Memorably Invisible

Ghost

My belief, which I have occasionally stated, is that I am a loner with few friends, because I don’t reach out to make them. My view of the arc of my working life, especially the final 20 years, spent at the auto-parts plant, is a tapestry of – keep my head down, my mouth shut, do the job, don’t make waves, be quiet, small, and unnoticed.  I may have to revisit and re-evaluate that.

Three times, in as many months, I’ve been with the wife in a store, and someone with less seniority, who got laid off before me, someone who hasn’t seen me in over ten years, has recognized and remembered me, and approached, just to pass the time. The last time, a man saw me, and not-quite-jogged across half a Wal-Mart to engage in small talk – no “Remember when you taught me the easy way to do that hard job?” or, “Remember that asshole supervisor?” just….conversation.  I had to insist on continuing our errands after 10 minutes.

When we got home, the wife said, “You know, those people really like and respect you. They’re happy to be in your presence, and proud that you take the time just to talk to them.  It’s as if you emit a soft, warm glow of benediction.”  Who knew you could get friends just by not being an asshole??  Apparently I had ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ even before I had a blog.

Neither she nor I is a Trump, or a Kardashian, but I guess we’re not timid wallflowers either. Our new Osteopath is forever shaking his head and chuckling at our strange humor, our oblique viewpoints, and our widely based social and political opinions.  Plus, I take him strange shit to look at – a sword, a legal two-headed coin, an American 2-dollar bill.  He says he has no other couple anything like us, especially at our age.

The staff at the nearby Staples store is happy, friendly and helpful to us, willing to kid around, as they professionally solve our problems. Of course, as a service industry, they have to be like that with everyone, but with a PC, a laptop, a 7 in. tablet, a 5 in. tablet, two Kobos, a Kindle and a cell phone, they are exposed to us more than I really want.  (As I typed this, the wife’s cordless mouse died.)

We have joked with the female assistant manager for more than ten years. As a good retailer, she knows her customers.  The wife’s last laptop fried its graphics card.  We had to go in and choose another laptop.  We left it with them for formatting and setup – Windows 10 was released that day – and came back later to pick it up.

The wait, both times, at the Electronics Desk, was 10 to 15 minutes. The wife’s arthritis makes just standing quite painful.  Our gal quickly slipped back to the office chairs section, grabbed the expensive new OBUSFORME support model, wheeled it up and slid it under the wife.  Then she realized that the wife wasn’t using the ironwood cane she normally has, and wanted to know why it had been replaced by a forearm crutch.

The wife told her that it takes more weight off her feet; it reminds her not to overextend her right knee, and permits less stumbling. The manageress swooped her arm up, and said, “At the end of the year, can you throw it in the air, and shout ‘Happy Christmas, and God bless us every one’!”?  If the wife hadn’t been sitting down, she’d have been on the floor with me.  The gal says, we’re the only couple she knows who would get that joke – in July – think it was funny, and not be offended by it.

The day we went back, she was on break, so I got the good chair for the wife. When she came out, the wife yelled, “Hey, Sandy!” and pretended to throw the crutch.  We all howled, except the young tech, who didn’t get the joke.  Suddenly she rushed over, solicitously.  Since she hadn’t got the office chair, she was afraid the wife was in a wheelchair.  “Are you all right?  Did you fall?”

I guess, unlike many people, we don’t have flocks of folks we just have to be connected to.  We don’t have BFFs.  They say a friend will help you move.  A good friend will help you move – a body.  I should keep that in mind.   It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  Mister Rogers won’t be in the neighborhood for five to ten years.  Would you be my friend?  😉

Gremlins – The Aftermath

Gremlin

A recent post on BrainRants’ site regarding him preferring old Mustangs to the new ones, brought a comment about missing Commenter-Supreme, John Erickson.  Rants’ all-too-true reply was that our lost Illinois-boy would probably expound on the relative merits of AMC Gremlins.  For those who don’t remember, Gremlins were the car that didn’t have quite the sleek styling and performance capabilities of the Ford Pinto.

All of this takes us to Bob, another of my auto plant co-workers.  Bob was a nice young man, but a bit of an odd duck.  (Who am I to point a finger?)  Handsome, mid-20s, single, earning a good wage – and living at home with a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses parents.

