Pride Kickoff

Not that I – through my extensive observational research into the matter – find any significant reason to celebrate Pride, but I will chalk yesterday’s accomplishments up to just that.

For the chuckles.

And the rare opportunity to claim a butch bone in my body. Don’t get it twisted, Diezel…keep your thoughts G-rated adjacent.

You see, Angela has been giving me a “driver’s headlight malfunction” warning for months now. Actually, since my front tires crossed from my mechanic’s driveway into the street from having my passenger side headlight replaced. Having looked at it upon arriving home, I saw that both bulbs worked just fine, so…I proChristinated it.

Until, that is, a passenger got in my car and said, “You know your headlight is out, right?” But, since it was daytime, I assumed that indicated it was my running light, not my headlight and shrugged it off. Later that night, I checked my actual headlight again and all was well.

But it was a little hard to see, so I had a niggling concern. Then again, there’s an abundance of trees to obscure streetlights here in town and on top of that, plenty of cloud cover to block out any moonlight…so maybe it was less my headlight and more situational shituations.

I’m no fool, though. Well, no run of the mill fool, like certain <cough, cough> Trumptard-like <cough> people.

After gathering a quarter’s worth of strictly non-scientific data on the topic, I decided to replace my driver’s side headlight. Also, I kept seeing this reflected back in the bumper of cars ahead of me…

Eventually, I decided it was unlikely that this phenomenon was strictly coincidence based on car positions, rough road, etc. So yesterday, I wandered into my local auto parts <shudder> store. I’d looked up the part I needed online and they allegedly had it in stock. Further, I had watched a couple How To videos on the YouTube – the first was an overly complex passenger side replacement video that involved removing a windshield wiper fluid reservoir, and having never popped my hood myself, I wasn’t doing that! But the second video made the driver’s side replacement look ridiculously easy. So I stopped in and picked up the replacement bulb. There were three options because, I’m assuming, fuck everything and everyone. But after talking to the local associate, I felt like I understood why there were three options. Still, me being a decidedly milquetoast ninny when it comes to mechanical shiz, I bought the most expensive option…just to be safe.

Then I changed it in the parking lot, just in case my own mechanical ineptitude required me to either go into full Karen mode to offset my incompetence or just return the bulb when it proved the slightest bit different than the videos on the YouTubes.

I’d like to say everything proceeded apace. Alas…

I’ll be convalescing in the desert. Or the Gay Kulture Desert commonly referred to as “Portland”, at any rate. I’m saving the actual desert for my imminent betting-pool-defying Betty Ford stint.

So for $28, a little gumption and a scratch, I fixed a problem that previously cost me $70 to fix. That’s a good way to start Pride month: defying stereotypes and all.

Mind you, while driving last night, I realized the importance of proper headlight alignment. Every time I caught a reflection or my headlights tracked across an inanimate object, I go strong vibes, reminiscent of this meme…

Plus, my dashboard idiot light didn’t clear automatically, so I feel like there’s a “Hey, can you check…?” moment coming with my mechanic on my next visit to the garage that will somehow add $500 to the oil change I’m having done when he realizes I attempted to operate equipment I was not checked out on. <sigh>

But I tried! And as my fake southern grandmother always said, “Nothing beats a fail but a try”!

Pride Kickoff

Pro*Chris*tination

You know the old saying, right?

Hard work pays off in the future…procrastination pays off today!

Well, in my universe, occasionally there’s a psychotic eclipse type thing. Then both parts are true!

Case in point: I’ve needed new wiper blades since our February snow storm. Not much to bitch about, considering Texas. Heck, even my 99 year old grandfather was alone and without electricity just across town for three days! (Yes, dad insisted he go to a hotel, but since my grandfather isn’t about to take orders from some punk 75 year old…🤷🏽‍♂️)

So, yeah. My wiper blades getting gouged by ice and leaving streaks smack dab in my field of vision didn’t really merit a mention. I checked our local big box grocery for replacements, but it was $30 for the pair! After converting that from dollars to beers, I walked away.

Then I found myself at an oil change and figured I might as well get it done. They were out.

Fine!

But every time it sprinkled, there was a visual reminder of my overdue task. Usually accompanied by an audible screech from the blades skipping across the windshield.

Luckily – for me not future generations – this past April brought not showers as we learnt in nursery rhymes as children. As a matter of fact, Portland’s April was the driest on record…by one-third. We had only a half inch of rain versus the prior low record of three quarters of an inch.

No, that isn’t an invitation to book travel to PDX. You keep your germs local.

May was pretty much the same story. Low, but not a record low like April.

Until this week.

Frankly, I was happy to see rain in the forecast. At the same time, I figured I oughta get my act together, butch it up and get the deed done.

For safety.

I made the Silver Fox – yes, he finally put in a leisurely visit! – take me when we went to coffee the other day. Lo’ and behold…

On sale, you say?

40% off, no less?!?

Don’t get too excited, though. They are proving tougher than my fingertips and are still awaiting installation from the front passenger footwell.

Tomorrow’s another day, Slugger.

Next up, returning Angela to her chancellor-esque stature from the Lisa Left Eye Lopez situation some ne’er do well left her in a few weeks back.

It’s tough to see, but scroll down. After the curious incident of the fog light poking out of the bumper, The Fox ceded his parking spot to me until his return to city slickering. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather it was sooner than later, but poor Angela! Just look what those philistines did to her!

Buncha bastards. Luckily, I’ve got friends like the Silver Fox to provide refuge and Diezel, who looks at it and says, “I can fix that” like the “in my sleep” doesn’t even need to be mentioned. Nor does the “you limp wristed ninny”.

Those are good friends to have in your corner.

Pro*Chris*tination

Down Day

Despite what my brain says, my body is in complete disagreement over whether or not 4 is enough hours of sleep for a night.

Therefore, methinks today will be a down day.

Since I’ve been awake since around 4 AM, I’ve already done my news and social media scrolls. I’ve also dropped Angela off at the garage to get her malfunctioning e-brake fixed. <fingers crossed> I also have had quite an amusing comment thread conversation with another blogger about the state of disrepair that is currently passing for Gay Kulture and had a farewell coffee with the Silver Fox.

That might be the sum total of my accomplishments for the day. Plenty, it would be, too.

You’d actually think I could have gotten Angela into the garage right when they opened at 7, having had three hours by that time to muster myself. But they said “Drop ‘er off anytime between 7 and 9” and I set my target at 8 AM and saw no reason to deviate from that plan, despite my treasonous body’s somnambulistic misbehavior.

Wow. I can’t believe I nailed the spelling of somnambulistic on the first try.

Anyway, this being my life, when I got in the car to drive down to the garage, I hit a fresh surprise. Instead of my “Emergency Brake Malfunction” alert going off, my “Low Tire Pressure” light went off.

It’s good to switch these minor crises up. But the tire pressure issue is a problem for Les Schwab. Potentially…it might just be a factor of temperature, cold night following a hot day. Plus, I can inflate a tire myself.

As a matter of fact, when my consultant asked if there was anything else they should look at, I wanted to tell him I’m due for an oil change, since they can reset the on board computer and Oil Can Henry’s cannot, but the latter is about 40% cheaper, so I can put up with just letting the real mechanics reset the OBC every other oil change.

