Coffee And Doughnuts

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Cordelia’s Mom recently published a post about inadvertently getting pulled over on her way home from work, in the middle of a SWAT takedown.  She escaped with clean underwear and no bullet holes, and asked if anyone else had had something like this happen.  While not quite that exciting, I’ve had a couple of times that I’ve been pulled over when I was completely innocent.  🙄

For about 20 years, I rode a series of motorcycles 8-10 months a year, from when enough ice melted off Canadian roads to make it safe – to when they iced up again the next winter.  This all stopped when I fell off my bike and broke my wallet.  Being on medical leave for 8 months for reconstructive surgery and physiotherapy at 80% of average wages, followed by a 500% increase in the cost of insurance for a car that wasn’t even involved in the accident will do that to you.

I used to ride the bike to work.  Taking the same route a thousand times, I soon had the traffic lights timed.  A full stop at a red light in a car is irksome, but at least you’re comfortably seated.  A full stop on a bike means supporting the machine.  I learned where to speed up a bit, and where to go a bit slower, so that lights turned green just as I arrived.

One night I left the house at 10:20 PM, for the 5-mile, 10-minute cross-town ride.  Four blocks from the plant my road was crossed by another, hanging on the side of a small hill.  The pavement flattened out to cross, then dipped down the hill again.

As I approached, I could see the orange light on the cross-street, but no headlights from any vehicles enticed to run the orange/red.  As I reached the white stop line, the light went green, and I scooted across at 30 mph.  Just over the rise, coming out of the driveway from a doughnut shop, was – a police car.  How cliché.

I slowed slightly, in case he pulled out broadside, but he slammed his brakes on.  I swerved around his protruding nose and continued, keeping an eye on my mirrors – and he turned out.  Three blocks to the main street, and I made a careful, legal right turn – and he followed.  It’s the main drag, not to worry.  A block up the street to the road my plant was on, and another cautious right turn.

The company offered parking for motorcycles on a concrete pad over an underground tank, at the end of the parking lot.  It was under some trees, away from streetlights, and next to an abandoned house.  Most of the plant’s bikers elected to park on the cement apron beside the stairs to the front entrance, where constant traffic offered a little more security.

I eased across the sidewalk and stopped the bike.  Officer Officious was still following. As I rocked the bike up onto its center stand and started peeling off my riding gloves and leather jacket, he swung onto the other side of the road, pulled a U-turn, and stopped facing the wrong way again, beside me.  Do not try this at home kids.  Only legitimate police officers are authorized to violate traffic regulations that we must obey.

I pulled off my bug-stopping riding glasses and undid my helmet strap as he swaggered his way over.  It is entertaining to see the facial expressions when someone’s preconceptions are dashed.  Perhaps he expected some teen/20s rider that he could intimidate, and seemed confused to be confronted with a 50-year-old man, old enough to be his father – but he fired the first (verbal) shot.

“Are you late for work?”
“Yes!”
“I’ll need to see your driver’s licence, ownership, and proof of insurance.”

I pulled my licence from the wallet and passed it over.  Most bikes have a small, lockable plastic box beneath the seat with a toolkit.  That’s where many bikers carry their paperwork.  I unlocked mine, dug it out and handed it over.  He retired to sit in the cruiser while I leaned on the bike.

I’d had a minor highway speeding ticket about ten years before, but my record – driving and otherwise – is surprisingly clean.  After his computer forgave my few minor sins, he returned my documents.  I put everything back where it belonged and picked up all my junk and headed for the door.  As I passed him, he took one more swing.

“I guess you have to admit that you were going pretty fast over on the other street.”
“No!”

Canada doesn’t have the Fifth Amendment, but we do have laws which prevent self incrimination.  I wasn’t going ‘pretty fast’.  He was just inattentive, and embarrassed, and possibly pissed because he’d spilled his coffee; but even if I was speeding, I don’t have to admit it.

He’d eaten ten minutes of my time, and got two words from me for his trouble.  I walked into the plant, leaving him to clean up the soggy doughnuts, and wondering why I wasn’t awed by the force of his personality.

It’s Not My Problem

 

Normally, I’m Joe Niceguy, willing to go a little out of my way to help others.  Like Bart Simpson, I don’t give up till I’ve tried at least one easy thing.  I recently read an article by a female columnist about this.  I basically agreed with her – until she got to whining about motorists who won’t let other drivers in.  There’s definitely two sides to that story, but then, she’s the one who got all upset about people who claim that they are spiritual, and believe in God – but don’t go to church – as if one has anything to do with the other.

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She made me think of the times and places where you just can’t be nice.  You have to present folks with a problem to solve or they don’t learn nothin’.  Too many of them are too self-centered and/or dumb to learn, even when presented with a problem – but I keep tryin’.

When I first moved to this burg, you could hold street dances on the main road from my place out in the sticks, to downtown.  Nowadays, especially during that oxymoronic “rush hour,” bumper-to-bumper volume of traffic creeps along.

As I go down the hill from a set of traffic lights, towards the daughter’s place, there’s always a line at a stop sign at a side street, hoping to get out.  I occasionally let one, or two, into line, and then laugh at numbers three and four who think I’m going to sit there all afternoon.  If they went a block further, to the cross-street with the lights, they could get in.  Think ahead – without your ego and sense of entitlement.  It’s not my problem.

We left town the other day, and pulled onto the Superhighway.  A half-mile from the overpass bridge, there was a warning sign that it narrowed to one lane for road work.  A quarter-mile further, there was another warning sign, and yet, when we got to the spot where the right lane disappeared, drivers in the inner lane were cutting off drivers in the go-through lane.