Once asked what he was doing/getting for his Mother for Mothers’ Day, he replied, “We honor the Bible, not our Mothers.”  And yet, doesn’t the Bible insist that we all, “Honor thy Father and Mother?”

Not content with the workout he got at work, Bob often frequented a gym.  He had six-pack abs, instead of the keg I lug around.  He met a well-toned female, who he eventually married – a total surprise, because she wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness, and his parents did not approve.

Long before that happened though, Bob bought a Gremlin.  In 1985, he bought a 1979 model, the last year they were produced – from a little old lady – yeah, right??!  He purchased a car that someone else was anxious to get rid of, and paid $2000 for something that should have sold for half that – because he wanted that Gremlin.  That was significant money in 1985.

He told several of us that he was “going to soup it up”??  It’s a Gremlin!  That’s like putting soup in a sieve.  Actually, what he did was ‘doll it up.’  He put a bigger, better carburetor on the anemic little sewing-machine, six-cylinder motor, all the rest was cosmetic.

Gremlin, hot

Always a good idea, he had it repainted – in Electric Blue, and then had it pin-striped.  He put on wide rear rims and tires, and fancy wheel discs.  It didn’t need it but, before he painted it, he traded in a hood with an air scoop.  He added a burst-eardrum kick-ass stereo system, and, long before they were common, a decent security system.  All in all, he added another $5000 ($40,000 in today’s dollars) to one of the most sissy cars ever built.

His girlfriend became a fiancé, and finally a wife.  Fun was fun, but she finally told him he’s have to get rid of his boy’s-toy, and get a married car, probably soon a family car, how about one of those new mini-vans that were becoming popular?

Sadly, he listed it for sale – and was outraged that the best of a few offers was only $1500.  “Don’t they see all the improvements I’ve made to it?”  They’re not improvements!  They’re just highly personal customizations to a lunch-box on wheels that was a piece of crap the day it came from the factory.  Take the money and run.  I don’t know if owning a Gremlin made you stupid, or if only stupid people bought Gremlins.

Every car maker has had a cosmic failure or two.  Ford survived the Edsel, and later the fire-bomb-on-wheels, the Pinto.  GM had the Chevy Nova, which they couldn’t sell to Chicanos, because the name Nova, in Spanish, means, ‘It won’t go’.

Poor little AMC already had one foot in the grave, and the other on a banana peel.  It wasn’t long after they stopped making this Cracker Jack toy, that they were gobbled up by a bigger fish.

#453

Plastic Surgery

#446

Just over two years ago, I wrote a Coming Home piece about how my old auto-parts plant was being given a cosmetic makeover.  An engineering firm was ready to move in, and an electronics firm was considering renting space.

Google had set up in a nearby, refurbished, gentrified tannery building, steadily increasing their local presence till they occupied the entire top floor, but was looking for still more room, and was considering a move to my old plant.

Google Building  Google’s ultimate dream

‘Considering’ is over, and money is being spent.  Not satisfied with mere lipstick and eye shadow, they are paying for a pair of implants.  On top of the three-storey section where I used to make Jeep parts, they are installing a partial two storey addition, set at a rakish, artistic angle.  They plan to occupy this entire ‘new’ (1956) end, as well as the complete top floor of the older 1906 brick section.

Prehistoric section  front

Indoors  rebuilt inside

SDC10700rear

It fronts on a street named for a German pioneer, Henry Breithaupt (brite-up), so it’s now called the Breithaupt Block, 200 feet wide and a block long.  The tank which was white, and held vinyl chips when I worked there, has been painted Gawdawful Orange, and now probably holds enough Starbucks coffee to fuel all the offices.  Note the gorgeous new (expensive) Thermo-pane windows.

Nothing is too good for Google employees.  They will have a spa, a gym, a nap/rest/reading room, several lunch rooms, c/w microwaves, stoves and refrigerators, and a staff of fulltime cooks in a cafeteria.

I have taken, and lifted, several pictures for those few who are interested, showing then, now, and near future, above.  The second photo below, shows the deteriorating brick facing and cracked windows.  During several really cold spells over the years, we would come in, to a couple of rented, jet-engine-type propane heaters on each floor.  Other photos show the facings stripped off, and the new upper floors, getting ready for a new look, taken from several angles.

SDC10701  New joining old.

