Tag Archives: work

It’s Everywhere!

When you are looking for something you need it seems like it’s often impossible to find. Once you have it of course you see it everywhere. And at a much better price. You might call that extra cost a convenience fee. Or just bad timing.

A couple of weeks ago the weather warmed up and the grass started to grow. And with it, the weeds. So, OK I thought, lets get out the weed and feed and kill some weeds and fertilize that good old grass. One problem: I didn’t have either the weed and feed, or the spreader to put it out. Off to the hardware store.

The weed and feed was easy to find. A dozen different choices. This one fertilizes and kills 250 different weeds. This one fertilizes for three months and kills every weed but crabgrass. And so on.

But wouldn’t you know it. There was only one spreader on the shelf in the store! The guy working there said that the warm weather had brought out the gardeners and there had been a rush on the spreaders the day before. Just one left. And more than I wanted to pay. But I got it because I thought I just had to have it to get this job done right now.

Fast forward one week. I’m on a road trip exploring Georgia’s longest yard sale. Two hundred and forty miles of highway lined with countless yard sales. And guess what I saw everywhere!

The first time I saw a spreader I thought it was humorous. Ten bucks. And then it seemed like I saw one at every sale. It was probably a dozen or so, and every one was ten dollars. Some almost new. Now I feel stupid.

What makes it even worse is that this weekend I went to a big sale at one of the local antique malls. Spring clearance! Half of the dealers were slashing their prices. And one guy had a, yes, a fertilizer spreader! It was very out of place in an antique shop as it was rather new. I think it was just there because the universe wanted me to feel even worse. Or maybe I just imagined it.

I’m in the antique business. I live in antique stores, thrift stores and flea markets. The only things I buy new are eyeglasses and food! Why did I buy that spreader at the hardware store? Who knows?

I learn life’s lessons well. Because I learn the same one over and over. Maybe one day I’ll remember what I’ve learned. Right!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Sales Pitch

The sight of a twelve year old vehicle pulling into the lot makes a salesman drool. This guy has to be here to trade in that heap is the thought going through her mind. Let me at him!
I pull up to the service bay and notice her watching me. She’ll be waiting when I finish in there. When you bring the car in for service you can sit and wait or you can wander around and look at cars. Just be prepared for a sales pitch.
In another lifetime I sold cars. New and used. Luxury. And otherwise. I know the deal. Normally I don’t want to waste people’s time but I’ll at least let them try to do their job. You shut them down at the appropriate time.
Ok. Give it to me. I don’t have anything else to do for a little while. She asks what I brought the car in for. It’s been recalled I tell her. Nothing serious I hope she replies. I tell her it’s something about a shift lock mechanism. I don’t know if it’s serious or not. The manufacturer didn’t seem to be in a huge rush to fix it.
When I explain that the car is twelve years old she says the magic words. Have you thought about trading it in on a newer model?  Actually, I had.
What I have suits my needs well.  The right size. Easy to get in and out of .  Rides well. Looks like crap. But it’s always nice to think about a newer one.
I let her go through the spiel on new and certified used. We talk about what I’d be looking for. Oh, we have several of those she beams.  The idea is to get the customer into the car. To smell the new car aroma. To see all the features. Take it for s spin and get sucked in.  When she wants to get a key to show me the vehicle it’s time to shut it down.
She gives me her card and thanks me for speaking with her. If I can be of any service in the future please let me know. Car sales has a high turnover rate in salesmen. By the time I’m ready she may well have moved on. But someday I’ll have to get a newer model. And there will be a salesperson waiting for me.
That’s part of my story. What’s yours!

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Flat Tire

The sound was loud. Enough so that it could be heard trough the windows, coming from outside the car. Hissing, like a snake. The tire.

Crashing the wheel into the drain grate in the curbing, trying to parallel park, she had managed to pop the tire on my van. If it had just separated from the rim and lost its air it could be blown up. But no, it had a big hole in it.

I just happened to be there. But I wasn’t really of any use. My back is screwed up enough that I can’t change a tire, even though I sure would like to.

