Monday, January 23, 2012

Dead Time

If you’re a working stiff, dead times are those last few minutes before the work day ends, typically from ten till to the hour. It’s too late to start a new job. You’ve cleaned up your work area. Now, you simply avoid the bosses eyes until the big hand is straight up and you can go home and turn into a couch potato.

But if you’re retired like me, there’s a lot of dead time, but the most awkward (and maddening) is when you and your spouse are about to leave the house. Could be for anything, dinner, a movie, or another trip to Wal-Mart for cat litter. You, being the typical male, have been ready go for oh, two maybe three hours, but the little woman is still at it, applying those final touches of makeup, hitting the john one last time, and looking for the box of Kleenex (why do they always need Kleenex?).

It was during just such a dead time that life here at the humble abode suddenly got exciting. I was dressed and ready to go, car keys in hand, just roaming around the house, when I found myself staring at the alarm panel. Below the keypad numbers are three buttons, each with a little symbol. One is a red cross for an ambulance, one is of a flame for the fire department, and the other is a little blue shield for the po-lice. Fortunately, we  have never had occasion to push those particular buttons. Well, there was the incident where the Missus broke her ankle but I used the old fashioned 911 for that little emergency.

So I’m standing there, thinking, I wonder if those buttons even work? Now on a typical false alarm, the most common being letting the cat outside without first disabling the system, the siren sounds (scaring the Bejesus out of the dog), a signal automatically goes out to the Alarm Center, and then someone calls to check on your well being. No big deal. This is a test and only a test. I'm curious. What’s the harm? I push the po-lice button. .

The siren goes off as expected, the dog hides under the bed, but no phone call. The Alarm Center is usually very quick to respond, thirty seconds or less, but no. A minute passes, two, then a ring. Ah, the boys are a little slow today. But it’s my neighbor calling.

“Are you guys okay?”

“Uh, yeah…why?”

“The Alarm Center just called us to say you have an emergency at your house. They’ve called the po-lice.”

Oh shit.

“Honey, where’s the number for the Alarm Center? I need to call them, like NOW.”

I make the call. A man asks my name and password. Thankfully, I remember both. The emergency is cancelled.

Moral: Do not push buttons when you don't know what they do. Well, unless you have a little dead time on your hands.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Best Buyless

I love shopping via the Internet. Products are compared, all kinds of reviews are available, and the prices are right there for the cheapest deal and where to find it. Problem is, it doesn’t always work that way. Consider:

I got the urge to upgrade the bedroom TV. It’s an old CRT model with a 19” screen and not in the best of shape. Mostly it’s used by the Missus to watch her kind of movies, the oldies, the musicals, the one’s her mama used to watch. If it has Spencer Tracy or Judy Garland in the cast, so much the better. No need for a High Definition model to watch the African Queen for the umpteenth time. However, during this past college football season, the games seemed to start later and later, some around 9 P.M. The only sensible thing being to catch the fourth quarter while lying in bed. Hence the need for the upgrade. Surely you can see the logic here.

Off to surf the web. I diligently review the models in my price range, read all the reviews, and make a decision. I find that Best Buy has the best price, a good $50 cheaper than their competitors. Best Buy has three stores in the Tulsa area. I call the closest one, the Midtown location. I give her the model number and the SKU number from the screen.

“We have only one in stock,” a woman says. “Would you like me to have that put aside and save it for you?”

“Well, I most certainly would. Put my name on it. I’ll be there before noon.”

I enter the store at 10:45, find the Customer Service desk, and inquire as to the location of my new TV. The girl at the desk is clueless. “What was your name again? What kind of TV was it?” Uh oh.

She dons her in-house headphones . I hear her mumbling to someone in the Home Theater department.

“I’m sorry sir, but it seems the only one we have is the display model. However, if you wish to buy it, we can give you 10% off the price and you will still have the option of buying our extended warranty.”

I’m in shock. I’ve just driven 25 miles to be offered a TV than has been hanging on a wall and running what, 18 hours a day for… a year or two?

“You might want to check with the guy in that department,” she says and turns away.