I saw in my rear-view, a semi that couldn’t move over, since he couldn’t accelerate to match traffic speed, because yahoos were using the down-ramp, exit lane to the plaza, to rush ahead of him and cut back in, before cutting off more drivers up ahead.  I slowed my line almost to a stop and let him in, then snuggled up to his tail, and let the rest of the blind car drivers behind him figure it out for themselves. It’s not my problem. The fact that I didn’t get a wave, a flash of headlights, or a honk, soured it a bit for me, but I soon restocked my niceness.

A couple of blocks past the daughter’s place, the four-lane road narrows to two lanes.  Bumper-to-bumper, and at a complete standstill, I watched a driver come roaring up the inside, to the barricade.  Then, despite the fact that I couldn’t move, he bitched at me, because I wouldn’t let him in.  “My lane ends.  Where am I supposed to go?”  Exactly!!  Think it through!!  It’s not my problem.

At my Jeep-part line in the auto plant, there was a large chute next to my press where I dumped the cut-off edge trim and knockouts to feed into a grinder on the floor below, for recycling.  Because of increased production and normal deterioration, the grinder increasingly stopped working.

One day, the line’s material handler rolled over on his forklift and told me that the grinder had stopped working again, and not to feed the chute.  Then he disappeared.  I started throwing my stuff on the floor, quickly building up a huge pile.

My inspector/packer asked me why I didn’t just pull over a wire basket and put my scrap in it.  If I made it my problem, it would quickly become always my problem.  Worse, it would always be a problem.  If the fork-lift driver didn’t think to supply the basket, and objected to having to clean up the mess, he could complain to a supervisor.

Made aware of the mess, the supervisor could direct the maintenance department to get the grinder running. If maintenance couldn’t get the grinder running, they could pass the buck back to the supervisor.  If the grinder needed a capital budget for repair or replacement, the supervisor needed to chivvy management.

If I accepted responsibility, and performed the extra labor, none of that would happen.  It’s not my circus.  They’re not my monkeys.  My problem is that too many of these airheaded dipsticks don’t learn from experience.  Niceguys finish last.

Okay, now it’s your turn to bitch.  Come on, you know you want to.  Everybody works with or sees this shit.

True to form, I leave the old year with a rant, but I want to wish all of you the best in the coming New Year.   😀

Minutia II

I don’t know whether or not BrainRants wears his when he’s driving, but I saw a post the other day which said that the worst of the bad drivers out there, wear hats.  It could be Dapper Old Dude, with his outdated fedora.  It might be Society Doyenne, the Red Hat lady.  It could even be DUI Doublewide, the reckless redneck, with the bill of his Busch NASCAR cap down his neck.

If they’re going too fast, or too slow for driving conditions, if they’re blocking the passing lane or weaving in and out, cutting people off, there’s a good chance they’re wearing headgear of some type.  If you pull up behind one of them, you might have an urge to try another street or road, but it’s no use.  Their cap-wearing compadres are on that one too.

I saw Doublewide in a video the other day.  He was trying to watch a ball-game, with the extra-long visor of his ball-cap covering his red-neck, and holding his hand out from his forehead, to block the sun, so that he could see what was happening on the field.  Hey, Dummy, that’s what visors are for; you got your head on backwards!  Are you so dumb you can’t even drive a hat?

I recently posted about what Canada isn’t.  It’s interesting, and sometimes disappointing to see what grabs people’s attention.  When I checked, I found that the tag, “Igloos” had caught 27 views, but the “Patriotism” tag had yielded zero.

I’m not a fan of blind, Jingoistic Patriotism.  Like religion and politics, it often goes too far.  In 1775, Samuel Johnson said that, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”  But really??!  No views for Patriotism?  It’s why guys like BrainRants are necessary.  As long as the cell phones are charged, and the lattes are hot – let someone else worry about it.

Back when I first set my blogsite up, and before I knew about luring visitors with tags and categories, one of the labels I put on my posts was Printed S**t.  I used that to not look uncouth.  When I found out about search terms, I changed it to Printed Shit.  I might as well have just left it as it was.  Like Patriotism, I’ve never seen anyone else ever use it.  ….maybe if I changed it to Porn??

I recently watched a video of a wedding.  Instead of the instrumental Wedding Processional, the preacher sang them down the aisle – and did a great job of it too, sort of a Katholic Karaoke.  As the videographer panned from the minister to the bridal party, the shot took in the front of the lectern.  I don’t know what church it was, or where, but the name apparently had the initials S and H, superimposed.  It just looked like a giant dollar sign to me.   $

Dictionary.com, my electronic source of linguistic values, is beginning to seriously disappoint me.  Five times in the last month, it has shrugged its little shoulders and told me the word I was asking about didn’t exist.  I’m not talking about monster words like sesquipedalian.  The last one I tried to look up was cyser.  It’s a good thing that Google and Wiki know about them.  Cyser is merely an apple-flavored mead.

Speaking of shortbreads, (We weren’t??!) BrainRants recently emailed me for some assembly/cooking details of my mother’s/wife’s shortbreads.  Apparently Mama Rants is willing to have a try at making some.  So used to only making them at Christmas, it threw me for a bigger loop than I’m usually in.  I told him to contact us for any further help, and possibly make the bake the subject of a post.  I haven’t heard from him, or seen any results, but, if you smell something nice baking in eastern Kansas.  ….just sayin’.

Everything old is new again.  I made my grandson aware of Lonnie Donegan, a 1960s, British singer of nonsense songs, like the Americans, Ray Stevens or Jim Stafford.  Now he has chewing gum on his bedpost, and a passel of similar songs, in his computer’s music files.

