Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh, what a wonderful day

It's Thursday. I have really gotten to enjoying Thursdays. See, Thursday is the last day of our pay week and if times are slow at work, the bosses don't want me working on Thursday since I'm usually into overtime by about half way through Wednesday. So they tell me to take Thursday off. Then I go in Friday for 6 to 8 hours, load the trucks, help out here and there, and then I've got the rest of the weekend to myself.

I like Thursdays. I get to wake up slow in a warm house that's not vibrating from it's motor running. And I'm almost always lying next to this sweet young thing who very rarely snores. (Only when she's had too much to drink, which last happened about the time Hector was a pup.) Then I fiddle around on the computer while the kids are waking up and I get up to help them get ready for school. It's great.

Josh is starting to get a little bit, and I mean a "little bit", of the potty training into his head. "When I stand in front of this bowl looking thing, I'm supposed to let my warm water out." That's where we are right now.

So every morning, Sheila gets him up and stands him in front of the bowl. Saturday I was up before she was and he got up while she was still in bed. I'm thinking we need to keep this pattern going. Autistic kids like structure, patterns, sameness. Don't give him change. He hates it. As do I.

So I take him by the hand, walk him into the bathroom, remove his diaper, and stand him in front of the commode. Nothing. He's not going. But now my morning coffee has kicked in and I have to go. And I'm thinking that maybe if he sees me going he'll get the idea. So I let go of his hand and I proceed to "remind" him of the proper use of this bowl-shaped facility.

And, glory be, he gets it! And he starts to let his own stream flow.

The only problem is, he is no longer standing at the bowl, but has decided to move around behind me and let fly from that angle, soaking the back of my pant leg and my shoes in the process.

I don't know how it is with the ladies, but as Bill Cosby once pointed out many years ago, us men can't cut it off in mid-stream. So I'm dancing in front of the toilet, trying to avoid Josh's stream, trying to maintain some semblance of aim as regards my own, and I finally gave up. One thing at a time.

At least he was in the right room. It's a slow journey, but it's a good one.

But it's been a good week. Work has slowed down for our company, which is not that great, not unexpected, but still not great. But this also means I now have more room on my truck for more windows, which means more stops which means more miles which means more hours and you get the picture.

So instead of sending one guy to Toledo and Michigan, and then me to Chicago and Waukesha, the company sends him to Toledo, and me to Michigan, Chicago, and Waukesha. You see? More hours. And on top of that, I only had a little drizzly day on Monday, and then Tuesday and Wednesday were beautiful. Cold, but nice and sunny. I woke up Wednesday morning in just south of Milwaukee and it was 4 degrees.

I had to leave the truck running Tuesday night cause when it gets that cold, she doesn't want to start without being plugged in. The only problem I had was that my Fast Idle Control decided to quit working. See, a truck will idle normally at about 500 to 550 rpms. Most trucks have a switch or something that will allow you to raise the idle. Mine is tied in with the cruise control, meaning that if I'm parked, and my cruise switch is on, all I do is hit the "Accelerate" button, and the idle will jump up to about 1000 rpms. If I want it lower I just hit the "Coast" button and it'll drop a little bit at a time so I can set the idle where I want it.

This does three things. It smooths the idle out, a faster idle being smoother than a low idle. It also raises the oil pressure. This keeps the oil flowing better through the motor thereby making life easier for the engine. A faster idle also keeps the water temperature up. Higher water temperature means hotter heat for the cab within which I sleep. More heat means more comfortable sleep. If I'm NOT running the truck and I need heat, I use a bunk heater that burns diesel fuel and works very well.

But remember, my fast idle's not working, meaning rough idle, low pressure, no heat. They make a "Throttle Stick" or "Throttle Prop" that looks like "The Club. You stick one end on the throttle pedal and the other end under the steering wheel and adjust it's length to set the idle where you want it. But I was parked in the Flying J, and they didn't have any, and I figured it was too far to get to the next place that I thought MIGHT have one. So I'm digging around in the cab looking for something to mash on the peddle to get the idle up. The case of water's too big and too heavy, no wire coat hangers, only plastic ones. And then I get it. Stephen Kings double cassette movie "The Stand". It's thick and sturdy and I can jam it between the throttle and the bottom of the dash cowl. And since the cowl is rounded I can tap the edge of the movie, after it's in place, and speed up or slow down the idle. IT WORKS!

Yeah, heat!

And that was the best thing that ever came out of that movie.

Life is good.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Sheila left today to go pick up Ben in Columbus. I was gonna go but she and a friend of hers wanted to stop at the high-dollar mall down there and get some things. So I'm at home.

I have some time not used from work so I took today and tomorrow off. I was planning on going and getting Ben but you see how that worked out.

I was driving north from Chicago towards Waukesha, WI a couple weeks ago and saw this guy driving next to me. No biggie. I see lots of guys driving next to me. But this guy was about half again as large as I am ( and I'm a big guy) and he was completely naked. Not what I was wanting to see at that time of day. Or any time of day, actually.

