Adventures In Busing.

Morning Haze.

Source: WKRN Weather app

The forecast this morning said it would be foggy and I thought, of course it will. Somehow I’d completely lost track of what day it was until this morning when I remembered I’d have to drive to work for the first time in two weeks, and even after showering, getting dressed, and having some coffee, I felt hazy. Outside looked hazy too. Heavy rains overnight had chilled the air but left it humid. Still when I stepped out and looked up there was a clear half moon almost directly overhead.

By the time I set off for work any fog had burned away, and while I was glad I didn’t have to worry about it obscuring the view I wished there were some somewhere. I like fog. It’s comforting the way it’s there but not there, a cloud close up. It seems so tangible but as you approach it disappears. I remember once when my family went on a long road trip to Maine and we drove through thick fog, slowly, seeing only the lights of other cars as they passed us.

I also remember when we’d just moved to a new house and one summer afternoon, after a thunderstorm, fog closed in over the whole neighborhood. My new friend Tony, who lived at the bottom of the hill, came up to my house and we played in my driveway. Because the new house was on a hill it had a long view and I could see miles away where cranes were putting up buildings, a whole new development. They were barely visible through the fog, and somehow, though it seems impossible now, I thought I could hear the sounds of machinery, of gears grinding. Tony said, “A cloud fell. They’re trying to put it back up.”

Maybe he was kidding, or maybe that’s what he really thought. I don’t know. I don’t even really care. I still like that idea that fog is just a fallen cloud, that it’s a way we can touch the sky.

Solo, So High.

A story popped up in my feed about a guy who, because he waited eighteen hours for a flight, got to be the only passenger on a plane. Never mind the details of how it happened or even what he did on his, if not exactly solo, then at least solitary flight. I think this is one of those What Would You Do? scenarios that no one ever thinks of because it’s such a completely bonkers thing to even imagine, let alone something that really happens. So what would you do if you were the only passenger on a flight?
I think most people would say they’d want to see the cockpit and maybe talk to the pilots, maybe even try their hand at flying the plane, doing some barrel rolls. Not me. I’d want to hang with the flight attendants.
That’s not a joke. I’m not putting down pilots. Flying a plane is an amazing feat, but flight attendants are to airlines what nurses are to hospitals. The doctor may get you through surgery but think about who’s bringing you meals and changing your bedpans at 20,000 feet. Pilots face the weather but flight attendants face the passengers who can be the scariest part of a flight.
Every flight I’ve ever been on has in some way been made nicer by flight attendants. There was the time I was on a flight with serious turbulence. I had my nails dug into the armrests and my face was whiter than a 1200 thread-count king size sheet from Macy’s. A flight attendant put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Hey, it’s fine.” I felt better after that. Then there was the time I was on a mostly—but not entirely—empty Tuesday morning flight and the attendants made a comedy routine out of the safety talk. “Should the cabin suddenly lose pressure stop screaming and let go of the person next to you long enough to put the oxygen mask over your face.”
There are also a hundred things flight attendants do that most of us never see that make a flight more enjoyable. How do we repay them? By heaping abuse on them and turning them into a stupid SNL joke. If you are or ever have been a flight attendant I want you to know, seriously, how much I appreciate you.
If I were the only passenger on a flight I’d want the attendants to sit down, put their seats back, and let me bring them drinks and as many bags of nuts as they wanted. And with all their experiences dealing with people I’d bet they’d have some great stories to tell.

Not A Highwayman.

Source: Google Maps

I hate driving on highways. I know they’re faster and more convenient but I get nervous about the high-speed merging and changing lanes when I’m just in the passenger seat. I can do it but I don’t care for it, and I accept that most long distance trips are going to take a little longer. The routes I take also tend to be more scenic so there’s that, and I appreciate that Google Maps has a nice “Avoid: Highways” function because apparently I’m not the only one who’d rather take a slow ride, take it easy.

It’s also hilarious to me that no matter where you’re going there’s a “Walk” option. This is not a pedestrian-friendly area. And by “This” I mean pretty much all of Nashville.

Source: Google Maps

I had to run an errand to a place I’ve never been to before—an area I’m just not all that familiar with, in fact, but I thought I had the directions down and I set out with a pretty good idea of where I was going. Except it turned out I didn’t have a good enough idea of where I was going. I pulled over into parking areas a few times to check my directions—I’m not going to look at directions while I’m driving because I don’t want to die in a fiery ball of twisted metal, and also I’d prefer to avoid wrecking the car. Where Google Maps was leading me just didn’t seem right—it was taking me south when my destination was north. I briefly tried Siri on my phone which literally led me around in circles because Siri doesn’t know that two wrongs don’t make a right or that three rights make a left.

