Friday, October 26, 2012

The Un-Guard Dogs

Hey there!
Everyone knows about dogs and the mailman, right? The way we are famous for not getting along — you know, visions of dogs chasing the mailman down the street, the man fleeing for his life, scattered letters fluttering in his wake? Well, as I said in”Doggone It”, it’s not always like that.

Okay, here’s the story.

So, in The House That Once Was Mine, where live Wife and our son Handsome, there also now lives Wife’s cousin, JH. When I moved out, Wife and Handsome had the one dog. JH, however, brought two more of her own, for a grand total of three. Evie, Dewey, and Pork-Chop.

Yes. Pork-Chop. Handsome got to name the dog when he was five years old, and he named the beast after his favorite dinner.

If I were the dog, I would be worried. But that’s me.

Anyway, Pork-Chop has always liked barking at me. He’d bark at me when I came home at night (when I still lived there) and once I moved out he’d bark at me when I was leaving, too. It took a while, but I finally got him to not bark at me quite so much. There were times I could put Handsome to bed, read him a story (when he was a little younger) and then go home once he was asleep (or close to it) without that little dog going completely berserk up the hall in Wife’s bedroom like he was trying to wake not only the entire household but those of the surrounding houses as well. Sometimes he would, yes, eventually, allow me to move about the house without barking.

Then JH moved in with the other two dogs… and those days were over.


When I try to leave, the instant I open the front door — not close it, mind you, but open it — bedlam breaks out somewhere in the house as if the Littlest Hounds of Hell have been loosed upon the world. Up the stairs or down the hall come all three dogs like the World’s Least Threatening Wolf-Pack. Pork-Chop and Dewey are brothers, a Poodle-Cairn Terrier mix … picture Toto from The Wizard of Oz, but make him blonde and clone him, giving one of them wiry hair and the other a soft, wool-like covering and you’re pretty close. Give the wiry one (Dewey) a tail that, rather than wagging back and forth in the traditional manner, whips ‘round and ‘round like he’s part helicopter and the other a quite visibly twisted front leg (Pork-Chop has a birth defect) and you’re even closer. Now imagine them being tailed by a portly Papillon who lacks all of the more vicious-looking front teeth but makes up for the loss by having the roundest, softest, most ‘oh-my-god-look-how-cute-I-am-you-simply-must-feed me’ eyes you’ve ever seen, and that would be Evie, bringing up the rear.

Are they threatening? No.

Are they loud? Oh my God yes!

Whenever they hear a sound they cannot immediately identify they just go nuts. Or maybe even when they can identify it, I’m not sure. I do know they don’t stop once they’ve figured out the source of the sound, since they’ll stand there looking right at me, or sometimes Handsome, barking as if there’s a stranger in the house. One thing I have noticed, though, is that they seem to know when you’re trying to be quiet. That’s when they pounce. No, sorry, stampede. Whatever. When you just walk about making noise they seem to be pretty okay with that. It’s when you put something down softly and it makes a thump, or you walk just a little too hard. That’s when they get you. This also, I think, makes them terrible guard dogs.

When I walk in the house I tend to try to get it over with as quickly as possible. I close the front door firmly. I march over to the dinner table and set up my laptop, pulling out the chair roughly, maybe even going so far as to thump it against the wall. I use the bathroom. I open the TV room door and shout a greeting to my son who’s sitting in there playing MineCraft on his own laptop, and sometimes he shouts back. I’m in the house for as long as 15 minutes sometimes before the dogs suddenly explode into noise down there in the basement. They bark, they yap, they bark some more and come boiling up the stairs in a tangle of short, fast-moving limbs and yelping mouths.

I, calmly, step over the child-gate that fences off the dining and living rooms from their doggy depredations and watch them lose their small fuzzy minds on the far side of the gate. I watch them and I tell them just what good guard dogs they really are. For example:

“Hi guys, hi, hi, hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. I’ll pat you when you shut up, you know that? I’ll pat you. I’ll pat you. Just calm down. Calm down. Calm down. Shhh. Shhhhhh. Y’all do realize that I’ve been here for the better part of fifteen minutes, right? I’ve already eaten. I used the bathroom. I even had a wrestling match with Handsome — could have stolen him away, if I was of a mind to. You guys are a little late, you know that?”

