Archive | September, 2012

Election Rant #1: Undecided Voters

28 Sep

We’re almost a month away from the election. I will be THRILLED when I don’t turn on the news to hear Romney and Obama mentioned in the same sentence. And the one benefit to living in DC is that no one really courts my vote, so I can’t even imagine what the poor, undecided people of Ohio must be feeling.

That said, I’m not really sure I understand the plight of the undecided voter. Here’s how I see it…

First, there are single issue voters: Pro-Life, Anti-Taxation, Anti-Gay Marriage, Anti-Gun Control, Pro-Border Control folks. They’re decided. If one of those issues is near and dear to them, there’s no way they’re voting Obama. I get that.

Then, there are the people who follow the party line, regardless of the candidate. Dyed-in-the-Wool Republicans and Democrats who would vote for Charlie Sheen if he received the nomination. (How interesting would THAT be?)

Next, let’s assume that the other people are somewhat open-minded and independent… Oh wait, those are Liberals. We know who they’re most likely voting for.

And then you have the people who hate taxes, who believe companies and private institutions are the solution rather than government. I agree that there’s probably a more efficient way to run things, but the last time I checked, companies were more interested in cultivating their own profit than looking out for the greater interest of society. In any case, safe to assume these people will choose Romney.

So who does that leave? Amnesiacs who can’t tell you what year it is? Recently widowed women who have always taken direction from their husbands? NASA scientists living on the Space Station who haven’t seen the news in nine months?

If the election is close and it comes down to Undecided Voters, frankly, I don’t WANT them deciding our fate. That’s like convincing a college class to collectively accept whatever grade Quintin the Quarterback receives after prepping for a test with an 11th hour cram session, during which he was probably just trying to get in his tutor’s pants.

When this is how we make decisions, it’s no wonder the rest of the world thinks we’re idiots.

I think SNL got it right. Check out this sketch if you haven’t already seen it: Undecided Voter

Advice for Amy and George: Be on your best behavior.

26 Sep

During our recent trip to Canada, we established (through the wonders of Facebook) that we had friends who planned to visit Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island about a month after us. Midway through our  vacation, I asked Alan, “Any advice for Amy and George based on our experience thus far?”

I thought he’d offer up a highlight, like “They MUST go whale watching with Captain Mark,” or “Dinner at the Red Shoe Pub.”

But after some quiet consideration, he said, “Tell them that this is one place they won’t want to have the attitude that their behavior doesn’t matter because they’ll never see these people again. Because they will.”

So true. Perhaps it’s because Cape Breton has done such a great job creating and marking scenic driving trails that all travelers tend to share the same itinerary?

For example, we drove the full Cabot Trail (primarily scenic, weaving around the highlands national park), the full Ceildih Trail (packed with Celtic heritage and music), and part of the Bras d’Or Trail (along the coast of the huge inland saltwater lake). We didn’t venture to the eastern part of the island, so we missed the Fleur-de-lis Trail, which traces more of the island’s French heritage.

And along those routes? We repeatedly crossed paths with people we’d seen earlier on our trip. The couple from the whisky tour at Glenora? Seated next to us in the restaurant forty kilometers down the road for lunch. The couple who loudly made love (and I’m being generous with that term) in the motel room sharing the wall with our headboard? Sipping coffee across from us at breakfast the next morning – and again outside a restaurant on the other side of the island two days later.

A quick note on that: Cape Breton has limited lodging options. There were no real hotels, so we generally found ourselves choosing between a B&B or a motel that looked like it was plunked from the 1950s – still cute rather than creepy. When we checked into our first motel, Alan looked skeptical. “I’m pretty sure these places rent by the hour,” he commented.

I rolled my eyes. “Did you see any other options? Do you think someone’s going to buy a national park permit so they can drive up here to have motel sex?”

But then, two hours later, we started to hear an odd knock along our wall and our headboard shook. We looked at each other: Seriously?

