Monday, October 31, 2005

The Ghost of Halloweens Past And Present

My most memorable Halloween was many years ago when I still lived in Florida. I lived in a town called Taft in Orlando, and it wasn’t the best place to live. I have no idea what it’s like now, but when I lived there it was one gigantic trailer park. It could be a violent place, but it could have been worse. The worst drug I ever saw there when I was growing up was marijuana. I tried it once, but it did nothing for me, which is probably for the better. Years later a recruiter for the Navy put me on the phone with some kind of investigator. He questioned me for almost 10 minutes about that one incident. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t a “Reefer Addict”, as he put it.

Anyway, it was Halloween, and I did my best to come up with a costume. I don’t remember now what I was supposed to be, but I remember that it required me to carry a staff, which was really a handle I unscrewed from a push-broom. Since my friends and I would have no adults with us we felt the need to carry something for protection. I wish it had just been teenage boy bravado that made it necessary to carry that, but sadly, it wasn’t. The year before we were jumped by a couple of older kids who wanted the candy we’d collected. They took our candy, and they beat us up to “teach us a lesson”. I’ve never figured out what lesson I was supposed to take away from that.

After we’d been out for a while we stopped in to the only convenience store in the area to get something to drink. I had left my staff outside and as we left I found a kid standing outside holding it. I knew exactly how to handle the situation – as I walked by him I reached out and snatched the staff right out of his hand, saying “That’s mine, thank you”. Since he wasn’t expecting it he didn’t have a chance to hold on to it. I kept walking. We didn’t know it, but he was part of another group of kids.

Later on, as we were walking down a dark dirt road, we found ourselves in the middle of an ambush. There was suddenly a lot of yelling as they came out of the darkness behind us. We were outnumbered, and we knew it. That didn’t mean we gave up. When they first started coming at us I had thrown the staff into the woods next to me to keep it from being taken and used against me. The darkness is what saved us. It was so dark that we really couldn’t see who we were fighting, and they couldn’t see us.

There was a lot of yelling and because it was Halloween there were a log of kids out. It attracted attention, and thankfully, it was the attention of kids from our part of the neighborhood. These kids were older than us, and a bit bigger. Normally, they wouldn’t care a bit about us, and might even take the candy from us themselves, but this was a chance to fight, and they wanted to take full advantage of it. Still, the dark prevented anything from happening fast. The other group of kids escaped, and we didn’t wait around to thank our “saviors”.

Tonight, here in Worcester, the kids started arriving at about 5:15. Overall, we saw about 400 kids tonight. There were very young kids being walked with their parents and older kids out having fun. The little kids seemed a little confused sometimes, not quite understanding what was happening. Some of the older kids were barely costumed, having at the last minute thrown something together. Parents were with nearly every group, the exceptions being some of the older teenagers. The parents seemed to be having as much fun as the kids, sometimes more.

I had some fun with some of the kids. One family came by and were clearly having a great night. The kids (a boy and his younger sister), once they got the candy, ran back to their parents screaming in sugar-induced glee. The boy was clearly dressed as a pirate, but I asked him if he was dressed as a ballerina. The way I asked it was clearly a joke, and the dad thought it was hilarious. The little boy played along well, shouting in mock indignation that he was not a ballerina. I had fun like that all night.

I think what I liked most about tonight was that everybody was having fun. This is the way Halloween is supposed to be, a fun night where kids can live a little fantasy, and get lots of candy to boot. A dentist’s favorite time of the year. A time where you build the kind of memories that make you nostalgic later on in life. I knew that somewhere, a Halloween like the ones I had in Florida was happening. Kids were having their candy taken, their night turning into a disaster. But it wasn’t happening here, and I suppose, for right now, that’s enough.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

One of Those Boring "Update" Posts

Selmathena is now sending me threats of bodily injury should I not get some posts up, so I am putting together this post in a panic. I am not a man who scares easily, but I find I fear the husky-voiced wrath of that Texan and her gravelly-voiced Canadian Cohort.

Lots has happened this last week, where to start?

Unfortunately, things have not worked out with the woman I was dating. To put it simply she couldn’t find time to see me. There’s a little more to it than that, but it’s not really worth writing about. So the match.com profile goes back up. I’ve been partnering with another blogger on match.com, we screen each other’s possibilities and give advice. It’s a huge help having a member of the opposite sex helping you out with something like this. I’m not the type to send out winks (for those of you who don’t know, a wink is just that – it says nothing beyond “I find you interesting”), I send out an email if I find somebody. I don’t send out all that many, at least I don’t think so. I’ve emailed six women, only one has emailed me back, but then I only sent the first out yesterday. I have talked to men who send out (literally) 50 or so winks in one sitting. I call that the shotgun approach, I just can’t do it that way.

I’ve had a minor cold all week. It’s given me a stuffy nose and (for about 4 hours) a sore throat. If that were the extent of it, it would have been no problem, but the hardest part was that it drained me. I was exhausted for most of the week, and thankfully I came back to close to normal today in time to see my son. Yesterday I woke up late, took a nap after breakfast, had a second cup of coffee at noon, could barely move off the couch most of the day, and wobbled my way to bed. I’ll sleep well tonight, even though I’m feeling better.

I closed out my first case at work last week. True, it was a very easy case, but I had to start someplace. I would have closed another, but the guy I was working with has not called me back. I’m told that that sort of thing happens a lot. These cases cost a minimum of $700 each to the companies calling, so they like to keep them open and try to work another problem into an existing case whenever possible. I left a message for the guy saying that if I didn’t hear from him by the close of business Monday that I’d go ahead and close the case. I probably won’t hear from him – it was also an easy case. I’m lucky to be working with the other new hire. He’s worked in the field (in fact, for this very company) before, and I’ve found that our knowledge and skill levels are complimentary. He’s also got the same sense of humor I do, which has other people in the office a little fearful of starting any joke wars with us.

I am currently watching the Patriots preparing to come back against the Bills. Don’t argue with me, it’s going to happen. I have a feeling I won’t be able to stay up much longer, however. I think it’ll be time for me and the bedbugs to wrassle it out for the bed in just a few minutes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

An Average Life

My life is average right now. Some things are extremely good, others are extremely bad. That makes life average right now. I’ve been very, very busy the last week. I wish that I lived closer to where I work, because it’s about an hour commute each way. That’s a lot of time I could be using for other things. I’ve been struggling to keep up with everything, and there’s a list of people I need to get back to on email.

Some of the good things are really good. I am now divorced, I won joint custody, I love my job and I’m doing well. My son is doing very, very well – such a happy little boy! I had the best weekend with him, and when it was time to go and meet up with the Ex he didn’t want to go. It made me feel really good that he is becoming so attached to me. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be with the Ex, it’s that he is seeing me as somebody he likes to spend time with. It’s a great feeling.

The biggest negative in my life right now is my finances. Right now it’s a house of cards. I can catch up, but it will take time, and surprises like the car repairs make things a lot harder. If I had the money to move closer to where I work I could save money on gas, which would not be insignificant. A friend of mine suggested ebay, which I will have to think about – I’ve got a lot of stuff I can live without. There are things I’d rather not part with, but it will be temporary and I can replace it all later. The important thing is to just get my feet under me.

I generally dislike short posts, much to the regret of most of you, so this one ought to make you happy. I’ve got a lot to do tonight and I’d better get started.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

100 Paragraphs About Me, Part I

A word about this project. I was going to blatantly copy Karla’s 100 Things Wrong With Me. I even asked her permission to do so, which she graciously gave (for a small fee). However, in trying to write it I found that I am nowhere near as funny as her. So I decided to keep it within my writing abilities (which, if that were true, would make the title “100 Really Stupid Paragraphs About Me”). The courts will have to decide if I'll still have to pay her the fee. So, let us start.

