Funny about Money

Simple Living = Frugality = Peace of Mind: Personal Finance and Stress Control

April 30, 2016
by funny
0 comments

Partying on the Way to Wellness

woo-HOO! My friends Tina and Ron’s wedding reception was terrific! She looked SO pretty in a beautiful ebony satin dress with an awesome new hairstyle, and he was handsomer than handsome all dressed up in a nice suit. Daughter was spiffed up, too: this one, in addition to being startlingly bright, is showing every sign of growing into a spectacular young woman. Everybody behaved well, at least within reason, and a good time was had by all.

People came from all over the country to celebrate the marriage. The two families have a very interesting combined set of friends and relatives.

Y’know, whenever you get to know new people, you realize that your limited little definition of what is happiness or well-being does not by any means cover the bases. At dinner I sat next to a woman from another flyover state (Arizona being one of those) who lives in a city much smaller than Phoenix. Despite what must have been some very hard times, she came across as a contented and self-confident person — holding down two jobs and making her way through a pre-nursing program. She clearly has a good relationship with her grown daughter and dotes on her gorgeous nephews, who are indeed too adorable to be real.

It’s the second time I’ve met a person who lives a good life that probably would make me restless. SDXB’s childhood buddy and lifetime friend never left the Upper Peninsula. He stayed in the tiny town where they grew up, held the same steady work for year after year, and raised a healthy family in a modest home. When I met him, I thought he was the happiest man I’d ever met. Still true, come to think of it: I’ve never known anyone who seemed more contented and confident in the goodness of life than that guy.

Personally, I’m like my mother: a city girl. I much prefer to be in a big city where few others know my private business. I deeply hated living in the ultra-small town that was the American camp where I grew up in Saudi Arabia, and didn’t blossom until we returned to the US and took up residence in San Francisco.

Yet I can see that people benefit (evidently) from living in a place where everybody knows everybody else’s business. Maybe it’s good for you when everyone knows every time you take a deep breath. I dunno. One thing’s for sure: what’s sauce for the goose is not necessarily sauce for the gander.

Speaking of sauce: the dinner was awesome. The young people had hired a patio at our favorite hang-out, the House of Tricks, which catered hors d’oeuvres, wine & beer, and a delightful dinner. The weather was unbelievably gorgeous: none of the crazy winds we’ve had, an absolutely perfect evening.

Against my better judgment, I had a glass of wine, a pile of carrots, quinoa risotto, and a piece of roast pork tenderloin. And then a large piece of brain-bangingly rich and wonderful chocolate cake. The salad looked gorgeous, too, but I was too scared to eat lettuce.

And what do we have here that’s poisonous to the old lady?

wine
vegetables that haven’t been boiled limp and puréed like baby food
roast meat
chocolate

If it tastes good, if it has any texture, it’s gonna try to kill me.

But…nay! Even though I felt like I had a rock in my stomach after consuming all that food, I wasn’t sick. Went home, went to bed, slept seven hours without benefit of Zantac or Benadryl. And when I woke up? No lump in the throat, no queasy stomach, no diarrhea.

It’s a freaking miracle!!!

Maybe I just need to eat three meals a day at Tricks. 😀 It surely would be worth the price to not wake up sick every morning.

Actually, it’s not that big a surprise: whatever ails me has slowly been getting better, in two-steps-forward-one-step-backward fashion.

I suspect the problem was likely an ulcer brought on when the Year of the Six Surgeries coincided with the misbegotten publishing enterprise, which probably would have failed even if it hadn’t been star-crossed by the medical horror show. Either of those would have been highly stressful on its own. Combined, they were toxic.

Six weeks of uninterrupted megadoses of omeprazole — plus giving up on even trying to sell books — seems to be doing the trick.

Young Dr. Kildare thought it would take eight weeks for the stuff to work. The new teen-aged internist at the Mayo thought more like three months.

WhatEVER. It’s so amazing to get up in the morning and not feel miserable, especially after having made an entire meal of trigger items, that I’m willing to gulp the stuff till the cows come home. Osteoporosis (which it causes…) be damned.

seedfeederThis morning I felt so good I took it upon myself to refill the bird feeders, after god only knows how many years, with some stale seed that has been taking up room in the garage cabinets.

Now that the Cat Repelling System is keeping Pretty Daughter’s goddamn cats out of the back yard, I think it’s safe to call in the regular birds. There’s already quite a few — they seem to have discovered the area is relatively safe. They’re welcome to stay, and bring their friends. They do keep the noxious insect population down.

