Flash Fiction #134

Pop Can Tabs

PHOTO PROMPT © Claire Sheldon

TANSTAAFLUrban Myth

Save all your pop-can tabs. Someone will donate a power wheelchair.

Mr. Cynicism said, “Who? Why?”

Like a child’s paper-clip necklace, I pulled it apart, one link at a time. Daughter said, “Mom told me.  Didn’t she mention it to you?”  The wife named a sister. That sister blamed an older sister. She said the yenta was a bowling team member.

Bowler identified a man in her trailer park.  “He’s got his; we’re trying for another.”  Wheelchair man nailed them, upside down, to slabs of plywood, and sold them to supplement his meager disability allowance.  “They’re great muddy shoe scrapers.”

***

TANSTAAFL is a term credited to the author, Robert A. Heinlein. It cynically/realistically means, There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

The trailer park man’s wheelchair was not donated.  It had been supplied by the government. He was not aware of any group giving away free wheelchairs.  Pop-can tabs are pure aluminum.  There was a group who collected entire aluminum cans, crushed them and turned them in for rebate at the scrap dealer.  The money was added to a fund which aided handicapped people.

BELIEF is when Hope is substituted for Facts.

***

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

2017 A To Z Challenge – E

Challenge2017

I know that, according to my own, self-imposed schedule, I should have had a post composed and ready to publish today, about the letter

Letter E

Just about the time the daily A to Z Challenge bloggers were posting their offerings for the letter E, I contracted a case of 48-hour flu. By the time I got back to the computer, it was too late to acquire a list of possible theme words.  Between the virus-induced mental incapacitation and the lack of inspiration, nothing got written.

The situation was made worse by bureaucracy. One of the drive motors on the daughter’s power wheelchair seized, and Murphy worked overtime to ensure clerical catastrophe.  What should have been a (bad enough) two weeks inconvenience, has become more than three months of dragged-on denial of service, before the Provincial disability office finally decided that it’s too expensive to repair a 13-year-old chair.

New rules say that, since she doesn’t need it all the time, she can’t have a new one.  Now she has to break in a new case worker, and jump through all the hoops to find an acceptable handicap scooter, for which the Government will (eventually) pay monthly rent.  Winter cabin fever was bad enough.  Now, the nice summer weather is here, and she still can’t get outside and be independent.

Besides the afternoon-long, hour drive up the highway and back, for her anti-pain treatment, this means that I have taken her shopping several times, to the Farmers’ Market, twice to her dentist, once to the next city to pick up cheap, bulk, dog and cat food, and each week to a counselling forum which helps her deal with the physical and emotional problems of having her loving, supportive son 500 kilometers away.

Eighteen months after being told that the wait time would be 12 months, the wife was finally contacted by her orthopedic surgeon, (the same guy who installed my artificial shoulder ten years ago) and was told that her first knee replacement, the right, was a go.  This required two trips to the hospital to fluff their paperwork.  The first was a mere two hours, the second, an extended, four hour clerical comedy show.  At least it’s finally going ahead.  On June 27th, Hobble-Along Cassidy meets Dr. Stabby McStab-Stab in a dance to the death.

All of this means that, instead of having time to write my usual, knife-sharp, crystal-clear, diamond-hard posts which inform and entertain you, you are being afflicted with this whiny, apologetic, idiosyncratic, fogbank collection of Excuses, for my E contribution.

Thanx for your sympathy, and I hope to see you in a couple of weeks with something a little more solid, for the fabulous letter F.

You Better, You Better, You Bet

coke-vs-pepsi

O Great God CONFORMITY, give us the power to make everyone else, just like us!

conformity

Yea, verily, in the beginning was the EGO. And the EGO begat an Opinion.  And the Opinion fed upon the EGO, and the EGO raised up the Opinion, until it was greater than Creation itself.

fixing-others

This was going to be a light, fluffy piece about the cola wars and pizza, until I realized how serious and ongoing this idea actually is.

The very history of the human race is a history of those with any kind of power, forcing the rest to agree with their often-incorrect opinions.

