Saturday, September 14, 2013


The old man could hear himself calling out but it was as if he wasn’t in his own body. His voice was faint and distant, even to him. He pressed the little button on the pendant that he wore around his neck.

“Help… Help… I've fallen and I can’t get up.” There was no response to his weak cry. He pressed the button again.

Ralph had been warned that he didn’t belong where he laid helpless now. Everyone told him to stay in his Lazy Boy with the TV remote control and a good book within reach.

“I ain’t dead yet!” He would always tell them. “As long as I can get to the crapper on my own and still wipe my own ass, then I ought to be able to go where I want to go and do what I want to do.”

Now he wasn’t so sure. He was having a little trouble breathing. That could get worse very soon. If only he hadn’t gone so high, he thought to himself.

When Ralph saw it coming, it was too late to get out of the way. At first it didn’t look like much but more and more just kept coming. It put him down hard. He was buried. He continued trying the little button on the pendant.

Ralph was 79 years-old and he felt like it but that didn't mean he had to be confined to an ass-lifting recliner chair. After all, there were other old farts still riding bicycles (or tricycles) and they went where they wanted to.

His children bought the butt lifter for Ralph for Father’s Day. He feigned appreciation to them but he hated the chair. The way that Ralph felt about it, when he couldn't get his fat ass out of his chair on his own then it was time to lie down and die. Now here he was, in the prone position, and he just might die there if he didn't get help.

There was still no response to the old codger alert pendant. That’s what Ralph he called it. Ralph tried to move just a little but pain from his hip electrified his entire body. He tried to dig himself out some but; the cruel truth of it was that he didn’t see the point of it. Fear and anger were soon replaced with complacence.

Ralph lost track of time and drifted off for awhile. He was awakened by the sound of a voice. It wasn’t from the worthless pendant. The voice was close and familiar.

“Ralph! Are you alright” It was his wife Nancy. He turned awkwardly and looked up at her.

“Hell no, I’m not all right! Does it look like I’m all right? I've been knocked down and buried by a damned avalanche. How can you ask me such a question?”

With exception of his broken hip, Ralph was pretty well back to normal at the sight of his wife. The complacence quickly faded. His fear was gone but he had no shortage of anger.

They had been married for fifty-seven years. Much of the credit for those years was to Nancy. She learned in the first year that it was better to let her husband rant when he was angry. Trying to talk to him when was he was this angry was like spraying water on an oil fire. It was always best to let it just burn out, no matter how hot that it got.

Nancy could see that Ralph had been in the process of making coffee. The canister on the counter was nearly empty so he was attempting to get a fresh bag of coffee from the top shelf. She picked up the kitchen step stool, folded it and slipped it into place between the fridge and the counter. She gathered up the various plastic bowls, cups, lids and odd containers while her angry husband continued to rant.

“I have never in fifty-seven years understood why you had to have so much Tupperware. It wouldn't even be so bad if it all fit together in some organized manner, but NO! We have to have a hundred bowls with a hundred matching lids. The only trouble is that you can’t ever find the lid that matches the bowl that just got filled up with left-over soup. So what good are they?”

Ralph paused but Nancy knew it wasn't because he was waiting for an answer. To try answer his question would only fan his fire.

“I have less money in 35mm cameras that you have in Tupperware and I have a LOT of camera equipment, but you know what? Any Nikon lens that was made in the last fifty years will fit my Nikon digital camera that was made in 2008. Do you think that Tupperware could understand such user-friendly manufacturing practices? Hell no! They change designs, colors and fit every year just so they can get you to buy more of their junk at their ridiculously inflated prices. In the end, a bowl is just a bowl and a lid is just a lid.”

Another pause… but Nancy waited quietly.

“What we ought to do is to throw all of the lids away and just use that press ‘n stick plastic wrapping stuff. It’s a lot easier on my patience than trying to find the right lid out of the wrong selection. Why, it’s no small wonder to me why they put a life-time guarantee on their junk. It’s sure to kill one or both of us sooner or later. It’ll either be me for suffering another avalanche or you for buying more of the junk because, if you do, I just might have to kill you.”