Of course we muted the television for a minute so we could confirm that a moose wasn’t head-butting the building. If we’d had any question, it was quickly resolved. So we turned the volume back up, trying to ignore our neighbors. But they kept going. And going. If it had been a vibrating bed that took quarters (remember those?), they would’ve needed two rolls.

In the morning, as I stepped out to head to breakfast, their door opened at the same time. I couldn’t help but pause to retie my shoe so I could see what they looked like – I was picturing fake boobs, bleached hair and guy wearing multiple gold necklaces. Out stepped a seemingly conservative couple in their late 50s, looking like they’d just dropped their kids off at college.

All righty then.

So that’s the advice we have for George & Amy when it comes to Nova Scotia: Stalk or be stalked, but always be polite. And also? You can probably save a bunch of money if you negotiate your lodging by the hour. Apparently that’s acceptable.

An SNL skit in my bathtub.

13 Sep

So now that my leak is fixed (knock wood), I’ve realized: Hiring a plumber is like paying someone $600 to throw a party in your place and barf on the carpet.

Don’t get me wrong – the guy did a great job. But…

So he shows up with his son, who is approximately 20 and is trying to become a plumber by apprenticing with his dad. I’m pretty sure the main reason his dad drags him along is so he can bill out “two men” instead of one, but ostensibly he’s learning something. The main thing I saw him learn was how to retrieve tools from the van.

Every ten minutes, the plumber would yell, “Jim! I need you to go to the van and get…” Fill in the blank.

But the first time he needed more than one item he also said, “Jim – stop. I think you’ll forget. You best get a piece of paper and write this down.” To which his son rolled his eyes and left. And within five minutes was calling his dad’s cell phone to ask what he needed from the van.

After about half an hour at my place (which, I’d like to point out is SMACK in the middle of the city), his son said, “Hey Dad! Do you think I need to lock the van?”

And his dad paused, looked at me like his son had just spoken Chinese, then said, “What the hell? YES you should lock the van, you dumbass!” with a big headshake.

I got to do my own headshake minutes later, when Jim Junior reappeared and said, “I need to use your bathroom.”

“We’ve turned the water main off,” I told him, thinking how long it had been since I had been able to use a toilet myself. “So you won’t be able to flush.”

He shrugged and said, “That’s ok. I’m not going to poop.”

All right then. Thanks for that. Go for it.

About this time, Jim Senior pinpointed the source of the leak. But it was in a difficult place to fix, so he outlined his strategy – which was surprisingly complex and – if all were to go well – would prevent him from tearing out an entire wall of stone tiles in my bathroom. I gave him a mental fist bump and wished him well, feeling confident until he asked, “Do you have any fire alarms we should disable?”

Um… why? Oh, because apparently he needed to use a blow torch for an extended period of time next to a wood panel in my wall. No worries, nothing to see here folks.

Rather than disable my smoke detectors, I retrieved my fire extinguisher and put it next to him. “You know how to work one of these?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Not my first rodeo.”

Oddly, his confidence did nothing to inspire MY confidence in him.

Miraculously, all went well and he didn’t start a fire in my building (to my knowledge). But while he was in there, he spotted another leak of the flip side of the wall, originating from my bathtub diverter. The next thing I knew, he was standing in my bathtub, blackening the bottom with his dirty boots, getting sprayed in the face with water while he used a chisel to remove pieces of the tile.

“Is it ok if this rug gets dirty?” he asked, pointing to my plush bathroom rug, which was already wadded up under him in the tub, wet with blobs of caulk. Um… a little late to ask, no?

About this time, using a pocket knife to whittle a fitting, his grip slipped and the knife sliced into his finger. Blood started spraying everywhere in my bathtub and he calmly said, “Well now, this isn’t good.”

UNDERSTATEMENT. I watched my poor rug absorb blood for a while before suggesting he might need stitches. “Naw,” he offered. “But if you have a BandAid, that might help.” I got him one, which he tried to apply, but it slid off because his finger was too wet. With blood. We tried that six more times before he ended up just sucking his finger and using the bed of his elbow to hold a flashlight. I’ll give him points for resourcefulness.

