What Sputnik and Police Cruisers Set Off

ROCKPORT is a neighbor town with Maine coastal charm, a snug harbor, high taxes, and a Mr. Smith who operates a garage on Union Street. Mr. Smith is a good citizen, and he lately installed a burglar alarm at his garage so the police department would be instantly alerted if somebody robbed him. Not only might this aid the police, but it would comfort the anxieties of Mr. Smith, who could now go home after hours and relax and sleep soundly all night.Does anybody save me remember back in October of 1957 when the Soviet Union hoisted Sputnik into space? This took the shine off our efforts, as Sputnik was No. 1, but our pride had to admit that Sputnik was a brave sight as it moved across our sky. My first sighting of Sputnik was just after sundown on a day I had spent in my wood lot. Evenings come earlier in the fall, and it would still be an hour to supper. I had my empty lunch pail, and a few chanterelles I had found to help the scrambled eggs the next morning, and was coming down my pasture lane. It was already dark on the ground, but the sun wasn't too far below the horizon. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. Sputnik then appeared, with the upper sunlight bright on its metal, and I watched it i n a full passage. Sputnik went right along, so that passage was brief. Now at that time the self-opening garage door was new, and there had been a business flurry that year, and a lot of folks in our neck of the woods had installed them. Press a button and up went the door, the motor activated from a distance - the driver could open his doors while he was still down the street. Great! Otherwise, us old fogeys had to lift our doors, swing them on hinges, or roll them on tracks. Well, there was a sudden wave of complaints about these automatic doors. People who had spent good money for them found them open when they should be closed and closed when they should be open, and the things wouldn't stay up and wouldn't stay down. Unreliable. The dealers were perplexed. It was Sputnik. Every time Sputnik made an orbit, every automatic garage door would go into action. We can now return to Rockport, Maine, where Mr. Smith's security device on his garage began to gong-gong at times when Mr. Smith's garage was not being robbed. The police cruisers would come boiling up and the officers would descend to find serenity prevailed. Pranksters were suspected, but none was found. It was somewhat like Sputnik. Every time a Rockport police cruiser passed anywhere near Mr. Smith's garage, the impulses from the police radio transmitters touched off the gong. Then, the police would have to come and investigate. The chief suggested that until a better remedy could be figured out, the officers stop using their radios while passing the Smith garage. Since then, the Rockport Police Department has had less to do, and Mr. Smith can work on a transmission without having his place full of cops. Many years back, Maine had a peculiar governor, which is not peculiar, who considered himself essential to everything, and it was his beneficence to keep the House and Senate well advised. There were those who felt he'd do better to go off into Aroostook County and cut a few ribbons in front of new grocery stores. But he would go and speak to the House and then he would go and speak to the Senate, and he got to be a nuisance. In our Maine state house the two legislative chambers are at opposite ends of a long corridor, and one day His Excellency gave his advice to the House and then went along the corridor to repeat his wisdom to the Senate. He then returned to the House for further remarks, and in this way made three appearances in each chamber on the same afternoon. Since the members felt they might do just as well without him, this led one of our better editorial writers of the day to propose a conundrum. If, the editorial asked, our governor makes repeated visits to each legislative chamber in turn, and is able to reduce his time in the corridor by one-third at each passage, how many visits will he make before he is speaking in both chambers at the same time? This did prove amusing to certain representatives and senators as well as to one and all, and life in Maine continues to be about the same as we contemplate policemen who set off alarms and then hurry to investigate. I'll report further if something develops of importance.

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