Friday, December 24, 2010

Seasons Greetings


Image courtesy of shirt.woot.com and yes, I did buy the t-shirt. :)

Sorry for the lack of a regular post this month, it's just been a rather busy one. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my mother was admitted to the hospital. She had a similar period of unresponsiveness to the last time she was sent there about six months ago. However, after extensive tests they could find no evidence of stroke or TMI...but they did detect some heart arrhythmia so she's been put on medicine for that and seems to be doing all right now.

Rex, my godfather, came down for a visit mid-month and we went to a Christmas family dinner thing at my Mom's assisted living place, but she wasn't having a good day and seemed very disoriented that night so we didn't stay for the full event. However, she often does better earlier in the day, so I am hoping that tomorrow goes well, when I will take her to my sister's for gift exchanges, prior to leaving for work.
Mom is hard to shop for so I ended up getting a Snuggie, which I think she'll like.

Work has been busy as well, since I primarily work Europe flights and I'm sure everyone has heard how bad the weather was over there. This week I'm dealing with Latin America flights, though, although there have been some places with fog, you never have to worry about snow on that desk this time of year.

Finally, I decided to get my other ear fixed with the same procedure I had done a few years ago. I'm having that done soon after Christmas, on the 28th, so good thoughts will be appreciated. I'm taking some time off work for recovery after that so I will take the unusual step (for me) of PROMISING a good blog post within the next two weeks, since I'll be homebound for a week or more afterwards.

Hope everyone has an awesome Christmas/New Year's/Haunakah/Festivus/etc. and see you back here soon!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

More fun with panhandlers

As promised, here is a regular blog post, if somewhat later than I planned it.

Instead of trying to catch up all at once, I think a series of shorter posts will get things going more easily. Long time readers will recall my last encounter with someone asking for money. This time was a bit less amusing, but more satisfying. Let me explain.

Working in the airline industry, which is 24/7/365, I often have to work holidays. Such was the case on this Thanksgiving. It's not all bad as we do get extra vacation days to use throughout the year in lieu of regular holidays, and they always feed us at work. Normally I would take my mother to my sister's place, but she was out of town this year. I still wanted to do something with Mom for the holiday. Since I didn't have to be at work until the afternoon, I took her to lunch at Luby's.

As we walked in, there was a man sitting in the entryway. His clothes looked a little ragged. He said, "Sir, do you have any money, so I could buy some food?" I offered to buy him dinner. He was taken aback slightly. "Oh, I can't go in there..." he replied and then kind of trailed off.

I should add that while his clothes were slightly ragged, his personal appearance was fine and it didn't look like he hadn't showered for weeks or anything...he certainly COULD have gone in to the cafeteria if he'd wanted. However, I didn't press the issue. Perhaps I could get him a plate of food to go, I offered. "Never mind," he said, with a resigned look on his face, and we walked on in.

I know a lot of people ARE down on their luck these days, but I also don't want to enable someone's addiction by giving him money for beer or wine or whatever he wanted money for, that is probably the reason he is panhandling in the first place. Actually it was his loss, as the food was pretty good. The panhandler was gone by the time we left.

I took Mom back to her place after our meal and relayed the story to one of the employees there. She liked my story. "You called his bluff! Good job! I gave money to a man one time at Kroger and I saw him an hour later drinking beer and talking on a cell phone!" Oh well. I really was serious about my offer to buy the guy dinner...but I guess I've learned my technique for next time this happens.

Hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving weekend, whether you have to work or not. I had to work Thursday and Friday but I'm off until Tuesday now, so I'm looking forward to having a lazy stretch of days off. I've been working a lot of overtime lately so it will be nice to just relax and not worry about going anywhere.

More soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why Our Economy Is Screwed

A brilliant video.



I know I'm overdue for a proper blog post, which will hopefully be forthcoming this week. It's been a busy month. But things are slowly getting back to normal here.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Boring Internet Stuff

I've never really been a fan of this site's blogspot address. I mean, it WORKS, but...I chose the name made spontaneously, while searching for a name that hadn't been taken yet, back before I even knew I'd be actively blogging. Plus, the made-up word bacosaurus refers to my previous employer, and even if I still worked for them (which I don't, thank God) that particular aircraft isn't even flown by them anymore.

Anyhow, I am not abandoning Blogger and the old site address of bacosaurus.blogspot.com will continue to work. However, I did decide to splurge, spend ten bucks, and purchase a domain name. From now on, if you can't remember the blogspot address, just type in www.chuckmann.net or chuckmann.net and you'll be taken here directly. The domain name should come in handy if I ever decide to move the blog to a different service also (not that I have any plans of doing that, but who can tell what the future may bring?)

Now back to our regularly scheduled blogging. Also, hope everyone had a great weekend.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Car Stuff

Nothing serious this time, thankfully. My car has a stereo with an antenna that automatically extends/retracts when you turn it on or off. While driving around yesterday, I noticed the antenna hadn't fully retracted. This has happened before and I've been able to get it working with some WD-40, but after 15 years this time it gave up the ghost...dead antenna.

I happened to be driving past an auto tint/car alarm/car stereo place later that same day and made note of their number. When I called, they told me they could replace the antenna and gave me an estimate. Since I'd been wanting to get the windows tinted for a while, I got an estimate for that as well, and went ahead and got both things done at once today. I left to go get some food while they did the work and came back a couple hours later. When I got back they were done, and the installer asked me if I'd just bought the car. I told him no, that I'd had it for a while. "Really?" he said. "Damn, man, that is one really nice ride you have. Clean as a whistle." The shop owner complimented me on the car as well. That makes me feel good, that all the money I've spent on the thing this year hasn't been spent in vain. And believe me, after all the money I've spent I have no intention of getting a new car any time soon.

Now I just have to remember not to lower my windows for three days due to the newly applied window tinting; I guess it's like a "cure" time for the newly applied tint. No fast food drive through food for me for the next couple days! It's something I should avoid anyhow.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Random Adventures

Greetings everyone. Not a whole lot has been happening here other than, work, which isn't too exciting. Well, I did have another in-flight medical diversion and those are always fun, but for the most part things have been pretty quiet. However, some things happened this week I thought were were worth blogging about.

Adventure One: I was getting some gasoline after work and this guy walked up and asked if I could give him a ride about a mile north so he could catch a bus home. I initially said no, but then I changed my mind as he seemed kind of desperate, and he didn't seem too suspicious. He was trying to call his sponsor, etc. I suppose I did it because he seemed like he had been down on his luck, but was trying to get his life together, and also because I had no car when I first moved here and I remember how much it sucks. All that being said, I never begged for rides either. After I dropped him off, I thought, hmmm, you know, if he had just started walking to his destination rather than begging for rides, he probably would have gotten there almost as quickly. However, it was getting kind of late, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt in wanting to get there and make sure to catch the bus before it stopped running for the night...but all the same, I probably won't do that again. As a general rule, I never pick up hitchhikers.

Adventure Two: I had a couple of gift certificates for Best Buy, so I decided to buy some color ink for my printer since it's running out. My printer is a rather old HP Deskjet model, which used to belong to my mother...I want to say she bought it in 1999, perhaps? I don't do a lot of printing with it, but it still works like a champ. However, I didn't have the old cartridge with me when I went to the store, so I asked the clerk on duty there which cartridge I needed...he had to look it up online, and he had trouble looking it up because the printer is no longer made, but he finally told me it was a "78" type. I went ahead and bought the VERY PRICEY ink, then got home and tried to plug it in. It fit fine but I kept getting an error message...finally realized that although they are very similar in shape, I needed a "23" type and not a "78" type. Thanks, Best Buy! Fortunately I did save the receipt, so I'll be returning that incorrect cartridge today and using the credit to help buy a laptop backpack I saw there and liked. Also, I found a OEM ink cartridge (the RIGHT one) for sale online that cost about 1/3 what the HP brand did, and included free shipping so, lesson learned.