His Mom mentioned the great British comic, Benny Hill, from twenty years before his birth.  Soon he was trolling YouTube and laughing his ass head off.  She has got us DVD sets of British programs like Lewis, and Poirot, and promised that she would get him a big Benny Hill collection for his birthday.  Oh wait, was that supposed to be a surprise??

Music lovers are going back to vinyl records, and more and more artists are releasing in that medium again.  The grandson picked up what, at first glance, seems to be a small, overnight suitcase but, when opened, is an amp/turntable combo which can play 45s and 33 RPM albums.  Of course, it can also burn a CD of the record being played.  I plan to offer him a good-quality pair of ear-muff type stereo headphones which we haven’t used for years.

 

I’ve Been Thinking – Again

If this keeps up, it may become a habit.  The first day of September was a Sunday, which made the 15th a very early “third Sunday”, which is the day for the monthly meeting of the Free Thinkers.  The first time we attended a meeting, our sister city was holding an Open Street fair, and the handicapped daughter and I had to hobble two blocks, to get in.

On this 15th, Open Street was on again, but opening was delayed till noon.  The daughter’s BarterWorks group had reserved some space.  She wanted to attend the Free Thinkers, and then have me deliver her down the street to set up.

As sometimes happens, the son’s weekend sleep schedule was destroyed.  So happy and wound-up that the work-week was over, he couldn’t go to sleep Saturday morning, and was still babbling till 3:00 PM.  We woke him again at eight, so that we could all eat supper between 9 and 10, but he was asleep again shortly after midnight.

Before he crashed, I offered him a chance to attend.  Sure enough, when I rose Sunday morning, he dressed, and came along with the daughter and her friend.  He and I sat on opposite sides of a long table.  He talked to the people to my right, and I talked to people to his right.

He might not have the highest IQ, or be the smartest person where he works, but he damns himself with faint praise by claiming he’s the best spoken.  That doesn’t take much.  He expounds clearly, concisely and knowledgably, on a variety of subjects, both trivial and serious – and gets nothing back.  He was thrilled to spend time in a roomful of people who, not only kept up, but caused him to stretch himself.  He wants to ride the ride again.

On our way to the downtown hotel, we came out of a side street behind a plaza, and turned down a four-lane, one-way street toward the main drag.  Three wide, we and two other cars, went up a rise and around a bend – to suddenly confront a car coming directly at us, going the wrong way.  He quickly pulled to the curb so I could go past.  I watched in my mirror.  As soon as the rest of traffic cleared, he pulled a U-turn.  Only 25 days till Oktoberfest, I think he was from out of town.

While many free thinkers tend to be individualists, there is still an urge for like to join with like.  We accepted a business card from a lady representing www.sacredsecularsanctuary.com which offers support and guidance to those leaving their religious safety nets.

The group president was on a business trip to Switzerland, so neither he nor the ex-Mennonite lady was there.  The oldest member, while in apparent good health, had suddenly died.  We offered no prayers.

Since the set-up for the street fair was to begin at noon, we left early – about 12:10, and not a moment too soon.  They had blocked off the street, and were just about to block off the hotel’s driveway when I backed onto the street.  I didn’t get downtown for this summer’s Cruise Night, but got to look at 50/60 examples of beautiful classic cars as I slowly threaded down to where the daughter needed to set up.

While the food is good, the prices reasonable, and the service crisp, efficient and friendly, the old hotel where they hold these luncheons is an old hotel.  The room we use is a half flight down from the already basement restaurant.  It was a malting room for the brewery, with the tanks removed.  The inscription on the doorway lintel stone reads 1856.

With no elevators, and lots of steps, it makes it difficult for folks like the daughter to reach.  We would normally skip next month, but they’re trying a newer hotel in downtown Kitchener.  It has elevators, lots of free parking, and is much closer to the daughter’s house.  We’ve decided to attend, try it out, and cast a vote.

While not a rousing commercial success, the daughter’s afternoon with BarterWorks was fun, and a chance for further social interaction, something that’s limited for the mobility-impaired.  She ran into an old friend she hadn’t seen in years, and gabbed and gushed and got caught up.

She took along the newest one (to her) of her spinning wheels, for demonstration, and entranced gobs of lookers.  It’s 40/50 years old, and worth about $500 new.  Somebody must have turned grandma’s stuff in to the Thrift Shoppe, where she found it, and picked it up for $25.  I came back to pick her and the wheel up just before it rained.

Native Canadian Indians have a strong presence at each of the universities up in Waterloo.  At U of W, the larger, each fall they hold a Pow-Wow, much like a smaller version of the Multi-Cultural Festival held in Kitchener’s Victoria Park.  It will be held on Saturday, Sept. 28.  This would be the normal day for the daughter’s BarterWorks display, but she applied early enough, and was granted space at the Pow-Wow.

A table at the University will give her much more exposure than at the little BarterWorks get-together, probably with more cash sales.  Also, it will be a 9 to 5 session, instead of only 11 till 3.  I will be up early to haul all of her stuff, including a wheel and the nylon gazebo for weather protection, along with her, her friend, and the grandson for support.

No drugs, no booze, no dancing, no all-night raves, no random, anonymous sex, (well, none I’m admitting to), doing things the old-fashioned way, this is the exciting way we spend a day or weekend.  Like Hercule Poirot, we stimulate “the little grey cells” to have fun.  I’ll report back, and tell you all about it.  You’ve been warned.

They Paved Paradise

So said Joni Mitchell, some years ago.  The same thought was echoed by Chrissie Hynde, when she wrote, My pretty countryside had been paved down the middle, by a government that had no pride.  The farms of Ohio had been replaced by shopping malls.

