Death by Uber

truck

When the bright blue pickup truck cruised into the parking lot, the driver flashed his lights and honked at us. We were the only ones standing outside of the hotel. There was little question that this was our ride and we were the intended riders.

Yet, still the driver continued to honk as he slowly approached like he didn’t see us, the two lone figures in front of his vehicle.

Sure this wasn’t the usual Uber approach, but we were on vacation. Something magical happens to a person’s thinking when on vacation; intuition is easier to ignore, one lowers their guard, suspends disbelief, and takes risks like popping into a dive bar for a drink and talking to leather clad strangers. Or maybe that’s just us?

In any case, we couldn’t have known that the real risk of the trip was getting into this flashy pickup truck.

“Hey ya’ll. Where ya headed?” the driver asked in a slow drawl with a big chunk of chew bulging from his lip.

We’ll call the driver “Justin” as that was how just about every chew chawing, boot wearing native introduced himself that weekend.

It was all so fitting: the weird Uber pickup truck, the Southern accent, the fine Tennessee whiskey tasting that preceded the Uber request which helped to lower our normal standards. We had officially arrived in a mental and physical state of vacation/escape from reality.

So we asked Justin to take us downtown, climbed aboard the ship of uncertainty, and slowly rolled out of the parking lot. He took off towards the highway which seemed to be the right direction, good start so far. I checked out the backseat with satisfaction. No unidentifiable smells, murdery stains, or fast food wrappers, this was getting even better.

As an aside, we recently took an Uber ride in a hand-me-down Honda with an intense college kid driver who had all three of the above in his backseat. It was 10 miles of silence- no radio, no small talk- just silence and uncertainty that we would ever arrive to our destination. This was breath of fresh air, almost.

Then we swerved across the road as we approached the ramp to the highway. I stopped my backseat investigation to refocus on the driver. Justin was completely engrossed in setting his GPS while driving with his knees. FYI: Knees are not the best at controlling a pickup traveling at 50-60 miles an hour.

We made into onto the highway and the GPS was set. Justin was driving with his hands again– we were back on track for a successful trip. Then the voice of the GPS, an English accented female, started to give directions. For some strange reason, she wanted us to turn around.

“Turn right,” she said and Justin drove straight.

She asked again at the next exit, “Turn right.”

Justin shook his head in disagreement and mumbled to himself, “No, that’s not right” and muted her to take us off the highway and down the side street of a small town.

This was more than a little concerning to the Mister- who then turned on the GPS on his phone. Interesting, I thought as I looked over his shoulder. We had gone in the exact opposite direction of where we asked. Justin’s GPS was right after all, who knew?

Once the Mister started to direct Justin, we made it to the big city where Justin did not become a better driver. In fact, his driving became even more distracted as he idled at a green light to show us how he keeps a hand gun on him at all times.

He explained, “There’s a lot of crazy people out there (pause for spit break) and a man’s got to protect himself. That’s why I keep the safety off on days like this.”

Oh, the safety is off on more than just that gun, I thought nervously as he pushed his handgun back between his leg and the seat. He looked up and realizing that he was sitting at a green light, he punched the gas. We lurched forward and then he decided to change lanes, nearly running over a Smart car that had the misfortune of driving next to us.

“We can walk from here,” the Mister said at the next light and opened the door/saved our lives.

It was wild ride that ended just soon enough, costing relatively little for the adventure it provided.

Thanks for the good times, Uber. Don’t worry, we’ll be back.

Wondering what is Uber? (normally a great service)

https://www.uber.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uber_%28company%29

Info on distracted driving- for those of you interested in not driving like Justin 

http://www.distraction.gov/get-the-facts/facts-and-statistics.html

http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/

The Best of Apartment Living: a retrospective look

piggy bank
1.Rent
It is money that you never see again and good riddance to bad rubbish- who needs all those bills weighing down your pockets or cluttering up your savings account/fireproof lock box hidden under your bed.

2.Snow Removal/Lawn Care
There is always a boozy smelling guy salting, scraping, and shoveling in the winter or mowing and blowing in the summer making the complex a safer, nicer place to live in between trips to the work shed for his “medicine”.

3.Third hand contact buzzes
Pot smokers turn on their bathroom fan to clear out the smell of cheap weed which gets recirculated throughout the rest of the building thanks to the most up to date ventilation system of the 1950’s.

“What’s that smell you ask, Granny? Someone must be cooking something with a lot of herbs in it.”

