Thursday, July 24, 2014

Me too!

After one of my recent trips, I returned to find that my pretty red mustang had hail damage all over it. I have only rarely used the parking garage at the airport because it costs twice as much as the other parking lots, but the other parking lots leave my car exposed to all of the elements. Well after having my car hail damaged, I decided to use a compromise, and so I have started parking off the airport, where they at least have a roof over the car. So it's still out in the weather, but it should be reasonably protected from hail in the future, and it costs the same as the uncovered parking at the airport.  I've used it three or four times now, and most mornings the same driver has picked me up to take me to the airport, and I've been impressed with his attitude each time. Each and every time he has greeted me with a smile and a friendly word, and he has gone out of his way to grab my bags for me.
All in all, I wish I had discovered this place long ago. 

I had a bit of a shock as I was sitting in the Austin airport waiting for my flight. As has become my habit, I used my phone to log onto Facebook, and I updated my status to show that I was in the airport. Just a few seconds later I received a reply from a coworker of mine.
"Me too! I'll wave at you from down the concourse!"
Of course the first thing that i did was try to look every direction at once to see if she was at the same gate that I was sitting at, but fortunately she wasn't anywhere to be seen. Well, clearly I wasn't gonna invite her to share a cup of coffee with me, but I like her and didn't want to be rude either, so I fibbed through my teeth.
"Hey, I'd come say hi, but I have to board my flight!" I then promptly turned my phone off just to be SURE this wasn't gonna get any more awkward!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Black Moods and Feeding the Squirrels

There actually has been quite a lot going on my life the last month or two, but no real time for writing about it. Well, I have time this morning! (More on that in a moment)
If you have been following my blog for a while, you probably know by now that I am pretty much always worried about the possibility of losing my job. Well, I'm back to that point again, but this time with a few added reasons to be nervous. We had an engineer fired a month or two ago for more or less stealing from the company - he was fabricating receipts and expensing things that were not for his job. He was very popular with one of our major customer on the east coast, and so we thought it likely that he would either be hired by them or at the very least, that he would try and continue servicing their equipment as a contractor.  That came as no huge surprise to us, but what did catch everyone a bit off guard is that he has apparently taken quite a few of our other customers with him as well. The east coast has gone all but silent the last two months as far as field service is concerned.  It's gotten to the point where people are scared, including my manager, and he isn't the type to worry easily.
At the same time that this is happening, my manager has heard through the grapevine that our company is considering getting rid of both field service and sales, to start using other companies to sell our products. This is not at all unusual - just think of companies like Grainger that make nothing but sell everyone else's products.
I'm so worried that I've gone out and bought a drill press and blocks of aluminum and started fabricating some of the fixtures that we use when we work on equipment so that I can try going into business repairing them for myself if I have to. I had already started doing this before I'd heard that the guy we fired apparently doing the same thing, so I was less than happy to discover that it looks like I will have competition if it comes to that. I guess that the major difference is that if it comes to that point, I will approach my company about a partnership, where I would work on their equipment with their blessings and perhaps their support. Damn but I hope I never have to find out if that ship will float or not.

When I first joined the army at 17 years old, and found myself in Ft Sill Ok, I didn't do real well. Soon after graduating from advanced training where I learned electronics and pretty much everything associated with the Pershing missile, I learned about alcohol. The first time I tried it, I hated it, but in my attempts to fit in with "the guys", I kept at it. Bad news - I came to like it far too much, and soon I found myself pretty much drunk any time that I was not on duty, and I was seriously depressed all of the time.  There were a few influences in my life at that time, some good, and some bad, but far and away the most influential was Bill M. and his family. When I was thousands of miles from home and everything and everyone that I knew, they gave me a place to go. A place where being drunk all of the time was not the norm. A place where you saw how a functional family behaved - something that I had never seen before. It was a place where life was almost normal, with no Army, alcoholic fathers, or pain killing mothers to dwell on. They were far and away the very best friends that I have ever had. So much so, that I named my first child after Bill. For all of that, as happens so often with the military lifestyle, we still lost track of each other when we went our separate ways after leaving the service. Well, that separation just ended as he and most of his family came to visit us while they were on vacation.

It's been thirty years, but in some ways it seemed like we had never been away from each other.  We swapped lots of stories, very few of which were flattering, so it is fortunate that I had already told my wife most of them! He now has four children, and on this trip he brought his youngest two, both daughters. Unlike my spouse and I, who are essentially couch potatoes, these folks like to get out and see things, with a particular emphasis on the historical sites. With their invitation, we sort of crashed their vacation and tagged along with them to the LBJ Ranch, the LBJ Library, the Alamo, and then for a finale at the beach in Galveston.

You know how sometimes your children get a bee in their bonnet, and just refuse to behave themselves? Yeah, this was my daughter while we were going through the LBJ Library. She insisted on running around, and insisted on being loud so that she could hear the echo in the huge tile rooms, and eventually I had to pull her outside to talk to her. There we were, sitting on the tailgate of the truck, me angry and her sulking, when a squirrel boldly walks up and starts kissing my daughters toes. I don't care how mad you are, when a squirrel starts talking to your child, you shut up and grab the camera. So that is how I have photos and video of my daughter feeding a brave little squirrel.