Fortunately I have roadside assistance coverage as part of my auto insurance. Call them up and they will send someone out to jump you off or change a tire. Even tow you away if need be. At this point I’ve used it for all three.

The towing was also because of a flat tire. I tried to change that one, but the lug nuts were on so tightly that I actually broke the bolts trying to get the nuts off. Three out of five. That vehicle is not driving anywhere!

So she called the roadside assistance folks. It would be a half hour. Since I didn’t have to work that day, I got to stay and wait.

He was early. Came from in front of me and drove by, giving me the eye. Then he turned around and pulled up behind me. I noticed he had a handicapped permit hanging on his rear view mirror. Oh boy, how’s he gonna change this tire I wondered. Turns out he had some special tools.

Not special really, just the right ones for the job. A power jack and an air wrench. So much easier with the right tools!

He was a very nice man, doing this work as an independent contractor. Works when he wants and enjoys meeting people. I told him I would have done the job myself, but he told me not to put him out of a job. I let him do it, but couldn’t resist helping just a little.

It only took about ten minutes to change the tire and put a little air in the spare. And off he went. Now I could go buy a new tire.

At the tire place we discovered that not only did I need one new tire, I needed two. And an alignment. A couple hours later I was all set. The van drives like a sports car now.

The next day as I was going to get into my truck, I noticed a tire was a little low. Nail. Dang! The universe seems to be trying to tell me something here. I hope it’s just that I need a new tire.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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A Minute

Commuting is an art form. Oh sure, anybody can hop into a car and drive off to work. But knowing exactly when to jump into that car, and which route to take, that’s the art.

When I was working a regular job I wanted to be sure that I was always on time. But at the same time, I didn’t want to get there any earlier than absolutely necessary. I didn’t get paid overtime, so I wasn’t giving any of my time away for free. So, I had to know exactly how much time I needed to get from home to office. Driving the truck meant one calculation. Riding the scooter called for another.

Of course variables like the weather and the local school calendar all had an Impact on these calculations. Even the day of the week could make a difference. It took years of practice and experimentation to get it all down. My brain did thousands of calculations each second. Never early. Never late.

When I quit working at the office I lost my touch. Only because I was out of the loop and wasn’t constantly monitoring new routes and changing traffic patterns. I didn’t have a need to be anywhere on time really. If I was a minute late, it didn’t matter. And I wasn’t going anywhere I didn’t want to be, so getting there early was ok now.

So this morning when I wanted to go somewhere, and needed to be there at an early hour of the morning, it didn’t occur to me that there would be heavy commuter traffic impeding my travel. It dawned on me when I was trying to make a left turn across what normally would have been a pretty lightly travelled road.

But this road is a direct feeder to the local high school a half mile down the road. Hundreds of kids either being dropped off by parents, or driving themselves to school. All trying to get there on time, but not too early. It was 7:45 AM, and being late was looking more and more likely to them. I waited to make my turn while an endless procession of cars went by.

And now my own travel plans were disrupted. This unexpected delay would make me late. Had I arrived at this intersection five minutes earlier, or five minutes later, there would have been no traffic. Make note of this newly discovered pattern.

I’ve already figured out that at 6:00 PM on a Friday, trying to merge onto the eastbound lanes of the highway from here to Atlanta is a lot harder than trying to make the same merge at 2:00 PM. Allow extra time when going late. A minute is sixty seconds, but it can make a much bigger difference. Something missed here, or another met there. Stay in the loop, or get into the slow lane.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Dim Bulb

Who would have guessed? When Thomas Edison created the first commercially viable light bulb in 1879 he never would have guessed. Or maybe he would have. Back then the light bulb came in one size. One color. One shape. Today, there are so many types of light bulbs that there are entire retail stores devoted to nothing but light bulbs.

There are fixed bulbs and replaceable bulbs. Some screw in and some plug in. The base of the screw in type comes in several sizes, wide and narrow. And the glass portion of the bulb comes in an endless variety of shapes. Round, elongated, tubular.

Of course you can get blue lights, black lights, soft whites and white hot lights. And any other color you can imagine.

Even the type of light comes in varieties. Halogen, mercury vapor, fluorescent, metal halide, LED. Special purpose and application lights abound. So who could blame me for picking the wrong one when I went to replace a bulb.

