Monday, May 27, 2013


So I went out into the driveway last week and started up the jeep. I was backing out of the driveway when I noticed a light on the dashboard, a small red glow where I had never seen one before. I’ve seen the “check gauges” light come on. I’ve seen the “Check engine” light come on. I’ve seen the high-beam indicator, the brake indicator, low gas, and the four-wheel-drive light. This one was right in the middle of everything, and was small, red, and said “Airbag”.

The airbag light? I didn’t even know there was an airbag light. The things you learn! I actually stared at that light for a few seconds before it occurred to me that it was telling me there was something wrong with the airbag. And if it was anything like the “Check Oil” light in my old car (which basically told you when there wasn’t any — remind me to tell you that story sometime) then something was about to go fantastically wrong with my airbag. Armed with that knowledge I did what any good Boston driver would do.

I kept on driving, but leaned way back in my seat, just in case that little light was an indication that my Jeep was about to punch me in the face.

I got to work without being assaulted by my ride, turned the jeep off, then back on.

No airbag light.

Aha, I thought. Just a glitch. That little thing will probably never come on again...

Two days later it was on again.


So I went home and Googled it.

Oh look I said to myself. A recall notice on my 2002 Jeep. Terrific.

That’s okay, though, right? They call you in to fix a design flaw, and they have to pay for it, right? Especially since this ‘design flaw’ has apparently caused a few airbags to spontaneously deploy while their vehicles were in use. Not something the Safety Board really wants to hear, I’d imagine.

Or their lawyers.

I called up the local dealership.

“Hello? I have a 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the airbag warning light has come on. I looked it up and found there is a recall on my model Jeep pertaining to the airbag system, and I was wondering when I could get in there and have the sensor replaced or whatever it is, before the whole thing goes blooey in my face.”

“Are you in our system, sir?”

“Yes I am.”

“Can I have your name, sir?”

I gave it. I heard computer keys tapping. Then I heard them again. Then the gentleman in the other end of the line gave me a “Hmmm...”

Oh my God, what a ‘Hmmm’! I would not have been surprised to have someone tell me this guy was actually a doctor and he just got into the whole auto-repair thing because there wasn’t enough money in medicine. His Hmmm had tombre. His Hmmm had feeling. It was the most emotion-packed monosyllabic grunt I have ever heard, and I’ve been to more than my share of different doctors over the past few years. Specialists! This guy should give lessons to the specialists. In fact I was so caught up in my admiration of this sound I almost missed the words that followed.

“I’m sorry, we don’t show any recall of that nature for your vehicle.”

“I... I beg your pardon?”

“We don’t show any recalls like that for your car in our system here.”


I was feeling a little pressure in my head, kind of like the start of a cold, before it gets to the point where you sound funny to the world and vice-versa.

“Well, sir, what we can do is have you come in here and we’ll run a diagnostic on the system and see if there’s a problem, and we can take it from there.”

“I see... and how much does this ‘diagnostic’ cost?”

“Our diagnostic runs a hundred dollars, sir.”

The pressure was ratcheting up inside my head. I couldn’t have been sure at the time, but I thought it might have something to do with the answers I was getting over the phone.

“A hundred dollars.”

“Yes sir.”

Yup, it was definitely building.

“So I find a report that your company’s issued a recall for a certain issue, and my car is acting in the exact manner the recall notice says to look out for, that recall notice that was posted by your company, and when I get it there and tell you about this recall notice and exactly what the problem is, you're going to charge me a hundred dollars to look and find out what the problem is. Is that right?”

“Well, sir, we need to check things out to find out what’s wrong.”

“Even if I’m coming to you telling you what’s wrong?”

“Don’t worry, sir, we’ll know if there’s anything wrong once we run the diagnostic.”

“Right. For a hundred dollars.”

It seemed that even for a safety recall this dude was bound and determined to get me to pay at least a hundred dollars. I’m pretty sure I sounded calm over the phone, but my head was about to explode. I decided to just give in before the inside of my head came out for a visit while the outside spread itself all over the landscape.

“Okay... when can I bring it in to have it looked at?”

“Well, looking at my schedule here I’d say Saturday would be the best day. Could you bring it in first thing Saturday morning?”

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll be there.”

At the very least, I thought, I can print out the recall notifications I found online and bring them with me — then maybe they’ll ‘find’ them in the system.

I kept on thinking that. I had to keep thinking that, since every time I remembered that conversation over the next couple of days I felt the pressure in my head shoot right up to the popping point: Every time I saw the airbag light come on while I was driving I would mentally redline in nothing flat, and a little voice in the back of my mind shouting ‘Look out! It’s gonna blow!’ Between that and the stress of the constant threat of my vehicle just randomly smashing my face it’s a good thing it really only lasted until two days later, while I was at work.

I got back to my mail truck and checked my phone. I had missed a call, but the caller had been courteous enough to leave me a voice mail.


“Hello, Rob? This is your local Jeep dealership. Sorry, but that appointment you scheduled for Saturday isn’t going to work — we’re having the floors in the mechanic bays painted that day and we can’t have any vehicles in the area. Can you make it next Saturday?”


