Thursday, January 21, 2016

Delays and Disasters

So today is my last day of work before taking a "restful" vacation with Mrs Stevie in Florida, and events are already conspiring to make of this a classic trip.

We will be making the trip over two days, starting on Friday. Mrs Stevie wants to get to our mid-trip hotel sometime around 11 am apparently. I surmise this from her statement on Tuesday: "I want to be on the road by 5 am".

Mrs Stevie takes vacation transit issues seriously and always has us moving to a chorus of owl hoots and bat squeaks. Even if the trip is from our timeshare to some "attraction", a trip which can be no more than about an hour in almost every case and is usually on the order of ten to twenty minutes, we must be moving before dawn. There is no reasoning with the woman on this. One can only flatly refuse or place impossible conditions on one's acceptance of the start time.

"I'll do it provided you have packed before midnight Thursday" I said, choosing the latter stratagem.

Mrs Stevie opened her mouth to say "all right" but I cut in: "Because in all the years we've been together, not once have you scheduled me for an early rise without then crashing around the domicile until 2 am packing. I can't get any sleep while you are doing this. If you do it this time I'm staying in bed until I feel like travelling."

Of course she agreed, and of course she will renege on the deal and get bad tempered when I am moving at less than Startled Jack Rabbit speed two hours after she has finished packing.

"I'll drive the first leg" she offered, which means I'll be tired and forced to suffer her infuriating foot-on-the-gas, foot-off-the-gas driving that has me nauseous in about five minutes and screaming "For the love of bleep use the bleeping cruise control!" shortly thereafter. She will be snotty after this "incomprehensible" behavior and end up demanding that I drive if I don't like the way she does it.

I cannot sleep in cars at the best of times. I could not sleep in a parked car in a dark parking garage having been up for thirty six hours straight after the Great East Coast Power Cut of Whenever-It-Was. Why she thinks I will welcome the chance to try as the rising sun slants directly into my eyes while she is engaged in stress testing the accelerator cable linkages during the Southern State Parkway Grand Prix is beyond me.


I arrived home last night (Wednesday) to find her madly perusing weather websites while the weather channel blasted out from the TV. I knew from my Weather App that there was a snow storm forecast to be moving North on Friday. Naturally. This was not an unexpected turn of events, for I can tell when Evil Spirits have begun to interfere in the doings of man, at least, when they are interfering in the doings of this one.

"I'm thinking we should start our trip on Thursday night" she said avoiding eye contact.

"Absolutely not!" I responded.

I had no intention of driving through the night after a hard day at work dealing with the insane stuff people dream up as urgent requests despite having been reminded several times in writing that I am going on vacation and not to wait to give me their complex, error-prone stuff but to let me have it while there is a chance I can actually get it done and working as they want1.

"But there's snow predicted for Friday" she wailed.

"Friday evening. We'll be long gone before then" I said.

"Friday evening in New York!" she riposted. "We'll be driving through falling snow in Washington DC!"

I should explain, lest the fiendishness of this ploy is lost on the reader. Mrs Stevie was trying to raise the spectre of 1996, when we were trapped for three days in the snow-bound capitol and nearly went mad from being forced into each other's company. She was looking for me to scream and agree to her idiot Start Driving Last Week plan in knee-jerk reaction to the trauma that other experience induced in us both. Sadly for her I am made of sterner stuff.

"Nope. We will drive as planned and hope for the best. I don't care if glaciers are calving icebergs into the Potomac. I am as firm as the Rock of Gibralter on this. Have you started packing yet?"

That last bit was the deflector shield against further improvisational travel planning, as I knew she had not. I decided to shut down the discussion by asking if she had actually cleaned all the crap out of her bus yet. She uses the thing like a shed-on-wheels and until the piles of whatever had been moved out we couldn't move our luggage in.

"Yes" she snapped to that and that was the last I heard about driving through the night. Triumphant in my having triumphed, I wandered into the kitchen.

"Stop that screaming" snapped Mrs Stevie. "The Stevieling discovered that one of the little plastic wotsits that keeps the shelves in place had disintegrated. She was afraid the shelf would collapse and so unloaded all the mugs, cups, plates, saucers, bowls, commemorative soup tureens, anvils, sash-weights and stirrup-cups onto the stove-top. And every other available flat surface. I call it very responsible of her."

I deliver what the women of the house are pleased to call "the rant" about once a month on the lack of accumen displayed by people who load kitchen cupboards with heavy crap with no thought to the consequences despite the events of family history specifically pertaining to the inevitable outcome of such behavior. We actually had a cabinet tear itself from the wall and disintergrate messily some years ago because of the sheer number of jars of liquified foodstuffs placed therein, heaviest stuff to the front of course2.

Despite this, I still find heavy crap stocked at the outside edge of a shelf instead of snugged up to the wall3 and three times more stuff in any cupboard than it can safely support. Most of the cupboards are so full of crap no-one knows what the hell is at the back anyway, and so that stuff is more properly thought of archival weight than, say, tinned potatoes with a sell-by date somewhere in the middle of the Clinton administration.

In the bedrooms the technique is to cram drawers full of clothes until they won't close, then cram more stuff in them, then push them closed while ramming the clothes down "so they'll fit". The clever part is then acting surprised when the bottom of the drawer explodes out of its frame. This usually ends up locking up that drawer and the one below it. In the past I've had to remove all the undamaged drawers above an awe-inspiringly overpacked one so I can remove the debris a bit at a time, eventually excise the sqaure frame of wood left over so I can dismantle it and make it into a drawer again.

In the Basement of Crap we see a different variation on the technique. Here we may find many examples of cardboard boxes stacked one upon another with nil regard for the contents of each nor the admittedly staggering load-bearing properties of cheap corrugated cardboard. Thus a box of anvils and anchors will be at the top of a five box stack, and the now collapsed-flat box of treasured heirloom glass Christmas tree ornaments inhertited from a Great Grandmother at the bottom.

