The Three Jakes

December 31, 2009 at 10:41 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
  Is it a misnomer for me to file this under "Riding in Cars With Pizza" even though there is no pizza involved?
  Not at all.  Perfectly legitimate.  For three reasons:
a)  It’s all under the umbrella of food delivery, and when I worked at the steak place I ne’er gave it a second thought.
2)  If Obama can push universal health care, take over controlling interest in car makers and banks, and coerce states to give up their sovereignty for highway funds–and then not deny that he’s a socialist–
Then I can deliver sammiches and call it Riding in Cars With Pizza.
d)  I still work at the other pizza place.


  We’ll see if I get this posted in time to count for December.  But it happened in December, not too long ago.  Like, last night.  But it all seems like a dream.  A horrible, painful dream…
  Last night was my first night at JJ.  Learning what I have learned from the past, I shall call the place by a different name in case I am involved in something illegal or immoral and they happen to have corpprate Internet spies.  Again–how do you get that job?
  But what should I call it?  James Johanssen’s?  How about similar letters?  II’s?  Odd.  KK’s?  Odder still, and connotation is racist.  I originally selected this title for a different reason which may or may not be evident later because I tend to be either cryptic and confusing and occasionally both at the same time, but I’m going to call the place "The Three Jakes."  It’s my blog and I’ll use aliases if I want to.  Don’t worry, they won’t figure it out.  Trust me.
  I told Matt the DM that maybe I could work on Wednesday.  I was scheduled for Thursday as my first day, but I was scheduled at Imo’s for Wednesday.  I didn’t want to miss the big first day because it would be…the…big…first day.  You know?  I asked him if I should call someone when I know, or what?
  He said no, just–If I can come in, go ahead and come in.  If I can’t, that’s fine too.  Since hindsight is how you gain knowledge, I went in last night.

The Three Jakes

  I’m the first Jake.  Bryan, I mean.  The manager of this store Brian, probably spelled like that.  Later that night, another Brian came in.  That was a simple explanation.  On with the show–
  Brian’s (not me, the other one–see how fun this can be?) perpetual expression is harried.  I got there early, and he didn’t want to deal with me until five, when the other fivers got there, so i just wandered around the store, trying to stay out of their way, but also watching and trying to learn.  Meanwhile, Brian had a bunch of his day people rolling around the place that eventually left.
  I was the one and only driver.
  Good thing we didn’t have a lot of deliveries.
  Brian had me don an apron like everyone else.  Mostly I worked in the store, learning various ridiculous things.  Mayo will be my undoing in this place, I fear.  It is everywhere, like beer in a frathouse.  It might just be my imagination, but I smell it right now.
  When I first walked into the place, my first impression is that it was *loud*.  Loud music playing over the speakers in the dining area.  They do alot of things there that seem to be ridiculous, but they might be done for a reason.  Maybe the reasons are ridiculous, too.  We’ll call this stuff "Three Jake Logic."  TJL.  I can only imagine the TJL for this–besides the chic atmosphere–is to make it annoying for most people so they leave in a hurry, if they stay at all.  Not only
that, but if it’s loud out there, they can’t hear us behind the counter cursing or talking about them.
  It’s a little difficult to hear behind the counter as well.  Or maybe it’s just me–but I’m not the only one constantly saying, "Huh?"  How this really helps operations is taking an order over the phone.  Half of the orders I took–I took four–had the wrong address, undoubtedly because it was heard wrong.  Good thing I have a cell phone.  Good thing.

Bohemian Rhapsody

  My first delivery, oh boy.  Like everything else in this area, it’s a large and old brick building that some enterprising contractor yuppy-sized on the inside.  Security door, brick walk, a freaking fountain, high ceilings with exposed beams and colorfully painted ductwork  (because nothing hides large rattling HVAC like painting it in bright metallic primary colors and exposing it in the rafters) and prints of impressionist masters on the hallway walls.  "Hi, my name Claudius, and I’m a pretentious ass."  "Hi, Claudius!"
  The place is full of white people.  While I was trying to figure out the security door code, a trusting soul let me in.  Sucker.  After he lets me in we chat a bit, then I knock him silly and steal his wallet.  I get to the right apartment number according to the ticket, and knock.  I wait, and then knock again.  Finally, some noise, and then a voice calls out, "Just a minute!"  Okay.
  And it took about a minute before the door opened.  A pretty young woman in a wheelchair.  She smiled.  I smiled.  She said, "I didn’t order anything."  I stopped smiling.  My first delivery is a prank?  Mother-fucker.  I verified certain information.  The address?  Hers.  The name?  Not hers.  The phone number?  Not hers.  Using my incredible powers of reason and logic and decades of experience, I fingered out the problem.
  "Sorry to bother you–looks like we have the wrong address on here.  I’ll give them a call."
  She was very sweet, and I said, "Give us a call–we deliver."  She answered that we had a drive-thru, so she could come by as well.  I think she was hitting on me.  In fact, I’m sure of it.
  I called the customer, she was upstairs.  337, not 237.  She was a pretty woman as well, in her 30’s, with that Look-at-me-I’m-an-Artist vibe.
  An hour later my next delivery was an apartment also, and the address was wrong again.  I was beginning to think the address was more of a suggestion or approximation than the actual. 

Phone Booth

  Some immeasurable time later I took another run.  The time spent in the store is excruciating.  I actually have to DO stuff.  But the clock is a familiar foe of mine, and I know how to milk it.
  This run was actually a double.  Two whole completely separate deliveries to two different places at the same time.  Wow.  What was this, 8 oclock?
  The first guy was nice; he tipped and asked why I was breathing so hard.  I huffed a polite "fuck off" to him and left.
  The next stop was a little corner laundromat with an attendant on duty.  That was not immediately obvious, but the old black homeless-looking woman with a gold tooth was sitting at a table with clothes all over it, and she popped open a cash drawer to pay me.  All of my deliveries had tipped me so far, including her.
  I got back to the store from what turned out to be my last run and hung my hoodie up to don again my gay apparel.  Automatically I checked my pockets.  My phone wasn’t there.
  Concerned but not yet panicking, I checked all of my pockets and the coat again.  Damn.  I checked my hands, to make sure I wasn’t still talking on it, because that has happened to me before.
  I looked in my car.  Nada.  I borrowed another guy’s phone to go out to my car and listen for it as I called it.  Nada surf.  I retraced in my head (as opposed to, I guess, the pavement) when I had it last.  It was in the car, on that last delivery.  The pockets of my hoodie are kinda shallow–it could have easily slipped out.
  Fuck me.  Now I’m concerned.
  I tell whoever is in charge at this point (don’t know, don’t care) that I need to go retrace my steps and find my phone.  Luckily, my new phone is mostly white, instead of black, so it should be easier to see at night.  If the ground wasn’t covered in snow.  Aarrgh.  No luck at the first place.  I retraced my steps from my parking spot the front door.  Luckily it was well-lit or I would have needed some illumination, like the light from my cell phone display.
  I drove to the next stop, the laundromat.  I thought I might have set it on the counter when I picked up the money, if I had it in my hand when I set the food down.  Not likely, but possible.
  I had horrible visions of the laundromat horde doing unspeakable things with my phone, like accessing the web–because I never could do that with accuracy.  I asked the nice homeless-looking lady and she said no, she hadn’t seen it, and looked on the counter.  I noticed a funny thing out of the corner of my eye.  When I came in and mentioned it, an older gentleman reading a paper instinctively reached for his shirt pocket and patted it, to make sure his phone was there.
  I muttered a thanks and said I was going to go look in the spot I had parked.  The nice lady gave me her phone to use to call it, so I could hear it ring.  I went out and found the spot I had parked in.  It was still empty.  The phone in my hand was ringing, but I didn’t hear my familiar ring tone–Beethoven’s "Ode To Joy."  No, wait–it would be something by Iron Maiden.
  There on the wet ground, glistening in the rain, was my phone.  Yay.  I guess.  I found it.  The screen was dark and silent.  I rushed to pick it up, and almost–almost–pressed the button to unlock the screen.
  Wait, though–electronics and water aren’t especially copacetic.  I learned much in six years of junior college.  I resisted turning it on, and instead I went back inside and gave the lady her phone.  I said, "The good news is, I found it.  The bad news is, I found it in the rain and covered in water."
  She said, "Oh-Oh.  Don’t turn it on.  Take the battery out.  Right now.  And the SIM card."  I did as she said.  "Just let it dry out for a good long while before you put it back."
  Great.  This makes sense.  I didn’t have high hopes for it–but it could happen.  I thanked her and left.