The Brothers Dim have wandered away by now, apparently having lost interest in me. The only one still listening is Evie, and she’s not really listening. She’s rolled up onto her back to offer me the chance to scratch her extremely well-rounded belly… and she’s still barking.

I’m definitely a mailman, but guard dogs they ain’t. Not by a long shot.

Talk to you later!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hey, Even *I* Can do THAT!

This week I think I have a little rant to go on. First, though, I have to tell you about what spawned the rant.

So here’s the story:

I’m a writer. I write. I know this is no surprise to you since you are, right now, reading something I wrote. Right?

I also write on a computer, a laptop to be precise. I know you know about computers too, at least dealing with them, since the writing you are now reading is part of my blog and can be found only online, thus necessitating the use of a computer. Unless you have a friend who’s printed out a hard copy of my blog for you to read, and though I’d be flattered at someone going to all that trouble to get hold of some of my work, I really can’t see it. So I’m assuming you are familiar with computers and their sometimes hinky ways and problems.

Are we all on familiar ground here? Good.

So there I was, typing along. Well, typing along as well as I do, me being one of the world’s worst typists and all. Awkward that, being a writer who can’t type who still works on a computer, but that’s another story. I was there, banging along at my not-exactly-breakneck pace, when click, the computer turned off.
Not shut down, like when the battery runs down and you get the little warning that “You have 60 seconds to save all material before shut-down. Any unsaved material may be lost.” I mean turned off, like when you pull the battery from your cell phone, or unplug a lamp. It went from on and working perfectly to off and doing nothing at all in the blink of an eye, no shutting down of windows, no saving material, no warning whatsoever.

I was, I think, understandably upset. What it had looked like was that I had done a hard reboot; you know, held down the power button until it cut all power to the machine, bypassing the usual shutdown procedures. You usually do this if your computer has frozen, or is stuck in some sort of loop, and you need to reset the system because it won’t shut down. I hadn’t touched the button though, I had been happily typing away, as I said. It couldn’t have been the battery running down, since the thing was actually plugged in at the time.

Need I say I was confused? Probably not, but I’ll say it anyway.

I was confused.

I tried to power the thing back up, but it refused to turn on. I tried a few times. I scratched my head. I tried unplugging it and plugging it back in and bang it started right up at the touch of a button. The screen came up letting me know Windows had not shut down properly (like I didn’t know that) and asking me if I wanted to start up normally. I did so.

I’ll say it again. I was confused.

It came back on and I checked everything out. Everything I could think to check looked normal, all systems go, everything working. I re-opened my work and found most of it still there (Scrivener can be set to auto-save at intervals. I have mine set to 20 seconds). I shrugged and got back to work. After a while I’d nearly forgotten about the odd shut-down…

…until it happened again.

This time I was, once again hard at work on something and I didn’t have a lot of time. I was working as fast as I could, really banging away at these keys since it seems I make up for not really being able to type by hitting the keys extra hard, especially when I’m in a hurry. I really whale on the larger keys like ENTER and TAB, since I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to hit those on the first try. So if someone were listening, they’d have heard:
“Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-BANG! Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-BANG! Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-click—”
“What? Wait… no… no… NO!

Need I say great and violent swearing did ensue? Probably not, but…

Great and violent swearing did ensue. Quite loudly.

Now, this type of thing started happening more and more often over the next two to three weeks, making it hard to concentrate on writing. I was never sure if I’d finish the sentence I was on much less the actual project I was in. It was a little stressful as I had already fallen pretty far behind in everything I was trying to get done. Sometimes it would shut down as soon as I touched the machine, sometimes it would wait, lurking, I swear sometimes it was watching me, until I got eyeball-deep into something and then, with no warning of any kind, -click.