It was already old 4000 years ago, when Moses climbed a mountain. When he finally came back down with the Ten Commandments, the first thing he and his cadre of cronies did, was disobey Commandment number four – Thou Shalt Not Kill – and executed 3000 Israelites without a chance to recant, for holding an opinion that wasn’t even officially prohibited before Moses left.

The Inquisition was 500 years of torture and murder of anyone who dared stray from a very narrow religious path. The Crusades were a series of long distance religious disputes.  The Thirty Years War was not fought for riches or territory, but for the right to impose opposing Christian dogma on individuals, cities and nations.

Towns near the ever-changing line of combat could have their religious allegiances forcibly changed from Catholic, to Protestant, and back to Catholic, half a dozen times in a year. One town was known to have a number of….weirdos – vegetarians, artists, free-thinkers, Gnostics – heretics of the worst sort.  When Tilley and his forces arrived, he gave the order, “Kill them all!  Let God sort them out.”

Every man, woman and child; every dog, cat, pig and chicken was slaughtered. The town was burned and pulled down, razed to the ground till no stone stood upon another.  Thousands of innocents were slaughtered, just to ensure the elimination of a few who held contrary opinions.

Too often I’ve heard the Coke is better than Pepsi claim, or listened to gearheads argue whether Ford or Chevy is better.  When I researched for my P Is For Pizza post I was amazed at the vehemence of opinions.  Theirs was right, and everybody else was wrong.  Thick crust!  No, thin crust!  New York style!  New York sucks, Chicago style rules!

This might be understandable, if all people, and all colas, were the same, and some folks were willfully disagreeing, just to be disagreeable. To some people’s taste buds (mine included), Pepsi is refreshing, and Coke is too sweet.  It makes no sense to hold forth on whether Doc Martins are better shoes than UGGS, to a person in a wheelchair.

Other than my (often) aforementioned ‘Ego And Insecurity’, I don’t understand the driving need of so many people to foist their opinions upon others. ‘Live and Let Live’, or the Biblical, ‘Do Unto Others as You Would Have Done Unto You’ doesn’t seem to enter into the equation.

I know that none of my gentle readers would force their beliefs on others, but I’ll bet that you have seen, and been peeved by, all too many who have.  Anybody want to cite specific examples??

Triviana Fore

 

What I Did On My Christmas Vacation
I’m retired!!  It’s ALLLL vacation.

I received my WordPress email outlining my year.  I ignored it.  Last year I displayed my stats.  This year…Pfft!  I’m not disappointed; it’s just that guys like BrainRants and The Byronic Man get year-end notices that include the statement, “The population of the Earth is seven Billion.  Every one of them visited your site last year – twice!”  I think mine mentioned a Mini car….or was it an electric scooter?

SDC10603

 

 

 

I found some money (what a surprise), and got panhandled for a bit of it – twice in one day.  If Ace is the place for Americans, Canadian Tire is the place for Canucks.  I went there with the wife to buy the grandson presents – tools he’ll need for his welding apprenticeship.

While she was dithering deciding, I ambled up the aisle.  I’m planning a post about written stuff I find on the floor/ground.  Halfway between me and an oncoming woman, there was something on the floor.  Probably just someone’s shopping list – but I hurried a bit, to get there first.  I picked up $15 – a ten and a five.

I went into a non-usual grocery store, and checked out the coin-counter machine, as I always do, and got 45¢ for my Scottish trouble, a quarter and two dimes.  The next day I went to my usual store, and was barely inside the door when some young colored female asked me for a dollar.  She was well dressed in figure-displaying clothing, but had a Muslim modesty scarf over her head.  Oh, that sexy hair.  That’s what guys go crazy for.

She and her friend had come in to purchase a single-use aluminum roast pan.  Probably going to cook up a camel haunch.  They had brought their little change purses, but had both left the big ones with the real money locked in the car.  The roast pan cost more than they’d thought it would.  They didn’t want to have to go all the way back to the car in a snow storm, and would I just give them a dollar.  Uh, NO!

