Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Total Eclipse

Saturday morning I woke up at around four AM and once again found myself unable to sleep. This seems to be a new trend with me, and I am not at all happy about it. Saturday is supposed to be my day to sleep in - the day that my spouse gets up with the kids and I get to snore and drool on my pillow. Not so much these days though, as far more often than not, I find myself laying there and looking at the ceiling. Anyway, it didn't take me too long to acknowledge the reality, and so I dragged myself out of bed and went downstairs to slurp some coffee. At about 630 AM I started hearing odd noises outside and so I took a peek out the front door. Much to my surprise, I found my neighbors garage wide open, and the garage lit up like a UFO landing site. I stood there at the door for a moment, then looked down at the pajamas that I was still wearing, and thought to myself "what the hell, why not!" Coffee cup still in hand, I strolled across the street in my PJ's.
"Well YOU'RE at it kind of early this morning aren't you?" I quipped as I approached his garage. He had his hands and his head buried in the engine compartment of his hot rod, and clearly he hadn't heard my approach, because he jumped about a foot into the air when I spoke.
"Hey neighbor!" He said with a laugh, reaching out and shaking my hand. "Well, you know there is a car show going in today right? There are gonna be a LOT of real cool cars and neat people there. Just trying to get her ready so I can go show her off!"

He has been working on this car for years, pretty much building it from scratch. He and another friend of his built the frame, and he had been trying to get all of the pieces collected and put together into something resembling a hot rod for a long time. It might not be the prettiest car you will ever see, but if you had known all of the blood, sweat, and tears that he had poured into that thing, you would consider it a thing of beauty. After more than half a decade, he finally had it mobile and he was just dying to get it out and on the road.
"You know you really ought to pull the mustang out and come with me! You would have a ball and there are going to be some great cars there to look at."
"Awe hell, you know that Mustang is nowhere near car show ready, and never will be." I told him with a laugh.
"Hey now, don't be selling yourself short there, you've done a LOT of work on her. I think you should take her."
I sat there sipping at my coffee trying to figure out how to politely tell him that there was no way in hell that I was dragging my poor beat up Mustang into a car show. I guess he saw the thought process in my eyes, because then he pulled out all of the stops.
"You know I've never had this any farther than around the block. I'd sure appreciate having some backup?" He said, looking me straight in the eye. So now we had gone from "you should do this because it will be fun" to "I really wish I had someone to follow me just in case something goes wrong".  And so my pretty pony and I went to the car show . . . 

It turned out to be good that I followed him, because he did indeed have a couple of minor issues that probably would have resulted in his turning around and going back home part way. It turns out that he had made a goof and accidentally trapped the wire going to his temperature sensor between the engine and the transmission. This is what we in electronics like to call a "dead short", and it resulted in his temperature gage constantly reading maximum. In other words, it was telling him that his car was over heating at all times. Fortunately he just happened to have a field service engineer following him in a blue Mustang that had all of the gear to find that short, and also had a temperature probe to prove that the engine was in fact running at exactly the right temperature. In less than ten minutes, we were back on the way to the car show.

I've got to admit that I really enjoyed myself, but I really head to work at not leaving drool on some of the cars that I looked at. So many cars that I would have dearly loved to have, and so many of them with paint jobs that I will never be able to afford. There were a couple of cars there that everyone seemed to agree were just TOO pretty. This was not a crowd that was impressed by how much money you had spent - these guys almost all seemed to prefer cars that people actually worked on and built themselves. Over and over I watched people walk right past the picture perfect and magazine quality hot rods, just to stop and talk shop at the rusted car sitting next to it. I don't know why, but this attitude kind of impressed me. My mustang got a little love, but not much. In the antique car and hot rod crowd, your average Mustang is the equivalent of a cockroach - common as hell and found everywhere. Don't get me wrong, there are some Mustangs that were built for power that these guys would consider to be deserving of respect, but your standard, run-of-the-mill, stock Mustang - no, not so much.  

I found myself desperately trying to recall the names of all of the guys that I was meeting, but I'm afraid I did a poor job. I'd have to admit that I felt a little uncomfortable at times, because most of these guys had grown up together, all ran in the same crowd, and were definitely the macho types. Into the mix comes I, a fairly clueless individual with no biceps and no tattoos. If not for the efforts of my neighbor to include me, I doubt anyone would have spoken twice to me.  I had just decided to find a spot in the shade and sit down for a moment when my phone rang. The day was all downhill after that. . .