So I took it to the shop. The guy there said it sounded like a heat issue, that my fans might be gummed up or something and the motherboard was shutting itself down in self-defense rather than become damaged by the heat build-up. That made sense to me, except… well, except that sometimes it would run for hours and be fine, but sometimes it would die right after start-up, before if had time to build any real heat. But whatever, he was the professional not me. I left it in his capable hands and came back in a few hours to pick it up.

When I picked it up it was all fresh and clean, like it was right out of the box. He said he’d cleaned some of the gunk out of the fans and done a little virus killing, but he hadn’t been able to make it fail. Without seeing it fail he wasn’t sure if he had actually fixed the problem, whatever it was, but he hoped that cleaning the fans would do it. He charged me $90 and sent me on my way. Okay…

So after that the laptop was fine, worked great, let me do all kinds of work on it. Everything was peachy-keen.

…until two mornings later, when I got up at 5am to do some writing, sat down at the keyboard, and -click.

Great and violent swearing did ensue. Quietly this time — it was only 5:15 in the morning, and people were sleeping.

I started it back up again. While it was booting, I sat there and stared at it, thinking. I had just started working on it, so there was no way it could be a heat thing. It was acting like the power had been pulled or interrupted somehow… could it be something as simple as a loose wire, or bad connection? Hmm…

I looked at the machine, specifically at the power button on the machine. I reached out a finger and aimed for the spot just next to the button. I avoided touching the button itself, though to do a hard restart you actually have to press and hold that button for three seconds. All I was going to do was tap the housing next to the button…

Tap. -Click.

“Son of a…”

I brought it back to him that morning, just as he opened.

“You remember,” I said to him, “how you couldn’t make it fail? Well I can make it fail.”

“Okay,” he said. “Show me.”

So I did. He was amazed. He poked the spot, prodded it, and we found that when it was running on battery power he could turn the thing off and on without ever actually touching the button, and whenever he turned it off it was shutting down like a hard reboot.

“I think that I was effecting whatever’s wrong in there with my hard typing,” I told him. “I must have been hitting the TAB or something and jostled that spot over there, just like you’re doing now.”

He just kept poking the spot, turning the machine on and off.

“I’ve worked on thousands of laptops,” he said, voice filled with wonder, “and I’ve never seen anything like this before!” He said that quite a few times, actually.

It’s since been fixed, once I pointed out the ‘problem area’ to the expert, and I’m using it right now. This, though, leads to my rant.

So here it is:

I’ve been to ‘experts’ for all kinds of things. Computer guys, mechanics, even doctors of all kinds, and they’ve all had one thing in common.

Various mechanic, talking about (at all different times) an electrical issue with my jeep, a snapped ‘machine-hardened’ screw, and an odd thing my transmission was doing said “I’ve never seen anything like this before!”

Eleven (I think, I may have lost count) different doctors, nurses and medical techs when confronted by my recurring inability to perspire and their inability to make me perspire (please see my post titled “No Sweat, No Problem… Not Really!” or simply enter ‘Anhidrosis’ into the search field at the top of the page if you don’t know what I’m talking about here) told me “I’ve never seen anything like this before!”

Various computer techs, and now this guy: “I’ve never seen anything like this before!”

Okay… look. I know that all the mechanics I have ever been to know a lot more about cars and mechanics than me. A lot. I know they’ve gone through training, worked on cars for years, even have various certificates for certain specialty training. I know that nurses, doctors and all other medical personal have had extensive training and years of schooling before they are loosed upon the public, and that the least of them has probably forgotten more about medicine and the workings of the human body than I will know in my entire lifetime. I understand that computer technicians have mastered some very specialized knowledge in a field that is, for the most part, baffling to the regular guy on the street, and this man who was working on my computer even claimed to have worked on ‘thousands of laptops’ in his lifetime.

But here’s the thing:

Even with all your training and schooling and study, even with all the hours you’ve all put into perfecting your knowledge in whatever your chosen field happens to be, even with your certificates of achievement and recognition of your specializations, there is one place, and one place only, where I am a match for you in your field. More than a match, actually. One place where I can, and will, decimate you if you challenge me.

“I don’t know.”