The nerve!!  The absolute gall!!  I was about to tell her what she could do for a dollar, when I realized she already had.  This tale alone was worth more than the dollar.  As I left this store, I checked out their coin counting machine – and picked up another 45¢, this time a nickel and four dimes – including a 1952 silver, King George one to add to my collection.

silver dime

 

 

 

I went a quarter-mile down the road to another supermarket which carries a house brand not available elsewhere.  As I exited, I was accosted by a mid-20s male, slightly scruffy, but warmly dressed.  He politely asked if I could spare any change toward ‘bus fare.’  Yeah, right – but his girlfriend?, seeing that he had a big one hooked, came rushing over – on her power wheelchair.  Oh damn.

I kept the silver dime, but bought some Karma by giving them all the change in my pocket – not a lot, more than a dollar, perhaps less than two.

The wife and I shopped for groceries together one day.  The couple checking out – the guy ahead of us – and we were third in line.  As the first pair bagged up and left, the guy in front of me stepped forward, and onto, and then off, what appeared to be a coin.

I moved forward into the area he’d vacated, and bent forward slightly to see if it was a quarter I might later pick up.  Suddenly he was all in my face!

“What the FUCK are you lookin’ at??!  Just keep your goddamned nose out of my business!  I don’t want you snooping at my shit!  Just stand the FUCK back, asshole, and mind your own fucking business.”

Dear Lord!  Take a chill pill Bill.  Increase the medication dosage, and attend those court-ordered anger management courses.  Nosy??  Snooping??  Your business? – in a grocery store??  All for looking at a dirty spot on the floor?  Does your wife have you picking up panty liners, or are those yours Nasty Nancy?

Even my wife, who is usually judgemental and unsympathetic of my ‘shenanigans’, was amazed at this over-the-top paranoia performance.

General Motors recently sent me a letter, telling me that, if I attach a bowling ball to the keychain for my Chevy Impala, it may cause the jet engines to fail in midflight, and kill more than the AirAsia crashes.  Nice going idiots!  This 54¢ part recall has been going on for years.  I’ve owned this car for almost 11 years, and you finally got around to telling me that my vehicle is one affected.  I feel so cared for.  🙄

I had an awkward moment recently, when I wasn’t sure if I actually had some free time, or if I was just forgetting something again.

 

Something For Nothing

Damn, am I ever a cheap-ass old skinflint.  The lessons of childhood were well learned and, now in old age, not easily forgotten or ignored.

I was born just as the rationing of the Second World War was ending, to parents who had lived through the Great Depression of the ‘30s, with a mother who was Scottish.  You know how copper wire was invented??  Two Scotsmen, fighting over a penny!

Most of the men in my hometown worked at one of the four factories.  Most of the women stayed home to care for the kids.  My mother became an exception, but, most families had just about the same income.  Sure, there were merchants, and real estate and insurance brokers.  The preachers at six Protestant churches did better than most of their flock.

We weren’t dirt-poor, as many other families in town were, because my mother practiced some basic birth control.  We only had two kids in our family.  On one of the paper routes I had, there were two families, living side-by-side in two shack-y houses, much smaller than ours.  One house had seven kids and five dogs.  The one next door had seven dogs and five kids.  There’s not a lot of disposable income left after feeding and clothing a mob like that.

I’ve written that I keep my eye open in places where people might drop money.  The hundred-dollar bill I picked up at a Meijer store was an exception, but I find bits of money all the time.  I had to take a bus the other day, to pick up the car from a repair garage.  The bill for the car was almost $350, but I was thrilled to pick up 20 cents off the floor of the bus.  A bill like that only happens every six months or a year, but I find money all the time.  By the next time the car needs to go in, I will have found a good chunk of what the next bill will be.

I am not exactly embarrassed, but still somewhat surreptitious about checking payphone coin returns.  It’s really interesting how many times people try to place a call, get no answer, and rush away without retrieving their quarter.  About coins lying in coin-return slots of pop machines, or snack vending machines – I can’t be the only one who notices them, but I’m often the first to notice them.

I don’t walk or bike-ride as much as I used to, but still pick up any beer bottles or cans that I see.  Not only do I clean the neighborhood, but I make a dime apiece refund on them.  Liquor and wine bottles are also worth 10 cents each, but, with the usual bureaucratic genius, you buy them at the Liquor Control Board store, but have to take them back to the Beer Store for refund.