Adventure Three: I worked last night, volunteering for a graveyard overtime shift. That was probably a mistake. I believe they call those shifts "graveyard" because you feel like you belong in one when the shift is over...it's hard for me to believe I worked those exclusively for a year back when I started working on the international desks a few years ago. It didn't help that I didn't get a good nap in before work, or that the particular shift I was working had very little to do up until about an hour before shift's end, so I was definitely feeling like a zombie and I had a lot more caffeine than I normally do in an attempt to stay awake. I also had some trouble getting signed in, and one airport had low visibility right when I got there...but once I finally got signed in, the fog lifted enough for the one flight I was concerned about to land, and the shift was pretty uneventful after that.

I decided to reward myself with a Denny's breakfast after the shift was over, which I used to do quite often at the end of my workweek, back when I worked graveyard shifts all the time. I ordered something that was no longer on the menu, which the manager had told me when I visited previously wouldn't be a problem to order. The waitress didn't remember how much it cost, however, and seemed to be really confused about how much to charge me. I told her what it cost, and she thought it was more....so I told her, well, if you want to charge me the price of this similar item currently on the menu, that's fine, but I definitely want to get this particular item if I can. So, she ended up bringing me the similar item of food, and not what I ordered. I told her that what I got wasn't what I ordered and she got all flummoxed and started asking other employees what the item I wanted cost. I was waiting for her to take my plate back to the kitchen and she says to me, "You're sure you don't want this?" I probably normally would have been more polite, but I was rather grumpy after being up all night and tired of arguing about it so I just said, "Never mind! I'm leaving!" I got up and walked out (since all I'd had at that point was ice water, I didn't owe anything.) I hate it when someone I am ordering stuff from (be it food or some other kind of merchandise) starts arguing with me when they are the ones who made the mistake. Fortunately, my favorite bagel shop was open, so I just got a breakfast sandwich there instead (which was honestly probably all I really needed.)

Not a whole lot else going on here. After reading about them some on another blog, I have decided to order a GPS for my car as an early birthday present to myself (I turn 42 next month, so I'm thinking of having a Hitchiker's Guide themed day.) Also planning a trip up to see my relative Rex for a few days over my birthday weekend, so that should be a good chance to try out the GPS. Later on, in November, I'm attending Wurstfest in New Braunfels. I went last year and it was a really fun time.

Hope everyone is doing well, and I promise an update on how I like the GPS, once it arrives here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 Memoriam



Instead of a post from me today, I'm publishing the names of the airline employees that died as a result of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01. Thanks to Cranky Flier for the idea.

American 11 (Boston to Los Angeles)
Crashed into World Trade Center
John Ogonowski, Dracut, Mass., Captain; Thomas McGuinness, Portsmouth, N.H., First Officer; Barbara Arestegui, flight attendant; Jeffrey Collman, flight attendant; Sara Low, flight attendant; Karen Martin, flight attendant; Kathleen Nicosia, flight attendant; Betty Ong, flight attendant; Jean Roger, flight attendant; Dianne Snyder, flight attendant; Madeline Sweeney, flight attendant

United 175 (Boston to Los Angeles)
Crashed into World Trade Center
Victor J. Saracini, Lower Makefield Township, Pa., Captain; Michael Horrocks, First Officer; Amy Jarret, flight attendant; Al Marchand, flight attendant; Amy King, flight attendant; Kathryn Laborie, flight attendant; Michael Tarrou, flight attendant; Alicia Titus, flight attendant

American 77 (Washington/Dulles to Los Angeles)
Crashed into the Pentagon
Charles Burlingame, Captain; David Charlebois, First Officer; Michele Heidenberger, flight attendant; Jennifer Lewis, flight attendant; Kenneth Lewis, flight attendant; and Renee May, flight attendant

United 93 (Newark to San Francisco)
Crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania
Jason Dahl, Colorado, Captain; Leroy Homer, Marlton, N.J., First Officer; Sandy Bradshaw, flight attendant; CeeCee Lyles, flight attendant; Lorraine Bay, flight attendant; Wanda Green, flight attendant; Deborah Welsh, flight attendant

Friday, September 10, 2010

At a loss...

Yesterday, I found out one of my co-workers had been terminated. I don't know all the details, but evidently the individual in question had been late or called in sick many, many times and progressed through all the warnings given with such behavior...and was finally fired. I'm really having trouble understanding what he was thinking.

I guess it would be one thing if you just had X number of incidents where you were late or called in sick, and then were let go without any warning. This is not the case at my company (or any other company that I'm aware of.) Since I'm a member of a union, we may have more protection than most employees, but I think we follow the same policy as the rest of the company, and it's pretty standard one, similar to other places I've worked...if you're late and/or call in sick a certain number of times, you get an informal warning. More incidents result in a more formal, written warning. More incidents STILL will result in a final written warning. After that, you're let go.

The section chair for my union is making sure that the company followed their written policy in this case, but I'm pretty sure that they did. It just leaves me scratching my head and wondering, what were they thinking?

Good jobs are not in abundant supply right now, as I'm sure everyone reading this knows. Getting on with a major airline in my profession is not easy to do either (if anyone doesn't believe me, feel free to try it yourself, but I'd allow about 5-10 years to get the necessary training and experience.) My employer still offers a company paid pension in addition to a 401K match, plus good benefits, travel benefits, etc...if you add up all the lost wages and benefits over the course of a career, I would say that the terminated individual could well have lost over a million dollars by being fired (I know that sounds like a lot, but when you add up the cost of wages plus benefits over a 20-30 year period, in addition to the lost pension, it does add up that high.)

I wish the best of luck to my former co-worker. And, if proper procedure was not followed in letting him go, I'm sure my union will appeal to get his job back. Otherwise...I hope he learned his lesson and finds a new job that he likes, and remembers that multiple little incidents at work can add up over time.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Vacation Recap

Greetings everyone. Overdue for a post as usual, and I really have no excuses to give...other than the fact that I've been working a lot of overtime, to pay for my recent vacation as well as all the work I've had done on my car this past summer.

Let's see, where to start? Vacation was awesome and I had a really good time in both places I visited. I split up my week off into two trips...my first trip was to Albuquerque, my hometown, which I hadn't visited since shortly after my mother moved here. My cousin was getting married so I was very glad the timing worked out enabling me to be there for that event. The wedding was awesome as was the reception afterward. My cousin Tanya who got married is a few years older than me, so perhaps there is hope for me yet! But I'm not stressing on it, since I really do enjoy the single life most of the time.

Albuquerque had beautiful weather, and I do miss the climate there (specifically, the lack of humidity.) I was very busy all three days I was there, first attending a family get-together at my Uncle's house, then going out that night with an old friend from high school, then attending the wedding the next day. My final full day in Albuquerque I went for a hike near my parent's old house, which was one of Bentley's favorite places to go hiking...I still miss that dog. After he was put to sleep, we had him cremated, and I scattered his ashes on the trail, which I'd been wanting to do for a while. It felt like a good way to say goodbye. Later in the day, I drove up to Santa Fe and visited my father's grave, so I guess it could seem like this day was especially morbid, but to me it just felt like a good way to say goodbye. I had visited my father's grave before, but not by myself, and it seemed easier to "have a conversation" with him alone rather than with someone else standing next to me.

Anyhow, after that was done, I made a visit to Ten Thousand Waves to soak a while in their hot tub and recover from my hike earlier in the day, before meeting a friend for some drinks and karaoke at at a Western themed bar and restaurant that night. I flew back to Texas the following morning, but I managed to squeeze in a breakfast meet with another old friend of mine before dropping off my rental car. While the flights were pretty full both going there and coming back, I did get a decent seat both times without any problem.

I decided to use Wednesday as a non-travel day to catch up with errands and such here in Texas, and I went out for a meal with Mom that day as well. I was planning to catch a mid-morning flight the next day out to California for the second half of my vacation, but I set my alarm clock for PM than AM and ended up oversleeping for the flight. The afternoon flight was pretty heavily overbooked, but I was able to hitch a ride by sitting in the cockpit, a perk of my present profession. The crew was very friendly and I do always learn something new when I do that, so although I'd rather have been relaxing in the cabin, I was mainly just glad I was able to get to my vacation destination. Also, I was glad I'm single, since I'd never have been able to get a girlfriend or spouse on the flight I took out there.