So I decamped for Home Despot to see if I could find some replacement shelf clips. I wandered around the place to no good effect while the PA announced at regular intervals that they were closing soon. I found hinges and door knobs and drawer slide hardware but no shelf clips. Nor did I find any Home Despot staff to help me shorten my search. I don't know why I bother with our local Home Despot anyway, since it almost never has everything I'll need to do a specific job. If I need a broom they will have broom heads but no handles. If I need to replace a piece of plumbing they will have everything but one component absolutely essential for the job at hand. Half the time the aisles I need to use are blocked off with concertina gates so stock can be ruined by careful use of a forklift anyway.

This morning, Thursday, I arose early after a disturbed sleep. I had woken up around 2:30 am with what to others might feel like an anxiety attack but which I know of old is the opening chords of Pancreatitis Symphony of Agony, Opus 1, Number 13 on your songsheets. No worries, I would just go on a liquid diet for a couple of days and forestall the screaming, thrashing around and begging for death's sweet embrace5 these attacks always induce. Of course, the prospect of the resulting bladder chaos while attempting an epic transit of Interstate 95 was not lost on me, but needs must when the anti-holidaymaking demons have crapped in your shoes.

So I was tired and not at all in the mood to hear Mrs Stevie's jaunty "The Ronkonkoma line LIRR service is suspended" as I made my way toward the shower. Yes, once again one of the IQ Brigade had parked his or her car on the tracks and learned that they were still in use even though just a minute or two before there was no train in sight.

Naturally this had happened in the single track section, and naturally this had meant not allowing trains through the wreckage field until every police officer on duty had had a look. Trains had been lollygagging around waiting for a gap to be made in the twisted remains of the car and for everyone to please get out of the way since 6:40 am, around the time I was running "Stevie Among The Cavewomen6" in Mr Brain to help offset the prospect of driving through a blizzard with pancreatitis and Mrs Stevie both giving me what-for.

Mrs Stevie kicked The Stevieling out of bed with instructions to drive me to, and I quote, "anywhere you need to go", before decamping for her own place of work with the usual salvo of slammed doors. The temptation to order the young woman to take me to JFK and a waiting flight to Tahiti was momentarily overwhelming, but I told her I'd drive to Babylon and sent her back to bed. The poor thing had been up half the night texting, after all.

I drove to Babylon, to the small pay-to-park carpark I found a while back, grabbed my trusty Altoids Tin O' Quarters from the well of junk under the dashboard and made my way to the computerised ticket generation machine, where I found an SUV marked for the Babylon Town Parking Enforcement Militia, with two crew crouching inside. They were parked so as to be looking directly at the machine, obviously hoping people would assume they were there in the event of a problem with the machine, but I surmised they were on a mission much more sinister.

The process is as follows. You park your car in a yellow numbered stall. If the number is unmarked or has a red number, you won't be able to buy a ticket for it. Some assume this means Free Parking, leap into the air, click their heels and cry "Yazoo! One in the win column" before sprinting for their train, some quarter mile or so away.

A sad mistake.

For those spaces are reserved for others, those too exalted to require payment for their parking needs. Red spaces are for firemen (I believe). Unmarked spaces are for people on town business or permit holders or whomever. Just not for the likes of me.

So, once at the machine you must remember the number of the stall you parked in, optionally sprinting back to your car to find out what it is. I recommend taking a photo with your phone so this scenario is not repeated several times. Then, you punch in the number using the machine's keypad and, when prompted, feed the machine quarters until you've paid for your anticipated stay, judging this by the listed costs and the displayed amount the machine thinks you've deposited.

Naturally the height of the machine and the position of the rising sun are all arranged to make this more difficult than it strictly needs to be. If you've done everything right the machine gives you a paper receipt which may be produced and waved indignantly when you are dunned for parking violation fines.

Now I believe that the machine rats-out those who use it, broadcasting the space number to waiting Babylon Town Enforcement Drones, so that they might, for example, mosey over and check all the stickers on your windshield say what they are supposed to say. Many an innocent driver, pushed for time and caught between working to feed and house a bunch of shelf-overloading ingrates or taking a day off to attend to piffling New York State law requirements like vehicle inspections, has returned home in the late evening to find a piece of expensive paper slid under his windshield wiper.

Well those two will be on a hiding to nowhere since everything is in order on the fabulous Steviemobile, down to the now-useless parking permit issued by the Town of Babylon but no good for this car park in the Town of Babylon. To them I say: get a real job, one you can tell your neighbors about without them slashing your tyres while you watch TV at night.

And so it was that I got to ride to work on a clean train with clean, unripped seats, which ran on wheels approximating roundness in shape, on an elevated track safe from the incomprehensible parking habits of morons.

  1. As opposed to the way they said it should in their dimwit user request
  2. Where the laws of physics can work their best
  3. The Mrs Stevie Method of Shelf Loading makes the shelf or cupboard a crowbar with which to tear out the screws holding it to the wall. Moving heavy crap in toward the wall reduces the so-called moment arm involved dramatically, changing the dominant Destructo Forces from tensile, pulling forces into shear forces attempting to snap the screws off laterally4. It is the difference between undoing the wheel nuts on your car using only your fingers, and doing so by using a tyre-iron, standing on the end and bouncing up and down while chanting the magic wheel nut-losening words
  4. Which may be accomplished by simply using enough heavy crap to do the job
  5. Not joking here. This is about as painful as I can imagine anything being; anything that leaves you capable of explaining matters to anyone within hearing range anyway
  6. A sleazy story of time travel, with much nudity and gratuitous goings-on out of sight of Mrs Stevie

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