Sometimes It’s the Little Things

Getting through the doldrums of winter can be a bit of a chore.  We’ve been dealing with several concurrent snowstorms, and I think it was the better part of a week where we barely saw the sun through the clouds and endless snowfall.  Here in Maine, that means that many people are stranded indoors, with no choice but to engage in their favorite pastime.

Drinking.

Thankfully, that’s not one of my favorite pursuits, but I still found it necessary to make one of those ill-fated runs to the grocery store when it was announced that we were going to yet again get another storm.  I dread these – actually, I hate grocery shopping in general – but I especially despise pre-disaster grocery shopping.  The lines, the rudeness, the near fist fights over necessities like bread, milk, cheap beer, and cigarettes.  It was entirely necessary in this case, however, as I was nearly out of absolutely critical items to weather the impending storm: Pepsi and peanut M&Ms.

I felt my anxiety building as I prowled the aisles – people were getting far too close with their shopping carts, and I absolutely hate when someone steps in front of me at the display I’m scanning, or when they leave their cart in the exact center of the aisle while fondling the beans.  In this town, that last phrase can be about as dirty as you think it might be.

Luckily I found something at the end of the snack aisle that at least temporarily alleviated my distress.  It epitomizes all that is wrong with both the education system and my brain.  I present it to you now:

20140213_101918I’m not sure I can properly express just how this sign struck me when I first read it.  Maybe it would help if I described the cashier.  She is about six feet tall, her teeth are black, she has hair on her chin that’s longer than most of the hair on my entire head, and she has a very advanced case of front-butt.  If you’re unfamiliar with this affliction, I leave you to the bowels of the internet.  The Truth Is Out There.

So you see, asking the cashier for worms immediately evokes images of a cashier with, well, worms.

“Hey, I was just wondering if you’d like to get out of here and you could give me some worms?”

“Are those worms in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

“A pound of your finest worms, please!”

I’ll just avoid making any comments at all about ‘red wigglers’.  Oops.

I’m especially tickled by the fact that the sign says “SPECIAL”.  Worms don’t come along every day, so get some now before we run out!  I also noticed that they picked the one person in the store who could write all their letters and actually spell all the words properly.  There isn’t even an apostrophe in ‘worms’, which is staggering these days.  I have to wonder if the person who wrote the sign did so with extreme irony, or if they truly had no clue how it might be read.

You should probably be informed at this point that ice fishing is a Big Deal around here.  It’s a great excuse for drinking, and as long as you’re in the store for a couple of cases of beer, you might as well grab some bait.  You never know – you might actually catch a fish.  It’s not unusual to see several varieties of worms in the dairy case next to the eggs and milk.  I have to wonder what the Health Department thinks about this, but maybe there are some regulations in the worm industry that I’m not aware of.  Maybe they use extra-clean dirt or something.

I got my Pepsi and M&Ms, but I couldn’t quite look the cashier in the eye when I checked out.  Debit, please.  No cash back, hold the worms.

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Forbidden Love

My passion for you is unbounded
I think of you from my first waking moment
Until my head hits the pillow at night

You even visit me in my dreams
I think of our future together
The many things yet to enjoy

I treasure the times we’re alone together
The meals we’ll share
The passion you add to my life

The taste of your sweet lips
Your beautiful complexion
That pink, healthy glow

My friends are cruel
They say you’re fat
But you are beautiful to me

They tell me you’re bad
That I’m with you too much
That you’ll break my heart

I’m tired of hiding my love
I want you with me always
Until the day I die

Alas, it is not to be
Why, why have you forsaken me?
Is there another who can love you more?

Come home with me now
And I will love you forever
I will speak your name with my last breath

Oh sweet, sweet Bacon.

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On The Road Again…

I’m not really a Willie Nelson fan, but I hear his voice in my head every time I use those words.

So my boss has a pickup truck in Maine that he’d really like to have in Florida.  I have a bunch of stuff in Maine that needs to go to Florida.  Hmm…  There might be a way to combine these two things into a useful expedition.

Road Trip!