“What’s that, Granny? Now you would really like something chocolaty or maybe a bag of chips?”

4.Broken Water Pipes
Since doing the right thing isn’t always the cheapest thing, broken water pipes get repaired with saran wrap and duct tape. Renter’s insurance should replace anything that gets ruined by ice cold brown water that has been in waiting to rain down since last winter, when the exact same thing happened to the last tenants.

5.Meeting people like the tomato-growing-cat-protector
She started by setting out a dish of food for a stray cat and ended up feeding and sheltering an entire colony of feral cats- all this between the buckets of tomatoes that she grew underneath of the stilted stairs and deck area of the apartments that faced the pond. Surprisingly enough, someone complained to management about the colony and the buckets of tomatoes. The tomato-growing-cat-protector was asked to stop feeding the colony and the cat boxes were mysteriously removed – to which she responded by replacing the boxes, leaving out bigger dishes of food, and bringing the ones she could catch to live in her apartment.

She was asked to leave the apartment complex by eviction notice- apparently harboring a colony of feral cats breaks the no-pet rule but the tomatoes were ok.

Hirsute Roommates

mad cat

Most days I work from home.

Sure, I miss going to the office to see other people and a different set of walls that those of my home. However, I don’t miss getting up early, scraping ice from my car every morning, fighting traffic, or micromanagement. I get up a little later, power up my computer and am suddenly “at work”. I take breaks for laundry or to grab a coffee with a friend and leave as needed for meetings and home visits with clients.

It’s a mostly perfect arrangement, aside from three problems, the roommates.

They never leave. This is naturally very exhausting so they spend most of their time sleeping. When they are awake, they are fully energized for at least a half an hour of chaos and disruption. Even worse, they use discretion in choosing their times of mayhem, which is generally limited to when I’m on the phone with my supervisor, a client in crisis, or a conference call.

Just yesterday, I was on the phone with someone who was about to lose her home. She was crying and explaining how it all happened when the gang came barreling down the hallway. The two sisters were chasing Big White like cheetahs racing across the savanna after a doomed antelope. Big White ran for her life and leapt onto the table for my protection.

In her big clumsy hurry, she knocked my coffee mug over. The cheetah sisters followed Big White’s trajectory onto the table and over it after her as she continued to flee, now drenched in coffee. I muted the call and fortunately, the woman had a quite a story to share and was none the wiser. It was about this time that the sisters overtook Big White and a terrific fight ensued.

They were all put into the backroom from which they promptly escaped by the collective power of meowing and pounding on the door. Once they broke free, silence returned. I breathed a sigh of relief wrongly thinking I could return to work for a few hours until they were recharged again.

A few peaceful minutes passed before they had regrouped and returned with a new mission to obtain food.

First, they jumped on my keyboard to make sure I was paying attention. Then, they started to meow together like they had practiced this performance and Big White was the maestro. Lastly, the littlest one hopped onto a potted houseplant (not toxic to cats) and started to bite off the leaves and looked at me, as though to say, “We will find our own food if you don’t feed us immediately.”

What did I do?

I caved, of course.

I can’t refuse those little hairy roommates anything.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirsutism

The Danger of Smoking (for a Cheap Vacuum)

vac
The Vacuum has picked up a nasty habit; it smokes now.

When I found out, I begged and pleaded with it to quit.  As curls of smoke continued to escape from the base, I knew I needed to take a new tone with the device.

“Can’t you see you are going to die if you keep this up?” I asked in a threatening tone with desperation in my heart.

It responded with silence and another puff of smoke in my direction, as if to say, “I will do as I please, thank you very much.”

Apparently, continuing to smoke is what pleases the mean, not-so-old machine.

I remember the first vacuum in my life, as though anyone could forget their first. It was a heavy, grey Kirby with a slouchy bag that grew fat on dust, crumbs, pennies, hair and anything else it saw fit to consume.

The Kirby came to us by the good graces of a door-to-door salesman making rounds through the Indiana countryside. He showed the lady of the house all of amazing things the Kirby was capable of doing to save her time and then convinced that for such a low monthly payment plan, it would cost more to not buy it.

In retrospect, this must have been true because there was never another vacuum to replace the Kirby, although all of the hoses have been replaced, the attachments lost, and the whirlwind action is now more of a breeze. I’m willing to speculate that the lady of the house was too embarrassed by the 200-month-payment-plan that she once signed as a youngish housewife to seek out another vacuum.