The daughter watches when she’s out on her power wheel chair, as does the grandson.  I recently cleaned off the shelf I use in the basement to store them.  More than a year’s accumulation yielded $8.00.  I’ll add it into the fund to buy more American cash from the bank, towards our next trip south.

The supermarket a mile to my north has been selling the Toronto Sun newspaper as a loss-leader for 4 or 5 years.  $1.50 paper for 50 cents Monday to Thursday and $1 on Friday.  Recently that went to a buck, every day.  If we’re out for a doctor’s appointment or other shopping, it’s well worth stopping in.  If we’re not, does it cost 50 cents in gas to save on the paper?

The head-office of the store three blocks to the south used to give cash rebates to charities who collected cash-register receipts.  About a year ago, with great fanfare, they stopped, cutting off Boy Scouts, the Library, and seniors square-dance groups, but quietly continued for selected groups, including the Humane Society.

About once a week, I put a harness on the dog, and walk him over to pick up a paper.  I tie him to the outer of two garbage containers on one side of the entrance, and check inside it.  People often exit the store, and immediately throw away their receipt.  Then I check the one right beside the door, and enter the store.  I check under, and in the return chute of the coin-counting machine in the entryway.  Coins often drop and roll just under.  One day I got 40 pennies that were fed in too fast.

I buy my paper at the newspaper/cigarette/lottery kiosk at the front.  Cash register amounts can be significant, but these customers are often in a hurry.  I check for receipts in the waste-paper basket where dead lotto tickets are thrown.  On my way out, I often go through the opposite doors, and check the big garbage pail over there.  On my walk today, I brought home $245 worth of receipts….and another beer bottle.

Then the daughter phoned.  They have a Blu-Ray player on sale.  Would I go over and pick up the last one in stock?  By the time I got home, I had picked up another $250 worth of receipts.  The rebate is 1/5th of 1%, so that’s one can of food for an abandoned cat.  I have a wad of several thousand dollars worth, which we’ll turn in at the pet-food store, the next time we go in.

We have five rain-barrels from which we water shrubs and flowers, when we have a hot, dry spell in the summer.  The cost of 250 gallons of water from the hose is probably pennies, even if Canada doesn’t officially have pennies anymore, but there’s more nutrients, and less harmful chlorine in rainwater – usually.  A local woman also waters her plants from rain barrels, but had all her pretty flowers die.  Turns out, her busy-body neighbor was worried about mosquitoes breeding, so she poured in chlorine bleach.  Toting the water around gives me something to fill my time, and some exercise to keep me (relatively) strong and limber.

My Weekend Weak-End

The daughter wanted to attend the Non-Violence Festival in Victoria Park on Saturday, so it was up to me to haul her stuff over and set her up.  It is a short festival, from noon till five.  Set-up was from 10 AM to 11:30, which meant I had to pick up her friend at 9:45, which meant I had to be up at 9 AM, which is still the crack of dawn for me.

On the way home, I stopped to pick up one item at my supermarket, and headed for the express checkout.  Busty Black Betty cut me off, and pushed her cart in front of me, not full, but the bottom was covered.  I pointedly stared at the cart, and then the “8 Items or less” sign.  You know, she could read, and count.

The daughter had a good day.  Her friend had a good day, and the wife sold a few candles and a pair of knitted baby socks, in absentia.  The usual religious suspects were there, as well as the Free Thinkers, to prove you can be Good Without God.  This year she got a spot which wasn’t in the sun all day.  I helped a lady about the daughter’s age move her my-aged father in a wheelchair, up and over the arched footbridge, then I hauled the daughter’s stuff, and her friend home after 5, and made an appointment for the next day.  We were going to visit the Crazy Cat Lady.

The son suggested I take along the GPS unit.  We can’t set a trip endpoint with a rural address, but if we take it along, we can get it to set, once we’ve arrived, and it knows where it is.  The grandson and fiancé came along, so I gave it to him to play with in the backseat.  To exit town in that direction, there are two main roads.  With the usual DNA twists, one arcs out to the left, then curves back.  The other arcs out to the right, then curves back, both meeting three miles away, at the edge of town.