The ant population is much diminished in the presence of the current tribe of birds. I haven’t had to put out ant bait for several months, nor have I seen any of the little gals in the house.

A-a-a-a-n-d…as we scribble, here comes a hummingbird to inspect the newly refilled hummer feeder, too. Hummingbirds eat mosquitoes, along with gnats, aphids, and other small delectables.

HummerFeederEven though the CDC says our area has a low to moderate risk of getting the zika virus very soon, I’ve seen A. aegypti in the house. Whether the little ankle-biting desert mosquitoes will also carry the disease remains to be seen…but I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t. A blood-sucking bug is a blood-sucking bug, no matter what its genus.

Now that the economy is better, fewer houses in the ‘hood have empty pools with green mosquito-breeding puddles at the bottom. So we have had fewer skeeters these past few springs and summers. But we haven’t had a hard frost for years…and that’s about all that keeps the nuisance bugs at bay around here.

Here’s a curve-billed thrasher, too: voracious ant-eater. Dude! Have a few seeds and make yourself to home! 😀

It’s been so long since I refilled the hummers’ feeder that the jar of sugar water I keep in the fridge for the purpose had a wad of black fungus floating around in it. That is something! Because supersaturated sugar syrup is not what you’d call friendly to microbes.

So I had to dump that out and make a couple of quarts of new sugar water for the three feeders front and back.

Cassie just chased a young mockingbird off, the little twit! Fortunately, he wasn’t fazed.

The arborist is supposed to show up here mid-morning. It’s now after that, but he operates on mañana time, so I’m not concerned.

This guy is a great tree dude. Nay, he’s an artist: he really knows how to trim and shape trees. He does the job by hand, and he engages the brain…and a formidable eye for tree development. So I’m mighty happy to have found him (at work in a neighbor’s yard!) and to be able to persuade him to come in my direction.

The trees have run amok this summer, so the bill is going to be pretty bracing. Trees that he worked on last year still look pretty good — they only need a little pruning. The ones we skipped now need some serious work, though. They’ve all grown exuberantly this spring, thanks to the soaking rains we got during the winter. If only we could have El Niño permanently…

If and when Tree Dude arrives and gets himself established for the day, I hope to meet M’hijito at Costco, where I propose a) that he help wrangle a year’s supply of pool chlorine tablets into a basket, then into the car, then into the back shed; and b) that he advise and consent on the purchase of a new iPhone.

Yes. As much as I cringe at the prospect of yet another attempt to lash myself to an electronic tether, I see that Costco offers a monthly plan for the iPhone at just about what I’m saving by extracted a rate cut from Cox.

I’m told that the iPhone is a little easier for elderly pholks to learn. And since I’m already familiar with the mentality behind Apple’s software, I’m hoping that I can figure out how to use one of the things.

If I can make it work and find I actually use it, then after a year (when Cox will try to up its rate again), I’ll cancel the land line service and connect the cordless phones to Ooma, a VoIP service that will let me use NoMoRobo and costs a tiny fraction of Cox’s gouge.

The plan to use Cox’s selective call-blocking and anonymous call rejection features to cut down on the phone solicitation nuisance has had, as expected, only qualified success.

I’m no longer getting half-a-dozen calls a day. At least, for the nonce.

However… To use selective call blocking, you have to enter a code: #0#. My phones read that as “start a conference call.” And they refuse to STOP the conference call. So the first time I tried to block some SOB who got through the anonymous call rejection, I tied up every phone in the house and could NOT untie them.

Tried to call Cox on the flip cell phone, but found I couldn’t dial through the umpty-umpteen berjillion god-DAMNED punch-a-button hoops because the keys are so small my fingers can’t press them accurately. After five tries at 9:00 on Friday night, I was beginning to feel a little desperate: too late at night to call friends to ask them to let me use their phones. And pretty damn scary, not being able to dial 9-1-1.

Finally I was able to get through on the one remaining non-cordless phone by going around the house and unplugging EVERY cordless extension and power charger from the power and from the phone outlets. Cox’s tech and I screwed around for half an hour trying to un-conference-call the phones. Eventually another mass unplugging and replugging worked.

But I sure don’t want to do THAT again.

So now I’m getting two calls a day, consistently. That’s better than six. But I’d sure as hell rather have none. Zero. 0.00. Zip.

