Saturday, March 14, 2009

We need a therapuetic dog.

In our neighborhood, and I mean right down the street, we had a Chinese restaurant/buffet. Not the greatest food, but cheap and fast, and it killed that hankering you get for Chinese sometimes. Note I said "had". Said Restaurant is no longer there due to numerous health code violations. I guess there are some picky restaurant goers who just cannot abide an owner changing their babies diaper on one of their tables. So the health department came in and said that's it, last time, three strikes, your out!

So we in the neighborhood waited with baited breath, no longer baited with the scent of General Tso's Chicken, for what would fill the now empty spot. And much to our delight, we soon saw a sign for a Mexican restaurant "coming soon". In the culinary opinions of our family, Mexican and Chinese are nearly interchangeable, with Mexican taking a slight lead.

I noted last week that the sign no longer said "Coming Soon" and no read "Open for business". It should have read "Open For Eating" but that's neither here nor there. So with the new signage, we made plans to give them a try. My wife and I went there yesterday with "J", the younger of the two new foster boys. J, you may remember is autistic. J likes to eat, but so far in his career, has not learned the intricacies of knife, fork or spoon, or even a spork for that matter. So, right now anyway, we either feed him and help him learn, or we get finger foods that he can feed himself. Chicken tenders and fries fall into this category. He really loves these things. So much so that he seldom takes the time to eat just one at a time. He'll often pick up handfuls and try to get them into his mouth. The problem is that he has bigger hands than he does a mouth and so most of what's in his hand ends up on the table, in his lap, or on the floor. I figure it's his lap, his germs, so if that's where they land, I'll pick em back up and put them on his plate again. Same for the table, although you don't want to tell my mother that. To her, the table was no different than the floor as far as cleanliness was concerned. But if his food hits the floor, we pretty much leave it alone.

This is where our dogs come in handy. They absolutely love it when J sits, and I use the term loosely, down to eat. They quickly come running and take up station beneath his chair, waiting for the inevitable droppage. We don't argue with them. Pick your battles and all that.

So as we tried out the new Mexican restaurant, he actually did very well. There was almost no food grabbing, except from his own plate, and he sat still most of the time. It was great. But his food wasn't all that great, the tenders being somewhat crispier than they should have been, and he didn't eat a lot of them. I would bet more ended up on the floor than in his mouth. We picked up most of what we could so that we wouldn't get banned from a restaurant again, and paid our check as we walked out. On the way out Sheila commented how a dog would have come in handy to clean up under the table a little better. She says, "Maybe we can claim him as a therapeutic dog."

"I think that only works for blind people," I said.

"Or wheelchair bound people," she said. "Hey, maybe next time we'll get J to wear some dark shades and then folks will think he's blind."

"Maybe," I said. "But I doubt they'd ever believe a 9 pound Rat Terrier would make it as a seeing eye dog."

"Maybe you're right," she said. "But it couldn't hurt to try, right?"

"It never hurts to try. Unless you're a stunt man."

Monday, March 9, 2009

I'm sitting in the dock in Waukesha, WI and it's a quiet night. I'm at the back of the building so there's no traffic whatsoever. Which is nice for a change. No worries about another truck bumping me, or someone knocking on my door wanting to sell me cookies. The sad thing s I've lost my regular Sports Illustrated load out of the Chicago area. It wasn't anything I did, but they changed the load times on it and found a guy who could do it every week, whereas I could only do it every other week. So now it's back to hunting loads out of Chicago again. Freight is still down and since I pull a 48 foot trailer instead of the normal 53 footer it's a bit more difficult for me to find something that can get me back home. I found a load out of Oconomowoc, WI which is 25 miles from me right now, going to Columbus and it only weighs 10,000 lbs. I called the broker about it and they're all gone for the day. So I have to call back at 7 am and hope it's still there. That would be a nice easy run.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we have recently taken in two new foster boys, brothers, 9 and 7. They are actually pretty good kids, but they both have their challenges. As Jerry Clower might have said, the older would rather climb a tree to tell you a lie than stand on the ground and tell you the truth. He and I have had a couple of discussions about this already. He seems amazed at my ability to know when he's lying and he went so far as to ask me how I knew. "It's easy", I said. "I know you're lying when I see your lips moving." I quickly told him I was kidding and then explained that I could tell he was lying because I was so good at it myself. I'd lie all the time just to stay out of trouble. I got pretty good at recognizing lies. Maybe that could be my next career. Deception Analyst.