The Man With Two Brains

  That left me with a couple of hours to kill until ten o’clock.  I struck up a conversation with this other new guy.  Like me, his first day was today.  He was not a driver, but strictly an inside person.  He was about 30, I think.  Maybe older.  Intellectual.  But also smart and willing to work–more so than I was.  Early on he mentioned that on his day job he works at one of the two big universities–maybe I should have been paying attention.  Was it Wash U or SLU?  But he could have been a janitor or a chair-stacker for all I knew.
  As it turns out, he’s a researcher–probably has a master’s degree–and he studies brain trauma.  We had a discussion about it.  Of course I can undestand master’s degree level brain studies.  I learned a great deal, and, unless he is better at concealing condescension than most, I held my own in the coversation.
  Or it just could have been bullshit.  He also talked about the fact–and I get that he is "proud" of himself"–he took this type of job which would normally be beneath someone of his intellect and brainpan.  He said his collegues said as much–why lower yourself to this?
  I asked him an incredibly rhetorical question:  "Do you find that the intellectual elites that populate academia largely feel superior to the unwashed masses that have to work for a living?"
  "Well, I thought as much.  That’s why I asked."  It’s one thing to be superior–as I am–but it’s quite another to put it on display for the derision of others.  Especially if those others you feel superior to happen to include me.  You have to draw the line somewhere, and I’d like to think my dick makes the line in the sand.  Across this line you do not–

Pencil Me In

  Meanwhile, Adam came in.  He was the swing-shift manager.  This crazy place is open until 2am Sunday through Tuesday, and 4am Wednesday through Saturday.   So Adam is working 9pm to 4am.  Maybe 5am, by the time they ge done with every ridiculous thing.
  Brian gets ready to leave,  but before he does he talks to all of us about our schedule availability.  I explain several times that I have a day job and during the week I want to work no later than  10 pm.  Off on Sunday.  And some other random details.  Ten minutes later, as he thinks he is walking out the door, he looks at me and says, "So, you’re closing, right?"
  "NO!  I’m not!"  My voice may have gone up in pitch when I said that.   Four am?–And I get up for work in the morning at 530.  Not on your fucking life.  Everyone and everything around here was still new enough to me–and I had no attachment–that I could walk out of here with no remorse whatsoever.  He said he’d make some calls, and looked at the schedule.  It did look like someone was scheduled for 10pm to close–another fucking vampire.  Okay.  He left, with a word to call him if someone didn’t show up, so they could "work something out." 
  Since I’ve done this all before I know it is kind of a passive-aggressive way to get me to do something I don’t want to do.  Well, I got news for them–
  At ten o’clock Brain-Boy’s replacement comes in, a young dude named Brian.  Brain-boy’s name is TJ–named, I think, for the famous Hooker.  My guy was still not here.  I’m too disgusted to be apathetic.  Or vice versa, I think.  As TJ and I had discussed earlier, there was no real training to speak of.  Just "Do this.  No, like this.  Oh, and keep the place clean."  Thus endeth the lesson.
  Another hour goes by, almost.  My feet hurt (no chairs allowed behind the counter at all, not even in back at the desk which is the "office."  So they want you to stand up the entire time.  They want me to remove my car seat so I can Stand And Deliver.
  At 1030, I mention to Adam that I’m getting worried.  Also, I stopped working.  I’m just leaning against the counter, waiting.  He makes a call to Brian, who says that he would make some calls.  This is not looking good.
  About 1050, a guy calls.  He left his other job (day job?) at 10pm, and was on his way right from there.  A few minutes later, he showed.  Steve, I’m glad to see you.
  I cashed out, made a grand total of 10 bucks on four deliveries.  Divide by 5.67 hours, and that’s…call it a buck seventy-five.  Add that to my min, for a total of 9 clams per hour. 
  I could work in a slaughterhouse for better money, and it’d be more fun.

Escape From New York.

  "Gentlemen, have a good evening."  I left.  Of course it had been raining all night, and it was now 11p, so it had been dark for the past…call it 36 hours.  I had found my way around this little neighborhood with no problem tonight, because I am a highly skilled and well-trained individual.  I head north on Broadway, and cut over to 7th.  I think.  Uh.  Oh, wait–there it is.  No, that way…Okay.  Oh, a ramp.  There’s the ramp to get on the highway.
  Remember this:  Once you are on the ramp, you are pretty much committed to being on the highway until the next ramp comes along.  I went up the ramp.  Halfway up the ramp, the sign says 64 East.
  Hmmm.  That doesn’t sound right.  I need 55 North, or 64 West.  64 East might not go–
  There was no motherfucking way to get off the goddamn fucking shit highway until I was fucking fucked the way fucking over in Illinois.  See my car, there in the dark, going across the bridge, and all the cursing coming out of it?  Fuck me.
  Not only did I have to go into Illinois, but I had to go WELL into Illinois.  The twisted bands of interstate travelling through the heart of East St Louis are wisely meant to take you AWAY from East St Louis as quickly as it can without giving you the most unwise choice of getting off in the middle of it.  For that, I suppose I am grateful, otherwise they might not identify the remains of my body in my car after it was torched and the the rims stolen.  I finally got off at
Route 3, the first exit I get to.  I intended to get off, turn, go down, and get back on going the other way.
  Like a metaphor for my ridiculous life, there is no "going the other way."  I continue on 3 going north.
  I have seen the future, brothers and sisters.  In the coming apocalypse and destruction of civilization, I know what it looks like.  It looks like East St Louis.  It looks like it’s two infamous suburbs, Brooklyn and Venice, Illinois.  If a large armor-plated and heavily armed truck had come rolling down the road at me a la Road Warriors, I would not have been surprised.
  I also would not have been more scared, either.  The fucking place is scary.  I found signs that led to the interstate–the next interstate–and followed those.  Eight miles.  Eventually I escaped the Danger Zone and was once again in familiar territory.
  By the time I got home it was a quarter to twelve.  Detroit was still up.  I said, "I was really hoping you would be asleep, because I’m a little moody and a little pissy, and I don’t want to talk to anyone."
  She went to sleep, which was good, because I’m sure I would have been an ass.  I still had to eat and wind down, so I heated up my goddamn cold sammich and ate, and then had a smoke in silence.

