frenemies

Hot LineThe United States and Russia have long been frenemies, truth be told, but in October of 1962, no one would have called them that. The Cuban Missile Crisis brought the two super powers to the brink of a nuclear conflict. As we all know, that would have been devastating for the inhabitants of the earth, and in the end, both countries agreed that we could not let things escalate to that level again. In June of 1963, American and Russian representatives agreed to establish a “hot line” between Moscow and Washington DC. The idea was to speed communication between the two governments to prevent an accidental war.

By August of 1963, the system was ready to be tested. American teletype machines were installed in the Kremlin and at the Pentagon. Many people have thought that the machine at the Pentagon was actually in the White House, but that is incorrect. The two nations exchanged Teletype machineencoding devises so that they could decipher the messages. This would allow the two nations to message each other in a matter of minutes. That would be somewhat slow in today’s high tech world of cell phones and texting, but in those days, it was state of the art. Once received, the message would have to be deciphered, which did slow things down a bit, but again, at that time, it was state of the art. The two teletype machines were connected by a 10,000 mile long cable with “scramblers” along the way to ensure that the messages could not be intercepted by unauthorized personnel.

On August 30, the United States sent its first message to the Soviet Union over the hot line: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back 1234567890.” The message was chosen because it used every letter and number key on the teletype machine in order to see that each was in working order. Moscow returned a message in Russian indicating that every key had worked properly. In the end, the hot line was never needed hotline1to prevent war, but instead has become a novelty item, used as a prop in movies about nuclear disaster. Fail Safe and Dr Strangelove were two movies that utilized the machines. The reality was that the two superpowers had come so close to mutual destruction back in 1962, that neither had much stomach for the proposed threat. They understood that communication was key in stopping a nuclear war. Of course, that has not stopped other nations from threatening to use nuclear weapons against other nations of the world. The Cold War ended a long time ago, but the “hot line” is still in operation between the two superpowers, and has since been supplemented by a direct secure telephone connection in 1999.

SistersFew relationships are like that of two little sisters. They love each other from the moment the youngest arrives…well most of the time. That first year of the younger sister’s life, will determine if she is a pain in the neck, or cool enough to take what her big sister can dish out. It will also determine just how much she is willing to put up with, before she takes matters into her own hands. It is a learning process for both sisters. Most generally, sisters will end up being friends for life, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a few bumps in the road. My own sisters and I are good friends, but that doesn’t mean that the years we spent sharing our childhood home were smooth as silk, because they weren’t. We are five different people with five different personalities, and that is bound to cause clashes every now and then.

The same is the case for my sisters-in-law, Jennifer and Brenda. Jennifer had been the baby of the family for two years when Brenda came along. With three older siblings bossing her around with all their no no’s, Jennifer was very excited to have a younger sister, who wouldn’t be the boss of her. Maybe they could even be best friends. And, things were going along well…most of the time. Jennifer loved her little sister very much. It was almost like having a real life doll when she was a baby, and then later, she had a friend who liked to play the same games she did. It was much better than having a little brother, in her mind, because boys just want to play dumb cars, and not dolls. Jennifer hugged Brenda often, and life was good.

Nevertheless, Brenda was her own person too, and she didn’t always want to do things Jennifer’s way. They have two very different personalities, and what one finds funny the other might not. And, as with most little girls, they can both get annoyed when their friend Frenemiesstarts feeling too much like a frenemy. No one likes being laughed at, even if that isn’t really what was happening. Sometimes it might have been just a matter of something striking Brenda funny, and Jennifer didn’t agree. That was all it took. Jennifer was…less than amused with this little sister…who she loved very much. That didn’t excuse Brenda’s laughter about something that Jennifer didn’t think was funny. With that one little giggle came a totally new situation. They were now definitely frenemies, and Jennifer was sure that things would never be the same again. Thankfully, the whole situation was a fleeting moment in their childhood years, and they would go on to be friends again…until the next little clash, that is.

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