Travel/transportation is another technology which has advanced greatly over the last couple of centuries, and especially the last 50 or 60 years.  Some will say that’s a good thing.  Some will claim it’s necessary.  It has definitely opened up North America, and Americans’ social eyes, but old guys like me still miss the old days a bit, even if they weren’t “good.”

Travel used to be difficult and time-consuming.  BrainRants can rant about taking 36 hours to get from Afghanistan to Kansas, but it’s not too long ago that it would have taken 36 days, and before that, 36 weeks.  I’m reading a series of books about a Virginia town, transported back to 1632 Germany.  In those days not many people travelled more than 20 miles from where they were born.  The Americans found travel particularly difficult, because of what they had been used to.

Twenty miles was about as far as you could go in one day.  The word journey comes from the French word, journée, a day’s work or travel.  Most people had to walk.  A lucky few had riding horses, somewhat faster and less tiring, but not terribly comfortable.  Merchants and the like had wagons, but roads were rutted, pot-holed, and often muddy, and wagons had no shock absorbers.  It was rough on the butt and back.

The Romans built a bunch of good roads which lasted, but were still hard on the feet and spines of travellers.  It was not until the 1880s that the idea of mixing tar or asphalt with sand and small stones allowed the construction of “permanent”, smooth roads, and speeds and personal comfort to increase.

Even a hundred years ago, most freight and passengers moved around the country on trains.  The U.S. has maintained a lot of track, but sadly, much of Canada’s has been torn up.  Both countries now rely heavily on motorised vehicles.   To serve them, roads and parking areas have burgeoned.  The big, multi-lane highways are fenced off, preventing both humans and animals from crossing.  You can’t get on, and you can’t get off.  They’re finally getting smart, and building animal overpasses on the Trans-Canada Highway in a couple of the big National parks

In the areas of Michigan where I’ve driven, instead of blacktop, they’ve built their roads from poured concrete.  Concrete expands and contracts differently from asphalt.  It is laid down in 50-foot sections, with rubberized joints between them.  This creates a most annoying tick, tick, tick, as you drive over them, almost like the steel wheels of the old trains.  The concrete lasts longer than asphalt, but when it does need repair, pouring concrete into a pothole is more difficult, it takes longer to set, and the repair falls apart faster than blacktop.

The American Interstates, and Ontario’s 400-series highways didn’t come into existence until the mid-60s.  As a child, about 1950, I hadn’t even visited the little neighboring town, 5 miles away, and my Father took us to Niagara Falls on vacation.  Nowadays, it’s a four-hour, 200 mile trip.  Back then it took most of a day; even paved roads were only 2-lanes, they ran into and out of every little town, signage was poor, or non-existent.   I don’t know how Dad managed to find the place.

We rented a little cabin for an overnight stay.  Dad was paranoid enough, that he put his wallet under his pillow.  The next day we crossed the border to visit some relatives in upstate New York.  It wasn’t until Dad tried to buy some gas for the trip back, that he realized his wallet was missing.  Two adults, and two little kids got into the States without a shred of I.D., almost no money, and not a bit of fuss raised.  Imagine trying that at the border today.  The owner of the cabins was holding the wallet when we got back.  An honest cleaning lady had turned it in.

If only roads went only where very little grows.  Sadly, that is not the case.  Here in Southern Ontario, and many other places, 10 and 12 lane super-roads are eating up hundreds of square miles of the best farmland in the world.  Recharge areas for underground aquifers which supply drinking water to our cities are being paved over for roads and parking lots.  All that black paving sucks up the heat of the sun, making cities up to five degrees C. hotter than the surrounding countryside.

As a small-town boy, I appreciate the ability to get to interesting places quickly and easily.  I like having all the conveniences that a city can provide, but there are an increasing number of times I wish we could go back to a simpler, more pastoral time.  Do any of you feel the same way?  Residents of Newfoundland need not reply.  Void where society is already 50 years behind the times.

Hitchin’ A Ride

Ted, over at SightsN Bytes, had a recent story about not picking up a hitchhiker carrying an axe.  I was under the impression that hitchhiking had reduced significantly over the years.  It probably varies from area to area.  His story made me think back to my teen years, when hitchhiking was a way of life for me.  I have travelled a lot of miles in other peoples’ vehicles.  I met a lot of interesting folks and had a lot of interesting rides.

I was bused five miles to high school.  The bus home left the school 15 minutes after final bell.  If I wanted to do anything at school after normal hours, it was up to me to get myself home.  Hitchhiking was the usual solution.  Sometimes traffic between the two towns was light, or drivers simply didn’t want to be bothered with a schoolboy, and I would have to walk/trot home in time for supper.

When I first moved to this city, I didn’t have a car.  I lived in a boarding house with my brother, who did.  I attended my Adult Education school at night.  Friday nights I was off at 9 P.M.  If he worked till 11 P.M. we went home to visit our parents together, early Saturday morning.  If he was through at 3 P.M., I hitchhiked home alone.

I would walk out to the edge of town and hope for rides.  Directly from here to my hometown was a two-hour drive, but on county roads.  To have some greater assurance of available traffic, I hiked 15 miles east, then two hours north, then a half-hour west, to my home town.  A greater distance, which usually took over three hours, but all on Provincial highways.

I stepped out onto the highway one Saturday morning.  The clock in the bank on the corner said just 7 A.M.  I turned to face traffic and stuck my thumb out.  A car travelling at way over city speed limit screeched to a halt, and I jumped in.  The driver peeled away in a cloud of smoke.  We were soon just hitting the high points of the road at 85/90 MPH.  He would take me to the next city, where he was going to work.  I asked what time he started work.  At 7 A.M.!!  That’s why he was speeding.

