Tuesday, August 28, 2007

As September 11th Approaches . . .

I learned something important about myself the other day. The events of 9/11/01 still have a very dramatic effect on me.

We happened to turn to a National Geographic Channel program about the events of that fateful day and over the course of the show I found myself growing very Angry.

Anger they say is just other emotions expressed in a way that feels less vulnerable to us - even though it's really when we are most vulnerable because we are not in control or being honest with ourselves about the true emotions we are experiencing.

Well my frustration, horror, pride, empathy, and sadness over the events of that day (emotions I recognize now) combined into a rumbling mass that roared out of me as anger - Right at my poor wife.

I guess I'm not over 9/11 - but watching shows about it is for me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another Facet of Fatherhood

Yesterday I found myself first in line in a left turn lane from a residential street onto a very busy main thoroughfare. Despite the busy cross street, there is no left turn light so one must await oncoming traffic when the light turns green.

Fortunately there are crosswalks and functioning walk lights at this particular intersection, for on the corner was a preteen girl very impatiently waiting to cross that very busy street. (She repeatedly leaned hard on the button making it obvious she was not wanting to wait.)

She would be crossing in the same direction I was facing, and so I would cross her path as I turned left. I found myself worrying for this child's safety. Would any traffic coming at me from the opposite side and turning right see her? I was happy when, probably for the first time that I've observed, no cars came up on the straight/right lane towards us. When the light changed, I pulled out into the intersection and turned ever so slightly left so as to see around the opposite left turning traffic. And as I expected, the child hesitated, started across the street, hesitated again, then broke out in a dead run for the far side.

I knew that It was a good thing I was there, for I was sure that the dude in the BMW behind me yapping on the phone probably would have zipped on around the corner - he very nearly ran me over when I stopped - and could have run the girl over. At the very least scared her as he crossed right in front of her. . .

Thing is, before I had my own kids, I probably would have zipped around the corner myself. Being a father has really opened my eyes to the phrase "It takes a village. . ."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bathroom humor of a different kind.

- OK, if you don't like to read about gross bathroom stuff, you may not want to continue reading this post. -

The office building where I work is relatively new, maybe not even 10 years old. I've been working in it for just over two years and have hated the men's rest-rooms since day one.

It's not because they are too small, or too busy or too far away. They're not even all that dirty usually. It's because of something that was decided long before the building first became occupied. Something that no one who works there is responsible for, nothing that the architect or plumbers who worked on the building can be blamed for, Heck, even the person who chose the fixtures can not be blamed fully for this abomination. The fault lies wholly on whatever idiot it was at @meric@n St@nd@rd who designed the urinals we're now stuck with!. These urinals suck!

There is one simple reason for my intense dislike: Flat Surfaces. That's it. Be they horizontal or vertical, flat surfaces in a urinal are splash inducing, embarrassing trouser spot creating, puddle on the floor causing, shoe dampening. neatness preventing crimes against male peers everywhere!

OK, you ladies who might be reading this may not get the full understanding of why flat surfaces are such a problem - You see, Instead of wide, flat horizontal and vertical pieces joined by too small curves, there needs to be a nice big, gentle curve to aim at, and a nicely angled-in edge around the front of the bowl to properly deflect drips. Even flat walls in the back that are angled toward the center are better than a flat back wall. All of the curves and appropriate angles allow for splash free peeing, and helps those stray drips find their way into the bowl rather than all over your pants leg or on the floor. The results of flat surfaces on a urinal lead to a situation kinda like this: Imagine walking into your bathroom at home and finding that one of the males in the household didn't put the seat up when they peed and left you a wet seat. You're faced with grossness you have to clean up before you can go. Well, guys get grossed out at the pee all over the flat surfaces of the urinals and on the floor too. But we don't really have a way to clean up first: There's no such thing as a toilet paper holder for the urinals - heck, I doubt you could flush any paper down a urinal to start with - Anyway, we just stand back a little farther then we should, and end up contributing to the mess.

I wonder if that idiot at @meric@n St@nd@rd was a practical joker - Or just clueless?

Sometimes You Can Call 'em . . .But Often You're Way Off Base

Our son finally received his first paycheck yesterday! You may recall that it was a month ago when I first reported the momentous occasion when he got the job.

There evidentially was some kind of SNAFU at the main office. The trouble his supervisor had to go through was extensive - I'm really glad for our son's sake that she's someone that will go to bat for her employees - she even "threatened" to go downtown to the home office to try and pry the check from the bureaucracy herself! All I can say is it's a good thing he wasn't depending on that check to pay bills last month!

Anyway, when he opened the check it was not at all like what I had imagined. It went something like this:

D1: Walks in the door - "Hi dad!"
Me: "Hey!" "You got some mail today." Thinking he would immediately know what I meant.
D1: "More college stuff?"
Me: (A tad surprised he didn't get the hint) "Yeah, there's some of that"
D1 "Oh! Did I get my paycheck?" Finds the envelope and opens it. "Wow!"
Me: "Heh heh!"
D1: "The Government didn't get all that much!"
Me: (Incredulous) "Huh?" "What?"