My destination in California was Sacramento, a town which I really enjoy even if it isn't thought of as a traditional vacation spot. They also had beautiful weather the whole time I was there. I have some friends in the area, and I visited it a lot when I was thinking about working for the state of California. I stayed in town the first night at a rather seedy Motel 6, and the next day I went sightseeing around town before heading to a resort place south of town where I spent the rest of the weekend. In addition to seeing the state Capitol building, I managed to get in a visit to a museum by Folsom Prison, where I almost ended up working before deciding, fortunately, to stick with the airline business a little longer. (It was a good thing I did since I got an offer from the Rather Large Airline only a couple months after deciding that a corrections officer career wasn't for me.) The museum was really interesting, though, and I snagged a copy of the Johnny Cash Folsom CD as well as a T-shirt before proceeding on to my destination that evening.

I didn't do a lot of sightseeing the rest of the weekend, but I had a good time relaxing. I did a fair bit of walking around, as well, so I ended up not gaining any weight while I was gone, which was a pleasant surprise, as I don't really keep close tabs on my fast food or beer consumption when I'm on vacation. My trip back went much more smoothly than my trip out went, and I arrived home that night sort of tired from the trip but very relaxed.

I wish I had more news to report, but there hasn't really been anything exciting happening. There's lots of overtime available at my job this month, which is good since I need to pay for some of the car bills I racked up over the summer. I am working this weekend, but I do have off for Labor Day itself, as well as Tuesday. I always like having off the same day other people are going back to their traditional schedule jobs, and I sometimes make the effort to get up early and see people getting ready for work. If I'm in a particularly vindictive mood, I'll have a beer while I watch (not that I usually drink beer in the morning, you understand, but on special occasions like that, I feel it's justified.)

Speaking of beer drinking, football season is almost underway, and courtesy of the fine folks at The Onion, I thought I would share this hilarious video about Packer fans (and being a Packer fan myself who also lived in Wisconsin for over three years, I think I'm allowed to say that parts of this video are, unfortunately, scarily accurate. But it's still hilarious.)

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Summer of the Car

Years from now, I think I will probably look back on this summer as the one with the most car issues of my lifetime. And yes, something has happened since my last post. Let's review, shall we?

I bought this car from my mother soon after I moved to Texas back in 2006. It had some minor issues, suffering from "benign neglect" as I like to call it, since Mom wasn't the best about regular maintenance, but it wasn't in bad shape either. Until this year, here's a quick summary of most of the work I had done: had all the fluids changed, changed one engine belt, got a new set of tires, a new battery, new starter, got an alignment, and a few oil changes. Pretty typical stuff, you might say. I also bought a used ABS pump on Ebay, as a brand new one was prohibitively expensive, and got that installed. Aside from the tires, that was probably the most expensive thing I had done, since they had to replace a master brake cylinder as well, but nothing I had done cost over $500 at any one time.

For our first incident, let's flash back a few months. This year, I finally had some money in the bank, so I decided to take it back to the place where I'd had the master cylinder replaced, since they had done a decent job before, to get a tune-up and fix the AC, which was not cooling off the car very well. Well, that didn't go nearly as well this time, as I discovered that in addition to the tune-up, I needed new front brakes, a couple new belts, and the AC work to get it fixed was very expensive. I also had to get new outer tire rods (which I was a bit suspicious about) and new bushings for the steering (which it actually did need.) Anyhow, by the time I was done there, the cost was well over $2000, quite a bit more than the $800 or so I was figuring on. The car was running well, but after spending that much cash it SHOULD have been. I got the tires aligned also, and actually discovered I didn't have to pay for that since I'd had it done about six months prior and they were still under warranty. So, I was poorer but satisfied.

Second incident...as recounted here recently, I blew out two tires on the right side of my car while driving to work. They were a total loss, and I also managed to blow out one of the rear struts in this incident. The place I got the tires replaced also found an engine seal that needed changing (I'm surprised the first place I went to hadn't told me about that, but maybe they figured I was getting tired of hearing new stuff that my car needed.) Anyhow after getting new tires, new struts, and the engine seal, I was out several hundred more dollars.

Third incident...driving home from work recently, I hit a large rock in the middle of the road, causing a flat. The tire is a loss as it happened on the sidewall. Hitting the rock also damaged the front suspension and I needed to get a CV joint replaced on the side where I hit it. At least it was not one of the tires I'd just had replaced, I suppose. I opted to get two new tires instead of just one so I'd have a matching set to go along with the other two I'd just bought. So, out a few hundred more dollars. They did throw in another alignment for free though. Shortly after this, I got a fancy detail on the car since I figured I was FINALLY done putting money into it.

Final incident...driving into work about two weeks ago, another car was coming into the garage at the same time that I was. I made a tight turn to avoid him, and it turned out to be TOO tight of a turn, as I scraped a concrete post on the left side of the car. I wasn't very happy. Fortunately, I do still carry full insurance on the car...but unfortunately, I have a $500 collision deductible. At least the rental car was covered by my insurance as well. I went to a body shop I've used previously for some minor things and they did a nice job, but I was glad I had insurance because the total cost was $1100 not including the price of the rental. They wanted initially to get the cash up front and have me wait for the insurance check, but due to all my other fun issues with the car, I didn't have the cash to give them up front, so we worked out a deal where I paid them the deductible and my insurance company will mail them the check directly. So, back in the driver's seat again, wallet somewhat thinner again.

I really do like this car, but I am hoping I have no more incidents with it this year, since I've already put in more money than it's worth just this year in keeping it roadworthy. Time will tell, I suppose. And of course, I'm going on vacation this coming week, so it was a great time for unexpected expenses to crop up. Through creative juggling, I am going to be able to go on my trip...but I did cancel on meeting some relatives in Europe this fall, I didn't think I could swing doing both things.

On the bright side, my cousin is getting married this weekend, and I'm looking forward to that, along with visiting Albuquerque for the first time since we sold my mother's house. I should be able to visit a couple friends while I'm there as well, and make a quick trip up to Santa Fe to visit my father's grave (which isn't really cheery, but I'm glad to have the opportunity to do it.) I'm going to California later in the week to relax for a few days. After all that's gone on with the car this year, I think I've earned a break.

Hope everyone is having a pleasant, maintenance-free summer, and I'll post again after my vacation.

Friday, July 16, 2010

All Shiny and Clean

Just got called into work for an overtime shift, which is good in the sense that I can always use more cash, but bad in the sense that it doesn't leave me time to write a proper blog post. In the meantime, let me show off my car, which I just got detailed yesterday. It's not in PERFECT shape, but I think for a 1996 model I think it looks pretty darn good.



I guess I'm kind of attached to it because it's the last car my father owned before he passed away. At any rate, after getting all the work done on it that I have recently, I know I'm going to be driving it for a while, so I figured I might as well splurge a bit and make it look nice.

Back again soon with something more substantive.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who I write like

I know I'm due for a proper post, which I hope to have up in the next couple of days. In the meantime I thought I'd share this badge I just got, which I thought was cool.


I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




See you with actual Stephen King-like writing soon!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Weekend Adventures

Last Saturday during my shift I decided to make a run for some food. As I have mentioned before, while I don't do this nightly, it's not uncommon for someone at my job to make a food run while a fellow dispatcher watches their desk during said food run. I actually went to the same place where I encountered one of the crazy people mentioned in a recent post. However, this time, everything went smoothly at the restaurant. Then came the drive back to work.

The street I was driving on curves as it approaches my office building. I don't know if I misjudged the difference or didn't turn soon enough or whatever, but I ended up hitting the curb with the side of my tires, causing a flat. I was right next to a motel when this happened so I pulled into the parking lot to get out and check on the car. I called work to let them know I'd be a bit delayed returning due to the flat...then when I got out, I discovered I had managed to flatten BOTH the tires on the right side of the car. No other damage done, at least, but hey, that takes talent! (Interestingly enough, I got a flat near the same location about two years ago also caused by hitting a curb. I think I need to drive in the lane farther away from the curb from now on.)

Anyhow, I obviously couldn't make the car drivable even if I'd called roadside assistance, but I was at this point walking distance to work, which was less than half a mile away. I checked with the front desk that it was OK to leave my car there for a few hours and walked the rest of the way to work. The person watching my desk said that I made good time changing my flat tire and I explained that no, I'd had to park the car and walk.