He dumped me out at the city’s edge, and I walked across the intersection and turned to solicit rides, when three young men, not much older than me, stopped.  They were going to the beach for the weekend.  With one of them piloting a hopped-up muscle car, we were soon humming along at 85/90 MPH again.

As we approached the city of Owen Sound, the driver complained about having to go down over the 50 foot cliff, bumper-to-bumper, traffic light after traffic light through the town and back up the cliff on the other side.  I suggested taking an unmarked bypass, and saving half an hour.  It would bring them out at a point where they planned to turn further north, and I would continue west.  They were thrilled to have found a quicker, easier way past the city.

The little beach town where they were headed didn’t have a liquor store, and the beer store was small and always crowded.  Did my town have a liquor store?  Yes.  Did it have a beer store?  Yes.  If they drove to my town, it would only be a little extra distance, but I’d already saved them lots of time.  They drove me right into my parents’ driveway.  I climbed out and went inside, to see that the clock read just 9 A.M.  I travelled forty extra miles, and still got home in two hours.

I used to start hitching near a Weston’s bakery.  One Saturday morning I got a ride with a man driving one of the original Minis.  He pulled out and passed a Volkswagen Beetle, and I was looking up at the Bug’s door handle as we went by.  Those things weren’t cars; they were the first motorized skateboards.  I tried not to think of how close my ass was to the pavement.  If we’d run over a squirrel, I’d have sung soprano.

The next week I watched a Redpath Sugar truck pull out of the bakery, after making a delivery.  I could see the, “No Riders” sign on the windshield, so I didn’t even stick out my hand.  The driver stopped anyway.  It was a cab-over Peterbilt.  With my arm extended above my head, I could barely put my carry-bag on the floor, before I clambered up.   I traveled the same road as last week, but this time, I was looking down at roadside power poles.  What a visual difference.

One cool morning in early November, I caught my second ride, and was heading north.  The driver had no urgent destination, but was tightly wound.  We passed through a small town situated on a river.  It was still just getting light, but there was a heavy fog off the water.  We hit the outer edge of the town, just in time to get behind a fully loaded lumber transport.

The big-rig took some time to get wound up, especially considering visibility.  I thought steam was going to erupt from my driver’s ears.  He kept trying to pass, but couldn’t see far enough to make it.  Suddenly he wheeled over onto the gravel shoulder, and passed on the inside.  Just as we reached the front of the truck, out of the fog loomed a two-posted wooden sign giving mileages to the next few towns.  I thought I was riding in a toothpick maker, but he managed to crank the wheel and get in front of the truck.  He smiled angelically at me and said, “He’ll be thinking we’re crazy.”  Whatya mean we, white man?  After I could breathe again, I answered, “As long as he doesn’t think we’re dead.”

Riding with random unknown drivers was a social learning experience, but I’m glad I no longer have to do it.

Ice And Snow

I went to my daughter’s place today, and discovered another blog-theme.  It may be of interest to some of you.  Canada has ice and snow in the winter.  Despite what some folks think, only places wayyy up north have ice and snow year round.  I’m not as much of an expert about it as you might suspect.  I live almost as far south as Detroit.  Sparklebumps, in Minnesota, is north of me.  ByronicMan, on the Left Coast, is north of me, but all the lit doobies out there keep the temperature up.

My blog-friend, Nicole, in Phoenix, just went through a cold spell.  The thermometer dropped all the way from 75 F, to 65.  She has to go to the fridge to see what I’m talking about.  Meanwhile, I’ll get comments from SightsnBytes and Benzeknees, saying, “Wimp!”  TheHaremsMaster, whose back door opens on the North Pole, is too busy choking with ironic laughter, to take my rant seriously.

For you lucky people in warmer climes, I’d like to make you aware of things that we have, that you don’t.  Things that get us through the winter, both personally, and for our vehicles.  Snow falls on our cars and obscures the view.  Some of it will melt, and then, while we’re out of the car, it refreezes on the glass.  When we go to use the car, the first thing we have to do is remove that ice and snow.

We have windshield scrapers.  These are two-foot-long wooden or plastic handles, with a brush on one end, and a scraper on the other.  My “Don’t Yell” blog tells of using one in the summer, to convince a road-rager to stay away from my car.  You use the brush to clean the snow off the car, and then the scraper to get the ice off all the windows.  At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.  All too often I see idiots who have swiped a small patch off the driver’s side, but the rest of the glass is obscured.  It must be like trying to drive through a drinking straw.  If you don’t brush the snow off the hood and roof, the windstream just blows it back onto the front and rear glass.

Something else that most vehicles, sold in Canada, have, are block-heaters.  These are little electric heaters, which are installed in the bottom of engine blocks.  You plug them in when the car sits in the cold, so that the oil doesn’t congeal from the cold, and lack of lubrication causes engine damage.  In Sudbury, which is 500 miles north of here, but still not above the big 49th parallel border, many of the parking meters downtown have electrical plugs provided.

We have a TV show called Ice Road Truckers.  These are guys who deliver goods to the northernmost, often Indian and Eskimo villages, on or near the Arctic Ocean shore.  This stuff can’t move by truck when it’s warm, because there are no roads through the swamps and muskeg.  In the winter, they bulldoze up the snow and spray water on it to create a drivable surface, literally made from ice.

