Monday, October 22, 2012

On the Road

The truck was loaded, pizzas eaten, thanks and good-byes said, and vehicles moving at 2:15. We pulled in 426 long miles later to a very nice 3-queen Super 8 room in Cameron, MO. They are very accommodating to dogs. Orrin is our primary dog walker this trip, being young, of sound knees, and temporarily lacking a drivers license.

Koda has settled into the routine, finally, after spending his first day very nervous over the disruption in routine. First his sanctuary was invaded by all those people, removing "his" stuff, and at the end he was dumped in a room with a bunch of those same people. But he had me there, and that seemed to be all he really needed.  Fred, on the other hand, took it all in stride, calm as always.  Might be specific to these two, or the difference between cockers and bassetts.

Day 2 was more driving driving driving. There was a strong headwind, and there were times the truck didn't get over 50mph. After Oklahoma city, westbound on I-40, 70 was occasionally possible. The toll on the Kansas turnpike was only $6 for each vehicle, since both had only 2 axles. So far there has been only one weigh station the truck had to pull into. All the rest were closed.

Scenery has become increasingly green - and yellow with smatterings of red, as fall is later down here. Last February we were impressed by how green Kansas was - the first we'd seen in months - and now we were impressed - or depressed - by how brown it is. Oklahoma is peppered by oil pumpers, some of which are running. We counted those, being so rare, and got up to 36 over about an hour before giving it up.

Kudos to a playground designer whose inventiveness was displayed next to the freeway. He/she arranged old tires of various sizes imbedded at different levels in the ground, standing vertically and touching the next, so the final effect was an undulating worm/snake/monster for kids to play and climb on.

Dinnertime arrived when we hit I-40's exit 108 on OK, my all-time favorite stop on this route: the Cherokee Trading Post. I have shopped there many a time, finding it a good source for Navaho weavings and various kinds of pottery, including Santa Clara and Acoma. Last night we tried the adjoining restaurant.

Doubt I'll do that again. The buffalo patty was delicious, but my request to hold the hash browns was ignored, the biscuits were very mediocre, and served up with a bowl of gravy that tasted like wet flour, only not as good.  Steve liked his Mexican food, though the salsa served with his appetizer chips was so hot he was literally speechless after he choked on his first bite. Lance found it exactly to his taste, however. The others found their meals OK, or at least were too polite to complain.
Subway there.

We emerged just after the sun set, perfect timing to avoid driving into its glare in the cloudless sky. Our goal was ambitious: Amarillo. We checked in about 11:15, got 2 rooms this time, and crashed. Today's goal will be either Winslow or Flagstaff, AZ. We'll see when we get there.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Moving Day, 25 Minutes In

All is packed. The "kids" have arrived and are stil sleeping in the living room and in Steve's room. The dogs have been let out - I found a narrow path and didn't trip over any Snoring Beauties - and I managed a shower without waking anybody.

For the moment the only sounds in the house, other than snoring, are the noises of the furnace as it warms things up and the tapping of the keyboard. Ahhhh, peace!

Time to go destroy it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Two Days and... OMG!

Just two days left working here. I'm taking Friday off for those last minute errands, a good-bye visit with my granddaughter, and packing. While out and about I'm making phone calls to start up electric and gas, start mail delivery there, change addresses, get info on the new area....
In the middle of the morning news yesterday I got hit with an anxiety attack. I wouldn't call it a full-fledged panic attack, just a clenching in the gut that lasted for hours.

 I couldn't understand it.

And yes, I know that sounds silly. I know it's all going to get done. I know I want to make this  move. I know I've already planned to come back early or cash in investments if the income is too tight down there. On the other hand, I know how much is left to do and how much stress it all makes, and it's showing. My short-term memory is crap right now, and I keep double-checking everybody else's tasks. That's not because I don't trust them. It's because I don't trust myself right now. Steve keeps reassuring me that, for example, Lance has packed the airbed he and Lisa are bring along, along with the tie straps for inside the truck to stabilize and secure the load. Yet I still want to add it back on to the to-do list.

I've moved up my date for restarting work to Monday the 28th. The house will still be full but by then I won't have that much to do. It'll mostly be painting, digging up unwanted bushes, loading the dumpster: stuff that needs younger knees than I can provide. I will instead be concentrating on bringing in a little more funding to help feed my large crew. Other than turning in my last trip sheets, everything is done on this end for leaving work. I said a few good-byes yesterday on my route, and thought I ought to call and reminding our company's route manager that in a week my route needs a new driver. (Hey, I know how communication works in this company.) It turns out it's a good thing I did. Reminding is not the precise term to use when somebody never got the info in the first place!