Finally I gritted my teeth, focused my attention, and took the highway, which, surprisingly, was pretty free of other cars. Once I got to where I was going I could see the downtown skyline and that was all I needed to map out the area in my head and take the scenic route back.

The worst part of all this is the only reason I had to make the trip is because an item I’d ordered online was sent to the wrong store. I thought I’d save the shipping costs by having it sent to the store nearest me but for some reason their system looked at my location and said, “Oh no, we’ll send this as far away as we can get.” And while it was in transit three different customer service people told me, “Oh, sorry, this was our mistake. We’ll change the delivery address.”

Once it was delivered a fourth customer service person told me, “Oh, sorry, once it’s delivered that’s where it stays. Hey, did you know if you’d sent this to your home you’d have gotten free shipping?”


The Final Cut.

Almost thirty years ago I went to a job interview. On my way in I passed by a hair salon, which was on the first floor. I was applying for a library job so it was weird to me that there was a hair salon in the same building but I didn’t care. There was a woman in a full-length rainbow dress in front of the salon. She had short red hair, glasses, and she was smoking a cigarette.

“You here for a haircut?” she asked.

“Job interview,” I said.

“Oh, good luck then!”

I went into the building up to the seventh floor and I think the job interview went well since I’ve worked in the same place ever since. And the hair salon, Reno’s, was there for most of that time. I got to know the woman I’d met that first day, mostly because we’d chat a little on the sidewalk while she stepped outside for a smoke and I was waiting for my wife. Her name was Rene, no relation to Reno, but she was one of the regular stylists there. I never did go in for a haircut, though.

When I came back to the office on a regular basis I was glad, and a little surprised, to see Reno’s was still open. I know hair salons were one of the businesses hit hard by the pandemic with a lot of people switching to cutting their hair at home. Then, not long ago, Reno’s was suddenly gone.

I’ve never been inside until now but whenever I looked through the window it always looked so big and so busy, with every chair filled and people sitting around waiting. Like a lot of barber shops it seemed like it was as much of a social gathering place as a business, and for a while the guy who replaced me in the library mailroom used to sit down there and flip through the magazines until someone there finally told him to leave.

 There are signs outside that say Reno’s is still open; they’ve just moved to a different location. I still feel a little sad that I wasn’t there for its last day in this building, though I hadn’t seen Rene in a few years and I think she may have retired, or moved on.

For the first time today I went into the space that was Reno’s. With all the chairs and sinks removed it feels weirdly small. I don’t know what’s next for it, or if there are even any prospective tenants.

Rene was usually responsible for the advertising placards on the sidewalks. Here’s one I took a picture of, and she laughed at the joke I made about it.

I Hope There’s Not A Fire.

The optimist in me says that it’s a good thing to see an almost-overgrown fire hydrant because that means it’s never been needed. Then there’s the realist in me that says, hey, what happens if there’s a fire? Do firemen have some kind of record of where hydrants are in a specific area? Seriously, this one is weirdly tucked away in a back corner, but I guess the bright red color stands out enough against the green weeds that it makes it easy to find.

It also reminds me that the cul-de-sac where I grew up didn’t have a fire hydrant for several years. I’m not even sure where the nearest one was but, fortunately, there was never a fire so one was never needed. At some point, though, some realist must have realized this was an oversight on the city’s part and some workmen came in and dug a trench in the street about four feet long and six feet deep. Then they left it for at least a week, maybe longer, and all the kids who lived around there–six or seven of us–would dance around it and jump over it. None of us got down in it, though, since we didn’t think we could get out again, especially after it rained and it filled up with about a foot of muddy water.

Then there was the neighborhood dog, Freckles. Freckles was a large Springer Spaniel, a wonderfully sweet dog, and self-appointed protector of the kids. He’d be the sire of my wonderful dog Friskie, but that’s another story. Freckles was also goofy and, being a Springer, loved nothing more than chasing tennis balls. One day we were taking turns throwing a ball for him–we had to take turns because Freckles never really understood the “retrieve” part. He’d chase a ball, grab it, run around with it, and eventually drop it somewhere else.

The ball bounced into the trench and Freckles thought about it for a moment then jumped down in there. All of us panicked because we were as protective of Freckles as he was of us, but he was quite happy down there, dancing around in the muddy water with a tennis ball. We were trying to figure out how to rescue him when he hopped back up by himself and danced around us with a big grin that clearly said, “Do that again!”

 It’s common knowledge that dogs love fire hydrants–technically any upright object, but hydrants are a popular target. Freckles, though, was sorry to see the hydrant installed because it meant the trench was filled in. He was an eternal optimist.