1. I find humor in all kinds of places, even when it might endanger my life. Once, as a teenager, my brothers and I were arguing at the dinner table. My father, who had had enough suddenly said in a stern voice “You kids be quiet and stop your squawking!” All three of us were doing our best to hold little snickers in, but failing. My dad, noticing us, said “What’s so damn funny?” I told him, in a small voice “you said ‘squawk’.” When in the navy, some friends and I were in line at Burger King. Another guy in line had a “Navy Seals” T-shirt on, but was clearly not in the Navy. We started laughing and he said in a gravelly voice (I think he’s related to Canagal) “the last time a guy laughed at me, I pulled him down to the bottom. And I didn’t let him go until the last bubble hit the surface…” There was a moment of utter silence. Then we broke out in uncontrollable laughter. He didn’t drag us down.

2. I seem to be completely unable at times to recognize that a woman is interested in me. I was telling a friend about a woman who I kept running into in a toy store with my son. She was a beautiful woman, and somehow managed to make a short skirt, tight sweater and black leather boots look classy. She was very friendly and asked me a lot of questions about my son. We ran into each other several times while I was in the store, and the man (who I thought was possibly a boyfriend) and her son were nowhere to be found on these occasions. My friend told me I was an idiot and that the woman was trying to get me to ask her out. This theory (both the idiot part and the woman’s intentions) have been confirmed by Sam.

3. My major was pathobiology, and it sometimes leads me to tell people things they don’t want to hear. The other day a coworker was telling somebody that they used to like medium rare hamburgers, but that they make them well-done to protect themselves from e. coli and mad cow disease. Of course I had to correct them. By the time I finished informing him that prions (which cause BSE, or Mad Cow) are extremely resistant to heat and that even an autoclave will not make a contaminated instrument safe his face was quite grey. I don’t think he’ll be eating beef anytime soon.

4. Simple things excite me sometimes. Today I started my single-cup coffeemaker and promptly forgot about it. When I remembered that I had a cup of coffee waiting for me upstairs I did a little happy dance (that should be a separate entry) and emitted a little “hee hee hee” (picture Homer Simpson).

5. I sometimes have little patience for stupid people. I have been known to look at somebody who uttered something particularly idiotic and say to them “That’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.” During spring break one year a woman I worked with was injured in a riot that occurred on campus. She insisted that the police had “forced” the students to riot by simply being there in riot gear. The police were there because there was a history of riots at this site. When she said that the police should not have reacted to the rocks and bottles the students started throwing at them, I had to say something – can you guess what I said? Did I mention that she was my immediate supervisor?

6. There may be some really questionable genes rolling around in me. The ones I’m most worried about are present in my uncle. He is a star trek fan. Not one of the normal star trek fans who watch the show and enjoy it. He’s one of the ones who dress up in the uniform. Who meets with a group of friends on a couple of weekends a month to pretend their flying a starship. On a full-size starship bridge they built themselves. Some of you might not think this is so bad, and if this were the only thing wrong with him, I might agree. However, he’s nearly 60, lives with his mother (as he has since he got out of the Army at 22) and signs his paycheck over to her every two weeks and gets an allowance back. Be honest, how many of you cringed?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

That line hardly covers my son. You’d have to somehow fit Monster Trucks, tractors, Brum, Noddy and, of course, Macsheese into it, and then the metrics of the whole thing would be thrown way off. My Ex went to New York this weekend, and had asked me if I could take him from Friday evening to Sunday mid-afternoon sometime. It still floors me the change in her attitude towards the whole visitation issue. It wasn’t more than a few months ago that she was claiming to people that she suspected I might try to kidnap him. In any case, he was here last night and he’s even now sleeping in the next room. We have had an incredible weekend.

I always have so much fun with him. We make up games to play, especially in the car as we’re driving. Many, many months ago it was me making duck sounds and him making a high pitched scream in return. I often wondered if he ever screamed in the Ex’s car to try to get her to play the game, but I never heard anything. Yesterday I had to find a way to keep him awake for the hour-long drive from where I picked him up to my house. We were going to arrive about an hour before bedtime so I didn’t want him napping on the way back. So we made up the Rub-a-dub-dub game.

Me: “Rub-a-dub-dub! Daddy’s an elephant!”
Him: “Nooooo! Daddy’s a daddy!”
“Rub-a-dub-dub! Charlie’s (his dog) a hippo!”
“Nooooo!”
“Rub-a-dub-dub! Daddy’s a goose!”
“Nooooo! A goose bites my finger!”

And so on. The funniest thing about the game is now when we’re not playing he’ll suddenly say “Daddy! Say it!”. The first time he did this I had no idea what he was telling me to say. He finally told me to say “Rub-a-dub-dub” and I got it. If I tell him to say it, he’ll say “No. You say it, Daddy!” We’ll get into a game where I have to try to convince him to say it.

Me: “Can you say Rub-a-dub-dub?”
Him: “No! You say it, Daddy!”
Me: “Can you say ‘Daddy’s silly’?”
Him: “No!”
Me: “Can you say ‘no’?”
Him: “No!”
Me: “You just said ‘no!’”
Him: (in a “the hell I did” tone) “No!”

Last night we were talking (or what passes for conversation with a two and a half year old) and I asked him something about snakes. He told me that snakes hide. I asked him where. He said that snakes hide under the couch, as he lifted up the dust flap and pointed underneath it. I laughed, imagining him telling my Ex that a snake was hiding under the couch. She was deathly afraid of snakes. Every time he sees a garbage truck or sees one on the road he tells me that a garbage truck took his binky. This was a ploy by the daycare woman when it was decided that he no longer needed the binky. Obviously this was traumatic for him, because it's been a year and he still associates garbage trucks with his stolen binky.

He has a little cold. My evidence is that he’s coughing, sneezing and has a runny nose. He doesn’t have a fever. Unfortunately, he has the habit of coughing so hard that he will sometimes make himself throw up after a meal. He did this with my Ex at Friendly’s not long before I picked him up yesterday. She insists that he was coughing because of asthma. So she called the doctor and insisted that she (the doctor) do something. So today I find out that the doctor has supposedly told her that it might be acid reflux. She said this as if it were nearly a death sentence. It’s so hard not to laugh sometimes. First, I doubt he’s got acid reflux to begin with. He only throws up when he coughs really hard, and that’s usually when he’s got a cold. So Monday I’m going to call the doctor and have a little talk with her.

When I put him down for bed he insists on having a few toys with him. “A few” is a relative term. Last night I counted eleven matchbox cars, three monster trucks and a Thomas the Train. Tonight it’s ten matchbox cars, three monster trucks and Thomas. It’s like a used car lot in there.

He’s wearing me out. It’s 10:10, and I’m falling asleep at my computer typing this, so I suppose I should just post it and get to bed.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Phone Call

So today I received a phone call from a friend. I got to know this woman several years ago, about a month after my Ex was fired from her job. Her boss had fired her by leaving a message on the answering machine. Basically, the man was a jackass, and we were better off. This woman was hired to replace my Ex, and somehow, through some bizarre coincidence, ended up moving in the building right next to ours.