  Tonight, it wasn’t as bad psychologically.  The music was quieter, so I could hear myself and others think.  Also,  Brian explained The Three Jakes’ marketing plan…or lack thereof.  They do a soft open, and people discover them and they gradually get busier.  Give it a few weeks.  I don’t want to lose you, okay?
  Actually, he said that to the other driver, Steve.  But he seemed fragile, and in need of that kind of affirmation.  I just wonder why he doesn’t like me.
  Anyway, it was still slow, but I knew I wasn’t going to have stay all night, and I got to do a little more, and play with the other kids some more, so it was better.  So I have hopes that–maybe I should set a deadline.
  End of January.  It better be better, or it’ll be time for these bootheels to be wandering.
  But still–I swear to God, instead of driving for them, they should hire me as a consultant for a hundred grand a year and I’ll teach them everything about delivery that they honestly don’t know. 
  Oh, they are all committed to the quality of the product and all that crap, yadda-yadda-yadda.  But they treat delivery like it was an afterthought.
  This is the conversation in their board meeting:

  How about we…throw the sammiches up in the air and shoot them?
  Good, good.  I like how you’re thinking.  Or maybe we could…deliver them?
  Phffft.  Whatever.
  No, we can do that.
  Fine.  We’ll deliver.  Can we still throw the sammiches in the air and shoot them?
  No.  That’s not…part of the business model.
  I don’t know you any more.

  On another note, the cute chick in the wheelchair that was the wrong address last night ordered tonight, and I delivered it.  Very nice.  And I think she has a girlfriend.  So:  a hot yuppie lesbian in a wheelchair.  This covers a variety of kinks, and I think she wants me.

Oh, yeah–happy fucking New Year.


Where No Man Has Gone Before

December 29, 2009 at 7:00 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
  Last night was the orientation for the new job.

I had to study this piece of paper, this menu with seven of their sammiches on it.  Those of us told to show up for the orientation had to memorize the name, number and ingredients for a little quiz.  No problem.
So I now understand that Matt is the DM-district manager; he ran the orientation.  We brought in our papers, filled out tax forms, and went over paperwork.  He said it would be best to just bring in copies of our docs, so I did.  Driver’s license and birth certificate for the I-9 form to indicate I am legal and eligible to work in this country.  With such stringent provisions like this in place, I don’t understand how there can be so many illegals working in this country.  I mean, I have paperwork!
Earlier in the day I called the Domino’s office that I had worked for recently (remember that?) and a very nice lady helped me out after I poured some sugar on her.  She looked up my file and found my Hep A shot proof and faxed it to me.  For about ten years now, if you work with food in St Louis county you have to have a Hep A immunization.  I got mine back in 2003.  It’s come in pretty handy over the years, though, I must say–It certainly has been a time-saver now that I don’t have to wash my hands any more.
Then, of course, since I’m going to be a driver, I brought a copy of my car insurance.
Matt handed out hats and shirts for free, except we are going to get 13.60 deducted from our check for them.  He went over the rules and the specifications as we signed and initialed shit.  And they have all of these *rules.*
No sexual harassment in the workplace.  Geez.  It’s standard, I know, but just once I’d like to find that one magical place–
It made me wonder if they have this type of thing in brothels and strip clubs.
And then we went over some of the other stuff I can’t talk about.  It’s a *secret*.  Well, it’s confidential.  One of the first things I signed was a non-compete agreement.  I can’t work for another sammich shop while I work for these guys, or give away any trade secrets or talk about any of the special processes involved in the highly technical field of sammich-making.  I also can’t come and work there, steal all of their secrets, and then open up my own sammich shop.  Good thing they have that rule, because I was gonna.
When I got home last night I was hungry, and I asked Detroit to make me a sammich.  She said, “Make it yourself.”
“I can’t,” I said.  “I signed a non-compete with Jimmy John’s.  I can’t make a sammich anymore.”
She didn’t buy that.
There had been about 8 of us in that orientation.  I expected more, but I guess they have been hiring and training people for several months in anticipation of this store opening.  I still wasn’t exactly sure where it was.  Soulard is a neighborhood in South St Louis, in the actual city.  It wasn’t too far from where I was right then, so I decided I should try to find it.  It was after five, and it was dark already.  Of course.
When I left I went east and came to Grand.  I remembered this.  Kind of.  I turned right, intending to take this to the highway and go east.  But there was only one ramp, and it was to get on the west-bound.  Shit.  Okay, I’ll drive down, change lanes, turn left, follow it down, and find another way on.
Ten minutes later I had no idea where I was.
All the streets downtown are squared off, so it should be easy.  But since they all look alike (I’m not being a racist here–they just do) I had nothing to distinguish one from another.  Since it was dark I couldn’t see where the sun had set, and I couldn’t see the Arch, either, so I had no frame of reference.  Where the hell am I?  Plus, it was around 5pm, so I was at best an obstacle for everyone else in traffic who knew where the hell they were going and didn’t need a goddamn tourist (me) in their way.
I got out my phone and saw that I had missed a text from Detroit.  “Where da Hell you at?” it said.  Wow.  I was impressed.  We are so in tune with each other.  How did she know I was lost?  I called her and had her guide me out using the intarwebs.
Of course, I went the wrong way first.  I headed south on 55–which is always a good idea when you live north of the city–and ended up on 44 without changing lanes.  Shit.  I got off the highway, turned around, and got back on going the other way.  East on 44.  Or, in the same lane, North on 55.  But these all meet at the riverfront and disperse again.  I stayed in the left lane and a sign said “This Way To The Egress,” or, more accurately it said 70 West, which is exactly what I wanted.  I could find my way home.  This would make a tremendous family movie with dogs and kangaroos.
Back in my neighborhood, I bought a map book of the city and county.  I’m going to need it.  This area is new to me, and it’s going to be an adventure.  But there’s no reason it has to be any more than a PG-13 adventure.  Update, bitches:  I went out there today after work and it was still light out. And I found my way.  And I found the store.  It was actually very close to were I had been last night before I gave up and called myself lost.

No More Tears

December 29, 2009 at 6:52 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
A conversation from the past:
Bunny:  How was your Christmas? 
Me, measuring my words carefully:  Happiness…is relative around the holidays.
Bunny:  What does that mean?
Me:  I didn’t cry as much this year.