We got moved into our new house and out of the old one. It's taking some time to get settled in but you all know how that is. The night before Thanksgiving we're getting ready to sit down and play a game and Sheila goes downstairs to change the laundry over while we wait for Isaac to get out of the bathroom. Isaac comes out, Sheila's not up yet, I send Hana down to get her.

Hana calls out that I need to get down there. Sheila is standing in the laundry room crying. "I just cleaned this floor two days ago!" I mean she's bawling. And I really couldn't blame her. There on the floor, in the middle of the floor, all over the floor, is everything that went down any drain upstairs. Sink, shower and toilet. It all came up the toilet and shower stall that are in the basement. NOT a pretty picture.

So the game is off as I get the kids and we start with the rubber gloves, picking up...well, you know. sss.....stuff! Nasty. The kids are gagging and hacking, and all they're doing is holding the bags while I do the pooper scooping.

We get most of it up and I set to work seeing if I can clear the drains. 30 minutes later I decide it's a lost cause and it'll have to wait til I can hire a plumber.

Hana asks how soon the plumber can get there.

"Friday morning, I hope," I say.

"Friday?! What'll we do til then?"

"Well, if you just have to pee, you can go in the toilet. Just don't flush it."

"What if we have to do more than pee?"

"There's a bucket in the garage with some cat litter in the bottom. And there's toilet paper out there."

Hana: "Are you serious? You want me to squat over a bucket?"

Isaac: "Maybe it should be called bucket paper."

Sheila: "Maybe I should go buy more cheese."

Preston: "Can Nate come over to play?"

So Hana asks me why I don't just call a plumber right then and get them out here quick.

"It's the night before Thanksgiving (sounds like a poem, right?) and there's no plumber around. If I were to call one now, or before Friday even, I might as well buy him his own boat. Just go down to the dealer and tell him to pick out whichever one he wants. Nope. It'll wait til Friday.

So Friday comes and then the plumber comes and two hours later he's gone and the roots are out of the drain and the sss...stuff is flowing much better and the bucket was summarily disposed of, and without EPA approval either. And life goes on.

We do foster care, right? Move into a new house, need a new inspection. Fail the new inspection. Don't have GFI plugs near the sinks. For those of you not in the know, or who don't care about such things, GFI stands for Ground Fault Interrupted, or something like that. You've seen them and newer house have them within a certain distance of where water is or would be. The idea is that the outlet has a little breaker on itself and it will trip if it senses some sort of change. I don't know how it works really, but I do know that if your outlet boxes are not already grounded then the GFI outlets won't work.

How do you know this, John, you might ask.

Experience, my dear. Experience. Experience I gained when I tried to change the old outlets to the new GFI outlets so we could get inspected. Four screws on the outlets sides, six wires coming into the back of the box. Can you figured out the possible number of combination's of wires to screws there are? And I was smart. I labeled the wires so they would go on the right screws. But the GFI is different. Now what. Maybe I should read the instructions. Nope, doesn't help. The GFI keeps popping it's breaker.

So I call a friend who's an electrician and beg for help and mercy and he comes right over. He does a quick perusal of my situation, plugs a few things in, moves some wires around and says, "Your boxes aren't grounded."

"So what's that mean?" I ask.

"The GFI outlets won't work. I mean, I can get them to work, but they won't do what they are supposed to do, plus it's illegal, and you'll fail the inspection if the inspector plugs his tester in the outlet, and I wouldn't do it anyway."

"So what do I need to do?"

"We need to run three strand, or grounded wire, from the circuit box up to the three outlets you need to change."

So that's what we do. Or I should say, that's what HE does. I'm not much help since Electricity and I do not get along. Nope, Not in the least. We did get along, once, but the last time I tried to do any rewiring we had a blackout from Michigan east to Massachusetts and as far south as Virginia.

While we were getting the last things out of the old house, we put some things in the new shed. As we are walking away form the shed, I hear a lock snick closed. I turn around and Hana has just locked the shed. "Do you have the key to that lock?" I ask her. "Sure, it's right here," she says and holds up her keys.

I say okay and keep walking. Couple days later, in the ensuing plumbing catastrophe, I'm needing my tools. I remember they are in the shed. I tell Isaac to get Hana's keys and bring me my tools. Isaac never comes back. So I go looking for him. He's out there trying to get the lock off. Seems he can't get the keys to work. So I give it a try. Nope. Not gonna happen. S0 I holler to Hana to get out there. She points out the proper key, the one that we had been trying to get to work all along, and says "That's the one."

"But it doesn't work," I say.

"It worked before," she says.

And we go round and round.

I finally walk away in disgust.

Yesterday I come home from work and I bring my tools into the house to fix a shelf. Hana says, "I thought your tools were in the shed."

"They were," I reply.

"I thought the shed was locked."

"It was."

"How'd you get it open?"

"With a new type of key."


"Really. It's called bolt cutters."

Now I just need a new lock for the shed.