Friday, April 26, 2013

Band-aids Save Lives

Multiple years ago, my husband bought me a truck. (You know how it is; 50 years is silver, 75 years is golden, years 1, 2, and 3 are like rock, paper, and scissors, no one really knows what year four is and then year five hits you and BAM!!! rusty old truck year). The truck was a 1966 Ford F100, which he actually bought for the truck bed. He inherited a 1966 Ford F100 from his grandpa and his unfulfilled dream is to restore it. A neighbor smashed into it, so naturally he had to buy a second truck with a bed that was in better shape to replace the damaged bed on the first vehicle.

Fast forward to the second child, which we all know is one too many to fit in a car seat in a cab of the truck. For that reason, it became necessary to buy a third 1966 Ford F100, but this one a king cab/dump truck. For several years it sat as a yard ornament until one day, child number three was born and it was no longer possible to fit in the cab, even illegally.

So as it currently stands, Mater, as we've nicknamed the truck, runs smoothly, has a flatbed with wood sides, and as any dump truck should, has a working hydraulic system to dump the load it carries. The dumping feature is a recent innovation as far as the truck goes, so while I've heard the theory many times, I have yet to put it into practice; until today.

I helped my mom prune the hedges and ended up with a full load of branches and green waste. We loaded it into the truck, tied it down, and I made my way, with the three children, out to the landfill. All went well during transport and even as we arrived in the designated dumping area. Then I realized we had piled the branches over the back and I couldn't lift the wooden panel to open the back end.

I pulled out a few branches, but the day was warm and the children restless. Impatience won out and, completely ignoring the laws of physics, I went to the cab to hit the switch to raise the bed. As I said, I've never actually done it, just heard about it. By connecting a couple of wires, the bed began to rise up, just as it should. When it peaked, it stopped. The branches, secured by the back panel, remained stationary. I reversed the switch and nothing happened. I tried again; again nothing happened. Amazingly, despite my over-sized body weight, the hydraulics were stronger and my hanging on the sides did nothing to cause the bed to lower.

At this point, I called my husband at work. He was unreachable. I tried the switch again making different connections, all resulting in differing sounds, but no lowered bed. I called his cell phone, which went to voice mail. The children were now hungry and seemed to have no insight as to how to remedy our mechanical situation. I called again and finally he answered.

From a distance of over 30 miles, he tried to talk me through it. It seems that the wires I connected in the cab were not the only loose wires. There were also some beneath the bed on the actual hydraulic system. He explained he had not connected the wires because he didn't want the children messing with the bed and raising and lowering it. (Does that make me one of the children?)

He asked first if I had moved back the hitch. I glanced at it. Looked fine, so I made a nondescript grunt. The second task was to engage the switch and then get under and find another wire, which I did. I was told to ground it to the frame. I did so. There was a minor spark (a lot like many of my first dates) and then nothing happened. I repeated the steps, but had only one hand available to me as the other was holding the phone to my ear. Again, nothing happened. He told me again to engage the toggle switch and to ground the other wire beneath the bed. I tried to argue that it didn't seem safe, but he insisted that was what needed to be done, so I again repeated the entire process. I searched through the truck finally finding some stickers that had once been attached to my apples. Using them, I secured the wire to the frame and backed up. Nothing happened. Checking my line, I discovered that the stickers hadn't held. I looked through my purse and found a band-aid. This I used to secure the wire to the frame, where the bed made all sorts of whirring noises, but didn't go down much at first.

I flipped the toggle switch in the cab. Somehow the planets aligned and for but a moment, the bed began to lower. I jumped out of the way an saw my entire life flash before my eyes. I tried to explain this to my spouse, who said the bed would only lower part of the way, and that I had to jump on it while holding the wire to the frame to drop it fully. Uh. . . what?

By this time, one  of the children had to go to the bathroom. He's young and can't hold it. Although it was nearing closing time and I was certain being watched, I got him out and had him drop his pants to take care of business. This seemed the ticket for escape and the other two children suddenly had to go as well. I told them to wait. They were still hungry, so I told them to eat the remainder of the loaf of bread not consumed at lunch time.

This put me with a partially lowered bed, three hungry children who had to go to the bathroom (at least two of them) and a full load of green waste. I again began pulling at the branches and removed enough of them to lift the back panel. Logic, reason, and rational though should have led me to pull the remaining branches from the load and drive home. But what point is there in owning a dump truck if one is unable to cause it to dump?

I again engaged the switch in the cab, that lifted the bed. I pulled forward and the entire load was deposited. Now I had only the issue of lowering the bed. Fortunately, I paused at this moment to think. I had to put the wire beneath the bed onto the frame while the toggle was engaged without getting smashed by the bed. It didn't seem doable. It was at this point I realized I could access the necessary wire from beneath the truck rather than only between the frame and the bed. If the bed were to drop, I wouldn't be crushed, just startled; a better option all around.

