All quiet in the westbound train

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On the second leg of my flight, I had two “grumpy inducing” things happen. I would like to tell you about one of them, And how it seems to be a recent pattern.

While contemplating my impending 90 minutes of wall-watching, my thoughts were interrupted by a loud guffaw. Yes. A hearty belly laugh with a tinge of slight femininity. I ignored it the first time, as we hadn’t even departed yet. But by the third recitation of Madame Chuckles soliloquy, I had to find out what the deuces was going on. I glance a peek behind me, and observed a youngish woman, staring at the in-seat screen in front of her. She was evidently watching a comedic program, because I saw her gasp, let out a bray of joy, and point to the screen so her unfortunate seat mate could share in her mirth. This occurred roughly every 3.82 seconds of our flight, give or take 10 minutes.

The next day, while walking with my significant better half, on the streets of downtown, our conversation was interrupted by a couple walking and discussing her patients and how she teaches them proper breathing techniques. This Doctor has a voice so penetratingly loud that I pictured various ways to stifle her breathing. Yes, I contemplated murder, but I would have had a solid defense, as she made me grumpy. And lest you think I was being sensitive, due to my recent exposure, even my SBH noticed and made a comment in line with how being aurally assaulted seemed to be a new trend for me. Within the next 30 minutes of walking, this happened several more times, as various people let me hear about their new car, the travails of finding a good vegetarian eatery in the city, and weather or not the current boyfriend “truly appreciated” her. I don’t begrudge people their conversations, but it truly is exasperating to have to listen to random, private, conversations conducted at stadium volumes.

For this last example, I need to tell a story first.

On many days, I take a train, in addition to the subway, on my commute. One phenomena about the train out here (I’ve not ridden it anywhere else) is the existence of a “Quiet Car”. For those who don’t know, the Quiet Car is a designated car in the train, (normally the one closest to the engine) where talking is expected to be minimal and at a whisper. I normally have never had to deal with this, but the one time I took my mother on the train, we ended up in the quiet car. I did not realize I was in that car, so I didn’t think anything was amiss when my mom started her normal running commentary of the ride at her normal speaking voice. A tired looking man felt it was his duty to inform her of the special status conferred on the particular car we were currently occupying. One other key fact: mother is not a native English speaker, and a VERY literal person, so if she doesn’t understand what is being said, she just believes what she heard is what was said, and sound the conversation into absurdity.

So this was the conversation:

“Excuse me, this is the quiet car” said the mildly perturbed man.

“What? I don’t know where they have wine” said the confused mother.

“No, it’s the quiet car” repeated the slightly confused, perturbed man.

“Why would I know where the wine is?” Said the offended woman.

“Quiet car” repeated the thoroughly confused, angry man.

“Why do they serve wine in this car?” Said the thirsty woman.

“Mom, they said quiet” said the slightly grumpy blogger.

“Wine?” Questioned the confused unsure man, regretting his life choices.

“Quiet car? Why do they call this a quiet car? I’ve never heard of a quiet car? You aren’t allowed to talk? Why? That is made up.” Said the decidedly NOT quiet woman.

“Let’s just move seats” Said the grumpy blogger.

“I still don’t understand you Americans, why do you want to sit on a train and not talk to everyone” Said the woman at a normal volume as we gathered bags and exited stage left.

This morning, I discovered there is an opposite to the quiet car. Apparently when you ride the same train every day, you become familiar with your fellow riders. I don’t normally ride this train, so I was able to observe, rather than participate in what I call the “talk about anything boring at a loud volume the entire trip-car”.

it seems that someone’s sister in laws parents sold their house during an expansion of an interchange and were able to buy a nice home in the country. That segued into a discussion of ways to keep deer out of gardens, and then somehow into a conversation of the merits of different colleges.

This spate of overly loud conversationalists has forced me to wonder that if karma is an equalizing force in our world, what have I done to cause these attacks on my mental calm? Whatever I have done, I truly apologize!

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Seat choice

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One of the particularities of people is their tendency to complain about a situation they caused. I’m not immune to this.

On my second leg of the flight home, I experienced what happens when you fail to research before choosing seats. I often fly and hear people begging the gate attendants to “do something” because they want to sit together.

So with that smugness in mind, I boarded the flight, prepared to settle in and watch the conclusion of the movie I had started on the first leg.

As I sat down, I realize that I had become one of “those people” who blindly stumble into bad situations of their own making. Hoisted by my own petard, as it were…

My nemesis.