Yesterday Steve and I made a list. I called him and while driving a long stretch of highway mentally went through each room of the house to think about what still needed attention. It ranged from dismantling the dog kennel  to take down, to having Paul adjust the placement of the front door deadbolt (things have shifted) so we can actually lock the house for two weeks while nobody's in it. It's been years since that happened, aside from Daddy's funeral, since somebody's always been in it - aside for maybe a couple hours here and there since he moved in. I kept calling back and saying, "add ______ to the list."

Having the list makes me feel some better. Not completely. That anxiety attack is hovering, waiting for another opening. Knocking stuff off the list will help - I think. Last night we made no progress on the list, however. It was time for a little private "we time".  Last weekend his daughter was up, helping. Friday the house fills again as his kids come to load and head down with us. There won't be real privacy again for over a couple weeks.

Lucky for us, sometimes we know what the really important things are.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Voicemail Follies

A new phone, an old phone, a usable phone. I now have three numbers. 

The latest is my work Blackberry, and I aim to discourage folks from leaving messages there with any hope of getting a prompt reply. I also hope that Jill eventually gives out her new number to everybody. Meanwhile somebody wants a job reference for somebody else, Bernard or Benedict or somebody has an upcoming medical appointment that I hope somebody remembers, and a couple folks have indicated they know they've gotten a wrong number - but were having fun anyway.

Here is it's message:

"Hey, you only THINK you’ve reached Heather’s cell. Listen up and grab a pen.  This is a smart phone, meaning it requires three hands, two eyeballs, and one tech-savvy brain to operate. I’m driving. In fact I’m always driving, all day long, so you’re kinda SOL.  If you really want to talk to me, call my dumb phone, (--- --- ----). I can actually work that one. Or leave a message or  text me at this number. I’ll figure out how to get those messages... eventually."

And no, I haven't figured out texting yet. But I'm willing to work on it. I do at least get the voicemails.

As for the home phone, I doubt anybody but telemarketers and opinion surveyors use that number. We certainly don't, except for the occasional outgoing call when we don't want to use our cells, or when one of us tries to reach another at home when their cell is off. It announces calls in a weird voice, but you can still hear "call from Mom's cell". We always ignore the ones from "Joel Free Call" - apparently the system can't read "T"s too well. "Ogden Yoo Tee" also get ignored, popular a source as it is.

If you try us on that line, here's what you will hear:

"You have reached (--- ----). If that’s the number you are actually dialing, we are  sorry. Nobody ever uses this phone. We only have this because we need it to have internet service.  If you know us -  Paul, Rich, Steve and Heather - we all have cell phones. Call us on that if you really want to talk to us. If you are a telemarketer, this is on the do-not-call list. Yeah, good luck . We are not giving out those numbers.  If you are looking for John or Gladys, they have relocated to Fort Snelling. Feel free to go visit them there any time. Bring flowers. Or try calling them at 1-800-CREMAINS. Bye."

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Threat To Take Seriously

My first stop yesterday was in a clinic.  Ever since the HIPA laws went into effect, reception areas for those are set up with each person getting a section of a long countertop that looks like it's wearing blinders. It gives only the illusion of privacy, since everybody knows sound can't travel over a 3-foot barrier. Right?

This particular spot had a sign on the wall behind where the receptionist sat. As a mother of three, it gave me chills - or would have had I thought they meant it:

"Unattended children will be given espresso and a puppy."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Nothing - absolutely nothing - makes me feel more stupid than trying to set up a piece of new technology. Especially when it shouldn't be all that new.

Like a cell phone, for example. One of the requirements of the upcoming job for the Phoenix branch of the company I already work for is my very own Blackberry. I finally got around to turning in the company Blackberry to the office up here and buying my own. It was a very near thing: WalMart only had three left and no plans to restock any Blackberries. Possibly ever.

When you've used a piece of technology for a couple years, you think you know it. Get over it. You're wrong.




Just one item: the keylock is a button  on top of this phone. In the other model it locks by pushing the middle of the left side, and unlocks at the top. No real biggie: just two years' worth of habit to relearn, reinforced by the futility of pushing the side where no button exists.

Another: there is a red LED that flashes at me on this phone. On the old one it meant that the battery was low. It's possible it means that on this one too but it also means other things. It flashes red when the battery is just fine, thank you. I haven't decoded what else it means, and the booklet is not helpful, starting with the fact that parts of the phone have one name when the arrow points to them and then in the text you are told to go to some other name.

When in doubt, call the company, right? There's a phone number listed in the booklet. Of course they want your 4-digit code to prove you are the owner of the phone before they can give you any information.

