Sunday, November 19, 2017

Baby it's cold outside

It's that time of year. That time where I have to ask myself how much longer I can take morning walks. Beyond there being snow and ice on the ground I have no hard and fast rules about when to give up the daily constitutional. But today left me thinking about when I should stop.

There were snowflakes wafting by me this morning. The skies were gray and the air chill, though the sun did try to sneak through the clouds. It was, at the risk of understatement, dreary.

I'll not quit for a few weeks yet, to be sure. So long as I can layer and not feel too much frost on my nose I'll keep going. Part of the trouble is that walking's become my favorite form of exercise. It offers change with continuity if only on a small scale, something regular readers will know I value. Sure, we have a motorized treadmill and an exercise bike in the basement. But man, they're dull, even with the TV or radio on, or a CD playing. At least walking through even the same neighborhood varies a bit: you can wind around it differently. And walking by itself feels like progress. Staying in the same place feels just like that.

So we'll see. Last year I made until the first significant snowfall, which happened in mid-December. December 11, I believe, was my last walk last year. So my goal is beat that. Otherwise, to the exercise bike!

At least, that's my mantra. Making it into reality will be the actual challenge of course.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Alternate universes

You see some odd things in my world. Let me see if I can paint you enough of a picture to understand a recent instance.

A customer brought in three eight foot lengths of drain cable to be repaired. No surprises there: we fix drain snakes. Yet instead of bringing them in singly or in a box, he had connected them together, so that they were in a circle with a twenty-four foot circumference. Oh-kay.

But he went farther than that. He twist looped that large circle into a figure eight, then folded that figure eight into itself to form a smaller circle. He tied that circle together with wire. After that, he looped that second circle into another figure eight, folded it into a still smaller circle, tied that one up with wire, and wrapped it up in four places with duct tape.

Of course, we didn't know all that until we went to fix the cables. The truth spread itself before us on the shop floor as we made what might be described as an archaeological dismantling of the circled cables. We wondered why this guy would go to such bizarre extremes. My brother Phil asked it best: "In what universe did he think this made sense?"


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This is sympathy?

As many of you know I'm not curling this year. I'm afraid my vertigo might be a problem while playing.

I was talking about this to my son Frank a few days ago. "I'm afraid I could fall and hurt myself, or hurt someone else while I'm out on the ice," I lamented.

"Yeah. Or you could burn a rock!" he remarked, a little too enthusiastic on the point. Or perhaps too critical, eh?

You cannot touch a curling stone in motion. That's called 'burning' the rock, and is illegal. If I were to become dizzy and fall, touching the rock at all, it would violate the rules. Still, can I live with such sympathy?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mud flap Cloyce

An old friend of the old man's, I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name, was from Tennessee. One day when he wanted to visit home, he asked if Pops would like to tag along for the ride, so Pops did. Cloyce took the first shift driving, so Dad settled into the passenger's seat and promptly feel asleep.

He was eventually woken up by an odd sound. It was kind of between a rhythmic slap and thwap, slap-thwap, slap-thwap, slap-thwap, all in pretty quick succession. He raised his eyes to see that the noise was caused by the mud flaps of the truck in front of them. Cloyce was cruising along at 60 miles per hour about eighteen inches behind a semi trailer.

Pops was self aware enough to not shout out and maybe cause an accident. He raised himself, yawned, and asked pointedly, "Hadn't you better back off a bit, Cloyce?"

"I'm fine."

"I'm. Not." Pops had responded just like that, two one word sentences. He then continued similarly. "Back. Off."

Cloyce backed off about two feet.

A restaurant soon loomed in the distance, and Pops said to pull over, he was hungry. When they parked, he demanded the car keys. "Why?" Cloyce demanded.

"Because I never want to see a speeding truck that close again on purpose!" Dad drove the rest of the way to Tennessee, and home too. I'm not sure he was ever again a passenger of ol' Cloyce.

Monday, November 13, 2017

A tribute to drain snakes

I sell drain snakes. My mind is always in the sewer.

I get a lot of miles with that quip, yet it's sometimes not well received. My cousin Patty slapped my shoulder after I told it to a Dominican nun who is a common cousin. "You can't say that to a nun!" she exclaimed. Oh, I don't know. Sister Veronica seemed to think it funny enough. Patty was laughing too, so I'm not sure it was all that bad.

I'm actually wondering if I could profitably open a museum of drain cleaning equipment. I have several unique things already in my possession, and there's quite a bit more variety to drain snakes than you might think. At one point there were over 15 manufacturers in the US alone, although I'm not sure that's still the case. I know one company for certain no longer in production; actually two now that I think about it. Each company has or had many different models of their own too. It's not as though there have been only one Electric Eel for example.

Shameless plug time: if you need a snake, you need an Electric Eel. I say that because I sell them. But I also firmly believe they're the best drain cleaners out there. That's because they are.

There are all kinds of cutting heads too, and there are water jetters and drain inspection cameras as well. There surely is a varied enough array of equipment that a small building could house many items. And I could finally achieve my life long dream of being a docent.

I'll try to keep my mind out of the sewer for long enough to give it real thought.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Newark, North Carolina

I spent a few precious hours over three days last week with my son's family in relatively rural Ohio. There is a large cornfield right outside their back door perhaps 15 feet from the porch, just, and I mean only just, past their driveway. Once in particular I stepped outside and looked across the lightly rolling country, over the currently plowed up cornfield, and I smiled reflexively. I was ambushed by an old feeling, one I hadn't felt in years. I felt like I was back in North Carolina in my youth, looking out over the 13 acres of my grandfather's small farm. You could step off his back porch and spy a similar sight.

What goes around, eh? I find that the older I get the more often I am overtaken by old sensations, even those now decades old. This is not a bad thing. I wonder if it's what keeps us sane; there's something good to be said about continuity within cycles, of similarities with differences. We have the seasons, each distinct (in much of the world anyway) yet returning. It allows us change while also grounding us. We need change. But we need constants too.

So I had the opportunity to remember what it was like to be with me old Grandpaw Hutchins, up early and checking out the crops, if only for a relatively fleeting moment. I found in an instant a connection between my oldest son and the great-grandfather he only met once, and that as a six month old infant. We have a picture of them somewhere; I need to find it.

Anyway, what goes around. Life is good.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Jake Redux

While we nowadays do most of our own pickup and delivery for the Shop, at one time we had most things shipped. This meant that our large orders came truck freight. One day as we unloaded a shipment out of the trailer of a semi, the driver asked me Pops, "What are these things?"

Dad answered, "Drain snakes, parts and accessories. What people use to open drains."

"Oh." the man replied. After a pause he asked, "Know a guy they call Jake the Snake?"

Dad answered questioningly, "Yeah?"

"Ya like him?"

Pops figured by then the fella must know old Jake. Still, he responded tactfully, "I don't care for his company."

"Neither do I. None of the family does. I'm Ron; I'm Jake's brother." Ron went on to explain the family excluded Jake from all and any functions because all he would do is disrupt them in any way he could.

Blood runs thick, but apparently has its limits too.