They bore holes in the ice of lakes that would be too thin to support these big rigs, and keep spraying it on the road path, till it’s feet thick.  There are several of these ice roads, some of them 1500 Kilometers long.  It’s so cold that often, the trucks are never shut down.  If they sit in the cold too long, they’re almost impossible to restart.  If they do have to sit for an extended period, just before they are needed, small fire pans are placed under the engines to warm them.  Some truckers have been known to pry off a hub-cap, and fill it with diesel fuel to burn.

Driving in the winter is very different from summer.  Plows remove most of the snow from the roads, and pile it on the edge, narrowing the available driving room and blocking vision.  Much salt, and a little sand is applied to the roads by works crews in spreader trucks.  This damages the road surface, nearby vegetation, and car bodies.  A new and better system has them spraying liquid brine, before a snow or ice storm is expected.  It uses less salt and causes less damage, and works better, because it melts the problem from the bottom.

Much attention must be paid when there is ice and snow on the streets.  Going up or down icy hills can be an adventure.  Sometimes you go down, even when you try to go up.  You can’t pull out into traffic as quickly.  You have to take turns more slowly.  You should think, and drive, ahead.  Will the road be slick at the stop light or sign?  Streets conditions can change so quickly.

I was driving the daughter and grandson to our house.  We were on a two lane street.  The outside temperature and the volume of traffic had the road surface bare and damp.  As we came around the inevitable bend in the road, for the last half-block before a T-intersection, the road widened to include a left-turn, and a right-turn lane.

Combined with a more open area, the entire street was a skating rink.  I made the anti-lock brakes do what they could, but still slid broad-side in front of a driver trying to get up a small hill.  One moment of inattention caused $3800 worth of damage, just to our car.

When we visited South Carolina, I noticed a sign on each bridge which said, “Bridge freezes first.”  I asked a native how often that occurred.  Only about every three years, but we have to keep reminding the fools, so they don’t fall off the road.  If you live where ice is in drinks with little umbrellas, and the only snow you see is on the TV when the cable connection comes loose, count yourself lucky.  I have to go take the snow-scoop and shovel, and clear my driveway.

Don’t Yell!

I got yelled at by three people I’m not related to by marriage or blood last week.  I must be doing something right.  Well, one was a honked horn, and one was a snide whisper, but still, a good week.

I started off the week at Eurofoods, my favorite little deli.  It must have been seniors’ day, at least six pairs of old folks wandering around.  I was the young kid in the room.  I walked down the counter to the number-spitter and got a ticket.  Then I tried to get down to the far end of the counter.  Just past the bingo machine, the counter dips in about eight feet.  This leaves space on the floor for a refrigerated bunk, but the room between them is restricted.

Ahead of me was some old lady bossing a clerk around.  As so often happens, her cart wasn’t ahead or behind her, adjacent to the counter, it was just south of her outstretched butt.  Halfway between the cart and the bunk drifted her husband.  I looked at the open spaces in front and behind him, and decided that I would pass his ass.  I headed for the bunk….and he backed up and leaned on it.  I pulled the cart back, aimed it between him and his wife….and she called him, and he stepped right back in front of me.  I turned the cart towards his butt again, and looked him in the eye.  He turned sideways, and took hold of her cart.  Finally, I pushed my cart past, and as I passed him, sotto voce, I got, “Some cart driver.”  Yeah well, if you got out of the way, and stayed there, you could see me really spin.

A day later, because of my destination, I went the long way around, and left the subdivision by the back street.  As I got to the intersection with the main road, there was a van, already pulled across the line, at a 45 degree angle.  I pulled up behind him and took a quick look up the street.  Nothing coming, so I pulled out and turned right, behind the van.  As I started my turn, I noticed a car on the far side of the intersection start to move forward also.  As he pulled in behind me, I got BEEEP!   Apparently I was supposed to treat the corner as a four-way stop, where alternate vehicles move in sequence.  Damn!  How dare I have the right of way?  I figure, if you have the time and the presence of mind to honk a horn, it wasn’t an emergency, just petulant bad manners.  Then we got to the lights, where he still had to wait for a green anyway.

Finally, on Thursday, I got the best of the bunch.  If this guy hadn’t been so irritatingly dumb, it might have been amusing.  I left the subdivision the short way, out onto the big road that runs behind my house.  When I got to the T-intersection, I had to wait for two cars coming down the hill, one in the curb lane and one out in the center.  After I pulled out, I pulled over behind the guy in the outer lane.  There were quite a number of cars in the curb lane.  Some of them will want to turn down the side-road to get in the side entrance to the plaza.  Others will want to go through the lights, but still slow down to go in the front entrance.

I want to go straight through, so I stayed in the go-through lane.  When we stopped behind the crowd at the light, he left a whole car length in front of him.  At this point I wasn’t even trying to be an asshole.  I left two feet between us; I’ve left a lot less.  He crept forward five feet.  I crept forward five feet, and stopped two feet from his bumper.  Suddenly he lurched forward.  I thought he might hit the guy in front, but after another five feet, he slammed the brakes on again.  I drifted forward five feet, and stopped two feet behind him.

Suddenly the driver’s door opened, and he climbed out.  Two things ran through my mind.  First, he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.  Second, where in Hell is the windshield scraper/brush?  I may need it to teach him to stay in his car.  He faced me and made shooing motions.  It’s unsafe and illegal to back up, so he must mean not to get so close.  I stuck my left arm out and shooed him back into his car, and through the soon-to-be-green light.