NoMoRobo is reputedly the best junk-call bouncer available. So, if I can force myself to learn how to use an iPhone, then I can use that for personal calls and the VoIP for business calls. How exactly you keep people from pestering you with ads on a cell phone escapes me, but we’ll cross that bridge if and when we get there.

Welp, I’ve killed half the morning here…and probably  in your precincts, if you’re read this far. And so, away…

 

 

April 29, 2016
by funny
4 Comments

So totally do not want to work…

Loafing away the afternoon. In another couple of hours, have to leave for our beloved Tina’s wedding reception. In between times: doing exactly nothing.

Yesh. Remember Revanche‘s angst over the wedding and the family and all that? Well. The drama in Tina’s family rises to match Revanche’s…and like Revanche, she seems to have the strongest grasp on her sanity in the tribe. No. That’s wrong. She has a fully sane sister. But since it’s a LARGE Italian-Mormon family, that means it’s two against…well, against a roistering party. 😀

Tina, being a pretty smart little bird, came up with a particularly fine idea: She and Fiancé (now DH) eloped to the County Courthouse, adorned in their best bluejeans and silliest T-shirts, where they tied the knot in public privacy, unaccompanied by hysterical family members. She sent over a picture…I don’t think I’ve ever seen her looking happier.

Then they arranged a reception at a favorite restaurant — and paid the restaurant to do all the heavy lifting! We — her crazed family and followers — all meet tonight to toast the Event. Which, we might add, occurred about two weeks ago, allowing plenty of time for some of the dust to settle.

Pretty brilliant, eh?

About all I’ve accomplished this week is to create a new website for our networking group, the Scottsdale Bidness Association.

It turned out pretty well, IMHO. Our former Web guru, a long-time Arizona art director whom I’d met on the job at Arizona Highways days, used to be a member of the group and had taken on the job as a kind of low-paid lagniappe. At one point, though, he packed up his business in a cedar chest and took a full-time job (gasp! can you imagine?) producing a monthly custom magazine for a national company based in Scottsdale. Recently, after several years at that gig, he took it into his head to retire.

In the process he shut down his account with the web host he was using, thereby killing our much out-of-date website.

I managed to retrieve the content from a cached version. A couple of pages needed to be completely revamped, but three of them required only minor tweaking.

That’s a very ordinary WordPress template, but I think it looks reasonably nice. As freebies go, that is. We’ll use the right-hand sidebar to post a plug for our charity, Every Kid Counts. Here’s a draft of the widget:

EveryKid(If you’d like to donate, it’s never too late!! Click on the image to go to their website.) This group serves poor kids in one of the city’s most underprivileged school districts…and in Arizona, that is sayin’ something. It does a lot of good, and we’re proud to participate.

Right now I’m just waiting on approval of that design…probably will put it up this weekend or early next week.

Beneath the EKC widget, I propose either to arrange all our company logos, into infinity (which I think would make the site look unduly strange), or, if we can swing it, to post a “Member of the Week” or “Member of the Month” widget.

This sounds like a PITA, but once the widgets are built, I don’t think it will be. We have one member speak each week (see the  Calendar), and so what we could do is make the current speaker be the Member of the Week. With the widgets stored to WordPress.com, it would just be a matter of moving one widget down to the unused widget space and snaring another to move up into the sidebar.

To build visibility, I’d love to use the site’s blog function (it is a blog, with a static front page and, so far, no posts) to publish our dog-and-pony shows. Doubt that’s going to work, though: many of us speak ex tempore and so don’t have prepared speeches. One guy, a former high-school teacher, does some awesome presentations using videos and PowerPoint, but even he probably doesn’t have a speech written out.

So…I don’t know what to do about that idea. Probably nothing.

Otherwise, it’s been a day in La-La Land. I’d planned to run errands at three venues today. Jumped in my car, drove and drove, got to the first place, shoved my way into a parking place…and realized I’d left my purse at home.

So I had to drive all the way back to the Funny Farm, retrieve the suitcase, and drive all the way back to the Overpriced Gourmet Grocery Store. At that point I decided to opt the other two chores. Was able to find a couple of things there that I’d planned to pick up elsewhere, so none of the rest is very necessary.

At OGGS, I came across some artisanish mayonnaise that contains no sugar and that looked like it might actually taste like mayo used to taste. And yea verily, it does: rather better, actually, because it uses stone-ground mustard instead of mustard powder or Dijon.

