Monday, November 7, 2011

FEAR NOT! I have not gone, I've just shimmied a little to the left.

I've moved my blog page to

There will be new content, a better layout and a few teasers for my new book "The Revealing"

I invite you all to my new corner of the world. All the old blogs are there and there's plenty more to come. So come over, relax and have a laugh. Oh and please don't forget to follow the new site.

Thanks and I'll see you soon!

Monday, October 31, 2011

“Beware Computer Programmers baffled by telephones!”

For those of you that have been here before, you’ve probably read about the I.T. support group we’re shackled with here at the fire department. For you first timers, if you find this article suitably painful, you may even want to go back and enjoy a few of the other I.T. adventures we’ve had here together. Either way, hold on to your hats, because here comes an all new episode in the “Beware Computer Programmers” saga.

Last week I called in a phone problem, and discovered the I.T. desk had added a whole new level of redundancy and aggravation. The name of this new and improved little demon is called the intelligent automated answering system.

At first I thought the I.T guys had done something right; separating their issues into different departments, making them more organized and efficient. I assumed wrong.

The automated she devil answered the phone and I listened to the usual gambit of press one for this, and two for that, until I got to the option for telephone issues. It was, of course, the last one. I’m still trying to figure out how those things know what you’re calling about, enabling them to put the number you’re looking for at the bottom of the list!

Anyway, I selected the phone issues option, which of course sent me to another menu, then another, and another, until I did what any other rational human being would do. I punched the number zero like a speed bag until the system relented and sent me to an operator. The good news? It worked. A real live, breathing, human being answered the phone. The bad news? It was one of our good friends, the I.T. technicians.

I explained to the nice gentlemen, we’ll call him Gerald, that we had a phone that was not working. Gerald told me, with a great amount of pride, that they had an all new automated system that could send me to the section that would take care of my issue. I resisted the urge to tell him what I thought of his system, and asked Gerald if he would transfer me to the correct section, and believe it or not, he said he could! He told me to hold on and I waited while the phone clicked and beeped, then I heard Gerald’s muffled voice again. He said something like, “This one?” then click… beep… dial tone. You’d think I’d know better by now.

I redialed, and was again greeted by the automated she-devil. This time I gave in and patiently made my way through the demons labyrinth of numbered torture. I made it to the hold queue, complete with Barry Manilow montage, and waited for my turn to talk to a technician.

After ten or fifteen minutes a familiar voice came on the line.

“This is Gerald, can I help you.”

Now usually I try to hold my profanity to a minimum, but let’s just say my response to Gerald’s voice was a bit less than cordial. I think he was taken aback by my colorful description of his service procedures, but once I calmed down, he agreed to try and help me and I agreed to stop creating new ways to call him the business end of a donkey.

From there, our time on the phone together was a little tense, but we made it through together. After a few more assaults from the Barry Manilow hold line, I even calmed down enough to apologize for my language and behavior. Gerald accepted, and did his best to find a technician that could make it over that very day.

I don’t know if I’ll ever talk to Gerald again, but I feel we developed a kind of bond. Perhaps, if our paths cross again, things will be different. Maybe things will go smoothly and we’ll develop some sort of working relationship. Then again, if that happened, what would I have to write about!

So let me have it. My I.T. blogs usually draw out the techs in this little community. Tell me your side. I love to hear the “Why won’t this thing turn on when it’s not plugged in “stories too.

Have a great day and happy reading!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

“Never light a house on fire with children under the age of four!”

Well fire prevention week wrapped up on the 15th of October, and we were not only able to teach the public a few things, we also learned a thing or two ourselves. We learned, as posted earlier, that people can rationalize some pretty strange choices when it comes to fire safety. We also learned something else, something very important; we learned not everyone can appreciate realism when it comes to the danger of fire in the home.

Last year our department built a fire prevention trailer; basically a house on wheels designed to teach kids how to get out of a smoke filled home. It has been a huge hit among school age kids; so much so, that this year we decided to upgrade. We not only added more smoke, we also installed a realistic looking light show in the kitchen, emulating a fire you can put it out with a laser spewing fire extinguisher. Very cool!

The new system worked like a charm. We drew in droves of kids and adults eager to try their hand at amateur firefighting. We all had a good time and everything went off without a hitch… that is until we visited the daycare center.

The kids in the daycare ranged in age from three to five, so needless to say, I decided to scale down the presentation and skip the special effects inferno. Notice I used the word “I” and not “we” (this will be an important detail later in the story).

As we set things up, the children emerged and were met at the front door by Sparky the fire dog. Sparky is, of course, a firefighter dressed in a friendly looking dog suit, but to these kids Sparky must have looked like a demon spawned from Hell.

As soon as they saw him, they turned and made for their door. It was like watching a tidal wave advance, then recede; a small, screaming, tidal wave of crying panicked children. Sparky retreated and the teachers reassured their students that Sparky wasn’t there to eat them.

After that fiasco was over, the children came around in to see the prevention house with me. They were all very excited to see the tiny rooms built just for them, and soon the terrors of Sparky the fire dog were for gotten… at least for the moment.

I went through my presentation, telling them how to get out of a house and how to dial 911 in an emergency. I bypassed the fire show in the kitchen, then took them to the miniature bedroom so they could practice using the fire escape. This was when everything went horribly wrong.

To add a bit of realism to the exercise, I have a button that allows me to add a little smoke to the room. Nothing drastic, just a little haze to show them what it might be like in a real fire. I told them about how fun and safe our pretend smoke was, then after teaching them the best ways to escape in an emergency, I let one of the little girls in the class push the button.

Smoke billowed out of the vent just as planned, then everything went south. The kids screamed and sandwiched themselves into a corner, smashing the poor boy in the back like a day old sausage. The little girl that pushed the button was clawing at it now, frantically trying to make the smoke go away. Shrieks of terror filled the air, and tears began to flow, it was a nightmare.

I tried to calm the kids down, assuring them they were safe, but they were already far beyond comforting. Their teacher, thankfully present as well, opened the little patio door to the fire escape and the kids poured out the opening like ants fleeing the stomping foot of a pre-adolescent boy.

The only good thing to come out of the whole mess was that they were all definitely eager to escape. No hiding under the beds or in closets for this crew, no sir. I think those kids would have torn through the wall with their teeth if they’d been stuck in there much longer.

We got the kids over the rail and down the ladder, despite the tearful fits of terror, then I turned back to warn the firefighter leading the class behind be about my unwitting mistake. I was too late.

As I opened the door to the small kitchen below, I saw my assistant chief standing there holding one of the simulated fire extinguishers, ready to demonstrate the full and impressively realistic lightshow I spoke of earlier.

As I opened my mouth to stop him, he hit the button on his remote. Pseudo flames erupted into a mass of noise and fake smoke and the kids in the room ran. Some ran out the door, some ran to the back of the trailer, and some just ran in circles, screaming in the kitchen.

I reached into my own pocket a pulled out another remote to turn off the system, but the damage had already been done; once again the shrieking voices of little children filled the air.

Later, after the kids competent caretakers calmed them down in the comfort of their classrooms, we reemerged and were able to explain that everything was just pretend “like a cartoon” I said. They seemed to understand; of course I thought they’d understood earlier as well.

We handed out candy and hats, then decided to forgo the firemen in turnout gear, thinking their little hearts might not be able to take any more. Needless to say, we will be rethinking out education program for preschoolers. I am thinking maybe a puppet show. A puppet show with no smoke, no fire, and a much smaller Sparky.

We called later and asked if the kids were doing all right and their teachers said they were fine. I guess they were even reenacting their exciting adventure on the playground. I hope, despite our lack of age appropriate material, something of our message sunk in. For even though it may have been a rough delivery, the lesson was important; if there’s a fire, get out!

I spent the next week or so expecting angry phone calls from parents, but none came and I was relieved that no permanent damage had been done.

We all have lessons to learn, and that week we learned a good one… “Never light a house on fire with children under the age of four!”

Monday, October 17, 2011

“The premeditated thoughts of a three year old can be terrifying”

As a father I am no stranger to surprises. Sponges in the toilet, my car keys in the garbage disposal; but every once in a while a child will come up with something so devious I am left to do nothing but stare in wonder.

The other day I visited my neighbor, his wife, and his two young girls. I’d been there for a while chatting with my friend at the kitchen table, when his three and a half year old daughter Sarah strolled into the room.