Late last year I bought a solar powered motion activated security light for my daughter’s house. She had told me how one night when a friend was visiting they had to venture out into the darkness from the front door to the driveway and her friends car. I could fix that. One way or another. There was the hard wired spotlight option. Or the solar option. Not being an electrician, I went the solar route.

After I installed the solar fixture and its small power panel I noticed that way up under the eaves, tucked away and blended into the soffits, was an existing spotlight fixture. Wonderful. I had to look at it like more light is better than less.

Taking a quick glance at the fixture I knew exactly what kind of bulbs were needed to get the newly discovered light working. Several months ago I had replaced a number of outdoor lights at my own house. A real hodgepodge of fixtures and lights. So I just knew form experience what was needed. And even better, I knew I had a pair at my house. Leftovers.

I confidently climbed the stepladder with the replacement bulbs in hand. After removing the first of the charred and blackened burned out bulbs it suddenly dawned on me. The replacements were too long. Everything else matched up, just the wrong length. Might as well have been a candle.

Head in hand I descended the ladder. Muttering a few words about the complexity of the light bulb. Tomorrow I’ll head to the hardware store to get the right bulb. And climb back up the ladder. What is it carpenters say about measure twice, cut once? Dang!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Suburban Archaeology

The phone rang and with some urgency the voice on the other end asked, “where are you?” It was my daughter and at this time of day her call could mean only one thing. She had a problem. And needed me to fix it.

The city water department had called her at work. One of her neighbors had called to report that my daughter’s yard was flooding. As well as her street. The city had sent someone to shut off the water. And they wanted her to fix the leak before turning the water on again.

No. I am not a plumber. But I’ve learned a few tings over the years and my kids have come to rely on me to know what to do. I told her that as soon as I finished dropping off my stuff at the recycling center I would come over to look. The water was off. Any damage that was done was already done.

As I turned into her neighborhood I noticed water in the street. I’m still a block and a half from her house, and not even on her street. Can’t be from her leak. I was still hoping that the water department had called the wrong homeowner.

Rounding the corner I could see more water. But indeed it seemed to begin at my daughter’s house. Damn. Parking in the driveway I got out of my truck to take in the situation. Puddles in yard. Water running across the sidewalk that goes from the driveway to the front door. The garage door was open. My daughter was there. Nothing wet in the garage. Or in the house.

Seeing the dry indoors I was able to breath again. I had been through a flooded house of my own. Not a pretty sight. Years ago we were selling our house and had gone out of town for Christmas. Coldest day of the year. And a pipe in an outside wall burst. Flooding the living room, the bathroom and the garage. And no one knew. Until the skating rink appeared in my yard. But we got it all fixed.

Tapping my feet at the soggy ground and digging around the foundation a little with my fingers I decided that the pipe between the water meter and the house must have broken. In one spot or several I didn’t know. And where was the pipe? Gonna need a shovel.

Before doing any more research I called a plumber. He said it wasn’t worth digging until the water was back on. We also called the insurance company. They told us not to let anyone do any repairs that involved tearing into walls, or jackhammering the concrete slab that the house sits on until they approved.

Now there’s a nightmare scenario. Hopefully the break was not too close to the house and none of that would be necessary. Might have to tear the whole house down to fix the leak. Damn again.

The plumber came out and I told him what I knew. Not much. He turned on the water and said we would just have to wait to see where it appeared. Then dig.

He left me watching the ground while he ran off to do some errands. Call me when you see some thing he had said. It took about thirty minutes, but there it was. Making a puddle. I moved a little dirt around with my fingers to try pinpointing the leak. Shortly after I called, he reappeared. And started to dig.

An hour or so later I heard him working in the garage. Bang, clunk. What the hell? He was turning on the water heater. The job was done.

Going outside I saw the plumber’s apprentice filling up a big hole with the wet muck they had dug out. There were piles of tree roots. Big chunks of plastic that seemed to be the potting containers from the original tree that had stood there. And small pieces of PVC pipe.