I happened to have a can of pink salmon lurking on a shelf. So mixed that up with a quarter of an apple (minced) and a few capers. The result was quite tasty!

LOL! Having bought some Overpriced Gourmet Seed-Strewn Crackers caused me to remember, on the way home, that when I was a little kid (in another century!!), my mother and I used to make a snack by spreading mayonnaise on Saltine crackers.

They were so good!

Can you imagine? I haven’t even seen a Saltine in years.

Women used to use them to fend off morning sickness. The idea was that you should munch a Saltine before you lifted your head from the pillow. :roll: I never found that very effective myself. But then I didn’t have morning sickness. I had morning-noon-and-afternoon sickness.

It’s getting late, so I must get ready for the evening’s shindig. Luz the Arborist was just here. He reports that the traffic between here and the East Valley is truly horrible, so I suppose I’ll have to get an early start for lovely downtown Tempe.

And so, away…

April 29, 2016
by funny
0 comments

PF Notecard #3: Live Below Your Means

Advice on a card 2On the index card that lists everything you need to know about personal finance, point #3 is “Live Below Your Means.” But what the heck does that mean?

In my notecard stack, it means more than live “within” your means, which suggests you live up to the limit of what your income will support. Living below your means is spending significantly less than you earn, and doing so in a meaningful, strategized way.

The primary way to accomplish this is to automatically set aside a portion of your income for savings. Most employers that direct deposit can deposit portions of a paycheck to different accounts. If yours will do that, arrange to have, say, 10 percent of your take-home pay deposited to a savings account. Alternatively, you can set up your bank account to do an automatic transfer from checking to savings on a certain day of the month. If you have a side gig, you may be able to put the most or all of that net paycheck into savings and live on the income from your main job.

That’s after you’ve had a specific amount withheld for a 401(k) or 403(b). If your employer doesn’t provide a savings plan, then set up an investment savings fund and have 15% of your pay deposited to that, right off the top. IMHO the preferred device for this is probably an index fund with a low-overhead mutual fund company such as Vanguard or Fidelity. At least part of this amount should go into a Roth IRA, which will protect you from the onerous and tax-heavy Required Minimum Distribution rule after you retire. Keep the rest of it in regular funds, if you think there’s any chance at all that your income after retirement is likely to be close to what you get while working.

So: 15% of your pay should go to an employer retirement plan or, if contributions are not matched, to your own long-term investment savings. THEN at least another 10% (up to 20%) of the remainder goes into savings in a bank.

What’s left is what you live on. That’s living below your means.

And how do you accomplish this frugal lifestyle on the few pennies you have left? Any number of ways…

  • Buy a smaller house than you can actually afford.
  • Buy in a lesser neighborhood than you could in theory afford.
  • Buy less expensive cars than you can afford.
  • Eat in most of the time. Learning to cook is one of the biggest moneysavers out there.
  • Never charge more than you can afford to pay out of pocket in a given billing cycle.
  • Stay out of debt. If you can’t pay for something in cash, don’t buy it.
  • Never pay full price for anything. Buy clothing on sale, at outlet stores, or in thrift stores.
  • Vacation frugally. Consider a camping trip instead of a flight across the globe.
  • Break the “Stuff” habit: don’t buy things you don’t need. Pass on a clothing purchase if you already have something that will do.  And refrain from collecting bric-a-brac and useless items, be it piggy banks, comic books, computer games, or old CDs. Think minimalist.
  • Choose a hobby that doesn’t break the bank. If it requires pricey equipment or supplies, find another way to pass the time.
  • Learn to do things yourself.

None of these is very hard.

What about that 10% you put into the bank? Before long enough will accrue to provide a decent emergency savings stash. If you’re lucky and two or three years pass without a really big unplanned bill, you may have enough to skim off some to contribute to your retirement savings.

I have three sets of savings: short-term emergency savings (enough to cover a routine plumbing or car repair, for example); long-term emergency savings (major repairs, non-routine dental bills), and retirement savings. A bank account will do for the first two; retirement savings, of course, should go into some kind of investment. Back in the day when CDs paid a little interest, I used to have long-term emergency savings in a credit-union CD. Now it’s all in the same savings account. My retirement savings are professionally managed; most of it is with Fidelity.

All You Need to Know about Personal Finance Fits on a Notecard
#1 Get an Education
#2 Get a Job

April 28, 2016
by funny
0 comments

Abby Did It!

