Uh, I haven’t driven it much

So, this is probably a contender for the ultimate White People Problem, but my car wouldn’t start, so I had to call for help. I am the first to admit I’m not mechanically-minded, so in times of crises, like warning lights turning on or off on the dash, or cars not starting, I find a professional.

My car is a 2017 Ford Fusion that we got specifically so I would have something to drive to the office, and then (as you may recall) my office got eliminated. So, it hasn’t gotten nearly the usage we expected. In fact, the insurance company kept calling me to tell me their tracking device (that gave me a policy discount) obviously needed replacement because it wasn’t sending any data.

So, the Fusion has been resting quietly in the driveway. For some time.

It rested so long, that when I finally needed it, I couldn’t get into the car.

What I mean is that the automated key clicker-thingie wouldn’t open the door, so I couldn’t get into it the easy way, and at that point, I didn’t know that there’s a secret old-school key hidden in the automated key clicker-thingie, so I was stuck.

Eventually, I found the secret manual key documented on YouTube, but I was afraid I was pushing too hard on the secret manual key (to pry off the secret manual cover), so I gave up.

That was a couple of weeks ago. We’ve been to Ohio and back. Actually, we’ve been a lot of places, but since Virginia is usually with me, we just take her car (which used to be my car.)

So, I’m not really sure when I drove it last, but it’s been a while. I could estimate it, but my attorney has advised against it.

Hey, I lost my job, I’ve been looking for a new one, I was accepted as a SCORE volunteer mentor, we’ve been on a couple of trips, the Spousal Unit had surgery. I’ve been busy.

Let’s just say it’s been a while.

So, I assumed the battery was dead. When the automated key clicker-thingie didn’t work, that confirmed my assumption to me. That is the extent of my automotive debugging skills. It was time to consult a professional.

It occurs to me that if we had driven it to Ohio, my son (who is not a mechanic, but is amazing with tools) probably could have fixed it, but if we could have driven it to Ohio, there wouldn’t have been anything to fix.

So, I called AAA. Well, I filled in the online form. Then, I remembered the last time I had a dead battery, the mechanic sold me a new one, so I canceled the call. Then, I called Ford Roadside Assistance, since their new battery would be under my warranty. I hoped.

I’m not really sure why I have AAA when Roadside Assistance comes with our cars, but so it goes. Call both, have them race to the house. I’m pretty sure some mechanics work for both, anyway.

Ford Roadside Assistance is great. The 800-number texts you for the address, so you don’t have to read the address to a voice-recognition system. The operator can figure out much of your life from the last eight digits of the VIN. They text you a URL where you can track the tow truck from when it is dispatched until your injured car arrives at the dealer.

They dispatched someone to tow my car in, which seemed like overkill, but having just been to the ER and then admitted overnight for a vertigo attack, I’m used to overkill.

When the mechanic called to verify the address, he said he’d just jump it first, since it sounded like a dead battery. (Dead battery, you say? Maybe I should be a mechanic!)

So, this should be simple.

However, it’s my life. Simple, it is not.

The mechanic was a lovely gentleman who managed to get the secret key to remove the secret cover, and got the driver’s door open. When I told him I was afraid it would break, he laughed in that not-at-all-condescending mechanic laugh, and told me I couldn’t break it.

Sir, may I remind you that you are standing in front of a broken car to which I have done nothing?

(I didn’t say that, because I still needed him on my side.)

With the door open at last, we could try to start the car, which didn’t work, as expected. I was afraid he was going to show me a secret way to use the secret key when the push button didn’t work, but either there isn’t one, or he spared me.

So, once in the car, we popped the hood.

Hmm.

He said, “This car has not run in a long time.”

So, I admitted it may have been a short while since last usage.

He said, “You know how I can tell? Look at those nuts in here.”

It really helps if you’re familiar with the Southern/Texan African-American accent, because the soft lilt of horror is what makes this conversation the fun ordeal it was.

I looked where he was pointing. These were not “nuts and bolts” nuts. These were pecans.

“They’ve been chewing on some of these wires. Something was livin‘ in here.”

Pause.

“I don’t know if this will jump. I can’t tell if any of these wires have been chewed through.”

Pause.

“See where these are chewed?”

Pause.

“If this jumps at all, you’re very lucky.”

Pause.

“This is a new car.”

So, now I’m ashamed, and I started quietly removing the half-chewed pecans and empty shells from the platform in front of the battery. I’m beginning to understand why there didn’t seem to be as many squirrels in the yard this winter.