That did not sit well.  Now he’s coming back to my car, and I’m really looking for that nylon scraper-stick.  He stops a couple of feet from my window and starts bitching.  Leapers, creepers, I’m being yelled at by some oriental dude who can’t drive. (Is there any other kind?)  “Why you stop so close?  Why you stop so close??”  I picked the wrong side of the argument.  I asked, ”Why are you stopped back here?”  “The light is red.”  “I know, but why are you stopped back here?”  I actually thought I might get a long sought answer.

This is where I thought it really got silly.  He looked at me and said, “I’m your neighbor.  Why you do this to me?  I’m you neighbor.  Don’t you recognize me?”  Hmm, you came down the hill in front of me.  Did you go four blocks out of your way to get here?  Do I recognize you?  Let’s see.  Twenty-five feet in front of me, through my windshield, through your back window, with your back to me, and a car seat-back and headrest between us?!  Oh yeah, you’re the guy who has lived across the street from me for ten years, and has never smiled, never waved, never said hello, never came across the street to introduce yourself, the one who makes me look friendly and gregarious.  Yeah, sure, I recognize you now!  He finally got back in his car, drove through the now-green light, pulled over into the curb lane without signalling, cutting three drivers off, and went into the plaza.

He never did explain how far back he thought I should be.  As long as I don’t hit him, I can stop wherever I want.  The *neighbor* thing bewildered me also.  He was giving me shit for doing something he didn’t feel was acceptable; what does being a neighbor have to do with it??  Is it okay that I do the unforgivable to anybody else, just not to him?  Damn, now I’ve offended him.  He may not talk to me for another ten years.  I hope!

You Can’t Get There From Here

The small town I grew up in had streets that ran north/south, east and west, and were a block apart.  The small town I was bussed to, to attend high school, had streets that ran north/south, east and west.  The small city we drove to, to shop, had square-meeting, compass-point streets.  The city I moved to for my first job embraced a long narrow bay.  There were a few streets that had to make allowances for shoreline, but again, geographical neatness was the order of the day.  I almost thought that this was a fortuitous law of the universe.  Then I moved here, and found the chaos capital of Ontario.

Several hundred years ago, the King of Holland gave several thousand in excess population, to his cousin, the King of Germany, who marched them several hundred miles, to settle an area emptied by plague.  They and their descendants lived there for more than a hundred years.  They were Protestants, surrounded by Catholics who hated and abused them.  They spoke Dutch, though, over the years their local dialect absorbed German words and phrases.    As soon as they were allowed to, these religiously persecuted people moved to the new world, and settled in Pennsylvania.

They became the Amish, speaking Pennsylvania Dutch, their Dutch-laden and accented German dialect.  Soon, a young preacher named Menno had an ever-growing group convinced that the Amish ways were wrong, so the peace-loving Amish persecuted the splinter group, now called Mennonites.

The Mennonites heard that there was good farmland for sale in this area.  They purchased a tract and moved north in their Conestoga Wagons.  The British government eventually sent out surveyors who laid out neat roads, and village streets, everywhere but here.  The original name of our ancestor village was Sand Hills.  The hills were not as big as the mountains of Pennsylvania, but the newcomers did as they had down south. 

If Klaus wanted to go to Gunter’s house, he just took the quickest, easiest way, which might not be a straight line,  If Gunter wanted to go to Horst’s house, he did the same, and Horst’s path back to Klaus’, just formed a sloppy triangle.  As the city grew, these trails/cow paths became the streets.  Germans have a reputation for being neat and orderly, but visitors and newcomers are driven crazy by the lack of road logic.  I was going to use the word, “layout”, but that implies that somebody actually laid them out.  These streets are more like the character Topsy, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, they just growed.  No street in either of the Twin Cities runs more than a couple of blocks in any direction before it angles off, only to swoop back even farther a few blocks ahead.  The street map resembles a plate of spaghetti.

We have an impressive collection of three-point, and five-point intersections.  If streets cross at 90 degrees, it’s more by accident than planning.  The only street that runs due north and south, is a four block section of Lancaster Street, and it is labeled Lancaster West.  Our twin city to the north used to be five miles away, but over the years the two have grown, till now there is no separation.  This just makes matters worse, since streets in one city continue in the other. 

King St., the main street of our city runs south-east, to north-west.  Just as it enters our twin, it takes a 45 degree jag to the right.  After another three blocks in the new city, it jags 45 degrees right again, now running south-west to north-east.  Our portion is King St. East and West.  Theirs is King St. North and South.  Try explaining to someone why and how one street apparently runs in all four directions.  Its mate, Weber St. (pronounced wee-brrr), does exactly the opposite, producing a map that looks like a DNA molecule.  These two streets cross three times, once here, and twice to the north.  I once had a new salesman call me for directions to my plant.  When I asked him where he was, he told me, “King and Weber.”  I had to ask him to describe the nearby buildings, to know exactly where he was.

Streets in different areas grew to meet main roads at the same point.  Chopin Dr. goes through a traffic light and becomes Brybeck Crescent.  Strange St. runs past the daughter’s place and becomes West Ave.  Queen St. one-ways around the huge island a hospital sits on, and becomes Queens Blvd.  We must have a dozen examples like that.  Right downtown, Frederick St. and Benton St. didn’t meet King St. by a hundred feet.  Over the years, each has been widened toward the other, till now the intersection is perfect, just with different names on each side.

A block down the street, at the main intersection of King and Queen Streets, there is a twenty-foot difference on the two branches of Queen.  Two hundred years ago, there was an apple tree on a founding father’s farm.  The cows went around the tree on their way to the pasture.  The dog sent to fetch the cows, went around the tree.  The farm-boy who chased the dog, went around the tree.  The tree is long gone, but the S-bend in the road is still there.  Other towns have streets laid out by surveyors.  We got roads laid out by livestock.

