The road does funny things to a man

tunnel escape

Another Spring Break has come and gone. Time flies by too quickly. After apparently botching our Spring Break plans (Sorry, sis. I’m dumb.), we ended up at my brothers and a day trip that was moderately successful. I say moderately successful because the kids had a good time. Who knew in a touristy beach town it would be so difficult to find towels? I mean, really.

This all added up to a lot of windshield time for me. So much driving. I don’t mind driving. It gives me time to think and reflect on things. Mostly finding ways to entertain myself as everyone else sleeps. A good deal of what I do probably isn’t all that entertaining in real life. But in that moment, that precious moment that keeps me from drifting off to sleep and off the road, it is the most entertaining thing ever. Many times, it culminates in me yelling out random letters in the “Alphabet Game,” which no one is playing except for me.

tunnelMost of driving to my brother’s house is going up and down mountains. Over and over again. The brief respite, aside from those annoying 2 lane roads where I inevitably get stuck behind a semi not quite going the speed limit, thus killing my time in an attempt to beat the GPS “Estimated Arrival Time,” are the tunnels that cut through the bottom of 2 mountains. (I’m assuming some engineer said, “F it. I’m tired of drawing these winding roads up and down the mountains. Let’s just cut through the middle of the s.o.b.”)

Every time I drive through the tunnels I have one of two similar movie-inspired images in my head. In the first, the tunnel is collapsing and I have to zip through traffic to escape before the mountain collapses on me.

The second is almost identical, but more exciting. There is an explosion behind me in the tunnel. The flames chasing me, licking the back of the car as I speed through the tunnel, escaping at the last second, the force of the final explosion shooting me out the mouth of the tunnel as everything is engulfed.

It goes a little something like this:

tunnel escape

The force will be with you…always.

Not as easy as it seems

"I'm Brian, the Smiley-Mustachioed Canadian, eh."

I’m a fairly mechanically inclined person. Or so I like to think. Our Pilot has been making some noise for a while. It seems to be the wheel bearings. Or so it has been diagnosed by me and my non-mechanic friend. After looking up replacing the wheel bearings online, we determined that it was a job we could tackle.

"I'm Brian, the Smiley-Mustachioed Canadian, eh."

“I’m Brian, the Smiley-Mustachioed Canadian, eh.”

Unfortunately, on the day I was planning to do said repair, my friend was otherwise engaged. No worries. I had found a YouTube video that was both informative and entertaining. It looks like a piece of cake. Plus, the guy had a smiley mustache. And was Canadian. If he says it’s easy, I believe him.

I went to the auto parts store and picked up the parts I needed. Luckily, they also have “free” tool rental. It is free in the sense that you pay for the tools and get the money back when you return them. Much like what a lot of people actually do, only this is sanctioned by the store. I took my part and tools (not euphemisms) and went home to tackle the task.

The tire came off easily, of course. The brakes, too. The drum/rotor/wheelie thing that the brake pads hit came off with a little coaxing. By coaxing, I mean the two screws that hold it on that I didn’t realize were there at first.

Finally, I was down to the hub. The core, or hub, if you will, of where my repairs would happen. According to my Canadian, smiley-mustachioed friend, the hub comes out relatively easily. There is a large nut you have to take off. It is tapped in, so it doesn’t spin off. No worries.  “You just knock it up, eh. Don’t get it pregnant, though. That could be horribly embarrassing for some people.” I knocked it up with a screwdriver. (Don’t worry, I used protection.) Easy peasy, as my 4-year-old would say.

The next step is to remove the hub, itself. Again, according to my Canadian friend, this part is easy. You just give it a “tap-tap-tap” with a hammer. I gave it a tap-tap-tap. The hub wouldn’t budge. I turned the hub and gave it another tap-tap-tap. Still wouldn’t budge. I continued turning and tap-tap-tapping. The hub refused to succumb to my tapping. Maybe I was missing something. Maybe I was too gentle. This time, I gave the hub a whack-whack-whack with the hammer. Nothing.

Ok, maybe I’m just not pulling hard enough. Sure, Smiley Mustache said you just had to push in the middle with your thumb. But, he’s obviously got superhuman strength. He is Canadian, eh. I am but a weak American. I started yanking on the hub. Hard. The truck started rocking back and forth on the jack, but the hub would not loosen it’s grip.