As we talked, Sarah pushed a chair to the counter, climbed up, and grabbed a brand new package of Oreos. This was nothing all that unusual in itself, but there was one thing that caught my attention; it was the way she opened the bag. Most kids her age would have just torn the package to shreds or smashed it with whatever blunt instrument was handy, but not her. She took her time, carefully pulling the edges apart, making an opening just large enough to get a single cookie out. As I watched, I figured she would take a couple of Oreos and go, but that wasn’t the case. One after the other Sarah worked the cookies out of the tiny hole, stacking them on the counter as she went. When she was done, she pressed the opening closed with her tiny fingers then set the empty package back on the counter right where she’d found it.

By now she had also attracted the attention of her father.

“I hope you don’t think you’re going to eat all of those young lady.” He said.

Sarah looked at us and showed a grin the Cheshire cat would have been proud of.

“Put’en ‘em in the cookie jar daddy.” She said with an innocent tone, but that grin told us both a different story.

Our conversation forgotten, we watched as she placed the cookies into the jar next to her. When they were all tucked safely away, she swept her hands across the counter in true toddler fashion, then she the picked up the jar and jumped down off the chair.

“Now where are you going?” Dad said.

Still grinning, Sarah rushed her stash around the corner, set it on the ground, then came back, suddenly unable to contain a gale of childish giggles.

She stood between us on the far side of the table, peeking just over the top, staring at the spot where the empty bag of cookies lay.

I shrugged and looked at my friend who returned my look of utter confusion.

Then, as if on cue, her older sister entered the room. She went to the refrigerator; pulled out a half gallon of milk, then set it down next to the Oreo package. As soon as she picked up the empty wrapper Armageddon began. She screamed and looked around for her sister. She found her standing between us, laughing now, uncontrollably. This three year old girl had just spent almost 20 minutes setting up this elaborate scheme just so she could see her sister cry.

Admittedly it was a pretty rotten thing to do, but it was so creative even her father found himself stifling his laughter.

After a few screaming laps around the table mom came in and brought some sense to the festivities. Sarah gave back the cookies and her sister took them away in a huff, vowing a tearful revenge. Frankly I don’t think she stands a chance. Any kid that can come up with a prank like that at three and a half is either destined for greatness or prison. I don’t know what she’ll grow up to be, but I pity her bosses, and more so, her future husband.

A short while later the tears dried up and mom finished dolling out her dose of the evil eye. Everything went back to normal, or as normal as things could be in that house, and I went home knowing I would NEVER turn my back on little Sarah again.

Have you ever been shocked by the actions of a kid? I’m sure we all have. If you have a good story I would love to hear about it. Happy reading and remember, keep your cookies hidden and your chair to the kitchen wall!

Monday, October 10, 2011

“I removed all my smoke detectors because the noise scared my son”

What if we all responded to people’s actions with the sarcasm they sometimes so richly deserved? This is fire prevention week, so needless to say as a fire fighter, I was out most of the day promoting fire safety. Today we were out in front of our neighborhood grocery displaying our truck and smokehouse trailer to teach children how to escape a burning house.

As the morning went by, we got the usual gambit of intelligent questions like: When should you replace your fire alarms, and do I need a fire extinguisher in my house, but today I ran into one gentleman that set my sarcasm meter to high.

This particular gentlemen walked up to our table with his nine year old son and perused the free fire helmets and fire safety paraphernalia as he explained what a great service these nice policemen did for their community. Now don’t get me wrong, I agree that our fellow brothers in blue are an indispensible asset to our lives, but we are not policemen, we are firemen. I let him go on for a few more seconds, thinking sooner or later he would realize he was standing in front of a ten foot long “Fire Prevention” sign, then I politely interrupted him to explain who we were and why we were there.

When I finished, the man looked confused, but instead of responding, he just turned his attention back to the free items on the table.

“So what’s this stuff for?” He said.

“Just some free stuff for the kids, help yourself to anything you like”

I picked up one of the canvas backpacks we were giving away and handed it to his son who had, if nothing else, heard and understood one very important word… Free!

As the boy loaded up on cups, toys and pencils, his father glanced at me looking a bit baffled once again.

“You don’t have any prices on this stuff, how much is it?”

I glanced over at the big sign on the table that read “Free, please help yourself.” and thought, maybe this guy can’t read.

I started to feel a bit ashamed thinking I had misjudged this poor man, then he picked up one the toy badges and read it aloud.

“Jr. Fire Marshal” he said with a smirk, then without missing a beat he turned to point at the fire truck behind him.

“That Yours?”

Nope, he was a reader and a genius to boot! This was where I wanted to tell him that the truck belonged to one of the cashiers and that she drove it back and forth to work because of the great gas mileage… but I didn’t.

“Yes sir,” I said. “Would you like to take a look?”

“No thanks, what’s this little house trailer you got goin over here though?”

I lead him and his son over to our prevention trailer and explained that we had set it up like a miniature house for kids to look through and learn about fire safety.

“I’d be glad to take you through if you’d like to take a look.” I said, keeping up my best fire prevention face.

The boy yanked hard on his father’s coat before he could refuse.

“Yes daddy yes.” He said with a mouth full of candy. “I wanna see it!”

The dad smiled and patted him on the head then motioned me in. As we walked in the door the man put his hand on my arm as if he’d forgotten something very important, then asked me a question that effectively ended the tour.

“I hope there’s not going to be a lot of noise in here. We had to remove all the smoke detectors in our house because the alarms scared little Joey here.”

I looked at the man, then down at the doe eyed expression if the nine year old.

“Well the poor little guy. He must have been terrified. I removed all the smoke detectors in my house to, that way when I give my kids the matches and gasoline to play with they aren’t startled by the big scary beeping sounds when everything goes up in flames.”

OK, that’s what I wanted to say, but instead I tried to explain that the noise was designed to warn everyone in the house of danger, and I urged him to replace them as soon as possible.

I offered to continue the tour but when I told him there would be a little noise his son threw himself on the floor and threw a tantrum the likes of which I have never seen before. I was reminded of the children on Willy Wonka, thrashing and screaming until they got their way. The father looked down at the boy and pleaded with him.

“Now Joey, we’ve talked about this.” He said in a voice barely audible above the child’s screaming. “It will only be for a moment. The nice fireman says it’s not even scary. I’ll bet he could set it up just like our house so that there’s no noise at all. Would that be alright?”

The boy continued to scream, then the father shrugged his shoulders and turned to leave. As soon as Joey realized he’d won, he stopped crying, popped his sucker back into his mouth, then practically skipped out the door.

I did not follow.

I watched out the window as Joey sprinted into the parking lot at full speed with his bag full of goodies. His father gave a half hearted; “Now Joey, slow down,” and I wondered at how little Joey had survived this long.

So is there a moral to this story? Too many to list I think.

Being that it’s “FIRE” prevention week and not crime prevention, or brat prevention, or crappy parent prevention week; let’s just stick with this.

Replace your smoke detectors every ten years, your batteries every year, and no matter how much your child might complain about the noise, it’s still better than being trapped within the confines of an inferno, blissfully free of the annoying beep of a smoke alarm.

Have a great week and if you have any “little angel” stories of your own, let me have ‘em!

Monday, September 26, 2011

“Beware Of Computer Programmers Whistling Superhero Tunes.”

Well it’s a new week and I’m sure everyone that read last week’s blog is as been waiting with baited breath to see what happened when the IT tech showed up to fix the computers in our office. OK, so that’s probably an exaggeration but I hope your back to find out what happened anyway.

For those that have just joined us here, last week I wrote about our fabulous IT department. To get a real feel for the whole thing, you’ll have to read last week’s post. Either way here’s part two of the computer technician fiasco.

It had been nearly three days since I called the charismatic fellow at the IT desk to tell him my computer wasn’t working. He’d mentioned there might be a slight back log for repairs, since they had disabled several hundred computers; so frankly, I was shocked when a technician called to tell me he was on his way over. He asked if I could be there to meet him, and I told him I could if I rearranged a few appointments.

As soon as I hung up the phone, I went to work changing my schedule to free up the afternoon. Lunch time came and went. As did one, two, three, and four O’ clock and guess what; no IT guy. The next morning I got another phone call from the computer office again saying they were on their way. This time they asked for directions (Perhaps they got lost the first time). I told them I was at the fire department.

My answer was met with silence and the sound of rustling paper then the man said.

“Where’s that?”

Now this might seem like a perfectly logical question, except it just so happens we are the only fire department they serve… oh and we’re less than a block away.

“Walk out your front doors, turn left, then look for the building with the great big fire trucks!”