Since I have the double curse of being OCD *and* polite, rather than confront his messiness, I started chasing around the house, trying to discreetly clean up after him. The first time I bent to retrieve a wad of wet muddy grass that had fallen off his boot, I felt like Sherlock Holmes. “He lives in rural Maryland and mowed the lawn last night,” I said to myself, feeling clever.

But by the time I picked up the thirtieth clump of wet grass I was like, “This guy is a slob. If he killed someone, I’ll soon find organs in the pile of my carpet. No mystery here, folks.”

When he finished the work, he sidled up to my dining room table and pulled out a chair to write up the invoice. I’d like to point out that the chair he pulled out was a high-back chair upholstered with mushroom colored fabric, and he pulled it out with a hand that resembled a good steak: charred and bloody. I watched in horror, but mentally resigned myself to buying a new chair. After all, the dude had just ended a major leak.

I’d like to say I stayed calm and kept things in perspective, but the minute he left, I turned my place on end, scrubbing the floors by hand, bleaching my tub, and loading up the washer with throw rugs.

Perhaps it would’ve been less scarring to just order a demo company to knock out all my walls. Next time, I suppose. Because in a building that’s 100 years old, unfortunately there will ALWAYS be a next time.

No vacation goes unpunished

10 Sep

Before I regale you with tales of New Scotland, I’d like to tell you what I came home to…

I dumped my suitcase on the floor of my kitchen, since that’s where the laundry is. I started running the water and sorting the clothes into piles. I poured myself a glass of water. I added my clothes to the washer. I noticed that I’d spilled some water on the floor when I’d replaced the Britta pitcher.

I started working. I checked the laundry. I realized the floor was still wet. I wiped it up. I checked the laundry. I noticed water beading up on the grout between the tiles of my kitchen floor. I knelt down. I heard the tiles squish when I pressed them. I saw more water bead up on the grout.

I flipped my shit.

I’ll save you a play-by-play of the calls I made, notes I wrote and emails I sent, all trying to coordinate a plumber, update the property manager and check with neighbors for water damage. Let’s just agree: I was thorough, conscientious, and efficient. And I still managed to log a ten hour work day. I’m sure that was child’s play to Ann Romney. But Michelle knows what I’m talking about.

The plumber was awesome. He sounded like a good, rural guy who knows pipes and hates the city. We had a fifteen minute chat on the phone while I walked around, shutting off all the water valves in my place. He was stunned to learn I had a tankless water heater. “It’s electric?” he asked. I confirmed.

“Are your showers cold?” he continued. I told him they were warm.

“But you run out of hot water, right?” he asked. I told him I did not. And that I actually had the larger model, which meant TWO people could shower simultaneously in my bathrooms and not run out of water.

“Well, I’ll be!” he exclaimed. “This I gotta see. I’ve only seen the gas ones, and all I hear are complaints.” He paused. “Say – is your place fancy?”

I hope he drives this.

I assured him it was not. “My place is SMALL. The only way to squeeze an extra closet out of it was by moving to a tankless heater, I explained.

In any case, by the time we hung up, he’d agreed to come to my place first thing in the morning. He claims it’s to help end my leak, but really, I know it’s so he can look at the tankless heater. Whatever it takes.

So tonight, I’m sitting here, legs crossed, wishing I could flush my toilet. I have a Britta filter of water I’ll use to brush my teeth.

And a pile of dirty clothes on the floor reminding me what an awesome vacation I had.

What you have to look forward to…

9 Sep

I have a lot more to post about our trip to Nova Scotia. In fact, if I were to pre-title the posts, they would be:

  • Canadians: Like Americans but nicer, ay?
  • Things that go bump in the night: Our neighbors
  • All tour Guides are not created equal
  • What NOT to eat on vacation
  • Your know it’s a good trip when it requires plausible deniability
  • The last mile is the hardest

Any guesses on the stories I’m saving for you, based on their titles?