On a fine and clear day last week I drove all the way to Freedom, which is far up there in Waldo County. I only made two wrong turns, which isn’t bad.

As I drove back, I realized I had passed hundreds of houses and outbuildings but could not remember seeing a single Christmas decoration in any yard or anywhere along the whole route. Maybe if I’d gone up at night, I might at least have seen a few colored lights turned on?

*   *   *   *   *

I know a gentleman from Rankin Street who tried to get into the Strand last Sunday, to see the Rockland history movie. He tells me the place was full when he got there, and that there was no room for him at the inn.

*   *   *   *   *

Last week I complained about how the Four (Wretched) Seagulls of the Apocalypse often make it difficult for me to write this column, as they peck away at my frozen fingers while I sit up here in the concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street, where I am forced to live.

These gull-related problems are made worse by the fact that I try to write these stories on the blank insides of old cardboard cereal boxes I get from the dump. It is such an economical approach, although kind of awkward. Then I had a dream in which a brilliant idea was revealed that will make this entire process less troublesome in future.

If I cut the cereal boxes open and fold them out so I can actually see the sides that I am writing on and the words I am writing, I think the whole process will take a lot less time. So much easier than shoving my quill inside the empty boxes, and hoping I am writing in straight lines.

Lo, this is how I am composing this week’s nonsense, and I tell you that it seems to be working just fine!

*   *   *   *   *

It comes to my attention via a Delaware newspaper that the three-masted Rockland schooner Victory Chimes is for sale, and that someone down in the Chesapeake Bay area wants to buy it.

According to the vessel’s website, the current owners have withdrawn her from commercial passenger sailing: “After long and careful consideration we have come to the difficult decision that 2022 will be Victory Chimes’ last sailing season. Upcoming Coast Guard compliance, cost and availability of materials for upcoming maintenance, the lack of ability to haul the ship in Maine and the losses of the 2020 season have all become a hill too big to climb.”

The Chimes was launched in April 1900 from the Bethel, Del., yard of George K. Phillips Co. as the Edwin and Maud.

Victory Chimes not only exemplifies the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century development of large American wooden schooners intended primarily, though not exclusively, for the coasting trade on both east and west coasts, but she is the only surviving example of the ‘Chesapeake ram’ type and one of only two surviving examples of a three masted schooner in the United States.”

It has been part of Rockland’s windjammer fleet for many years, although it was once renamed The Domino Effect when the owner of that company bought it. Chimes also bears quite a resemblance to the schooner pictured on the Maine State quarter, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Now someone is hoping to buy it and take it back to the part of the world where it was built, according to a Dec. 14 article in the Bay to Bay News. If the vessel does go away, I will certainly miss seeing it sweeping up and down Penobscot Bay from the wondrous vantage point of my concrete towers.

I have been known to use Victory Chimes to shamelessly persuade visitors that I am much smarter than I am. Knowing this schooner has three masts enabled me to point it out among the cloud of other vessels out there each summer, and casually mention it by name.

This all-knowing performance has impressed many a guest over the years, and eventually led to my entirely false reputation of being a bit of an old salt. Now I guess the game is up.

*   *   *   *   *

Two weekends ago I found myself locked out of my car in the Goodwill parking lot, but remembered that there is a way to get in via the trunk, which miraculously was not locked.

So, passersby were treated to the unusual sight of an increasingly older man’s legs waving in the air from inside the open trunk, as I squeezed my way past several bags of clothes that were in the way on the back seat, and groped for the doorlatch.

The bags of clothes would not have been on the back seat, and the whole escapade would have been easier, if Goodwill had not stopped accepting donations by the time I got to the store. Or, if I’d paid attention to when they stop.

*   *   *   *   *

I have been going on about our workforce shortage, lately. Maybe this piece will help get it out of my system.

While there are few people not now working in Maine, some are not still on the sidelines because they cannot find decent childcare. And many childcare facilities cannot get enough workers.

Thus it happens that there are now three classrooms at Rockland’s Head Start school on High Street behind Johnson’s Sporting Goods, that sit empty all day long. Altogether they have an estimated capacity of up to 40 children as young as six months to age 5.

I am told that between nine and eleven staff members are needed for all three classrooms to be opened up, and this would probably make it possible for two or three dozen parents to take jobs. Heaven knows we could use them.

This is one of those classic chicken-and-egg situations. Parents need childcare so they can work, but childcare and related agencies need workers so they can provide childcare.

The cost of childcare has been cited as another barrier preventing parents from working, but apparently Head Start charges fees based on what families can afford.

*   *   *   *   *

Speaking of the worker shortage, I read that a pizza and gelato restaurant in Wilmington, N.C., has added a robot waiter called Chris to its staff. The machine is fully mobile on wheels and has built-in shelves where food can be placed. His owner says Chris can “bus tables, deliver orders, help with hosting, sing to the customers and help make the staff’s job easier.”

I doubt he requires minimum wage or tips, and if they were to somehow combine him with one of those robot vacuum cleaners that cats ride around on in YouTube clips, he might just be perfect.

*   *   *   *   *

Anybody who is against the city’s minimum hourly wage for larger businesses rising to $14 on New Year’s Day should rest easy. I doubt there are many employers who will be paying that little, even though the rate is 20 cents more than what the state minimum will be in 2023.

Minimum wages are intended to be a backstop, preventing employers paying any less than a bare minimum level. Actual wages paid are often higher, although not always by much. And I won’t even go into the matter of rising prices, which can wipe out many gains in wages.

Maine’s first minimum hourly wage was $1, which came into force in October 1959. Until a few years ago, the state minimum was $7.50. Even so, it was still 25 cents higher than the federal minimum was (and still is).

With the State Legislature declining to increase the minimum to anything like a rate that Mainers considered realistic, and with workers struggling to make ends meet, it was the people of Maine themselves who raised the minimum hourly wage via the referendum process.  They pushed it from $7.50 to $9 in January 2017, and added a dollar each following year until it reached $12 in January 2020.

From then on, the state’s rate has increased annually according to the cost of living, and it will rise from $12.75 to $13.80 in January 2023. Which is to say, still not even $30,000 a year. Imagine trying to live on that today.

As I said, very few employers are paying as little as minimum wage these days, because there are about two jobs for every available worker in Maine. This means many more people have choices about where they will work, and for some strange reason they often choose to go where wages are higher.

Well, on that jolly note, Bob Cratchit, I will wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah, and may God bless us every one!

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at davidgrima@ymail.com.