OK… I didn’t really say that. What I did was give him the address and hope he wouldn’t have to put it into a GPS to find the place.

Moments later he arrived, looking frazzled, and introduced himself as the department supervisor. At first I thought I was in luck. If anyone could help me here it would be this guy right; wrong. As I watched him work, I realized why our IT department had always provided us with such abhorrent service.

He sat down, hit the power button, and waited for the computer to power up. When the screen came on, displaying the code telling him the computer had been disabled, he looked at me with a straight face and said.

“Yup your computers down. I’ll have to go back to the office and get a disk so I can fix it.”

Then he got up, walked to his car, and left.

Now this should have been shock, but considering or history together, it didn’t surprise me at all. As he left I wondered what he would say if he called 911, and when we got there we said,

“Yup, that’s a fire. You’ll have to hold on while we go back to the station to get some hose.”

The IT pro got his disk and was back in a flash. He came in, sat down, put the disk in and… made a phone call. As he waited for the other line to pick up, he clicked the mouse nervously. I knew something was wrong.

The other party picked up.

“OK, I have this disk in. Now what do I do?”

I could not help but stare in disbelief. This was the head IT guy and he was calling back the office for step by step instructions. He would listen; type a few lines, then listen again, then type some more. After several agonizing minutes he got the process started, then stood triumphantly to announce it would be an hour before it was finished.

I sighed and agreed not to touch it. (God forbid I would cause another problem) and waited for it to go through its paces.

As soon as it was done the IT guy came back, apparently he did have that timed pretty well, and he sat down to log in. He typed his admin password and hit enter and… nothing. He did it again and again; still nothing. After a few more tries he called his office.

“Ummm, yeah,” He mumbled into the phone. “I think I forgot my password”.

I pretended not to listen, looking out the window so he wouldn’t see me laugh.

“No, I don’t remember... OK”

A few moments of silence went by, and I realized he was on hold, in the perpetual Barry Manilow limbo. I guess even the tech guys get this treatment.

A few more moments went by and he hung up the phone.

“I need to get some additional software from the office,” He said, as if I hadn’t heard the whole conversation. ”I’ll be right back”

Again he went, and again he came back. He put his new disk in the computer and; you guessed it, he called back for instructions.

On the up side, once he limped through the log on, it didn’t take long before he was in. I know this because as soon as he was successful, he whistled some obscure superhero tune. In fact, he was so happy, he did the same thing every time something went right.

Click, click, click… program loaded correctly, superhero tune. Click, click, click, password accepted, superhero tune. It was hilarious.

Another 20 minutes of his heroic efforts, and my computer was running again. When he was done, he stood, leaving as swiftly as he’d come, ready to do more good deeds. Unfortunately, I had to chance him down in the parking lot to give him back the password crack disk he left in my computer. Oh well, nobody’s perfect. What’s a little security breach between friends anyway?

So that’s my story. A little long winded but I hope you got a kick out of it. Until next time, happy reading.

Monday, September 19, 2011

“Beware Computer programmers carrying a hammer!”

For those of you that have been here before, you may have caught some of the stories I’ve written about our humorous, and rather incapable IT department here at work. In their defense, they’ve proven invaluable for providing material here in this blog, but for computer support… not so much.

Last Monday I came into my office, sat down, turned on my computer as I always did, and guess what, nothing happened. It powered up, acting like it was going to start, but when that magic windows jingle came on, the computer froze.

Being a fairly computer literate person myself, I did what any educated person would do. I slammed my mouse on the desk several times, muttered obscenities at the screen and gave the CPU a gentle “nudge” with the toe of my boot. Believe it or not, none of these things seemed to help, so begrudgingly, I called the IT help line.

As soon as the technician picked up the phone, I knew I was in trouble. He answered with a flat monotone “Yes!” and then let the uncomfortable silence take over the staticy connection. I tried to be cheerful, asking him how he was and even made a joke about the early morning call but still… silence. I thought perhaps we’d been disconnected so paused and offered a questioning “hello?” and was met with the same grumbling “Yes!” I’d received when he answered the phone.

Giving up the pleasantries, I told him about my problem and he went into what I now refer to as the new and improved IT mantra. In the past, they would have put me on hold, beating me down with the wet tortuous tones of Barry Manilow, but over the last few weeks they have changed things up, and not for the better.

“Have you tried restarting your computer” the apathetic voice said.

I told him I had and he said “try it again… I’ll wait.”

This is the new and improved solution for every problem computer related. When you call them, they tell you to restart your computer. And if that doesn’t work? Well they tell you to try it again, and again and again. It’s like trying to pull start that old lawnmower sitting in the shed. You can yank on that cord till your bent over, head between your knees, ready to puke, but broke’s broke, and no amount of pulling is going to change it.

Needless to say I restarted my computer, enjoying the entertaining silence of my disgruntled IT worker. It rebooted, and surprise surprise; the same thing happened. I explained what was going on, and true to form, he told me to try it again.

Unwilling to play this game any longer, I told him I’d already restarted it two or three hundred times before calling him. This did nothing to improve his sense of humor. I asked if he could send somebody over to fix the computer and he told me they were pretty backed up due to a wide spread computer problem in the network.

I thought to myself, as you probably are too, if he knows there‘s a problem, why did he have me jump through his hoops? If I’d been smart, I would have just shut up and accepted his appointment for maintenance, but instead I just had to ask.

“So do you think this might have something to do with the problem I’m having?” I said.

“Probably,” he said. “We found a software glitch in some of the computers, so I disabled them until we could repair it.”

Yes. Not only did he know about the problem, but apparently he was the one that caused it. But wait… it gets better.

That’s too bad,” I said. “How many did you have to disable?”

“Few hundred.”

He let the number hang in the air as if it was perfectly reasonable to take down a few hundred computers without warning on a Monday morning. No explanation, no solution; just BAMM… sorry your system’s down. The funny thing was, he seemed annoyed and even baffled at the number of calls he was receiving as a result.

A few more seconds, and he told me someone could be over sometime between that morning and the following Friday five days later (and you thought the cable guy was bad). Then without a good bye, he hung up the phone.

I should have been fuming, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about the blog I was going to get to write. I as I sat jotting down notes, I wondered If he was going to run every single person through the “restart your computer” mantra before doing something useful. If so, it was going to be a long day at the old IT office.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you come back next week to hear about the actual IT visit. It was nothing like I had ever experienced before, and when you’re talking about these guys, that’s saying something!

See ya and have a great day.

Monday, September 5, 2011

“Children are a great comfort in your old age. And they help you reach it faster, too!”

I was sitting at home the other day with my daughter and we were talking about how fun it was to tease “mom.” Poor mom takes a lot of teasing in our house (thanks mostly to her loving husband) but she’s usually a good sport about it. Granted that sportsman like attitude usually comes out about two weeks later, but who can blame her. With me spurring our daughter on all the time, I’m sure it’s hard to keep up.

So anyway we were laughing about some of the loving pranks we’ve played on her like locking her out of the house, or holding her down for wet willies, or, my personal favorite, sending my daughter in to take pictures of her while she’s on the toilet. Hey is it my fault she doesn’t lock the door? I don’t think so.

We were going on and on and as we laughed we made up a little game. We called it “The What Game.” It is great fun and it will have your wife/husband wanting to strangle you in no time.

The rules were simple. All she had to do is scrunch her face up with a confused expression and say “What!?” every time mom said something to her. I though the best time for this game would be when my wife had just come home from work or was otherwise exhausted from some other activity, like lavishing me with attention.

So my wife walks in from the garage, tired, distracted and ready to relax:

Mom: “Hi family. How was your day?”

Daughter: “What!?”

Mom: “How was your day?”

Daughter: “What!?”

Mom: “Forget it! Did you guys already eat?”

Daughter: “What!?”

Mom: “I said what did you eat?”

Daughter: “What!?”

Mom: “Knock it off, why are you doing that?”

Daughter: “What?”

Mom: “Saying What”

Daughter: “What!?”

Mom: “Yes What! I’m tired so knock it off. What do you want for dinner?”

Daughter: “What!?”

Mom: “Chuck, do something, I am going to strangle this child.”

Me: “What!?”

Needless to say shoes, frying pans and small animals were flying at this point. I even had to throw my body between her and my daughter after she threw in one last “What?!” at the end.

It was great fun and once mom worked through her homicidal rampage, we all had a good laugh. Well we laughed, she just threatened me within an inch of my life if I ever taught our daughter something like that again.

So try “The What Game” at home. Let me know how it turns out. Maybe we could work out a deal with Hasbro, then we‘d all be rich… or dead.