Perhaps another one will come to her?

For all the years I lived at home, I pushed and pulled that vacuum across the floors and up and down the stairs. My shoulders strained in their sockets with each pass across the room and I grumbled and griped about indentured slavery. Fortunately, no one could hear me complaining as the Kirby overpowered all noises with its mighty whirlwind action.

At some point, I left to find a quieter, lighter vacuum of my own.

Never have I found another vacuum as cumbersome and obnoxious or as consistent and reliable as the Kirby which brings me back to the dying Dirt Devil bought on discount just a few years ago.

The little smoker has been quarantined to the closet for a few days while we go out in search of another cheap replacement that will burn out in another few years, if not sooner.

We will continue with the cycle of our generation to buy cheap, discard, and replace instead of to buy for quality and repair as needed; unless a brave soul intervenes by knocking at the door, offering a product too good to pass up, with a low, low monthly payment plan.

Long live the door-to-door vacuum salesman.

Links:

http://www.theawl.com/2015/01/when-a-door-to-door-vacuum-salesman-has-an-existential-crisis-in-your-living-room

http://www.kirby.com/how-to-buy/still-door-to-door/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_cleaner

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/a-death-knell-for-door-to-door-sales/

Prioritize

the three i’s
have decided
that we will
work no longer
much to the
distress of our
dear, darling husband

Grocery Store Sushi

sushi
The night after a weekend snowstorm is perhaps one of the best and worst of times to shop for groceries.

Generally, the shelves are picked clean of bread, meat, beer and potatoes (the usual Midwest fare), leaving only limp vegetables and over-priced granola for the unfortunate post-storm shopper. The positive side is that the aisles are usually just as empty as the shelves, a definite silver lining for any mildly anti-social person.

So this Monday, I popped into the grocery store for a few staples to get us through the week. While most of the store was creepily abandoned, there was a most surprising person standing angrily at the deli-counter. A Precious look-alike, if not the real Precious, stood with her chubby arms crossed holding her ground with a worker behind the counter.

Never one to pass up an opportunity to people watch, I rolled my cart towards the nearby cheese and sausage display. I pretended to examine a block of Munster while “Precious” remained in a heated argument with a small boy/man who appeared to be the sushi roller for the day.

“This time do it right,” she demanded and went on. “Just cream cheese, that’s it. That’s all I want.”

The young boy/man was baffled. This was not a restaurant or the type of store to make sushi to order. This was the wrong zip code for that type of grocery store service. He was simply under orders to make a certain number of several kinds of sushi to fill up the display case.

I risked a quick look at the counter, and it actually appeared that several pieces were missing from a container of sushi, now lying open in the neutral space between the two adversaries.

It is possible that in spite of the clear plastic container, she didn’t notice that various colored contents of each roll. She was then quite naturally shocked and disgusted to discover vegetables, seafood, and other unidentifiable contents in her mouth, when she only expected rice and cream cheese. Logically, she then had to eat another few pieces to make sure that this was not what she wanted. Each involuntarily eaten piece only increased her emotions and confirmed that she was tricked.
Now was the time of reckoning and she wanted this little boy/man to right this apparent wrong.

In an unexpected move, the clever boy/man nodded his head to the woman’s demands.

He said, “This is a very bad thing. I will get my manager.” He slipped through a swinging door into the back of the deli, never to be seen again.

Meanwhile, the Precious-look-alike waited and helped herself to a container of fried chicken which was her dues for suffering through the injustice of grocery store sushi.

I left humming the lyrics to an old song by Stephen Stills called, “Love the one you’re with.”

It just felt right.

Here’s a link to the song:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_the_One_You%27re_With
http://foodimentary.com/2012/04/19/origins-of-sushi/- interesting read on history of sushi
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sushi

Black Banana

bana

While in a training on mental health, I felt my eyelids growing heavy. I could barely resist the urge to let them fall shut just for a few minutes. The struggle to stay awake was intense and I was losing.

Just as I gave in and let my head drop forward, the presenter started to pass out pink foil chocolate hearts. She scattered a handful on each table and graciously declared a chocolate break for all.

After ten minutes, most of the crowd had reassembled with the smokers and vending machine patrons still straggling in when our generous presenter restarted on the thrilling topic of depression.