To make a long story short, the same man who fired my Ex fired this woman. He called her on the telephone the day before she was supposed to start work and told her. There’s a LOT more to that story, but what it boils down to is that he tried several times to come on to her, even one time trying to pin her down so he could kiss her. She made it clear that it was not going to happen (she said she threw him across the room when he pinned her down – and she was strong enough to do it) so he fired her. The trouble for him was that he had a contract for a years employment with her. So she sued him. I ended up testifying at the trial for her, and this is one time I’ll brag. I kicked his ass in the courtroom. He settled very shortly after my testimony.

I’m going to call her Sayre for now. Sayre got to know my Ex and I pretty well. She saw a lot of what I was going through when my Ex started acting strangely and often told me that she was worried about her. When my Ex filed charges against me Sayre was aghast. She called my Ex and had many long conversations with her. Sayre told me several months ago that my Ex had thought I would be under her thumb as a result of her stories, and went into a panic when it didn’t go the way she thought it would.

Today when she called she told me some more interesting things. Apparently she won’t answer the phone if it’s my Ex calling now. My Ex has been calling her for the last couple of months complaining about me. Of all the things she could complain about, the Ex won’t stop complaining that she’s sure I’m seeing a woman. This is a year after she had me thrown out and filed for divorce. Sayre told her that she had made her choices and that she had to live with them.

Sayre got another call last night from my Ex. The Ex called her to tell her she was now divorced, but she didn’t seem very happy about it. She told Sayre how she sat in her car and cried right after for a while and asked her “What am I supposed to do?” It appeared that the Ex was very upset about the whole thing.

Sometimes I just don’t know what to think. Somebody (who shall remain anonymous) told me about a relative who had a spouse with schizophrenia. Even after a divorce the spouse would write long letters to members of the family as if it never broke up. I wonder how much of this I’m going to see.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

It's Over

It’s over. I am now divorced, and overall it went very well for me. That doesn’t mean it was easy, or that I’m not drained right now, but at least it’s over. As I sit here, I’m exhausted, physically and emotionally. Part of me thinks I should have fought more, the other part of me knows I just didn’t have the energy to do it.

What I need right now is to sit down here and allow myself to relax. I’m struggling not to be angry at little unimportant things that I gave up, and it’s hard. Even though I know I got what I wanted most.

I got joint custody.

In reality it doesn’t change much immediately, but it was important to me for a couple of reasons. The most important reason is just that I want to be more than a non-custodial parent. At the beginning of all this (and sometimes now) I felt like I was being robbed of what was most precious to me. Now I feel somewhat vindicated. After all the lies and false accusations leveled against me I feel like I can point to this and say “see – they wouldn’t have allowed this if what she said was true”. I’m glad I was so adamant about it throughout the whole process.

The parenting class turned out to be less of a problem than I anticipated. The judge clearly wished I had done it when I was supposed to, but was very kind about it all. I have to give credit where credit is due. My Ex’s (wow, it feels nice not to have to write STBX anymore) attorney actually jumped in and said that I had been living out of state and that it had made it difficult for me to take the class. That’s part of it, but the main reason was just money. The judge issued an order that I have to have it completed by early January. He didn’t have to give me that much time, but he did. I’ve already scheduled it and will have it done by the end of next week.

One of the things I felt wasn’t worth fighting over was that my ex and her attorney decided they wanted my wages garnished for child support. I felt that was unnecessary and just done to be humiliating to me. I’ve paid so much more than I ever needed to, and the only time I did not pay on time was just before I got my first paycheck for my new job when I literally ran out of money. When I got the check I not only paid what the current agreed-upon amount was, I voluntarily (and without being asked) upped the amount to what I anticipated the order would be under my new income. I didn’t have to do that. For me there really isn’t any difference since I was going to do the payments using direct deposit, it’s just humiliating.

The other thing I don’t understand is that the amount of my support payments went up. In Connecticut they do a calculation and assign a percentage of what is considered the correct amount of support to each parent. My income has gone down a little overall, and her income went up significantly, but somehow I ended up paying more. It’s not a lot, so I really shouldn’t worry about it, I just feel like something got put over on me.

I know the reason these things are getting to me – it was a very stressful and emotional event and my mind is still kind of reeling from all of it. Compared to what I won this stuff is insignificant, and I should shortly begin to relax about it all. I’ve decided that I won’t act on anything for several days to allow myself to get much more rational about it. On the way home I was getting very angry thinking about it. I wanted to call the Ex and tell her to look forward to a huge reduction in cooperation from me because of the whole garnishment issue. Stupid little revenge fantasies kept popping into my head unbidden – like telling off her attorney. Yeah, I’m sure that would teach him a valuable lesson.

It would be a big mistake to do any of this. Right now the Ex is being pretty cooperative with visitation and I don’t want to give her a reason to start being difficult again.

The wisest thing is for me to just give myself a few days for it all to sink in. I got what was most important to me, so I’m just going to try to concentrate on being happy with that.

Of course I posted this and then remembered something. I wanted to thank each and every one of you who commented or emailed me with words of support. I can't tell you how good it felt to get home here and read all of that. It meant a lot.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The End of an Era?

Tomorrow is the big day. I have to be at the courthouse at 9am, and when I leave I may, at long last, finally be divorced. I received a copy of the proposed agreement, and it has addressed most of my concerns, so I’m pretty happy. There are a couple of things I wish were different, but nothing I feel is worth fighting about. What’s amazing to me is that the change came so suddenly. I’m not sure what happened to make the STBX stop fighting me on things, and I really don’t care as long as I get to spend more time with my son.

Out of the blue today I received a very nice email from somebody who, over the last couple of days, has read all my entries from start to finish. She wrote:

I just got finished reading your entire blog, from start to finish. It is
amazing to me that you were able to maintain such a good attitude after
being dealt such a horrible hand. I was going to leave a comment, but it
just didn't seem fair to do that after such a look into your life.

There's virturally nothing I can relate to, but I admire the way that you
are able to handle situations with such a good outlook. You're definitely
admirable, and I'd be willing to bet that little man you are raising will
end up with many of the same good qualities you've got. The world can only
hope so.

Thanks for sharing your life, it's amazing to read. I send some extra good
thoughts your way for all of the upcoming drama you are sure to endure
legally.

What she wrote about my son literally brought tears to my eyes when I read it. As I was still at work at my desk when I read it I had to quickly turn to another computer and perform a task to distract myself. I didn’t feel like explaining to coworkers if tears started rolling down my face.

I’ve sent out several emails like this to other authors, mainly because I like to live by the rule that if you want the privilege of complaining, you have to earn it by pointing out the good things you find in life. Maintain a good:bad ratio of at least ten and you’re good to go. It was really nice to get one myself. Thank you.

Wish me luck tomorrow – I don’t think I’ll need it, but it never hurts.

The Scammers At Best Buy Have Discovered Me!

Oh, this is too rich. Today, as I looked through my stats, I found that somebody at best buy had discovered my blog. This was the domain the reader was on:

Domain Name BestBuy.com ? (Commercial)

The search term this reader used to find me was sicustomerservice.com

They read two of the Scammers at Best Buy posts, and I’m hoping that word spreads around the Best Buy HQ.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Brothers in (H)arms

It has been known to scare some people how much one of my brothers and I are alike. The guilty party is my youngest brother, who I have four years on. He and I have for many years loved playing jokes on each other. After I got out of the navy I came home to live for the few months before I started college, and it was in this period that we kicked things up into high gear. One of our favorite things to do to each other was to hide somewhere and jump out snarling and growling in an attempt to scare the other. Points were awarded on the originality of the attempt, the quality of the scare itself and if any little-girl-like shrieks were made.