At this point, there was some mild swearing. I’m not Canadian, after all.

“Eff it,” I said, resigning to the fact that this wasn’t going to happen today. (I didn’t say “eff it.” I said the actual “F word.” Multiple times, possibly.) “Whatever, a-hole,” I said to the truck. (I didn’t say “A-hole.” I said the actual word. Multiple times, possibly.)

I gave the hub a tap-tap-tap to knock it back into place. You know, just in case I had actually moved it a fraction of a millimeter. (I really don’t think I had.) I put the nut back on and knocked it up again. (Don’t worry, I used protection.)

Then I went to put the drum/rotor/wheelie thing that the brake pads hit back on the assembly. It wouldn’t fit. There was a spring mechanism attached to this round arm thing that was in the way. It looked like it should close further than it was. So I tried pushing it closed. Nothing. I gave it a tap-tap-tap. Nothing. WTF is this stupid ring and why can I not get the stupid drum back over it? It slid off easy enough. It should slide back on.

Somehow, don’t ask me how, I was about at my wit’s end and swearing like a sailor at this point, but I figured out this ring was the parking brake. The parking brake I had put on to keep the hub from spinning as I was yanking loose the knocked up nut. I released the parking brake and the ring closed. Back to putting the drum on.

It still wouldn’t fit! I tried working it on from one side and trying to squeeze the other side of the drum on. Nothing. I tried forcing the top on. Nothing. I gave it a tap-tap-tap. Nothing. I gave it a whack-whack-whack. Nothing. Sliding it back and forth. Nothing. Calling it a no-good-piece-of-stuff-mother-loving-son-of-a-boat-go-to-freezing-hell-ash-hole. Nothing.

I may have been freaking out a little bit at this point. I took a short break.

Back to work. I tried all the above methods again, including the swearing. It was just as effective as before. In that it wasn’t helpful at all. I was at the point of just pushing the stupid truck sideways off the jack and leaving it lie there in the garage to think about what it had done.

My hands were battered and  bloody from the battle. I opted to use my “Phone a Friend” lifeline. (Is that still a relevant reference?) I had sent a picture to my non-mechanic friend who was going to help. I think he was going to stop by to help put the mess back together when he was done with his stuff. Nothing was confirmed, though.

I also sent a pic to my brother. He has done similar type repairs before. I figured he was one of my best chances at getting this mess cleaned up before I called a tow truck and spent way more money than what I was trying to save by doing it myself. Plus, he tends to have similar luck to me, so if anyone had found themselves in this situation before, it would be him.

He called back and was all, “There’s usually a little thing you can hit to make it shrink back down to…” As he was talking, I went back out to the garage. Something in my brain clicked as he said this. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. But something inside me knew exactly what the problem was. There is a little pin-thing that is on the bottom part of the parking brake assembly. As he was talking, I took my knocking up screwdriver and tapped the pin-thing. Click! That was probably the sweetest sound I have ever heard. The assembly snapped down to its normal size. The drum slid right on. “Hah! You stupid mother lover!” (Again, not my actual words.)

In short, I’m no further ahead in my repairs than I was before. On the positive side, I’m no further behind on my repairs, either. Plus, I gained a little bit of knowledge:

Don’t trust Smiley-Mustachioed Canadians.

Another teaching moment

Inigo Montoya

The other day I taught my daughters about Jeffrey Dahmer because of Katy Perry’s song Dark Horse. (He’s mentioned in the song, in case you’re not familiar.) They were very interested. They read through the Wikipedia page on him and everything.

Today, I was flipping through the stations and a Tupac/Notorious B.I.G. mix was on. I explained the old east coast/west coast rap feud. I got into the who was on each side. The dislike of the opposing coast. The drivebys. How they were both killed. I even included a demonstration. Finger guns blazing. It devolved into a Yosemite Sam shootout by the time I was wrapping up. Educational, nonetheless.

When I walked into the kitchen first thing this morning, the 12-year-old was standing there.

I whispered, “Hello.”
She responded, “Hello.”
I whispered back, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
She replied, “What?”
Again, I whispered slightly louder, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”
She just looked at me.
I whispered louder again. “Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!”
Blank stare.

She obviously wasn’t getting it. And there is only so loud one can whisper, so I turned around and took out the trash, feeling as though I had failed as a parent.