Ralph quieted considerably with his last sentence. They both knew that he didn’t mean that. Even though, Ralph stayed quiet a little longer this time, Nancy waited patiently. She knew he had to blow through his second wind.

“And I’m going to tell you another thing, too. There just ain't no reason, at all, to have so much plastic in the guest bedroom that it looks like a Tupperwarehouse. Do you want one our grandchildren to die in an avalanche of plastic? Why, if I was to have all of that plastic recycled into a stiffer grade, I could probably mold the hull for a sizable bass fishing boat.”

Ralph quieted again. Nancy was pretty certain that he had played out now but she waited, just the same. Then the anger faded from his face and he looked like the loving man that Nancy had adored for so many years. He winced.

“What can I do to help you?”

“You’d better call 911.” His voice was calm and even. “I think that my hip might be busted.” He held the pendant up. “The other thing that you can do is tape a nickel to his piece of crap. Then put it in a Tupperware bowl, complete with a matching lid, and throw into the street. Whoever finds it will be five cents better off than we are.”

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Waking Up to a Car in the Back Yard

It was kind of a shocker to look out of the kitchen window this morning and see the sunrise illuminating an SUV parked at a rather awkward angle in the drainage ditch that runs along the south easement of our property. The ditch runs into a drainage canal behind our lot on the east boundary. That canal, in turn, drains toward the south, into the main canal. Then it dissipates into a marsh about four miles away.

As I went out to investigate, my wife called the local sheriff’s office. Thankfully, there wasn't anyone in the SUV injured. However, about an eighth of mile to the south, near the intersection of the two larger drainage canals, was another car in the ditch. There was also a pick-up truck on the canal right-of-way with the headlights on.

As the morning sun rose higher, a further comedy of events was about to unfold. A young man had got his car stuck while trying to cross the drainage canal near the main canal. The summer rainy season, in Florida, is not the time to attempt crossing a drainage canal in a car or on foot. On foot, you’re pretty much guaranteed to give up your Nikes to the mud. A car is going to sink up to the axles in mud.

The SUV that was in our ditch, the young man had borrowed to pull his car out. It was not clear why the two ditched vehicles were over two city blocks apart. This was especially curious since the closest street access to the canal was nearer to the main canal where the car was stuck.

It gets better. Having two vehicles stuck in the two different ditches, this young man borrowed a pick-up truck to pull out the car and SUV. Later in the morning the owners of the SUV and pick-up were more than a little peeved that their vehicles had been “borrowed” without the young man asking for their permission.

When the deputy sheriff showed up, the young man quickly proved that his listening skills were no better than his judgment. The young man was not rude or disrespectful but he was very argumentative. I had to admire the deputy’s patience. However, the conversation finally ended with the deputy saying something to this effect.

“You are trespassing on these canals and on this man’s private property. We have a standing order to arrest anyone on the canals or adjacent right-of-ways and confiscate their vehicles. We try to be lenient. However, if you don’t want to listen to me then I CAN arrest you and you can have this conversation with a judge.”

The young man wasn't real enthused about that idea. The deputy went on.

“I don’t want to hear anymore about trying to pull these vehicles out with a pick-up truck. You need a tow truck with a winch to bring them out.”

The young man nodded agreement and headed, on foot, down the street toward where he lived. The deputy gave me his name and cell phone number so that I could call him directly, if needed, and then he left too.

Within the hour there was a tow truck in front of our house and the deputy was back. However, when I looked out back at the SUV I was dumbfounded. If you can imagine a scene of eight monkeys all trying to fornicate the same football, at the same time, then that would be close to what I was looking at. In this case, though, some monkeys were going to get hurt.

Just as the deputy had told the young man not to do, there was a pick-up truck hooked onto the SUV with a chain from the trailer hitch of the truck to the trailer hitch of the SUV. Five people were in the ditch and hunched in front of the SUV with a grip on the bumper. Someone was in the driver’s seat of the SUV and someone was driving the pick-up.