Hey! Have you been over to I Pick Up Pennies to see Abby’s announcement of her brand-new book? Frugality for Depressives is up and running. Go on over to her site to order it in PDF or ePub, or straight to Amazon for the Kindle version.

Congratulations, Abby!

FrugalityforDepressives-front-v2_3-683x1024

April 27, 2016
by funny
2 Comments

Connie on the Road: Flying Low across the Country

Chapter 4 in the Adventures of Connie Queen of the Big Rigs…

Hurry up!

by Connie Graham

Oh man. I thought this morning’s CF was over. But noooooooo

Didn’t get much sleep the past two days because the truck and trailer were in the shop at different times. Left me with WAY too many miles to cover yesterday. Totally caffeined out, stressed from phone calls from dispatch and the broker asking when I would be at Super Valu in Minneapolis. Warned not to be late…fines impending, etc. Silver is bored and wants to get out and play. I want to take a shower!! And sleep!!!

Second Monster drink down…almost there…gotta pee bad…

Got to the exit and I have exactly 15 minutes to find the guard shack or I’ll be L A T E.

Sign at the street where I am getting ready to turn says “NO TRUCKS”.

This is starting to become a habit. Why was I not warned about this???

I have no phone number to call the Super Valu people. Perhaps this is because if I actually had their phone number I would have unloaded on them. Flames were coming out of my ears.

I had to find a way to get off the f-ing freeway to turn around.

I called dispatch at Hensley after getting stuck in a Honda sales lot while trying to turn around. Scott answered the phone and guided me to the Super Valu building.

All was well… sort of. I got there with 5 minutes to spare!! Checked in to receiving office and was told to back into door 30. So I did. About 20 minutes later a guy from the warehouse came out to ask me if I had a “roll up” door? CRAP I backed into the dock without opening the trailer doors!! Nice.

SuperValueTruck

What Makes Dogs Happy?

SilverInMudWe are back at the Hensley yard in Osakis. Silver saw my friend Melanie standing by the shop with her Chihuahua and went berserk. The whole place was a mud bog as it has been raining and the place is not paved. I decided to go ahead and let her run around in the mud. So she did.

She also decided to share her enthusiasm with me by bouncing off my leg.

Decoration courtesy of Silver the Truck Dog

Decoration courtesy of Silver the Truckin’ Dog

 The Magical Mystery Sound

April 19: I have a truck question. Please, if anyone out there can help me with this….

I just got my truck out of the shop. Everyone has gone home and the 3 people I have phone numbers for are not answering.

Here is my problem:

There is a beeping noise coming from the bunk in my truck. It goes off every 30 seconds. Sounds like when a smoke detector needs a new battery. I can’t find the source of the noise. I haven’t the faintest idea what it is or how to make it stop!!

Ideas please?

A long series of suggestions was emitted by members of the peanut gallery. All wrong. Nary a one of them fixed the problem.

* * *

April 20: O.K. The mechanic at work looked under my bunk and pointed to a silver box that looked like a big stereo amplifier. It’s called a power inverter. Plugs into the truck batteries and allows you to plug things into an extension cord on its power. Or something like that. I’m tired.

So this power inverter started beeping because the mechanic unplugged it from the batteries while working on my APU yesterday. So all the second guy had to do was flip a switch to reset it. GEEZE. No more beep!!!!!!

Back at the Ranch

ConnieElPasoGuy1

Her (not-so-) secret admirer

I enjoyed my calm repose in the drivers’ room at the Hensley yard. Brian, the guy who had lost his wedding ring (and found it in the dirt), came in to give me ribbing about the security guard in El Paso who had been asking about me. Remember the older Mexican dude in the cowboy hat? Oh noooooo! He had been asking other Hensley drivers when I was coming back.

I should have seen this coming. When I took his picture to put on Facebook, he decided I must be in love. Blew me a kiss as I was driving off.

This all got back to my boss who, thankfully, just thought it was funny.

Kaleb (mechanic) came in to ask me about the truck service he was about to do. He also said the boss was real happy about how nice the place looked after I cleaned the drivers’ room last week (I was bored) and said he (boss man) left a care package for me. I began looking around for a pretty basket containing potpourri, tasty candies, hand lotion and a gift certificate to Starbucks…

I turned around and found a black milk crate full of cleaning supplies and a hard hat with my name across the front written on duct tape. Ha! These people are so cool.