Jeep building  Old Girl with her clothes on.

Jeep stripped  Stripping down to essentials.

SDC10698Standing on the shoulders of giants.

Jeep goiing upEnd-on from the main drag.

The strange angle is because the side street doesn’t meet the main one at 90 degrees.  The bus is crossing railroad tracks, and the road is currently being dug up to lay tracks for the new LRT.

This is all located right beside the upcoming bus/train/LRT transit hub, and just at the edge of the Technology Circle, envisioned, promoted and coming to fruition in the core of Kitchener, Ontario.

The old girl looked pretty good when I visited her a couple of years ago.  These new additions and improvements proceed apace.  She’s looking so much better and more functional now, and may be open for Google business by the time I publish this post.

Storm-Stayed

airport blower

 

 

 

 

 

On my Digging In – Digging Out post about heavy snowfalls, I got a comment from a fellow writer who used to truck produce from the ferry dock, to the other side of Newfoundland, a large island-province off Canada’s east coast.  It is affectionately known to its residents as ‘The Rock.’

He told of a time when he and several other truckers were stranded for three days at a truck stop, when 125 inches (That’s 10+ feet!) of snow fell, accompanied by high winds.  I admitted that Ontario’s weather problems were often puny, compared to Newfoundland’s.

My familiarity with all things “Newfie” has been gained both online, and by association with many ex-pats, now working up here, but he apparently felt it was from personal experience.  The following is an explanatory email.

If, by your comment, “Ha, you’ve been, I see.” you mean to The Rock, the answer is no.  My financial, and the wife’s medical, restrictions make that nearly impossible.  However, there are almost as many Newfies up here, as there are left down there.  I worked for four years in the Hespeler section of Cambridge, ON, where the population is about half Portuguese, and half Newfie.  Drive down the street and yell, “Hey Joe (Joao), and all construction stops. Every second Newfie is named Sean or Shawn, and that includes the women.

At my auto-parts plant, there were 2 dozen Newfies for 200 employees, including four from Bell Island.  Add my online friends…. and I’d like to add you as one.  Would you wish to admit where you’re currently parked, so that I can overwork my map program?

At the risk of clogging your email, I have a snowing/driving story I wish to share.  In my Location, Location, Location post, I wrote of Kitchener being just far enough from three Great Lakes to miss ‘a lot’ of snow.  Also, it’s mildly hilly, cutting the wind and preventing a lot of drifting.  Just to our west, it soon becomes flatter, and drifting can be serious.  If the Ontario Provincial Police shut down Southern Ontario’s main artery, Highway 401, it’s almost always just past Kitchener.

A brother-in-law drove for years for Koch Transport.  His run was from Kitchener, 70 Km to St Mary’s, and back each day.  He (and wife) were taking two weeks holidays, and going to Hawaii, flying out on a Saturday morning.  On the Friday, he made his run, and got back to Stratford, where he found police blocking the road to Kitchener.  They waved him into a strip mall with two other big-rigs, and a half-dozen cars.

He left it running, and climbed down to talk to the others.  One of the car drivers asked what he was going to do.  He replied, “I’m going to wait until there’s an accident, and the cops leave, and then I’m going to move that barricade and make a run for it.  I’ve got to get home.  I have a flight out tomorrow.”  The guy replied, “I’m going on a trip tomorrow too.  Can we follow you guys?”

And so, they convoyed out, with the semis breaking trail, and the cars following.  With the trucks leading, the driving really wasn’t all that bad, and they all soon got back home safely.  The next morning, as he was boarding the plane to Hawaii, he ran into Mr. Sedan-Driver again, on the same flight.

 

Archon

 

 

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.

auto

 

 

 

 

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.   😀

Flash Fiction #27

YOU OUGHTA BE IN PICTURES

Michelin

 

 

 

 

 

Richie had a real mania for anything related to films.  He’d even got an autograph from some kid who held a clapper stick.  He wasn’t hard to convince to come along on an artifact hunting expedition, but, the further we got from the city, the more reluctant he became.

“Why are we way out here?  There’s nothing connected to films in this run-down little village!”

“Sure there is.  They filmed some of the Transformers movies here.” I replied.  “See there.  That’s the changing room for Optimus Prime.  Maybe you could get a tailpipe, or a tire for your rec-room wall.”