There was an LPGA tournament here on the weekend.  Since I have less than no interest in golf, I didn’t pay much attention.  I thought the course they were using was on the west side of town, and I was going east.  We usually use that road.  Let’s do something different, and take this one today.  I couldn’t figure where all the traffic was coming from.  Did church just let out?  Is Shoney’s having a buffet special??  Then I started seeing signs, Competitor Parking, Caddy Parking, Observer Parking.  Could you idiots move along and just Park already??!  Even Mrs. Recalculating in the back seat said, “Turn around and go home in ten yards.  You’ll never get through this mess.”

We eventually got out of the city without resorting to gunfire, or atomic-powered profanity and let the bucolic countryside calm my frazzled nerves.  Llamas, Archon!  See the llamas!  Beautiful weather meant lots of motorcycles out to covet.  Passed a small clutch of wind turbines again, reached Cat Lady’s place, and set the GPS.

Summertime means many of her cats and dogs have been sold and delivered.  She had four female breeders downstairs, but only 13 juvenile Bengals in her living room.  This is a large step down from 40/50 mothers and kittens of various ages.  Previous visits have given me an understanding of the tornados which sweep though Kansas and Oklahoma.  Still, anyone who doesn’t believe in perpetual motion has never been in a room with 13 six-month-old cats.

She also had two short-haired Chihuahuas, one, a young male which had been returned and had separation anxiety.  The other was a female, coming up to her first breeding season, which had lost her right rear foot to a snappish female, as a newborn.  Because of an upcoming business trip, the daughter had agreed to foster it till the late fall.

After several hours of cat petting, food and drink, storytelling and gossip spreading, it was time to head home.  The daughter settled into the car with the little dog supported across her ample bosom, with its head on her shoulder below her left ear.  The grandson turned the GPS back on as we headed down the concession road towards the highway.  “In 3.2 Kilometers, turn right on road 19.”  Okay, that’s the way we always come.  I guess I can find my way back.

Suddenly, “Recalculating.  In 2.1 Kilometers, turn left on road 19, then right on county road 37.”  Mrs. GPS has found me a shortcut which cuts off two sides of a triangle, and saves five miles.  Five years ago, it was just a gravel road, but now it’s paved, and lightly travelled, so I took it.

Humming along at 95 Km/h in an 80 zone, halfway across, I saw a car approach a tee-intersection from my right.  This is just a county road, not a highway, but it’s a police car.  I eased off the gas and rolled past him at the speed limit.  He pulled out and headed in my direction.  Sure enough, within a quarter-mile the lights and siren come on.  I’ve been good!  What’s this all about??!

I pulled over onto the shoulder, turned the car off, took off my sunglasses and rolled my window down.  Attitude In Blue Serge exits his cruiser and struts up to my car.  No matter what I’ve done, or not done, I am at a disadvantage if I allow him to speak first.  As he neared my window I said, “Good-day Sir.  Do you have a problem?”  “No, I don’t have a problem.”  “Do I have a problem?”  By this time he is leaning in my window, looking across at the daughter….and the dog she’s cuddling to her chest.

“Oh!  No!  I just thought she had a baby.  I hope you’ve enjoyed your weekend.  You’re free to go.”  I enjoyed my weekend right up until I got pulled over.  Despite the aggravation, he was observant and safety-conscious.  I just wish I’d been wearing Depends.  Oh well, the wife should be able to get the stain out.

Well, that was my weekend.  Did you all survive yours?

The Best Laid Plans

So. the WordPress scheduled posting didn’t work as I expected.  In fact it didn’t work at all!  Back to the drawing board.  I hoped that the wife would post the following, manually for me, if the timer failed.  She assumed it worked correctly, and didn’t check.  She had four cats and a dog to feed and water and clean up after, and me gone.  I asked the daughter to check the post early Saturday morning, and remind the wife if there was a problem.  She was busy using her power wheelchair as a pack mule to get half her usual load to Barterworks, because I wasn’t available to drive her.

So, I’ve blamed WordPress, check!

I’ve blamed the wife, check!

I’ve blamed the daughter, check!