I walked back to the motel after work. Since it was a Saturday night, I knew that no tire places would be open, so I decided to just rent a room at the motel rather than have the car towed to my place, and then towed again to a tire place. They gave me a decent room rate but unfortunately my airline didn't have any special price with them to get a really good rate. It was a nice room, though, and they did have a pretty good breakfast the next morning.

After the evening's events with my car I was in the mood for some refreshing malt beverages, so I asked if the bar next door was OK, not having ever been there. The clerk at the hotel said it wasn't dangerous or anything, but that it was an "alternative lifestyles" bar. Great. The motel was close to a nightlife area but the clerk advised taking a taxi if I went over there due to the surrounding neighborhood being a bit rough.

I really debated sharing this next bit or not but I decided it was too funny not to include: I'd never been to a gay bar, but I figured, hey, how bad can it be? If you're laughing reading that last remark, you are right!

I walked into a pretty crowded establishment...it was Saturday night, I guess. All of the bartenders were shirtless. One of them touched me on the shoulder and said, "Can I get you something, hon?" I ordered a Miller Lite, which I got overcharged for. Seriously, $4 for a bottle? Anyhow, I paid with a five dollar bill and didn't get any change back, which I found annoying...I would have left the dollar as a tip, most likely, but I don't like it being assumed either.

There was a drag queen doing some kind of standup act in the main bar area, and I decided to retreat to the patio. I found an empty table and drank my beer. Nobody bothered me or hit on me, but I decided I definitely wasn't going to be able to relax and drink my sorrows away at that place. As I was already paying for a motel room, and I knew I'd need to pay for two new tires the next day, I didn't feel like shelling out more money for a cab (or waiting for a cab at that bar, either) so I decided to risk getting mugged and walk over to the nightlife area I mentioned previously.

Actually, I'm familiar enough now with that neighborhood I knew which areas to avoid, and I didn't even see anyone until I got over to the area with all the restaurants and bars. The one person I saw that I was a bit suspicious of (looked like a possible panhandler) actually just said, "Hey, big guy, how ya doing?" when I walked by. I imagine if I'd got into a conversation with him he might have started his sales pitch but I just said "Fine" and kept on walking.

I found an uncrowded bar with a large tap selection and proceeded to enjoy a few Stella drafts (which were only slightly more expensive, and far superior, to the Miller Lite I'd had earlier.) I walked back to the motel about 2 AM and once again had no problems. When I told the clerk and security guard I'd walked back they were kind of surprised...the security guard said, "Damn, man, you OK?" But honestly, nothing scary happened at all.

I called roadside assistance in the morning when I woke up (at least that didn't cost me anything since I have a plan through Verizon) and they took my car to a tire place nearby that I had been to before and I knew was open on Sundays. I opted to get two new but not fancy tires and have the alignment checked. Of course, they discovered I needed new struts also, and a seal in my engine that needed replacing. I went ahead and got the work done, but after already dropping a lot of money on my car recently getting it tuned and the air conditioner fixed, this didn't improve my mood any. They did throw in a free alignment, at least. As my car wasn't going to be ready until the afternoon, I took the bus back to my apartment to change and shower since I had to be back at work before two P.M.

I took a cab to work so I could get there in time and got a REALLY rude cab driver but I got there on time at least. The tire place did call and verify my final price and that my car was ready...I told them I'd have to pick it up in the morning, and they said that was fine. I took the bus home, and then in the morning, I took the bus again back to the tire place, paid them lots of money, and drove home.

I do like my car but I've really had to spend a lot of money on it lately. Still, it's running well now. I got an oil change done on my days off and got it washed, and there really isn't anything I can think of that it needs mechanically at the moment...so I will just keep my fingers crossed for now. I decided to include a picture here (not created by me) of my general reaction to the flats, and then how I felt at the tire shop the next day. Hat tip to Dariush for the photo link.



Other than my car, things have been going pretty well as of late. My nephew came to town for a visit and stayed at my place for a couple days last week. We had a good time and hung out a lot with my Mom as well. Then this past week, an old friend from high school I'd reconnected with on Facebook came to town, and we went out for dinner on my days off. For all of its issues with privacy and so forth, Facebook is awesome for getting in touch with old friends.

I go back to work today, and I'm hoping for a less dramatic and expensive workweek this time. Time will tell!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another Long-Overdue Update...

Well, here we go again. I'm sorry not to have posted anything in so long. I definitely haven't lived up to my New Year's resolution to post more, but then, the year has many months remaining, so there is time for improvement. Anyhow...lets get back to the post here.

I haven't posted in a long time because of goings-on at work. Who I work for is not that hard to figure out for anyone that digs a little, but I don't like it to be blatantly obvious either, in part because I don't want anything I say or have an opinion on while writing this blog to be taken as the official position of my airline. So, I've been mulling about what to write. The events unfolding at my employer have the potential to affect my personal life in a big way, though, so I've decided to share what's happening here (without going into any specifics as far as company names.)

A merger in my industry is afoot, which if it occurs, will affect me and my co-workers in a major way. I'm not worried about keeping my job, you understand, but it appears likely that if the merger is approved, I'll have to move to a different city. This would not bother me too much except that the city in question is in a much colder climate than here (I thought I had ESCAPED cold winters, finally) and also, my mother is living here now, and I like being able to visit her on a regular basis.

This is hardly the end of the world or anything. I know that there are millions of people out there right now who would love having a job, period, no matter where it was located. But it has been bothering me. You see, since I've been working in the airline industry, I have moved to a different state six times in the last fifteen years. I'd likely have moved less if I had stayed in the military. So when I finally got hired by a major airline, one where people had been living in this city for DECADES, I thought, well, maybe now I can finally settle down. I even had looked at some townhomes with a realtor, although I'm very glad now that I didn't buy one.

It takes me quite a while to get settled when I move...I guess this is true for everyone. Aside from the move itself, there's all the getting familiar with the new city that goes along with the move. Finding a new gym, finding your way around, finding new doctors, places to shop, etc...the list goes on. I'm not looking forward to it, when and if it happens, but since I don't want to leave my employer, I'll probably move when and if I have to. I was considering a move to a larger apartment here locally, but with a move to a new city on the horizon, I've decided to keep on living where I'm at for now.

My sisters and I could always move my mother to a facility in the metro area where I'd be living, if we have to. That would be much simpler this time, since Mom no longer has a dog, and we wouldn't have to deal with selling her house like we did last time, but she's pretty happy where she is, and it's a good idea to not disrupt the routines of people suffering dementia if you can avoid it. One of my sisters actually already lives in the metro area where I might be moving to, although ironically her husband's company is going through a merger of its own, and they may have to move to Texas soon. I could also look for a new job here, but I really like what I'm currently doing, and I doubt I could find any similar work nearby. Time will tell, I suppose.

Part of the really annoying thing is that we were all happy at work because we recently got a new contract (and a pay raise.) However, we didn't even get to enjoy a single paycheck at our new salary before the merger talk started. So, people are understandably a bit disgruntled right now. But life goes on.

Other than that issue (which to me is a bit like saying, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?") life is going pretty well. I've been trying to exercise more and do a bit more socially. I haven't had any more run-ins with angry women, so that's a relief. One of Mom's knees seems to be bothering her slightly, but she's doing pretty well overall as well, and seems very content with things.

I did have a rather negative experience at my local brewpub tonight which I also wanted to share (the service sucked) but that's about it as far as negative non-work related events go. Little tip to the new bartender at the brewpub...when someone has their own mug hanging in your bar, it's a good sign that they are a regular, and that it might be a good idea to give them decent service. It also might be a sign that they know the manager and can go straight to him with a complaint if they want to. I rarely complain to restaurant managers...in fact, tonight was the first time I'd ever said anything negative to the manager in the four years I've been going there, but trust me, tonight it was warranted. I am probably making too much out of the bad service, since the food was quite good, but I'd had a very good day off from work so far (went to the gym, had a good workout, took care of some errands) and I was hoping to end the day with a pleasant meal, but the service I received made it decidedly unpleasant. Of course, wanting to write about the experience finally got me off my duff and posting something in my blog, so I guess it wasn't all bad.