He attached the jumper cables, and the car started right up.

“You got very lucky.”

I nodded.

Very lucky.”

Pause.

“This is a new car.”

More shame duly noted.

So, he ran it until there was enough of a charge for the “Check Engine” light to come on, and then he decided towing it would be the best course of action.

I think he really just wanted to give the car some quality time away from me.

It’s at the dealer now. If he’s a character witness, I may never see the Fusion again.

On the other hand, I drove it from the driveway to the front of the house, so he could drive it onto the flatbed. (In his not-at-all-condescending voice, he said, “I’ll take it from here” as I pulled up next to the flatbed.) So, when the dealer asks the last time I drove it, I can just say, “Today.”

On the Walk of Shame back from the car, my flip-flop strap broke. Yes, I blew out my flip-flop, without even stepping on a pop-top. Broken Flip-Flop

So, now I can’t walk or drive.

At least, there’s Uber.

*** Update ***

The “rodent” chewed through the windshield washer fluid reservoir. It is called a “reservoir” because you can’t, in good faith, charge $337 for a plastic jug. Rodent damage is not covered by the warranty.

Worse news? Apparently, the squirrel in question needs braces.

The investigation continues. For $74. So, if they’re charging, you know they’ll be finding. More updates as available.

*** Update #2 ***

He chewed through the coolant reservoir, as well. So, we’re past $700 now, but at least if I see a stoned squirrel, I will have the suspect.

In the Hospital

So, I spent the night in the hospital last night. Not for me, for my wife.

She had shoulder surgery yesterday. The surgery went well, but she has a difficult time coming out of anesthesia. She told her doctor, she told her anesthesiologist, she told the nurses, she told the mailman (he was concerned), but it doesn’t matter. When she can’t wake up, people are amazed – because they are never the people she’s told.

In their defense, when a normal person, say me, has any day surgery that ends at 3:30pm, I will be coherent at 4:00pm, and out the door by 4:30pm – at the latest.

She will be out of surgery at 3:30pm, cranky by 4:30pm and barely awake at 7pm, assuming a good tailwind.

Here’s the issue: with more and more day surgery “hospitals”, they really want you out by six because they’re closing for the evening.

To get her out by six, surgery should have started last Tuesday.

So, her shoulder surgery started at 3pm, she was admitted to the hospital by 7pm and at 9pm, she was ordering Dominos because the cafeteria was closed. (Yes, they deliver to the hospital.)

I’m waiting to see the diagnosis for her admittance because I think it will be “couldn’t wake up.” Usually, “couldn’t wake up” in a hospital means people with paddles yelling “Clear!” and pressing on your chest and blowing in your mouth.

In this case, it was a nurse who had a bus to catch, and said, “If you can’t get up, we have to admit you.”

This is a stupid threat to make to someone who likes being waited on, and spends a lot of her spare time with various doctors.

It is a doubly stupid threat to make when the other person in the room is trying to postpone being the caregiver as long as possible.

So, she was admitted for “sleepiness”, and then she sent me off home to gather the four tons of supplies she doesn’t carry in her purse – which is probably what weakened her shoulder in the first place.

By the time I ate dinner, got home, walked the dogs, medicated the dogs, corralled the dogs, gathered up the four ton laundry list from the four corners of the house and got back to the hospital, it was after midnight, so I decided to just stay.

This gets many good husband points, and a crick in the neck.

I almost never sleep in a chair, except on Thanksgiving or in meetings, but the recliner was like a business class seat without the annoying person blocking the aisle.

I never use blankets on a plane, but when I woke up at four with my teeth chattering, I decided to make an exception.

(It turned out it was in the 60s in the room, so either the A/C works or the heat doesn’t.)

I slept like a baby, which is to say I woke up every couple of hours to pee and spent the rest of the time sobbing quietly, wrapped in my blankie.

So, it’s morning and we’re waiting for discharge papers. After that, we have to get the four tons of equipment I retrieved plus all of her new medical equipment home and unpacked.

Then, we set her up in a chair and teach the dogs, “No! Not on Mommy’s shoulder!”

Then, I’m taking a nap.

Hamlet at Quest Diagnostics 

So, the Rocky and the Rat (ex-rat) saga continues. Rocky has been diagnosed with leptospirosis, which is a bacterial infection. It is possible he contracted it before he killed the rat, especially since it showed up so quickly. On the bright side, it’s a zoonotic disease, wnich means we can catch it from him. Joy.