Thinking there has been some horrible mistake, I stumble back to Home Theater and find a salesman. Surely the in-store computer is wrong and merely needs an update. The man agrees to check in the back of the store but no, out of stock.

“Yeah, we’ll sell you the one there on the wall. It doesn’t have a remote though.”

“You have got to be shittin’ me.”

He wasn’t but then went to his computer to check the other stores.

“Here you go” he says. “This location has 11 of them.”

“And which of the other two locations would that be if I may be so rude as to ask.”

“That would be the one just off Highway 75.”

“And the price? Is it the same as the one boldly stated on your web site?”

He checks and it is.

Luckily the Hwy. 75 store is not that far out of the way home and I go there.

A smiley faced young lad greets me in front of the big screens. I tell him that I wish to purchase one and only one of his eleven TV’s of the model of my choice , one that I have been assured resides at this very location. He disappears in the back room. Time passes. Uh oh.

He reemerges with nothing but a nervous grin and goes to the computer.

“Sorry, there’s been a mistake. We do have that model, but it’s in our Woodland Hills store.”

Why do I not believe him?

“Do you have free delivery?” I ask. He does. We set a date.

I’m waiting. Meanwhile, from the bedroom:

The hills are alive,
with the sound of music.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Oh No Tebow

When Heisman Award winning Tim Tebow played quarterback for the University of Florida and led them to a BCS Championship, ESPN piously anointed him with the title of greatest college quarterback in the history of the game. Now playing with the Denver Broncos, the lad has again been in the spotlight, not so much for his skills or statistics, but the unlikely wins the Broncos have pulled out in a late season series of overtimes. As most fans of football know, Tebow is an extremely devout individual and his repeated action of dropping to one knee and praying on the football field (known as Tebowing) has turned into a bit of a national phenomena.

Now, according to recent news, we find that many people believe that Mr. Tebow has been receiving a little help from the #1 fan in the galaxies. Yep, the big quarterback in the sky. Out of a thousand people polled, 43% believe that Tebow is getting divine help. To which I say: Really?

Are you telling me that 43% of those people believe that those rare Tebow touchdown passes found their way into the gloved hands of those highly skilled, flat-bellied, long-legged, athletic wide receivers via some sort of celestial GPS system? Did some kind of unseen force bat the ball away from an opposing safety on the verge of a Tebow interception? Or did a tuft of grass have a sudden spurt of growth and trip that charging linebacker that was about to knock ol’ Tim on his butt? If not, then just how does this prime time, fourth and fifteen and down by ten, divine intervention work anyway? And why only for Tebow and not several other players in the NFL who are equally devout?

“You want proof?” say the Forty-Three Percent. Check the stats of a recent game:

Tebow threw for 316 yards, averaged 31.6 yards per completion, and the game drew a 31.6 TV rating. You’ve heard of John 3:16 haven’t you…you…atheist? Those numbers can’t be a coincidence.

Yes they can…and are.

But why all this divine subtlety with the numbers? How about some good old fashioned, biblical, in-your-face intervention. Say like, oh, an attempt to kick a winning field goal in sudden death overtime by the opposing team and the football stops in mid-air, inches before sailing over the crossbar, and stays there for say…three or four days. Then, just as the last remaining official is about to call the game for the other side, the ball falls straight down bouncing harmlessly this side of the goal line. Broncos win! Now that's an intervention.

So Tim, on the other hand, let’s say you do have an “in”. How about a couple Super Bowl tickets on the fifty? Huh? How ‘bout it? A miracle? Well yeah…but duh.

Update: Broncos Lose Playoff Game. Season Over.  Must have been an overcast day in New England.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Talkin' Trash

Everyday, well, almost everyday, a new letter appears in the Tulsa World Opinion page bitching about the recent proposed changes in the City of Tulsa trash service. The trouble started months ago when the good citizens of River City were told that they would no longer receive twice a week pickups, but once a week only. And if that weren’t bad enough, they’re personal beat up, small, and flimsy trash cans would be replaced at no charge by large modern plastic models, complete with wheels for easy pushing, and an attached, animal proof lid. You would have thought the city ordered all churches closed and the schools to start teaching evolution. What a stink! Tulsa loves their trash cans.