I hope everyone is doing well, and thanks for reading my diatribe. For any new readers (or any old readers who missed an entry) I have updated the entries where I transcribed my grandmother's diary, so that if you start at the beginning, at the bottom of each entry there is a link taking you to the following entry. I'd been meaning to do that for a while, and with the recent conclusion of HBO's miniseries "The Pacific" I finally was inspired to get it taken care of. A link to the first diary entry can be found in the sidebar, under "Greatest Hits."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Evening In Crazy

I had originally intended to call this post "Ash Ash Baby" or something along those lines to discuss the recent turmoil created by the ash cloud that was hanging over Europe for the past five days or so. However, events tonight compelled me to use this blog as my creative outlet...namely, to vent about various happenings from my life today.

Crazy event number one started when I went to go grab some food tonight during my shift at work, since I hadn't brought any lunch with me. There is a Thai place not too far away from my office building that has really good spicy chicken fried rice for $4, so I ordered some to go. (Incidentally, people in my profession are not allowed to leave their desks unattended, but whenever someone does a food run, we do a thing where we "merge" our flights so that the desk next to us can monitor them while we're away. Needless to say, this isn't done without asking first.) Anyway, I got to the restaurant, and the parking space I chose was kind of narrow...both the cars in the adjacent spaces were fairly large, and I drive a full-sized car myself. However, parking is often in short supply at my workplace, and I'm an expert in fitting into spaces such as this well. Since I didn't have a lot of room to open the door on my side, I *carefully* opened it about halfway and climbed out. I picked up my food and returned to the car. The driver of the car on my left (a Mercedes SUV, actually) had evidently returned in the meantime, and during the process of carefully reopening my car door and climbing back into my car, my car's door evidently touched her vehicle.

I first became aware of the Mercedes driver being in her car when I looked up after getting into my car and saw a woman sitting in the driver's seat shouting loudly at me. I couldn't hear what she was saying, though, because her windows and mine were both rolled up. I presume she was upset at me for DARING to touch her car with my car door (and believe me, this was not intentional, nor did my door do more than possibly touch her car.) I started backing out and noticed she had gotten out of her car and was standing next to my car glaring at me. Since I don't speak to potentially crazy people if I can avoid it, I drove on out of the lot. I noticed her looking carefully at her car door to inspect it for damage. I thought about waving goodbye but decided against it. I was halfway expecting a call from the police later on, assuming she'd taken down my license plate number, but I presume she discovered that her Mercedes was in fact unblemished and decided to drop it.

The rest of my shift was quiet, and we'd had some good news today...today is the day our ballots were counted from our contract vote, and it passed, so we will be getting a lump sum back payment check at the start of next month. Several of my co-workers decided to go out after work to celebrate. I wanted to join them, but I had an errand to do first. Last night, I had gone to my local brewpub and inadvertently left my ATM credit card there when signing my check. I had verified they had the card, but I didn't have time to go pick it up before work, so I decided to go after work. I told some other people going to our meeting spot to save me a chair, but they didn't...so I ended up being squeezed into a spot next to a person who in my opinion, is the most annoying person in my entire office. I know there is at least one of my co-workers who reads this blog, so I don't want to go into any more detail, but let me just say he was (and is) ANNOYINGLY LOUD. I am a quiet person by nature, and I cannot fake being in a good mood when I'm not, so I didn't stay there too long. People invited me to have some of the food they had ordered before I arrived, but I wasn't that hungry since I'd eaten the chicken fried rice earlier, and I didn't want to have too many beers since I had to drive home, so I left after having just a couple. And, to top it off, the ATM at the bar wasn't working, so I could have just left my ATM credit card at the brewpub until tomorrow and gotten a good seat away from the ANNOYINGLY LOUD individual by arriving earlier. Fortunately, I did have enough cash with me to pay for the beers I had consumed, so I didn't feel like I was stiffing anyone. I was just as glad I didn't have any of the food though.

Thus, I wasn't in the greatest mood when I left the bar. I had a few things to pick up at the grocery store, plus I wanted to get some cash. I went through the store and picked up most of my items...of course, one of the things I wanted to get was out of stock so I had to find a substitute. Anyhow, while I was walking down one of the aisles at the store, a couple (I presume husband and wife) were approaching me rather quickly and not looking where they were walking very closely. I had one of those hand-carry baskets since I wasn't buying very much, and the lady's hand bumped into my basket. To be honest, I might ordinarily have stopped and said something like, "Oh, sorry" even though it wasn't my fault, but the mood I was in after putting up with ANNOYINGLY LOUD at the bar was not very good, so I continued on my way.

There was a line for the register, and the couple that had bumped into me happened to be right behind me in the checkout line (of course.) The lady (and I use the term loosely here) said to me in a very bitchy tone, "You know, if you bump into someone you really should say EXCUSE ME!" to which I replied, "Well, since YOU bumped into me, I didn't feel an apology was necessary." She didn't say anything else, just glared up at me. I think she was trying to be intimidating but considering I was about nine inches taller than her and probably weigh twice what she does, it wasn't very effective. Her husband (or boyfriend, I'm not sure) didn't say anything. It's just as well he didn't, since if he had demanded an apology, with the mood I was in I probably would have said something like, "Well, I'm sorry if you're married to this woman, because she seems like a total bitch!"

Anyhow, I am of course presenting both these incidents from my point of view...and of course, the first lady in the car had every right to see that her car wasn't damaged (although, when a car door just TOUCHES your car, it's really doubtful any harm will occur) and I can see how the second lady was annoyed, but she really wasn't looking where she was going. Nights like this one are times when I'm glad I'm still single, though. I apologize to any of my female readers if this post comes off as uncaring or insensitive, but I really felt the need to write this one down when I got home to help me cool off.

Incidentally, the ash cloud in Europe APPEARS to finally be dissipating somewhat...so hopefully, normal operations will resume soon. I have one co-worker who has been stranded in Ireland on his honeymoon, so I hope that he and his new wife make it back home quickly.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Various Happenings

Well, I'm overdue for a post, but hey, I'm posting twice in over a month, so that's got to count for something. I do think I need to post more...since I get fewer comments if I post less, and I can't blame people too much for not checking in regularly if there's nothing here to read. Anyways, it's something to work on.

I had another computer meltdown, although this one was self-inflicted. I was trying to find something in my old computer's registry file, and I ended up corrupting my laptop's registry beyond my means to repair it. After looking at service options and being discouraged by the estimates I got, I decided to bite the bullet, wipe the hard drive, and install Windows 7. Windows 7 was not cheap, but it was only slightly more to buy it than the estimate I got to repair the computer at one place...and I'm planning on installing it on my inherited desktop, whenever I can manage to drive up and get it, so I figured it would be good experience. My other option, of just restoring the laptop to factory settings, was not an option since I had lost one of the restore CD's, and since it's over three years old I can't get a new copy. Windows 7 comes in DVD format, so it only requires one disk for the full install.

Anyhow, Windows 7 is pretty slick, and runs well even on this old laptop, which has the minimum memory required for Windows 7 and a very weak graphics engine. I had a bit of trouble getting some of my old peripherals to work with Windows 7, but after messing around for a while, updating drivers and system software and whatnot, I got everything working except for my old, old 2.0 megapixel camera which struggled to run even in XP. I didn't really ever use it for pictures any more (my phone is a 2.0 megapixel camera itself) but it did have a webcam option that I sometimes used. However, new webcams are pretty cheap if I ever get the urge to replace it. My biggest challenge was getting this one cordless handset I use for Skype calls to work, but eventually I succeeded.

So, now that I've bored everyone to tears with computer jargon, what have I been up to this month? Well, not a whole bunch. I've been trying to exercise more, with limited success. One good thing I've noticed, though, is that when you're out of shape, you don't have to do a long muscle workout to get your muscles tired. As for cardio, I've mainly been walking, since one of my knees doesn't like the pounding from jogging and I enjoy walking more anyhow. I need to get my bike tuned up as well and that might be another fun option for exercise.