Talk to you later!

Oh, and just as a little bonus for actually reading this far, here's a little video that makes me laugh just every time I see it!

Saturday, May 18, 2013


So I have this condition you may have heard me mention, called anhidrosis. For some reason, and  no one has been able to tell me why yet, I lack all ability to sweat. I used to sweat. Used to sweat like a champ. Used to wish for some way to turn it down, maybe even off, just so I could get through a nice summer day without having sweat running down my face, stinging my eyes, and just, well, looking pretty disgusting in general.

Be careful what you wish for.

So then something happened, something all secret and weird, and whatever it was turned off my waterworks. Can’t sweat a drop. I stay bone-dry on the hottest days and no matter what I’m doing, from working to running to playing with my son. No matter what, I’m the ‘No sweat’ guy.

Of course, that does mean that I’ll just get hotter and hotter until I fall down in a stroke.

So, in the continuing effort to find someone who can tell me just what the hell happened and what we might be able to do about it (rather than just scratch their heads and say “I dunno, man,” (that last is pretty if you read it in Tommy Chong’s voice (wait, did I just put parenthesis inside parentheses? Holy @#$% wait, I just did it again-- hang on, I can fix this...)) ...whew! Almost went back in time or something there!) I went into Boston about six weeks ago and got a skin biopsy. The hope behind my simply lying there and letting them bore a plug out of my leg was this: “Hey, maybe something weird will show up that can point us in the right direction here!”

Why not, it works on House.

So they bored their hole and took their sample (which they said was small, but I saw the damn thing and it takes less tissue than that to generate clones in the movies. Yes, I know it’s the movies, not reality, but this is my leg we’re talking about here, so clones I tell you!) and told me they’d have it analyzed and get the results over to their specialist. Their specialist could then explain any findings to my general practitioner, who would then dumb it down by several orders of magnitude for little old me. The one with the hole in his leg.


So they bandaged up the fresh hole in my leg and sent me limping on my way. I hopped on home and waited for them to run that tissue sample through their cloning device -- excuse me, I mean ‘lab’, and get back to me.

So I waited.

And waited.

And --  but you get the picture, right?   

Eventually the hole in my flesh closed up, leaving a mark strangely like a big, somewhat dark, freckle on the side of my calf. A month. Six weeks. I started to think it had all been just some twisted dream, that I had imagined that little spiral of my own skin floating in the specimen jar, looking so much like pork I was a little grossed out, and that the spot on my leg was indeed just a weird-looking spot created by sun exposure (a whole other thing to worry about, let me assure you)...

But then I got the call.

“Hello, this is your doctor’s office calling.  We understand that the lab you went to has the results from your biopsy. Apparently they found some irregularity you need to be told about, but your Primary Care Physician would prefer that you discuss the results with the specialist they have there (a neurologist, I believe) rather than discussing it with her - the specialist would be better equipped to answer any questions you might have. Please call this number, 555-blah blah blah blah and start a file with them so we can make the referral.”

An irregularity?


This is the first time someone hasn’t simply scratched their head and said “ You know what? I dunno.”   An irregularity means they found something, and if they found something then maybe they can do something about it, right?


Come on, this is not a rhetorical question, people! Answer me! Righ-- wait, what was that? Oh. Really? Oh.

Apparently that was a rhetorical question. My bad.

Anyway. I called the new doctor. I got on their books. My doc called their doc and said “What’s up, Doc?” Now all I had to do was wait for the specialist to call to schedule an appointment. They call, they see me, they explain what they found to me, and maybe, just maybe we see if there’s something we can do about it. It was only the beginning of May, and all the hot weather, the weather that’s actually dangerous for me, is in the near future.

Man, I thought, if this works out I could have a whole different summer than I’d planned on.

My hopes were so high they were munching on Fritos and laughing at a DVD of “Reefer Madness”.

But then I got the call.

“Hello, this is Dr. So-And-So’s office, calling to schedule an appointment,” she said.

“Yes?” I said.

“Is this Rob?” she said.

“Yes-yes?” I said.

“I just need to let you know that Dr. So-And-So is scheduling into March.” she said.

“...” I said.

“Hello?” she said.

“March,” I said.

“Yes,” she said.

“Of 2014,” I said.

“Yes,” she said.

“...” I said.

“Hello?” she said. “Are you still there?”

“Like,” I said, “ten months from now.”

She sighed.

“Yes,” she said. “Ten months from now.”

“Please hold.” I said.

I punched the ‘mute’ button on my phone so that she could no longer hear me.

If I were living in the world created  by Charles Schultz, in the comic strip we know as “the Peanuts”, you would have seen nothing but the underside of my chin as I threw my head back and filled the air above my head with the word “ARGH!!!” Birds up and down the street took flight as the word hammered through the quiet afternoon.   

I grew still.

The birds settled.

I punched the ‘mute’ button again.

In as calm a voice as I could muster, I said “So... about that appointment...”

They took the biopsy more than a month ago.

They found the irregularity this week.
They’ll tell me all about it... next year.


