Monday, September 23, 2013

In Reverse

Cletus called me on my cell phone the other day:

“Bob, can you please come pick me up from St. Francis hospital?”

“What happened?”

“I fell and hit my head. Wilma brought me down here for stitches and oxygen but she had to leave to meet the tow truck back at the house.”

“Tow truck?”

“Yeah, that new pickup has some damage to it and needs to go into the shop.”

“Didn’t you just get back from vacation this morning?”

“Sure did. Took the new pickup with its extended cab and had a great time.”

“So you had an accident on the way home?”

“Nope. Had an accident right at the house.”

“Who was driving?” I asked.

“No one was driving. The trailer on my John Deere lawn tractor hit the left front quarter panel and drove the sheet metal into the tire and now it can’t be driven.”

“Okay Cletus. Exactly what happened?”

“Well, before we went on vacation I pulled the John Deere lawn tractor into the garage with the little trailer attached to the back. After we got home this morning from vacation and unpacked I went down to the garage to back the tractor out and drive it back down to the pole barn. As you know I ain’t the best at backing things out, which is why even when I drive Wilma’s little compact car that I look for a pull-through parking space.

“Anyway, I’ve been working on backing the tractor up with the trailer hitched to it and I was determined to get it right this time. Before I went to the garage Wilma said, “Why don’t you just unhitch the trailer and push it out, then back the tractor out, then hitch the trailer back and drive it down to the pole barn?”

“I said, “No, I’m going to back that tractor and trailer out of that garage if it takes me all day.”

“So I cranked the tractor up and depressed the reverse pedal and back I went…but the trailer veered off to the left. So I went forward and straightened the trailer out and then depressed the reverse pedal again and the trailer veered off to the right. So I went forward and straightened things up again.

“Before I went in reverse again I tried to recall the YouTube video I’d watched about backing a trailer up. It looked easy on the video and I was sure I could do it. So once again I hit the reverse pedal and once again the trailer veered to the left; I went forward and backward and forward and backward and forward and backward and the trailer just wouldn’t cooperate.

“I started feeling pretty sleepy, and things around me were looking a bit fuzzy. I finally decided to unhitch the trailer and push it out on the driveway. Pushing it about wore me out because I had it loaded with bags of lime for the yard. Finally I got the trailer far enough out of the garage that I could back the tractor out.

“I got back on the tractor, depressed the reverse pedal, and turned around to see where I was going when…BANG!!!! The trailer rolled down the slopped driveway and rammed the front of the pickup. The next thing I knew I was sprawled on the floor and Wilma was standing over me asking “What happened? Are you okay? I’m calling 911.”

“I don’t recall much else until I realized I was stretched out in an ambulance with sirens going.”

“Cletus…what happened to you?”

“Seems running that tractor in the enclosed space just about killed me. I fell off the tractor, cracked my head on the concrete floor. I could have killed myself…and all because I didn’t know how to drive that tractor and its trailer in reverse. Now I’ve messed my head up and I’ve messed my truck up. Will you please come get me?”

“Cletus, I really really hate to tell you this…but I’m out of town. Can I call your brother Clyde to come get you?”

Thursday, September 19, 2013

When A Good Idea Goes Bad

My cousin Cletus called me yesterday, seems he had a good idea gone bad. Our friend Earl had emailed him a list of handy home ideas that are supposed to make life easier, Cletus tried it and it didn’t work. As the photo below illustrates, the idea is to put a rubber band around a paint can, then when painting you wipe the excess paint off the brush by wiping the brush against the rubber band, this avoids excess paint on the sides of the paint can. Seems ingenious right? Well there’s a reason you don’t see Home Depot or Lowes selling rubber bands for paint cans.

The phone call (on my cell phone) went like this:

“Bob, I’ve got a problem and need your help.”

“What happened Cletus?”

“You know that email Earl sent us with handy household tips to make life easier?”

“Oh yeah, I saw that. What did you do, forward it to someone as a joke?”

“Not exactly. As a matter of fact I tried one of the tips.”

“Oh no, you didn’t really, did you?”

“I sure did and it worked…at least for a while. The wife is gone for the weekend, she left last night, so I thought I’d surprise her and spend Saturday on doing “honey-dos” around the house – and I thought I’d really surprise her by doing something not on my list, like painting the dinning room.”

“But Cletus, I thought Wilma did all of the indoor painting?”

