Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I Met My First Robot At Wal Mart

I Met My First Robot--At Wal-Mart

Ambling Along

by Jay Hudson

I know it happens all the time to people on tv, but I just went to Wal-Mart for a drink, and there he was, my first encounter with a real live robot. He didn't look so fancy though, to tell you the truth. He was just about as skinny as I was when I was a teenager, a real polecat type of guy, tall and lanky.

He didn't have any hair on his head either.

I didn't even see him until he spoke to me. I usually walk with my head hanging down so I can spot pennies that people drop, and then are too embarrased to stoop and pick up.

I pick them up. No shame here.

He introduced himself as Rick The Robot.

I didn't say a word. I just looked at him about the same way I would look at a used car that I can't afford anyway, sort of skeptical like.

I wouldn't mind having a robot like Rick if he could clean house, mow the lawn, and haul my trash to the dump.

I stopped and listened to him talk for a few seconds just to see if I could learn anything electrifying.

He had a real deep voice with a Texas drawl to it. It sounded real pleasant too.

He had absolutely mesmerized a little cowpoke that was standing there. The little fellow was listening to every word .

The robot moved his head from side to side as he talked, and his eyes were flashing red lights. He was dressed in tennis shoes and a baseball cap.

He was wearing one of those Wal-Mart name tags, and holding a bottle of coke in his hand. I knew then he was a Wal-Mart Associate. He was telling the little fellow all about the deals at Wal-Mart, and what a great place it was to shop in.

I didn't want to interfere with his sales pitch, so I didn't tell him that my favorite place to shop was at yard sales and fleamarkets.

It reminded me of a time when I was just a few years older than the little cowpoke that was being mesmerized. The little fellow was about four or five.

I was about twelve years old when a school classmate brought a book to school. It was Tom Swift Jr. and His Giant Robot. I was hooked on Tom Swift from that moment on. Those books got my attention, the way the robot had the little fellow's attention at Wal-Mart.

My classmate was also my friend, Donald Hammond.

I had some magazines he was kind of keen on, no they were not Playboy . They were recent copies of Popular Science .

Don suggested we trade. I quickly agreed. I never regretted the trade either. I had never heard of Tom Swift, but the book sure was interesting. Don had the first three books in the series, and he traded them all to me.

This trade opened up a whole new avenue of reading for me. The writers had a series of Tom Swift books, and each had a different theme. The publishers had a order blank in the back of each volume so you could order whatever you wanted. I bought as many as my little budget would allow. I ordered about ten volumes on my first order. They cost a dollar and twenty-five cents each, and they were well worth the price. They were very entertaining and educational. I learned many scientific things that I never would have discovered any other way.

This was in the days before calculators and computers came a long. A real scientist or inventor used a calculating tool called a slide rule to do complex mathmatical calculations.

I knew I had to get one.

I rode my little twenty-inch bike five miles into town to get a slide rule. I never solved any math problems with it, but I had it --"just in case."

While reading these books in the early sixties, I embarked on many imaginary journey's with Tom and his friends, inventing things, and foiling diabolical enemies.

I dreamed of replicating each of Tom's wonderful inventions, not fully understanding at the time that lots of money and new technology was needed to make those dreams come true. They were way beyond the reach of this country boy, but heck, I could dream for free.

I saved all those Tom Swift books for my grandchildren. They had become collectible. They were selling in antique stores for around twenty dollars each, and then online auction's came along. Seems like everybody has something to sell. The value of my books dropped to almost the original price I paid for them all most fifty years ago.

A few days later, after seeing the robot, I took two of my granddaughters to Wal-Mart. The robot was still working, entertaining customers, but his voice had changed. He sounded like a girl. I didn't catch his new name, but Wal-Martha crossed my mind.

The Tom Swift books are still worth a lot to me, just because of the wonderful memories of a little boy trying to find his way in the world.

The oldest grandchildren are about ready to read them. They have shown interest in the books. Now, if I can just make myself trust them with such a valuable keepsake.

Memories are made of this stuff you know

Published in The Post, 2003.

Copyright-(c) 2003 Jay Hudson , All rights reserved. No reproduction or transmission without expressed written consent of Jay Hudson.


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