Yup. If you’ve specialized in a field in any way, chances are that I have more ‘I don’t know’ than you. As a matter of fact, in areas like those I’ve mentioned, medicine, mechanics, computers, etc, where there are years of schooling involved, I can practically guarantee that I have tons more ‘I don’t know’ than you do! I have @#$%loads! If all I wanted to do was hear someone tell me “I don’t know” about something I’d have stayed home and stared at myself in the mirror while I trotted out a whole bunch of my own ‘I don’t know’ instead of trucking all the way across town to hear you trotting out some of yours! It would have been free, and I wouldn’t have needed to make an appointment!

A @%#ing appointment!

Seriously, if I’m going to make and then keep an appointment I think I at least deserve to hear something along the lines of ‘I’ve never seen this before, but here’s what we can try, I think it’ll work’, or ‘I don’t know what’s making that sound but let’s do a few tests and see if we can rule a few things out, you know, narrow it down’. Hell, I’d even be happy with ‘You know, I’ve never seen this before myself, but I think I know someone who may have dealt with this before. Hang on a sec while I give him a call…’

What I don’t want is for you to stand there and go all ‘New Millennium’ on me and show off your facility with ‘I don’t know’. I know this is the age of sensitivity and all, and I know we’re telling people, especially our children, that it’s okay to admit when you don’t know something. That’s fine. But for the love of God, when your job is to be a specialist in something, and someone is paying you for that specialized knowledge, then hiding behind the words ‘I don’t know’ as if they absolve you from any professional obligation puts a giant hair across my @$$.

Its okay not to know. It’s even okay to say you don’t know. But for crying out loud, please, please follow through with some ‘but I’ll try to find out’. My own personal stockpile of ‘I don’t know’ is huge. I don’t have any room for yours.

Okay… I think I just needed to get that off my chest. I believe this started out somewhat funny but I lost the humorous thread along the way. Sorry about that, but that’s what you get when you look into my head this often. Next week I’ll try for more laughs, I promise.

Note that I promised to try… :D

Thanks for listening.

Talk to you later!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Shocked at the Pumps

I’m still in Colorado as I write this, though I’ll be home in Massachusetts by the time this hits the blog.
It was just too funny not to write about.
I laughed. I cried. I cried first, actually.

Anyway… here’s the story.

Colorado is a big place. If all you’ve ever seen is Massachusetts, and I have to admit that was most of my experience until I started coming out here, then you might think Massachusetts is a big place. Parts of it might seem that way. Some portions of I-95 might seem to stretch on forever, and the same can be said for some parts of Western Massachusetts where some places might seem to be pretty wide open.

Those wide open places you just thought of out in Western Ma, like out by Williamsburg or Sheffield, would probably fit into someone’s back yard around here. And I’m pretty close to Denver, technically a Denver Suburb, it’s not like I’m out in the Colorado sticks or anything. But if you want to go to the corner store out here you probably want to bring a lunch, or at least make sure you have some water in the car. Bring some supplies, in other words. Bring some CDs. Charge your cell phone. Put out extra water and food for your dog or cat, if they’re not coming with you. Let people know where you’ll be.

What I’m trying to say is it’s quite a trip. Literally. This is a land where Tall Tales don’t seem quite so tall.

So, in just every day travel, getting to and from work, getting to the corner store to replace the food you ate while on the way to the corner store, stuff like that, you tend to go through quite a bit of gas. They are aware of this, though, the local businessmen, and there are gas stations scattered about pretty thickly for Colorado; it seems like you can’t drive but 60 or 70 miles without seeing a cement island with fuel pumps growing up out of it like short, shiny trees smelling of gasoline and oil.