Happy reading!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

“Don’t Judge A Valley Girl By Its Cover”

This weekend I volunteered at a 190 mile relay race to benefit one of my favorite charities. It was our job to man one of several changeover stations where these maniacs would pass the proverbial baton before running another 10 to 15 miles for their leg of the race. I myself would rather chew glass that put myself through that kind of torture, but I admire the tenacity (and sadism) of anyone willing to do it.

Our station was in the mountains of Glenwood Springs Colorado and our tour of duty, so to speak, was to be from 11:00 till 10:00. That is eleven at night till ten in the morning, not the other way around. It could have been the fourteen Red Bulls or the 5 hour energy chasers but around 3 am I was feeling pretty good, if not a tad jittery, and I started to hit my stride.

We were surrounded at this point by runners on every side and we were checking them in and out with all the efficiency of a whine’o hopped up on cold medicine. The teams seemed to arrive in groups, and as this particular crowd started to thin I heard a new team coming in behind me. From the sounds of them they were from deep in the valley of California, deep in the 1980’s valley. I have never heard so many likes and oh my gods in my life.

“I’m like hitting a mental wall right now”

“Oh my God do you need a hug or something”

“No like, I think I’m just like frustrated or something”

“Oh my God, we could like totally give you a pep talk or something. You’re like an animal. Like a totally ferocious tiger or something!” (Yes, they really said it)

So I’m sitting there with my back to them trying not to let out the 3 a.m. punch drunk laughter. Up to this point I hadn’t seen these girls, but I did, as I’m sure you all do, have an idea of what they might look like… and your wrong.

As I turned around I saw the three young women standing there. They were all African American women sporting dreadlock’s and gangster garb right down to the gold teeth. They looked like a Jamaican hit squad on the hunt.

Is there anything wrong with dressing this way? Absolutely not, dress however you want. Was it like seeing Larry the Cable guy give a dissertation on the future of Nuclear physics in Yemen? Yes.

I was left speechless. I stared at them and they stared at me. Then one of them raised an eyebrow and said, “Like what’s your problem?”

I lost it. I could not stop laughing. Luckily they were great sports about the whole thing. I would imagine they raise an eyebrow or two wherever they go. We chatted for a few minutes and they played up the valley girl slang. I’m not sure if they were playing a role for fun, of it or just living life outside the box. Either way I was glad to have met them. They reminded me that there are surprises around every corner. I don’t know where they finished, but I hope they did well, they were great girls and they definitely made my night go by a little faster.

What kind of surprises have you run into lately. I would love to hear em’.

Monday, August 22, 2011

“I’m Float’n Like a Butterfly, You Get Stung By The Bee!”

It’s funny how such a small thing can make you move so fast. Phobias catch us all at one time or another, for me its bees. It’s not really that I’m afraid of them, I just don’t like them. Kinda like standing on the tracks when a train’s coming; if I hear the horn I get off the tracks, simple as that.

OK, OK so a bee isn’t exactly a freight train, but that’s what a phobia does. It makes you act irrationally in a rational situation.

For instance, I used to own a painting business and as you can imagine, I would run into my fair share of wasp and hornet nests hiding under the eaves. In one particular house, we found a nest that was a bit hard to get to, but with some ingenuity, I found a way to get to it so I could destroy the pesky thing.

Before I go too much further, let me premise this by saying “Don’t Try This At Home!” It’s not a good idea; never was, and I’m about to prove it.

Anyway, knowing how I feel about these little pests, my wife thought she would tag along, thinking she would get a good laugh. Boy was she wrong. When we got there I pulled out my can of bug spray and my twelve foot painting pole. With a little masking tape I joined the two together and wallah, I had an ingenious device that would reach the high illusive nest.

As I got ready to do battle, my wife rolled her eyes and stepped back. This, as it turned out, was her biggest mistake.

One more piece of tape to jam the sprayer into position and I was off. I hoisted the spewing can up into the air, took aim and bam; direct hit. Unfortunately, these particular wasps must have flunked out of architect school because as soon as the stream hit the nest, it fell.

Oh yes, here comes the freight train!

As soon as it came down, I was off. I went east and the poison spewing poll went west, right to where my wife was standing.

In a way I guess she got her wish, because as soon as I took off I was followed by gales of laughter, but the laughter didn’t laugh long. When the can came down, it blasted her from head to toe. I couldn’t have done it better if I’d tried. Luckily the deluge didn’t last long. Somehow, when she closed her eyes to duck, she had the forethought to position herself to shut the whole contraption off when it hit the top of her skull. It worked like a charm.

In case you’re wondering, she was not laughing.

Being the brave and fearless husband I am, I yelled from the street and motioned for to her to get to the other side of the house so I could hose her off. In the end, I think I saved the day, but I have a feeling she didn’t agree.

So now I have a phobia of bees and wives, but I manage to cope with them both in my own ways.

Do you have a good story about some little bugger that sent you over the edge? I would love to hear about it. And don’t forget, painting polls and bug spray just don’t mix!

Monday, August 15, 2011

“Parents Are The Last People On Earth Who Ought To Have Children!”

The things a child can absorb amazes me. They can learn so much from their environment and the things around them, especially when you don’t want them to.

The other day I was sitting on my bed watching one of the endless reality shows you can find twenty four hours a day. My daughter was with me, and we were having a great time picking out our favorite contestants. We weeded out one, then another, then one particular guy caught her attention and she asked what I thought of him. I told her I didn’t really like the guy because I thought he was a bit too cocky. My daughter looked at the TV, considering my comment, then peered back at me with her innocent seven year old eyes and said, “Your right dad, that guys a real C#@k!”

I cringed inside then did what any responsible dad would do; I pretended it didn’t happen. I just nodded, trying to keep a straight face, hoping she would forget the whole thing. I think it might have even worked had my wife not poked her head around the corner to shriek, “What was that?!”

Needless to say we turned off the television and we had a long conversation about the proper terms we should use for “Boy Parts.”

It wasn’t really her fault that she gleaned such a word off my comment, it just happened. The innocence of a child combined with a desire to fit in seems to almost beg for such a result. I can still remember singing the Banana name game song when I was a kid but I could never understand why my name was always off limits. I would always start, “Chuck, Chuck, Bo Buck, Banana Fanna Fo…” Well you get the idea.

Even when you try to teach them something the right way, it seems to go badly. When my daughter asked how babies got out of their mommy’s tummy, we did our best to explain things as simply as we could. We went through the G rated version of the process and none of it fazed her in the least. That is, until we got to the part where the baby comes out. As soon as we told her how a baby was born, she looked down at herself, then back up at us with grizzled revulsion and said, “That’s disgusting; I don’t ever want to hear that again!” Then she got up shaking her head in disbelief, and walked out of the room.

I guess it’s not what we say, or even how we say it that matters, it’s all in how our children perceive it. It’s so hard to keep them innocent. I wish my daughter would stay seven forever, but I guess there’s no stopping her from growing up. Creative words will continue sparking interesting conversations, we will no doubt have the birds and bees conversation again, but she will never know the joy of singing the Banana song with her dads name in it. Oh well, such is life.

I would love to hear your Oops stories. Let me have it. Tell me all about the time you said “They said WHAT!”

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dog House or Poor House, Which Ones Worse?

The other day I had to call an HVAC repair guy to take a look at our air conditioner. In the 90 degree heat we've been having, our A/C just hasn't been doing the job. He came by and did his typical once over of the system, then came up to inform me there was a significant blockage covering the cooling coils. He said he could clean out the system and get it running in tip top shape for the low low cost of $297.00. I sighed, shaking my head, knowing it was going to cut into our meager vacation budget for the week, then agreed. I never thought to ask what exactly was blocking the cooling coils, but it didn't take long before I found out.

After about an hour of banging and cleaning I heard the repair man coming up the stairs. I turned around and saw him holding the "blockage" in front of him, like linen from a leper colony. The issue, as it turned out, was dog hair. Not a little dog hair, but a huge, giant, wad about the size of a football.

When he saw me he said "here's your problem" as if it weren't obvious enough; then we both laughed and dry heaved a little, then threw the giant mass into the garbage with a thump.

As he finished up it occurred to me how much it really costs to enjoy the pain... I mean pleasure of our beloved pets companionship. I don't mean the cost of feeding them, housing them, or keeping them in the air-conditioned lap of luxury they've become accustomed to. No, I'm talking about all the incidentals that come up thanks to their particular brand of dogged habits and curiosity.