I think I had the best scare, but he did get me good on several occasions. The best was when I was walking into my room. All I really remember was that it was dark and as I walked in a large bear burst out of the closet roaring as it rushed at me. I don’t think I shrieked, but my brother will probably say that I did as I fainted. I will readily admit to a massive flinch, one that nearly qualifies as a full-out “Flee”. Afterward we were both nearly rolling on the floor laughing.

I managed to top this, but only because I’m sneakier. I go the extra mile by subverting friends and relatives of a victim to help. In this case I convinced my brother’s girlfriend (now his wife) to not mention that I was hiding in the closet. He walked into the room and asked in a nervous voice “Where’s Erasmus?” I have to point out here that many people who know my brother would refuse to believe that I could make him nervous. He will admit to it, though, because I have earned his respect. She told him that she thought I was in the cellar, so he began to relax. And that’s when I struck.

A creature released from the darkest pit of Hell could not have made a better sound. It was so good that not only did my brother shriek, but so did his girlfriend, who knew what was coming. It was truly a scare for the record books.

I have cicadas to thank for another of my best scares. Cicadas molt, leaving a very large exoskeleton behind. It is almost scary to pick up because it looks like it might come to life and rip off a limb. One day I found one of these, and immediately came up with a plan. My brother is scared of spiders, and this was close enough. I found him working on his car. He was sitting in the driver seat and both doors were open, so I said hello as I sat down in the passenger seat. He was bent over trying to see something under the dash and I slyly placed the “bug” on his right leg just above his knee. He sat back up and looked down. He was simultaneously making an involuntary “Aaaaaa!” sound, trying to brush the lobster-like killer insect off his leg and jumping out of the car. He hit his head on the roof on the way out.

It’s a good thing we had conditioned ourselves not to get angry when we were the victim, because I was laughing far too hard to make any kind of escape attempt. He was standing there holding his head and panting. I like to remind him of it every once in a while. Later on we put the bug on his future father-in-law’s leg – in the middle of a picnic style dinner. The scream he let out when he saw it on his leg stopped all conversation and was followed by several seconds of shocked silence. That was quickly followed by all 15 or 20 of us laughing our heads off.

That poor man got me back a couple of years later. My brother, his girlfriend and I were taking a cross-country trip. My brother’s girlfriend’s parents lived in Colorado, and they were one of our stops. One day we all decided to drive down to San Diego and when we arrived there was a light rain. We parked and started to head down to a beach. To get there we had to climb down a path on a somewhat steep hill, which was slippery because of the rain.

My brother and I are considered goats because of the enjoyment we get from running and jumping over various surfaces. We rarely fall, and we always had a lot of fun making people nervous as we ran and jumped our way across a jetty at the beach, up and down stairs etc. This hill was an interesting challenge and of course we had to take it. We took different paths and started bounding down. As I bounced down (picture Tigger) I came close to our father-in-law, who was carefully and slowly climbing down the hill. As I passed him his feet suddenly went out from under him, and he literally rolled the rest of the way down the hill. My brother and I ran over to see if he was ok, and found that he was uninjured, but covered in mud.

At the top of the hill you would expect to find his wife and daughter standing with, at the very least, a concerned look on their faces. They should be calling down worriedly to see if he were hurt, wringing their hands. No. They were both bent over double laughing, sometimes pointing down at him and starting over.

Part of what they found so funny is that they thought I had pushed him as I ran by him on the hill. I denied it, but then heard him claim that he had felt me hit him as I ran by. Then my brother joined in saying that he had seen me bump him. I argued my innocence to no avail. The accusations started out as me bumping him, went to me pushing him, then to me attempting murder. Somewhere in there I realized I was being toyed with.

There were very few limits in terms of what we’d do to scare each other. On one occasion I jumped off the garage roof bellowing behind my brother as he got out of his car. Another time he ran out of the bushes sounding like a water buffalo as I unlocked the front door in the middle of the night. I waited for over 20 minutes, hidden under his bed, so I could grab his ankle as he came into his room. I’m lucky he didn’t stomp my hand into oblivion for that one.

Over the years we’ve mellowed some, but still truly enjoy putting one over on the other. Whether it be a good scare or a well-thought out practical joke we always get as much laughter out of being the victim as we do being the perpetrator. For the time being I have the advantage, because there is nobody in my life he can attempt to enlist to his cause, and his wife is always willing to help me out. This is a woman who said to him when he got uppity “If you think I won’t beat you because Erasmus is here, you’re wrong!” I can hardly wait until his sons are old enough to help out, because I’m already working on training them to accept bribes…

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Stressful Day

Today could have been a better day. Have I mentioned that I have a gift for understatement?

My (I thought) ex-attorney left a message for me recently, saying that she had not submitted the papers to be removed from the case. She has suddenly become interested in giving me another chance. I strongly suspect this is because she heard I have found a job and she sees dollar signs. I found the message she left very annoying because she started out with something along the lines of “I think I understand what’s going on. I think you just don’t want to be divorced. It’s ok, a lot of people go through this.”

I say annoyed now, but at the time I was furious. She knows exactly why I don’t want the divorce to be final, because I told her. I told her on the phone. I emailed her about it. There should be no question in her mind. I am not satisfied with the financial agreement, and I’m not satisfied with the visitation schedule.

I heard from my STBX about the coming court appointment, not the attorney. I got a message from the STBX that both her attorney and “my” attorney wanted me to call her. So I did. I called and left a message. It was not a very nice message. I told her I was annoyed because I had told her both on the phone and in email that I was not ready because of the two issues I mentioned in the last paragraph. I told her that I was going to be at the court date and that I was going to bring the emails with me.

I called the STBX’s attorney today too. He was quite hostile. I learned some interesting things, though. My ex-attorney told him that she had informed me many times about the last court date, which is an outright lie. I told him that I didn’t think that my ex-attorney was telling him what I was passing on to her. I asked him if she had told him that I was not satisfied with the agreement or the visitation and he hesitated. Then he said he had been told by the STBX, avoiding answering me about the other attorney. He told me that no matter what they are going to go forward with the case next week. They are going to ask for judgment because he feels (because of what my ex-attorney has told him) that I’ve held things off long enough.

I called my ex-attorney four times today, and did not get an answer or a call back. I think she’s trying to put forth an appearance of being professional while avoiding being responsible for what she hasn’t done.

With everything going on in my life I haven’t gotten to filing the complaint about my attorney, so that is going to be high priority this weekend. I’m going to get everything together, including all my phone records, which will show exactly when she’s called me. I’m hoping to go into court next week and be able to show that I have not been informed about court dates until the day before they occurred. She is going to talk about how I’ve not been timely in calling her back and communicating with her in general, and she does have a point there. I want to show the judge that I’m not trying to waste anybody’s time – that if I’d been given more than one day’s notice I could have come to the other hearings. I’m also worried because I haven’t done everything I should have done. I was supposed to take a parenting class, but I haven’t done it. I had planned to do it earlier this year, but after I lost my job I put it off because I didn’t have the money to pay for it. I had also planned to take it after I got my first paycheck but ran out of money because of the car repairs. So I’m also hoping that I won’t get too slapped around for not having this done.

I’m worried that it won’t go well despite the proof I will bring with me. My ex-attorney is well-known and my proof and arguments may fall on deaf ears. Of course, if she told the judge something that wasn’t true that can be shown by what I bring with me, then maybe it will go well. I have felt for a while that she was not being very honest with me and her advice at some points was beyond incompetent. I think she’s been portraying herself as doing everything right, which is definitely not the case.

