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Ups and Downs of the Prep Sports Year

Members of The Times Orange County prep sports staff share their memories of the people, events and issues of the past school year. : Rough Night

June 17, 1997|PAUL McLEOD

A sixth-grade student at Circle View Elementary School in Huntington Beach wrote a letter to me after a talk I gave there.

"I bet it was really tough in the old days to carry around a typewriter to write your stories," the student wrote.

Laptop computers were supposed to put an end to crisscrossing the county in an old truck at 90 miles an hour, racing back to the office with 10 minutes to write a story. Gone would be the days of dictating from graffiti-covered phones booths on soggy nights to harried clerks.

The principle behind them is a simple one: Find a telephone, push a few buttons and the story shows up in front of an editor.

This season, however, computers crashed. Phones failed. Deadlines loomed.

The first hint of trouble came one night last fall at a fast-food place in Cypress about 11 p.m., our deadline to get stories to the editors. I wrote a football game story, then left a jacket and a bag full of important information in the restaurant within plain view of the pay phone out on the sidewalk.

I quickly rediscovered that phone companies don't supply booths any longer. They just kind of stick the instrument on a pole in the strangest of places. I cradled the laptop in one arm, dialed a number with the other and somehow stuck a set of elephant ears called couplers to the ends of the handset.

When I returned to the restaurant the door was locked.

"Don't come in," a restaurant employee behind the glass said. "Closed."

I pointed to a sign that said the place was open until midnight, and after five minutes he got the point. Opening the door a crack, he dropped my stuff outside on the dark, damp sidewalk.

A couple of weeks later my 12-year-old, usually reliable laptop that has traveled around the country with me on assignments, went blank as I was finishing a story on deadline at another fast-food establishment, this time in Tustin. The following week at Brea Olinda High a woman screamed at me when I asked if I could use the pay phone she was camped on.

"I've been robbed!" she said, sobbing. "Can't you see I'm upset!"

It made no difference when she finally surrendered the phone. The Times receiving equipment at the office went dead and I had to dictate my story.

Ahhh, technology.

Come to think of it, those bygone days lugging around that big typewriter don't seem so silly anymore.

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