 

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site, and use her weekly photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

 

Space Modulator

 

Or, as Marvin the Martian would say, “Where’s the Ka-Boom?  There should have been an Earth-shattering Ka-Boom!”  We’ve had three Earth-shattering ka-booms here in town in just over ten years.

Just before the time on my parking-meter ran out at the auto-parts plant, I came home one morning, after a midnight shift.  I kissed the wife good-bye as she left for work, had a (for me) midnight snack, and headed for bed around 8 AM.  Just snuggling in, I heard/felt a heavy thump outside, the kind you get when a heavily loaded semi truck hits a pothole, or recessed manhole (Sorry, politically correct, “Personnel-access”) cover.  But wait, I didn’t hear a truck. I used to live right down-town, where that was common.  Now I live in suburbia, three blocks from the nearest street that trucks are allowed on.

I crawled back out of bed, went over and pulled back the blinds.  Two blocks down the hill there is a huge plume of smoke.  I threw my clothes back on, and went for a walk.  Most of one side of a semi-detached house is missing.  The gas line has been snapped off, and an 8-10 foot blow-torch is incinerating what’s left.  The house across the street is a corner lot, with an eight-foot wooden fence around the backyard.  It looks like a fort from one of the old cowboy movies, except, instead of arrows sticking out, it’s been impaled with most of somebody’s garage.

It turns out the man of the house drove a company van, which had been converted to propane.  Apparently the propane leaked all night, filling the entire garage with gas.  When he climbed in and started the van, up it went.  Other than some hearing loss and slight scorching, the guy was fine.  He was at the center of the blast, and everything blew away from him.

A couple of years later, a co-worker came in for an afternoon shift a little shaky.  He lived in an apartment near the downtown area.  The house behind them, on the side street, actually sat in the middle of what should have been two house-lots.  That fact was important.  The little old guy who owned it was 76, and lived alone.  He was starting to feel that he would be moved into a retirement home by his sons, because he couldn’t take care of himself.

He went downstairs and loosened the fitting on the natural-gas line, where it entered the house.  Then he went back upstairs and sat in the living room.  Perhaps he thought the gas would kill him.  It did!  The explosion left nothing above ground level.  My friend’s apartment-building had hunks of his house embedded in its back wall.  The tree on the other side stopped much of what would have hit the neighbor’s place.  The extra 40 or 50 feet of empty space prevented injuries and serious damage, although all the nearby houses had parts of his home on their roofs and lawns.

On a Sunday night a couple of weeks ago, we had the third case of a house blowing up.  It happened at 11:45 PM, when everyone in the house was in bed.  When the emergency crews arrived, they found one of the older children wandering around in what used to be the back yard, looking for his bed.  The roof was popped off, and the walls were peeled like a banana.

Years back, a city dump was located on what was the edge of town.  It didn’t take too long for the city to grow out to meet the dump.  Soon, houses were being built right up to the edges.  Residents had problems with methane seeping into their homes, causing small explosions….well, more like frightening little pops, and little balls of flame.  The city had to buy all the affected properties, and put bore holes with steel pipes around the site.  It made an interesting sight, especially at night, to drive past and see the methane burning like the stacks at an oil refinery.

At the most recent blow-out, they suspect natural gas, whether a leak or a malfunctioning furnace.  The family is socially/legally squeaky clean.  It is highly unlikely that someone got inside to plant a bomb.  They are doing bore-holes to check for methane, but the area has never been used for land-fill.

Despite the regular miracles they show on such TV shows as CSI, we may never be sure of the cause of this latest blast.  Today’s paper says that the gas company is going to check 800 nearby houses for gas leaks.  Video of the structure in flames is available on You-tube.  Of course someone has started a fund-raiser to assist.  I can only hope that it will be used for immediate expenses, and not just because the owners of this quarter-million dollar home didn’t bother to purchase insurance.

The Romanian family who used to live next door has still not moved back into their home because they are afraid.  I don’t know where they have been staying.  I mean, where do you stay when you have 11 kids??!  Aged 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 15, 16, 18 and 19.  A five-year gap in the middle; it sounds like it might be someone’s second marriage, but that someone needs another hobby.

It’s another reminder that, what we take for granted, can so quickly be taken from us.  Where’s the Ka-Boom?  Thankfully not at my house.