I also wanted to tell him that I’m getting an intermittent “Low Beam Malfunction” warning for my driver’s side head light. That’s really just punishment for me cheaping out when I had my passenger side headlight replaced a few months back and not doing both at the same time.

That’s Car-ma for ya.

Instead, I just told him

Let’s start with the e-brake and see what you leave in my bank account first.

Surprisingly, that garnered a chuckle.

I really should take these guys some doughnuts one of these days. They’re good folks.

Anyway, I mentally budgeted $500 for this repair – as if that will have any effect on whatever reality is to be. But if they can come in at or under that, then I’ll pull the trigger on the headlight and probably the oil change, too.

We’ll see.

I actually think I really need this down day…for a variety of reasons. I can feel my surliness levels rising – probably because of normal daily frustrations building up and my Low Liquor Level Light mentally going off because I have been drinking less…despite what you might think in a few paragraphs.

Knowing that today would probably be a day off from driving – even though I typically like to do a Wednesday shift, I went out yesterday for a few rides.

It turned into a literal few, too. Even though I went to the can before I got in the car, by the end of the second ride, I was doing a mental pee-pee dance. By the end of the third ride, I was ready to frantically point my car toward home.

Despite that close call, I felt guilty for not finishing my usual 10 rides, so after booting around the house for an hour or so, I went back out to wrap the day up. Aspirationally, I was thinking I’d stretch to 15.

The reality was two. I managed just two more rides before hitting my mental “fuck it” button.

I was still a little crunchy about my earlier rides, after a promising start with a long ride that I picked up about five blocks from home, my next two rides had been 15-20 minute pick ups. Neither of those rides was longer than six minutes, cumulatively they totaled 10 minutes. And no one was tipping.

The second shot at driving was similarly frustrating. Although, for a less surprising reason: traffic. I’m not sure who the Stupid American was that ruined it for everyone else yesterday, but I know where they lived.

Vantucky.

Sometime around 3:00, someone completely fucked up all of the Oregon-tax-dodging, Portland-job-stealing Vancouver folks’ commute home by getting into a wreck on the 205 bridge.

I noticed it during what turned out to be my fifth and final ride of the day when I didn’t get on 205 to get to a hotel by the airport. I knew something was wrong when the navigation app kept me on surface streets all the way there, and I could see that immediately when the app steered me away from the usual airport route.

To be clear, it’s not unusual for GPS to keep me off 84 at that time of day because it’s always a shitshow for the afternoon commute. It’s the crosstown freeway between the 5 and the 205, so everyone that lives on the east side of Portland or Vancouver uses it.

Poorly.

But when I stayed on surface streets – and we’re talking some real backwater roads, not the normal surface street airport routes, I knew I was a focacta situation.

Still, being that close to the airport, I hoped to snag an airport passenger for a ride back into town.

And I got one! A Lux ride, too!

…that was a 52 minute pick up.

Digging a little deeper, it wasn’t the airport passenger I’d been hoping for. It was a Vantuckian who was directly across the river from me – about a 10 minute ride, under normal circumstances.

I’m loathe to reject a ride. It’s not what I’m out there for. But 50+ minutes of sitting in traffic with these folks for what would very likely turn out to be a ride to a convenience store for some smokes for some lazy bastard – seriously, that was my last Vancouver Lux ride…during the snow storm a couple months ago – just wasn’t worth it.

Especially not when it was the last day of the 20% off wine case sale at Gross Out and the two Rosés I’d bought had both passed muster with The Fox. And I was just a few blocks away from a Grocery Outlet!

So I declined the ride and went and bought a case of each. I got both cases for a total of $75, and that should set us up for our Rosé On The Roof into, if not through, June.

Don’t think of it as “spending $75”, spin it as “saving $220″!

And if Angela’s repair comes in at $220, I promise you I will not be the least bit surprised…because that’s just about how weird my life is.

Down Day

I Can’t…Please Don’t Ask.

So, this landed in my Lyft app yesterday.

Here’s a more detailed explanation from the drill down

Basically, you give 114 rides, you get a $182 bonus. Not super great, it’s about $1.50/ride on top of whatever the driver’s fare share, tips and any surge bonuses are for each ride. But, once you hit that 114th ride, you are eligible for a second tier bonus of $70 on your next 21 rides. That’s more like an extra $3.25/ride…that is kinda something.

Let me just start out at the top here by saying that there will be earnings numbers in this post. That does not mean that they are typical. Far from, to be honest. But as the Silver Fox likes to encourage me, these are examples of “making hay while the sun shines”.

So don’t hit me up for any loans.

I usually give somewhere in the 40-50 ride range per week. It takes me about 20-25 hours.

But, since the new year, I’ve raised my weekly financial goal by 50%. I figure, if I’m not going back – read: being asked back, also known as “hired” – to professional work, I may as well support myself with my driving income versus bankrupting my future.

For instance, here’s my breakout from the last week, which ended Sunday.

You might notice I hit – exceeded, actually – my financial goal in the 65 rides I gave. And that was in only 22.5 hours.

Crazy.

What was also crazy is that I felt guilty about taking time off – more on that in a sec – last week, so started off Friday with a bang

It was also the first time I’ve ever seen this

…so, oops, I guess? Even though that 12 hour day was split up over two drive shifts – morning and evening – hitting that 12th hour and rounding my way to 13 became a no drive zone.

Anyway, most of those earnings were a combination of surge bonuses and Lux rides. Usually, I feel lucky to get one Lux ride per driving shift, Portland just isn’t a Lux market. Seattle, now that I could see being a Lux market. Much more image conscious – with the excessive compensation to bankroll their brand building tendencies, too, that lot.

But that first part, the surge bonuses, that’s pushing people to Lux…for the value.

It’s crazy. Have I mentioned how nuts this feels?

With the enhanced unemployment that gig workers were allowed to dip into last Spring, many drivers have opted not to drive in lieu of free money and reduced COVID risk. Originally, they were given around $1200/week. Now it’s more like $900/week, a big drop from almost $5k a month, for sure.

But it’s still $3600/month to do nothing! Last year, I’d say my “take home” averaged about two-thirds that number. Not free money, mind you, but I felt very little time or effort was required.

This unemployment potential means that there aren’t a lot of drivers on the road. That creates surge pricing and long wait times for standard Lyft cars. Since I have a BMW, I can get either standard or Lux rides or opt for only Lux rides. Doing both, I can usually expect 2-4 rides per hour, depending on the length of each ride, versus about one ride per hour if I toggle over to Lux only.

That means in many cases currently when demand is high, it’s cheaper – and oftentimes faster – to call for a Lux.

And it’s not just Lyft that is struggling to get drivers on the road. Uber is having a rough <ahem> road of it, too. On Friday night I picked up a couple women around closing time (ok, that sounds seedy) at a bar in close-in SE. They were doing a split Lux ride, dropping one off about 18 blocks away from the bar and the other pretty deep in North Portland’s St John’s neighborhood. That’s where this iconic Portland bridge lives

…and it’s pretty hard to get to. It’s a freeway ride to almost the state line and then a long potholed surface street journey into the bowels of NoPo.