  How was your Christmas? 
  Careful how you answer–if you ramble on too long, I’m going to walk away.  If it’s boring, keep it short.  Family, food, gifts–good for you.
  Or if you have an amusing tale of tragedy and misunderstanding that ends with everyone learning a valuable lesson and bonding in the end–
  I’ve seen the movie.  Next.
  The one with the kitten and Santa and the whole thing?  Been there.
  The last few years of Christmas–which have coincided with my separation and divorce–have been pretty hard on me.  My question has always been, "Why does Christmas always end in tears?"  Why, indeed.  I still don’t have an answer.  I can’t please everyone, least of all myself, and I end up pleasing no one.  Broken hearts and Christmas go together like grits and gravy.
  The idea of Christmas is much more appealing than the reality.  Like a Brazilian wax.
  Since I’ve been separated/divorced, I haven’t really had the money to spare on Christmas, either.  You would think that would add to the stress, but it’s actually liberating.  Am I worried about shopping?  No.  Like growing a third hand on my face–why worry about the impossible?
  Coordinating between the families, step-families, ex-families, half-families, and half-step-ex-families and the foster families is what turns this normally difficult time into a circus in the 7th level of hell.
  I realized that my saving grace this year was my son and his girlfriend.  They were going to go up to see her mother, and be there from the day before Christmas Eve until the day after Christmas.  Therefore, there was no Christmas Day event that I had to try to be there for.  Ah, bliss.
  So instead, things went smoother.  Christmas Eve I went to see my daughter and picked out something for her to give her mother.  And of course I got something for Detroit, because there is no way I’m buying a present for my ex and not getting her something.  Christmas Eve and Christmas morning we had Detroit’s sister with us.  We took her back to her kennel early in the afternoon on our way to our friends’ house, Joe and Susan.  Joe works with me, and Detroit used to work with Susan.
  We had a good time.  We drank, we ate, we met some new people.  We played a game.  Detroit got drunk and got sick, then passed out–I mean "took a short nap."  I locked myself in the bathroom.
  Susan swears that they told everyone "don’t lock the bathroom door."  Whatever.  I didn’t hear it, and I have excellent hearing.  It took a few minutes but someone finally rescued me.  I was a damsel in distress.  I learned my lesson, though–the next time I went to the bathroom, I took my drink with me.  Just in case I got thirsty or started to sober up.
  Saturday, my brother and his family came over.  By family, I mean his wife and his youngest daughter, now 21.  That was fun, too, and cousin Joey came by with one of his daughters that is my daughter’s age, and whom by odd coincidence goes to the same school.  They have a class together.
  That was good-it gave my daughter something to do.  The two sat in her room and texted each other and their friends.  Meanwhile, Joe and my brother and I retreated to the downstairs study to talk man talk, and partake of the Christmas tradition.  The tradition is one we keep because of my dad.  Before I ever drank much–and my brother doesn’t drink at all–we would still always have some Southern Comfort with Dad.  On ice with Dr Pepper is best.  I used to always like SoCo, but it is a little sweet and harsh for me now.  Now I know what kind of alcohol I do like.  But still, I have to keep it on hand for this.  You don’t need a reason for a tradition.
  Sunday when I got up it was snowing again.  It had snowed Christmas Eve, and we did have a more or less white Christmas, but nothing to sing to Bing Crosby about.  Christmas morning I had wanted a big breakfast, but that’s the kind of thing you have to plan in advance for if the stores are going to be closed.  And that’s what I had planned–I’m going to do it Sunday morning, when my daughter is here.
  I got out in the cold and snow, et cetera, and went to the store.  It was early,  which was good because there wasn’t much traffic out.  And the weather-panickers hadn’t been out yet to strip the store of milk, bread, and eggs–if there’s a snow storm, you want to be able to make French Toast.
  I got the stuff and came back, and started cooking.  Detroit’s mom was up, and she helped.  She cooked the sausage.  I started on the potatoes and heated up the oven.  Miranda woke up, and I taught her how to do the pancakes on the electric griddle.  I threw the biscuits in the oven, and then cracked and scrambled a whole dozen and a half eggs.  I figured me, Detroit, Bonnie, Miranda, and the two boys, plus Alex had a friend stay over–I made a lot of food.
  After breakfast I took a nap, and there was still some food left, so I had some more.  It’s my 3-day vacation, dammit–probably the last one I’ll have for a while.  I showed Miranda some stuff on the computer and burned her a music disc–she likes the old rock, good for her.
  I took her home, and then came back.  God, all the driving–
  I am done with vacation travel.  For now.  I took my shoes off.  And my pants.  And my shirt.  I slipped on my shorts, and sat on the couch for the rest of the evening, relaxing, and let the weekend wind down around me.

  So it all worked out, because of my son.  And actually, because of his girlfriend.  Of course, it was because of her mom, because she moved away.  Their family has been in turmoil as well, since her father left the family.  This was the course that eventually caused her mother to have a stroke and then decide to move to the Quad cities.  Of course, he–the father–*really* left.  He moved to Minnesota and had a sex change.
  So my relatively calm and pleasant Christmas I owe to a man who drank a gallon of Dick-Be-Gone.  Happy Holidays!

Are We Doing This Again?

December 29, 2009 at 6:45 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
Originally I wasn’t going to post this, but I saw that I have always in the past, so why break with tradition?  This bears as much weight as any of the previous times I’ve put up my resolutions…

  I’ve made a ton of New Year’s Resolutions in the last few years.  I don’t keep many.  Or most, even.  Or really any of them, except by accident.
  But a few, maybe.  I throw a bunch of them against the wall and see what sticks.  A few that I have made in the past were things that I needed to do anyway–was that cheating?  Like getting the house refinanced.  Sometimes I really cheat by putting things on there that I’ve already done.  In that vein, we travel down this road again–if for no other reason than this:  I like to make lists.
  Uhmmm…Categories?  We’ll see.

#Get another part time job (Big fat check mark next to this one!)
#Get caught up on bills
#pay back any debt
#save some money for a trip or emergency
#save some money for Christmas (Christmas savings account)

$Fix everything that’s broken–there’s a list.
$Continue remodel.
$Landscaping in the spring.
$Finish organizing tools and what-have-you.
$Sort out stuff to sell and then sell it, or give it away, or donate it, or pitch it.
$Fix the damn car, the truck, the other car, and the van.

^Get back to writing–novel in progress
^get this radio show in production
^get those songs recorded
^Et cetera

&I want to take a trip this year.  A real vacation.
&And some shorter day trips and so forth.  Hannibal.  Meremac Caverns.  Whatever.

&See a psychiatrist about the ADD (oh, wait!–I already did.  Scratch this one off.)
&Fix my bike and ride it
&Put up heavy workout bag, practice tai chi and tkd
&Take a multivitamin (Check!  Got this one covered!)

I’m well on my way to a happy and prosperous New Year!  How about you?

White River, Blue Water

December 26, 2009 at 9:53 AM | Posted in Personal | 1 Comment
  I like it when my dreams make sense…

  I was reading this book, and I became immersed in it, and for some reason I really identified with one of the characters.  However, as I explained to someone else–it might have been Detroit or it might have been Erica, my boss–I felt misled at the end.
  The story was some kind of romantic thing, where the woman had to choose between two men.  No, as a matter of fact, I have not seen "Sophie’s Choice."  Anyway, I had identified with one of the male leads, but in the end, he was not the one chosen, the other was.  As I described it, I felt there was not enough difference between the two men.  One of them should have been good, and one of them should have been evil.  To make it like this, where was no real clear difference, just seemed to me to be cruel to them.
  "But it’s ‘literature,’" Erica told me.  Maybe so, but I don’t like it.  I prefer pulp, where men in black are bad, men in white are good, and women in tight bodices get ravaged.  Plus, what was going to come of the young Samuel L Jackson, who played one of the men in the movie?
  I was discussing it with him–or someone–as we drove through the woods down some gravel and dirt roads.  Trying to light a cigarette, I missed a turn.  Instead of backing up I just turned through the young growth trees and found my way back to the road.
  We made our way down the hill to the river, and then we were in a boat.  It was more like a creek than a river.  And the boat was narrow like a canoe, but not quite a canoe, because I’m no good in them.  We made excellent time rowing, and even though we were going upstream we were traveling fast as though we were going down stream.  We came to a fork in the river, and went to the left because it was the larger the two choices.  Immediately we came to an area of rapids and trees and crap in the river.  We kind of rowed right over that, and then I was alone and I was in the lake above that fed the river.
  In dreams, I’m an excellent, tireless swimmer.  The water was clear and clean and blue.  The sky was a wonderful sky blue, and the trees that surrounded the lake were a lush, cool green.  I tried to estimate the size of the lake.  It wasn’t large, but still I was surprised to see a lake of this size where I was.  I estimated it to be about 16 to 20 acres.
  And where was I?  Obviously not in a real place.  My dreamscape places this area between the small wooded area in Collinsville that I lived near briefly as a child, and the woods and coal mine that were near some property my parents owned near what I considered my real childhood home.  Near it was going to be the forested area near my cousin’s house that we used to play in.  But that comes later.
  I swam with ease across the lake, and in this corner I saw the lake was fed from another river that flowed into it.  There were rock formations here, like part of a quarry.  I swam over, and stood up when the water became shallow, and then walked on the beach to the rock formations.  I climbed up and around, and when I got to the top I was looking down into a natural type of ampitheater.  There were people in there, about a dozen.  I gathered, and then a few explained to me, that they were an amateur explorer’s club.  Great.  We climbed together through the rocks and so forth.
  At one point, a middle-aged fat guy who looked a lot like me was struggling as he climbed down the rocks.  But I–a younger, more fit me–climbed down past him with ease.  As we went through this odd break in the rocks, some of us were beseiged with lady bugs and tiny spiders that were biting.  It wasn’t dangerous, but the bites were hurting.  I was getting bitten on my hands and fingers.
  Those of us being attached tried to shake them off as we continued to climb through and then down.  We were on the other side now, at a new beach.  The river flowed away, towards a train bridge, and then beyond it it split into two rivers.
  All the water in the lake and in this river was calm and still, by the way.  I picked up my bag and planned to part ways with these people.  I couldn’t remember if I had a bag before, but now it makes sense that I did, I guess.  It was a black canvas duffle.  Of course, now I was wondering how I was going to swim and not get it wet, because I was sure–although I didn’t open it to look–that it was full of expensive camera equipment.
  I had walked along the sandy bottom area and was now in the shade of the train bridge.  Some of the people called to me to wait a second.  I stopped, and from the rear of the group a young woman came up.  As it turns out she was Christine, from my high school class, and she had been a no-show at all the reunions.
  She said, well give me you number, and I can call you and get on your mailing list.  I opened my bag and tried to find something to write on.  I had a pen.  For whatever reason all I had was a clear plastic container that a toy or device might be packaged in.  I wrote the number on it and handed it to her, but she couldn’t read it.  I took the plastic and turned it towards the sun, so that the sunlight gleamed upon it, and the number was then legible.  "Oh, great."
  We turned to part ways.