Let me just say that driving from Maine to Florida alone is not a whole lot of fun.  Doing it with somebody else could either be a bonding experience or the end of a friendship – I guess it would be a defining moment in any relationship.  It is a bit liberating to do it by yourself – left to the whims of your stamina, your stomach, and your bladder.  A Tour de Force of Rest Stops of the Eastern Seaboard (check the non-fiction downloads on Amazon in the near future).  I’m kidding. (mostly)   I am thankful, however, that I do not possess any sort of phobia related to public restrooms.

On a related note, I did get to live out one of my worst nightmares.  Let’s say a guy is driving for long hours on the highway, and the waistband of his jeans begins to bind in a very uncomfortable way.  Maybe he would unbutton his jeans in the interest of comfort, seeing as how he’s sitting there for hours and hours – nobody will even see that the top button of his jeans is undone.  It’s not like he’s exposing himself or anything.  Let’s further assume that this same guy drove for several hours in this state, drifting further and further into a sort of grey zone where the miles slide by and time passes without notice.  Eventually, this guy is made aware of a certain biological imperative, and he pulls into a crowded rest area on I-95 in Georgia to take care of a pressing need that now takes up much of his consciousness.

That guy might just find himself standing in a very crowded parking lot with his unbuttoned jeans suddenly down around his knees.  Very much like that dream where you find yourself at school without the benefit of pants.  That experience might not be nearly as humiliating as you’ve built it up to be in your mind.

Anyway, there were some other highlights of the trip that were of a slightly less personal nature:

I observed a tractor-trailer driving blithely along with the trailer fully engulfed in flames.

New Jersey smells exactly like it did when I left it in 2003.

If you happen to live in Connecticut – I’m sorry.

It’s just my opinion, but I think it should be a lot harder to find the headquarters of the NSA.  A sign stating “NSA Entrance 1 Mile” is a bit obvious.  The one on the exit ramp that says “NSA – Employees Only” was quite humorous.  Is there a separate entrance for tour groups?

It was late morning on the second day when I crossed the Florida border.  I decided to stop for gas and an early lunch.  I took the first promising exit that mentioned gas, and found myself at a gas station/truck stop/Subway/Florida visitor information center.  I thought the combination was a bit strange, but I went in anyway.  I was not prepared.  Not at all.

I quickly realized that I was the only non-employee in the entire building who was not wearing at least one article of camouflage.  This includes women, children, and infants.  Employees were dressed more professionally – some with highlights of blaze orange.  I assume this was so those dressed in camouflage didn’t mistake them for game and shoot them.  I’m not sure, since despite living in Maine I’m not part of this demographic.  Maine tends more toward flannel than camo.

After ordering my sandwich, I passed by the Visitor Information Center on my way out.  This seemed to consist of a low-walled area occupied by three young women with name tags who were involved in an animated conversation amongst themselves.  I think there were a few Visitors seeking Information, but they weren’t getting much attention.  What got my attention was the prominent display of shellacked baby alligator heads.

Baby.  Alligator.  Heads.  Just the heads – jaws wide open in that threatening way all baby alligators have.  You know the one.  Surely you’ve seen the Animal Planet documentaries with armies of baby alligators storming the neighborhoods.

Welcome to Florida!  We have dead things!  Why not buy one!  Nature!

There was also a big sign that said “DO NOT TOUCH!!!!!”  Don’t worry – that’s not going to be a problem.  This is not something I want to proudly display on my coffee table.  I don’t even want to use it as a doorstop.  If I ever need to furnish a nightmare, I’ll come back and see you.

As far as I can tell from roadside advertising, the entire central portion of the state is devoted to three things: Citrus fruit, fireworks, and personal injury lawyers.  I spent far too much time thinking about the ways in which these three things could come together in glorious failure.  Stuffing grapefruit with pyrotechnics; blasting oranges out of trees; exploding lawyers.

I think I’m going to have fun here.

 

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Home Away From Home

Being that this is going to be a less-than-stellar review of a hotel at which I spent a couple of nights, I should probably get this out of the way first:

Disclaimer: The following is a work of snark, and is intended for entertainment purposes only.  Any similarities to existing hotel properties or persons with similar-sounding names is mostly coincidental.  Probably.  So please don’t sue me.  Really, you have enough money already.