The St John’s passenger told me that just her ride home with Uber was $120, so they checked Lyft and with the slightly out of the way drop off of her friend, it was still less than 2/3 the Uber rate.

So, why am I mad? Well, I’m not. Not precisely.

I love driving and chatting with people and being “in service” to them. I call it my social paycheck, but really, it’s filling in a void I wasn’t prepared for after inadvertently leaving my retail career.

It’s funny, the things you miss. Funnier that these realizations caught me so off guard.

However, not being mad aside, I only drove Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week. I intentionally took off Monday through Thursday because I was tired.

Also, the Silver Fox was in town getting his second COVID vaccination…but that’s not the point!

I had just come off another challenge week the day before The Fox came up to town. That challenge was three tiered versus this week’s two tiers: 95 rides/$118 + 10 rides/$50 + another 30 rides/$84, for a total of $252 in ride bonuses for 135 rides.

Same number of rides and bonus potential as last week, they are just making us work for that first carrot.

Of course, this being my life, my 135th ride on the last challenge week ended in BFE. Me being loathe to drive home for free when I could get paid to drive home, switched my app to Destination Mode and caught another ride to my neck of civilization.

After 136 rides in almost 50 hours, I needed the rest. But I’d low key wanted to nail one of these challenges for over a year. With the Silver Fox out of town, I really had no excuse. Actually, I was a little mad that it took this long, but it was more bad timing than prochristination.

I swear!

But here’s the humble brag receipt:

And there were cash tips that aren’t showing in those numbers.

Yeah, if anyone with no skills beyond being able to operate a motor vehicle is looking for a job that pays $125,000 a year…I’ve got a hot tip for ya.

I do not want to earn that much. Well, honestly, I don’t want to work 50-plus hour weeks anymore. Thirty years of that bullshit was plenty.

Ergo, I’ve happily arrived at a point where my three ~10 ride days a week plus my long Friday, which I call either a double or a triple since it usually lands between 20 and 30 rides, sustain me. Added bonus: my favorite local station has a Friday night program called Party Out Of Bounds that is all 80s & 90s music from 8-midnight.

Yes. Please.

Wait…have I gotten around to why I’m mad/not mad yet?

It’s just too soon, this week’s challenge! I don’t know if it’s based on a preplanned calendar or in response to driver census in a certain area or something else altogether, but it seems this type of thing only happened a few times last year. Every other month, at most.

Every other week? Twice a month?

So much! Stop throwing money at me…I’ll respond!

But the retail manager in me – that apparently won’t die – wants to meet or exceed goals set by my employer. Even though Lyft’s technically not my employer in this relationship…when they call, I tend to answer.

If I get home after my 10 rides and my app tells me ride demand is high, I might sign back in for another five rides or so. Especially if they’re throwing surge bonuses onto rides – one of my rides this past Saturday included a $31 surge bonus. For one lousy ride! But generally, the surge bonuses are more in the $1.50-$4 range.

Nevertheless, my concern here is that even with the Silver Fox in town again yesterday and today, Angela going into the shop on Wednesday and a get together with Bubble Boy Thursday…I don’t really have the time to answer this call.

But I bet I end up trying.

Just watch.

Apparently, you can take the boy out of retail, but you can’t take the retail out of the boy.

I Can’t…Please Don’t Ask.

Look, I’m *Very* Busy…

As in, very.

Case in point, I just finished watching all six seasons of Grimm. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 forty-five minute episodes.

For.

The.

First.

Time.

I feel like I really fell down as a Portlander. I definitely fell down as an extra on the show.

When I started watching, I recollected that I’d been on the show 2-3 times. As my viewing progressed, I changed that tally to four.

Only one made the final cut.

Although, honorable mention for this close call…

Dishonorable mention for me gushing later about the cute guy in the scene with me – that I thought was also a background actor. It was David Guintoli – I’m sure I spelled that wrong – aka: the Grimm hizzownself. Side note, I also infamously gushed to the Silver Fox about this cute guy at the gym, a couple of times I think, before he told me in an incredulous tone that that was Sasha Roiz.

<blank stare>

From Grimm!

He completely missed my point, of course. I don’t usually like tall guys. This moment of attraction was growth for me!

Everthemess…

The other two “castings” I booked, I never made it out of the holding area. Whatevs, still got paid, suckas!

I didn’t spend a lot of time giving the show 100% of my attention. Like I said, very busy. I had social media to scroll, Words With Friends that needed dominating and, I dunno…I had to multitask to make sure I had time to drink and occasionally get stoned.

Shut up, it’s a pandemic.

But most of the time I was either falling in love with the scenery of my hometown or picking apart why they would use street names as a point of reference for the wrong part of town. Or why they wouldn’t consistently use real street names or manufactured names…that was a conundrum.

Plus, for the first several years, an abandoned US Customs Building in my neighborhood was used as the Police HQ.

The photo where I’m just out of the frame, behind a column? Yeah, that was the interior of the precinct.

Except…by that season, the Customs House had been bought by this lil outfit called WeWork and the set had to be rebuilt over in the NW Industrial District. Pretty impressive that they could replicate the set do exactly that viewers were none the wiser. I actually drove by that old filming location out at Guilds Lake – there’s no lake, FYI – today while picking up a ride. I guess you can thank Lyft for finally getting this post onto the blogosphere.

I also drive by Nick and Juliette’s house several times a week. It’s weird to think that I never knew that was their “home” until just last month.

It’s funny how many scenes took place in my little part of Portland, the North Park Blocks. In addition to the Customs House, I noticed several other random scenes.

Sometimes the scene of a murdered person being discovered. Take, for instance, this “Who Wore It Best” moment.

Seriously, it was me.

…as evidenced by my unbathed/pre-spin class looks and the ability to stand alone in front of such an iconic piece of neon.

You shoulda seen me after that spin class, though. The Filipina Fox really kicked me keister for those 45 minutes.

Incidentally, that sign is gone now. The company – a shared office space, ironically, since it sits across the park from the Customs House/WeWork building – has closed up and took their sign with them.

Ergo, now I default to “playing” just to be safe.

Other times, it was just an apartment building lobby being repurposed as a storefront.

The shop behind Rosalee – Glyph, as it was known back then – is the infamous F&B cafe, where I like to go and write in the mornings during non-end of the world times. Right around the corner is the world famous (to me) Big Legrowlski.

Of course, this was also an opportunity to nostalgically appreciate old haunts that have been gentrified the fuck out of existence, as Portland grows. Places like the Overlook Restaurant.

Which is now – wait for it – an apartment building. But back in the days I called North Portland home, it was a place Sacha and I spent many a dinner with his parents.

Good memories.

The show turned out to be pretty good brain candy. I’m glad I finally made the time in my very busy schedule to watch it.

And it only took a global pandemic.

Look, I’m *Very* Busy…

One Headlight

Did I ever tell you the story about the guy that I gave a ride to that was picking up his Maserati?

To be fair, this isn’t quite as good a deal as his. This is a $75000 car, low miles, $39k. His was a $100k car, low miles, $42k.

But still, you appreciate a good value, either way, no?

Anyway…he’d “bumped” – and yes, he used finger quotes – another car and cracked a headlight. Off to the shop he went and was happy that he literally only needed to replace the headlight, no bodywork.