So tell me - why is it that when it comes to work, the shit never hits the fan on a Monday morning? Why does it always have to be late Friday afternoon, or Saturday when things go to hell, and people are screaming that they need help? One of our larger customers has one of our more complex machines, and it no worky. Since it no worky, part of the customers factory no worky. When THAT happens, people start loosing lots of money every hour and they tend to get a bit excitable about it. I guess this problem had actually started Friday night, but since the customer was not in my region, I had known nothing about it. My region or not, I was the one that everyone started calling Saturday afternoon when the customer started screaming. It is Sunday morning as I type this, and guess who is on an airplane to Utah?

I used to actually dislike traveling on US Airways because their people just weren't anywhere close to being as personable as the folks at Delta Airlines, but I am happy to share that this has changed. Most of the people that I have interacted with on the last few flights have actually been quite friendly with me. As I walked up to the airline counter, the lady behind it looked up and gave me a great big smile.
"Well good morning and welcome back! Two bags to check?" She asked, eyeing the two large bags that I was pulling and no doubt having dealt with me so me many times.
"Sure - two big and HEAVY bags for ya'!" I replied with a laugh as I set my bags up onto her scale. "Y'all must just LOVE me for making you heft so much weight all of the time."
"Oh come on now, they aren't THAT bad!" She said, reading the weight off of the display. There was a moment of quiet as she punched a lot of keys trying to bring up my reservation.
"I had to book this flight at the last second just last night; what's the odds of my getting an upgrade now?" I asked her.
"Hold on and I'll look for you." She answered with a cheerful tone, and then started typing again. "Today is your lucky day we have seats available."
"Yay!" I said with a grin.
"But it won't let me give one to you." She said with a frown, still typing at.
"Not yay," I moaned.
"Well it told me that there were seats available and asked if I wanted to give one to you. I told it 'yes' but it didn't change your seat." She told me with a puzzled tone of voice.
"So it just wanted to know if I WANTED the seat, it wasn't necessarily offering to GIVE it to me huh?"
"That seems to be the case," she laughed. "Hold on - got it!"
So, it might be Sunday, and I might be headed to a major customer without a single component to try and resolve their issue, but I'm ah goin there first class!

When it came time to board the aircraft, the gate agent came over the PA and gave a slightly modified version of their usual spiel:
"When you approach the podium, we would appreciate it if you would have your tickets out and ready. Please don't have them wadded up, wrinkled up, or soaking wet." Fortunately the crowd in the gate area saw the humor in her request and laughed about it, but I decided to have fun with her as I was handing in my ticket.
"So your pretty fussy and demanding when it comes to these things huh?” I asked her with a wink.
"Ugh!" She let out an exasperated sigh, dropping her hand with my ticket still in it for emphasis. "You wouldn't belief the way some people hand them to us - all torn up and wadded in a little ball!"
"And let me guess," I said as she handed me back my ticket. "Some people are holding them in their mouths because they are carrying so many bags they have no other way to hold them."
"YES. EXACTLY!" She replied with a laugh. 

Oh, that failed system? Yeah, I got it running again.

On the cool side of things, the weather in SLC was perfect and flawless for viewing the total eclipse of the moon! If I had been at home in Austin, I would have missed seeing it!


  1. Great post. You really caught the concept and 'feel' of many car shows. The people who participate have often worked long and hard on their baby and the evident love affair that they have with their car is a thing of beauty.

    It is also fun for us civilians to see the beauty of their labor.

    I am glad that your trip to SLC worked out well. I suppose it was worth losing part of a weekend.


  2. I do miss being able to be part of old car shows, it's not the same saying "I used to have a..." some of those cars are indeed very pretty, but also very different from what we have over here, I think that it is a shame that cars from every country now look the same, French, Italian, Japanese British or American all the designed by computer tin cans look the same.

  3. Very nice post... I like that Mustang of yours - it's something I can relate to. Street rods are fast and pretty, but the "car" part of me prefers "real antiques" from the era of my youth. And the 'science" part of me liked your moon was cloudy here and I didn't get to see "the show" at all.

    Most importantly, glad you're posting your travelogues again! (You look wonderful in the picture.) I missed your writings...and pictures!


  4. Nice job all around. The pictures of the cars, the moon and yes, you, are nice. Glad to see you were traveling pretty again. I hope you enjoyed the opportunity.

  5. I'm glad you had an opportunity to show off your Pony! And I love your outfit! beautiful!