The younger boy is autistic. (Forgive me for seeming distant by using the term "boy" but there are legal considerations concerning privacy.) He is, I guess one would say, extremely autistic. Not sure if that's a proper way to say it, but he dos not speak, is not potty-trained and is very repetitive in his actions. One thing we have learned about him is that he needs his pacing room. He is constantly on the move. He paces, picks things up, chews on them, throws them down, claps his hands, and hollers quite loudly sometimes. My wife and I determined that if we had to mimic his actions for just one hour, we would both collapse in exhaustion. I do not know how he does it. He'll walk around the living room,then around the dining room and then go to the gate that blocks the kitchen door. We have a gate that we block the stairs with and sometimes Sheila will remove it and allow him to climb the stairs. It just gives him more room to roam and get his energy out. We were told he is operating on the level of an 18 month old, but I'm not sure that he's even that high. Maybe. And then there are the times when he will crawl up in your lap and just hug on you. It melts your heart. He's a busy guy and he takes a lot of watching. I asked my wife if it doesn't frustrate her sometimes. She said no. He's a baby in a 7 year old body. So you teach him like a baby, and hope that he'll learn some new things while he is with us. I know that I'm learning. My wife, she has the patience of a saint.

Either that or she's insane.

I'll bet on the former.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Didn't get very far

It's almost 10 pm on Sunday evening and I'm sitting behind a gas station about 25 miles from home and about 40 miles from my shop. Didn't get very far for having let the shop at 330 this afternoon. It started out well. A little rain, some clouds with the sun breaking through here and there, and warm weather. Looked like a nice drive to Chicago.
But about 50 miles from the shop I had a check engine light pop up. I checked my gauges and listened for anything out of the ordinary and everything seemed fine. In about a minute the light went off, just as I was about to pull over and see what I could find. Dummy me, I decided to keep going and see what happened.
Just after the next exit it popped on again. I still couldn't tell anything was wrong but at the next exit ramp I pulled over to the shoulder and opened the hood to check for something obvious. No leaks, levels are still as good as they were when I left an hour before. So it's back into the cab and I start punching buttons on the computer to check the diagnostics. It shows one active fault and when I get to the fault description this is what it says. "Engine Bad 128s23 12." Does this mean I've got a bad engine? Now the Check Engine light is coming on every other minute or so and going out after about 30 seconds. I tried to call my boss to see if he had a clue about it and got his machine. I cleared the fault and when the light came on again I checked to see if the new fault was the same. Now the computer is registering "No Active Fault". Hmmm.
So I figured, let's see what happens here and I pulled out onto the road again. And there it is. I can feel it in the pull. She just doesn't want to get up and go like she normally does. I can still get up to speed but it's taking a bit longer. Somethings just not right. There's a garage about 20 miles in front of me and when I finally get hold of the boss, his decision is to let his regular garage check it out. So I find the next exit again, turn around and start back towards home. As I'm driving, it dawns on me that the other truck he wants me to take is already loaded with another drivers load (his regular truck was in the shop getting serviced) and that driver probably took the keys home with him. A quick call confirms this fact. Maybe I'll luck out and find another set of keys in the lock box, where they are supposed to be. He says he'll come to the shop if I can't find any other keys.
I finally get back to the shop, get inside, and lo and keys. In a box that's set up to hold about 20 extra sets of keys for different vehicles and doors, there are exactly three keys, and one key is to a box truck we don't even have anymore.
So I call him back and tell him the bad news. No problem, he says and he's on his way. Meanwhile, I've got to unload all my personal crap out of my truck into the other one, drop my trailer, and try not to forget anything that I might need. I got curious and checked the computer again. Interesting. Now it reads "Engine #2cyl injector 128s003 15." I know this one. It's a bad injector. Actually, it's more likely to a loose wire on top of the injector, which is the same problem I had on cylinder #5 about a month ago. No big deal, but she runs like crap.
The other fellow shows up and we get it all switched over and I'm off again. And then the rain hits. My goodness, it's a bad one. Rain blowing sideways across the road and I can't see squat but for about 50 yards. Thank goodness that didn't last long. But as I said before, I didn't get very far before I decided enough was enough. It had already been a long day at home and I was just trying to get close Chicago. It's easier for me to drive early than late so I figured I'd get to bed early and hit the road early.
So here I sit, thankful that I do not have a back haul already lined up. I don't have to rush tomorrow for anything. Just take my time and get the job done. A good book is calling my name.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Our weekend away

Well, it finally happened. My wife and I got some time to ourselves. We hardly knew what to do with ourselves. But after some conversations regarding our first year of dating, we finally arrived at the crux of the matter. We got our books out and read blissfully in the quiet of the hot tub.