See also: the title of my workout video.

The part itself was $3k.

Suddenly the $60k in depreciation looks…less impressive?

Conversely…one of my headlights went out while I was driving the other night. Today I took it to my shop, which I love, and asked them to replace it.

Full disclosure: I know I am perfectly capable of changing a headlight on a vehicle – maybe not a three friggin’ thousand dollar headlight, because I’m a goddamn clutz – but it’s cold and I decided to take out my White Guy card deck and play the There’s People For That card.

I’m a blow job creator.

Offhandedly, I mention that my pal, Diezel, had replaced my rear brake pads a month or so back, but couldn’t reset the onboard computer and maybe they could. Then I left, with the assurance they would call me in a few hours and Bob’s your uncle.

Sure enough, 10:30 I get the call and I’m all, “These guys fuckin’ rock”.

Kyle: Do you have a minute for me to run you through everything?

Me: Well, I’m alarmed by the word “everything” but buoyed but your timeframe, so please.

Kyle: Ok, so the headlight was just in need of a change, it’s a $20 –

Me: Sure.

Kyle: – part…so that’ll be $70 with labor.

Me: Oof. But, sure.

Job creator, remember?

Kyle: Now, the brake pads…

Me: Oh, yeah…

Kyle: Are fine. Looks like the back pads are at 11 mm and look practically new.

Me: Sure.

Kyle: The front pads –

Me: Say what, now?

I hadn’t asked about actually checking the pads, just reset the damn idiot light, FFS.

Kyle: – are also fine, they’re at about 8 mm and have plenty of life in them.

Phew.

Me: Ok, super! So, the dash light…

Kyle: The sensors, though.

Me: …

Kyle: Those are shot. The front shows 5% wear left on the pads and the back sensor is at 0%.

Me: So…the sensor needs to be replaced each time the pads are replaced?

Kyle: Yes, sir.

Me: Well, that’s not very kansei of the Bavarians, is it?

Shockingly, young Kyle got the reference – an old advertising gimmick from Nissan. BMWs, incidentally are technically not strictly German cars – the name being an acronym for Bavarian Motor Works.

Kyle: What a difference a continent or two makes.

Tou-friggin’– chè.

But, I knew from my time in Diezel’s Garage that this is a $12 part, just special order, so he couldn’t replace it while he’d been working on the pads. His concern was the overall frayed condition of the existing sensor, not that it was a one and done usage.

Me: Okay. So…?

Kyle: We can get both of those changed for $115.

Me: Ouch.

Kyle: …each.

Me: Whoa, whoa…whoa.

Kyle: Sorry, go ahead.

Me: Replace the rear.

Kyle: We can do that –

And then he breaks into his Columbo schtick.

Kyle: – it’s just that, y’know, with only 5% life on that front sensor, it’s gonna trip soon and then you won’t know when your front pads need a change. That could be bad, and, well…if it were me, I’d want to know.

Me: Yes, well, it’s me, now, right? I think you underestimate the blessing a looming tree and no brakes would be.

Kyle: Yeah, it was a tough year. I get that. I’m just telling you cuz, y’know…I’d want to know.

Me: Fiiiiinnne. Replace it.

Geez. I have a mother, Kyle.

Kyle: Great. We’ll get that done for you.

Me: So, is this a today thing or do you need it overnight?

Kyle: Oh, we can get this done today. No problem –

And fuck if this kid doesn’t Columbo me again.

Kyle: We also noticed…

Me eyes rolling back in overrode the rest of what he said. I contextually figured out the subject was the Drive Belt and the issue was that it was frayed.

Another $160 and blip, blah, bloop. Good as new.

Me: Alright, fuck the front pad sensor, fix the belt.

Drive sounds integral. If Angela ain’t driving who cares if she has front pads? In the back of my mind, I recalled Diezel spouting off the percentage of stopping power provided by the front wheels and began imagining that tree.

Kyle: Of course –

When did service consultants become so genteel?

Kyle: – it’s just that, y’know if it were my car, I’d want to know.

Me: Yeah, yeah.

<Visualizing mom in my mind>

Me: What’s the all in?

Kyle: Very good, that would be…$460.

I’d left the garage after I dropped off my car and then walked around downtown, hitting first my ATM and then the ATMs of my two credit cards. I’ve gotten to the point where I like to keep the balances below two-thirds, and with Presidents’ Day, things had crept upward.

Ok, Presidents’ Day, a snowpocalypse and restaurants reopening for 25% capacity dining.

Having just paid those balances back down with my snowpocalypse driving fundage – which was embarrassingly lucrative – and the old man sleep deprivation that had me up and out of bed at 630 this morning after less than three hours of sleep – I was a little crunchy.

And. It. Showed.

Kyle: Let me see if I can’t work in some sort of discount for you.

Me: Fine –

<You’re cute, Kyle, but I’m not blowing you for a discount>

Me: – do you need it until tomorrow?

Kyle: Doubtful, we’ll probably have it done today.

I took a much needed nap.

After I scheduled – different post topic – a haircut for 4:00.

Of course, I wake up at 1-ish, boot around a bit and decide to make some food.

Kyle calls at 2:30, just as I’m finishing up and plating.

She’s ready.

Everything’s happening at once now, innit? I figure I’ve got just enough time to eat, finish Bliss on Amazon – skip it – and pick up Angela before my haircut.

I roll in there and Old Man Everett pulls my invoice as some grease twink disappears to bring my car around.

<I see you, Grease Twink, and I’ll be back to pick you up later!>

Old Man Everett is trying to review my bill and close me out – minus a healthy 5% discount…on labor – but Kyle must’ve seen me eyeballing Grease Twink and is doing his best impression of a fly to my windshield.

I can do both, so much to Old Man Everett’s flusternation, I do. But Kyle has needs – namely, my attention. I’ll give up my discount for that.

But, all’s well that ends up with me in bed alone.

Again.

Naturally.

And I still managed to hear Angela purr for a few blocks before my haircut.

Sure enough,

One Headlight

Valentimes Part One

Yeah, I posted Valentimes Part Duex before I posted Part One. Also, I’m posting Part One after the big day. I’m not offering a defense of my timing, either way. It’s my blog and…

So, there.

Anywho…I’ve given between 3500 and 4000 rides since I started driving for Lyft about 18 months ago.

There’s been fewer than expected drunks.

More than anticipated Tinder “dates” – and you’d be surprised how many people pay extra to spring for a Lux ride to take them away from said “dates”…

Rides to funerals and memorials.

Countless healthcare and essential workers during the – sadly – ongoing pandemic.

A couple of unapologetic bastards conservatives.

Trips to or from the E.R. Too many, in fact.

Side note: how sad is it that our effed up healthcare system makes it necessary to take a goddamned Lyft to an E.R. instead of calling an ambulance?!?

And exactly two women who made me cry either during or after their rides.

Goddamned widows. Rubbing my perpetual singledom in my face.

I was actually okay at one widow.

Specifically, the one whose husband died a few years back. He sounds like he was a great husband, I heard their love story – which lasted 41 years.

But he sounded like a fucking badass, too.

Not because he drove a vintage black Mustang convertible.

Nor because they were high school sweethearts.