This, in case you’re wondering what it’s like to live with me. My kids stand no chance.

Inigo Montoya

An Open Letter to My Neighbors


Snowmageddon arrived over night. It was pretty much exactly as the weatherman predicted. Several inches of snow. A layer of ice. Another layer of snow. I was awakened by several of my neighbors running their snow blowers at an ungodly hour. I crawled out of bed and headed downstairs to login to work. No driving in for me today.

As I sat on the couch, unable to get into my work’s VPN, I looked outside. “Why don’t we have a snow blower, again?” I asked my wife. She laughed. Since I was unable to do any work, I suited up to dig out the driveway. I grabbed my shovel and started digging.

It is a heavy snow. Especially with the ice. And more snow. I worked slowly and methodically. Taking each heaping shovelful and dumping it to the side. One scoop at a time. I worked my way down a couple scoops, the across the width of the driveway. Each time, carrying the load of snow to the side.

I had worked my way down to the driveway apron. This is where the work really started. You see, they plowed our street last night. So all of that snow, ice, and more snow that covered our road was now at the end of my driveway. It was probably 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep there. And it was even more solid.

It was about now that one of my neighbors with a snow blower yelled down to me, “I’ll get the sidewalks!” Thank God. That is the worst part. and, quite honestly, I wasn’t going to worry about the sidewalks today, anyway. I moved to shoveling my entryway, so as not to be in his way as he steered his mechanical shovel down the street. As he walked, clearing the snow with ease, I was working down the entryway, heaving the snow up and out of the walkway.

Once we had both finished our respective areas, I went back down to the apron. I found it was easier to pick up the boulders of snow and ice and throw them off to the side. Plus, it made me feel manly. Or something. I don’t know. I was starting to hallucinate at this point.

What had taken you, my neighbors, fifteen minutes to complete, took me nearly 2 hours. Two hours of back-breaking labor. I was grunting and groaning. My arms were turning to Jello. My back was aching. But I was finally done.

But I saw, as you and your kid were turning to go back inside. I saw the look on his face. The envious look in his eyes. I saw that even you were impressed as you gazed upon the majestic glory that I had created. A 5 foot by 10 foot mound of snow. To be used for sledding. Or forting. Or iglooing. Or…whatever it is my kids want to do with it. It nearly killed me carrying every bit of snow to the same spot and throwing it atop the pile. But I did it. Why? Because that’s how I would have wanted it as a kid.

And that, that, my friends, is how you dad. Enjoy your clean driveway. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to collapse.

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Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to


I didn’t choose to live in Ohio. Ohio chose me. Or my parents chose Ohio. Either way. A couple of my siblings have made it out. I must say, I’m a bit jealous. I’ve had it with this place. I get tired of my brother complaining that it’s a chilly 65 degrees while I’m trudging through mountains of snow.

We haven’t exactly made it a secret that we are ready to move some place south. Some place warm. Some place…not Ohio. Unfortunately, thanks to our litter of kids, we are stuck here for the foreseeable future.

Last night, we were all standing in the kitchen. I had just returned from the grocery store. I was fetching fruit, or some such nonsense. The 13-year-old picked up one of the plastic grocery bags and placed on her head. (Don’t worry. It wasn’t covering her face. Though, she was poised to move it.)

“Do you want me to suffocate so you guys can move, or do you want me to live and you have to stay here?” she asked.

Without missing a beat, I replied, “You can’t put me in that position.”

Luckily, we all shared a laugh and moved on to another topic (Sliced versus chunked cantaloupe, I believe), and I never had to answer the question.

There isn’t always time to stop and think before the words make it to your mouth.

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“I’ll take one for the team.”

Ghost in the Machine

"Going up?"

I was riding up in the elevator this morning. Alone. I get off on the seventh floor. When I got in, for some reason, the button for floor 3 was lit. I thought little of it. Maybe someone was being funny and hit 3 as it was coming back down to the lobby.

I stopped at 3. No one got on. No one got off. My journey continued.

Next, for some inexplicable reason, the elevator stopped at the 6th floor. “Odd,” I thought. The doors opened. Again, no one got on. No one got off. No idea why I stopped here.