We have three dogs, and they've all had their way with my pocket book at one time or another. You've all heard about Daisy, the 100 pound bottomless pit of love. If not, check out the blog "Never trust a dog to watch your food." She has by far been the winner for high dollar pet in the family. What with new carpet, and expensive surgeries to counteract her eating marathons alone , she has become the all time champ for sucking down gobs of our hard earned money.

Fred, our second dog, hasn't exactly been a slouch in the money spending department however. He's a 20 pound miniature pincer mix and he loves everyone. You can pick him up, turn him over, smother him with toddler kisses and he doesn't care as long as he is getting love. This however is also his Achilles Heel. He longs for the companionship of any human within sight distance, and he will do anything to get to a wayward stranger passing by. Thus was the birth of Fred the escape artist.

The little dog was an acrobat from the beginning. The first day we brought him home, we put him in the back yard. He walked up to the three foot chain link fence, and climbed it like a spider monkey. I don't think he even missed a step. He was up and over before we could snatch him up and we spent the next several hours chasing him down.

So expense number one became the five foot wood fence we would purchase to keep him safe at home. I purchased the materials and installed it over the next week. We let Fred out into the yard and away he went, surveying his new confinement. At first he seemed defeated by the new barrier, but we soon found out he would not be deterred. As it turns out Fred is also quite an accomplished digger. He whipped under the fence like an escaped convict, and before we knew it, he was off again. In the weeks that followed we tried everything from apple spray to Cayenne pepper, but nothing would keep him from his freedom. I guess he would just hold his breath and burrow through so he could wonder the neighborhood for a new family to invade.

After several weeks a neighbor gave me a great idea. He told me to dig a trench about 8 inches deep along the front fence line and fill it with concrete. He said it should discourage him enough to make him forget about it and give up the fight. I thought this was nothing less than a stroke of genius. I went out the next day, picked up a few bags of concrete mix and went to digging. A couple of days later my project was complete, and I let Fred out, confident in my victory. I stood there in the yard, watching him scratch at the concrete, looking pathetic and defeated, and I smiled, thinking I had finally proven mans superiority over this dogs meager intellect.

Unfortunately, my smile wasn't to last long. As I stood there watching him, Fred looked back at me and sneezed out what I swear was a laugh. Then without taking a single step back, that little dog crouched into a spring, then bounded straight up to the top of the five foot fence. It took a little scrambling on his part at the top, but he made it. He stood for a moment, poised at the pinnacle of his victory, and I can only imagine the little doggie laughter that passed through his mind. Then with a quick hop, he was off, and I was after him again.

Since that day I conceded my defeat. I have purchased him tags that have our phone numbers and the caption "My name is Fred, I like to run away." Now, when he manages to escape, we just wait for the inevitable phone call about the adorable little dog they've found. All in all we spent hundreds of dollars trying to keep our dog home, but in the end, it was a $10.00 tag that did the trick.

I love our dogs, well except maybe Daisy. I'm thinking of writing a children's series with her as the goofy villain. I think it would sell like gangbusters! Maybe she could earn back some of the money we've spent saving her from herself.

Our pets can cost us more than we spend on or children, but we keep them around anyway, and we love them all the more. I'm sure I haven't seen the last of the creative ways our pets can cost us money but I keep telling myself it must be worth it.

What kinds of things have kept your pets near and dear to your pocket books. I would love to hear about it. Maybe next time I'll tell you about the rather nasty habit our third dog Ethel has. I'm not sure if its nutritious but I am sure it's disgusting.

Happy reading and thanks for stopping by!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

"How is a 90 MPH fastball like God?"

This is a good one. It's not all that funny or whitty but it might make you say hummm.

Yale physicist named Robert Adair did a study on the possibility of hitting a 90 mile an hour fastball and here's what he found (Bear with me to the end).

It takes 0.4 or 4 tenths of a second for a baseball to travel the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate.

It takes 0.05 or 5 hundredths of a second for the batter to decide whether or not to swing at the pitch.

It takes 0.2 or 2 tenths of a second for the batter to decide where the ball is going and how to swing the bat.

It takes 0.2 or 2 tenths of a second for the batter to swing and hit the ball.

If you're doing your math, you'll see that it takes a batter 0.05 or 5 hundredths of a second longer to swing at a fastball than it does for the ball to pass the plate.

In fact, professor Adair found that the margin for error is so small, the batter could actually close his eyes after the first 5 hundredths of a second, and have the exact same chance of hitting the ball.

His conclusion? Hitting a 90mph fast pitch is physically impossible.

It's funny how much faith we put in science and statistics, taking them as absolute and faultless truth.

We trust science to tell us what’s real and what constitutes truth, yet time and time again we see science failing to live up to its own standards. We can all turn on a TV and see a batter hit a 90 or even a 100 mph pitch, but science tells us it's impossible. Science says there is no such thing as God, but I see the results of his labor every day. Should I lose faith just because science says so? Should every major league batter quit hitting fastballs because physics says it’s impossible? I don't think so.

I know this theory doesn't prove there's a God, nothing can do that but faith. But it does prove that science can be wrong, and for the record I don’t think God has made a mistake yet. Open your eyes and believe what you see. Use logic, use faith, and use your heart; you will find the truth.

Thanks for letting me stand on my soapbox for a few minutes. I hope to be back to wearing it on my head again next week. Have a great day!

Thanks to pastor Matt Manning for the idea and the inspiration.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

“Never trust a dog to watch your food”

Well I’m a bit late this week coming up with a blog, and admittedly I had some trouble coming up with a subject to write about. I just sat in front of my computer, staring at the screen, then it hit me. I don’t mean an idea popped into my head like some sort of fairy tale epiphany. No it was a tail of a completely different sort. It was my dog’s tail. The tail of my 100 lb. lab/newfoundland mix, right across my shins. Her name is Daisy and she is my Nemesis.

Now don’t get me wrong I’m not some sort of dog hater. I like dogs. In fact we have two other dogs that I love. They have little behavioral issues, but they are basically good dogs and they didn’t grow to the size of a cave troll before they were one.

Daisy, on the other hand, has several little quirks that make her a bit less than endearing. She sheds hair in chunks the size of a small rat, and her breath is only marginally better that the issues emanating from her other end. She sounds like an air raid siren every time we let her outside, thanks to separation anxiety, and when I let her in, she shows her joy by skidding through the house like a bull, knocking over chairs, trash cans and small children in the process.

Yes, Daisy is a little bundle of joy, but all these things do not compare to her real problem; Daisy likes to eat things.

She eats big things, little things, messy things, and weird things. I wonder if she was a goat in another life. She eats my daughter’s toys and seems particularly partial to her crayons, making poop day quite festive. She once ate a five pound bag of raw potatoes. Poop day that week was not quite so festive. She ate two pounds of skittles, then threw them up on our carpet in an all new rainbow of colors. She once managed to empty an industrial container of taco seasoning on the upstairs landing, making it forever resemble the sight of a mass murder. All these were great fun but my favorite was her most recent snack, a large canvas apron.

One day while we were gone she worked her way into one of the child/dog proof cabinets and pulled out our old BBQ apron. It was about four feet long and wide enough to cover a blimp so eating it was no small feat. She must have seen it as some sort of extreme food challenge, but she would have lost because the only thing she couldn’t finish was the patch right in the middle that said “Tabasco”. Must have been too spicy for her.

We were all a bit baffled when we came home and saw this remnant sitting on the kitchen floor. None of us wanted to believe she could have eaten the whole thing, but the lack of any other evidence told us she had indeed achieved the impossible.

When my wife left for the vet I explained that we really couldn’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars saving this dog. So two nights in the pet hospital and thousands of dollars later, I get my dog back, rearing to go, with an all new gut and an appetite to match. She’s home now, healthy as ever and I would like to say she has learned her lesson, but I doubt it. I can’t wait to see what she will eat next. Maybe a case of Easter egg dye, or perhaps an entire lazy-boy chair, I don’t know. Whatever it is I’m sure it will be an adventure and I will be back here to tell you the tale.

Monday, July 11, 2011

“Beware Of Computer Programmers That Carry Screwdrivers Part 2”

For those of you that are reading this blog for the first time, you might want to go back in the history and catch the first edition to this story. It will make part two a bit more relevant. For those of you that have read part one, or just want to start now, here is another great chronicle in the life of my departments tech support.

So my boss comes to me this morning with dreadful news; his computer stopped working. I suppose the news that his computer was shot wasn’t all that bad, but it meant I would have to deal with tech support, and that could always make a bad seem day longer.