I’m not a big fan of hotels and motels in general. I’m not exactly agoraphobic, but I like being at home. I like my bed, my pillow, and the reassuring green glow of my alarm clock. I know what’s on the other side of that wall behind my head, and I know the various noises and rhythms of my own home.  Sometimes, however, circumstances call you far enough away from home so that you can’t crawl into your own comfortable nest at the end of the day.  I was going to have to place my sleeping trust in someone else’s hands.  Part of my selection process involved reading reviews from other guests, so I thought I’d write my own.  I hope it’s helpful.

I recently stayed at the, er, “Milton” (or something like that) in <redacted because they have my credit card on file, and could easily find me responsible for unknown ‘damages’ or for stealing their horrid towels or something.  But I’m not paranoid.> and I would like to make some recommendations that might help your hotel improve itself for future guests.  I have made a short list of my concerns.

  1. Mostly due to the pretty pictures you provided, I decided on a mini-suite. I’m not one for night life, and I’d rather not leave the room if possible. Having my own dining and seating areas was quite appealing.  Right up to the point where I discovered that the curtains of my first-floor room were designed such that they could not be closed.  I also discovered that my room overlooked a busy hallway not six feet from my window, and that I could be seen just about anywhere in the room except in the bed.  Perhaps the designers enjoy their morning latte and their evening television whilst fully clothed in the latest Haute couture, but I’m sure nobody wants to see me parading around in tattered boxers eating Cheerios.  Curtains that shut, please.
  2. You really need a trash can in the bathroom.  If you need to know why, you can ask Paris.  You know, Paris “Milton“?  I think she’s got trash pretty well covered.
  3. Still in the bathroom.  How about a fan?  Please?  I have to live in this suite for a couple of days.  While we’re at it, having the switch for the bathroom light inside the bathroom might be a good idea as well.  What if I’m in the middle of a midnight serenade and suddenly require additional illumination?
  4. The bed.  Being the size of an aircraft carrier was nice.  Being shaped like a bowl was not.  My back still hurts.  Eleven pillows does not make up for this shortcoming.  I am here chiefly to sleep.  The fact that it’s all hollowed out makes me think a little too much about how it got that way.
  5. Travelociraptor (or some similar website) assured me that this was a “Hot Deal” when they touted 20% off the price of my stay.  They failed to mention that this was likely the only way you could rent out this non-refundable room that shares a wall with the mechanicals for the elevator.  WHIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRRR. CLUNK!  WHIRRRRRRRRRRR.  Who needs a wake-up call?
  6. A person of larger-than-pixie-sized proportions might need more than one towel to dry off after a shower.  Just saying.
  7. Parking.  A thinking person might take the number of guest rooms and multiply by a factor of 1.5 or so.  A silly person would divide by 3.  I’ll leave you to go count parking spaces.
  8. It was nice that I had a refrigerator.  I never heard it run until I put half a bottle of Pepsi in it.  Then it ran incessantly and noisily for two full days.  It did not keep the Pepsi particularly cold.  Because of this shortcoming, I found myself in need of ice.  I found directional signage for the pool, the fitness center, the business center, and the conference room.  The only sign for the ice machine was ON the ice machine.  I sort of figured that one out.  Nice game of hide-and-seek, though.
  9. Having to walk through the “canine relief area” to get to the entry door was probably not the best idea for people dragging suitcases.
  10. Room colors.  I may be picking nits now, but “blood and vomit” would not be high on my list of color palettes for a relaxing stay.  The fake orchid was a nice touch.
  11. WHAT IS THAT STAIN ON THE OTTOMAN?!
  12. You might want to consider that weary travelers probably do not want to get up before 9 to take advantage of your free breakfast… Oh, you’re clever, aren’t you?  I see what you did there.

So, in conclusion, I found it very difficult to do anything homey in my home-away-from-home.  I could not sleep comfortably, could not eat, could not watch TV in my skivvies, could not properly go to the bathroom, and could not park my car.  All this from a three-star hotel.