I looked down again at the buttons for each floor. 7 was still lit up. Only, now, the button for floor 11 was lit up, as well. “WTF is going on here?” I don’t know if I thought this or if I said it aloud. I’m known to have audible conversations with myself.

At this point, I was getting a little concerned with what was going on in the elevator. I don’t know if maybe I wasn’t alone. Or if there was some sort of malfunction that could potentially send me plummeting down the elevator shaft to an untimely demise. Though, I’ve heard something about jumping at the moment of impact to reduce the chance of severe energy. I don’t know how true this is. Or if I’m just imagining it. I wasn’t ready to test it out. Especially, as it just now entered my mind, not at the moment when I could have used that information. With my luck, I would have been lying in a heap under a crushed elevator and then thought, “Maybe I should have jumped.”

Later this morning, I was in the lobby talking to my wife on the phone. The fire alarm for the building went off. My coat was upstairs. It’s cold outside. I got ready to go upstairs to fetch my coat. Because, while it is 20 degrees warmer than yesterday, as I said, it’s cold outside. The fire alarm stops. I breathe a sigh of relief. I won’t have to be like a salmon swimming upstream to go up seven very steep flights of stairs.

Then the fire alarm sounds again. I get ready to go upstairs again. The alarm stops. When it goes off for the third time, I get smart. I started to text one of my coworkers to bring my coat down. The alarm stops again. To keep a long story long, the alarm went on and off a total of 5 or 6 times. The last few, I kept preparing to text my coworker to grab my coat, and canceling the text each time the alarm stopped.

I finally go to head back upstairs. One of the elevators (a separate one from the elevator I mentioned at the beginning of this tale) had its doors stuck open. “Great,” I thought. Or said out loud. I still don’t know if I’m using my inner monologue or not. I trekked up the seven very steep flights of stairs to my desk. Out of breath, I tell the coworker who sits across the aisle from me about my ordeal. “No alarm went off up here.”

This is great. I don’t know if I’m being haunted by a ghost or if I’m giving off some sort of electromagnetic pulse that is causing these electronic anomalies or what is going on around me. Either way, I’m being cautious the rest of the day.

I will keep you updated if any further disturbances occur. Unless an elevator plummets to the lobby with me inside. In which case, I’ll let you know whether jumping when it crashes to the ground works. Unless it doesn’t.

"Going up?"

“Going up?”

A dangerous game

I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking "did he pack my lunch in the white bag or the brown bag?" Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being one of these is a bag of garbage, you've gotta ask yourself a question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?

The 11-year-old is responsible for packing her own lunch. She’s old enough. She can make sure that what is included in her lunch is what she wants. Plus, this way, I don’t have to do it. I’m lazy preparing her for life in the real world. The 13-year-old usually doesn’t pack a lunch. Lately, she’s been doing it more often, for some reason. Fine with me. As long as I don’t have to pack it.

The 11-year-old has a lunch bag that goes in the freezer. It keeps her food cold until lunch. The 13-year-old has decided the “cool” thing to do is to take her lunch in a plastic grocery bag. Again, fine with me.

The 13-year-old is typically the last one to be ready to leave for school in the morning. This means that I usually round up what stray things lying around the house that she will need for the day. Including grabbing her lunch from the kitchen.

Thursday is trash day. Today is Thursday. I took the recycling and the trash out. As we’re waiting for the 13-year-old to finish getting ready (who knows what she’s doing in her room), I rounded up the last few things to be thrown out. It was mostly it items from the fridge. I placed them in a plastic grocery bag, to throw them in the trash can on my way out to the car. I grabbed this bag of garbage and the 13-year-old’s lunch and headed downstairs. (I may or may not have tripped over her as she was putting on her shoes in the dark entryway.)

As we were preparing to walk out the front door, I presented the bags to her. “One of these is your lunch. The other is a bag of trash. The choice is yours. It’s Lunch Bag Roulette.” She looked at me with a smirk on her face for a moment then made her choice.

This is parenting.

I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking "did he pack my lunch in the white bag or the brown bag?" Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being one of these is a bag of trash, you've gotta ask yourself a question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?

I know what you’re thinking, punk. You’re thinking “did he pack my lunch in the white bag or the brown bag?” Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being one of these is a bag of garbage, you’ve gotta ask yourself a question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?

