The past is present…

This is an older post…I found it in my journal…it’s actually from 2005…but it pretty much sums up the way the current holiday season has been going…work and personal life included. Gad, scary how little things have changed. It’s rather educational to see that the problems exist, but I’ve not done anything about it. Gawd how the time flies…it’s from 2005!

Sitting here in operations, covering for a coworker and watching systems run. I love the job, but don’t like this room. It’s not meant for human habitation, and the very few amenities installed here make little difference. It’s dark, the only lighting provided my the 40 flat-screens on two levels surrounding me. It’s cold, and the low-level rumble and vibrations from all the running systems and air handlers saps energy from my very core…from my very soul. A water glass sitting on the counter is constantly disturbed by ripples induced by the not-so-subtle vibrations.

Totally devoid of human contact.

Pardon me if I ramble on pointlessly.

Work has been slamming us lately. This is our busy season, and on top of that they’ve piled a bunch of end of year capital spending (meaning massive changes and installs for us that have to be complete before the last week in December so they can be paid for), as well as all the extra work we are ending up doing preparing the company to lay us off.

Oops. I forgot. “Layoff” is not the politically correct term. They’re calling it “out-tasking”, mainly because the managers are going to keep their jobs. We’re calling it “out-casting”…at least in polite company.

Oh boy, did that subject make the Christmas get together peppy. Gad. What an ordeal! I’d of skipped it…but nowadays company sponsored get-togethers are kind of mandatory. Apparently they promote team spirit.

“Hi guys! Thanks for all your hard work this year! We really appreciate it!” says the EWAC (executive without a clue) that is spearheading the out-casting project.

Appreciate it? Uh huh. Hey! At least they sprang for the shrimp with the meal.

Anyway, work eats life. Just the way it is I guess. A balance is hard to achieve, and every year it gets harder, at least for me. It seemed so much simpler “back then”. Maybe it was.

Too much gets set aside in favor of “the job”. Too many dreams are pushed to the bottom of the list. Even our relationships suffer. Our health too. We can fix it all…catch up…live our dreams…learn the things we’d like to…just as soon as those eventual rewards hard work and dedication earn for us begin to show up. Right?

It’s kind of startling to suddenly understand all that extra effort counts for naught.

Monday through Wednesday I slept nine hours. Nine in seventy-two. Ugh. I wrapped up a project Wednesday and told them I’d see them next week…maybe. A couple extra days off would help me catch up on things around the homestead and maybe even grab a little extra sleep.

I had a few critical items to take care of. Lately, when I’ve not been at work, I’ve been taking care of other people’s problems. Lots of friends and family have difficulties, and when I can do something about it, I do. Lately I’ve been neglecting my own problems. This was to be the weekend I got caught up.

I had two goals for the weekend. Oh, the list was much longer than that, but two items on it had become critical to me.

I’m warning you, they’re going to sound goofy…

First, I wanted to fix “Big Iron”, my Dodge truck. I don’t drive the 450 hp V-10 monster often, as I’m usually on “The Dragon”, but I like my things ready to use when needed. It’s actually unusual for them to be broken, but as I said, lately I’ve just not been keeping up.

The big Dodge has anti-lock brakes, and the warning light was on, meaning the system had deactivated itself because it detected a problem. Not a severe issue, as the brakes still work, but it is an issue that needed to be addressed. A couple small things also required attention…a burned out dash light here, a license plate light there, and so on. Essentially nothing that by itself would disable the vehicle, but enough that together, they made it something I couldn’t depend on. Believe me, when I bother to fire up “Big Iron”, I need to depend on it.

Anyway, that was item two.

It was just not to be.

Thursday morning I bought and paid for the airline ticket that would send my wife away to the east coast for the Christmas holidays. Her family is getting together and due to some health issues with her mother, she feels the need to go.

It’s only fair; after all I go riding every summer, but for me it means yet another Christmas alone. Crud. Happy Holidays.

Thursday afternoon, I buried yet another friend. A one hundred mile ride, much of it in a dark-cold rain, just to ride honor guard in the sleet and carry an empty shell to a hole in the muddy ground. Yep, depressing. It certainly reinforces my desire that my friends and family not bother with a funeral for me. Pay the undertaker to deal with the body. You guys just go off and have a hell of a party.

If I die a rich man there will be hookers for everyone there. In the morning I expect everybody that came to the party to be sitting together, rubbing their temples and saying, “Hey, anyone know somebody that can come bail us out?”

Of my friends from the old time, there is now only one left. That’s got to stop. I’m not old enough to be burying any friends, and now I’ve buried nearly all of them. Perhaps I’ll write that one up later. I’ll have to come to terms with it first.

Friday I did sleep late—that is if you can call a fitful, sweat-soaked night full of dreams of riding honor guard at funerals for friends that were still right there riding beside me—sleep. Not that I’m in to alcohol abuse or anything…but there are times when a man should just be too drunk to think…too drunk to remember. Wish I’d realized beforehand that this night was one of those times.

We had dinner with friends Friday night. I needed that.

Saturday I spent fixing other people’s cars. A friend’s car was running…well…crappy, not to put too fine a point on it…and she couldn’t afford to be ripped off by the mechanics. Nor could she afford a ticket for no inspection sticker, which it couldn’t pass with the “check engine” light on. She also couldn’t afford a wrecker bill or alternate transportation if the car finally died and left her beside the road.

No, she doesn’t need a new engine, computer, steering axle, compound dinkim fritzle, or whatever else they were trying to sell her to fix the thing. What she needed was somebody with a few skills that wasn’t interested in seeing what he could take her for.