OK, I’m in the clear.  All I have to do now is publish the following post, that should have been up three days ago.  So, without further ado, and only a modicum of adon’t, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you;

We’re Off To See The Wizard

Don’t worry about being quiet while you read this blog; I’m not at home anyway.  Either through learning Brain Rants’ trick of timer-induced-publishing, or just by begging the wife to post it manually, by the time you read this post, I will be in a foreign country, rolling out of bed to go look at some weapons.

The son and I have fled the Great White North for the comfort and security of (Metro) Detroit.  As usual, the excuse is the Spring Knife Show, but the reality is that it’s just nice to get away from the usual, if even only for a couple of days.  I’m taking along about $3.75 of American change I’ve accumulated since last October, including 10 quarters.  I still need five “State” quarters to complete the set.

Whether or not it’s because I set a good example, the son has established a good work ethic.  His shop, like so many others, has a problem with absenteeism.  In an attempt to improve attendance, they offer one day off with pay, for every six months without a late or absence.  Last year he got two free days.  Their six month periods start April 1, and October 1.  If he misses a day, it’s because he called in dead.  The day I fell off my motorcycle and broke my shoulder, I showed up at 10 AM in a sling.  The supervisor said that when I didn’t show up on time, he knew something serious had happened.

Last November son got a bad cold and missed one day, so no day off.  Because the company relies on temp workers, they eddy in and out, bringing their infections, because they can’t afford to live solidly, or get medical services.  A couple of weeks ago, he brought home another bad cold/flu, and generously shared it with the wife and me.  Last week, he was so sick that he lost four consecutive days.  Since he didn’t get a free one, he booked Friday off.

We’ll have driven past that forest of wind-turbines and solar farms, and saluted RogueBlogger’s home town.  I found the file of photos we took in October, and plan to put up a post including them.  Two guys in a big city without female supervision, for a whole weekend, what could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, we’re driving up to Novi, MI. to attend the knife show.  It’s in the back of a gun show, mostly hunting rifles and shotguns, not much to interest either the kid or I.  After we get back, it’s shopping time.  The wife is sending a shopping list of stuff to get at the Meijer store, or at Wal-Mart.  Sunday we’ll be spending across the street, at the Gibraltar Trade Center, a giant indoor flea market.  In a fenced-off section, they are also holding a gun and knife show.  The knives will be mostly factory crap, but there will be more hand-guns to drool on and pick up.

It was bad enough before 9/11, but now you just don’t tell the border guards that you’re going to a gun/knife show.  I made that mistake the first time we came down.  I admitted to a black, female guard, just small enough for her and her .40 caliber Glock to fit into the booth, that we were going to a knife show.  “How many knives you bringing in?  How many knives you gonna take back?  You got an import/export licence??”  Now it’s just, “Tourism officer, just getting away from the grind for a weekend.  Gonna do some shopping.”  They like it if you plan to spend money, but they wanna know if you’ve got a motel room booked, and where.

Not only does the Gibraltar Trade Center have the biggest collection of STUFF under an acre of roof, they’ve also got the biggest collection of foodthat’sbadforyou, in two food-service areas.  Wet burritos, (I’ll raise one to BrainRants.) chilli-cheese nachos, Chinese food, pizza, pretzels and cheese-dip, fries and gravy, (They’ve even learned how to make poutine.) fried chicken, chilli dogs….the list goes on and on.  I plan to start early, and have one of everything.  Candied almonds, dill pickle on a stick….I hope the bridge holds on the way back.

I’ll try not to look like a rube by staring up at all them big tall, 3 and 4 storey buildings, but the first time I say please, and thank-you, they’ll spot me for a Canuck.  We’ll blow the budget on some half-decent restaurants, Denny’s, Outback, maybe some fish and chips.  Have I mentioned that I like food??!

The kid works Thursday night, and gets home early Friday.  He figures with the adrenalin, he’ll have a shower, change his clothes, and we’ll be on the road well before noon.  On re-reading this post, it seems about as exciting as a grocery list, but I hope to bring back some interesting memories that I can share with you.  Thanx for stopping in to read.  Come back Tuesday  Wednesday for a new post.  It won’t be about this trip yet, ‘cause I’m a slow typist, but I’ll pull something out of the recycle bin.  Stronger than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet, look, up there on the highway, it’s Tourist Geek!