So, back to today. This morning I called the attorney many times and spoke to the STBX’s attorney who was quite rude to me. I was not getting called back, and all I could think about was how I have to be in court next week. I was getting very stressed out over the whole situation and the conversation I had with the STBX’s attorney. I wasn’t feeling good at all. I was struggling to keep calm, and finally managed to get to a point where I wasn’t so stressed about it. It’s not easy to maintain that.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Public Service Announcement From King Erasmus

Just a word of advice to those of you who find yourself with a flat tire. Should you find yourself with a flat tire, review the following:

Are you on a level surface?

Is the level surface solid enough to support your jack?

If the answer to either of these is no, then don't change the tire. Wait for a tow truck or somebody who can help.

Today as I was getting off the highway, I saw somebody who had gotten a flat rear tire on the passenger side. They were changing it, but there were a couple of problems. The car had pulled over , but had actually pulled off the highway and into the grass. They were not only on the grass, but the passenger side was in a ditch. With the jack fully extended, the car looked level, not raised. This jack was situated on the ground in the ditch. The ground that had been soaked with rain for the last several days. The phrase "asking for death" comes to mind.

An Update on the New Job

I am having a great time at the new job. One thing I mentioned before is that it’s expected that there is a learning curve – they don’t expect anybody to be ready to go on day one. I’ve been putting a lot of effort into learning and getting ready to start helping out, and it’s paying off. I have learned so much since I started, and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

In the last week I’ve gotten to a point where I needed to start using VM Ware. Let me just say that I’ve falling in love with this software. I won’t bore the non-techies out there with the details, let’s just say I can play and tinker to my heart’s content and with a click be back to where I started so I can do it all over again.

There’s another guy who was hired 2 weeks after I was who I’ve been working with to get familiar with the equipment. He actually worked at this company years ago supporting routers, so he brings a lot to the table. We’ve already gained the reputation of dangerous to attempt a practical joke on. Not because we’d get mad, but because we’d get positively gleeful about having an excuse to go after somebody.

We definitely impressed some people this week. We had been setting up different configurations with our equipment, and one of the experienced people decided it was time to start introducing faults for us to find and fixed. She made us go away and when we came back our equipment no longer worked. We found the problem and fixed it in less that 5 minutes. That shocked the woman. At this point in our training there really isn’t very many things that can be broken so we didn’t find it very difficult.

As a result, today we were asked by one of the other engineers to help them set up a lab to reproduce a problem a customer was having. Not because he needed help technically, he definitely does not, but because it’s easier to do some of this with help. The important thing is that he trusted us enough to help him out. The good thing for us is that we’re starting to help people out.

I found out something very interesting today. Myself and the other new guy were talking with some of the other engineers and we were told that we were the first new hires in almost four years! It was quite a compliment for both of us that we were chosen over all the other candidates that were being interviewed. And it also explains why there was so much confusion when we started. They hadn’t had to set anything up for anybody new for years.

So, all in all, I’m loving the new job. It’s challenging, it’s interesting and the people are great. How much more can you ask for?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I Am No Longer In An AC/DC Song...

I received a couple of interesting comments on yesterday's post. I am relieved to know that should I die, Selmathena of the Husky Voice will reanimate my flesh. And that ties right in to Canagal's (who I would link to, but she may only be a fake profile made by The Hot Librarian) comment. I shall not repeat it here. I will say, however, that she is mistaken. I USED to, but there was that unfortunate incident where I was mistaken for a chimpanzee and taken to the vet for a "procedure". Perhaps with the reanimation I can be whole again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I Was A Teenage Criminal Part V

It may surprise many of you to hear that I have a bit of smartass in me. I was far worse in high school, mainly because I hadn’t yet learned when to shut my mouth.

Let me tell you about the Receiving area at the Caldors I worked at as a teenager. It was basically a small warehouse. With warehouse workers. There was one who really stood out. His name was Big Al.

Big Al, was, not surprisingly, quite big. He was very overweight, but would have been big even had he not been heavy. He was also homeless.

The fact that Big Al was homeless says a lot about the management at this store. It was common knowledge that Big Al and his wife lived out of their car. From what I understand they used to have a place to live, but at some point lost it. I never did know the details. Big Al, despite the fact that he was not the manager, ran the warehouse. He was so big and so surly that nobody wanted to challenge his rule. Everybody had to deal with Al, because you had to go back to Receiving to do battle with the Raccoon from Hell, at the very least. Another thing you had to go back to Receiving for was to make tickets.

As an employee at Caldors we could always count on one thing: the sale that started on Sunday. That meant that on Saturday we would have to get our yellow sale tickets printed up and go out onto the floor and put them on the merchandise. The ticket machines were located in the Receiving area, and if you were back there making your tickets you were sure to get an earful from Big Al.

Now that we’ve gotten most of the background out of the way I’ll get to the actual story. I had a couple of good friends who worked at Caldors with me, and we were always up for causing a little trouble. So one fine day I went back to Receiving with one of my friends to get some merchandise, and we found that nobody was around. We got our goods, and on the way out we had to walk by the ticket machines. Picture a light from the Heavens shining down on me as the clouds opened up. I had an idea.

The crime only took a few seconds, and though I didn’t know it at the time, the aftereffects would last several hours. I would start out as one of the suspects (duh) but end up in a surprising position, which I won’t disclose yet.

The crime: I took the fuses out of the ticket machines.

Twenty minutes later panic erupted. We heard whispers of a disaster in Receiving at first. Then it was confirmed. Both of the ticket machines were broken, and nobody had made their sale tickets yet! Managers from each department were called to a meeting with the Assistant Store Manager, then to a second meeting with the Store Manager. There was talk of sending out a team to another Caldors to make the tickets, but that got shot down for some reason (I don’t know why, it was the best solution they came up with).

My friend and I played it cool. We had hidden the fuses at the very top of a shelving unit in a box so there they wouldn’t be found. We waited a while until we had a good enough reason to head back to Receiving to witness the carnage firsthand. When we arrived we were delighted. Big Al was in an uproar. There were people all over his warehouse, including managers, and they weren’t leaving! We couldn’t stay long because our task was a short one, but we had a great time.

When we arrived back at our department we laughed about the whole thing for a while, but wisely decided to keep our involvement to ourselves for the time being. Every so often somebody would come back and spread rumors about what had happened, which made it even funnier.

In all the time I worked at Caldors I had never before cringed upon hearing my name over the PA system. I was being told to report to Receiving. I was sure I was being called to my doom. My friend’s eyes were wide as he looked at me – he was getting nervous. This is why I do most of my little jokes alone. I don’t need a weak-link partner throwing me under the bus.

I reported to Receiving and was met by both the Store Manager and the Assistant Store Manager. They said they wanted me to look at the machines to see if I could figure out what was wrong because I was a smart young man. If this doesn’t sound suspicious to you, it should. I was already a suspect.

Fortunately, I am a good actor. I looked at the machines, poked them a few times and examined the cords. I asked if they had tried plugging the machines in to another outlet. Before an answer could be given, Big Al jumped in, not wanting to be shown up by this young punk. He proclaimed that the power strip was dead.

Now here’s where I should have shut my mouth. But I was indeed the young punk that Big Al thought I was, so when I noticed the radio that was plugged in to the same power strip was playing, I had to say something.

“The power strip can’t be dead – the radio’s playing.”

“Shut up. It’s dead.”

“But the radio’s playing!” Strike Two.

“The power strips dead!” He was definitely raising his voice now.

“Sure sounds like it!” Strike Three, I was out.

