Building Blocks (opening lines)


‘The first heroin addict off the bus was a person I knew from the bar; thus ending my assignment to guard the hospital methadone clinic dispensary.’

This rendition of Building Blocks was influenced by Esther Newton’s wonderful blog series Monday Motivations/Fabulous First Few Words, that offers ideas on developing opening lines for your writing, and a Simplicity Lane reader who wanted to know if I had any more “odd” part-time job stories.

As mentioned in the October 7, 2014 Building Blocks (sports), while in college I worked as a part-time, unarmed Pinkerton guard.  The good point was that I made more per hour than my field supervisor.  The bad point was that I had no regular assignment; I would be called to take on short notice, whatever, wherever assignments.  Thus, the one escorting heroin addicts from their bus to the methadone clinic dispensary and then making sure they did not hold up the line…no, not slowness; like gun in your face holdups.  As I said, I was unarmed; which is why I eventually quit Pinkerton.  Oh, the addict, I recognized him as a patron of the bar I worked at part-time; and should something happen, I did not want to be a ‘gilt-by-association’er’.

“No, the baby is not mine…so, do you want to go out with me?”  I was ‘cured’ of my heroin duties and reassigned to guard the newborns while the nursery was closed and the door was left open so that the nurses could move quickly into and out of the nursery.  Of course the cute nurse from X-ray thought I was the father of one of the wee little ones.  Unfortunately the story ends there; she said no.

The police officer peered into the large, dark, carnivorous area and said, “You enter first and then call me.”  My nighttime assignment was to sit at the McCormick & Company’s Hunt Valley, Maryland plant switchboard and monitor the alarm system.  Prior to my ‘sit and read magazines’ task, I had walked through the plant.  The vanilla room was a page right out of my childhood; as I loved the aroma of McCormick spices that enlivened Baltimore’s inner harbor before McCormick moved to Hunt Valley (the company began in 1889 in Baltimore).

Sometime in the middle of the very windy night a door alarm went off, and I went outside to investigate.  A large overhead door had opened, revealing a very large, very dark, carnivorous area.  As I stood there, the police arrived.  ‘OK, the marshals have arrived to catch them rustlers.’  Wellllllll, there was a hitch; the police said that they could not enter this private property until I went in and ‘invited’ them in.  Surrrrrrrrre.  So Steve, who had no idea where a light switch was, took two steps into the area and said, in his radio announcer voice, “Officers, come onnnnnnn down!”  They looked around and decided that the wind must have opened the unlocked overhead door.

‘The sniper stood on the turnpike overpass, and when the fuel tanker had passed underneath, he fired his rifle at the tanker; the ensuing exploding fireball killed the overpass sniper.’

Or, how about,

‘When I test called my twenty four/seven emergency number, the line was busy; she was talking to her boyfriend.’

On a dark February night during the 1974 nationwide truckers strike, I was the lone person at a closed truck terminal in the middle of nowhere; assigned to stand in the entrance guard shack to make sure no one entered or exited the property.  The papers had just reported that someone had shot at a tanker truck from a highway overpass; the ensuing explosion had killed the sniper.  When I tried test calling my Pinkerton 24/7 emergency number, I repeatedly received a busy signal.  Finally a woman answered and said, “I’m so sorry; I was talking to my boyfriend.”

(The Associated Press) February 4, 1974.  The independent truckers’ strike brought new reports of layoffs yesterday, and its continued incidents of violence caused two states to call up 3.400 National Guardsmen.  Warnings of possible food shortages by early this week were issued. Pennsylvania Gov. Milton Shapp urged a 45-day moratorium on the protests which have spread across more than 25 states, to avert what he called a “national economic calamity.”  But spokesmen for the striking truckers, and drivers interviewed yesterday in four states, said they would not put their rigs back on the road until they get assurances of lower prices for diesel fuel and a guarantee that higher fuel costs can be passed along to trucking companies on a dollar-for-dollar basis.  More layoffs were reported yesterday in Ohio, Pennsylvania and lowa.  In all, nearly 20.000 workers would be temporarily out of work by today, and thousands more were in danger if the shutdown continues much longer…Pennsylvania called up 2.500 National Guardsmen to relieve 1.400 others who have been on duty since Friday, to stand watch on state highways.”  The actions of a few lawbreakers have created an atmosphere of fear among truckers who want to drive their rigs in Ohio,” said Gov. John J. Gilligan as he called up 900 Guardsmen.  Violence continued.  Tires were slashed and hoses cut at several truck stops.  Nails littered some highways.  Truckers in Ohio, South Carolina. Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan. Tennessee. Mississippi, Oklahoma and Nebraska reported being shot at during the night Saturday and yesterday…

Yes, that was my last assignment with Pinkerton; I quit when my shift was over.

Think about your ‘building blocks’; we can not write without them.


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