The Region is the first and the fastest, in North America, to install roundabouts, as they have in Europe.  We now have dozens of the infernal things.  Drivers here have little enough ability to drive through normal intersections.  The learning curve is a lot slower than the ivory-tower traffic planners anticipated.  More accidents, just less property damage, although a female high-school student was seriously injured by a city bus, and is suing for $17 million.

Even in the new subdivisions, the city continues to cause Find-it problems.  Just west of me, they finished a street which forms a large 0, half a mile wide, and a mile and a half long.  Take more than a J, but less than a U from the ellipse, and it’s called East Forest Dr.  The remaining little J is called West Forest Trail.  This is another street that has two names, depending on which side of the main road you’re on.  And the chunk to the west, is the East Forest, while the piece to the east is named West Forest.

It’s no wonder you can’t get there from here.  You’d have to be a Zen driver, and most of the drivers in this town can’t even spell Zen.

Leapers, Creepers

A couple of months back I did a post about the timid and/or confused fools who can’t seem to manage to tidy up to the white line at an intersection, and the ones behind them who won’t close the gaps to the cars in front.  I thought it might be time to make fun of the doofuses who protrude into the crosswalks, or even into the cross traffic, how Freudianly phallic!

We seem to have a timid Timothy police officer who patrols this area.  I’ve seen him numerous times at three or four near-by intersections.  Pull up beside him at a red light, and realize he’s back there, a car length or more, in the other lane.  It’s so different from the usual Type-A Personality police driving style, I almost want to get out and ask for verifying ID to prove he’s really a cop.

There are about three types of asshats with their protuberant power-plants.  First there is the creeper.  This dip-stick might have actually stopped at the line at first, or (s)he might be one of the hang-backs from my first rant.  Wherever they originally stop, they then start inching forward, six inches, stop, another six inches, stop, etc., etc., etc!  It’s not as if the orange light for the cross traffic has come up.  They’ve still got a green, but, creep, creep, creep!  Out into the crosswalk, so the kid on the bike and the young mom with the stroller have to go out and around.  Pick a spot, even if it’s a wrong spot, and stick with it.  You can’t make the light change any sooner by your stupid creeping.

The second entry into the intersection brain trust is the leaper.  He’s similar to the creeper.  He may stop at the line, or a car-length back, but suddenly, it’s as if a drag-strip Christmas tree counted down in front of him.  VROOOM!, and forward he lunges….and slams on the brakes, scattering the two old ladies with their shopping bags.  I’ve almost been caught a couple of times.  Somebody movin’ out that quick must mean I’ve dozed off and the light’s green, so I go to drop the hammer, and realize the same as above.  The Don’t Walk lights on the cross street haven’t even begun to flash yet.  Why are you in such a Hell of a hurry to get nowhere?

The third winner of the used toilet-paper lookalike contest, is No-Brakes Norman, or is that No-Brains?  The Transportation Department paints those white lines on the road at specific places for a reason.  Especially where narrow side-streets meet larger thoroughfares, the lines are set back from the corner to facilitate turning traffic.  Whether from gross stupidity or egotistic entitlement, these geniuses just breeze past the line and stop as far forward as they want.  Every once in a while one of these thoughtless ego-trippers gets his comeuppance, and, if you’re there to see it, it feels so GOOD.

If I drive home by myself, I go up the hill to the lights, turn left, come halfway down the hill, and turn right, into the subdivision.  If I were to take the wife that way, the deceleration and twist to turn across the hill creates G-forces that cause her pain, so I go straight through.  It’s a bit longer, but it’s flatter and smoother, and pain-free.

One day I had her in the car, so I stayed in the go-through lane.  As we waited, I kept watching traffic around me, and spotted Harry Hotrodder come screaming up the hill, and into the left turn lane without signalling.  There’s no rush.  The pedestrian signal hadn’t started to flash.  This is one of those spots where there are magnetic strips to activate the signal, but he flashed past them, and finally came to a stop blocking the crosswalk.  The teenagers going home from school had to step out into traffic to get around him.  Finally the light went orange the other way, and he jumped forward yet another foot, ready to power into the turn, just in time to almost get hit by some fool running the red light.  Damn, I wanted to see an accident.  I’ve seen several immediate outcomes, but I’ve only eye-witnessed four accidents in my life, and that one would have been a good one.

Because he’s not on the mag-strip, he gets no advanced green.  He’s still edging out, but only the guys on the other side get to make the turn.  Finally all the lights go green, but now he’s got to wait for a block of oncoming traffic.  Did he learn anything from this?  Probably not!  Did I laugh my ass off as I drove by and waved at him?  OH yeah!

The son was riding the bus one day.  It went down a big street, and then had to turn off, onto one of those smaller cross-streets.  The Stop-Here-Fool line is painted a car length back, to facilitate busses turning, but there’s Joe Jerkoff, right up at the front.  The driver swung the bus left, aimed for his lane and came to a stop just a foot off the nitwit’s grill.  Then he leaned forward and put his forearm on the horn.

Then the arm waving began.  First it was Oh, Am I in your way?  Then it was backwards, to show there were several other cars, tidied up behind him and he couldn’t do anything to fix the situation.  Finally it was desperately out the driver’s window to tell his followers to wake up and back up.  It took three traffic light cycles to allow the bus to make its legal turn, and the driver never lifted off the horn.

The son said that he hoped the bus driver would get out with the fire-axe and tell the idjit if he didn’t move his car, the driver would, piece by piece.  Why is stupidity so often married to arrogance?  Oh dear, now the Catholic Church will be angry at me.  They insist marriage can only be between one man and one woman.