In keeping with my newfound attempts to get in better shape, I decided to walk to a recent union meeting, held near where I work. I actually do live close enough to walk to work (about two miles and change) but it's not a realistic option to do on a regular basis, unless I want to allow an extra hour to stop sweating and change into work clothes at my health club (also located near where I work.) And in the summer, I'd probably need to allow 90 minutes to stop sweating (anyone who's lived through a humid Texas summer will understand this.) However, since I was just going to a union meeting on my days off, I figured nobody would care if I showed up in shorts and a t-shirt, and in fact there were some other people there in similar attire.

We got some good news at the union meeting about a new contract, and while I can't go into details, everyone was happy for the most part with what was negotiated. Pay raises tend to improve everyone's mood. We still have to vote on the proposed agreement but it seems certain to pass. So, after the meeting, and continuing in my attempted fitness regimen, I went to my gym and worked out, followed by lounging in the hot tub, steam room, and sauna, before finally showering and leaving. (Hey...the hot tub, steam room, and sauna are EXCELLENT reasons to go to the gym if you ask me. Those are my rewards for a good workout.)

Since I was kind of wiped after my workout/sauna/etc. I wasn't planning on walking home, but I did walk to an area nearby with several restaurants. One pub I've been to before was having a steak special that night, which I partook of, along with a couple pints of Stella Artois. I was DEFINITELY not in the mood for walking any further after that meal. Unfortunately, the bus I wanted to catch drove by right as I walked out of the pub, so I decided to walk one street over and catch an alternate bus.

Now, the area the pub was in is nice...there has been lots of new development there in recent years...but I soon discovered the neighborhood I was walking through near the pub was kind of a rough area, with lots of non-remodeled properties. I felt a bit out of place, but nobody bothered me any. I was glad not to be attempting to walk through there late at night, though. Anyhow, I caught the bus back with no fanfare after making it to the bus stop.

The bus stop near my apartment is next to a convenience store. I went in there to buy a soda, and when I walked out I saw a panhandler. Since I was in a really good mood after the union meeting, instead of just ignoring him which is my usual technique for dealing with panhandlers, I gave him $5. He then said he wanted to go eat at Boston Market, and the meal he wanted cost $7, and asked me if I had any MORE money. Well in fact I did, but I didn't want to give it to him, and I knew he could eat a meal at Jack In The Box just down the street for under $5, so I told him no. I then noticed he was drinking a beer in a small paper bag, most likely bought at the convenience store (they sell singles there.) I told him, hey now, you're going to use that money I gave you for food and not beer, right? He replied, very self-righteously, "Oh, I don't drink beer!" while holding a beer in his hand. Then he saw me looking at his hand and admitted that he might have ONE beer sometimes, but that was all. Honestly, that was so amusing to watch that it was worth five dollars right there. And I was in a good enough mood that I didn't care whether he bought more beer or not, really. However, I can see why cops get a jaded attitude about dealing with people after working the streets for a while. The panhandler did tell me thanks, but I won't feel guilty not giving one money next time.

All this drinking in bars, walking through rough neighborhoods, and giving money to panhandlers passed by with little fanfare. However, late that same night, I got up to use the restroom, and not wanting to blind myself, didn't turn the light on (I have a nightlight in there.) On my way out of the bathroom, I had left the door partly open, and, half-asleep, I walked right into the edge of the door, banging my nose, scratching it to the point where it started bleeding. I turned on the lights at this point and grabbed a washcloth. Like all head wounds it bled like crazy, even though it was just a small scratch. I had the wherewithal to remember to wash it and put on a band-aid, but I had forgotten about it until the next morning, when I walked in the bathroom to find a bunch of dried blood in the sink and looked at my reflection in the mirror. It's not a bad scratch, but it does look like a took a nice punch to the nose, possibly from someone wearing a ring.

I went into work later that day looking like an extra from Fight Club. Not many people have asked me about it, fortunately, although one of my friends said I should make up a story about how I got it by fighting off a biker gang. It should be better in a few days. In the meantime, I decided to skip going to church over the weekend, since I don't know many people there yet and I didn't want to have to explain myself to strangers. Especially since people saying "I walked into a door" is often the way people cover up domestic abuse. However, I'm single and live alone, and that's really what happened to me. (People who have known me for a long time and know how clumsy I can be will realize that "walked into a door" for me is the MOST likely explanation for what happened.)

More updates to follow soon, hopefully not involving personal injury.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

February happenings

I guess this blog has been turning into a monthly digest of sorts. I will try and update a bit more frequently this month...be nice to get up to weekly posts or at least bi-weekly, but we will see how things go.

February started off relatively uneventfully, but I got a cold (again) about halfway through the month. It was a pretty bad one, so I called in sick one day and went to see my doctor. The doctor suspected a possible return of bronchitis so I was placed on some stronger antibiotics than last time, along with a few other medicines. I have recovered from the cold although I still have a little bit of chest congestion. I'm glad I went to the doctor, though. Sometimes I'm stubborn about not using my sick leave unless it's a dire circumstance, but I definitely needed to this time. Everyone at work was glad I'd gone to see a doctor when I came back to work, so maybe I looked in even worse shape than I felt.

Another thing that happened is, my sisters and I decided that it was time to find a new home for my Mom's dog, Gus. She just wasn't able to take care of him anymore and seemed increasingly unaware of him. I placed a "Free To A Good Home" Craigslist ad for him, and I only got a few responses...probably because Gus is ten, and takes arthritis medicine (currently via a monthly shot.) However, one of the responses I got did work out, and I took Gus to his new home last week, where he seems to be settling in fine. I did consider keeping Gus myself, but as I have no yard, and I like to bring Mom by here once in a while if I've cooked something, I thought it was best just to find a new place for him. Also, he sheds like crazy.

The new owner has another older outdoors dog, and an old parrot...he says his kids sometimes call his place "the house of dysfunctional pets." It seemed like a nice situation for Gus, and I think things are working out well there so far. Mom hasn't even noticed Gus being gone, which one of my sisters was worried about, so I think that just goes to show it was definitely time for Gus to move on.

Gus was a nice dog, but honestly, Mom really never should have adopted him in the first place. I guess Mom was probably lonely, as my father had passed away in 2004, but she had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer's when she got him in 2005, and part of the reason she got him was to prevent us from moving her out of her home. (She told me this herself.) He was very good company for her, I must admit, but she was never really able to properly care for him from the get-go...things like remembering to take him out regularly, making sure he got fed at the same time each day, keeping water out for him, things like that, she was never good at. Additionally, Gus really trashed the carpets in her old house, although I don't blame Gus for this; she just wasn't remembering to let him outside before she went to bed or at regular intervals throughout the day. Mom was also getting in the bad habit of feeding Gus while she was eating, giving him table scraps. One of the most frustrating things was if I ever brought up anything about his care, Mom would find some excuse for what she was forgetting to do...when I asked about giving him heartworm medicine every month, she'd say there weren't many mosquitoes in Albuquerque, and so forth. Anyhow, I am glad to not have to worry about Gus any more, and I hope he does have a nice rest of his life in his new home. Gus did help Mom get adjusted to living here but he was a lot of work also, and I'm glad to be able to just concentrate on Mom's care now.

I have a week off from work this week and I originally planned to use some of the time for a mini getaway somewhere, but I ended up staying in Texas. The hotel I wanted to stay at in Trinidad was booked full, and all the alternative hotels were very pricey. I still needed to get my cockpit observation time done for the year, though (I have to do five hours of it per year) so I flew to Cancun and back. I wanted to fly somewhere international since all the flights I'm working these days are international ones. Cancun was the easiest and quickest way to get things done. I could have stayed there also, I suppose, and next time I will, but I needed to get the flying done by the end of last month, so staying a few days wasn't an option this time since I flew down and back on the 28th.

The way it works for cockpit observation at The Rather Large Airline is, I call into work, and they list me as a must-ride for the cockpit jumpseat for whatever flights I'm going on. This often confuses the gate agents, since if there is room in the back of the plane, they want to give me a regular seat. I finally got everything worked out at the airport here and got on board in the cockpit jumpseat. The crew, both the flight attendants and pilots, were very friendly. I was staying with the same plane going back to Texas. Since I was only going to be in Mexico about 40 minutes, I didn't go through customs, and this threw the gate agent there for a loop...also, he said they had no record of me having listed on the flight, even though I had done so before my trip. They may have been looking in the wrong place or something, I'm not sure. They had to call my office to verify I was authorized to fly back, and I finally got on board the plane and in the jumpseat at the last minute. The flight out of Mexico was full, so the cockpit jumpseat was the only extra seat available coming back.