A god versus a super guy

Thor vs Superman

I’m a go to source for homework. Math and science always come to me. Usually projects like making board games or posters go to my wife. She’s a crafty one. Occasionally, a Language Arts assignment will come my way. This weekend, one came that was right up my alley.

The 13-year-old was sitting at the dining room table working on homework. I was upstairs in the kitchen…doing something. I have no idea what it was. Through the window from the dining room to the kitchen, she looks up at me and says, “Who would win in a fight, Thor or Superman?” I had no clue why she was asking or what this could possibly have to do with whatever homework she was working on. “Huh?” I said. She repeated the question. “What does that have to do with anything?” I replied. “It’s for Language Arts. We have to write about who would win,” she said. It had to include arguments for both sides. So we started our list.

Thor vs Superman:

Thor vs Superman

Superman

Really, it depends on which Superman we’re talking about (assuming we’re going on movie Superman.)
I could beat the Brandon Routh Superman.
The new Superman would bore Thor to death.
Christopher Reeve would give Thor a run for his money. Too close to call.

Superman’s battle arsenal:

  • He can fly
  • He’s really fast. Like, faster than a bullet
  • He also has x-ray vision, which he could use, I don’t know, to see what color underwear Thor is wearing, I guess
  • He has heat vision
  • Under most circumstances, he is near invincible
    -  This is dependent on where the battle is taking place. If it is on Earth, Superman can take advantage of his powers fueled by the yellow sun on our planet. If it takes place elsewhere, it is essentially the same as me fighting Thor. No contest.
    -  Were Thor able to somehow get his hands on some Kryptonite, again, it would be the same as me fighting Thor. Not good. Superman has to hope Thor doesn’t know where to find “that diamond thing,” as the 13-year-old called it.

Thor

Thor is a god. This grants him certain powers that aren’t as easily taken away as Superman’s.

More specifically, he is the god of lightning. This means he can call upon it at any point to do his bidding. I don’t think we’ve ever seen exactly what kind of effect this would have on Superman. But I’m thinking it wouldn’t be great.

Thor has Mjölnir. His hammer. His hammer gives Thor the ability to fly. This negates Superman’s power of flight, bringing us back to a level playing field.

Mjölnir can be thrown, allowing Thor to inflict some pretty serious damage from afar. It also has boomerang-like properties, allowing it to score hit points coming and going. I don’t know how Mjölnir compares to a speeding bullet, so I don’t know how well Superman could dodge it.

Superman’s only hope would be to separate Thor from his hammer, taking away most of his fighting ability. Not so fast, though. Thor can summon Mjölnir to his had from just about anywhere. We know how useful this can be, say, if you were suspended upside down in ice about to be eaten by some snow creature.

Finally, and probably most important, is something few aside from the 13-year-old would think of. “Thor has that long hair. He could use it to whip Superman with.” Ah, yes. That long, luxurious hair. Perhaps, Thor’s most valuable asset.

So, there it is. Arguments for and against Thor and Superman.

Winner: Thor

(I have no idea how her essay actually turned out. One can only hope it stayed true to our discussion.)

The cookout


I fell asleep on the couch last night while my wife was watching Bravo’s Shahs of Sunset. I believe they were planning some sort of party or something. I don’t know. I was asleep. I can only piece together what I know from what ensued below and scenes I groggily heard as I awoke and stumbled out of the room.

We were having a cookout at work. My boss’ boss’ boss had enlisted my help to get everything ready. We were searching for 3 grills. The charcoal kind. Because a gas grill would be too easy. In our futuristic high-rise, we ran from floor to floor frantically searching for grills.

As luck would have it, Nathan Lane was there to help. Not only did he know where we could find the grills, he helped them get set up. Then Monsieur Nathaniel Lane, as you referred to him, in a French accent, of course, stuck around to grill hotdogs and hamburgers.

As we were cooking the hotdogs and hamburgers, I was also chopping salad. Chef Lane calls up some friends of his to help with the salad preparation. (I believe it was Billy Crystal who announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, Mister Nathan Lane…” and then stuck around to help with chopping tomatoes.) This seemingly simple task was obviously too much for a commoner such as myself to tackle alone.

I woke up wondering what exactly was going on before I realized what had happened and wandered up to bed.

I don’t know what this dream means besides don’t fall asleep on the couch while your wife is clearing out her shows that are queued up on the DVR. Bravo will mess with your mind.