Well, that's not all we did. We did go out to eat once or twice. Overall, we had a great time. We got to talk in adult language, not the swearing kind of adult language but the kind that discusses the realities of the world around us in words that have more than two syllables.

We didn't go far, just down to Columbus and got us a room for two nights at the Hilton Garden Inn. Very pleasant people, wonderful duvet on the bed, quite comfortable overall. It was a very quiet weekend for us which is exactly what we needed.

We checked in on Friday and went across the road to eat at Molly Woo's, an Asian Bistro. Sheila had the Pineapple Chicken and I had the Triple Delight Big Bowl which had beef, chicken and shrimp in it. I was expecting it to be spicier than it was but it was still quite tasty. After that we stopped in at Barnes & Nobles and bought a couple books, Jeffrey Deaver's book of short stories called "More Twisted" and "False Impression" by Jeffrey Archer. We always look at the discount shelf in there so we got two Jeffrey's for the price of one. Then it was back to the room for some quiet time together.

We had a wonderful breakfast in the hotel and after some time reading again in the hot tub we went back across the road and walked around the mall, people watching and looking for signs of the struggling economy. Sure didn't see any at the Polaris Mall. Them folks were looking fit to kill. Then it was back to the hotel, another dip in the hot tub, ordered an early dinner from Charley's Grilled Subs, and then ordered a movie for us to watch on the TV. Sheila had been wanting to see Twilight and I like seeing Sheila smile so we ordered Twilight.

Had a lazy morning this morning as we gathered our things up and waited til about 11 to check out. We would have waited til 12 but we wanted to eat at the Cheesecake Factory across the road and we wanted to beat the church rush. We ordered way too much and brought about half of it home. I do believe that I could go the next three days without eating and not even feel hungry.

But we had some fun while in The Cheesecake Factory. Our family likes to carry on fictional conversations just loud enough for those around us to over hear. Sometimes we get some looks, sometimes not. We sat at a fairly small table today and there were two college age girls sitting at the table next to us. Very close. I decided it was time for some fun. In a bit of a louder voice, I told Sheila that I was a little frustrated. Why she asks, not knowing right then where I was going.

"Two months ago I flew over in the jet to the house in Tuscany and the caretaker is just not keeping things up the way I'd like him to. All I ask is that he have the house ready for us in case we show up unannounced. I don't think that's too much to ask. He doesn't have to care for the pool, or the stables, or even help out in the vineyard. He just has to keep the house ready. And it's not like it's that big of a house anyway. It's only 15 rooms with 6 bedrooms. I mean, come on. If he can't do that on a hundred thousand a year, maybe we should find someone else."

And Sheila jumped right in. "Would you like me to have a talk with him next month after Hana and I leave London? He seems to listen to me a little better."

"That'd be fine. If you think you can get him to listen to you. If not, tell Luigi we want him to find someone else. He was recommended by Luigi in the first place. I think it only fair that he look for his replacement. And while you're in London, please, please, do not buy me any more suits. I've got thirty or more hanging in the closet right now and I really don't care to wear them that much. Just let me dress down like I like to. Why pay 4 grand for a suit that I'm never gonna wear?"

"Fine. I won't buy you anymore suits. But Charles on Savile Row is going to be disappointed to not see you anymore."

"Charles will be disappointed to not see my money anymore."

And it went on from there. We talked about Sheila's race horse that was recovering at the best vet hospital in the country and the fact that it was worth flying her out to San Diego to have her taken care of. We talked about Hana putting a scratch on the Ferrari and that she would only be allowed to drive the BMW or the Hummer from here on, or at least until she learned to be responsible. We discussed the call that I received from our accountant stating that Ben had overspent his monthly clothing allowance again, this time by about $10,000. Such a clothes horse, that Ben. We talked about the meeting that I would be having on Monday with the Columbus mayor and the Ohio governor and that this would hopefully wrap up our business in town and we could fly home on Wednesday at the latest and how nice it would be to get home to the "islands".

It seemed that the two girls sitting next to us had somewhat of a difficult time carrying on their own conversation. I would hate to think they might have been eavesdropping.

Heh Heh.