That's not at all what I expected him to say. Maybe we had over prepared him for the effect taxes would have on his pay. . . Oh well. I guess he's happier this way.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Our Tax Dollars at Work

We recently became aware, quite by accident, that our local school district has radically changed their bus routes on us. With frustration and dismay we learned that D1 will no longer be picked up in front of our house - his bus will make a stop instead at the middle school over 8 blocks away - and D3 now has no bus to ride at all!

OK, so our kids do attend private schools some distance out of our local school district, and we were fortunate that they ever had bus rides at all. But the manner in which these changes were communicated leaves much to be desired. Well, actually everything to be desired - they never told us!

It was my wife who discovered the mess. Because she is such the consummate scheduler, she contacted our school district's transportation office more than a month ago to ask how soon we could hope to learn what the bus schedule might be for the upcoming school year. The courteous yet unhelpful government employee at the other end of the phone seemed to think that there were no buses for us this year, and if so we should have received a communication stating as such by now. A transferred phone call later, and the news was mostly confirmed: No bus for D3, and a really ugly schedule for D1. Also, we were promised a copy of the communication as we apparently had somehow not receive it as we should have.

This really got my wife in a lather - and boy did I hear about it! Now, I can be just as hot headed as she, but most of the time I jump into problem solving mode and effectively bypass the emotional responses she so often has. This was the case here - and as usual, that was also the wrong response on my part, for she just thought I was being insensitive.. . . Anyway, that's another story.

So I decided I would relieve her of the frustration and run the gauntlet myself to find out what I could do to get to the bottom of this fiasco, and to make the situation as workable as possible. I'll spare you the ugly details, but suffice it to say it took several phone calls to learn the following:

  • Communications about the bus changes were e-mailed to the Schools affected, not the families affected.
  • The principal at D1s school (who answered her own phone when I called - I like that!) said she remembered forwarding the mail to one of her secretaries - who never contacted us, as the assumption was that they were only being copied as a curtesey. They believed we would have been contacted directly. (As we should have!)
  • There were not enough kids on the route to D3s school and so it was cut to save money. This despite the fact that we just voted in a tax increase for the school district.
  • Because there is no school bus alternitive, we can apply for a credit from the state to offset our additional expenses due to having to drive our daughter to school.
  • Before school care for D3 is 20 dollars a week. This is at her school - and there was an opening - thank goodness.
  • D1s bus route has been combined with another route to his school. Due to state laws limiting the amount of time children may be on a bus, there would be centralized pickup locations so the route would be quick enough to conform to the law. D1 would have to be at the centralized location - 8 blocks away- at 6:50 AM
  • It's too late for D1 to apply for an assigned parking spot at school. As a Junior he probably would not have received one anyway without a carpool arrangement. I called the teacher in charge of the parking spot assignments to see what could be done - my message has yet to be returned.
Such a shining example of our local school district's bureaucracy.

We have yet to iron out a final transportation schedule but it looks like we are back in the school transportation business for a while. . .

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Middle Diamond

Well, I was thinking about the family I knew as a teenager the other day. You know what I mean - folks your parents helped you keep in touch with - and unless you are very fortunate, you no longer keep in touch with as much.

Anyway, I remembered a story that made such an indelible impression on my young self that I still get goosebumps when I tell it.

So get ready . . .

One of my favorite cousins worked for the Army for years. Part of that time she was assigned to a job at the Pentagon (well before 9/11, so that's not where this is going). Unlike when she was stationed overseas, she would sometimes travel home for holidays and such.

This one particular time she was coming home for the Christmas holidays. As was her custom, before she set out, she prayed for angels to guard each wheel of her car to help her safely reach home. This trip was during a particularly cold Christmas and as such the highways had taken a beating, with potholes dotting the roads and bridges. It was very late at night and she was growing sleepy. As she approached a bridge up ahead she noticed an unusually large number of cars and trucks pulled off to the side of the road. She realized too late that all the sidelined cars were inflicted with multiple flat tires. Too late I say, because before her sleepy mind could react, her car slammed into a series of very large and deep potholes on the bridge. (Large enough that she reported that she could see through to the ground below.)

Jolted fully awake she strained to listen for the telltale sounds of a flattening tire. But no such sounds came. Also absent were any vibrations or other telltale signs . . . so she continued on home.

The next day my mother took my brother and I to my aunt's to visit my cousin from the east cost. As we parked and walked up the driveway, It was obvious that my cousin's car had experienced some seriously large potholes. Both tires on the driver's side were flat, both wheels dented so heavily that they could no longer maintain a seal around the tire bead.

Yet she had driven almost two hours after the holey bridge had done it's damage.

I believe in angels. . . .