Freaky Goodness

December 24, 2009 at 6:16 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
  The Journey

I’ve been searching high and low for a new part time job.  And by “high and low,” I mean I’ve been checking Craigslist every day.
Not always the job section.  The barter section was interesting for a couple of days, but ultimately unfruitful.  So, to, was the “women seeking women” personals.  For some reason all of these dykes and lesbians are real man-haters.  Most of the ads were like “No men.”  “No chicks w/ boyfriends.”  “Absolutely no penises.”
How am I supposed to make Detroit’s fantasy of a threesome with me and her and a hot chick come true?  And I swear, it is her fantasy.  Just do me a favor and don’t tell her about it, okay?
Back to the job search.
I checked all the categories a few times, but daily I narrowed it down to just a few:  Food and bev and hosp, transportation, general labor, part-time, and writing and editing.
The writing and editing panned out a few things that I applied for, but I never did hear back from the jackoffs.  Of course, I did give them a link to this blog, so they could be reading this right now.  In that event, I say:  “Welcome!  I hope you enjoy the comedy, satire, and…stuff.”  Fuck.
I had applied at a couple of courier places–this seemed like deep fried gold for someone with my skills (the ability to sit in a car and drive somewhere, get out, give somebody something, then get back in the car and drive away) but although they seemed to be biting, I hadn’t reeled one in yet.
One that I called–what a joke.  The woman who ran the place answered the phone.  I didn’t know to whom I was speaking, and I still don’t.  She sounded vaguely interested and mildly retarded.  After hedging her disinterest, she told me to call back Tuesday.  I called back Tuesday, she said to call back Thursday.  This was a few weeks ago, and I never did call back. I showed her.
On one paw, the impression I got (and remember how good I am–or how much I brag about how good I am–at reading people, especially over the phone) is that she is a disorganized leader, and probably hands out rewards and punishment unevenly and passive-aggressively.  On another paw entirely, someone like that I could steer like a bicycle.  I could own the place.
However, I’m not looking for a(nother) dysfunctional relationship, I’m looking for a job.
Another courier that I had high hopes for never called.  They were one of the few that offered 24/7 service, whereas most of these did it only during the day, when I already work.  I waited and waited, and never heard back from them.
At least, I thought I never heard from them.
I had applied on-line and attached a carefully-crafted resume–meaning I took an old one and edited the crap out of it, and made sure I had current contact information on it, like my cell phone number.
On a completely unrelated note, recently we found out that we could cancel the home phone and keep the DSL, a savings of 35 bones per month.  That’s almost fifteen thousand per year, so we couldn’t pass that up.  And maybe my math skills have something to do with my poor budgeting ability.
The phone was going to be shut off soon, so before we unhooked it we decided to listen to the messages.  We had long ago stopped answering it because often it was someone trying to collect on my sister–whom even the IRS had deemed “uncollectible.”
In amongst the collection calls and the calls trying to sell us crap because we never put that line on a do-not-call list was a message from Fred at the courier in question.  Fuck.
I had given him a half a dozen ways to contact me, and a week ago he chose to use the one goddamn phone I never answer.  How did he even get that number?  Did he Google me and find it?  Maybe there was a blank for it in the on-line app–that’s the only thing I can think of, other than “son-of-a-bitch, there goes my chance!”
I called back a few times and left messages, but Fred never called me back, the fucker.  My tiny frosted bathroom window of opportunity had sealed shut from the moisture of my tears of desperation and my inability to form an adequate metaphor.
Well…here goes the ol’ Charlie Brown sigh…
I was disheartened, and it affected my search briefly, but I got back on it.  I talked to the ex about couriers she uses at her work, and I talked to Todd about ones he was familiar with as well.
All of these were under the “transport” category.  I also checked food and bev, and continued to quest for a category for “gigolo.”  A name kept coming to my notice–not for a gigolo, but a food service job–Jimmy John’s.
Todd had worked there and like it.  There was one near the bank here.  There was one closer to the house, by Earth City.  But then I saw the ad on Craigslist, hiring for several locations.  Alright.  Open interviews.  Alright.  Downtown.  Uhm…okay, I guess…
I’ve already worked in some of the most dangerous areas of the–well, let’s face it:  the entire country.  St Louis is always in the top five of most dangerous cities, with Detroit chomping at our heels.  Places I’ve worked (and lived) in the county border the city and mirror it.  Jennings, Kinloch, the infamous North Side–these names strike terror in the hearts of your average white person.  Normandy, Wellston, Pine Lawn, Northwoods–these places crime statistics are made of..
So do I want to work in the actual “City”?
Desperate financial times call for desperate measures.  Let’s go and talk to them.  The Destination