Mr. “Milton”, the people have spoken.  You are the weakest link.

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The Odyssey Part II

Friday the 13th.  I’m not superstitious or anything.  Really.  We had told the movers weeks ago that I would only be there on the 12th through the 14th.  They had our stuff in storage, so obviously there would be no problem arranging to load it on a truck and carting it to Florida – where we told them it would end up in OctoberObviously.  There is no sarcasm at all in this paragraph.  Obviously.

Obviously, they did not show up on Friday the 13th.  They also did not show up on Saturday the 14th.  Our contact didn’t answer phone calls or emails, either.  It turns out they conveniently were ‘out of the office’ for a few days while our shipment was in limbo.  It was probably too much to expect that somebody else would handle logistics in their absence.

I tried to fly back to Boston on Sunday, 12/15.  I was supposed to leave at 12:30, but the instant I returned my rental car they delayed the flight an hour because someone in Boston decided to hold a blizzard.  Make that two hours.  Or maybe three.  Who’s counting, anyway?  We later found out from the flight crew that this plane just flies back and forth from Boston to Fort Myers.  They were on the runway to take off on time when the plane ahead of them skidded off the taxiway.  They had to send people out to shovel or something.

I finally got home sometime after 9 p.m., completely exhausted from the delays, the flight, and the two-hour drive back from Boston in a snowstorm.  Monday morning came quickly, and the first task on the list was to call the movers to ask WTF? and to arrange for a delivery at a later date when I can be there.

That’s not how the moving universe works.

Apparently, according to the fine print in the moving contract, they are not obligated to meet a specific date just because we request it and pay many thousands of dollars.  They will deliver some time in a ‘spread’, which can be as much as a 7-day period.  Quite convenient for people moving their valuables to another state.  “Oh, you want to sleep? Well, we’ll be there with your bed on Monday.  Or maybe Friday.  Or any day in between.  Just be there on all those days in case we show up.”  I’ll just stand there in the empty house, waiting for the phone to ring or a big truck to pull up.  No food, not even a chair.

So, the moving company happily informed us that our shipment would be delivered on Wednesday, 12/18.  We attempted to explain why this wouldn’t work, being that I and the house keys were now 1600 miles away.  That was fine with them – they would be more than happy to store our belongings for as long as we needed.  It would only be several hundred dollars per day, and $1100 for the first two days because they would have to unload the truckUnkind words were exchanged, but they did not change their position.

It is now Tuesday morning.  I have spent exactly two nights in my own bed.  It is four degrees below zero.  I am in the car, on my way back to Boston.  It turns out that a last-minute flight to Florida costs just a little less than two days of storage with the movers.

Sigh.

Being that I was just barely on time for my last flight, I left a half-hour earlier.  That worked out well until I got in the car.  I have a low tire pressure warning light and a two-hour drive ahead of me.  I decide to stop at a gas station and pump it up.  After I stop for a quick breakfast to go.  What could go wrong?

Glad you asked.  My plan was to run into Deadly Donuts and get a bagel to go.  That plan lasted until I parked.  A distraught woman asked me to help her get the window in her mini-van to roll up.  She told me the entire story about how it’s been failing for a while, and she can’t afford to fix it, and she really can’t afford to miss a day of work, but she can’t drive there with the window down and -4 temperatures.  I tried – I really did.  Manly grunts and all.  Her window would not budge.  I left her whining into a cell phone at somebody and got my bagel.

I’m running behind.  Warning light is still on.  It turns out that gas station tire pumps don’t work well at -4.  Neither to fingers.  My dollar in quarters got me three minutes of air.  I think it took me 2.5 minutes to get the valve caps off.  I got air in three of the tires.  I only have two quarters left, and the machine wants four for another run.

Guess which tire I missed?  That damned light is still on.

Now it’s snowing!  Thirty minutes later I find another gas station!  This one is only fifty cents for air!  Luck is back on my side!  Starting with the tire I missed, I hit the pump.  I realized quite quickly that I was letting out more air than I was putting in – the pump hose was cracked from the cold.  Out of time, out of patience, out of options.  Screw the tire.