I have a 4-digit code? Really? On my paperwork, maybe, from WalMart? That of course is not in the car with me. Maybe call WalMart. My salesman is not in today, and they have no way of getting my code. Try an actual Sprint store. And by "try" they mean actually walking in the door with your phone. And your paperwork. Where is a Sprint store? Who knows?

In the process of this conversation I had a discussion with the clerk about the Catch-22 of needing a 4-digit code in order to get information about your 4-digit code. He had no idea what a Catch-22 was. Is it possible to be that young?


Some things are dependable. When the phone freezes up and/or shuts itself off for no reason and won't accept a charge, you can still depend on a hard reboot. As in, pry the back off (again, another location to get the leverage on this phone than on the last one),  pull the battery out, wait, replace it, and then be patient. It takes about 5 minutes to power up enough to turn on again. You can entertain yourself by watching the little blue line gradually fill in, your tease of a progress report. Because when that's done, you can also depend on it taking a while longer as there are still things to push and places to poke before the thing is running the proper software again.

If watching the blue line fail to entertain you, you could try trimming your toenails. Or writing the Great American Novel. Or the ever popular Bathroom Break.

I haven't figured out texting yet. I mean, I text all the time in the work software program. It only goes to the dispatcher whose zone I'm in at the time. I need to learn to send and receive with the rest of the world. Already I'm receiving some, but when I fight my way into that app, all I get is something with a time stamp entitled "no reply Sprint", fronting for a blank page. I don't seem to have any way to delete it, but I can save it to my contacts.

As if.

But that can wait. First I need to set up my voicemail box. It claims to be easy, and talks you through it. OK, sounds like I need to put it on speaker since it's impossible to program with the thing in your ear to hear the step and then hold it in front of you to decipher the keypad and figure out what they heck they're talking about. By the time you realize speaker phone is handy the menu has already changed and that option is no longer available. A full minute is required to figure out how to exit the app so you can start over, a bit wiser this time. But oops, work is calling, no time to play.

Eventually there is another lull in work, and you try again. This time you get as far as figuring just what 4-digit code you want to enter for a password - there are so many bad choices to reject - and are ready for the task.

At least that's what you think. In the work program there is the need to hit the "alt" button to switch the keypad into numbers and characters. Otherwise every stroke is a letter. So hitting and holding alt while entering your chosen numbers, you wait for the voice. It tells you you have hit - - - -, four numbers completely different from  what you wanted. Quick quandary: do you try to remember what your new inadvertent code is? Is there time to write it down before you go on or are you forever locked out of your own voicemail box now? OK, it's telling you you have a choice. If you agree with the numbers it just read back to you, press pound. If not, press star.


Repeat whole process. Same reading of wrong number back to you. Hit star again.

At least the voice is indefatigable. At some point comes the realization that maybe it could be tried without the "alt". Finally the voice recited the numbers you intended all along. If you agree, press pound. If not, press star.

Pound. Of course. And what a feeling of achievement! There is almost time to wonder how on earth one enters letters if it automatically selects for numbers on the keypad, since letters are offered as an option for the password. But before you can dally on that garden path, the voice again offers you the information of your selected numbers and the choice between pound and star.

Humph! Pound, again.

And again the voice repeats your selection of numbers and the option of pound or star.


Quick, exit the program! No, push the curly go-back arrow again, and again, and finally ... whew!

When in the future I finally do get into the program to leave an answering message, I've got some choice words planned. And then I have to figure out how to actually hear the messages left.

I figure to be proficient by, say, February.

Meanwhile, call me on my stupid phone. Unlike the smart phone, I can work that one.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Worst Toy of the Century

There is a contest sponsored on NPR. It renews weekly with a new question, with the winner earning an NPR mug. This week's challenge is choosing the worst toy of this century. They already list the top 5 best toys of last century, starting with G I Joe by the select group doing the voting. To get the brain cells running along the tracks, they offered up an example for worst toy of a "Disgraced-Candidate Barbie".

For my nickle they could have left off the "Disgraced-Candidate" part. Barbies by themselves are among the worst toys ever. If they expanded the category for the contest to the most oxymoronic toy, it's be an anatomically correct Barbie.

The trouble is, toys have so many different audiences. There are divisions by age and gender. In the toddler category, the worst toy of any century - always bearing that in this age group simplicity is key - would be a Sharp Stick.

On the other end, worst adult toys likely couldn't be described on the radio. Or is it just me that thinks they'd take that kind of bend?

I finally settled on my submission. It's the "Junior Terrorist Chemistry Set". When you buy one, Amazon suggests that others who have purchased this have also purchased the "Junior Terrorist Explodable Towers Erector Set".

If your wheels have started turning, you have until Oct. 3 to enter.