Or clearly wealthy. Particularly because his widow seemed like she was continuing to live a modest life after his death in honor of his memory, suggesting that the pleasures of their lives together were similarly modest.

The more exciting adventures I learned about during our ride were short bursts compared to the simple daily joys she described.

Their first date. Birthdays. Humble chivalry.

These were the things neither of these people took for granted in their relationship. They didn’t use one another in pursuit of the next big thing – either as an excuse or a means.

Her story was one of a satisfying life together. Inspiring to me in its endurance, something that I fear too few even aspired to in today’s value system.

The second widow was actually the first. Hearing her story made me think I should write a Valentine’s Day post. But it was the second widow who made me realize that the universe wasn’t going to let me off the hook.

Writing a book about my dating misadventures or fictionalizing my own ideals of relationships in my No One Of Consequence book series wasn’t going to cut it.

The least I could do is write an account of true love, even if it was only second hand.

Widow Number One earned her title when her husband had a major heart attack on Valentine’s Day last year.

Strictly going off visual cues, I’d say she was late 70s. I was taking her to work. She was looking like she’d be her own badass, and ended up being a heroic example of living a life for me.

Fret not, I picked her up in the South Waterfront neighborhood, which is pretty high rent. Ok, it’s fucking high rent, so she wasn’t working at nearly 80 because she had to.

Turns out, she doesn’t drive at all. Her husband used to take her to work before he died. Luckily (?) the pandemic closed the office down before her bereavement leave put her back to work. Now, she only had to go to the office once a week to ensure things were running smoothly. Normally, she figured she’d take the bus, but…pandemic + late 70s = bad combo.

She was enjoying Lyft, though, and the way she said that made me suspect she was enjoying it as a throwback to her husband taking her to work. I’m pretty sure her return to the office after this all ends will include at least an occasional escort to work.

She told me that when she was going through her husband’s things, she found several Valentine’s Day cards he’d made for her. I thought it was weird that he’d kept them, not her. But as she continued on, I realized these were unused cards.

That got me.

On top of being the kind of guy who encouraged his wife to work a part time office job after their kids left the nest, then celebrated her success when her search for post-child rearing purpose earned her a promotion to office manager after several years – she told me proudly that her employee number was 13, so she’d been there a while.

This is the guy who found his own post-retirement fulfillment in driving his wife to and from work to support and nurture her happiness.

This guy spent his in between hours working on his art. He was a post-career artist. Why would I be surprised that this guy made or was in the process of completing future Valentine’s Day cards for his wife?

Putting myself in that mindset, I got it. It wasn’t about making a card instead of buying one. It was about making one that appropriately captured the depth of feeling he had for his wife. Something that expressed the gratitude one must feel toward the person who accompanies you on the journey of a literal lifetime.

You might not always get that on the first pass. She said these cards were, of course, beautiful and I could tell that finding them had touched her very deeply. But I could easily stay a while in that position her husband must have found himself in – even now: not fully being able to express how this woman made him feel. Abandoning a card because it wasn’t good enough for his wife. <sigh>

But it shows how attitudes and behaviors have changed over the decades. I don’t think I’d have to defend the additional statement that a lot of those changes might have been for the short term good, but long term bad of the individuals.

And I can’t even get a return text.

While you’re here: If you haven’t yet and are curious about the writing works I mentioned earlier – Dating Into Oblivion and No One Of Consequence – check out my author page: https://www.amazon.com/Christopher-Galbreath/e/B07PLNKTHB/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1 for a view of my work. All books are available in paperback or e-book formats – and the e-books are cheap and the pages don’t fall out as I’ve heard from one of my supportive blogging buddies! It’s also a good way to keep up with the blog, since they post to my author page as well as here. I can’t say the same about the consistency of my Facebook author page…

Regardless, thanks for stopping by!

Valentimes Part One

The Red Shirt Diaries #26: LyftLife Edition

Long story, short:

I still love driving for Lyft. It’s currently my favorite form of prochristination and cure for boredom.

Now…

Short story, long:

Last night was the second time I’ve thought, “Sheesh, that could have been it for you, son” after a ride.

Yes, I talk to myself like that inside my head. Well, mostly inside my head. I also have a “Mom Voice” and a “Dirty Harry” persona that make occasional appearances.

But out of ~3500 rides, two that could have gone from dicey to deadly ain’t bad, right? Also, check out that 5-star rating! I feel a Rain Man voice coming on, because…

Clearly.

Anyway, I never wrote about the craziest drive I ever gave because it:

A) was just about everything anyone who’s ever said, “I bet you could write a book about your experiences driving” would think it would be; and,

B) my actual mom would use her actual mom voice on me and make me get a real job again.

Also, maybe I’ll write a book about it.

So…

The Runner Up Ride:

First off, last night started out as a shit show. I picked up a guy on my first ride who tells me he was just leaving a friend’s place after a hang out. Assuming correctly that “hang out” was exactly the euphemism I thought it to be, partnered with the reality that this is a heavyset fella, I was immediately equal parts envious and Nancy Kerrigan.

I mean, really…whyyyy?!?

Then it got weird, when he asked if he could ask me an off topic and admittedly weird question. I’m pretty game for weirdness, so I chuckled and told him to get at it. Well, it turns out this guy and I worked together briefly at a local healthy grocery from which we were both fired – because that’s what this joint is like. In a fit of C.R.S…I have absolutely zero recollection of him.

His question could have been weirder, but my C.R.S. added just the right layer of awkwardness to the conversation.

We trashed The Gays for a while, since he’d mentioned his friend was a dude and 1 + 1 = a sword fight. Then, as he was exiting the car at the bar I was dropping him off at (a coping mechanism I completely understand) he says, “For what it’s worth, being a gay guy in his 20s is totally different than being a gay guy in his…” and waves his hand at my general state of being. Then he shows me a quarter slot as he hefts his way out of the back that could hold every damn quarter ever. That overly cheeky fat fuck…the nerve.

First person to throw up in my car? Me. Almost. Well, I did, mentally.

Optimistically, I thought, “Well, things can only go up from here” in my Dirty Harry voice.

Then I picked up a young woman who answered “Better…” when I asked how she was doing. She followed it up with “I’ve been throwing up all day, but now it’s mostly dry heaving. But I brought a plastic bag, just in case.”

So…that was a quick arc, from virtual to actual (potential) vehicle based vomit.

It turns out she’d drank an entire bottle of something that was lost behind and effort to stifle something else on Friday night – on an empty stomach, no less – and yesterday was a Bob’s your uncle type day for her. Fortunately, we made it to her destination without incident, Portland’s pot-holey roads notwithstanding. Her ride ended close to my home – and, in a completely unnecessary side bar, right across the street from a place I lived back in ’96-97 – and I though that maybe I should just give up and call it a night.

Clearly, the universe was trying to tell me to fuck all the way off something.

But the (recreational) O.C.D. is strong in me and I like to give blocks of 10 rides when I go out. My feeling was that even if I was going to short-day it, I needed to hit five rides so I could sleep. Hell, at least four, so I could true-up my total ride balance to a mentally comfortable multiple of 5 or 10.