Yet again, drowsiness crept over me. A few pieces of candy remained on the table in front of me, just a little less tempting than taking a nap underneath of the table. The nap was not going to happen so I began my plans to eat the one closest to me and maybe the one next to it, too.

Wait, I pulled my hand back from little hearts that I was a second away from capturing. I remembered in a fleeting moment of self-control a pack of nuts in the front pocket of my bag. That would be a healthier option than post-Valentine’s Day discount chocolates.

Be stealthy, I told myself. I didn’t want to draw any more attention to myself than my intermittent dozing may have already done.

I reached down into the front pocket where I was certain the nuts awaited me and grabbed something that was not the sealed plastic bag I expected.

Whatever it was that I grabbed was cool and slimy.

And oh so organic, I thought as I pulled out what I suspected to be a decomposing banana.

It was completely black and starting to shrink into a little mummified fruit corpse.

More surprises were to follow on my return from the trash can.

In my brief absence, my neighbor had gathered up the remaining chocolates into a pile, including the ones that I had been eyeing, and scooped them into her purse.

On second check of the former-banana pocket, there were no nuts.

There were never any nuts.

Only the lingering smell of a rotten banana remained.

finicky eaters

2 birds

Separated by sixty years
The two are practically one
She prefers her Jello green
While his Heineken must be cold
Neither eat real food
And yet they both have energy
to be constantly
Charming and cantankerous
Indulged and indulgent

Here are some links if you found this post looking for help with your picky eater-

For kiddos:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/childrens-health/in-depth/childrens-health/art-20044948

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/feeding-a-picky-eater

http://www.livescience.com/10286-handle-kids-picky-eating.html

For adults:

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/10/26/adult-picky-eater-will-only-consume-three-kinds-of-food/

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/40357712/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/t/grown-eat-kid-you-may-have-selective-eating-disorder/#.VONSwfnF9nI

http://blog.brainfacts.org/2013/07/the-biology-of-picky-eating/#.VONUNfnF9nI

Image: quoteko.com

Welcome to Earth

kurt

“Hello babies, welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-:
God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

On following recommendations

sun 2

In general, in-door tanning is not recommended (that is. if the CDC can be trusted).

It has something to do with the increased risk of skin cancer for each minute spent under the golden, glowing bulbs. In spite of the well-known and scientifically supported evidence of this, I still decided to take the risk last week. The temptation of feeling warm light on my face after what seemed like an eternity of cold and grey weather was too great to resist. After all, it was free tan week.

When I entered the tanning salon, it was packed with other pale faced Hoosiers. I was surprised that so many other people were able to disregard such strong warnings of danger associated with tanning beds. Just then, a red faced, blonde teen burst through the door, bringing with her a whiff of tanning lotion and burned skin.

We reached the counter at the same time and she started drumming the countertop with French-tipped nails, like she was in a hurry to catch skin cancer. I took a more leisurely approach, assuming that the cancer, premature wrinkling, and sun spots would wait for me as long as it took to check into a bed.

The cashier raised her perfectly manicured eyebrow at the blonde who continued to tap on the counter.

“Hi, I just tanned earlier today across town and I wanted to tan again. Is that ok?”

This is where someone with common sense should have intervened to stop the proposed baking of the girl’s organs. I, for one, was mesmerized by the humming of the machines and hot air escaping from the cracks in the line of doors and wasn’t about to stand in anyone’s way.

“Oh, you want to double dip,” the cashier said.

Smiling, the girl nodded in the simple pleasure of being understood in so few words.

“Of course, you can. We actually recommend it on free tan week.”

My jaw dropped and then I looked around for that person with common sense whom I expected to step in just a few seconds earlier. Surely that person would intervene now.

“In fact,” the cashier continued and stepped away from the counter and produced a colorful bottle from underneath of it, “we recommend that you use this lotion afterwards to seal in all that color you will get.”

“I’ll take it,” the girl said. The price and/or risk were of no concern.

As I pulled the lid of my tanning bed over my body and started the machine, I reflected on what just happened and decided the following about recommendations. 1. People lie to people who don’t want the truth. 2. We get just what we are willing take. 3. Winter in the Midwest is depressing, so I took 20 minutes of safe and recommended artificial sun.

Image: www.educationalservice.net

Other recommendations on tanning, for the interested reader:

http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/indoor_tanning.htm
http://www.skincancer.org/healthy-lifestyle/tanning
http://www.skincancer.org/news/tanning/international
http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/tanning/hooked-on-tanning

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