Also, as the truck was facing downhill, by lying behind the back tires, I didn't run the risk of being run over. Granted a sudden lurch could send my three children careening down through a chain link fence, but they had all been buckled in at one point, they should be fine.

I climbed beneath the truck and slid the wire across the frame. Little by little the bed dropped about 3/4 of the way. At that point, I wedged the wire into a loose weld and climbed into the bed to jump on it to force it into the lowered position.

Round trip, the excursion only took an hour and a half. Not bad considering the landfill sits no more than seven minutes from my house.

My spouse came home later that night and inspected the truck. I helped him fix the hitch I'd bent, and then we discussed the intricacies of the afternoon. He seemed quite distressed by the fact that I'd been between the bed and the frame, even after I explained to him that I had done just as he'd said. Finally, seeing the discussion was getting us nowhere, I said, "I guess it's good I have a dead dad watching out for me then." He thought a moment and replied, "Yes, but your dead dad still owes you a pole to the head."*

*A couple of years ago, while helping my brother install a swingset constructed of steel, I didn't counter balance the "leg" when we went to move it. Consequently, my pole slipped lose and plummeted to the ground taking my dad with it. Other than in movies, I've never seen anyone drop like that. He was quite forgiving, but I can't help but think I may have knocked out at least two years of graduate school with that blow.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Perfect Storm

You know what makes for a great day? Shopping with your children in a fabric store where one child has an "accident" and goes into hysterics in the bathroom where you are trying to take care of it and he is so loud that you are certain child protective services will arrive at any moment and then having him announce loudly to anyone who will listen that he's not wearing any underwear.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Floppy White Hat

I used to love to fly. In 19-- I took my first plane ride and flew to Pennsylvania for a 4-H trip. Yep, I was that kid; the amazing 4-Her. I did learn to sew; the cooking didn't really take, but sewing has proved to be a useful and rewarding skill.

The flight there, my best friend and I dressed up in dresses to fly. We were so excited. I kept my beverage container to use as an oxygen mask for my stuffed animal (don't most late teen teenage girls fly with a stuffed animal?)

Somewhere between age 16 and now, that anticipation has turned to terror. I don't mind the actual flight; I love the feeling of taking off, the weightlessness, becoming air born, and the slight shake of the plane even the most skilled pilot can't seem to avoid, but that airport security now gives me anxiety so severe, I am about one pat-down away from a mental breakdown. I hate being stopped and having all my personal items searched through. I hate having someone in a very audible voice who refers to me only as ma'am and refuses to make eye contact tell me my computer, computer bag, phone and shoes all have to be in separate bins. Meanwhile, a crowd of irritable travelers stands behind me looking on, wondering who the moron causing the hold up is. I have seen shorter trains than the line created by my separate bins to house my items that have to be x-rayed.

My most recent trip was to Florida for my sister-in-law's 40th birthday.

That wasn't even the best sunset we saw, but I didn't have my camera for the others. We left home and waited in a considerably long line to get through security at which point my yogurt was confiscated. I asked if I could eat it and was told I'd have to exit the "secure" area and go back through security. As our flight was nearing departure time, I didn't want to risk it. Besides, wouldn't a reasonable individual realize that if I were willing to ingest the substance, it probably wasn't a risk to other passengers? My kidney beans, soaking in their juices made it through, but not my favorite yogurt. It wouldn't be a huge deal except apparently the flavor and brand I most love is not marketed in Florida.

Upon arrival we went to a circus garden where there is a large Banyan Tree. I don't like Banyan trees. I would be afraid to sleep near one in fear of being grown over by morning. There was a statue without a face. I didn't like her much either.

That night we got to the condo where we would be staying.
That isn't the condo, this is the pool at the base of the stairs. Every morning I awoke, headed down the stairs and swam laps in the pool. The bay is just beyond the pool. We saw jellyfish and regular fish.

The most significant aspect of the vacation was that it was so relaxing. I didn't realize how stressed I had been until suddenly. . .I wasn't. I woke up when my eyes opened. I ate meals when I was hungry or when I wanted to. I walked the beach at sunset every night. The only thing that would have made it better would be if my man friend were there with me, except I don't think he would be in to staying hydrated through osmosis. He's more of a go and do type. Nice, but sometimes it's nice to sit and sit.

Each time I go to the beach, I collect shells. I think they are so beautiful and perfect, and then I get home and never do anything with them. They sit for awhile, take a turn in the aquarium, and eventually, covered in moss, get thrown away. This time, I found a purple tinted shell. Purple is my daughters favorite color, so I dove down to the sand, pried open the oysters, and harvested some lilac shaded pearls to go with the shell. That was nothing compared to the underwater cavern, visible only at the lowest tide, where I mined the precious gems used to make this necklace for her.