The flights themselves were pretty uneventful. Nice views of the beaches in Mexico while going in and leaving; I'll have to definitely stay longer next time. The cockpit jumpseat in a 737, while not the worst one I've ever been in, isn't very comfortable for long-haul flying, so I was definitely ready for the trip to be over, but the view for takeoff and landing can't be beat.

I was wearing my airline ID while on board the plane, so that any passengers who saw me entering or exiting the cockpit wouldn't think I was some random passenger riding up there. I should have asked the crew if I could go through customs with them, but I just went in the regular line. I kept my airline ID on (which is in a lanyard ID holder I keep around my neck) since I was going on the bus back to the airport employee parking lot once I got through customs, and I had to wear it for the shuttle bus.

The line in customs was very long, and slow. I finally got stamped and proceeded on, but evidently I was "red-flagged" somehow since I got pulled aside for extra screening before leaving the customs area. As it turns out, the customs people don't like airline employees wearing their employee IDs in customs for some reason...they said that they couldn't tell if I had been working a flight or not. (Well, technically I was working by observing the flight procedures from the cockpit, but I didn't argue, just put my ID in my pocket.)

The customs agent had to look me up on a computer in another room. He was gone for several minutes; then some people that were also in the "extra fun" line paid some more duty taxes that they owed to him over there. As they were finishing up, I wandered over to check on things and was told rather sternly to get back to where I had been standing.

I think I may have raised some kind of alert either because I flew to Mexico and back in one day, or perhaps because I never went through customs in Mexico. I had to explain what I was doing on the trip, and it's never easy explaining my job to someone outside of aviation. ("So, you're a dispatcher, and you do flight planning?" was one response I got from the customs guy as he was typing on his computer.) He then went through everything I had in my briefcase EXTREMELY carefully, inspecting a John Sandford novel I had in there and closely examining some photocopies of some back exercises my chiropractor had given me. Actually, after sitting in that uncomfortable jumpseat and standing around for an hour in customs, I'm glad I have a chiropractor appointment scheduled this week. (I felt like telling the customs guy that but I didn't want to delay my processing even further.)

The most annoying thing was that customs never did tell me why I'd been pulled aside for extra screening. I suppose they had their reasons, security and all that, but it was a rather disquieting experience. I guess if I do another international jumpseating trip, though, I'll stay over in wherever I'm headed for more than 30 minutes and hopefully avoid getting a long stop in customs before re-entering the United States. I understand the customs guy was just doing his job, but any event like that always makes you wonder what the hell is going on. Had I forgotten to pay some traffic ticket from last year and gotten flagged in the computer? Did I underpay my taxes? I was VERY glad to finally walk out of customs and ride back to my car once he was done with typing up his report, and believe me I slept well that night.

I go back to work at the end of this week, and while I do have another break of five days off later this month, instead of tempting fate again I think I'm just driving to my relative Rex's place and avoiding aviation completely for a few days. Pass travel is nice, but it's also nice to just completely take a break from airlines, airplanes, and airports on your days off once in a while.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Blast from the Past

As I mentioned in my previous post, my desktop died on me last month. So for now, I am using my mother's old laptop, which is performing better than I expected. Since it's her old laptop, it has a lot of her old files from when she was writing...I had transferred as many of those files as I could to this laptop when we purchased it. See, originally, we got the laptop when Mom was moving to a retirement place in Albuquerque. That didn't work out well at all, but her desktop was due for replacement anyhow, and she kept the laptop when she moved back home. Some of those files had been transferred from older computers when she had upgraded to her last desktop...I think the laptop was computer #3 or #4 for her. Anyhow, one of the files I transferred, which I just recently discovered, was a letter she had written me when I was attending school to get my aircraft dispatcher license, over fifteen years ago now. Here is an abridged version of what she wrote:


September 13, 1994

Dear Chuck,

I was happy to hear that you got to Fort Lauderdale and were in your apartment with your roomates. Did you have a good time in Panama City? It must have been fun getting with your old buddies. And now you have your head in the books, learning all that dispatching material.

Britt stopped by and mowed our lawn last week. It helped Charlie out because he was down in his back and of course he wouldn't dream of letting me mow the lawn, even though I offered to. That's a man's job, he thinks.

Bentley wants up in my lap; he's got his paws in my lap, so I will pick him up for a little while. Now's he down and going to get on your bed. I know you miss him. He misses you too, and I should take him for a walk this afternoon.


Bentley was my family's old Yorkie, he lived a long life but eventually had to be put to sleep in 2001. I still kind of miss him.

I've been right tired since that SWW Writer's Conference this past weekend. I didn't sell any of my articles or get any large book contracts, but I enjoyed being there and it was a huge success. Now Sherri has nominated me for vice-president of the organization. I feel that that will be easier than serving on the conference committee. At the end, we were writing letters, filling bags, running every-where and enjoying the mass confusion. Mrs. Mixon came to the conference from Durango where she lives now, and she said to tell you hello.

Mrs. Mixon was my 5th grade teacher.


Also, when I called to say that I would be at Pat's 60th birthday party at Kathleen and Greg's house, Kathleen asked if you were going to come. When I explained that you were in Florida, she said, "Oh, we'll miss Chuck, because he brings lots of life to the group." I was sorry to disappoint her.

We haven't talked to anyone in Denton since you were there, but we will and find out what you did. As you know, Kathy called to see when you were coming in. I take it you made the connections, even if their house was a bit on the torn up side. I know Lisa was glad to see you, and Kathy was looking forward to it too.

I'm getting lunch ready for your Dad--bacon and tomato and cheese open face. He told me this morning I should get this letter to you from State Farm. Also, a guy from Kelly called this morning to talk to you. I told him you'd be back the end of Oct., so he said to have you call if you were interested in working.

So long for now, dear Chuck. Please call before Sat. to catch us. If you miss us, we'll be back by Sun evening. I'm sure C. doesn't want to miss his studying for Bible Class or ANY football games.

Yes, my Great Books Monday night class did make and we met last night. I'm supposed to go to another one tonight, and I elected to stay home because I have not read King Lear and don't feel like it. I'm taking a nap.


Reading this letter is fun but also kind of makes me sad...since some of the individuals mentioned in it are no longer with us, like my father. Life goes on, though.

I did delete one or two paragraphs regarding relatives and made a couple of minor edits, but for the most part everything I quoted is verbatim.

I had worked at a rather dreary factory job the summer before I left, to save money for living expenses while I was in Florida, so I was looking forward to leaving Albuquerque and going to school. While that last job I had was not much fun, I enjoyed living in Albuquerque for the most part...but I was so anxious to move on with my life, that I don't think I appreciated how good things were at the time. Still, I suppose it's natural for kids to not want to live with their parents forever...and probably a good thing, for both the parents and the kids.

I had a good time in Florida, studied hard and made decent grades. It took me a while to find a job after class ended in late October and I got my license since I had no airline experience, but I persevered and started my first airline gig in February of 1995. With the exception of a two-month period in late 2002 when one of the airlines I worked for went out of business, I've been in the industry ever since, so I guess it's been a good career choice.

Hope everyone is having a good February!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thank God THAT'S over...

Greetings all. Sorry that, once again, it's been too long since I posted. Those of you that I'm friends with on Facebook will know some of the reasons why, but suffice it to say that January 2010 is not a month I'll remember fondly. Everything is relative of course...I'm sure that millions of people in Haiti would love to swap places with me right now...but it still wasn't much fun. So, let's break it down here...

I had a pretty decent New Year's while on my road trip, even though the place I went to celebrate was full of people I didn't know. But it was an enjoyable party atmosphere, and I had a good time...my relative Rex's complex has a restaurant/bar called the "country club" that was having an event for residents, and I used his ID to get in there. Rex opted not to attend, which I can understand since if I make it into my early eighties, I doubt I'll be interested in going out to party either at that point. We did watch a good movie on DVD before I headed over to the party (Gran Torino.) I also met an old friend from my commuter airline days while I was up there and we had a good lunch, so you'd think things appeared to be starting off on a good note.