The news was that the pipe was broken at an elbow. One piece of pipe had slid out of the elbow. Not a frozen pipe as I had thought. The plumber then produced another artifact that he had uncovered. An empty beer bottle.

The evidence suggests that the plumber who had worked on the house during its original construction had downed the beer, and forgotten to glue the pipe sections together. For twenty years they had been held together just by the dirt surrounding them.

I can conjure up many thoughts and images as to the situation on the fateful day so many years ago. But I won’t because that will lead me to ask what other disasters are waiting to happen here. Isolated incident. Won’t happen again.

Archaeologists sometimes classify items as religious artifacts when they are not sure of their actual use. I’m going to put the empty beer bottle into that category. For peace of mind. Further exploration may reveal a more accurate picture. But there is no digging planned on this site.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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The Gingko Tree

Everything had to be perfect. The shape. The size. And most especially the location. Visible from any angle. This was no ordinary tree!

Moving from my old house meant that I would have to leave all of my landscaping handiwork behind. Over the years I had touched every bush and shrub, and seemingly every blade of grass on the property. Much of the greenery I had planted. All of it I had nurtured. Redbuds, dogwoods and peach trees. Lenten roses in the shade. Flowering forsythia and camellia. Maple trees and two giant river birches. I loved them all.

The hardscaping was mine too. Railroad ties to create terraced steps in front and back. A slate paver patio. Brick retaining walls. And the koi pond. That was a real masterpiece.

But the greatest thing in the whole landscape, my very favorite item, was the gingko tree. With it’s green fan shaped leaves in the summer and the rich gold and yellow it transforms to in the fall, this most ancient of trees is simply spectacular. There are several majestic specimens in my town. They always catch my eye, and I have to stop dead in my tracks to stare and admire them. Even when the leaves fall off late in the season, the mound of golden leaves on the ground is worthy of tribute.

And so, I decided that the landscape at my home could not be complete without one of these trees. It wasn’t easy to find. And because of its combined rarity and popularity, it wasn’t cheap. Worth every penny.

The most magnificent specimen I had seen in town was fifty feet tall. With a trunk more than a foot across. My new acquisition, of which I was very proud, was four feet tall. And not quite an inch in diameter. Gingko are slow growers, so I knew I was in for a long haul with this tree.

I planted it where it would have good sun. In decent soil. And where it could be seen from the street and from every room in the back of my house. One day it would be spectacular.

The first couple of years were trying. I had to water it a lot. And indeed it grew slowly. But it sprouted leaves every spring. And they turned yellow every fall. But they didn’t hang on to the branches very long. That’s ok, the golden mound of leaves on the ground was still beautiful.

At some point something clicked with this tree. I guess the roots got happy and it took off. It grew, and thrived, and produced more and more of the golden leaves. The whole family loved it. But the leaves never did hang on very long.

When we moved, there was no gingko at the new house. I would have to plant one.   Even as a priority it took me nearly a year to find the tree, and the perfect spot. The tree was actually easier to find than the spot. Several times I passed on getting the tree because I hadn’t decided on the spot.

Good soil. Perfect sunlight. In a place where it could be seen from every room in the back of the house. But not too close to the house. And not in a place where it would block the view of the pond in the back.

Finally I bought the tree knowing that having it in hand would force me to find the right spot. Straight and well branched, it stands four feet tall. And measures about an inch in diameter. It had golden leaves clinging tightly to the branches.

The potted tree was placed in the yard. How did it look here? Or there? Move it a few feet this way, and back. Now six inches left and two inches forward. That was it. All of the siting requirements were met. Where is that shovel?

Having positioned the tree with laser precision, I knew that digging a hole would not be quite as accurate. Close enough. It was in the right place, and it was standing straight. I backfilled the hole with dirt, mulch and special planting soil. This tree will lead a pampered life.

My youngest daughter went by the old house to get a look at the gingko. It was now nearly twenty feet tall, and about four inches in diameter. The leaves had already fallen off. The new owners no nothing of the history of that tree. And might not even like yellow. Now my new homestead has a gingko to call its own. Or more likely, a gingko has this new homestead to claim for itself.

I’ll make sure that it is happy, as it makes me happy. That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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