Oh wait. That was my plan, but I wore water shoes because I don't like knowing what else is in the ocean with me, so instead of taking from nature, I went to a craft store for everything but the shell. The necklace is nice though, right? I used a drill bit, the same type one would use on porcelin tile (diamond tipped, I believe) to bore the holes.

I might have also made a couple little somethings for myself. I don't love the pointed dangling earrings. They're alright, but not the vision of loveliness I had envisioned. The fan shaped earrings I quite like, however and I think they'll go well with my new hat as well as my most recent additions to the wardrobe; the curtain fabric sun dress and 1970's knit beach cover-up.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was the pier. It extends well into the ocean and is a place where many, many people fish. We watched a pelican, a pair of dolphins, and one man even caught a shark. The best moment, however, was when a tourist (one that wasn't me) asked a man what kind of a fish he had on his line.
"A Spanish Mackerel"
"And why is it Spanish?" asked the woman.
He paused only a second before responding, "Because the Puerto Ricans didn't want their name being used."
I laughed, probably louder than is strictly polite in such a public location. The woman followed up with, "Okay, I'll google it."

That night we walked back to the condo from the pier. I'm not certain of the distance, but darkness came upon us before we made it back. I hadn't really considered that possibility and had worn only my sun glasses. As daylight faded, wearing the tinted lenses was no longer an option, but whereas they are prescription sunglasses, I kept them on as long as possible. At last, I took them off, allowing the final rays of light to illuminate my pathway. The only problem is my vision is unclear. At one point I stepped on something indistinguishable that soon began skittering across the sand. It alarmed me greatly, to say the least, especially when it continued to zig-zag in front of me for several paces. My sister assured me that it was only a leaf, forced into movement by the light breeze, but it took quite a bit of convincing to assure my brain that it had been tricked by my eyes.

So how does the hat factor into this story? I should think it obvious, but I will go into detail so you don't have to infer. The first day there we swam in the morning, went to the beach in the mid-morning, came back and swam, had lunch, swam in the pool, and went back to the beach after dinner. It's been winter so long I didn't think about sun screen and may have gotten a little bit sunburned, or a lot sunburned. No blisters; quite pinkish-red and shades of fuchsia.

We went to another garden and would be spending a great deal of time outdoors. I hadn't brought a hat intending instead to slather myself in sunscreen. Then I remembered how much I hate sunscreen, especially on my face where it makes my skin feel cloistered. I tried on several in the gift shop and finally settled on a great big floppy white one. When I use terms such as "great-big" and "floppy" it might not give a true sense of the grandeur of the hat. Close your eyes. Wait. Open them, read this, then close them. Think of Saturn with its many, many rings. Now paint it white. That is my hat. Not descriptive enough? Okay, look below.
I'm the one in the striped skirt. The horizontal stripes make me look shorter than Henry Ford, but as you can see, it doesn't matter and he is quite into me. Enough about that though, focus on the hat. I got quite a few compliments. As I walked through the airport, flight attendants and captains alike complimented its beauty and versatility. As I awaited my mom, a man turned to his coworker and said, "Why don't you get a hat like that?"
She responded that he wouldn't let her wear hats.
He replied, "If you had a hat like that, I'd let you wear it."
My favorite comment (and I like to take it as a compliment) was from a gentleman inside the post office. He said, "A hat like that belongs at the Kentucky Derby." I'm pretty sure he was referencing Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. "Come on Dover! Come on Dover! Come on Dover, move your bloomin' . . ." yeah, you remember the scene. At any rate, it is nice to know that if things don't work out with my current spouse, as long as I have my hat, I'll have options.

Its wide brim shades me from the sun and the best added benefit is, as you can see, it partially covers my eyes, a selling point good for sunshine, but irreplaceable for airport security. As I stood in line for the flight home and moved through the queue like a fine breed of cattle being sorted at the stock yard, I couldn't make eye contact with anyone. If people stared as I placed all of my items in their separate bins to be scanned, I couldn't see them and couldn't tell. I had to take it off to go through the metal detector, but up until that point it was just me, alone in my universe, sheltered beneath the wide brim of my big floppy hat.

We flew home on an "express" plane, which has carry-on slots where the opening is smaller than the actual space inside because it drops down inside. There I was, crowded plane, people waiting to stow their bags and find their seats, and me trying to place my carry-on in a too-small space (it's a lot like putting on control top pantyhose), but I couldn't see them and so I shoved and adjusted, and mashed and twisted and got it in, all without seeing the staring eyes that otherwise would have been burning into my skin. A kind flight attendant offered to stow my hat for me and was rather insistent, but sometimes one can't be without that type of security and so I respectfully and forcefully declined.

p.s. Thanks to all who made the trip possible. It was so rejuvinating.