I discovered, though, that upon getting back home, I had no energy to do anything and my cold that I'd caught in Hawaii was still present...at least, the coughing was. So, I headed to my doctor about halfway through the month and got a course of antibiotics...he thought I might have gotten a case of bronchitis, and I guess he was right since the cough went away pretty fast after I started taken them.

About a week after I'd gotten rid of the cough, my desktop computer decided to die on me. I took it into a shop, and they said that some capacitors on the motherboard were bad and that it would cost $300 or so to get it replaced. Since the computer was five years old, I declined to repair it. I did take it home and take it apart to salvage all of the components, and I hope that the hard drive is OK in particular, since it had a fair amount of data on it I'd like to save...nothing really important, mainly music files and videos, stuff like that. So we will see when I get a new desktop if it's salvageable.

After my computer died, I called Rex to see if his sister was still interested in getting rid of her old machine, since she'd just gotten an Apple and her Dell was only about a year old. He said that she was fine with me having it, but warned me about my "internet addiction" (I guess Rex and her think I spend too much time on the computer these days. Who knows, they may have a point...more on this later.) So, I will be returning to his place to pick up that box as soon as my days off mesh with their schedule.

On a bright note, my Mom's old laptop is working like a champ, and I was able to get all of my various peripherals hooked up via a USB multiplier thingy and new printer cable that I got at Radio Shack. If I didn't have a computer coming my way for free, I'd have no problem just using this one until I could pay cash for a new desktop...and I'm surprised how well it's done, since this laptop is hardly brand new either, but it seems to run decently well since I added some extra memory to it once I inherited it from Mom.

Getting back to the internet...the next thing that happened, once my desktop died, is my discovery that some online people I thought were friends were talking about me behind my back, basically playing an extended practical joke on me, in this one chat room I'd been frequenting for a long time. To be fair, I did have some arguments with that room's "owner" not too long ago...but I despise being lied to also, and I've therefore decided not to return. This bothered me more than it should have...hell, it's just an online chat room...and made me think that perhaps Rex had a point about my internet usage, so not visiting there will give me more time away from the computer as well, which should be a good thing. But I'm not giving up my Facebook, Twitter, or blogging habit quite yet. At any rate, that was the most trivial thing to happen this month so, continuing on to the finale...

A week ago I took my mother to a symphony concert. After we attended the symphony in December, we got a call with an offer for some very good seats for a series of four concerts at a very good price. Since Mom had always loved the symphony prior to moving here, I went ahead and bought the tickets. (Actually, after discussing it with my sisters, we used Mom's money to buy the tickets, and agreed that one of us will take Mom to the concerts, and if we can't take Mom for some reason then we'll pay her back the cost of tickets for that particular show.) Anyhow, the concert was a performance of Holst's Planets and Mom really seemed to enjoy it. We went out to dinner afterwards (we'd gone to a Sunday afternoon concert) and she seemed to be doing fine when I left her back at her place that night.

I had to be at work mega-early Monday morning, since I'd signed up to do an overtime shift. It was my first time working this particular shift, which involved a series of international charter flights, but everything was going pretty well. About halfway through my shift, though, I got a call from my mother's living facility...she'd become unresponsive before breakfast and they were calling the paramedics. I called my sisters to let them know what was going on. The facility called back to ask which hospital we'd like Mom taken to...since we had no idea, they ended up using a hospital close to where Mom lives. I checked with Mom's insurance right after that and discovered that the hospital was on the list of approved facilities, so no worries there.

My supervisor told me I could leave if I wanted to. I delayed doing so for a little while, but as one of my sisters told me on the phone, since we didn't know what was going on it would be really good to visit Mom in person and talk to her doctors, etc. I'm glad that work was understanding about me needing to leave...anyhow, when I got to the hospital, Mom appeared to be doing fine. (Well, as fine as anyone with Alzheimer's can appear in an unfamiliar environment, anyhow.) I talked to the paramedics who brought her in as well as the nurse and ER doctor. The nurse apologized for not being able to give out more information on the phone but they are prohibited from doing so by law. Anyhow, I stayed with Mom for an hour or so, but she fell asleep and there was no sign of her doctor, and I was friggin' exhausted from the Adrenalin rush combined with getting up at 2:30 that morning for my overtime shift.

My sister Susan who lives in Chicago was flying in late in the afternoon (yay for sibling pass travel benefits!) and my place was a disaster area, so after getting home and napping for an hour or so, I got up and gave the place a quick once-over. It was mainly the bathroom and kitchen that needed cleaning...plus various stuff needed sorting out. As it turns out, I could have just waited until the next day, since Susan ended up spending her first two nights here with Mom in the hospital on a reclining chair...I don't think she slept too much there. After Susan got in we got some dinner at Luby's and then went to visit Mom. They had moved Mom from the ER to a temporary unit that was non-ER but also not open all night, and I stayed until Mom was moved to a regular hospital bed. We were also hoping to see Mom's doctor that night, but he never showed up.

I called in that afternoon and requested the next day off from work to be able to deal with things. Originally, when I saw that Mom was fine, I thought it was likely Mom would be getting out the next day, but her doctor was VERY cautious. (I think partly because he could never figure out what caused Mom's initial episode of unresponsiveness...they did rule out a stroke, however.) He had Mom stay two nights and was talking about sending her to a rehab facility for a few days...why, I don't know. My sisters and I all agreed that Mom would do best back at her place...and they are capable of doing rehab there, if any was needed. Mom eventually got out Wednesday of last week. I had decided to go back to work that day (I probably could have got another day off from work but I hate calling in at the last minute, so I took public transportation to work from the hospital) and my sister took her home in my car, and then came back to my place where she was SOUND asleep when I got home around 10:30 that night. After no sleep for two nights, I'm sure I would have been in a similar condition.

We went to see Mom the next day and Susan got a lot of stuff done with cleaning out my Mom's closet, buying her some new clothes, etc. However, along with severe exhaustion in the hospital, Susan also picked up some kind of a stomach bug there, and after a bad night Thursday, she decided to fly out Friday morning (instead of Saturday, which was the original plan.) The advantage of space-available travel is that it's very flexible, so she was able to get out Friday morning no problem. I seemed to have gotten that same bug as Susan, but only mildly, so I was able to keep working with the help of Pepto Bismol.

One bright note from this experience...we had just gotten Mom signed up with her Medicare supplemental insurance and it went into effect January 1st. We should have found a provider here right after she'd moved, but things were so crazy with selling her house, etc. that we missed the "window" we had to do that in. Mom still had Medicare coverage..but ONLY Medicare coverage, which would have left 20% of the costs uncovered. Since Mom went to the hospital in January, she was fully covered by her plan, and they should pay almost all of that 20% we would have been liable for...which with all the tests Mom had done, I'm sure will likely be thousands of dollars. So remember, if you have an elderly relative move, make sure they get their insurance changed right after they move!

I had Mom over for dinner at my place tonight (we had takeout from Pei Wei, so nothing too fancy) and Mom seemed fine, back to her old self as much as anyone with Alzheimer's can be. Her living facility kept an eye on Gus and let him out while she was in hospital so Gus is fine also...I actually had a vet appointment I took him too one day while Susan was here. He's getting older and arthritis can make him a bit cranky at times, but overall he is very content. However, we are looking for a new home for him, since Mom isn't able to really take care of him on her own any more...but for now, his situation is OK (with help on my end to make sure he's fed and watered.)

Only other thing going on is that I'm thinking of joining a church. Since it would be the first church I've joined as an adult, it's kind of a big decision for me, but I'm not rushing things. I've been visiting for a few months, though, and I like it pretty well so far, so I am leaning towards membership...but time will tell. That is definitely a more positive thing than most of what happened this month, and I thought I'd end on a positive note...I hope everyone's January was better than mine, and I will do my best to update this oft-neglected blog more quickly next time, hopefully with something more upbeat than listing all my troubles.

I am thankful that I have a job that I mostly enjoy, living in a place that has a lot of things to do, and that I can be near Mom since we still have fun hanging out together. Also, I'm glad I'm not living through winter in Wisconsin. Also I'm thankful to you, my readers of this blog, for giving me an audience, even though I don't write enough material for you. See you again soon!