Yes, that is a blank wall staring at me. Had I researched seats on one of the many available options online, I would have had a nice, Bose™️ induced quiet flights watching the conclusion to a Marcel Movie. Instead I sat, staring and stewing at my increased legroom with no entertainment options.

Hot or Not

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I promised I would find out what “Hot” food was.

Before I talk about that, I’d like to set the scene.

I had chosen this particular hotel on the strength of the price. It was free. I turned in some rewards points to stay at the third cousin of a chain that already occupies the bottom third of the scale. I’m talking about Best Western. There isn’t anything particularly bad about staying at a Best Western hotel, but it really isn’t “best” at anything obvious. Most of the time they are ok. Not great, but not terrible. But this place was not a Best Western.

This was a Sure Stay Plus by Best Western. I imagine those in charge of naming just added words until they filled the available space on the sign. I chose the place because it was the cheapest option in the area that took my points. I was mid-cross country drive, and just needed a place to sleep a couple of hours. Add in the fact that I had just enough points to get the place for free, and you’ll understand why I had low expectations.

They were met. The hotel proper was at least 20 years old. It wasn’t falling apart, but everything seemed at the end of its cycle. The room had probably been “refreshed” when the hotel name changed, the decor was solidly industrial hotel. It smelled of heavy disinfectant use.

It follows that the next morning, after a tepid shower, I moved towards the hotel (really, a Motel) lobby with a mixture of dread and glee. I wanted a decent breakfast, but I also wanted to know who put the “hot” in my food. I fully expected a microwave and some frozen breakfast sandwiches.

I was wrong. There were fresh pancakes and waffles!

Fresh may be a stretch, as the batter was not being mixed onsite. But at least you could cook your own food!

There was also a bowl of yellow egg product.

I made the mistake of attempting to eat this things, mistaking it for scrambled eggs. The only thing this shared with eggs was the color. But it was “hot”. Hot in the sense of a “hot breakfast”. If the term “hot” referred to actual temperature, it failed. They did not taste like eggs though. They were a yellow, salty, lumpy mass sitting alone on my plate.

I decided to skip the most important meal that day, and I think that was the safe choice.

Air quotes

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It’s another road trip adventure! This time I’m headed south to Florida. I’m spending the night in “Fayetteville-nam” and as a “leg” I’m a bit out of my “element”.

Notice how the use of “air quotes” changes the meaning? It almost like there is a “sarcasm font” when you employ them “properly”.

Which raises the question. What happens when a business uses quotation marks in its advertising?

The reason I ask is this is the sign in front of my hotel:

“Hot” indeed

I promise you this, tomorrow morning I will be “inspecting” the “hot” breakfast, and “report back” any “findings!

Renewal

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Tomorrow is June 14. While it is known as “Flag Day” in the US, to me, and many others from AZ, it’s the day of the Monument Fire. The day it flared up and burned my, and many others’ house down.

I learned something because of that. I learned to refocus my priorities. Not in some grand way, but in the small sense. I learned to stop and consider before I react. I learned that no matter what I was going through, it probably wasn’t as big of a deal as it seemed. I learned that everything can be replaced. None of these lessons were immediate. It took a while. But every year, I have grown a little in my quest to make the loss of everything a positive force in my life. It’s a long term project, which is another thing I’ve had to learn to do.

I can’t say yet that I am “happy” or “grateful” for the fire. I’m not. I don’t know that I ever will be. But one of the first feelings I had about the event was a sense of perspective.

When you think about it, most philosophies are just a way of applying a set perspective to life. I like to think that I am learning to have a healthy perspective.

I have to admit, that even before the fire, I was relatively even-keeled, but post fire, I learned to apply it more deliberately. And that is a key, in my mind. The concept of considering your reaction, or response, to stimuli is what makes for a more serene aspect.

Ocular Complications

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Today I learned that a potential side effect of “intraoral administration of local anesthetic” are ocular complications. What all those big words mean is that when a dentist gives you a numbing shot in the mouth, sometimes you go blind.

Before I tell you how I went blind having a tooth filled, I’d like to tell you why I hesitate to visit a dentist. Early in my life, a visit to the dentist was a yearly occurrence. While never pleasant, I can say it was never traumatic either. Oh sure, it could be uncomfortable, but I always enjoyed the ability of a dentist to carry on a conversation with me while four different implements were stuffed in my face.

Even my impacted wisdom teeth extraction was not horrible. Oh sure, I discovered that under the general anesthesia they used I became an absolute horror, but the trauma that day was suffered by the nurses and other patients. Apparently, my cursing of the nurse who tried to wake me up was loud enough to be heard in the waiting room. And I was inventive in my invective. But I recovered from that and continued semi-regular visits for cleanings and the lecture on the need to floss.