Rocky had a blood test to see if he was infected. He was. This means we all need blood tests, as well. Well, the people do. If one dog has lepto, you just treat all the dogs. We may all end up on the same antibiotics.

Leptospirosis has two phases – the first is detected in blood, the second is detected in urine. This becomes important as we progress.

After calming down about Rocky testing positive, the Spousal Unit called our family doctor and said we needed a leptospirosis test. I have a feeling we may be the first people to request this specific test. We may be the first people to request any test. 

His nurse called this morning to tell us the tests were ordered, and we just had to go to Quest Diagnostics whenever we could.

I like Quest. They’re fast, there’s no appointments and they always get my blood on the first stick. So, when the Spousal Unit asked if we should go to lunch or Quest first, I thought we should get the bloodwork done first. How long could it take?

We got to Quest and I got stuck. Two tubes of blood, since the phlebotomist had never heard of the test. Time for lunch!

Then, she handed me a little jar, and muttered something about a urine sample. Warning, Will Robinson!

I should explain. When the Spousal Unit runs errands, she will run two days to six weeks worth of errands in an afternoon. So, there’s no telling where we are going to end up, or how long we will be gone. Therefore, I always pee before we leave.

I really wish someone had mentioned we were going to have to pee and not just bleed. It’s an important detail.

Oh, well. How hard can it be?

Apparently, very difficult.

Into the restroom, prepare to fill jar.

Nothing.

Concentrate.

Nothing.

I told the phlebotomist I needed to come back later.

She said she needed both samples together. I wasn’t allowed to leave. I was a prisoner. 

I wish she would have told me this before she harvested my two tubes of blood.

She asked if I wanted some water, to help the cause. So, armed with my three ounces of H2O, back to the bathroom I go.

Nothing.

Maybe I just need more water. I turn on the sink and there is no cold water. I don’t mean the cold water isn’t really cold – I mean turning the handle makes nothing appear. On the bright side, the hot water works and it’s not hot, it’s lukewarm.

Lukewarm water is not very pleasant. 

I could ask for more water from the phlebotomist but she wasn’t very happy to see me the last time, so I think I’ll just stick with lukewarm. Ugh.

Three cups of lukewarm water. Yummy.

How much water could it possibly take before I have to pee?

More than 14 ounces of lukewarm water, it appears.

At this point, I had been concentrating so long, I was beginning to sweat. Hmm. Would sweat be an acceptable substitute? Spit? Lukewarm tap water?

Three more cups of lukewarm water.

Hysteria was about to set in. Luckily, that’s when the Spousal Unit texted me.

Ping! “Everything ok in there?”

Autocorrect does not like my answer.

Time to find a distraction.

I could read the soap bottles. There’s a small table, but nothing’s in it, not even the magazines guys need for that other sample.

Ping! “How’s it going in there?”

Stop bothering me! I’m busy not producing a sample!

Ping! “I have to pee again. Do you want me to do it for you?”

Hardy-freakin-hair-har. Do I mock you in times of crisis? (Hmm. Question withdrawn.)

When all else fails, try the classics. This is the one time a prep school education pays off.

I hold the little jar towards the sky. I take a breath, and in a deep voice (for me), I intone, “To pee or not to pee … that is the question.” 

Nothing.

I begin to giggle. Then, I begin to weep.

Hey, do tears count?

I’m now trying to push the sweat beads on my forehead back in, so they will find another way to escape.

The Spousal Unit finally asked the staff if I could go get a drink, and I guess if you block one of their two restrooms for an hour, they’ll let you out. Plus, some of them were beginning to wonder if I was still alive, and found it hilarious we were texting.
Stay alive. Don’t text and pee.

I had been trying to pee for so long, the hospital cafe was closed. Sure, it closes ridiculously early, but still.

Luckily, the Subway one building over was still open. Up one floor, across the sky bridge, and there it was. I went just for a drink, and realized I was starving. Oh, right, we came here before lunch.

It’s 4:30pm. Quest closes at five. Time to slam down a snack and drink as much Mr Pibb as humanly possible.

What a romantic lunch. Subway sandwiches in a hospital. Can I at least take four sips before the Spousal Unit asks if I need to pee yet? 

18 ounces of soda in eight minutes. Then, speed walking back to the other building.

My phlebotomist is gone. That removes some of the pressure. I don’t like being judged.

Retrieved my jar – the only one left on the shelf – and nobody had filled it for me while I was gone. So much for prayers being answered. It’s probably because I wasn’t sure who the patron Saint of pee is. 