Brian had to go wait outside because his daughter’s boyfriend was coming to the shop to ask Brian if he could marry her. Before he left he told me I should stop by the Dairy Bar and try out their sloppy Joes. Turns out the owner of this Dairy Bar place is his daughter’s teacher and he runs the fast food joint on the side during the summer.

I hosed off my muddy dog, tossed her in the truck and went in search of the sloppy Joe purveyor. I just ate two (gave some to Silver, of course) and can hardly move. Now if I could just get rid of that blasted beeping noise in the bunk I could call it a night and get some sleep.

Passenger as Escape Artist

I was wondering how I could have been so absent minded yesterday. I came back to the truck after eating at the diner in Sauk Centre (the one with the crappy food) and noticed the passenger side door was wide open!! Oh man, how could I have been so forgetful?? Silver was sitting in the seat looking absolutely horrified!! I thought perhaps someone had broken into the truck to steal her and she must have fought them off!! But then I realized that was dumb and scolded myself for the screw-up.

Tonight we are in York, Nebraska. I took Silver on a nice long walk and let her sniff and pee all she wanted. Had a little time to kill…. Then, like yesterday, I went into the restaurant to eat. After dinner, as was leaving, I saw a large muddy dog running back and forth on the other side of the glass drivers entrance doors. WTF??? OMG!!! It was Silver — SilverInBunktotally spazzing out. I went outside and threw my arms open — she jumped all over me. She was wiggling around like a fish and I could not keep a hold of her. So off we go toward the truck, and there is the door wide open again.

I thought she was locked in when I locked the door. Apparently she figured out how to push down the door handle to escape. Just for an experiment I locked her in again and went back into the building to get some water. Yep. She was at the doors waiting for me.

How Can I Tell You? Let Me Count the Ways…

TurnSignalWarning

 Navigating the 21st Century

I was driving in the rain through a dozen small towns in Minnesota a couple of nights ago trying to stay on Highway 23. I was going out of my mind over the lack of signage. In one particular spot in a town called Willmar, the road came to a “T.” The sign at the “T” had no freakin numbers or words – just a double arrow pointing to the left and right. Like a driver can’t figure that part out? Oh, let’s see…should I turn left or right or into the tree?

GPSI did not know if “23” was still around, or whether south would be a left or right turn. SURPRISE!!! I guessed wrong. I turned right and drove a couple of miles until I saw a sign that said I was now on 70 North.

Fast forward to me parked on the side of the road calling anyone who might know the area to tell me what happened to 23. My two very good friends, also women drivers, both strongly suggested I stop what I was doing and figure out how to use the GPS on the truck. I couldn’t figure it out several times before. I am not such a great figure-outer. Never have been. But I made myself look at the damn thing, and after 20 minutes I had it figured out.

I will still be getting lost once in a while, but I know if I ever find that blasted sign with the double arrow, my GPS will say “Turn left in 20 feet and remain on highway 23.”

In the Can’t Win Department…

Dammit!! Finally got a shower after FOUR days (remember the dog-opening-door problem?) and I put on my crispy clean jeans only to spill coffee all over my lap.

LidThis is caused by the plastic lid design of the coffee cups sold at Petro Truck Stops. If you are not accurate in your sipping with this lid, coffee ends up collecting along the edges. At a certain point the thing becomes one of those inventions from yesteryear called the “dribble glass.” Funny ha ha. Anyone who tries to drink out of one of these gets it all over their shirt or lap.

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Onward from Des Moines

Made it through Des Moines yesterday during rush hour. It’s nothing like LA, Atlanta, Chicago, or Phoenix during that time of day but it is no less challenging. I’ve never been a fan of generalization, but indulge me for a moment. Those people are NUTS and they DRIVE like MANIACS!!!

I was dodging crazy kamikaze four-wheelers coming at me and zipping around me from every direction. Absolutely amazing.

After surviving this, Judy in dispatch (Hensley) called to inform me I would be swapping trailers with another driver in Iowa and asked where I would like to do that. This plan was to get me a load going back to Phoenix as I have not been home for “time off” in over a month.

I chose Dows Junction truck stop because it is in the middle of BFE and there is ALWAYS a place to park.

SwitchingTrailersWhile at Dows waiting for the other driver I spent some time trying to figure out how I could go into the truck stop for a shower without my dog, Silver, escaping from the truck and getting stolen, lost or run over. One of my conclusions about the whole thing was that, knowing the breed, keeping her in by covering up the door latch would only traumatize her further (she’s a rescue). Somehow I needed to figure out a way to make her WANT to stay in the truck.