Well, we had driven SB’s minivan for quite a ways and the needle on the dash was poking at the big red ‘E’ like a belligerent man looking for a fight, so we pulled in at one of the local fuel depots. This particular station was a little …odd. It was in the middle of town, but for some reason it felt strangely isolated — almost disconnected from the actual town surrounding it. The pumps were of the older variety; they still had handle-locks so you could start the fuel pumping and just walk away as it filled, there were no slots for swiping a credit or debit card, there was no modern canopy over the pumps to protect them (and you) from the weather. The cement pad the station was on was worn, cracked in places, and though there were no actual weeds showing you could see the occasional blade of grass. The station itself was covered in weatherbeaten white paint, peeling in places, and the large plate window was a mirror due to the darkened interior. There might have been a happy, smiling pump-jockey in there looking out at us, but if you picked this whole place up and just plopped it down in the middle of nowhere, and if I was Stephen King rather than an admitted King wannabe, you wouldn’t have been surprised to find a scarred psychopath lovingly fingering a shotgun as he watched us from the shadowy office as we pulled up to the pumps.

Like I said, it was a little …odd.

It was my turn to pump the gas, so I got out of the van.


I started the pump rolling and sat there with my butt leaned against the side of the vehicle, casting glances at the office window and wishing the damn thing would pump faster. When I wasn’t shooting nervous looks at the little building I was watching the pump’s numbers roll by, and I figured the tank was just about full when the driver’s side door levered open and SB popped out. She took a step my way, thrusting a hand out toward me.

“I think this is burnt! Smell this!”

What she had in her hand, poking out of her fist like a stubby plastic carrot, was one of those small USB power converters you can buy at the counter at Walgreens for about $5. A red one. You can probably find them other places, but I’ve seen ‘em at Walgreens.

What I’m talking about, for those of you who may have never seen one, is a small plug that you fit into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter that has a small USB slot in the front of it. You can use it to recharge your cell phone, power a game or a light, even run a portable DVD player to keep the dang kids quiet if you have the right power cords. I had been using it to power my Garmin GPS unit, which I brought with me from Massachusetts.

You really think I was going to try to find my way around the Wide Open Spaces without something to tell me exactly how far I had to go before finding a bathroom, fuel, food, or the best place to just park, give up, and let the circling vultures swoop in for a closer look? Think again.

So I had been using this thing all week, when suddenly it died on us as SB was trying to recharge her phone (remember when I mentioned the importance of the cell phone as a survival tool out here?). Luckily she had a back-up converter I the van (survival kit! I told you!) and was able to get the phone working again, but here she was holding out the broken unit toward me, apparently to have a sniff. I gave the office glass one more suspicious glance, then leaned in to snuffle the little doohickey.

Two things happened almost simultaneously that combined to scare the crap out of me and make me cry.

The first was that the automatic shut-off on the gas pump kicked in, and the nozzle in my hand jumped with an audible ‘thud’.

The second, but remember this was right on the heels of the first, was that a big fat spark arced from the metal facing of the otherwise plastic converter in her hand to strike, with a sharp and very audible ‘crack’, my upper lip.


I had a quick flash of SB’s mouth dropping open in surprise and her eyes widening to cartoon-like proportions as I let go of the pump handle and stumbled backward. The pain was so intense and so sudden my eyes started watering almost before I had taken the first step. I had been a little keyed up from keeping an eye on the station office, and as I turned away I think part of me may have been preparing to run, I’m not sure.

My second conscious thought, as I staggered to a halt a few feet away, hand up to both protect myself from further assault and see if my upper lip was even still there, was about the TV show Mythbusters. I recalled seeing the show where they took a hard look at those “Do Not Use Cell Phones While Pumping Gas” stickers that we see on the pumps nowadays. According to their findings it is not cell phones in use at the pumps that causes the occasional gasoline explosion during fill-up. What they found was that people who were wearing Nylon jackets who were getting in and out of their car were sliding across the fabric seats and building up a static electric charge that was then creating a spark that was igniting the gas fumes at the pumps!

Holy cow! I thought. We’re lucky to be alive!

My first conscious thought, however, was the one that immediately leapt from my mouth as I wandered about, slightly dazed from the pain.


SB came over, very apologetic, eyes still huge. She had felt the shock in her hand, and she’d been holding the plastic part. We joked about it a little while I put the handle away on the pump, and SB threw the offending object into the pump-side trash barrel. Then I headed into the office to pay for the purchase. I was still a little leery as I opened the office door, since a part of me was still convinced that this odd place had just had something to do with my electrified upper lip.