I Mapquest it because I’m too proud to ask for directions.  The place is actually near where the Habitat for Humanity ReStore is, because I drove right past it.  It was easier to get to now that 40 is finished.  (If you’re from out of town, you’ll call it 64.  If you live here, you call it 40.  If you live south of 40, you’ll call it “farty.”)
No place to park–
I went around the block and then parked at a meter.  Shit, I hope I don’t have to do that when I work there.  I put in a quarter, so I was good for twenty minutes.  I need to get in there and out of there before time runs out.  I don’t want to get a ticket, for one thing.  Also–I’m best in small doses, so it’s best to make a good impression and leave on a good line before they get the chance to get to know me too well.
This is called “strategy.”
The place is full of chicks, chumps, and assholes, sitting in seats and holding applications.  I was directed to fill one out.  Luckily I had printed out my resume and references, so I had coherent information to copy and didn’t have to think or anything.
I talked to the guy next to me, named Scott.  He gave me a quarter for the meter, but I gave it back to him because a spot opened up in the parking lot. In talking I learned he had applied for a management position.  Good for him.  He had worked in various restaurants, but never done delivery.  We were both grizzled vets, and exchanged some war stories.
I found out later that thee man running the interviews was the one who had emailed me.  He had a few helpers doing some pre-screening.  A few others were called, and I resigned myself to wait a bit because about two dozen were before me.
However, I did not sit down.  I stayed standing, not quite leaning against a counter attached to a wall.  I wanted to maintain a good image–upright, alert, not lazy.  First impressions are everything, and I wanted to lie to them.
Matt came to the center and asked if there were any applicants for management.  Scott stepped forward.  I said, “Good luck.”  They sent him off to another location for orientation.
A few other people are called by the screeners, but soon the force of my charm and personality caused one to call on me.  Excellent.  We take a seat.
He wants to ask me a few screening questions.
“What do you know about Jimmy Johns?”
Easy–“Freaky…fast…delivery…of sammiches.”  It’s good to know the job you applied for.
“Okay.  Have you ever been fired from a job?”
I scoffed.  “Yeah.”  That question was to test honesty.
“What are your best attributes?”
I tried to be concise.  I’m good with people, I have lots of experience, and my dick tastes like golden chocolate.
“What are your weaknesses?”
“One of my weaknesses is that I have management experience, enough to know that’s a trick question.”
He pushed, and I finally told him about my excessive masturbation, my habitual tardiness, and my complete lack of morals.  Also, I snore.
Actually, I told him that I’ve had a long time to work on my faults, so we may need to find some new ones.  One thing I didn’t want to say anything about was my night vision issues.  That’s my cross to bear, if I can find it.
“What are your goals for the next few years?”
Hmmm.  I told the truth on this one.  I want to be published, I want to get married, I want to get my other creative projects off the ground, I want to get out of debt.
He nodded, impressed that someone would have goals.  I came to this prepared, buddy.  I even got a haircut.
“What was a big hurdle that you faced, and how did you resolve it?
I slowly smiled, and it turned into a big grin as I decided to go with it.  “I was married for 19 years.  She was increasingly hard to live with.  I got a divorce.”
He seemed to accepted that.  He looked like he was in in mid-20s, so this was beyond his experience.
He checked off a few things to make sure they were covered, like schedule availability and so forth, and then we saw the other guy.  Matt, I think.
As it turns out, this is a mass hiring for a new store opening up in the Soulard area.  Look that up on Wikipedia, all of you out-of-towners.  “Soulard St Louis Neighborhood.”
I figure this was just to weed out the heroin addicts and homeless–you want to hire as many people as you can for a grand opening, and throw them up against the wall and see who sticks.  I just got caught up in the wave.  Yay for me, I guess.  We talked schedule and orientation and documents to bring.  Basically I’m hired, subject to showing up and not fucking it up.
The way they pay, BTW–I had enough sense to ask about that but fuck-all little else–they pay minimum wage, and we get to keep our tips.
The difference is Domino’s paid about 5.50 an hour, and driver’s had to declare the difference in tips to make up minimum.  But they also got 60 or 70 cents per run, depending on gas prices.
Imo’s doesn’t pay by the hour, but you get 2.50 per delivery plus tips if you get them.
So this was not a bad deal, I think.  The car gets decent gas mileage, otherwise I would want to reconsider.  But I still need the tips.  I have a nut I have to make.
During the course of talking with Matt, he interrupted me–“Hey, weren’t you the guy–?”
Yes, I was the guy.  In the email I sent with my resume and references, I explained briefly my experience and knowledge and so forth.  But the first line was:
“You’re going to want me to work for you.”
If I can’t play to my strengths, by God–

By the way, last night was my best night ever at Imo’s.  I walked away with cash and prizes worth 106 bucks in five and half hours.  That’s in the range of 19 bucks an hour for delivering pizza, y’all.  I’m going to keep both jobs as long as I can, work all three.  I need to get caught up, pay back some debt, and get some money put back.  That’s the plan.

A Personal Record Of Disappointment

December 19, 2009 at 10:29 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
  Monday is going to be the 22nd anniversary of when I got robbed.  To relive that special moment for yourself, go back and read “Twenty-two Bucks, Two Large Pizzas, and my Innocence.” April, 2006.  I just re-read it myself, it’s good stuff.  Funny and melancholy.  Full of foreshadowing and irony, too, when you consider that I am still doing this shit.
(The date is wrong, by the way.  In that I had December 18th.  It’s actually the 21st.  In another fit of irony, the calendar is the same this year as it was then.)
I worked last night.  I don’t want to talk about it.  It was a Friday night, and I was one of just three drivers.  And the light rain was turning into a light snow.  My first thought was *Oh, boy–I might make some money.*  Then, of course, I realized where I was.  It started off slow but steady.After I returned from my fourth run, however, I came into the store to find complete pandemonium.  Now this is more like it.
I end up taking the eight of the first ten or twelve deliveries on the screen.  That might be a personal record.  I checked to see how many were ready, first.  I was waiting on a couple.  Okay.  I check to see what drinks and other crap I need.  Okay.  I start getting that stuff together, and write down the addresses on a post it.  I grab a bag and start bagging, from the bottom up.
Heroin addict Brian comes in, and he is freaking out in a low key kind of way.  Not because he can’t handle it–he’s been doing this for about twelve or fifteen years.  He just knows that shit can happen, so this a preemptive freak out.  He starts looking at my stuff, checking what I’m taking, and trying to make sure I have everything.
“Okay.  Wow.  Man, this is bad.  Okay.  You need some drinks on this one–”
“Got it,” I say, pointing.
“And you need your salad here–”
“Dude,” I said, pointing.
“Uhm…It looks like you’re waiting on Oak Parkway, so we–”
“Brian.”  I’m trying to get his attention while he runs around behind me, checking everything I’ve done.
“I just want to–”
“Brian, I got it.”
He just looks at me.  “I know you think I’m new, but I’m not.  This is not my first rodeo.”
He still wants to help.  “Dude,” I ask him,” how long have you been doing this?”
He puffs up his tiny little body and says, “Fourteen years.”  Or something–I didn’t really pay attention.
“Terrific,” I say.  I finished bagging my pizzas in reverse order for delivery.  I had my sodas and salads in the car, and I had checked the row for credit card slips.  I had my route already.  The post-it was a reminder, but I didn’t expect to use it.
I pick up the shit and head for the door, and he holds it open for me.  As I walk out I say, “Come and talk to me when you’ve been doing it for 23 years.”