Full disclosure: when I get into what I call “overtime”, that 10 rides block goes out the window. If I’m in the far reaches of Portland on my 10th ride – as is often the case, given the level of fuckery I endure from the universe – I’ll put my app in Home or Lux Mode and take rides that come my way, but not hold myself to ending on a multiple of 5 or 10…

Surely, I could manage two or three more rides. Right?

Again, optimistically, I thought in my Mom Voice “You never know, the next ride could turn everything around for the better”.

That was just plain, old foolhardiness, though.

Enter, my third rider.

A phrase that is as potentially foreshadowing as a depraved mind could imagine. Seriously, you wanna know how this turns out? Remove the comma.

Let’s call this guy Donnie Drunko.

I clocked his blood alcohol level as elevated as he wobbled toward the car. I also clocked his sexual proclivities as he gave a long hug to a male friend before heel-toeing it my way.

He seemed amused when I told him I came out to drive after giving my wine rack the side eye too early in the evening, unnecessarily admitting he’d had a few drinks. “Yeah”, I replied, “but knowing my night owly tendencies, I knew that if I opened a bottle at 6:30, I’d be opening a second before 11.”

I went on to mentally muse that there was also a $15 streak bonus at 9:00 for giving three rides between 9-10 PM and I wanted to start a second streak in that hour to add a $30 bonus to my night’s effort. That bottle of wine could wait until 11.

Well, that’s what my thought process had been. I was already second-guessing that moderation decision and by the end of this ride, I was going to regret not boarding the bus to Hammertown.

Let’s just go straight from his surprise that it was only 7:40 and he was firmly wrapped up in a booze blanket, bypass the fairly enjoyable conversation about owning a house as a single person and skip onto me pulling up to his curb, eh?

He seemed to have trouble getting his shit together before deplaning getting out of the car. Not an unfamiliar phenomenon – especially with relaxed folk. People want to make sure they have everything, and that’s just more of a production from inside a bottle.

I’ve learnt to display a detached patience when this happens, like I don’t notice.

Instead of struggling to get out of the car, I realized he’d been struggling to close the diagonal distance between us. From the back, he grabs my arm to pull himself toward me so that his chest is against the back of my driver’s seat.

Assuming best intentions – like a moron – I ask if everything is ok, like maybe I parked in front of the wrong house. Nope…right house, wrong ballpark, as I soon found out.

“Do you, uh…want a hand job?” he slurs at me, his masked face surprisingly close to my own when I turned to face him.

“Boy, did you read that wrong”, I replied, enjoying the chance to use one of my favorite West Wing quotes in the same manner – albeit far more X-rated – that Leo McGarry had used it when Josh had tried to hug the curmudgeonly Chief of Staff on the show.

Shrugging off my rejection like it was my character flaw versus the complete cultural abdication of class on the part of The Gays that it is, he gets out of the car. Eschewing my usual “wait until they get to their door safely” M.O. I drive off immediately, debating when I should 1-star this clown and lamenting the pathetic state of Gay Kulture.

Internally, I’m trying to talk myself into waiting until morning. Then I hit the Block Hammer wall that I encounter so frequently on asocial media. When I don’t align with someone’s self-indulgent world view behaviors and they block me for – and I’m paraphrasing here – telling them that they are basically an affront to anyone with actual retarded developmental issues.

I know…you’re just dying to know that if that was the paraphrased version of my online response, what is the actual content. Trust me, it’s usually full on Julia Sugarbaker-esque indignation.

Low grade concerned that this guy could effectively pull that same cancel culture bullshit on me that faceless gays do online when they block me, simply by lodging a complaint about me with Lyft, I pull over and pull out my 1-star rating for this Lost Boy.

I hate giving someone a low rating/review and think Lyft is a little overly cautious in its pairing paradigm. Out of five possible stars, the app will never pair you with anyone you rate 3-stars or less. I think that’s a bit harsh, but I understand that they are trying to make the community the happiest possible place for passengers and drivers by pairing you with seeming favorites. It’s cool with that perspective. Wanting to be a busy boy, though, I tend to rate riders thusly:

5: good/great ride with a tip

4: good/great ride

3: lacking behavior, self-aware enough to tip to compensate

2: lacking behavior

1: WTactualF

This guy got a 1…even though I woke up to a chubby tip. I’d have still not felt bad had he given me a fat or even morbidly obese tip…and here’s why: it wasn’t until I pulled back onto the road to fetch my fourth ride that I realized this guy pulling himself so close to me could have easily ended with him pulling a knife across my throat – remember, I live in Stabtown, USA – as it did with a clumsy offer of a handy. Needless to say, I was a little trembly when I pulled up to my next pick up.

Happily, and in a fit of Mom Voice vindication, ride four was a 25 minute Lux ride from the swanky West Hills to far less swanky Felony Flats on the east side of town. As if the $50 ride itself wasn’t enough to tilt things back into cosmic balance for grumpy old Xtopher, the guy was a great conversationalist…which is fucking priceless.

The post-credits scene:

Since you obviously want to know…having stayed this long; no, I did not manage to double up on the streak bonus. Ride number four in my streak efforts barely fell into the 9-10 o’clock hour, but by the time he ran out his five-minute pickup time, it was 10:03 so I couldn’t start a second streak.

Still, I’ll gladly take:

A) a $50 ride

B) restored faith in my riders’ behavior; and,

C) getting to my 10 ride goal after a really rocky start to the night as offsets to a second $15 bonus.

The Red Shirt Diaries #26: LyftLife Edition

Don’t Call It A Recap…

Especially when recrap would be a much better way to sum up 2020.

And since it’s 2020 we’re talking about, I’m just going to talk about the last two months – really, the last month, outside of an early November mention. The whole year would run 20000 words, I’m sure.

Truth be told, I’m just going to bitch about a few things that broke down and then express a little post-holiday gratitude. This shouldn’t take long,

All in all, I’d summarize 2020 as a year in which if it didn’t break, it probably died.

Here’s a few things that gave it up in the last weeks of the year:

My laptop. As I geared up for NaNoWriMo in early November, my laptop started shitting its pants whenever it stepped off a high curb. I’d planned a non-fiction piece about job searching in my fifties. Fortunately, after a few hours of online tutorials, I was able to coax my laptop back to the land of the continent. That NaNo project, though…never did quite manage the download from brain to laptop. The Silver Fox stood by helpfully – virtually – while also acing his best friend duties by offering up the MacBooks he saw at Costco as a potential solution. I thought about it, even looked at one online in my most frustrated moment, but just couldn’t pull the trigger. The Costco offering was ~$800 and an Air model. In hindsight, that would have layered in what turned out to be unnecessary excuses for not tapping out a NaNo entry this year since the Air just doesn’t have the memory for writing like the Pro does.

New Pros run $1500-2400 and a used one is gettable for around $400. That’s what I did last time I replaced my laptop. I ended up with a refurbished model that was a year newer than my old one, so on balance I’m netting up two years of use…and counting.

After that brush with disaster, it looked like smooth sailing.

This being my life, that didn’t last long. The second and third weeks of December made week one of November look like a snowball next to their avalanche of misery.

Let’s see…

This is probably a clunky segue after my snow analogy, but it started to rain in the second week of December. Hardly a surprise in the PNDub, but I mean it rained. Like, people were walking around with expressions that said, “All that pandemic home improvement we did and we didn’t think to add pontoons?!?”

