier appeared to relax and let down his guard ... or rather placed his hand inside of his tunic, an all too familiar posture for the man known to be "Napolean Boneparte".

Perhaps this was all a coincidence.  Perhaps this was a case of mistaken identity. Or perhaps some sinister forces are truly trying to rewrite history.

No matter the truth, it was a great day as well as quite a bit of fun.

Rest well and lay in peace. Mon Emperor, ; where ever you are.


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