Did I mention before that Big Al was big? Before I (or the managers) knew what was happening, Big Al lost it. As he bellowed “It’s dead you little bastard!” he reached out, grabbed my shirt at my chest and pulled me towards him. I remember quite clearly the popping sounds I heard as the buttons on my shirt flew off. I remember being amazed how strong he was, because he nearly pulled me off my feet one-handed. I also remember seeing his other hand balled up in a fist behind him as he wound up to punch me.

The punch never came. Both managers somehow manhandled me away from him and conspicuously put themselves between us. Gone was the cocky teenager in me, I was in shock. I was told to get back to Seasonal, and I went, quite fast.

Back in Seasonal, the crowd grew each time I told the story of what had just happened to me in Receiving. This was not the bragging of a teenage boy, this was the shell-shocked ramblings of somebody who has just come back from war. I had two buttons left on my shirt. The top one and the bottom one. I then noticed that the pocket was missing. He had somehow ripped that right off too.

In that state I had no idea of how much time had passed when I was told by my department manager to report to the Store Manager’s office. With my friend. When we got there we found that the Usual Suspects had been rounded up. There were five of us in all, all troublemakers. It had been discovered that the fuses were missing.

I don’t recall where in the order of things I was called in for my interrogation. That’s exactly what it was. The first thing I was told to do was empty my pockets. I had had some time to regain some of my composure, and this order was an insult. Did he really think I was such an amateur that I’d have the incriminating fuses on me? I emptied my pockets, and satisfied, he moved right along.

“I know you had something to do with this. If you admit it now, we won’t fire you. If we have to fire you, you’ll have trouble getting a job for the rest of your life.”

Now, as a teenager I had no other job experience, and I didn’t know that what he was saying was a bluff. I really wondered if I’d ever get a job again if I was fired. One thing my criminal past in Florida had taught me, though, was that you never buckled under the pressure. You stuck to your story and hoped that they were bluffing.

I proclaimed my innocence again, but was met with silence. More silence. And more. Silence is an effective sales technique. When met with an uncomfortable silence, many people will blurt something out just to fill it, often something they didn’t want to say. It also works well in interrogations. However, I’d seen this before and was not impressed. I said nothing, the best way to beat this game.

What came next was unbelievable to me. I was told that I was to investigate the crime and find out who had stolen the fuses. I would find myself pleasantly rewarded. As I left I saw one kid named Steve who looked like he was about to go to his death. Bah, Provincials.

After work, as all of the underage Caldors employees gathered together behind the store to drink beer (because we were cool) many stories were told about different aspects of the Great Ticket Machine Debacle. I think the attack by Big Al topped them all. And I had the shirt to prove it. There may have been some talk of how I fought him off myself, pinning him to the ground as the managers cowered. I might have implied that a sword fight occurred also. I’m just going to blame the beer.

Overall, I was thrilled at the results, but there was one problem. I couldn’t tell anybody. I suspected I was not the only one who the Store Manager attempted to recruit as a Stool Pigeon, and it was too risky to talk. To do so might put my entire job future in jeopardy. So I had to content myself with the war stories I could tell, and leave the others until now, when I’m certain that the Statute of Limitations for Ticket Machine Vandalism has expired. I’m still a smartass, though.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Today I Met With The Enemy

In the recent past I guest posted at Samantha Burns in an attempt to forestall the coming Canadian invasion. Today I took another step forward in that grand vision. I met with LaLa, her son and her friend Julie (who is also Canadian). LaLa claimed that she had come down to visit her friend Julie and shop for maternity clothes. My suspicions remain. We had lunch and talked about blogging with Julie, who is not one of us. At least in this Canadian Invasion Force assigned identity. In her real life I’m sure she’s got a secret blog somewhere detailing her invasion plan exploits.

I am a terrible “local”. When I asked LaLa if she had anything in mind for lunch she said no – you’re the local. So we talked a little bit and decided to meet at Outback Steak House. Because of rain and some unexpected construction I was a little late. When I pulled into the parking lot I knew something was wrong. The parking lot was empty. This local didn’t know that Outback isn’t open for lunch.

At that point there should be a relatively easy solution. You call the person. However, I realized that I had foolishly not brought her cell phone number with me and had only given her my home phone number. I did remember, however, that they were driving a Canyonero. I drove to Pizzeria Uno, which was nearby. There were two Canyoneros in the parking lot, so I figured I’d head inside and see if they were there. If I’d been thinking I would have just looked at the license plate of the first Canyonero, which was from Ontario. It was pointed out to me after I got inside.

So we had a fun and tasty lunch and talked about all kinds of things, including the real reason that Canada want out land: they all live in apartments. LaLa’s son was very nice. He was funny and was looking forward to visiting Target after lunch. He looked entirely too comfortable on the barstool across from our table for a 12 year old.

I thought afterward that we should have called our meeting the US/Canada Civilian Peace Summit. After the invasion, no matter how it ended, my place in history would be assured by my peace-making efforts. Someday I’m sure my guest posting over at Samantha Burns will be viewed as the first attempt in avoiding Canada’s War of Aggression.

I’d say the Summit was a huge success. There was much laughing and the food (at least mine) was wonderful. And if Canada does not invade, then it is clearly because I prevented it.

Forgiven

I had a great date last night. Early this year I was dating a real estate agent. We’d dated for a little over six months and it was going very well. I’m going to leave a lot out, but I’ll give you the basics. As the stress in my life increased, I foolishly started thinking that she was the source of all of it. The only thing I can say in my own defense is that I’ve been through a time in the last year that was almost too much to bear. I broke things off with her. Over time I got some things from her, like postcards telling me that she hoped I was well.

As things have improved I began to take a look at all the events of the last year. When I thought about what had happened between us I felt guilty, and I decided I wanted to apologize to her. I emailed her an apology, expecting nothing more, because I wasn’t sure if she wanted to even hear from me. I was very honest in my apology and didn’t try to make excuses. I just told her what happened and told her I had been wrong. I was surprised when several days later she wrote back.

To make a long story short we ended up emailing back and forth and eventually began talking on the phone. I was very happy being able to get to know her again. Earlier this week we were talking on the phone and she told me that she had asked me out to the movies the day before in another phone conversation. Through some bizarre joke perpetrated by the God of Cordless Phones I completely missed her asking me. So we went out to the movies last night. It was the first time I’d seen her in over six months. It wasn’t exactly the same as when we’d dated before, but it was very close, and that was good.

Sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am. Believe me when I say that if you look at whose loss would have been bigger I would have come out the bigger loser (in a number of ways). I think one of the only reasons she’s willing to give me a second chance is that I treated her well.

So last night we spent some time together and it felt really good. I even got a nice good-night kiss. Even better than that, I told her that I’d missed her, and she said that she’d missed me too.

Sometimes you make mistakes, and sometimes they can be pretty big. And sometimes you get forgiven for them. The trick is not to make the same mistakes twice.

I Drive a 1995 Mazda Deathtrap

When I looked back at what I’ve posted this week I was surprised to find that I wrote nothing about my car. I’m sure it will come as a surprise (as it did to me) that I was driving a deathtrap. And I say that with no exaggeration.