That type of rain.

I didn’t really notice it outside hearing things like “two inches in the last 36 hours” on the radio.

Until…I came home from running errands one day, took off my shoes, kicked up my feet to watch some Seinfeld for a couple hours and then – when I put my shoes and socks back on so I could go drive, my socks were wet. Flipping over my shoes, I was greeted with the thought, “How long ago did I get these?!?”

Walked the hell out of them, I did.

Off to NikeTown I went.

I was shocked by a couple of things:

First, my new shoes were only $130. I say “only” because that is about what I remember paying for my last few pairs – further reinforcing my suspicion that I haven’t had these last shoes that long. In reality, I recollect it being about 2 1/2 years, so they had more of a life than old Phil and his shareholders would like.

Second, the kid who helped me with my purchase was both unnecessarily tall and flirty. I’m not mad about that last part.

Next, as I rushed to get to the Festivus episode of Seinfeld before Christmas, my TV crapped out on me. It just started shutting off after an hour or two of play. I’d reboot it and it would come back…for a couple days. Then it just stopped powering on altogether. Haven’t been able to revive it yet using the same Internet U continuing education resources I did with my laptop. I might need to actually get someone on the horn to figure it out.

Then again, the other U – as in Universe – might be trying to tell me it’s all for naught. Last night, my final ride was a pick up at Video Only, a local electronics chainlet. While I waited in front for my passenger to emerge, I had prime seating for the TVs playing right inside the door.

Also, now I know that my car will hold a 65″ TV.

But in a fit of mixed messages, the guy wasn’t a tipper, which I’d interpret as the Universe steering me away from a new TV after putting me in front of Video Only’s temptations. And this is a rather significant sign since on top of having to figure out the logistics of getting a large object into a small space (merry Christmas, Diezel) this ride was from the far north end of town – literally, the Oregon border – to the far southeast quadrant of town…over 30 minutes, thanks to an accident on the crosstown. Yeah, by all means, feel free to drag your huge TV away from that scenario with no feeling of gratitude.

Let’s see…laptop, TV, sneakers…what else?

Oh!

Angela. This would be Pat the Patriot’s replacement from last February, who I don’t write about often because she doesn’t spend an average of a week in the shop each month like Pat did. Still, the other day – Christmas Eve – I got in the car to drive a bit and my low tire pressure alarm went off. Looking at the vehicle status screen on the onboard, I saw that the back passenger tire was the issue, but it was only a half PSI off of the next closest pressure level. I chalked that up to the morning being rather colder than the more recent days and planned to monitor it as I drove and fill it when I parked later. Sure enough, as the tire warmed up, the pressure crept up but still needed an eventual top off.

Undaunted, after eight rides, the Universe tossed me another grenade.

I pulled to a stop at a freeway exit and while I waited for the light to change, Angela made a sound I’ve not heard before. Let me tell you, I love the onboard computer, but the alarms are not subtle.

Everything is DEFCON 4.

“Hey, dummy…get gas!” makes the same sound as “Low Tire Pressure”. That’s also the same sound as the warning for low outside temperature…which is triggered at an unalarming and balmy 37 degrees.

However, the sound Angela made at that off ramp made me debate running away from the vehicle. On top of that, I was treated to my dash display and my onboard console display both changing screens to tell me my brake pads needed replacing.

It was rather a stimulation overflow.

Hell, with all that fuss, I’d have thought the wheels had come completely off the vehicle.

Nonetheless, I managed to both proChristinate getting gas and filling the low tire, so when I got in my car later that day – to go searching for wrapping paper, which was harder to find on Christmas Eve than crapping paper was in March – I was treated to a deafening cacophony of alarms that lasted about two blocks.

Sweet Jesus, Germans…calm the hell down.

But, as of Christmas morning, the only alarm still regularly greeting me is the brake pads warning. It is, however, pulling double duty. I hear it when I start the car and again when I switch it off…so, someone is looking out for my C.R.S. Hoorah?

Not for nothing, I check my mail midweek, generally. Last night, for whatever reason, I checked it when I came home.

Yeah…pretty sure that’s a ticket. The city is pretty good about screaming the purpose of its mailings if you pay attention. Sometimes it’s as easy as seeing the bold type that screams “City Arts Tax Statement” and others, it’s just knowing that the mailing address is the County Health Clinic just down the way. Not that I’ve ever gotten a letter from them…

The vagueness of this letter – only a “Response Requested Within Thirty Days” to guide me – made me think “request” was meant to trick me into opening it. Like I’m getting invited to the Mayor’s re-election party or something. And I do remember driving one night and seeing three strobe like flashes out of the corner of my eye. I looked at my dash and saw I was doing low 40s in a 35 MPH zone, but wrote it off as paranoia since I was also on an old state highway versus at an intersection where one usually sees red light cameras.

Heck, I don’t even know if Portland uses photo radar for ticketing. I can’t wait to find out when I open this sometime next July.

Now, just to make sure that you’re not all looking longingly at your own balconies or googling “macrame nooses” – that might just be a Portland thing – remember, I did get a pair of new sneakers out of the ordeal.

Plus, then there’s the actual good things that happened in the last few months, no wait…weeks, no…wait hours of the year. Optimistically, I’m choosing to accept these as net positives despite the fact that the Universe tends toward Lucy behaviors to my Charlie Brown existence.

For instance, when I checked my mail last week, I got a Christmas card from Little Buddy.

I know it’s hokey and completely against my typical on-brand bitterness, but just look at that grandpa playing Santa with his grand baby! It just made me tear up again!

Also mail related: when I checked my mail last night, I found that the City of Seattle had gotten its shit together and sent me some unclaimed money.

Mind you, Portland had theirs resolved weeks ago. Like pre-Thanksgiving. But on the upside, I was expecting $100 and got a check for $123, so…I’m not complaining. Hopefully that maybe-ticket isn’t too much more than that. Actually, if the maybe-ticket turns out to be a not-ticket, that check can go right into my New TV Fund!

The actual bummer here is that I don’t want a New TV Fund. I’d been hoping to have January bills squared away last week so I could maybe splurge on a Peloton-like bike for home. My 2021 non-fiction project is going to be a bit of a redux to my Fitfy blog theme. I figure that will nicely close the loop on my aging series of non-fiction: dating, working and fitness.

Anyway, I digress. Now we’re up to Christmas Day!

I’m not kidding when I – again, against my Early Onset Grumpiness brand – say that seeing my sister and her family of three for the first time this year had me feeling things. My attendance at family Christmas was (secretly) predicated upon the size of the gathering.

Our Thanksgiving had been four – mom, dad, youngest bro and I – from three households. State guidance was no more than six – pass! – from two households – fail! Those guidelines held for Christmas, too.

That said, Christmas was set to be that same group along with the welcome addition of my sister’s family from central Oregon and the unwelcome addition of Black Sheep Bro and his two teenaged sons, whom none of us have ever met.

From Texas.

If the pandemic weren’t a thing, I’d still have “put my foot down” level issues with this occurrence.

After screwing up my courage – not in an alcohol related way – I took my shot with the parents. It’s not that I begrudge them their parental – and grandparental feelings – which I will never experience first hand, but my shot was that Christmas should be a repeat of Thanksgiving.