That hydrant is still there. I think it should have a memorial plaque honoring Freckles.

Source: Google Street View

Get Out Of My Dreams.

I took a full week off from work and, thanks to Memorial Day, got a bonus Monday too. It’s the longest time I’ve taken off from work since December. I’ve taken a day or two of vacation time in between but, mostly, I’ve been working straight through. It’s hard to explain why that is. I’m an hourly employee which means I’m only supposed to work forty hours a week—that’s all I’ll get paid for, and anything over that is overtime which has to be approved by my boss in advance. In spite of having worked my way up through the ranks for nearly thirty years I’ve never reached the level of being salaried—which I’m okay with. I’ve seen too many cases where “salaried” means working sixty, seventy, or even eighty hours a week, and while the pay for those positions may be a little higher I don’t think any of them are worth double overtime.

At the same time I get anxious about stepping away from work. Nothing’s certain anywhere—sometimes we’ll try to find the silver lining of being overburdened by saying “It’s job security” but there’s no such thing. Downsizing has happened before. It will happen again. I’ve seen incredibly qualified, hardworking people get axed because the managers, to their credit, really tried to be fair and objective and used a “last hired, first out” policy to decide where to make cuts. But I’ve also seen downsizing used to target underperformers too.

And yet I was completely relaxed the whole week. I didn’t feel a need to turn on my computer and sneak a peek at any critical emails I might be missing, or even to try and clean up spam. I knew it’d all be there when I came back, and it’s all part of the job—all part of the forty hours a week I’m paid to put in.

The one funny thing is some time late Monday night, or early Tuesday morning, I dreamed I was working. Maybe there was some lingering anxiety back there and it surfaced during REM. Most of the time thinking about work annoys me when I’m off the clock. The only work dream I should have is that I’ll be able to quit my day job, right? This time, though, I was okay with it. Almost every job has its mundane tasks that require so little thought that we can allow our minds to drift. I can take a moment to notice the hummingbird that’s come to my window feeder before I go back to whatever work-related job is in front of me. It’s okay that work and life blur together a little bit.

At least as long as I don’t get fired for saying that.

Not Working At The Car Wash.

The roof of our car was covered with tree sap. It’s one of the hazards of late spring and not having a garage and also parking under a maple tree that later this year will drip fluffy cat tail seed pods all over the car. At least those rinse right off with every good rainstorm. The sap just sticks there and makes the roof brown.

I thought I’d take it to one of those nice car wash places—not the automated ones with the giant roller brushes that thunder over your car while you sit in it, although I think those are fun—I just have to remember to roll up the windows before going through one, but that’s another story.

At the car wash place I left the car in what I thought were the capable hands of a whole team of cleaners, and I figured it would be at least half an hour before they’d be done. It turned out to be less than ten minutes. The car looked great and when I got in the whole interior was clean and smelled faintly of vinegar. 

It wasn’t until I got home that I could see the roof of the car from our patio. It was still brown and sap-covered. It was an expensive lesson but now I know there are a lot of things that will remove tree sap from a car roof, and that fancy car wash places are one thing that won’t.

Source: Wondermark


Memory Wipe.

We bought our current car, a Honda CRV, in 2019, at the same dealership and, in a completely unplanned coincidence, exactly twenty years after we bought our first Honda CRV, which ran great for almost two decades until it suddenly died in the driveway. I’m not trying to shill for Honda here but I have a feeling if we’d just replaced the fuel pump, the only part that had a sudden expiration, it might have run for another twenty years.

Instead we decided to just get a new one, in spite of the slightly different design making it a little smaller on the inside.

Not all parts are equally durable, though, and I’m pretty sure we haven’t replaced the wiper blades on the new one since we bought it. They were starting to disintegrate and, having reached the point where they wouldn’t wipe away water so much as annoy it, I decided to get new wiper blades.

I had vague memories of replacing them on our previous car, and I remembered it involved a lot of snapping and swearing in the driveway. As I was struggling with the front blades I asked my neighbor, “Do you have any experience with wiper blades?”

And that’s when I remembered I’d asked him the same question when I’d previously replaced them, and he gave me the same answer: “Only when it’s raining.”

Even though we’d both checked carefully the guy at the auto parts store sold me the wrong size blade for the rear window so I had to go back and replace it, and when I did I asked if he could help me.

“Oh sure,” he said, “I’ll try and remember how to do it. The only thing I really know is those rear wiper blades are a pain to replace.”

I think I had the same conversation with a guy at an auto parts store the last time. That’s when I realized that companies can get away with such terrible, annoying, hard-to-work-with designs for wiper blades because as soon as we replace them we forget how difficult it is until the next time.

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