Monday, June 28, 2010

The 1968 Torn Shirt Incident

Most days I was a well-behaved kid, but those days make for boring stories, so, to keep you from nodding, off I’ll tell you about a day in the fourth grade when something in my young skull went haywire. On this day a kid named Steve, or maybe it was Bob, I don’t remember (we never really became friends) …anyway, after recess this kid went and told the teacher a big fat lie that got me into a whole lotta trouble. Well "a big fat lie” is what I called it. That was my initial defense strategy, but as it turned out I was no Perry Mason, because right after I said “big fat lie” the kid reached out and displayed two handfuls of very compelling physical evidence.

Exhibit A.) One shredded dress shirt. The prosecution would assert that prior to recess the alleged victim was wearing this “dress shirt” and that it was in a whole and un-tattered condition. Standing there in his undershirt, he handed the torn pieces to the teacher, who with me in tow, delivered them to the principal, who would later deliver them to my mother in a brown paper bag.

The pile of material was placed on top the principal’s desk: sleeves, cuffs, a collar, and a bunch of miscellaneous scraps. Sort of a make your own shirt kit. Without the advice of counsel I was forced to take the witness stand, and was soon badgered into abandoning my original defense strategy. That prosecuting teacher was really good, but then in the cross-examination I produced some compelling physical evidence of my own.

Exhibit B.) My top button was missing. “Objection!” “Overruled!” I could hear the murmurs from the jury. I could even see ol’ Perry standing in the doorway, smiling. Convinced that their unjust case against me was falling apart, I decided to fight truth with truth! “Steve, er Bob” I explained “grabbed me on the playground, and my button popped off.” The prosecutor paced back and forth trying to regain her lawyer legs, and then came right at me. “So you decided to rip his shirt off and tear it into little pieces?”

“Yes Ma’am.”

The principal’s gavel hit the desk. “Guilty an all counts!” No leniency for the missing button was even considered. Looking back on it, I probably should have gone with a Napoleon complex defense. Being the smallest kid in 4th grade you sometimes have to overcompensate to protect your playground cred.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hot Tub Owners: Important Warning Number 27

Whenever you go to the online parts catalog to order yourself a new 230V-1ph-60Hz-SM909-NHR662.9 circulation pump, and a pop up window says “We’re sorry. Item# 230V-1ph-60Hz-SM909-NHR662.9 has been discontinued. Please order our universal replacement pump: item# B-2” you can bet your last unscarred knuckle that you're going to be disappointed in the B-2’s ease of installation …but discontinued means discontinued so you’re options are limited:

Option #1 Call a certified repairman
Option #2 Order the B-2.

The smart choice of course is option #1.

Well the B-2 arrived today so out to the hot tub I went with 20 lbs of tools, and an ounce of optimism (I would need more of both before the afternoon was over.) Then first thing I noticed was that the pump was shorter, and the bracket was different, and the hoses didn’t line up quite right, but hey at least they both had three wires so how hard could it be. All I had to do was release the clips, remove the screws, and disconnect the wiring, and the old 230V-1ph-60Hz-SM909-NHR662.9 popped out just as simple as you please.

Popping the new B-2 in however would require moving the main control panel, re-routing some hoses, tossing out the old bracket, and cutting a new support block before it could be attached to anything, or before anything could be attached to it. Ninety minutes of Cirque du Soleil contortions later everything seemed to be in place. The deck looks like a Maytag repairman exploded on it, but I’ll clean that up when I'm sure I'm actually done dancing with the B-2. Right now it’s time to put 800 gallons of water back into the tub so I can see if this thing’s gonna fire up.

Will it run without leaking? Will it go the right direction? Will it work at all? Maybe I should have read the return policy ...or at least the installation instructions. Oh well, too late for all that now. I’ll find out in a couple hours.

~ A couple hours later ~

Well nothing exploded when I flipped the breaker switch. I almost feel giddy when that happens. Upon further inspection, the thing seems to be running perfectly. No noise, no leaks, just quite circulating water! Was there ever any doubt?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gathering of the Clouds (The Prequel to Dinner Plates)

Introduction: I recently finished editing my June 10th post “Dinner Plates” when I noticed that it begins at the end of what was a rather cloudy month around here. Then I remembered something I'd written awhile back that describes exactly how the month began. So here without further ado is that previously un-titled story:

Earlier today the sky was blue, the air was calm, and one of my favorite local restaurants had just called to tell me I’d won a free lunch in their business card drawing. Ha! ...and I thought there was no such thing as a free lunch. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket today. With all the optimism of a springtime moth beguiled by a 100 watt light-bulb, I wandered out onto my deck with a thick book and a tall glass of iced tea when the phone rang again. This time it was my wife calling from work to tell me her car had a flat tire. Let’s review that first paragraph: There is such a thing as a free lunch …however, it’s customarily served with a side dish of karma.