Twenty minutes from Boston, the light went out.  Elven magic or something.

Late, frantic, I finally get to the airport.  The line to check a bag is extremely long, so I decide to skip it.  I rush over to get on the always-hideously-long-in-the-morning security line at Logan. (See part one.)

Nothing.  Nobody.  Not a soul.  They also decide to put me through some expedited security line.  Don’t take out your laptop or your liquids.  Keep your shoes on.  You’re fine.  Just go.

Now I’m early!  Yay!  I found my gate!  Sit.  Wait.  Wait some more.  There’s the plane.  People get off.  Now they will get boarding started.  Finally.  Once the gate agents and these other guys finish conversing in hushed voices.  More people.  More conversation.  Oh, it will just be a few more minutes while we take care of a ‘maintenance issue’.  Just a minor thing, engine fell off or something.  Nothing to worry about.

“Um, ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to announce that the aircraft you are scheduled to fly on is Out of Service.  We’re going to see if we can find another airplane laying around that we can use…”  Or words to that effect.  Much scrambling.  Worst traits of humanity emerging.  Angry elderly people.  “Oh, look!  That plane just came in from San Diego.  Let’s commandeer it!”  “Everybody who is going to Fort Myers, you need to go over to that other gate that says it’s going to JFK.  No, really, we’re going to take that plane.”  “Those of you flying to JFK, well, we’ll let you know.”

We were only ninety minutes late leaving the gate.  By now it’s snowing like crazy.  I think we were the last plane out.

I got there.  I got my stuff delivered.  Most of it isn’t broken.  I got back.  I don’t remember much more than that.

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The Odyssey Part I

If you’ve been following along, I mentioned here that I was working on buying a home in Florida.  Well, it’s official – I own it.  I figured how that came to pass was worth a story.

On December 11th, I headed to Boston to catch my flight.  Ironically, it’s cheaper to drive two hours to Boston and fly from there, rather than drive 30 minutes to Portland.  Portland has a perfectly good airport, but no direct flights to Fort Myers.  I am not getting a connection for the three hour flight and paying twice the fare for the privilege.

My flight was at 10:45, so figuring getting there two hours ahead of time and allowing two hours for the drive, I should leave at… oh, 6:30.  Plenty of time for any contingencies, certainly.  Barely.  Between Boston traffic, long lines at the bag check and security (this will be important later), I made it to my gate at 10:33.  Just in time for them to call my name in that way that lets you know they’re going to change your seat assignment.  I try to pick an aisle seat because A: I’m not a small person and being on the aisle gives me at least the illusion of more space. B: I hate, hate, hate being in the middle and having my personal space invaded by hips and elbows. And C: I can get up and use the bathroom without disturbing the others in the row.  As it turned out, they moved me up a row so a family could sit across from each other, and the middle seat next to me was empty.

As a bonus, when we got to Fort Myers they opened up the back door of the plane, rolled up some stairs, and they told me I could go out that way if I wanted to!  This is huge when you’re two rows from the back of the plane, and 99% of the people in front of you are over the age of 70.  I was the first one off.

I think that was the last break I got.

Between waiting for my luggage, a glacial line at the rental car counter and traffic, I think I got to the hotel some time after 4 p.m.  Closing was supposed to be the next day, but I still had not heard from the realtor and made arrangements for important things like where and when that was going to happen.  I also had to make a final inspection of the property and arrange for the power to be transferred.  I think I remember making some phone calls.

I probably should mention that I am purchasing this house with a sibling and she couldn’t be there for the closing, so I had to get power of attorney in order to sign for her on the closing documents (this will also be important later).

It was finally decided that the closing would take place the next day, 12/12, any time after 1:00 p.m. at the closing agent’s office, about 45 minutes away from the house.  We did the final inspection at 11 and made our way over.  The closing agent presented me with a sheaf of papers about an inch thick, which I had to sign not only with my own name, but with that of my sister, followed by the words “by her attorney-in-fact” and then my own signature again.

Several. Dozen. Times.  Initials, too: XX and XY, by A.I.F. XX.  Every page.