The eighth person had a reasonable chance of surviving the imminent calamity. He was standing back at a distance as if he was the one in charge. They pulled with the pick-up while they pushed with the five people in the ditch, in front of the SUV.

The SUV wouldn’t budge. Then the pick-up driver backed up to slack the chain and jerked against it while the pushers heaved. They repeated that three times and actually moved the SUV a foot or two. As I watched, my fear was that all of the five would be crushed in front of the SUV when the chain snapped.

Fortunately, there was at least one in the group who had a GED level or higher of common sense and decided to stop the effort to think about their next move. Then the deputy walked into our back yard and started chewing butts. It went something like this.

“I am tired of you people screwing with me. Now, get that truck out of here or I’ll have it towed. I have the tag number in my accident report already. The tow truck has been here waiting for a while now. Get him back here and get this car winched out right now or somebody is going to go to jail.”

The tow truck easily drew the SUV out of the ditch with a winch. On level ground, the SUV was started. The owner was able to drive it away. Isn’t it great when a logical plan falls together?

Game Over!       Football 5       Monkeys 0 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Long Haul Truck Driver Job Description

Safely and efficiently operate a tractor-trailer combination throughout U.S. lower 48 states and all bordering provinces of Canada. Pick up and deliver freight on time and without damage or shortage that might result claims filed by customers to loss prevention department. Inspect equipment daily and seek appropriate maintenance and repairs to avoid unnecessary delays due to breakdown.  Maintain a positive image in behavior and appearance. Comply with all state, provincial and national laws. Maintain daily written records as required by the company and state, provincial or national jurisdictions. Read maps and plan routes for the most efficient travel time and fuel mileage. Attend regular company required training sessions without compensation for your time. Maintain your personal health through proper eating and exercise in your spare time.

  • Be a U.S. citizen or possess proof of legal residence and right to work certification.
  • Must have a U.S. passport or other legal document that will allow border crossing into Canada.
  • Must have a Transportation Workers Identification Credential as required by the TSA.
  • Class A Commercial Driver’s License
  • Hazardous Materials Handling Endorsement to the CDL.
  • Various other CDL endorsements as required for equipment such as double trailers or tanker.
  • Graduation from an accredited truck driving school or one year of verifiable experience.
  • Clean driving record. (No accidents or convictions in past three years.)
  • No criminal record or DUI conviction ever.

  • Ability to remain calm in stressful or difficult situations.
  • Not easily angered by rude or thoughtless people.
  • Ability to negotiate large equipment in tight spaces at various speeds ranging 0-70 MPH.
  • Must be able to work 12-14 hours per day up to 70 hours in any 8 day period.
  • Must be away from home for 2-4 weeks at a time including holidays and family events.
  • Be thick skinned enough to take the heat from a customer when an office person screws up.
  • Be gracious enough to let the office people have the credit when things go well.
  • Have the judgment to know when to run and when to wait for inclement weather to pass.
  • Have the tolerance to be judged wrong for whichever decision that you make.
  • Have the self-esteem to be satisfied that if you kept the shiny side up and the dirty side down, the freight intact and the equipment undamaged then you did it right, regardless of negative judgment against you.
  • Tolerance for people who couldn’t move your truck off of the fuel island, much less negotiate rush hour traffic and back the truck into receiving dock but, nonetheless, believe that they know more about your job than you do.
  • The skill to get the job done right even when the office person, who doesn’t know the difference or relationship between gross weight, axle weight, pin to axle length and bridge law, wants you to “run with it anyway” because “we do it that way all of the time.”

Additional skills (not required):
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Multi-lingual
  • At least a limited command of French so that French-Canadians will give up and speak English after you have attempted their preferred language.
  • Ability to understand diverse and sometimes unintelligible dialects of the English language.
  • Ability to make a surly asshole smile and like you in spite of his sociopathic demeanor.