I was not successful in coming up with anything that would work short of contacting The Animal Planet to see if they wanted to send over a trainer and do a bit for the show. Lame, I know.

I was running out of time and decided to talk to the drivers in the trucks parked next to me to see if they could dog-sit for thirty minutes. No dice. They were all getting ready to leave.

Hell with it. I looked Silver in the eye, and with all the doggie communication vibes I could muster up asked her to please please please stay in the truck long enough for me to take a much needed shower.

As I marched across the parking lot I heard a few drivers calling after me, “She’s already out!”  “Your dog got out!” There she was. Running across the lot like she was on her way to a fire (as they say).

I left Silver on the entryway and searched out an employee so I could explain my plight. Several of the clerks and a manager all agreed that she would be OK if I just took her into the shower room with me.

This worked well! She had muddy paws from tromping through a puddle, and I could get her as well as me cleaned up.

SilverWantsOutSilver did not like the shower experience at all. I had to drag her in under the water to clean her up, and I am pretty sure she was not used to this kind of thing.

After the shower we got high fives and congratulations from all the people at the truck stop. And free coffee. It was very nice.

And I was clean!

The other driver (Denny) showed up within minutes. We introduced each other and swapped trailers and paperwork. I made the comment to him that it was too bad that I had to keep getting these Jennie-O Turkey loads to get me toward Phoenix because the receivers kind of suck.

The worst one, I explained, was called Ben E Keith in Albuquerque. Their docks are too short and you can’t even leave until the guy next to you leaves first. It’s a mess! By the time you leave there you feel like you are part of brotherhood of drivers who survived the ordeal. You get the strange sensation you should have gotten their contact information so that you could start a support group for the survivors.

Denny assures me that Ben isn’t one of the stops. I open the envelope to see where I am going and the first entry says “Ben E Keith,” 5:00 AM. I’ll be dipped in shit.

The good news is…I went back into the truck stop to grab an Arby’s Beef n Cheddar and Silver stayed put in the truck! The shower experience did the trick! At least for now…

How Good Government Rules Go Bad…

It was bound to happen. Since I came back to driving OTR (over the road), I have now had to spend the night parked on an exit ramp. I spent months locating a company that does not have computerized logging* installed in the trucks. I am not forced to stop driving EXACTLY the moment I hit 11 hours of driving for the day. And I don’t have to sit and stare out the windshield waiting for my truck to allow me to begin driving again EXACTLY 10 hours after I stop. However, the other 90 per cent of the drivers out here do not enjoy that freedom.

Last night I experienced one of the results of our country’s idiot DOT “Rules of Service” for commercial drivers.

These “rules” have changed periodically over the past 25 years. However, in 1995 (ish) someone or a group of someones decided the evil drivers** HAD to be STOPPED from their evil driving, and the biggest chokehold ever (like ever) was rained down upon us in the form of new “Hours of Service.”

This colossal cluster fuck restricts any driver of a commercial vehicle to driving a maximum of 11 hours in a 14-hour window. Period. End of story. Since shippers and receivers load and unload trucks between 5 AM and 5 PM ( generally), all the blasted trucks are on the highway at the same time. Also, after a driver reaches the 11 hours of driving, remember that he must not MOVE the truck for TEN hours.

So… Trying to find a parking place at a truck stop or rest area after 9 PM and actually finding one? PRICELESS.

Try spending 10 hours on an off-ramp. Nice.

Oklahoma is waaaay behind in creating parking places. I found that out last night. I drove from midnight to 2 AM before I even located a fucking OFF RAMP that had an open space for me to park and spend the night.

Congrats US Dept of Transportation. You have completely jumped the shark and screwed the pooch on this one. You have failed to make the highways SAFER as you claim as a result of your overly zealous ridiculously stupid idiotic pile of horse dung you call the New Rules of Service.

*All companies that employ commercial drivers will be required to install computerized logging systems in their trucks by Jan 2017.

**Evil Drivers: not to be confused with “evil doers.”

The Off-Ramp Motel, brought to you courtesy of Our Benighted Leaders

The Off-Ramp Motel, brought to you courtesy of Our Benighted Leaders

Americana in the Midwest

FakeIndianOklahoma. So mired in the past and so still authentically Oklahoma.

What would happen if the entire state was to suddenly be forced to follow all the politically correct touchy feely mumbo jumbo?