I know. This is why people sometimes call me the Voice of Treason.

But I figured not saying anything would be the real problem. And I didn’t want the Christmas follow up conversations to be:

People: What did you get for Christmas?

Me: Dead Family. You?

So, I said it.

What I offered was to do a same day drive over and back to drop off and pick up gifts for my sister’s family…on the additional condition that we all *not* miss BSB for another Christmas. As expected, the results were like my favorite joke* and resulted in BSB being cordially disinvited but my sister still coming over.

That suited me fine enough. Although I was chagrined-ish to run into my brother in law and nephew in the drive when I arrived, on their way out to walk the dog. After exchanging greetings and getting a brief update, my brother in law says to me, “Are you going to wear your mask in the house?” I’d completely put it on out of habit before getting out of the car.

At least I’m consistent.

Now, what you should know about my family is that we are terrible Americans. At least as far as Christmas goes. We have a small family. I’d say our “core” census is seven: mom, dad, sis, brother in law, nephew, brother, me. Even adding in what I’d call the extended family – my uncle’s family in Texas and my 98 year old hermit of a grandfather – only adds five to that.

Then there’s BSB trying to add in his brood of three to our numbers now that the wife he basically left the family for has left him. Allegedly for something that comes with a cork in it. I shared a bedroom with the guy growing up, though, and I’d say the wine was a cure and not the cause my BSB would have us believe.

But that’s another blog.

The reason we are bad Americans at Christmas is that we draw names for our gift exchange versus just buying everyone gifts from everyone. However, the upside is that between breakfast and dinner, we only have to open ~7 gifts instead of four or five dozen, so there’s very little disruption to our holiday feeding frenzy.

On top of that, we make lists. Whoever draws our names basically has a cheat sheet. My youngest brother, as I gather – having not seen his list, even put down websites. That guy came to Thanksgiving prepared!

Me? I came to Thanksgiving oblivious. When I learned the routine for this year, I was stuck completely in “What the fuck do I want?!?” mode.

I vamped my way through my list of 3-5 things before coming up with something useful:

1) Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice

2) Skateboard

Here’s the explanation of those requests. Really, though, I hoped I didn’t get those items because I’m old and hips are expensive.

3) This Tee

And then my brain kicked into gear.

4) An InstaPot.

There had been an InstaPot at last year’s Christmas, but it was a White Elephant style exchange and it got stolen by mom. But I loved the Brady Bunch Inspired gift I brought home…

I present to you the real reason 2020 has been such a shit show!

Now, this year’s rules mandated that the gifts be given anonymously – which I missed, so my brother in law knew I was his Santa – so when I opened my gift, I didn’t know who to check for smirkage.

Because it’s me, and I didn’t just happen, I was completely open to my Santa being someone who knew I’d never buy myself an InstaPot and that I was disappointed to not walk with one last Christmas. Heck, I’d gone rogue and bought my nephew a gift card to a sporting goods store and debated putting it in a box with some rocks to weigh it down, so I couldn’t reasonably expect my Santa to not have had the same notion.

But, not knowing who to scrutinize for tells, I was left with opening up the outer box for verification.

Blammo!

Apparently, not only can you find one for $100 – that’s another rule – you can find one that connects to goddamn wifi and can be controlled from your smartphone. What an amazing time to be alive!

I finally found out that my Santa was my sister. When I told her I was worried my list was either entirely gibberish or over the price limit, she gave me a humblebrag about her ability to “find a deal”. Whether that meant she’s a legit Coupon Queen or threw me a bone and bought the only thing on my list that wasn’t snarky, despite having to bend a rule is unclear. I am pretty sure she honestly found a deal. She is good like that.

Now, I just gotta decide what to make and then screw up my courage to do it!

All in all, it’s a year that makes me think “I should have moved into a unit on a higher floor” whenever I stand on my balcony. Luckily, the year is nearly behind us, so I don’t think I will be worrying whether a four story drop would qualify as a landing I could walk away from or not.

Now, for all of you who waited patiently for the *, here’s my favorite joke of all time:

What do you get when you cross the Atlantic with the Titanic?

Halfway.

Keep in mind, I heard this joke as a pre-teen on the friggin’ Muppet Show. That Fozzy Bear could bring a house down, I tell ya. But four decades later and I’m still carrying his torch!

Don’t Call It A Recap…

I’m A Psychic!

Completely acknowledging that I’ve definitely been called worse. However, as my own most severe critic, I tend to let other people’s gentler criticisms bounce off of me and swirl into the gutter where they belong.

But while psycho might be a more popular moniker amongst my lesser fans, psychic is strictly an internal title. At least as far as I know – as if that’s not an indictment of the very skill I am claiming.

Fine.

Let’s meet in the middle and call this my special version of psychic: preemptive lucky guesses.

The inspirational guess for this entry?

The Silver Fox.

A couple weeks back, he graced me with a visit so he could knock out 300 doctors appointments we could finally finish watching Ozark, which we started before he decamped to Monmouth for the end of the world. Because I’m figuratively an acerbic son of a bitch, I chose to remind him that he packed his calendar and seemed to expect me to make myself available during his free time during the two days he was in town. I also whined about his doctors appointments requiring him to fast the day before, which also eliminated my favorite social pastime.

No, I’m not telling you what that is, you really ought to be able to guess – even if you aren’t psychic like me. Ok, wait…just so none of my more sarcastic friends guess “masturbating”, the pastime in question is beer drinking!

This whining had the intended manipulative side effect of guilting him into staying an extra day – which I also complained about because that was a Friday…big drive day for me normally. But I took the day off to spend time with him.

All of this, by the way, just highlights why I should be exactly as single as I am.

Anyway, back to the acerbic part.

When we met to have dinner and watch the final episode of Ozark’s third season, I greeted The Fox with the accusation question: “Did you manage to meet with your realtor between doctors appointments while you were up here?”

Having spent enough time around me to be infected with my toxic sarcasm, he replied in the affirmative. Because he’s the Silver Fox, his affirmative response was also inscrutable.

I let it lie, but I had to do a little work to maintain my level of denial disbelief.

How does this all make me psychic?

I’m now having dreams that when I check his mail – worst paying job I’ve ever had, incidentally…but I might still add it to the resume since I’m closing in on a year in that position – I find realtor’s business cards on his countertop when I take it into his condo.

For those who have never been involved in or on the periphery of a home purchase, realtors leave business cards in houses they show so the listing agent has their contact info for follow up or whatnot. Additionally, you should just drop into open houses in your area. It’s fun to just look, plus, you may get a cookie out of it.

Anyway, I’m dealing with the dream situation by avoiding taking his mail into his condo when I check it. I’m tossing the junk mail in the recycling and leaving the few pertinent actual mail pieces in his box for now. If it gets too full, I’ll have to decide if I want to bring it over to my place or risk finding out my dreams really were visions…ostensibly, I should be able to handle a blow like that after New Years. Inauguration Day at the latest.

But I know for sure I can’t risk that type of blow in what’s left of this shit show of a year. That would definitely cause me to revisit the cho/chic suffixes I mentioned at the top of this post.

I’m A Psychic!