But all that changed over a decade ago. I had just moved to Arizona, and was a bit overdue for a cleaning. In the spirit of hygiene I trooped over to the mall and sat in the chair. A regular cleaning ensued, with the customary hacking at teeth with mining equipment to find cavities. I had none. As usual. But by a strange coincidence a short week later, an existing filling began to hurt. I returned to the same dentist, not yet suspicious of them. I was informed that the problem was the filling had cracked. At this point I began to wonder if the crack had occurred on my previous visit. I wonder that out loud, and was told that was an impossibility, and I had probably cracked the filling eating food. So basically, a stainless steel pick could not crack the ceramic filling, but chewing a microwaved bean burrito could. I was skeptical, but in pain, so I continued to lay there. The t turns out the only solution for a cracked filling is to get a crown put over the tooth. While the name is regal, the procedure is medieval. Essentially a mould is taken of the tooth, and a hollow facsimile is created of the tooth. Then the existing tooth is ground down to a nub, a copious amount of glue is slathered on, and the new “crown” is affixed. I should have been tipped off by the release forms, but I just signed them and lay back. Several hours later, I was one nub richer, and a “temporary” crown was in place while the mould was “sent away” to be built.

The days went by, and I adjusted to a loose tooth in my mouth, gum and caramel were no longer on the menu. Cold and hot beverages were avoided. But it was only temporary. I knew I had to wait “about” two weeks, and those days were counted down.

But the call never came. It was like prom all over. I finally called them, on the eve of the fourteenth day. I relayed my concerns, gave my name and was put on hold.

I waited.

The receptionist returned to the line and asked my name again.

I was put back on hold.

I waited.

A new voice, asking when I had last been there. I gave them a date.

I was put back on hold.

I waited.

A third voice, slightly panicked came on the line. In the background, voices raised.

It turns out that somewhere between the office and the hollow tooth shop, the tooth fairy pulled off a heist. But no need to worry! I was told, all I needed to do was return and a NEW mould could be made! I raised the point that my tooth was an ex-tooth, and therefore unavailable for a mould-sitting. The experts explained that the new mould would be made of the space around where the tooth would go, and it would be just as good! Thinking I had no other choice, I returned. I signed another release and endured the removal of the “temporary” crown. I endured the cleaning (grinding) of the nub. I sat still while foul mould material was forced into the crevices of my former tooth.

I was sent home with the “temporary” tooth back in place. This time, the Pinkerton Boys assured delivery, and my new crown arrived early! Excited to be able to eat normally, I returned. I signed a release, and sat back.

Have you ever had a tooth dropped down your throat? It’s like a third album from Alanis Morissette. It did not stay in my throat. I hacked and choked, and launched that little bastard across the room. It seems that ceramic crowns are designed to survive impact with a wall, countertop, and surprised tech. After what I was assured was a thorough cleaning, the nub was crowned, king of the molars. I left and never returned to that dentist. A month later, I developed a sensitivity to cold on that tooth, but I decided to like with it.

Twelve short years later, I was finally convinced to returning to the dentist. I was several states away, and I carefully researched the offerings. I admit, despite needing three sessions of “deep cleanings” I did not have as horrible of an experience, and my stance softened.

Because of my recent move I needed a new dentist. After a couple of months research, I found an appropriate one, and two weeks ago had a cleaning. While I wasn’t lectured on the need for flossing, I was informed I had three small cavities. It seems the technology has advanced enough that they no longer use metal spike to find cavities. Instead, a laser is pointed at the tooth, and science later, any cracks in the enamel are identified. I made an appointment to have three “minor fillings”.

That was this morning. All was going well. We all took our respective places and the shrine and three-foot needle was brought out. A sharp pain to the back of my jaw and I felt the liquid slowly being forced under my skin. While uncomfortable, it was expected, and I endured. We then waited for the numbness to spread. Which it did. Soon I felt as if my lips were inflating, and I mumbled that fact. At that point, it was time for the other side. Another sharp pain, and the dull ache of liquid bagan.

Suddenly, I felt something unexpected. Pain traveled from the back of my mouth, up the side of my face, and straight to my right eye. I became nauseous and my vision blurred. I managed to convey my distress. While there was not outright panic at my words, I could tell that there was concern. I can’t be certain, because by that time, I was unable to see anything more than shapes and colors. Besides the pain and blurriness, my eyelid did not function properly. Several minutes of fierce whispering later, I had a warm compress over my eyes, and an explanation that “everything is connected in your face, and sometimes that happens…

I would have left, but I would have never made it out of the office. Instead I waited for a while, and slowly, my eyesight returned. I agreed to finish the procedure, and a short while later, the right side was done. But the left was no longer numb.