After trying a few quick fixes myself, I decided I’d better just unhook it and take it over to the tech office personally. Anything would be better than listening to another rendition of “I Write the Songs.” by our old friend Barry.

When I got there I was met by a kid looking to be about the age of 12.

When I say met, I mean he looked at me, then at the computer, then back at me. Then he pushed a trouble ticket across the counter, tossing a pen in behind it for good measure. I asked the jovial little fellow if I should fill it out, and he nodded with a grunt then disappeared around the corner.

It took me about a minute to fill out my name, address, and issue, as described in the instructions, then I got to wait about fifteen minutes for the kid to come back. I would have been irate but I was in luck. The wait came with a show and it was so good I had to share it with all of you.

While I waited, I watched two other technicians work in the area behind the counter. The phone rang and one of the technicians picked it up. He listed to the caller for a few seconds then gave the standard answer we all know from part one; say it with me…

“Ummmm hold on a second.”

I got a little chuckle from the answer then I waited eagerly to see what was going to happen next. As soon as Techie 1 hit the hold button, he leaned over to Techie 2 to ask her for another technician’s extension. Well call him Tom.

Techie 2 rattled off the extension then went back whatever she was doing. Techie 1 got back on the phone, transferred the call then hung up. Less than a second later a phone rang in the next cubicle. Techie 2 stands up, walks over to the empty cubicle and answers…

“Tech support, this is Tom’s office can I help you”

I could not help but laugh out loud. They had just transferred a call to a desk three feet away then answered it themselves. You would think this would be the end of the idiocy but there’s more.

Techie 2 listens to what is undoubtedly the same thing Techie 1 just heard 5 seconds earlier, then gave him the standard…

“Ummmm Hold on a second.”

Techie 2 puts the caller on hold and peeks out from behind the cubicle.

“Do you know where Tom is?” She says.

“No, I think he’s coming in late”

Techie 2 gets back on the phone, pretends to take a message, then hangs up. She walks back to her desk, goes back to work and neither of them say another word.

About this time, my technician drug himself around the corner to collect my computer, and I left astounded that neither of the other technicians found their actions strange. I still don’t know if they performed the ritual on purpose, or it they had no clue of what they’d done. Either way I went back to my office laughing, hardly able to wait for evening to come so I could write this blog.

Have a great week and happy computing!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

“It’s All Fun And Games Until It Catches On Fire, Then It’s Just Fun”

Funny thing that just about all firemen (and pyromaniacs) have in common, we all love fire. You would think a firefighter would hate it, after all we have dedicated our lives to fighting the beast, but love it we do. As crazy as it seems, to us, there’s nothing more fun than running into a burning building to fight a fire.

The fascination seems to start early in life and unfortunately; most of us began the love affair with a match of our own. Almost every firefighter I know has a childhood tale about that day he accidentally lit the (fill in the blank here) on fire. For my dad it was the living room sofa; apparently he thought the best way to put out a burning newspaper was to shove it under the couch. For my friend it was his father’s garage (OUCH!). For me it was my neighbor’s clubhouse.

We had the best intentions in mind on that cold Colorado day, but as we all know, good intentions and teenage boys don’t always add up to the best of ideas. We worked away inside our freshly constructed clubhouse, slathering the walls with a fresh coat of beige, and we noticed that it was a bit too chilly for the paint to dry. We put our heads together, made a quick trip to the barn and before you knew it, we had ourselves a nifty little stove built out of a coffee can and PVC pipe.

O.K., in hindsight using PVC for a chimney wasn’t the best choice, but not to worry, the place burned down long before it ever became a problem.

Anyway, we filled the can with leaves and branches, careful to keep the extra kindling away from the potential flame, then we struck a match and threw it in. One match after another went into the tiny opening we’d fashioned, but we could not seem to produce anything more than a candle sized flame.

After a few moments, frustration set in, and we both decided our stove needed a little boost. Another quick trip to the barn and we had just what we needed. As I neared the clubhouse, I slowed to steady the paper cup full of gasoline, (after all I did want to be safe!) but despite my best efforts, I bumped the cup when I ducked in the door, and that was all it took.

I can still remember the trail of flame flashing to the foam rubber and kindling we had so “carefully” stacked in the opposite corner. We both tried to stomp out the growing fire but it was no use. It spread across the floor then crawled up the wall. We both looked at each other then burst out the tiny door to make our escape.

Now there is some good news, we lived in the country, which meant the closest building was about fifty yards away. Unfortunately no close buildings meant no close water, so the race was on to put the fire out before it could reach the cottonwood trees looming high above.

I went for the hose. I yanked it from its hook on the house and sprinted for the flames, but before I closed half the distance, it jerked me from my feet like a dog reaching the end of its leash. I scrambled to my feet and tried to arc the stream over, but it fell short, barely touching the fifteen foot flames. All hope was lost. Then my friend rounded the corner carrying his horses feed bucket and hope recharged my panic once again. We filled it up and he raced to the fire. Water trailed his every step and by the time he made it to the inferno he managed to throw about a teaspoon onto the flames. Apparently the bucket, riddled with holes, was more fit to hold grain than water.

It was our last shot. He dropped the bucket and backed to where I stood, watching in awe as the flames grew ever higher. It licked at the treetops, teasing us with the possible catastrophe, but in the end, they were little more than singed and only the birds were the wiser.

Despite having firefighters for fathers, neither of us thought to call the fire department, so we were lucky it burned itself out before it did any real damage. We worked like dogs for the rest of the day, wetting the pile down (with a less leaky bucket this time) and getting rid of the evidence.

We hid the half burned plywood in the shed and buried the blackened remnants under the trees we almost destroyed. I don’t know if his parents ever got wise to what happened, but I mentioned it to mine many maaaannny years later, and they said they never had a clue.

So while you’re out there watching your kids (or the great BIG kid) this fourth of July, pay attention. Be careful. Keep them and everyone around them safe. My friend and I got away with our little adventure uninjured, but many do not. Keep a sharp eye, you just might have a fireman in the making, and if you do, keep them away from the matches and gasoline.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

No Thanks Just Lookin' For Some Caulk

I'm on vacation this week but I had to write a short blog to share a funny (or humiliating depending on how you look at it) experience.

I had the day off before we left, so I headed down to the local hardware store to pick up a couple of things for the house. I walked in and the orange clad greeter met me with a smile to asked if she could help me find anything. I waved and smiled back, then told her,

"No thanks, just lookin' for some caulk!"

If you can't find the humor/humiliation in this statement, kick out the kids, close the door, then blurt it out aloud, like you would to any unsuspecting innocent clerk. You'll get it!

Anyway, my brain was about a half a second ahead of my mouth making the statement even worse. I realized what I was saying a moment too late and the last word caught in my throat (no pun intended). It came out as crass as can be, and the young sales associate pointed to isle three while trying to hold in the gale of laughter with her other hand.

I apologized then turned to proceeded to my walk of shame, wondering if there could possibly be a worse name for that particular material. Of course I could have said caulking, but how many of us do that? Instead we all say caulk, drawing out the "L" until our tongues hang out of our faces to punctuate the proper pronunciation.

Needless to say, I found my way to the proper isle, and they did indeed have more caulk than any store had a right to. I picked up what I needed, paid for it, then left, wondering about how many people have made that same verbal faux pax. Have you done it? Can you think of any other words that have that same verbal tripwire for the tongue? If you do, I would love to hear it.

Oh, and the next time I go to the hardware store, I'll tell her I'm looking for the light bulbs.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Can't See It From My House"

These last couple of weeks have been pretty good for me. I managed to get a lot of work done, had a decent fathers day, even made it on time to my daughters softball game. All in all it was a pretty uneventful, week save one ugly looming black cloud; I hired an independent contractor.

I have never had this particular pleasure and I have to say, it was a peach of an experience. I spent years as a paint contractor and I have known many general contractors, so I know they’re not a bad bunch of folks, but there is a subculture out there I never knew about. They are known as independent carpet installers, and they are diabolically evil.

OK I know all carpet installers out there aren’t that bad. I’m sure there are those of you out there out there that sport a big C on the front of your spandex superhero outfit, but I only met the villains.

We went through no less than six contractors over the last two weeks. All of them promised a sea of beautiful carpet to swim in, but on the day of the job, none of them bothered to show up. They came by with tape measures and smiling faces, bidding the jobs with smoking calculators and full appointment books but that was as far as it got.