I can honestly say that the inside of the station was just as odd as the outside. The woman sitting behind the register did not appear to be psychotic, and I saw no evidence of a shotgun (yes, I looked). She did not, however, either speak to me or look at me the entire time I was in the office with her. She sat sideways to the counter, facing the big plate window that looked out at the pumps. She hit some buttons and the register did its thing. She took my proffered debit card, ran it, slid the slip and pen across the counter at me, then took them back all without turning my way or saying a word. My “Have a nice day” was met with nothing but the ringing of the bell over the door as I made my exit.

As far as I could tell, she didn’t blink.

Knowing that this was the point in the story (if King were writing it, anyway) where things would take a turn for the worse, I was on the look-out for something: the station attendant to suddenly appear in the door behind me, calling me back for some horrible reason; to get back to the van and find SB had taken on an unanticipated and unwanted passenger who was missing some of his teeth and most of his marbles; to get back to the van and find SB to have simply vanished, as if into thin air. So it was with a sense of relief that I opened the door and hopped into the passenger’s seat to find SB turning the ignition key (and yes, the motor started! Take that, Stephen King!) and apologizing again for the shock to the lip.

I couldn’t help it. As we drove off the cement pad that marked the territory of the weird little station I looked sideways at the woman behind the wheel. My voice, when it came, was high and sarcastic, and a very poor imitation of SB’s own.

Smell this!

She looked at me, big eyes horrified for a second, then we both laughed.

…and you know, I never did actually smell that damn thing.

Talk to you later!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Welcome to Denver

Well, a couple of weeks ago I posted a story about an experience that SB, my friend from Colorado, had while we were driving in the Boston area. I had a little experience yesterday while driving here in the Denver area, and since “Welcome to Boston” got what we writers like to call ‘a good response’ (which is just a fancy way of saying They liked it! They liked it!) I figure I’ll share my little Denver driving story this week.

Okay, here’s the story.

I was on I-25 North, driving toward Denver. It was right about 5:00, so there was some traffic, but it was moving. The interstate speed limit in Colorado is 75mph, and I’m used to the limit of 65mph back home in Massachusetts. The same rule of thumb still seems to apply, though: as long as you’re driving within 10mph of the limit, you’re pretty safe. So traffic was moving at 80-85, and I was just following suit. There are four lanes of traffic there, and I happened to be in the second lane in from the left — the left lane being, technically, the ‘passing lane’.

We all know what that means, though, don’t we? Quite a few people simply get in that lane and stay there, passing as many people in the other lanes as they can.

I have to admit: I’m from the Boston area. Usually I am one of those people.

So the lane I was in was moving at about 80mph, but that leftest lane was doing about 85. Guess where I wanted to be?

I kept an eye on my left-hand mirror, watching for a break in traffic in the passing lane large enough for me to slip into. A pair of motorcycles were roaring along over there, and I watched them as they passed me. There’s no helmet law in Colorado, so the one guy had long hair streaming in the 85mph breeze while the other had a shaven head that was pretty red from constant exposure to the sun. They blew right past me, making me wish I was on my own bike as I cruised up the highway.

After the two bikers was a work van, one of the extended types, white and covered with business logos. I have no idea what those logos were, though, since my eyes were glued to what was coming up behind the van — empty space. A nice big slot, maybe five car-lengths, of open space in the traffic for me to slip into.

I was a happy guy.

The van blew past much as the bikers had (though without looking like near as much fun) and I hit the directional and pulled to my left. Success! I looked at the traffic ahead, trying to see if the lane I was in was still moving fast for as far as the eye could see, making sure I had made a good decision. What caught my attention rather than the traffic in my lane was the sight of the two bikers yanking their Harleys to the right, through one, then two, and finally three lanes of traffic in the blink of an eye. I remember having the impression that they must have almost missed their exit, and then the van ahead of me grabbed my attention. Grabbed it with two fists and squeezed.