I went into the other restroom. Maybe it was the restroom.

Drained the rest of the soda.

Wait.

I have to pee!

Hallelujah!

I have to pee!

Praise the Lord!

I have to pee!

Crap! Where’s the damn jar?

Found it. Filled it. Sealed it.

Well, that was a fun afternoon.

Washed my hands. Oh, look! The cold water works in this restroom.

Headed home at last.

Let all the dogs out. They all peed immediately. The bastards.

I’ve peed twice while writing this. I’m thinking I should be saving it for next time, just in case.

Please Sign My Petition

I’m beginning to wonder if the ease with which people can share their cause du jour online doesn’t do more harm than good. In many cases, people are actually spamming your friends. Since “friends” is a relative term in the online universe (thank you, Facebook!), we all may just be annoying people we only tangentially know. We may also be inviting people to support causes they actually oppose. (If done on purpose, this is funny. If not, it’s really annoying.)

The main cause of angst in the Facebook world is Causes. Causes is a lovely application for non-profits to reach out to their donors and constituents to keep them updated on the activities of the organization. It’s also a way to fund-raise. As the president of two non-profits, I liked it. However, it’s a separate application, which can make it a pain to use. We’ve actually pretty much retired it, since we can do most of what it does from our own Facebook page, and then, we don’t have to update multiple sites.

As a casual user, I hate it. I am bombarded by requests to sign petitions and support causes, and most of the time, the requests come from people that won’t even send me a personal note. If I get a request from someone I know, someone that I interact with regularly, then I have some hope they actually sent me the request on purpose. Most of the time, Causes just helpfully sends a note to everyone in your address book if you don’t tell it not to do so. This is called a “spambot” when a program does it without the user knowing.

It gets even more dicey when you’re not really “friends” with someone – you’re a co-worker, or a distant relative (or worse, in-law), or friend of a friend, or met them at a conference. Causes doesn’t differentiate. It also assumes that if someone signs one petition, they will want to sign more.

Here’s my personal issue – I’m the President of Sparky’s Pals, which does humane education. It’s an outgrowth of the years my wife and I have spent in animal rescue. However, I am not a vegetarian. I think the “PETA – People Eating Tasty Animals” shirts are actually a bit funny. I’m still annoyed at HSUS for trying to make Michael Vick a poster child. Now, many people in rescue will think I’m a bad person. However, they’ll know why I’m not signing their petitions.

I’m also the President of a community radio station, KNON 89.3 – the Voice of the People. However, I am not a raging liberal Democrat. I didn’t vote Obama. Twice. The only useful thing Obama has done is create the petition system on the White House site, because it lets people annoy him. I do not believe he will ever take action on any of the petitions. However, I do sometimes think Texas should secede, and that petition made the limit for a White House response easily. Then, they raised the response quota. Well-played.

The difference between Causes and the White House petition swamp is that the White House owns their system. Somebody there actually reviews the ideas. For Causes, I’m not sure the targets ever find out there are people annoyed at them.

Here’s my request – the next time you sign an online petition, think “If I had to put a stamp on this, sign it, and mail it somewhere, would I still sign it?” Before you click to send it off to all your friends, think, “Does <whomever> think this way, too?” If you don’t know, uncheck the name. If you don’t know for the majority of your friends in the list, ask yourself if they should be your online friends at all.

If Facebook wanted to make life easy for people, it would force applications to use the groups people create. In my case, baseball players probably don’t care about animal rescue. Animal rescue people don’t care about gun rights, at least not the way I do. Very few people care about my thoughts on religion. I know this. I could just uncheck name after name when I’m signing a petition, or I can just not use the system. I’m thinking about just blocking the Causes application to end the madness.

For anyone still reading that wants to send me a petition, here are my rules:

  • If it’s something I don’t believe in, I don’t sign it. If you don’t know if I believe in it, why not ask me? If it seems really rude to ask me, are you really my friend? Maybe it’s best to just not send the petition.
  • If it’s not local to me (say Texas or closer), I don’t sign it. While I care deeply about the plight of the cockatoo in Namibia, I really don’t think anyone is going to help it. People are starving there – do you think they care about animals?
  • If it’s not written in clear, correct English, I don’t sign it. Take some time to edit, people! I don’t believe anyone in authority pays attention to something that is not well-written.

Feel free to use my guidelines.

I would start a petition about this, but the irony would be lost on most people.

Finally, could you like this post? My wife said if I can get one million people to like this post, I can buy a Mustang.