Closest she has to that, was me. Did I mention she’s a redhead? (and she baked me cookies!)

A few minutes with some basic tests told the story. Compression fine (excellent as a matter of fact). Plugs fine. Computer code indicating a mis-fire on # 3 cylinder (the shop probably would have taken this as a sign that she needed an entire new fuel injection system at a cost only slightly below that of our current space program).

A little more tinkering. A couple more tests. Huh. How about that. Bad plug wire. Fixed a couple other minor things too…plug gaps and such…but the wire was the culprit. Changed them out, reset her computer, and off she went for a test drive.

She came back practically bouncing. A load of uncertainty lifted. A looming financially ruining repair bill nipped in the bud. Her car was fixed! Running perfect and no “check engine” light. I just smiled, slightly bemused. I do like to watch girls bounce. Did I mention she was a redhead?

Left alone in the driveway, I could finally check out “Big Iron”. The computer indicated a faulty reading (high resistance) from the rear wheel speed sensor. I spent some time tracing the wiring to make sure it was okay, as the sensor is not a cheap part. Yep, the sensor was bad. It’s a dealer only part, and I located one nearby. Time was getting tight though…most dealer part’s places close early on the weekend.

On the way back from the dealer, I encountered a disabled car in the middle of the street at Jupiter and Forest (pretty sure it was Forest). A front tire had gone flat, and the car, being a front-wheel drive (and one of those VERY basic cars) simply wouldn’t move. The driver had been turning from one street to another when the event occurred, so the car was stuck in a place that managed to block two lanes on both streets of this very busy intersection. Because of the merging traffic, I ended up momentarily in the intersection stopped just beside the dead car.

A police officer on the scene was making things ever-so-much better by yelling at the young woman that was driving the car. She spoke only a little English and the officer had apparently decided that increasing the volume of his voice would help her understand. He was telling her to move the car or he’d have it towed. He was also pointing rather violently toward a nearby parking lot.

The car was rocking but the wheel was spinning and smoking inside the unseated tire. It was obvious it wasn’t going to move.

I wanted to scream at the guy to make things better or get lost, but there’s no sense startling or antagonizing a jerk with a gun.

I spoke quietly out the window. “How about I change the tire?”

He turned to me but said nothing. He did put his hand on his gun though. Yeah, yeah, I know. You’ve got authority. Pity you don’t know what to do with it. Pity you don’t understand that with these actions and attitude you just abdicated it.

I chose to take the lack of words or shooting as a “yes” and pulled in front of the disabled car.

The young lady driving it was Japanese and maybe 80 pounds soaking wet. She was about four foot, six inches tall. I wouldn’t expect her to be able to change a tire on her best day.

I had the tire changed for her spare inside of 15 minutes and was on my way again. The officer never spoke to me.

Two humorous notes:
I’m not sure if it’s Garland or Richardson, but somebody has red-light cameras on that intersection and her car was stopped sideways on the detector in the intersection that tells the automated monster a car entered the intersection. Every time the light changed red for the northbound traffic the camera went off and the strobes flashed. I hate the very concept of these things and rapidly detected the pattern of when it would fire. As a result, whatever municipality operates the cameras now has about 15 pictures of me standing in the intersection and flipping off the camera.

Hmmm. Maybe I can get a copy of the pictures…

The other is that as I was leaving, with a little hand-waving and basic English (she spoke a bit better when she was not crying and being yelled at) the driver of the car said thanks, rummaged around in her back seat a bit, and handed me a Christmas tin, complete with a bow.

The tin turned out to have peanuts in it. Good ones…you know the kind…the ingredients list; “Peanuts, Peanut Oil, Salt”. Yum! I laughed when I finally did open it…apparently I do work for peanuts.

Unfortunately my truck is a “transition” year and there are a couple different parts listed for the one I needed. I should have learned after all these years of working on this stuff to pull the old one and take it with me, but (shrugs) I was not operating at my best this day.

Naturally the first one I got was not correct, so I had to go back. You guessed it, that dealer parts place was now closed. I had to go to two others to find one that was open and had the correct part.

During that odyssey my cell phone rang several times. Sigh. The heat was out at my Dad’s house. That’s kind of a trend. That’s the third furnace I’ve worked on in two weeks. Dad’s was just a faulty thermostat (programmable, of course) but after a trip to buy a new one, and the time to get it installed and checked out, another couple hours had passed by.

By the time I reached home darkness prevailed. Suddenly I realized I hadn’t eaten since breakfast (and that was a quick and gulp because of the broken car arriving in my driveway). My head was pounding. The truck would have to wait. Ah well, there’s always Sunday. Yes?

Oops. Not quite. I’ve got to work. I expect to be here until about 2:00am. I’ll get a little relief though…normally I’ve got to be at work before 6:00am…but Monday I’ve got an XML class instead that starts at 9:00am.

Two things I had to get done this weekend.

The second was the truck. At least I’ve got the part.

The first? Well, it sounds corny, but I’ve had my taste of death for the weekend. I wanted a taste of life. A taste of passion. Basically, I really just wanted to make love to my wife.


Sitting here in operations, covering for a coworker and watching systems run. I love the job, but don’t like this room. It’s not meant for human habitation, and the very few amenities installed here make little difference. It’s dark, the only lighting provided my the 40 flat-screens on two levels surrounding me. It’s cold, and the low-level rumble and vibrations from all the running systems and air handlers saps energy from my very core…from my very soul. A water glass sitting on the counter is constantly disturbed by ripples induced by the not-so-subtle vibrations.

Totally devoid of human contact.

I don’t think I can stand any more weekends.

Daniel Meyer

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