This I Believe

Kevin - Sacramento, California
Entered on July 25, 2007

Spiral Man

I believe in carrying a notepad everywhere I go. Currently I have a Mead memo pad in my pocket. It contains sixty three-by-five-inch sheets. That’s 120 pages if you write on both sides of the sheet. And I do. I also have a Papermate ballpoint pen in my pocket. Without it, the notepad would be worthless.

I am not someone who thinks his every thought needs to be recorded for posterity. In fact, I rarely record my own thoughts in my notepad. Mostly I record what I hear. Yesterday, I visited the shop where my 85-year-old barber, Sam, cuts hair. While I waited my turn for a haircut, Sam talked with another customer about the heat wave we’ve been experiencing. The customer said, “I don’t know what we’d do without air-conditioning.” Sam smiled and said, “When I was growing up, no one had air-conditioning but we always managed to get by.” Then he added, “The closest thing to air-conditioning back then was when you were out in the fields on a tractor with your shirt off and a breeze suddenly came up out of nowhere. When that breeze hit the sweat on your skin, it was the best kind of air-conditioning I’ve ever felt.” Upon hearing this observation, I dug into my pocket and pulled out Messrs. Mead and Papermate and quickly wrote down Sam’s words. They struck me as priceless.

A couple of years ago I was at an amusement park with my two thirteen-year-old granddaughters, Ashleigh and Mallory. While we were encaged in a wire-mesh gondola high atop a giant Ferris wheel, Ashleigh looked down at the the artificial lake below us and grew pensive. “Just think what would happen if this gondola snapped loose and fell into the water. I wouldn’t be able to breathe. I’d probably drown. My makeup would run.” While she and Mallory pondered this horrible fate, I grabbed my notepad and wrote down these mortal thoughts of hers. No doubt, I’ll dredge them up to embarrass her with at her wedding reception or some other suitable occasion.

I have nothing against cameras and camcorders and tape recorders, but my preferred method for capturing memorable moments is to scribble them down in a spiral notepad. My wife calls me Spiral Man. Whenever she sees me jotting something into my notepad, she sings a little jingle she made up to go along with the tune of the Spiderman theme song:

Spiral Man, Spiral Man

Scribbling into a Spiral Pad.

Is he through? Not just yet.

He’s got 28 pages left.

Hey there, there goes a Spiral Man.

She makes little jokes at my expense, tells me that someday I’m likely to die of spiral meningitis. But I don’t care. I take out my little notepad when I’m browsing in a bookstore and jot down titles that interest me but which I’m not yet ready to buy. I take it out in movie theaters to write down memorable lines of dialog. But mostly I use it just to capture the marvels of human speech that I hear everyday from family, friends, co-workers, and even complete strangers. Every day has sentences in it that are too valuable to let slip away forever. That’s why I believe in carrying a notepad. And, of course, a pen.