I knew where I was going, but that 8-stop was still a cluster fuck.  They didn’t know they were going to be that busy, so the customers were not told it was going to be an hour and a half.  Even though the street names won’t mean anything to you, bear with me.
1st run
I roll down Parker to Bellefontaine, trying see an address.  Bellefontaine is a main drag, so that one is going to be hard.  I finally see a twelve thousand block number.  Ugh.  I make a U-turn.  My Bellefontaine address is in lower eleven grand, so that is going to get pushed back to fourth or fifth.
2nd run
Up the other way, Columbus was an easy find.  The kid hands me three bucks.  I said, “The total is 32.41–” or in that range.  The mom comes to the door.  She had paid by credit card.  There was no slip.  I had checked.  And besides, the copy would have been stapled to the box.
I tried call the store.  Busy.  Busy again. “It was probably not printed up.  If there’s a problem someone may call you.”
3rd run
The next three are close to each other.  I get to Elenore, and she had called the store because it took so long, and now was going to call again that I was there.  *Good luck* I thought.  But she got through.
I talked to Brad, the boss.  He said, “Give it to them for 8 bucks.”  I told him about Columbus.  He said he’d look into it.  The chick gave me a ten.  Cool.
4th run
I get to Prigge, and no one answers the door.  I ring, knock, and wait.  Then I call them, leave a message.  No answer.  I leave.  My next one is two blocks away, so if they call, I can come back.   And this was the one actual one I had a credit card slip for.
5th run
At Walker, as I knock on the door, a guy comes from the house across the street.  He had actually ordered it, I guess using the lady’s address and phone number.  I didn’t give shit about why–he paid the full amount in cash.  He gave me a twenty for a 19.43 total.  The math is left as an exercise for the student.
6th run
I bolted back out to Bellefontaine and hit the apartment, Prima Vera.  They complained to me about how long it took, but they didn’t call the store, so they paid full price.  Sucks to be them.  I got about 17 cents from that, so it kind of sucked all around.
1st run again
I get to the address on Bellefontaine, and they said I needed to call the store.  Goody.  The total was about 22 bucks, Brad told me to tell them ten.  Then he said, “No, make it eight.”  I think that was code for me to tell them ten and he would write down eight.  I told them eight because I am more honest than I am smart.
The lady said, “Where’s the credit card slip?”  Shit, another one.  My theory is that they were so busy that all the lines were busy and the card machine couldn’t dial out.  Her husband said, “Okay, we need to call the store, because that’s twenty five bucks,” or something like that.  I was standing in their garage, and they turned away, ignoring me.  I stood there for about 15 seconds, then I just left.  By the time I backed out of the driveway, the garage door was closed.
7th run
These shitty apartments used to be called Sierra Vista and they used to be nice 20 years ago.  Now they are crap, and they are called Oak Parkway.  Marbella I found easily, but I had to call.  Their 37 dollar total became 18.  The dude was happy and handed me a twenty.  The girl there was the cutest I had seen in a while, by the way.
8th run
Marjorca, or some shit like that.  The map of the complex was hard to read, and I’m having trouble seeing in the dark, and most apartment complex streets don’t have signs.  I called her.  She gave me directions.  Hers was the last one I was waiting on back at the store, so it was the newest order, even after all of that.  Forty seven dollars she paid.
Of course, the total was 46 and some change.

All of that crap took almost an hour.  I get to the door and have to wait while we go through the “Whoizit” ritual, and wait while we call, and wait while they get money, and crap like that.  I get back to the store, and I get six more.
So at the end of the night, I had more deliveries than I had ever taken there, and less in tips.  By my math, about seventeen in tips.  And one of those had been a five dollar tip.  Seventeen bucks on eighteen runs.  The math is left as an exercise for the student.
But the disgust is mine, and mine alone.

King Me

December 19, 2009 at 10:22 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
  I was in "the pit."  In fact, I had been there for a very long time.  Everyone else has moved at one time or another–participating in a giant game of chess.  Over three years I’ve been in the same spot, and that’s a long time for a place with temporary walls.
  All good things must end.  So, too, the mediocre and the unimportant.  Bosses decided they were going to get another person in the group of shippers, and wanted to keep them all together.  While I am part of the shipping department, technically I have nothing to do with them.  I am…a department unto myself.
  I hope that is something that looks good on a resume some day, like having my own militia, or inventing knew and creative ways to meditate.
  Of course, the day I was supposed to move, I wasn’t at work.  So they moved my computer without me.  And I got busted for having a flash drive, because nothing can be installed or whatever without IT’s approval.  So now, I don’t trust the guy who busted me.  And I also wonder if they snooped around on it.  There are no company files or property like that on it–I’m not a spy.  But there is the slightest bit of porn.  Really not much.  Just a few…homemade…keepsakes–
  So I came in Tuesday and moved.  People come by and ask how I like it.  It’s akin to standing up at a concert, and I see a different place to stand, so I walk over there.  And stand.  Someone comes up to me and says, "Does this get your face a plant?"
  "What?"  Remember, we’re at a loud concert.  Probably the Jonas Brothers.  They rock.
  "Is this a better place to stand?"
  Oh.  There’s no difference, and it’s nothing special.  My grade overall, for the move, the old cube, the new cube, and everyone’s comments on it?  I give it all a solid meh.

The Tips That Bind

December 15, 2009 at 5:36 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
  It’s raining.  Not hard–not at the moment.  It was earlier, however, and it will again.  In between, it was a gentle but constant dripping on everything.
  The night seems darker when it’s raining.  There’s no moon out, and the sky is so dark you can’t see the clouds.  The streets look like a poor abstract attempt to paint the reflected streetlight in them.  Since it’s darker than usual, it also seems later than usual.  It’s a warm night late in December, and it should be snowing.
  Instead, it just rains.  It won’t let up.  The rain is like an annoying coworker that you can’t get away from.  They just keep talking and talking, and telling you inappropriately intimate details about their fetishes.  After so much time has passed, you are used to it.  You accept it.  But you don’t condone it, and you certainly don’t like it.
  "Let me tell you about this German scat fetish chick I knew–" 
  It’s hard to see at night when driving, even when it’s not raining.  The rain adds another layer of difficulty to it.  When it’s raining, the night actually is inky.  The darkness seems to just spill over onto everything  The wetness makes every surface shiny, but it just reflects the blackness.  Street signs are hard to read, and house numbers are impossible.  The scant light is reflected from other surfaces that can’t be read either.
  Just like over a dozen times before on this very night, again I am standing on a front porch in the rain.  I have knocked.  And waited.  And knocked again, and waited.  As a last resort, I ring the doorbell, and I wait on the porch.  Porch–
  It’s more of a stoop.  Or a concrete landing, but there is no roof.  The overhang from the roof of the house aims the runoff right at my head.  It’s too warm to wear a coat, but the rain is too cool.  I wear two shirts, and both are wet. The windows in the car are fogged up from the steam of the pizzas.  Too warm to run the heat, but I can’t see without it to clear the windows.  I have the heat on, the defroster, and the windows open a few inches, which lets in more rain.
  I’ve waited longer than I usually wait, cursing to myself in a cadence that lets me time how much of my life I have wasted at this door.  When I get to "Son of a mother fucking bitch damn-shit," I’m going to knock again.
  As always happens lately, I’m reaching for my cell phone to call them when they answer the door.
  Well, she didn’t exactly "answer" the door.  First, she called out.  "Who is it?"  Except it sounded like one word.  "Whoizit?"  I know where this is going.  It’s already happened a dozen times before.  I don’t answer.  Fuck it, I’m already wet.
  Maybe I’m just cynical, but I have to believe they know who it is.  They called and ordered a fucking pizza for delivery forty five minutes ago.  Who the hell do they think it is, knocking on their door?
  I’m mostly deaf anyway, so I can act the rest of it.  And maybe–just maybe–if they would turn the porch light on when they order a pizza, they could look out the window and see who it is.  I know who I am.  I know who they are.  They’re the ones with the unanswered questions.  And I was the one with their pizza.  I knock again.
  A pair of dull eyes glance out through the blinds.  Were it I, maybe I would have done that first.
  So, now they know who it is.  It took several knocks to get them to acknowledge there was someone at the door.  Several more minutes of ignoring them so they would look for themselves.  Now they knew.  But no, they don’t open the door yet.  Another minute or so passes, and random, inexplicable noises emanate from within.  Finally, someone comes to the door.  They open the door.
  They open the inside door.  However, the storm door, the one I am still at, remains closed.  The inside door opens, and whoever opened it wanders away.  No porch light on, and no light on in the house, either.  After hearing someone call loudly for someone else very loudly, another person finally finds their way to the door.  I can only imagine that the house is very big–or it seemed that way because it was dark–and they got lost.  They are standing now in the doorway, but still the door is not open.  Slowly, painstakingly, they count through a handful of wadded-up bills.  The door opens a crack. 
  "How much is it."  They didn’t even ask it like a question, they just made a statement.
  Like I said, I’m already wet.  "Do you have a light to turn on, so I can see the total?"  Of course I knew the total.  But I sense they are doing this on purpose, so I’m going to stretch it out for them as long as I can.  The porch light goes on, then off, then the inside light goes on. then off.  Then the porch light is back on.  Because they live there and don’t know what switch is to what light?
  "Ah, that’s better."  I have on my cheery innocent customer service face, where I seem oblivious to how ignorant people are.  "Your total is $27.76."  I hand the pizzas over, and this sullen and dull-faced person hands me a handful of wrinkled bills.  They start to close the door, so I know we are done.  I turn my back, but I don’t say "thank you" yet.
  Not until I count the money.  A twenty, a five, and three ones.  Three.  Twenty-eight bucks on a 27.76 total.  I shake my head and walk to the car.  This has already happened several times to night, with surprisingly little variation.  I’m already wet.

