Thursday, May 6, 2010

What stories are you carrying in your pocket?

At our Capitol Club Toastmasters meeting yesterday I was in charge of running the impromptu speaking portion of the program, which is called Table Topics. As the Table Topics Master I asked people a question, and they answered it with a one to two minute speech. My question was, “What’s in your wallet, pocket, purse, or backpack?” The idea came from a blog called Stories You Haven’t Heard. “What’s in your wallet?” has also been used as a catch phrase by Capital One for TV commercials about their credit card.

My example answer begins with a key chain. On it there is a little stainless steel, multipurpose tool called a Leatherman Micra. It unfolds to feature a scissors rather than the pliers found on the original larger tool. There also are a knife blade, regular and Phillips screwdrivers, tweezers, a nail file, and a bottle opener. A Micra normally sells for about $18.

This Leatherman Micra reminds me of my first road trip from Boise to the Seattle area. I bought my used Micra tool for just $3. It came from the State of Washington surplus warehouse in the Seattle suburb of Auburn. They had a tub full of confiscated knives and other sharp objects, like those deposited outside of security checkpoints at airports.

I had visited that warehouse to pick up an item won on an eBay online auction. It was a Polaroid MP4 copy stand. You probably have seen an MP4 used for close-up photography in the crime labs on CBS television shows like CSI and NCIS. It has a Polaroid camera that can move up and down on a five-foot tall column. The camera points down at a panel which is illuminated by four flood lights. Back before scanners and PowerPoint a copy stand was used to copy artwork, like making 35 mm slides for presentations. My MP4 has a mount for a digital camera instead of the Polaroid one. The image showing the Leatherman Micra was made on my MP4.

Auburn originally was named Slaughter, in memory of Lt. William Slaughter, who died in an Indian skirmish back in 1855. The main hotel in town even was called the Slaughter House. Later a large group of settlers from Auburn, New York moved there, and Slaughter was eventually renamed Auburn. However, when Auburn was building its second high school in the mid-1990s some suggested reviving the old name and calling it Slaughter High School. That sounded more like a title for a horror movie. Eventually they instead chose to call it Auburn Riverside High School.

While I was in Seattle I also stopped at the Boeing surplus warehouse in the suburb of Kent, Washington and also bought some other items from their famous tool crib.

My road trip to Seattle was via Interstate Routes 84, 82, and 90. I could have told you other entire stories about things in some of the towns on the way (Ontario, Baker City, Pendleton, etc.), or the scenery like the mountains, the Columbia and Yakina river valleys, and the Snoqualmie Pass.

The very best answer to the question of what’s in your pocket is a story retold by Robert Fulghum on page 170 of his book, It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It. That story commonly is called Are There Any Questions? and has been incorporated in many sermons. The story told by Alexander Papaderos starts from a piece of a broken motorcycle mirror, and finishes with an answer for the meaning of his life.

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