He had been moving pretty well when he passed me, and even though I had accelerated as I took possession of that coveted passing lane I had still lost ground on him. Thus it was that he was quite a few car-lengths ahead of me when the driver just freaked out. He seemed to also try to jerk his vehicle suddenly to the right just as the bikers had, but this guy was driving about 5,000lbs more vehicle than either of the helmetless Harley riders. The front of the van whipped into the next lane over, but the rear seemed to take a little while to catch on. For just a second I was looking at the van somewhat broadside as, tires screeching a bit, the front and back ends of the vehicle were in completely separate lanes. Then the back of the van got the idea and slid over to follow the front wheels in their new and slightly different course.

Now, though, with the van completely out of my way, I could see the bucket.

Yeah, there it was. A big orange plastic bucket, one of those five gallon babies that you can get at Home Depot for less than $3. They call it the ‘Homer Bucket’. Well Homer had apparently chucked this bucket from a moving vehicle, and he hadn’t even had the decency to throw it off by the side of the road, like a common litterbug.

Oh no.

This special litterbug had dumped off his big orange plastic bucket right in the middle of the passing lane of I-25, and there it was, spinning and dancing in the wash from the big van that had so narrowly missed hitting it. And it was coming right at me.

I’ll paint you a visual.

You know that scene they out into just about every movie having to do with a casino? You know the one I mean? The one where the camera seems to be mounted on the back rail of the craps table, and there’s this long-looking shot up the table to where the guy is shooting the dice straight at you? It’s always somebody like Brad Pitt, or George Clooney, and they have a woman on each arm, and the crowd around them is going nuts cheering them on, and they shake and release the dice sending them bouncing and jouncing down the table toward the camera. You, watching, see what look like these huge dice spinning and rolling, maybe going a little left and right as they roll but always coming straight at you in super-slo-mo?


Take that scene and remove one of the dice, so now there’s just one bouncing toward you. Got it? Now turn that big, friendly looking die rolling along a green-felt-covered table and turn it into an oversize, bright orange, heavy plastic bucket. With me so far? Nice. Last, but by no means least, I want you to forget all about that whole ‘super-slo-mo’ thing and picture this bucket from Hell suddenly appearing and heading straight for you at more than eighty-five miles per hour!

Can you see it?

So could I.

I think I wet my pants a little. I refused to check until hours later when everything would have been dry anyway, but I can not, in good conscience, rule it out.

What ran through my mind was ‘Oh my God this isn’t even my van, I borrowed it!’ … Well, to be completely honest, some quite strong curse words flowed quickly through my brain, and then it was ‘Oh my God, this isn’t even my van…’. I won’t be specific, but I’m pretty good at spouting curse words, so suffice to say if you can think of it right now, I probably thought of it then. At light speed.

Well, there’s a bit of a blank spot in my memory here, so I can’t describe exactly what happened. I can tell you that I remember watching the Rolling Bucket of Death receding in my left-hand wing mirror and realizing that I had somehow shifted over a lane. I was pretty sure that the space to my right had been occupied all this time, and wondered why I just hadn’t had a wreck. I did the very slow, stunned head-turn thing and saw that the car that had been beside me was still beside me. I could see that the driver of that car was staring into his rear-view mirror, probably watching the bucket as I had, but a second after I looked at him he did the slow, stunned head-turn thing toward me. His eyes were very large, and he seemed to be gripping the wheel very tight.

How he moved out of the way at the exact time I was taking possession of his lane whether he liked it or not might be one for Time Life Books and their Mysteries and the Unexplained series. All I know is, he did it.

I gave him a strained-feeling smile and a small wave, sort of ‘Royal Family on Parade’ style. He nodded slowly but refused to release his grip on the wheel. He didn’t slow down, but moved into the next lane to the right, and then the next and final lane when he could. It slowed him down a little, I think, but I believe he was just trying to get as far away from me as possible.

I, for my part, stayed in my lane for a minute or two, letting my system process the massive amount of adrenaline that had just been dumped in it… then hit my directional, checked the traffic, and accelerated off into the passing lane again. This little episode had slowed me down, and I was on my way to pick someone up. I had to make up for lost time… and I am from Boston after all.


Welcome to Denver!

Talk to you later!