“Well she does, says I’m not that great at detail work – that’s why I thought this would really be a surprise.”

“No doubt it will be when she gets home. So what’s the problem?”

“Well, I’d been painting for about 30 minutes and things were going nicely. I’d put drop cloths on the floor, I carefully moved the dishes and glasses and other glassware out of the hutch and onto the dinning room table so that when I moved the hutch away from the wall I wouldn’t break anything, I was really pleased with myself…then it happened.”

“What happened?”

“The phone rang. As I got up to answer it I laid the paint brush over the paint can so that the rubber band supported it. As I was walking back into the dinning room after the call I heard a “snap” and a bang and then the sound of breaking glass. The rubber band snapped and sent the paint brush flying into the ceiling and then the brush careened down onto the dinning room table, sending glassware off the table, onto the floor – there is paint everywhere, shards of glass everywhere, the paint is on the ceiling, on the table, on the hutch, on the floor – and I don’t know how many dishes and glasses and what not are broken. Can you come over and please help me clean this up and figure out what to do next?”

“Sorry Cletus, I’m out of town.” 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

“I Can’t Talk Now”?

I’ve wanted to write this for years but I’ve kept putting it off because I didn’t want to be off-putting. But I need to get it out of my system, not that it won’t linger to some degree; at least I won’t think about writing it…though I suppose I’ll think about the fact that I have written it.

Why do people answer the phone only to say, “I can’t talk now”? If they can’t talk then why answer the phone? Sometimes they’ll add, “Can I call you back?” Do they expect to hear in response, “No, as a matter of fact you can’t call me back”? I can understand the occasional instance when we might want to let the caller know that the call is important but that we’re in the midst of something that we need to finish after which we’ll call back; but that should be the exception. This reactionary answering is off-putting, “I can’t talk right now.”

Okay, thanks for telling me that you can’t talk right now but the fact is that you are talking to me right now; if you can’t talk right now then please let the call go to voice mail or let me decide to hang up and not leave a message knowing that you have caller-ID and that you’ll call me back when you can talk. Add to the foregoing that often when people answer and say, “I can’t talk right now,” that they are with someone else and thus are interrupting their time with another person to answer a call from a person that they aren’t going to talk to anyway – what sense does this make?

Are we so addicted to electronics that we’ll go into cardiac arrest or suffer an anxiety meltdown if we don’t respond to the ringtone? Let’s all take a deep breath and not answer the phone if we can’t talk…it really will be ok.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dear Peach Tree Bandit(s)

So you took the opportunity while the nation’s attention was focused on an organized crime trial in New England to pick the peach tree clean? Was the trial a ruse you engineered to divert attention from your local operation? Did you use the peach tree as an educational outing for your brood, introducing them to a life of banditry? How many of you were there? Considering that the tree was loaded with peaches from top to bottom, considering that some branches were weighed down with clusters of peaches bowing to the ground, considering that the deed was done in a matter of days, in less than one week – surely this is the work of a gang with a wily mastermind. Only a carefully orchestrated operation could have removed every last peach. Only a mind able to encompass the entire tree, every branch, every twig, every peach, could have issued assignments based on number of peaches, height of limbs, and weight of peaches in each cluster. And to leave no evidence! Surely you are a master of clandestine operations!

I trust you enjoyed watching me spray the tree…once…twice…thrice…how many times did I foolishly do it? You must have snickered as you watched me spray with that heavy backpack pump sprayer, each time ensuring that I had top to bottom coverage of the tree, each time making sure that the underside of the branches were well-spayed as the topside. Did you video my futile efforts to bring home peaches? Did you play the video for your gang, instructing them to wait till the last possible moment before striking, before stealing every last peach from the tree? Not even leaving me, a son of Adam, one out of every ten peaches?

No doubt you watched me take a sample of two peaches home for my wife, a daughter of Eve, to inspect; no doubt that was the moment when you knew that you must launch your invasion before another weekend passed, no doubt the die was cast on that fateful Saturday morning as I left the garden and the peach tree – naively thinking that a harvest of peaches awaited the next weekend.

At least your fellow bandit who has played Attila the Hun with our tomatoes had the good sense to tease us by allowing some to remain, thus giving us hope for next year – but you, you would rob us of all hope for peaches; you would stomp our desire underfoot, you would rob our wallets of money paid for fruit tree spray…did I mention that you and yours took every last peach?

That’s okay…I have a plan.