No more of this to be sure!!

TradingPost

And really red dirt!

RedDirt

* * *

Just a thought.. Bureaucrats passing laws to make constituents happy is (we ALL know this) about money, control, and profits.

However, when well-meaning individuals actually attempt to pass legislation to improve things, they will fail in the attempt if they refuse to study the situation in depth beforehand.

This includes seeking out anyone and everyone who might be affected by said legislation, etc. I am specifically referring to the trucking débâcle.

When a surgeon is scalpeling (technical jargon) around a heart he needs to be EXACT in his methodology. One millimeter to the left or right could be curtains for the scalpelee. Passing laws willy-nilly can have an kickback similar to someone walking behind the surgeon in the middle of his cut and bumping him in the elbow.

* * *

Blimey! A lot lizard. I have not seen one of these in ages!

LotLizard

Albuquerque

BenKeithI am traumatized. I am trying not to over-react to this Ben E. Keith place but it has me chewing my fingernails and eating donuts.

It sucked the first time I was here. It sucked worse today.

This time, my dog Silver decided to follow me through the parking lot to the receiving office. I was halfway there when I heard her doggie tag jingling. Oh shit. I thought she had stopped doing that!!

I could not address this problem as I did not want to be LATE (trucking Cardinal sin #2) so I took a deep breath and…pretended she wasn’t my dog.

TrucksatBenKeith

Trucks at dawn

There were 8 of us standing in line in the the tiny receiving area. Those of us who had been here before had the stone-faced demeanor of someone waiting for their death sentence to be carried out.

We grumbled and mumbled and discussed how awful it all was while the newbies listened in horror.

Every time a dock employee opened the door to show up for work Silver tried to sneak in. I finally had to confess it was my wacky dog and that this was a new problem for which I had yet to find a solution.

We were all given a dock number and instructed to take turns backing in. As you would expect, the driver assigned door # 1 would go first.

For some unexplainable reason, the drivers who had not been here before were unable to follow directions.

We were also told, “Don’t park in the lot or you will block in the other drivers. Wait outside the gate until it is your turn to back in.”

I was to back into dock #3. Easy peasy. All I had to do was wait for trucks 1 & 2 to get into their docks and it would then be my turn. ‘Twas not to be.

The new guys all drove into the lot and parked just inside the gate, blocking the entrance. This made it impossible for me to back into dock #3 when it was my turn.

Twice I had to ask one of the BEK employees to shoo the drivers away and twice, as soon as they did, some other nitwit drove in and parked there.

I was parked in the street with my flashers on this entire time. I kept getting back into the truck to prepare to enter the facility only to see another truck driving past to block me in.

Obviously I made it in or I wouldn’t be posting about it. But I am worse for the wear.

I polished off a package of mini donuts and chewed my thumbnail down to the quick during this experience.

In conclusion, the lot is TOO SMALL. WAY too small. It is just too small for what they want to use it for. There are too many drivers not quick enough on the uptake for this to work. Also, the smallness of this lot (did I mention the lot was SMALL?) creates such a tight fit that once you are done getting unloaded the truck next to you has to detach from his trailer to let you out.

I’m done here now. On to US Foods. They have a giant lot. Now I just have to figure out how to keep Silver in the truck.

Did I mention the parking lot is too small?

What part of “too small” is hard to understand?

Don’t miss Connie’s earlier adventures:

El Paso
Along the Border
Eastward Bound

April 26, 2016
by funny
0 comments

New Adventure Squib at Plain & Simple Press

Seth usable Depositphotos_45725153_l-2015What a hoot! Over at Plain and Simple Press, I’ve been posting short squibs from the draft of the next FireRider noveloid. Several love interests are developing, not the least a possibility between a fellow named Seth and a young pistol named Caddy.

Caddy Depositphotos_99552390_l-2015Actually, if you want to start following this pair, you’ll want to start with the first episode, “Seth.” Then move on to today’s episode, “Banshee.”

I’ll publish a couple of the other sub-plots over there, too. One that’s under way has to do with the wife of Jag Bova “Snow-Killer,” Mayr of Rozebek. I’d titled it “Women Warriors of the North” because the original idea was to follow several of the women elite — the kubnaths and mayreths — who actually run the place. But the whole Bova – Lieze thing is turning out to be interesting enough to take center stage. In another day or two, I’ll post a new installment in that part of the story.

Check it out!