I needed another shot.

In my mouth.

As Dr Scrivello slowly brought the pike towards my face, visions of a vision less future ran through my mind. Suddenly he stopped, and asked for the short needle!

I am happy to report that it only took seven hours for my vision to fully return, and I think that I will have feeling in my eyelid soon.

Rollin’ on the Mall

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Today is the Sunday before Memorial Day, and this the day of Rolling Thunder. We arrived at 0900, and will be riding with everyone else starting at noon. And when I say everyone else, I mean: EVERY. ONE.

That’s a small sample. Every parking lot at the Pentagon is filled.

One would be forgiven if they assumed this was a festival for biker dudes, and while everybody here is a biker, the stereotypes don’t stretch all the way. Gold wings, Ninjas, BMWs and even Vanderhalls are represented.

I even got to watch a pipes and drums corps walk by.

Once we ride in the parade, I’ll load more videos. Until then, take a moment to give silent thanks to those who died in our many wars.

Weekend at Tucson’s

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So I became the walking dead this weekend…

It started out innocently enough, like any normal weekend. You know, go to a bachelor’s party, officiate the marriage, attend to best man duties, get a little drunk. But what had happened was I forgot the “a little” part. I got a LOT drunk. But before her to that part of the story, I need to talk about the most interesting bar in the world.

It all started when we decided to throw axes for the bachelors party. I have to say I was a bit worried, seeing as I have managed to need 13 stitches after handling a wine glass. You could say I have a “history” of not doing well with sharp objects. But none-the-less, I applied all of my athletic skills in a futile attempt at making a hatchet stick in wood at 5 paces. I won’t say I sucked, but there was substantial negative air pressure.

Not my axe

When the chips finished falling the aspiring lumberjacks headed to the bar. Not just any bar. A whiskey bar. Brother Johns Beer and Bar B Que to be precise. Home of the famous Mac and Cheese. It had a wall of whiskey.

1/3 of the wall

Actually, three walls. It also had brisket-marinated and cooked with Mole sauce. And that should tell you everything you need to know. But there is more. It had whiskey-a-plenty! Everything from Pappy van Winkle to Fireball. And lots of Scotch as well. The TV’s had an episode of TNT’s “Claws” playing, and the waitresses ranged from a pink-haired coed to a battle worm madame. Abby from NCIS was in a corner with a party of Mexican Bachelorettes, and some grandparents were treating their grandkids to a meal. The bar also had a pair of “Go-Go Dancer” cages…

Said cage

All was well, the Mole Brisket (hold the cheese grits please) was tasty, but not something I would get again, and the whiskey was tasted with relish. Then the clock struck 10. It was the time of the DJ. DJ Tony T to be exact. Mr. T set his stage up, and the lights dimmed. (Not on the “U of A” banner of course, the sun never sets on U.) The TV screens were retracted and the beats began to beat. The Mexican Bachelorettes flooded to the floor, and the music of Sin Bandera, Belanova, Dulce Maria, and Ximena Sariñana. Yes. I had to look all of those artists up. They are famous Latin pop singers. And that is the music DJ Tony T played. I know it was DJ Tony T, because he kept saying it was DJ Tony T. Having sufficiently lubricated the groom, we retired to our respective rooms, and prepared for the big night. I won’t say too much about the ceremony. It was well received, even though the DJ was not up to the skill or charisma of DJ Tony T. He had given me a nice hands free mic to officiate with, so that I would not have to shout. It stopped working immediately after “dearly beloved”… So I ripped the headset off and used my outside voice. The bride cried, and I have to admit I almost did too. But all said, the bride was stunning, the groom didn’t flee, and the reception had an open bar.

A few hours later…

Yes. That is me on tail end of the night. Focusing was not a priority by then. Neither was balance. I was poured into a cab, and sent to the hotel. I managed to stay lucid long enough to make it into the room. And I stayed aware enough to realize that lying in bed was a bad idea. Yes. I spent the night curled around the toilet. Calling Buick’s. Praying to the Porcelain Gods. Launching Lunch. Singing a Rainbow. Serving Acid Chowder.

It was a three hour up Chuck. The next day was no better. I fear my ability to recover from a spot of liquor has firmly slipped my grasp.

But I wouldn’t change a thing.

Congratulations C&D. May your marriage last longer than my liver.