Just after complaining I hated tests, Mother Nature sent me three of them yesterday. The Sound Of Water Gushing Test (SOWGT) measured my curiosity. I thought my restraint was being tested so I did not bang on the bathroom door and tell my grandson Sebi to quit wasting water in the shower. Later my wife informed me I flunked SOWGT because the water was actually gushing out of an overhead light fixture in the ceiling covering our backyard patio. The ensuing Water Shutoff Test (WST) measured my memory. I found the main shutoff valve inside the house even though difficult to spot and more difficult to reach. I only get half credit because it took Puget Sound Energy (PSE) Guy to find the outside meter to the house underground and buried in snow in my neighbor’s garden. That was a surprise discovery considering we have lived here almost 24 years. Thirdly, Trick Questions Test (TQT) measured my inability to think under pressure:
PSE Guy: Do you want me to turn off the water from street to house?
Wife: Do you want to pay $400 per hour holiday labor rate (through Sunday) for Quality Plumbing (QP) Guy because our regular plumber cannot schedule us for an estimate until January 7th?
Wife: Quality Plumbing Guy is stuck in snow at the bottom of our street. What do you want to do?
I made one walking round trip (9 houses down) to get QP Guy and two harrowing driving roundtrips in my car to (1) get the tool to turn on the valve PSE Guy shut off and (2) deposit QP Guy back at his truck after mortgaging my house to Quality Plumbing to get water flowing for now.
I am often compared to Will Rogers if “often” is defined as “once or twice.” And if the following counts as a comparison: “Geoff is Will Rogers without the wit, wisdom, and coordination to ride a horse and do rope tricks.” But Rogers himself surely would have liked me because he claimed to have never met a man he did not like. Although if I had met Rogers, I might have become famous as that one man. He may have used the term “man” to include all humans and horses. Big deal. I never met an oatmeal raisin cookie I did not like. I have the reverse ability to dislike people I have never met. This is irrational because Kelly Ripa and I might hit it off if we met in person and she gifted me with a car. Or maybe like the plot device where enemies become best friends by the end of the movie, the neighborhood dogwalker and I may eventually meet and laugh about how she furtively guides animals to my yard for potty breaks. I know people who admit they disliked me at first impression but after getting to know me better, they can now pinpoint exactly why. In rarer cases, individuals have an immediate positive reaction when meeting me. Sometimes they tell me when or how that first impression eroded. But if they cannot get a word in edgewise, mostly they just quietly disappear.
Yesterday as I shoveled snow off my driveway, I thought how these winter storms undercut the message of global warning. Sure, I can understand the intellectual explanation of what climate change means but my freezing hands hit closer to home than the science. This is the same as my Mother no longer liking Tom Cruise after he played slimy male chauvinist Frank T.J. Mackey in the movie Magnolia. But, Mom, he won a Golden Globe for the role. He is an actor proving his range. Does not matter. My friend Michelle could not look at Ben Affleck the same way after he played Nick Dunne in Gone Girl. Two dozen years ago, my Dad warned me about buying a home on a side street halfway up a steep hill that turns into a downhill ice rink in wintry weather. Should I let my wife’s decision diminish my environmental passion? Sure. Every time I am snowed in and look down from my deck to see cars driving along on cleared off arterials at lower elevations, I remind myself to think about trading in our house for one higher on the hill so we will be in a cooler place when global warming hits. My 23 and Me ancestry test identified me as descended from an ancient tribe with the “part of the problem” gene. I can explain on a test why airplanes fly, boats float, and the world is round. But deep down inside, something gnaws at me that those things are not possible.
Bad News: Yesterday (Monday) Mother Nature brushed seven inches of her dandruff all over the city. Ice covered much of our route to a planned three night getaway to Ocean Shores, a deserted town in Washington state this time of year. So we canceled our trip and my one Christmas present for my wife evaporated.
Good News: Cancellation allowed me the time to go through the charity solicitations I throw into a bin all year long on the assumption that we will generously make contributions around the holiday season. And sometimes we do.
Bad News: In the bin I found our bill for property taxes due on October 31st, 2021. So potential charitable donations will be going to property taxes, interest, and penalties. And I am not as rich as I thought was.
Good News: I own property. And my Shoe Polish post on October 31st received 42 “likes” (including my own) while I was obliviously not paying my property taxes.
Bad News: When I hit the submit payment button online, I received an error message from the payment service used by my state government that made no indication of what the error was. The county help line directed me to an answering machine where a room full of sadists sit around listening to urgent messages on speaker phone from panicked and disgruntled property owners.
Good News: I will not bore you with the details. You have all lived my day.
Bad News: I just paid nothing or double what I owe. I did not get a walk or run in yesterday and ate every cookie in the house.
Good News: Error Message.