After it’s all done, she offers to scan it all and send it over to the lender while I’m still there, just in case there are any problems.  Because, hey – wouldn’t it be a real pain if you had to come back?!  Sure would.  Forty minutes later, the owner of the title company comes into the conference room and sits down.  She has some bad news.  The lender doesn’t like the way I signed my sister’s name.  Instead of (my signature) and (my version of her signature) by her Attorney-in-fact (my signature again), they’d really like it to say (my signature) and (my version of her signature) by (my signature again) her Attorney-in-fact.

Excuse me?  It’s the exact same thing.  Florida law doesn’t care as long as the words are all there.  Nope, no good.  Do it all again.  Reprint all the forms.  Sign and sign and initial and initial.  Scan and email to the lender.  Wait, wait, wait some more.  Another 45 minutes.  Annoying little dog.  Water stains on the ceiling.  Finally, it’s approved!  Four hours to sign some documents.  The title company gave me a $3.00 bottle of wine for my trouble.  I hate wine.  They also gave me a box of candy-cane chocolate chip cookies.  My realtor stole them.

But I own it!  Now I can go over on Friday the 13th and meet with the movers who will deliver all of our stuff!  Exciting!  What could possibly go wrong?

See what I did there?

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First World Problems

I am outraged.

Yesterday was Christmas Day, and things got a little boring and cramped in this little apartment I’m in.  We decided to head up to L.L. Bean just for something to do – it’s a bit of a tradition for Mainers who happen to be shopping-obsessed or pathetic. (I leave it up to you to decide which category I belong in.)

You see, L.L. Bean is open Every. Single. Day.  Even though the internet lets you shop 24/7, that’s not good enough.  If I’m going to pay $149 for a shirt, I’m going to try that bad boy on before I slap down my debit card.  Likewise, I want to feel the weight of that $8 can of peanuts in my hand immediately.  I want my anaphylaxis, and I want it NOW.  At $1 per ounce, I want the hives I get to be extraordinary.

How could I resist the allure of 60% off all Christmas items?  Things that were previously appallingly overpriced are now only moderately overpriced.  Maybe I can stock up on gingerbread house kits for next year.  I definitely want to decorate my tree with L.L. Bean branded ornaments – who wouldn’t?  Sadly, gift wrapping was not available, so anybody doing their real last-minute shopping was on their own.

All of this, however, is not the root of the problem.  Oh, no.  I only pick on these things because I was put in a foul mood on the drive up there.  You see, the real reason we even went out in the first place was because we didn’t have anything for lunch.  I mean, there was food in the house and all, but it wasn’t prepared.  Who wants to sit there on Christmas Day and make lunch?  Not I.

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the local McDeathburger was closed.  Well, it is a small town, so they probably just decided to close for the day.  No problem, we’ll just head over by the mall.  Surely the one over there will… nope.  Damn it!  My internet-connected smart phone tells me that many locations of Subway are open, but none of the ones I find happen to fall into that category.

Denny’s!  So what if the food is crap – they never close!  Look – cars!  Yes!  Victory!  Wait.  Is that… is that a line?  A line to get into Denny’s?  What do you mean there’s a 20-minute wait for a table?  And the kitchen is backed up at least 45 minutes?  I WILL NOT WAIT IN LINE TO EAT AT DENNY’S!!  This is not the Four Seasons, it’s effing Denny’s.  No.  Just no.  Back in the car.

Finally, after much searching, out of the darkness appears a Chinese Restaurant.  Salvation and salmonella all in one!  So what if they jacked up the prices because they’re the only thing open?  They’re happy, I’m happy, capitalism at work!  But still…

I am appalled that McDeathburger, et al. did not press their underpaid workers into servitude on this day when I wanted lunch.  How dare they spend time with their families enjoying Christmas morning when I was hungry?  This is America, and if I want Taco Bell on Christmas morning, I’m entitled to have it.  Where are your hearts, Corporate America?  My dollars were talking on December 25th, and you weren’t listening.  I wanted to Super-size it, and I couldn’t.

Dunkin Donuts was open, but I think that was some sort of conspiracy, since I don’t drink coffee.

I would think they would have realized by now that this is all about ME.

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