Not too long ago I did my brakes because one of the front right side brake pads disintegrated. I replaced the rotors and the pads and replaced the pins in the caliper because they were corroded. It was my first time doing brakes, so it took a while, but it went well. I know what you’re all thinking – it’s a deathtrap because he did the brakes wrong, but that’s not it. Just had to put that in because of a comment made later. When I first bought the car I had to have the alternator replaced, and when that was being done the shop told me that I had to have my front axle assemblies replaced soon. I had one done then and decided to wait on the other. Well, in the last week and a half the other side CV joint (which is part of the axle assembly) started making clicking noises as I made turns, which (according to a coworker) was a sign that it needed to be replaced. That’s only about a $250 repair, so I wasn’t too upset about it. Not that I have an extra $250 lying around, but it could have been worse. Of course, I couldn’t have any work done until I was paid, so I was hoping that the car would make it until then.

It did, but in that time the symptoms got worse. The car started vibrating as I drove (not the vibrating you get at certain speeds if your wheels aren’t balanced correctly, but a constant vibration. It was annoying because it vibrated just enough as I was driving to tickle my nose – that’s torture. On Monday I made an appointment to get the work done the next day. I went out to my car to drive home and something caught my eye. I was looking at the front left tire (the side that needed the new CV joint) and something just didn’t look right. The tire looked, well, bent. A whole section of the tire was bulging out and the tread had been nearly worn away at that point. The bulge was about 8 inches of the tire. So now I was going to need two new tires (since the tires were old enough that you can’t just replace one). The next morning I drove to the shop to drop my car off. I showed the person who was picking me up the tire and they looked at me like I was crazy. The bulge was on the bottom against the ground this time, but it was still apparent.

He said that a couple of bands inside the tire must have broken and that was what was causing the tire to bulge. He also told me that this is a very dangerous condition because the tire can just catastrophically fail – he described it as “disintegrate”. A front tire disintegrating at 75 mph on the highway in the kind of traffic I see could have been fatal.

Later on I got a call from the shop about what needed to be done. The first thing he told me was that I’d need two new tires. He told me that there was no choice here because I was showing steel on the front left tire. This had not been the case the night before, and I’ve since found out that a tire in that condition will wear extremely fast. I guess this one did. He also asked about the power steering. He was surprised that I’d been driving the car without it. I’ve driven cars without power steering before, but it’s a lot different than driving a car that has power steering that’s failed. Steering this car is a LOT harder than steering a car designed to be driven without power steering. He told me he could run a belt to give me back power steering by not including the AC compressor (somebody had left a comment about this months ago), so I told him to do that too.

The repairs came to a total of $578. Good thing I got paid. The only one I could have skipped was the power steering, and that was only $59. The car is unbelievably easier to steer now. I could literally make all my turns just using my pinky finger. It seems like it’s much easier than before it broke, but that may be my imagination. It’s amazing how much nicer it is to drive now. No vibration, the car is quieter and it’s just easier to drive. And it’s not a deathtrap anymore.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Diane Must Pay

Today I was tagged by Diane, whom I shall get back by naming an Honorary Canadian. She sent me an email telling me that she tagged me as a "courtesy", but it was really a thinly veiled way to rub it in.

So, here's my Five Things MeMe:

Five things I plan to do before I die:

  1. Celebrate New Years Day 2595
  2. Teach my future grandchildren the joys of life
  3. Visit Hawaii again, several times
  4. Buy a sailboat, sail it to the Keys
  5. Have at least 2 more children

Five things I can do:

  1. Tie a bowline
  2. Teach
  3. Sing
  4. Be a great Dad
  5. Ride a Century

Five things that attract me about the opposite sex:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Warm Eyes
  3. A nice smile
  4. A sense of humor
  5. A love of children

Five things I say a lot:

  1. Chump (directed to my brother)
  2. You want a piece of me? (directed to inanimate objects)
  3. For the love of Elvis
  4. D’oh!
  5. Bah!
  1. Cathouse Chat
  2. Third World County
  3. The English Guy
  4. Diane’s Stuff
  5. King Erasmus

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I Was A Teenage Criminal Part IV

My first job was at Caldors, which was a slightly upscale competitor to K-Mart. I took the job because one of my friends worked there and told me it was a good place to work. I was hoping to work in Sporting Goods with him, but I was placed in Seasonal instead. My department handled lawnmowers, weedwackers, grass seed, pesticides and patio furniture. It was right next to Sporting Goods, so I got to see my friend working around all the cool stuff, like the BB guns, the snorkeling gear, the tents, sleeping bags and bikes. I’m pretty sure he was jealous of me because unloading a pallet or two of bags of grass seeds is every boys dream.

It is entirely possible that my friends and I were the start of Caldor’s downward spiral into destruction. My crimes were limited to grabbing a tape (which were still the dominant form of music delivery at the time) to take home with me. And, of course, grabbing a can of honey-roasted cashews for us to eat during our shift. One of my friends, however, was a master criminal. Sometimes he would keep a receipt from a customer (who wouldn’t notice), but only if they paid cash. Then he’d take the exact items on the receipt, place them in a bag, staple the receipt to it (which is what he was supposed to have done with the original customer) and place it in a place where his accomplice could pick it up. His accomplice was somebody who didn’t work at the store who would walk by, pick up the bag and walk right out of the store. I was too chicken to participate in this type of organized crime. Plus my department didn’t have a cash register.

Often we would get bored, which was not a good thing. A word of advice to managers of retail stores everywhere. Bored teenage employees are trouble waiting to happen. When we’d get bored our favorite activity would be to go and trash somebody else’s stockroom. My target of choice was Sporting Goods since it was right next to me. Another advantage was that our stockrooms were connected, so we could innocently enter our own stockroom and sneak into theirs and begin the destruction.

The most memorable of these stockroom attacks wasn’t memorable for it’s success, but rather for it’s failure. Myself and another Seasonal employee quietly snuck around the corner. At the other end of the stockroom we saw my Sporting Goods friend facing away from us at the desk. We couldn’t see what he was doing. We decided that we were going to slide in close and pull down a big pile of boxes so that they fell blocking the aisle between him and the door. We’d make our escape out the door as he bellowed in rage.

We were about halfway to him when he suddenly became more alert. His head came up from what he was doing, but he was still facing the wall. He froze otherwise. I’m not sure what alerted him. It could have been a noise we made. Maybe he caught wind of our scent. Perhaps a supernatural sixth sense. We froze, waiting to see what he would do. Would he go back to what he was doing or were we caught red-handed.

Picture this happening in slow motion. He started to turn, but he was not moving quite right. His hands were hidden from view. As he turned, his right hand started to come up. He had something in it. I can’t quite see what it is. The bastard is going to throw something at us. Wait, it’s starting to come into view. What the? It’s a gun! A big gun! A .357!

Imagine how you’d react if in a split second somebody turned around and drew a .357 magnum and pointed it at you. For what seemed like a minute, but was more likely 2.75 seconds I thought I was going to die. Yes, some of you may have guessed it was a BB gun that was designed to look like a .357 magnum. They were allowed to sell them back then, and they didn’t have the orange plastic piece on the end. That didn’t stop us from fleeing, though. And it didn’t stop him from shooting at us as we fled, though he didn’t hit us. Either he was a very bad shot or he missed us on purpose. We didn’t go back to try again.

Many of the fun things we did involved the Receiving area. There was just so many things that were fun to mess with back there. At this Caldors there was a big, square metal door on the wall. It opened into a tunnel that led to the dumpster. You’d put the boxes or whatever you were throwing out into the tunnel and use a long board to push it down the tunnel into the dumpster. The board wasn’t really long enough so boxes would often not get pushed all the way back. It became a tradition to initiate the new employees using this tunnel. One of us would go and hide behind some of the boxes in the tunnel. The other would tell the new employee how to get rid of the trash. We’d tell them that there was a raccoon that lived in the dumpster, and that you had to open the steel door and throw your trash in and get the door closed quickly because the raccoon would attack, defending it’s home. Most people wouldn’t really believe us when we told them, but when presented with a steel door in the wall they began to have their doubts. They’d pull open the door, and bend down to pick up the box. And that’s when Rocky the Raccoon would strike. Whoever was hidden would jump out from behind the boxes and run up the tunnel roaring. Because raccoons roar. Anyway, more than one new hire ran from the trash room in panic. Including me, on my first night there.