I’m reminded of an article by the late advice columnist Ann Landers on the correct way to hang toilet paper, loose end flat against the wall or protruding over the roll. Landers said it was the most letters she had ever received on one column. Why? Because everyone uses toilet paper and has an opinion on it. Apparently it’s the same thing with trash.

A bit of personal background on the subject: I lived in Tulsa under the present trashy conditions. Twice a week trash removal was nice, there’s that, but I can’t tell you how many times high winds pushed my empty can over, rolled it down the block, and out in the street where drivers cussed the thankfully unknown owner. Naturally the damage from banging it’s way down 7th street took its toll over the years causing the lid to fit improperly, making the roast beef leftovers highly tempting to wandering mongrel dogs. Result? Trash, your trash, in the neighbors yard and, if it happened to be raining, floating down the gutters like little rafts on a river.

Then we moved. Now we had a private trash hauler and the dreaded once a week pickup. Oh My Gawd, it was the end of the world as I knew it. But the nice man in the big truck brought me a brand new container. It was HUGE. I could stuff a week, maybe two weeks worth of normal trash in this behemoth, effortlessly roll it to the curb, and forget about it. High winds couldn’t budge it. Packs of wolves couldn’t raid it. (Not sure about bears though). The big boy roller wheels made it a snap to move, no matter how many empty beer bottles it held. (No, I don’t recycle glass. So sue me.)

So why are the denizens of Tulsa Town in such a tizzy? Change. People hate change and fear of the unknown. My advise is to go with it folks. The smell is in the wind and you can’t stop it. One way or the other, on a designated morning in the near future, your used kitty litter will disappear just as it always has. Of course you might have to consider getting rid of cat or two, the volume of the waste and all that. But your husband will thank you. Trust me.

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Bowls Runneth Over

What’s with all the football bowl games these days? According to an ESPN website, I counted 35 post season games starting on December 18th and ending January 9th. THIRTY-FIVE!

So, how many of you watched the Beef O’ Brady Bowl featuring the powerhouse teams of Marshall and Florida International? Just in case you missed it, let the record show that Marshall won 20-10. How about the Military Bowl; Toledo 42, Air Force 41? A thriller to be sure, but only if you’re wearing a blue uniform or were born in Ohio.

Folks, in my day, we had just four bowls. Hard to believe but those were the days, so long ago, before ESPN if you can imagine that. It started out with the Bluebonnet Bowl and if I remember right, it was traditionally played on New Year’s Eve The Bluebonnet usually featured a team from Texas such as Houston, Texas A&M, or Texas Tech. often squaring off against a Big Eight opponent. Yes kids, it’s hard to imagine but the Big Twelve was formerly know as the Big Eight. Except now it's down to ten teams...or is it nine? It's hard to keep up anymore.

 The thing that made the Bluebonnet Bowl so attractive was not only the familiarity with the teams, but you could start your New Year’s Eve party early, a warm up if you will. Lounge around the TV and cheer for a couple hours, maybe sip a few beers before getting into the hard stuff when at the stroke of midnight, you’ve forgotten the game and transformed into a stumbling, half-blind idiot, yelling things like “Texas Sucks” and getting high fives all around.

Back then, New Year’s day was as God intended it to be; one glorious day of football with the Cotton Bowl, the Rose Bowl, followed by the grand finale of them all, the Orange Bowl in beautiful Miami, Florida with the always entering and spectacular halftime show. The Orange Bowl halftime was the only part of the day when you saw the lady of the house.  Aren’t those marching bands wonderful? Football, all day long, back to back games, all while nursing a bruising hangover and wondering if you would ever smile again.

And then it was over, done with, a clean break, cold turkey. None of this spread it out for three weeks nonsense that you see today. Now, it’s all about money. More games, more moola. It’s un-American I tell you, un-American. We should boycott New Orleans, turn the TV's off, refuse to watch LSU-Alabama for the NCAA National Championship. Uh oh, there I go, getting stupid again. Anybody got an aspirin?

“If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead.”
Erma Bombeck