One after the other they fell off the radar. My wife and I both took time off work to wait for these wayward contractors, but not a one managed to make it back to our doorstep. The experience was frustrating to say the least, but the true depth of their evil had yet to be revealed. As I look back, I'm convinced all those missed appointments and broken contracts were just part of a master plan developed by the criminal mastermind, Joe!

Joe was the last contractor we found. He was ready and willing to do the job and seemed to be on the up and up. Needless to say we were a bit skeptical when he gave us a date for the install, but they showed up we were both thrilled. Finally we had an experienced contractor ready to do the job.

I went off to work and Joe's crew worked through the day, toiling away upstairs in the bedrooms and the hallway. When evening came, my wife, bless her heart, paid them, and they promised to come back and fix the few "little problems” they had run into. When I got home I surveyed their work and I have to admit I was a bit surprised. I thought it was a bit odd that Joe had used a crew of toddlers to do the work but considering the workmanship, I could think of no other answer. It must have been torture to do the whole thing with those little plastic scissors and glue sticks!

The seams were either bunched into shag mohawks or stretched apart to gaping canyons. The carpet was cut short on several walls and my favorite part was when one piece fell completely off the stairs.

Well needless to say I got on the phone and made a little call. When Joe answered he seemed a bit perturbed to hear my voice and proceeded to tell me about how hard he worked and how he believed I got a better deal than I should have. I told him I appreciated his hard work and tried to explain that I didn’t want the custom romper room install, but apparently he thought this was worth a little extra because before the phone call was over, he was asking for a little more "compensation!"

So now I have carpet with holes, waves, ridges, and an unfinished closet; oh did I mention the bare nail board in my daughters room? Where am I going with all this you say? Well nowhere I guess. The guy is long gone, money in hand, and I have no real recourse against him. I could smear his reputation and call the carpet police but what good would it do. I guess what I'm saying is watch out for those carpet villains. They're out there, and they're looking for you. If you have carpet installed, get references, get a contract, and for God's sake, ask to see the big super “C” on their chest!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

“Life Is Like Drawing Without An Eraser”

I saw this quote and it reminded me of a story that all of you out there in blog land will either find hilarious or horrifying. Either way, I’m sure you’ll agree it would have been a great time to have that life eraser.

Several years ago a friend of mine, we’ll call him Gregg, was making his way home from work and came upon a school bus at a stop light. It was filled with middle schoolers, and like many of us, he expected knowing grins and searching eyes to be peering at him from the side window; but today things went a little different. Today what he saw were gaping expressions, rude gestures and worst of all, one boy decided launch a slimy green projectile out his window and onto the hood of Gregg’s cherry 1969 Chevy Truck.

Now Gregg is a good man; one that I respect and look up to, but he does have a bit of a temper. In fact he has one of those tempers that can send him into a tunnel of single-minded rage that would have Hannibal Lector running for mommy. Needless to say, that big green spit bomb lit his fuse and it was mere moments before Gregg was tearing out down the road after that big yellow middle school bus.

Now all of us, at one time or another, has seen “that kid” and thought, someone should teach him a lesson in manners, but logic, not to mention local penal codes, serve to curtail said activities in most people. Of course the advantage of being a raving lunatic is that you can ignore those little speed bumps when it’s time to take care of business.

Gregg caught up to the bus at the next stop, jumped out of his truck and stormed over to the open doors. He stepped in, moved to the back of the bus and started to give the little loogie hucking bastard what for. Now this happened years ago in a time when it was acceptable to hold a child accountable for their actions. I’m sure if this happened today, he would have been drug off the bus in a media filled frenzy to be stoned in the pit of despair, but back then it was still O.K. to give a kid a good tongue lashing when he deserved it.

Gregg only had a few seconds to speak his peace before the driver made it to where he was standing, but it was long enough to make him wish he had that life eraser sticking out of his pocket. The woman took his arm, spun him around and spoke seven horrifying words. “This bus transports mentally challenged children sir!”

All the blood drained from his face. And that tunnel of rage? Well it melted away to reveal several children staring at him in wide eyed wonder. Thankfully Gregg’s tirade hadn’t made it to full swing before the driver stopped him, but he’d said enough to make his walk of that bus one of the longest of his life. He apologized to the children, which were no worse for the ware, and he apologized to the driver then he got back into his truck and went home.

No harm was done, and when he told us this story years later we all had a good laugh, but at the time he would have loved to back up and do that one again. How many times have you put your foot in your mouth? I know mine has pretty much taken a permanent residence there. We all have our moments, and some are funnier later than sooner but I would love to hear em. Tell me about your biggest oops, or you can tell me about your “Friend” and we can call him Gregg.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Beware Computer Programmers That Carry Screwdrivers"

The place I work, like many others, is fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have an IT support office.

The good: If we have a computer problem we have someone to call.

The bad: They're idiots.

I have so many frustrating/hilarious calls associated with this office I thought I would share one with you.

These calls always start the same way. First I call them and explain whatever problem I have. Something like,

"My computers smoking and won't stop shouting obscenities at me, what should I do?"

It doesn't really matter what the problem or situation is, the response is always the same. It's always,

"Ummmmm, hold on a second."

This answer is of course followed by five to seven minutes of Barry Manilow while I'm on hold waiting for an answer.

Every time this happens I find myself wondering what they're doing. Is there some sort of evil mastermind they all have to report to? Is he a super techie, sitting on a throne surrounded by all his phone answering minions? Do they have to address him as sir or your highness or your superiorness? Who knows.

Anyway, enough of the background, here is how the latest phone call went.

Them: "Hello, tech support can I help you"

Me: "Yes, we have an external speaker hooked to our address system that has fallen off the wall. I picked it up and brought it into my office, but we will need someone to come over and repair or replace it."

Them: "Ummmmm, hold on a second"

OK so you are saying to yourself, "that's not fair, why are you calling computer support for a P.A. speaker" right? Well your half right. It is a public address system, but it is controlled through our computer network. I figure if I knew this, the guys that installed it should probably know this too.

OK back on the line.

Them: "The person that usually works on the P.A. systems won't be back till the 15th can you call back then?"

Me: "Do you have anyone else that can work on them?"

Them: "Yes."

Insert uncomfortable pause here.

Me: "Well do you think you could send them over instead"

Them: "Ummmmm, hold on a second"

Barry Manilow

Them: "Is the speaker still working?"

Me: "The one sitting on my floor? I don't think so, can you send it a test or a ten count or something, maybe I'll hear it."

Them: "Ummmmmm, hold on a second."

Barry Manilow

Them: "O.K. What building are you in."

Me: "This is the fire department"

Them: "What building is that in?"

Me: "The fire department"

Them: "What room was the speaker mounted in?"

Me: "It was an external speaker mounted outside."

Them: "O.K. What room is that?"

Me: "Outside"

Them: "Well I can't put the ticket in if I don't have a room number"

Me: "Maybe you could try outside"

Them: "O.K. we will try to get someone over."

After I got over my frustration, it occurred to me that this was the guy we trust our equipment to. The equipment we rely on day in and day out. Not a very comforting thought. Lord knows I am not a computer genius but if this guy is any kind of gauge, I think I could have a pretty good career in the I.T. department. Maybe I need to switch professions.

Have you experienced this kind of genius anywhere in your life? I would love to hear about it. By the way as for the speaker? It is still sitting on the floor of my office and I haven't heard a test come through it yet!

Monday, May 30, 2011

"The first time I see a jogger smiling, I'll consider it"

I have a coworker that always talks about going on a "fun run". I told him I had no idea what he was talking about. I said running was like resetting your dislocated shoulder, or cleaning the toilets at a homeless shelter. Both are things that have to be done, but I wouldn't use the word fun to describe them. He laughed and shrugged it off, saying once you got your breathing right, it really was a lot of fun. Running does indeed make me want to breathe, but again, sucking in air like an asthmatic Hoover does not sound like fun.

Now don't get me wrong, I understand the need for physical fitness. I do my own fair share of puffing and wheezing, I just don't have to like it. Which brings me to my point. There are things out there that need to be done whether we like it or not. As they say, everything in life is not a bed of roses, or maybe it is if you count all the thorns. Find that task you've been putting off and push through it, you'll be glad you did when you're done.

I am working on the fourth draft of my novel and I can assure you it is no longer a whole lot of fun, but I will push through. Even if it stinks, I will have finished it in the best way I could, and that's all any of us can really ever hope for. Of course I would love to be the next gazillion dollar author, but either way I'll be happy that I accomplished what I set out to do. So the next time you see your buddy jogging along that path, all red faced, sucking in bugs and leaves, tell him to smile. It's a fun run. You'll be happy when you finish!