The best joke I think I’ve ever played, however, will have to wait for next time.

I am now a Guest Poster.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I Was A Teenage Criminal Part III

I was thinking the other day of some stuff and this popped into my mind. I knew I had to write it down and put forth another installment of King Erasmus: Criminal. If you haven’t done so already, read Part I and Part II.

Early in my junior year of high school I moved back to my father’s to live. The high school I started in at this point was great, and everything in my life improved. I even ended up with some very good friends that my parents approved of – which only means they didn’t know half of what we were up to at any given moment.

Through some work my dad did with a chainsaw (which did not involve blood or body parts) I ended up with a car to drive. It was an old Toyota Corona (Corona, like the beer, not Corolla). It wasn’t the best looking car around, but it was mine, and I could drive it wherever I wanted.

So one night a couple of my friends and I were driving around and we happened to drive by another friend’s house. We saw his car in the driveway, and we knew he’d probably be leaving soon. I suddenly had an idea. At least, I think it was me. We all thought it would be a great joke to play. Somehow I ended up being the one to execute the plan, which involved me sneaking up and getting into the back of his car without being seen. When he got in and was getting ready to leave I’d jump up and scream like an Ax Murderer, scaring him into shrieking like a little girl. It was a good plan.

I parked my car across the street, because nobody would notice a strange car with three teenage guys in it watching out the window… I got out and with skills borne of years of teenage deviance, sneaked across the street and up the short driveway. It was imperative that I not be seen. Everything depended on it, and I can still picture myself with a steely look of determination as I sneaked. I quietly opened up the driver’s side back door and slipped inside. I shut the door with a cat-burglar’s stealth.

As I lie on the floor of the car I fantasized of how this joke would add to my already legendary status as a practical joker at school. This would rival getting my picture taken for the school yearbook with my feet up on the Principal’s desk as I sat in his chair. It would certainly eclipse my involvement in tricking the same yearbook staff into printing a picture of a chemistry club that did not exist. Of course, my Pièce de Résistance would always be the egg-launching trap I set up in a friend’s locker, which consisted of two rails and several raw eggs which were launched at him as he opened the door. But I digress. Back to the fantasy: Women would fall at my feet.

It seemed like hours passed before I heard the screen door open on the house. I heard footsteps as they approached the car. This was the risky part – would he just get in or did he have something to throw in the backseat? Ahhhh, safe. Nothing thrown in the backseat. As the car started I decided to peek up.

I’m sure that as the blood drained from my face I must have aged several years. My fantasies of teenage women swooning in my presence collapsed. You see, it was not my friend Brian who had gotten in the car, and was even now backing it out of the driveway. I didn’t know who was driving, and I also didn’t know where he was going.

Thoughts raced through my head. Could I have gotten into the wrong car? No, I was pretty sure it was Brian’s car. Where were we going? Why did he have to be so big? Could I jump out and escape? I resigned myself to the thought that we were probably heading to Maine or somewhere equally distant. As we finished backing out of the driveway and he put the car in gear I consoled myself that my friends who waited in my car would follow to pick me up. Then I remembered. The keys to my car were in my pocket. My friends weren’t going anywhere.

I had made up my mind that at the first stop I would fling open the door and run for my life. There were woods nearby that I could run into and hide, but I’d have to be quick. Then something happened. He slowed down and pulled off the road. I had a moment of fear – had he realized I was hiding in the backseat? Was I about to be on the receiving end of a severe beating? We stopped. He shut off the car. Then he got out. I braced myself for the inevitable opening of the door next to me. I waited. Finally, I began to relax. He had gone.

After a couple of minutes I got out of the car, shaking. I was just a little ways down the street, and I quickly jogged back to my car. My friends were near unconsciousness, having used up all the oxygen in the car laughing. It was several minutes later before they could actually talk, and I was long gone from the scene of the crime. They told me that they had waited and watched in anticipation, and had been surprised when the man came out of the house. Then he got in the car, and their excitement level went up. They didn’t know that I had peeked up at him and were expecting me to jump up and scare him. They thought he’d kill me. They’d gotten even more worried when he started to drive off. They had no idea where we were going or where we’d end up. They also realized at that point that I had the car keys. They sat in the car wondering how everything could go so wrong as I was driven away to my certain death.

When they saw him pull over they thought it was because I had executed the plan. They didn’t know what to think when he calmly got out of the car and started walking back to the house. It seemed that he was simply moving the car. They described how I looked when I meekly got out of the car and fled back to my car. Apparently, I looked like the scared little girl I was hoping to make my friend Brian scream like. They were hassling me something fierce, but I didn’t care. I was alive and unharmed.

We went back to school on Monday. To my knowledge, Brian never heard about our little joke. It is worth noting, however, that my fantasy came true – sort of. We didn’t tell many people about the incident, but I remember two women who swooned. While laughing. At me.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

When the Stars Fill the Sky

Have you ever taken the time to really look up at the stars at night? It’s one of my favorite things to do, but hitting the right combination of thinking about it, having a clear, dark night and a dark place to do it can make it a rare thing. Tonight I took a few minutes and stood on the porch just looking. At first I could only see the brightest stars, but as my eyes adjusted more and more became visible. It’s a beautiful sight, one I don’t admire nearly enough.

I’ve done it several times, with varying degrees of success. I was in high school when Haley’s comet was visible and I went out with a few friends to see it. We didn’t see much of the comet even through the telescope, but I remember looking up at the stars. It was a very cold night, so we didn’t actually stay that long.

Another time that stands out is when I was in Washington State. I had gone to a play – it was Fiddler on the Roof, done by a Community Theatre group. I had auditioned for it and had been offered a part in it, but turned it down for a coveted spot in another show. Rock and Roll Santa. I won’t go into the dynamics of that decision right now. Anyway, after the show I ate with most of the cast at a local restaurant (I knew most of them from other shows) and afterward I happened to look up when I got to my car. I was amazed. It was one of the clearest nights I had ever experienced. I couldn’t begin to count the stars I could see. I must have sat there for twenty minutes just looking. A woman who had also been at the dinner saw me looking as she drove out and we ended up talking about it a few days later. It got me a date.

Looking back I wish I had spent more time looking up at the stars when Hale-Bopp was here. I should have been taking pictures, video, everything you do in a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, but I was too caught up in my studying (I was getting my degree at the time) to really understand the significance.

The best star-gazing I’ve ever done was at the top of a volcano in Hawaii. I went on a tour that left and got us there in the middle of the night to see the stars. It was the first time I’d ever seen satellites fly by overhead. I was amazed by that.

I decided tonight that I had to add star-gazing to my list of things to do with my son. I think he’ll love it as much as I do. The time I spent out there tonight cleared my head (which was easy tonight – there’s not that much weighing on me right now) and I wished he were there with me. He’ll appreciate it more when he’s a little older, like when I take him on a hiking/camping trip somewhere.

This has been such a good weekend for me. I feel so renewed and relaxed – it’s been a long time since I felt this good. Everything seems to be coming back together, which is amazing when I look back at the last year. What a life I have.