“When did it go flat?” I asked.
“I don’t know” she said, as though it was an unfair question.
“One of the employees just looked out the window and noticed it was flat.”

Well, with all of them pressed up against the glass sizing up the situation, it soon became obvious that I, being only twenty-two miles away was in the best position to open the trunk and change the tire. With that news the wind gathered up a few dark clouds, and followed me down to my wife’s place of employment.

I opened the trunk to find that the spare tire had unfortunately been left in the spare tire compartment ...underneath the carpet, below, the trunk-mat, under a couple folded lawn chairs, bags of rock salt, various notebooks, blankets, a gym bag, extra shoes, a handy cargo net full of handy cargo, an emergency kit, and a variety of other stuff, all of which had to be pitched into the parking lot in order to flip, unlatch, and turn the various gismos that would eventually release the spare tire, the jack, the jack handle, and the lug-nut wrench from their convenient factory installed positions. Well this must have been quite a sight, because the clouds overhead began laughing until they started crying. And they cried real hard for about an hour.

As it turned out, the correct answer to my aforementioned unfair question “When did it go flat?” was “quite awhile ago” according to the guy at the tire shop, because all the clues suggested that the tire had been going round and round in an un-inflated condition long enough to render it un-reparable. We’ll skip the part where the money rushed out of my wallet faster than the air rushed out of my wife’s tire, and we’ll fast-forward through the part where I had to put the new tire on in the rain. Let’s jump ahead to the part where I’m back home with a hot cup of tea, relatively dry, typing this story. The rain can pour and the wind can blow and I don’t care anymore because… What the hell was that noise? Hang on a minute, would you please?

~ leap forward 20 minutes with the miracle of time lapse notography ~

Okay, I’m back again; this time to report that the hot tub cover just blew across the yard, and I’m no longer relatively dry. In fact I’m soaked for the second time today. It didn’t just flip open like it does sometimes in a windstorm. This time it bent the big metal arm (that holds it up,) and broke one of the support brackets clean in two as it sailed across the deck and onto the lawn. It looks like a tough repair to me. I’m pressed up against the glass looking at it now, just outside the window there. I think I’ll call my wife to ask if she can drive home and fix it, while I go out and have my free lunch.

...There I go, flying into that 100 watt light bulb again.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dinner Plates

Today I can report that things are “as usual” around here. The trend that began a month ago continues. The rain keeps falling, and things keep breaking (e.g. the hot tub cover lift, hot tub pump, kitchen faucet, porch light, gate latch, garage door, cable modem, TV receiver, dinner plates, etc.) But hey, broken stuff is just stuff, and it can all be fixed ...well, except for those dinner plates. I dropped two of 'em last week while emptying the dishwasher and pieces flew everywhere. Superglue step aside, this is a job for Super-Broom; and so with the help of his partner Dustpan-Man soon every last ceramic shard was safely disposed of, but my plate troubles didn’t end there.

Two days later I was broiling some cheese over a bagel, which you should never do on a good plate, and in half the time it takes to walk out of the kitchen I’d forgotten that I was cooking ...until I smelled smoke. The second rule of broiling (after the no plates rule) is don’t shut the oven door, but being culinarily challenged I broke that one too. When I ran into the kitchen and flung open the oven door, thick black smoke billowed into the room; so I swiftly turned on the fan and the smoke quickly abated.

Being an expert at burning things in the kitchen, I’ve become very adept at hitting the fan switch. Faster than Wyatt Earp could draw his gun on me, I could have all the smoke cleared from the Tombstone Saloon. Which come to think of it would only serve to give ol’ Wyatt a better shot. Similarly in this situation the lack of smoke that initially seemed like a good thing, really wasn’t. Seeing a flash of light I realized that …no, not that I’d been shot ...I realized that the smoke had suddenly stopped because the fresh air rushing into the oven had caused the smoking bagel to burst into a flaming bagel, and a very efficient clean burning one at that.

Well by the time I got the fire put out the plate had reached temperatures that the manufacturer was clearly unprepared for. Amazingly though it didn’t break, but now it looked like something pulled from a 16th century Japanese raku pit, and it no longer matched the other dishes. Later that afternoon, when it was cool enough to touch I threw it away.

In hindsight, I wish hadn't. I wish I had washed it, and re-stacked it with the rest of the dishes Though wounded and scarred for life, it should not have been discarded. Like so many other outcasts it had a story to tell. A story of hardship and misfortune, but like other poor souls who are tossed aside and shunned by society, those stories will never be heard. The other plates were just left to say among themselves “where’s Bob?” Then one of them said “I told you, these things always happen in threes.” To which one of those know-it-all bowls replied "you mean fours, bad things always happen in fours." This morning I swear a coffee cup flinched when I reached for it. Everyone's on edge. They're probably gonna want to sleep with the cupboard door open again tonight.