Down And Dirty

December 15, 2009 at 5:30 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I’ll go ahead and give the ending away–we survived the weekend without water.  But it wasn’t pretty, in more ways than one.
Detroit paid the Intarweb bill, so that’s back on.  The other bills loom large in the background.  I worked Friday night and Saturday night at Imo’s, which I will discuss later.  Friday wasn’t too bad, but Saturday, I really felt like I needed a shave.  And a haircut.  And a shower.  And a nap.
Detroit bought five gallons of water, and over the course of the weekend I filled the jugs up twice.  Once from the neighbor, and once from my sister’s house.  There was stuff I was supposed to do…but no water kept me from doing it because how could I get cleaned up afterward?
Just so you know–yeah, I’ve been peeing in the yard alot.
Plus, the stress and aggravation from having my water hose tied behind my back just put the brakes on any progress on anything I might have done.
Meanwhile, at my sister’s ranch, the high winds from a few nights ago broke window.  It was one that I had been meaning to fix…for about 15 years.  And you know, I had two replacement windows put in the other two bedrooms but not this one.  So, just how bad were the other two that this was the best one of them?  Cause this window has been shitty for a while.
She found a window on Craigslist and went and got it and paid for it herself.  In her mind, this was a triumph of high caliber.  Set the bar low, honey.  Her friend Lou has done windows before, and I haven’t.  So I figured we would do it together.  Actually, I figured I would do it and he would help.  As it turned out, he did it and I helped.  But I learned a new skill, so yay.
Actually, you could break it down into two new skills, because I also learned how to remove an old window.  We got it in, and it fit surprisingly well.  I’m impressed that my sister measured that accurately, and surprised that she was lucky enough to find one. 

It was dark, and we were done.  But I was supposed to do Detroit’s brakes today.  I had even bought the brake pads the day before.  I swore I would do them, even in the dark.  But when push came to darkness, I was ready to compromise.
I said to Detroit, “How about this:  Tomorrow, you take my car, and I’ll stay home in the morning and work on yours, and wait for the water to get turned back on.  Because at the very least, I need to shave before I go to work.  And after working on the car, I’m going to need to shower (more than I do now.)”
She agreed to this plan.  In the morning, she took my car to work.  With the brake pads in the back seat.
She called me later, and said hey, she found–
Yeah, yeah.  I know.  I just got back from buying new ones.
Monday morning was nice–and as I watched the weather–it was going to be the last nice day for a while.  I had to get this done.  But front brakes are not a big deal at all.
“How do you know it’s front brakes?  The noise seemed like it was coming from the back.”
“Because, 90% of the time, it’s the front brakes.”  In fact, even if your back brakes are bad, in most cases you don’t even need to change them.  Let it ride, let it ride.  However, I did check to make sure before I bought the second set of pads.
Jack up the car, take off the tire.  Yep.  Front brakes.
Go to store, get pads.  Actually, go to the second store, because the first store didn’t have them.
I opened the brake reservoir, and took off the caliper.  Uh…the caliper is a little stiff, like my dick.  You need to be able to compress the caliper to get the new pads in.  If you can’t, that means it’s locked up and that means you need to replace it.  I squeezed and squeezed with the big channel locks.  No go.  Let’s think outside the caliper…
I took the caliper completely off, and put it in a vise, and turned.  And kept turning.  Eventually, whatever was frozen broke open, and the caliper opened up.  Go me.  I finished that side, and moved on to the next.  Same problem with the caliper.  Fuck.  This time, it would not squeeze open in the vise.  I went back to Auto Zone, who again did not have it, and the guy was nice enough to call Advanced Auto.
You know, I had a whole story to tell about these two places, but I don’t really care.  The guy at Advanced must have been a manager.  He tried to sell me 31 dollar brake pads when I wanted the 14 dollar ones.  He said the cheaper ones squeak.  Well, asshole, that’s why Auto Zone sells the one dollar packet of grease for the back of the pads.  I said to him, “What, are you some kind of salesman?  I never pay more than 20 bucks for pads.  Never.”
I’m sure he feels that it’s his job to increase sales.  And to do that, he wants to squeeze every dime out of the customer that he can.  My philosophy is that I want to come back to a place that doesn’t try to squeeze me every time I walk through the door.  When I came back to them for the caliper, I picked up the brake lube as well.  “You should have just come here in the first place,” he said, trying to be charming.  That shit was not working on me.
I replaced the caliper, and had Brandon help me bleed the brakes.  Good to go.  I put it all back together, I put the tools away, and I pour out the little bowl I used to catch the brake fluid.  In the bottom was two little washers.  Fuck.  You’re not supposed to have parts left over.
Fuck, fuck.
It was noon, and still no water.  I don’t think I’m going to work today.  I called in and explained–but not about the parts left out, because I wanted to retain some dignity–and said I would work some longer days so I don’t have to take as much PTO.  They were cool.
Back to the van.  I figured out where the washers went–between the brake line and the caliper.  Off they came again.  The first one I took the tire off to get to, but when I put it back on, I thought, *Hey!  Maybe I can do this without taking the tire off!*  And I could.  And so I did.  I turned the wheel all the way to the left and got access.  Not a big deal.  I had to bleed the lines *again.*
And add fluid again.  Not a big deal, except the master cylinder was under the cowl and venting, instead of the hood area.  I could get to it, but there wasn’t enough room over it to tip back a cold one and pour it in.  I needed a funnel, a tube, and…a bungee cord.
I looked all over the garage.  I thought I had every freakin conceivable tool, but not a damn tube.  What I did find to use borders on genius.  A long, flat piece of sheet metal, bent to an angle, an “L” shape.  I had a trough.
I poured the brake fluid down the trough and into the reservoir.  Perfect.  Damn, I’m good.  When I remember all the pieces.

I took a break when I was done, and whilst I was chillin on the couch, the water man cometh.  It took him about three minutes, two and a half of which he spent in his van, filling out a form.  He got out, used a weird tool to open the thing by the street, then used this other long thing to reach into it and turn the water on.  He yelled up to me, “You should have water now.  Go check.”
I did.  We did.  I came back out.  “Thank you!”  He waved and left.  Three fucking minutes.  Three goddamn minutes.  They couldn’t have a guy come out Friday for three minutes?  I don’t give a shit what their fucking excuses are, it’s fucking bullshit.
I used the shower first.  Now, I feel pretty.  oh, so pretty.

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