Talk to you later!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Saturday, May 11, 2013

An Alarming Response

Hello, WYMOP readers!

First, a little bit of shameless self-promotion. Hell, I have the blog, might as well use it, right?

Presenting the official Table of Contents for the upcoming (and soon to be named) Second Anthology from New England Horror Writers:

Introduction: Jeff Strand

Furious Demon by Addison Bowman
The Basement Legs by Robert DuPerre
Hungry For More by Michael Evans
The Secret Backs of Things by Christopher Golden
Blood Prophet by Scott Goudsward
Three Fat Guys Soap by Catherine Grant
Chuffers by Paul McMahon
Spirits by James A. Moore
Bleedthrough by Gregory Norris
Lycanthrobastards by Errick Nunnally
To Chance Tomorrow by Kristi Petersen Schoonover
A Night at the Show by Robert Smales
The Girl Who Wouldn't Break by Lucien Spelman
The Widow Mills by Trisha Wooldridge

Yup, that's me, third from the bottom. Yay me!

There. That's out of the way. So now...

...Here's the story:

It was a Friday, and I was in the mail truck working my way through my route. That’s important: It was Friday, not Saturday.

I pulled the truck into the small parking lot alongside the office of the Certified Public Accountant that I deliver to and gathered together the CPA’s mail as I hopped out of the truck. I was about an hour into my route, and I was moving along okay: I had hit my stride and had a certain amount of momentum going, both mental and physical. Besides all that I was in a terrific mood. I bounced my way up the three stairs to their front porch, laid a hand on the doorknob and, with a twist of the wrist and a little bit of flourish I stepped into the office—

—to the sound of the alarm going off, stridently woop-woop-wooping away. I stutter-stepped to a halt just inside the door and actually looked about the place for the first time that morning.

There was no one to be seen. There were no lights on. I turned to look through the big plate window fronting the establishment (through which I could have seen there were no lights on, had I but looked) and saw that I had booted my way through the parking lot without even noticing the complete lack of any vehicle in it but mine.

“Son of a bitch, I guess they’re closed,” I said. My only answer was the continued woop-woop-wooping of that siren coming from somewhere in the building.
I took two steps deeper into the apparently forbidden (and yet oh-so-inviting) business office and put the mail on the receptionist’s desk, the same place I put it every day during the week. I went back out onto the sunlit porch, closing the still unlocked door behind me. I looked at my truck, sitting lonely in the parking lot, then spun about and placed the top bar of the railing across my backside and leaned there, waiting for the police to come take me away. I was perched there, imagining two or even three police cruisers ripping around the bend and screeching to a halt in that nose-to-nose way they do in the movies, the doors flying open and then seeing nothing but gun barrels and mirrored shades pointing over those open doors while a bullhorn-enhanced voice ordered me to ‘Come out of the CPA with your hands up and lie face down on the ground, arms outstretched! Do it now, right now! Move!’

I was sure I’d wind up somewhere in the news, the local paper at least. I was just getting to the part of my daydream where, flashbulbs going off all around me as I left the local cop shop, I was quoted in the news as saying “I dunno what happened! I just turned the knob and walked right in!” when a sudden new sound jolted me from my smiling reverie. Somewhere inside, clearly audible through that big front window I mentioned, the telephone was ringing.

That’s probably the alarm company, calling to find out if the alarm was tripped in error, I thought. The door’s still unlocked — should I just go in there and answer it, tell them what happened?

Then I considered what might happen if the police really did see me come strolling out through the front door five minutes after the alarm was set off, and opted to stay right where I was, in plain sight. Besides, that railing was a lot more comfortable than it looked. I’d started looking at my watch by then, wondering what the police response time would look like. Granted, it’s a small town and I can’t imagine it seeing a lot of burglar alarm action, but its very size means they wouldn’t have to drive that far to respond…

The phone inside started ringing a second time. It had been about five minutes now, since I’d bee-bopped on into the closed office, so I figured maybe this time the alarm company was hoping the burglar might answer the phone himself so they could ask him to lock up when he left. I declined to answer, remaining where I was, perched on that railing like a 200 lb bird on a telephone wire. A very strong telephone wire. The phone stopped ringing, and I started looking at my watch with greater and greater frequency.

Eight minutes.

Nine minutes.

I heard a car engine, the slight squeal of tires coming around the corner, and looked up expectantly. A small sports car zoomed past, the reclining driver nothing more than mirrored shades and expensive hair. I waved, just to have something to do. He ignored me, far too busy working the gearshift like a conductor’s baton.

I sighed and remained on my perch.

Eleven minutes.


At fifteen minutes I figured I had had enough; I had done my duty. In fifteen minutes I could have walked to the police station from there. Backward. In my sleep. I got in my mail truck and slowly drove out of the parking lot and on to the rest of my route, on the lookout for any of the Boys in Blue who might suddenly spring into action and slap a ‘leaving the scene’ charge on me.


So, if there’s anyone out there who’s been just looking for somewhere the police have a terrible response time to start your out of control crime spree, drop me an email. I just might have a suggestion for you.

Talk to you later!