What have you pushed through recently. Would love to hear what you did and how you prevailed. Have a great week and keep on runnin!

Monday, May 23, 2011

“Wonder what life might be like if you could change one thing? DON’T”

I have often wondered what life would have been like if I could go back in time and change things.  What if I could have avoided this or stopped that tragedy from happening?  Wouldn’t it be nice if that someone was still around or if I had never lost that widget?  Wouldn’t life be grand?

All of that sounds great, but it donned on me the other day just how different life would really be. What we live through makes us who we are.  Sure we would all like to avoid that fire breathing demon we dated back in high school, but if we hadn’t been burned, we would never learn to avoid it the next time.  If we had never lost that friend or relative, we couldn’t grow from the experience.  I lost my father several years back, and frankly, I would still give anything to have him here today, but losing him shaped my life.  It played a big part in who I am, and without that horrible experience, better or for worse, my life would be much different today.

So don’t wish to hard for what might have been. Concentrate on what could be tomorrow.  Try to see life’s pot holes as an opportunity to strengthen your foundation. Look forward to life’s experiences and learn from them; and for those of us that married our fire breathing demons… well… God help us. Just kidding honey! Love ya!

Monday, May 16, 2011

"I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder"

Every day problems arise in our lives and we are forced to deal with one way or another, but it’s how we deal with them that sets us apart from our neighbors. When I was a kid, my parents often packed us up and we would all go over to a family friend’s house for an evening of dinner and games. We would play with their kids and our parents would laugh and have a few cocktails. Fun would be had by all. One visit in particular stood out to me though, and the events that transpired were so profound, I have remembered them vividly to this day.

It was late, we were all tired, and it had come to that time of the evening when the kids argued about going home and the parents told them to put their toys away “or else!” We were in one of the bedrooms we had destroyed and I was watching Kenny, a boy slightly younger than I was, as he tried to shove his big sister’s doll into a dresser drawer. He pushed and turned, twisted and pulled but no matter what he did the doll just wouldn’t fit. Now at this point you or I may have given up and found another place to hide the doll, perhaps under the bed or in the closet, but not Kenny. Nope Kenny was one, even at that age, that was a fan of “thinking outside the box.”

After a short examination of the problem, Kenny pulled the legs off the doll then shoved it neatly into the drawer, tucking the broken stubs in behind it. I can still visualize the beating that followed when his sister realized her favorite toy had been destroyed, but when I was watching Kenny work his magic, one word passed through my mind, “genius”.

Creative solutions to complex problem can make a seemingly impossible task possible. Kenny found a way to get that square peg through the round hole. Sure he had been bludgeoned with a Tonka dump truck for the effort, but real genius is rarely understood anyway. We should all take a page out of Kenny’s book once in a while and see if we can’t pull the legs off of that proverbial doll. We should look for ways to solve our problems instead of throwing our hands up in defeat and maybe, just maybe, true genius will hit us like a Tonka dump truck. Do you have any stories of unsung heroism? Times when someone wowed you with simplicity or creativity? Let me hear it! Oh and by the way Kenny did regain sight in that left eye and his limp is barely noticeable… kidding!

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't."

The world is ever changing and if we don’t strive to keep up, it will swallow us whole. We have all laughed about the flashing time on the stove or the VCR, for those of us old enough to remember them, but refusing to learn and evolve with today’s technology can have us spinning our wheels in a virtual sea of cassette tapes and typewriters.

Blogging, social networking, computers, ipads, you name it; they are all a signs of the times. If we don’t embrace them they will they will simply turn their noses up and march on, leaving us to play with our 8 track tapes and beta max recorders. OK, that might be a bit extreme, but technology is here to stay and few things can evolve as fast as the techie world of electronics.

Tapes turned to CDs, CDs turned to MP3s. Videos went to DVDs, then Blue ray, and now there is streaming video, 3D home movies and more. And yes, for the record, I believe books will be read largely on digital devices in the near future as well.

My point is not to debate where things are going or how they’re going to get there. My point is simply to say that the world is going to keep moving whether we like it or not, so we better get on that wagon before it pulls out of the station. I have met people penning novels on typewriters or with a pencil and paper. This in itself isn’t bad if you prefer that particular media but several do it because they don’t know how to use a word processing program or a spreadsheet! My 82 year old Aunt learned to use the internet and e-mail her family complete with digital photo attachments. If she can do that, anyone can learn to take advantage of social media networks, digital publishing Ipads, and the like.

If none of that has you eager to crack open that e-instruction manual then think about this. Teenagers will keep up with this fast paced world even if we don’t. Catching obligatory hand scrawled note in their dresser is a thing of the past. There are text messages, e-mails and any other of the endless ways they can and will communicate. If you don’t have the ability to educate and protect them from the digital world then who will? Besides, I for one can’t wait to post those darling baby pictures on Face Book just before she goes to her prom.

Technology is a tool to be used, but if that tool never makes it out of the box, it becomes an anchor, dragging us to the bottom of a vast technological ocean. What have you been shying away from? Do you lack the ability to program your DVR, are you afraid to step up to that smart phone. Get out there. Learn new things, play with all the new toys. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go program my VCR.

Monday, May 2, 2011

“You Can’t Take It With You, But You Can Send It On Ahead”

So what does your investment portfolio look like. Do you have your money in IRAs or mutual funds? Is your capital diversified like it should be? We all worry about the future and what’s going to happen to us when we get old. Can I retire comfortably? Can I retire at all? All of these questions are important but I wonder if that’s the only question we should be asking ourselves.

Two things are for sure, we are all going to die someday and no one knows when it’s going to happen. What if we spend our lives slaving away at our 60 hour a week careers only to find the gold at the end of the rainbow has turned to lead. We spend hours, days and weeks away from our families so we can retire but what if we never get there, what have we lost?

If we spend our lives hunched over staring at the ground looking for every penny we might pass, we miss life. If we hoard every dime and hide every dollar, we die with every last cent tucked safely in our pockets to rot in the ground along with our bodies and souls.

Too Heavy? Maybe, but it’s the truth. No matter how much money we have or accumulate, it will only serve us while our bodies do. When were in the grave money is as worthless as the ground were buried in. True value in life is found in god, in family, in our generosity to others and in their generosity to us. Invest heavily in those things and they will yield long term dividends more valuable than all the cash or gold in the world.

Have you found yourself driving hard to that finish line. Always reaching for that extra something only to find it just isn’t quite enough. I know I have, and I pay for it every time I do. What has blinded you, what have you done to take those blinders off, or maybe, what do you plan to do?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Live Your Life On The Edge, Just Don't Step Off.

It is far too often that we live our lives shut away in a closet fearing what life holds for us. Pick your euphemism; when it's your time it's your time, when the reaper comes-a-call'in, it all amounts to the same thing; when your numbers up, it's up. Personally, I believe God has a plan and it is exactly what it sounds like, his plan. If we think nothing bad will happen if we just play it safe, we sell ourselves short on that plan. Conservative goals breed a conservative life, and a conservative life will leave you with one thing in abundance, regret. I'm not saying we should all take to playing chicken with freight trains, just don't let a fear of life replace the joy of success, or failure. Experience everything, preferably within the limits of your respective legal jurisdictions, but experience it all none the less. Life is short, take advantage of what this world has to offer. Dance, laugh, run, help a stranger for no reason, or make total fools of yourselves, just don't do it on national TV unless you are Charlie Sheen. Go out and find your personal edge wherever that edge may lie. Set up camp there and don't ever leave. Write that amazing novel, paint a masterpiece, bike in the Tour De France, compete in The Iron Man, sky dive naked, whatever it is, just do it. Find that edge and live there. If you don't, wondering if you should, could change to wishing you had, and by then it could be too late. What's your edge? What do you want to do. Post it here then go do it! Just stay away from those trains.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pain Nourishes Courage

No one likes to have horrible things happen to them but the courage to overcome is born from the ashes of adversity. What if everything in life was candy and sunshine. Well, first we would all be fat and sunburned, but that point aside, if everything was good, we would never have the courage to grow and mature. If you're going through bad times look for the light at the end of the tunnel. If you stop, you'll never get there, but if you keep going you will make it to that sunshine. Bring lots of suntan lotion with you though. As this is my first post to this blog I am sure I will be writing it largely to myself. I think it might be a little strange if I reply to my own post so if you stop by, say hi. Tell me something you have been through that made you a better person.