It was whirlwind of a week, and I was more than a little sad when it came time to once again say goodbye to Bill and his family. I think we will make it a point to try and make a trip to see them in the future.

By pure coincidence, my daughter in law drove down from Washington state during this time frame, and she had a bit of a problem along the way -she lost her wallet somewhere in West Texas. She had no ID, no credit cards, and no cash, and she was still several hundred miles away from her parents’ home. Of course she discovered that she was missing her wallet the hard way while stopped at a gas station to refill her fuel tank. Things were looking pretty bleak for her, and so she called her grandmother for advice and support. I guess a gentleman on the other side of the fuel pump over heard her crying and the story that she relayed to her grandmother, because he filled up her gas tank for her. Considering the cost of fuel these days, that was no small act of kindness.
Well, this is where I came into the story. I was headed off to work, and sent her text to ask her how she was making out on her drive. The next thing I know, my phone is bleeping over and over with received text messages, so I pulled over to check them and got this whole story from her.
When I got to work, I started tracking down the places that she had stopped at and calling them to see if anyone had found the wallet, but no joy with that. We had been at it for maybe an hour and half when she called me and blurted out that someone she had never heard of had sent her a Facebook message telling her that they had her wallet and wanted to know how to return it to her. I looked the guy up, and it turns out that he is a guitar player and singer for a rock band out of Phoenix Az called the "Black Moods". So good news - the wallet was found. Bad news - the band is out of Phoenix and so it probably went the wrong direction.  First I tried to reach him through Facebook, and then I followed links to his band and sent them a message giving them my information and asking them to call me about the wallet. While I was on their web page, I came across a post talking about their future gigs, and I almost fell out of my chair when I discovered that they were headed to the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally not but maybe twenty minutes from me. Now stop and think about all for a second.
She lost her wallet with all of her credit cards and several hundred dollars in cash.
A stranger heard about it and filled her fuel tank so that she and her baby wouldn't be stranded,
A band full of decent people out of Arizona found it in west Texas and kept it safe for her. They also went through the trouble to find and contact her on Facebook.
That band just happened to be performing in Austin Texas right near me.
Wow . . .  I think my daughter in law is one very lucky young woman.

Not long after I sent the band a message, I received a phone call from them and headed off to pick the wallet up. When I got there, I was overwhelmed by their decency and pretty much babbled like an idiot. I told them how awesome I thought they were, and tried to explain just how much it meant to her, as she was going to be in a world of shit without any of her documents or resources. I offered to give them all of the cash in my wallet, I think it was $60, and they flat out refused, telling me that they had been through the same thing, and so had just wanted to do the right thing.
Anyway, these are some good people so do me a favor and go to their Youtube and Facebook pages and give them some love! In today's entertainment world, all of those "likes" and subscriptions matter. Besides, I checked out their music and I actually like 'em!

Well, today I am off to Portland Oregon for a service call there. As usual, my flights were pretty early in the morning, and so I was up at four in the morning, and at the airport at about 630AM. I had already received notification that I had upgrades to first class, but one of the flights had me in a bulkhead seat where there is no place to put your bag at your feet.
"Good morning!" I told Heather, the young lady behind the US Airways counter, "I'm going to Portland this morning. Is there any chance that you can get me out of that bulkhead seat?"
"Well that depends! Where are you connecting at?"
"Oh! That's going to be a problem."
"Uh huh. What's the problem?" I asked, already less than thrilled.
"Well, that flight was canceled." She told me regretfully.
"Hmmm . . . Any chance of getting me back into that bulkhead seat?" I asked her with a laugh.

It turns out that I had been rebooked on a flight leaving at 645PM! I just stared at her in shock. The very idea of trying to kill twelve hours in the airport, and what the HELL were they thinking rebooking me on a flight THAT late?! I was just thinking this, and hadn't said it, but I guess that it showed on my face, because she told me to hold on and she would see if there was anything else available. It turns out that there wasn't anything with US Airways, and so she started calling the other airlines and managed to get me a reasonable flights on United that left at 11AM. I hate United airlines with a passion, but I wasn't gonna look a gift horse in the mouth. So here I sit in the Austin airport, with PLENTY of time to update my blog!
I’ve gained about 12 pounds in the last six months, and so very little in my closet actually fits me these days. It makes choosing an outfit somewhat problematical, but don’t let it worry you too much because I have finally gotten pissed off at myself and am gonna “fix” this whole weight problem! I am officially on a diet as of today!After trying on and rejecting about twenty different outfits because they didn’t fit, I pulled this dress out of the back of my closet:

While not exactly a stunner, it was a good compromise – it fits, is reasonably flattering, and is reasonably cool in the heat. All things considered, I guess that made it perfect! It doesn’t look all that short while standing, but I spent most of the day tugging it down every ten minutes while I was sitting. I appreciate not dying of heat stroke, but I am really not a huge fan of dresses that are so short that they make you self-conscious.  It also doesn’t help a lot that I am getting a little old for short skirts and dresses. . .   Still, I did manage to get a compliment from a woman that thought the top was cute while I was getting my rental car. Speaking of rental cars, how do you like the one that they upgraded me to?