Decades ago, my brother Kevin took me and my wife out on Lake Washington in his new sailboat. He was testing out equipment including a depth finder. We were sailing toward the eastern shore between the two floating bridges. We seemed to be getting too close to land but the depth finder still registered twenty feet and continued to register twenty feet as we ran aground in shallow water. Apparently it was set to register no less than 20 feet. Maybe that was the danger zone where further information is superfluous like if the altimeter on your jet airplane gets down to twenty feet. I never learned depth finder details because I avoided that sailboat as if it were a time share condominium. I have always wondered how far my brother or anyone else would have trusted that depth finder if it had been physically possible to run the boat onto the beach, into the parking lot, and up to Snoqualmie Pass.
Shel Silverstein famously wrote about Lester who wasted his wishes on wishing. The summer I turned ten, my brother was turning nine. We were visiting my grandfather in Bermuda. When we went to Church, our step grandmother told us we could make a wish any time we visit a Church for the first time. It made me think my parents should be rotating churches more often. After Mass, my brother announced that his wish was to make more money than me. I am fairly certain that telling your wish invalidates it according to Canon Law but he did reinforce my world view that everything is all about me. Mostly I thought his wish was foolish because Mom and Dad would surely always give us the same allowance. I cannot remember what I wished for but probably that the Dodgers would win another World Series. Kevin did make more money than me despite the bigger allowances I negotiated, although I am still optimistic that my investment in the lottery business is going to pay off big time. The Dodgers did win the World Series six more times after my wish. Just like Lester, I wasted my wish. I should have waited and wished for the Seattle Mariners to win a World Series because that will never happen without a miracle.
Paraquat is apparently a toxic weed and grass herbicide developed by tort lawyers. I bought it in the quart size. I knew it was a funny word but always thought it referred to a pair of quats and I grew plenty of those pimples. They multiply into quatroquats. I even named my parakeet “paraquat.” If my occasional hand tremor develops into Parkinsons, I have “valuable rights” according to television commercials. They encourage me to pursue “substantial monetary settlements” if I have been exposed to paraquat. I just established documentation that I drank it by the quart. Now I just have to wait to get sick. But I regret googling paraquat because it got less funny and shortened a promising post. I think I will schedule it on Christmas Day when traffic will be light.
I have fallen behind on my reading and commenting by diving down too many rabbit holes. I did a Blog about culling from the herd and became obsessed with words that rhyme with cull, e.g., dull, gull, hull, lull, mull, null. But then I pronounce their cousins bull, full, and pull a bit differently. What is up with that? While trying to find some pleasant common ground with my daughter-in-law Asia on our rainy Wednesday walk, we talked about language. I am impressed that she is fluent in English and Polish and can get by speaking German and Russian. I know only English. She mentioned I use a couple of words regularly: innocuous and visceral. I was pleasantly surprised. I would have guessed the word “I” or “you” and “know” because a training manager once cautioned me to avoid saying “you know” so much. Some people drive me crazy by starting almost every sentence with the word “typically” or “actually” as a placeholder. When my company transferred me to Wichita and I met my new staff for the first time, I apparently used the word “trepidation.” It caused no outward visceral reaction at the time but in the next staff meeting everyone was trying to interject “trepidation” into the dialogue without laughing. I think I learned that word from watching Star Trek but apparently Kansans were tuned in to Bonanza. My wife’s favorite words are, “What were you thinking?” She says mine are, “I thought it would be funny.”
I said my brother crayoned on the dining room wall when I did it.
I lied and implicated another after removing a book from the classroom.
I cheated in Chemistry class to get a D after flunking it first semester.
I screamed at my kids over trivial matters.
I drove home when I had too much to drink.
I wrote a letter of apology that was passive aggressively insincere.
I “liked” a Blog post I did not read.
I only got as far as the 1990’s before I skipped to the punchline because I was exhausted from winnowing down the long laundry list of regrets and separating them from Bad Things I Did That I Do Not (Yet) Regret. I was also getting a little depressed. But the exercise provided a great prompt for New Year’s Resolutions. In 2022, I will no longer crayon on the walls or lie to nuns. I will not cheat on Chemistry tests. I will only scream at my children over matters of great import like who ate the last doughnut. I will only drink when Blogging and I will no longer Blog while driving. I will not write any apologies and I will now skim posts before I “like” them.
I have always recognized the culling of the herd. Mother Nature does it with weather disasters that wipe out people and food supplies. Human Nature does it with wars and genocide. Supernature does it with raptures and extraterrestrial kidnappings. While running with the herd, I was always a little sad to see the culled go but I was busy stampeding. After emerging from another restroom stop the other day, I asked my wife which way the herd went. She shrugged her shoulders. I squinted and saw a dust storm in the distance. How did they get so far ahead of us? She was amazed I could actually see them. It sure was more fun being in the herd than being in the cull.