Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cutting-Board Prayers

A friend has a sorrow, you cook 'em up something. That's just the way it is.

If broken in body or spirit, what comfort is there, except in a beef stew with carrots and potatoes? Home-baked peanut butter cookies? Neighbors showing up at your door, refusing to stay but dropping by a little something for the freezer, so that you won't have to cook for a few days while you mend.

A casserole equals time. No one wants to think about putting on dinner when they are under a shadow, when gravity has set in particularly hard that day to weigh them down and make even the act of breathing just a bit more difficult. A casserole popped from freezer to oven is one less thing. And the quick comfort of being cared for by friends, neighbors, family.

And what comfort is there to give, except words, which you can't eat, and food, which you can? (Although, arguably, I've eaten my words a few times. It just wasn't very satisfying.)

Today was another day for cutting-board prayers, this time for my neighbors J & M and their kids. J had a heart procedure yesterday to remove two blockages, stunning us all. He's okay, thank God, so most of my prayers as I browned chicken and chopped onions were prayers of thanks.

So I gave many thanks and now a chicken provencal is bubbling in the pot. I'll take it by the house this evening.

...Of course, being a childless forty-one year-old woman, I didn't consider until half-way through the process that I'm cooking a dish that calls for 3 medium onions, 1 1/2 cups dry white wine and 16 cloves of garlic. For a household with a teen and a pre-teen.

Not a perfect comfort, but maybe if I sieve the sauce, the kids won't notice.

(A 2/3/11 note: I'm somewhat relieved to report that J&M are fine. It wasn't J, but J's father-in-law who was ill. And he's doing well now. ... and it wasn't 16 cloves, but 12. Which I eyeballed into 3 tablespoons of chopped garlic from a jar. ... So I'm lazy. You're surprised?) 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Keep Walking

Lost my "Holy F**k!" drivirginity this week. (What? If Shakespeare and Germans can play loose and festive with contractions, so can I. ... Well, I can.)

Tractor trailers are big, freaking dangerous death machines, in case you didn't know.

In this case, a trailer just ate a leg. Well, chomped-n-gnawed on it a bit, although my coworker and friend, now on day two in the hospital with a cast up to his ass might parse it differ'nt.

First, I wasn't there, gentle reader. I had dropped off the trailer at the loading dock that morning. But I've seen pics, heard the tale and visited the leg, and so I'm counting this 'holy *uc*!' moment.

Here's the story. Most trailers only have tires on the back end of the box, whether one or two axels doesn't matter. The point is, for a trailer to stay horizontal without the truck/tractor on the other end, you have to put down a landing gear (metal legs) located about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way down the box. In the end, the trailer's nose will stick out some distance beyond the landing gear.

Unless there is a brace or a jack under the nose, do not put anything very very very heavy into the box's nose. Like a forklift.

You. Will. Tip. The. Trailer. Like. A. See. Saw.

Which is what my friend did, regretfully. He drove a forklift off the dock onto the trailer and out to the nose to pick up a gaylord.
  • Good news, the trailer nosed over only some 2 feet or so.
  • Bad news, the very very heavy dock plate got jammed up in the trailer.
  • Good news, the very very heavy dock plate kept it from going ass-over.
  • Good news, bad news, good news, bad news later ... my friend's leg wound up pinned between the trailer and the dock. Fractured. Flesh-mangle, bone-views and all. ... He took pics on his i-phone.
Lessons to learn:
  1. Respect these beasts.
  2. If you have the good luck to walk away from bad luck, keep walking.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Mack HAS to Be Male

Top Ten Reasons My Mack Has to Be Male:

10. The Freudiobvious implications of its 24 inch stick shift. I'll leave you to come up with the countless graphic cliches. Don't forget the nob.

9. His name is Mack. Duh.

8. My Mack is a big, powerful machine, but when he breaks even one little thing, he becomes a big baby that needs to be nursed along with lots and lots and lots (did I say lots?) of TLC.

7. I have to pretend to agree with him while I make him go where I want him to go. If I need to back the trailer to the left, I have to turn the wheel to the right. and vice versa. If I need to turn into a driveway on the right while towing the 48 footer, I had better take my Mack far to the left. Never mind that I'm blocking all the traffic behind me. My Mack is all about screwing the other drivers on the road.

6. He's all big and bad, but he needs a good woman to drive him.

5. He needs lubricant. Lots and varied kinds of lubricant.

4. He's obsessed with coupling ~ Butt connectors (no lie. butt connectors). Worried about glad hands and the possibility of kinking hoses? One website offers, "Nylon Composite gladhands with stainless steel connectors, urethane seals and brass nipple." Brass nipples. Hmmm. Only a male would find those advantageous. A prudent woman would think about the cost of clothing wear and tear.

3. His air cuts in with a sigh at about 85 psi; then it builds and crescendos, cutting out at around 120-135. Oh dear, such a dramatic release. BIG hiss and falling gauge. Sooo over the top.

2. And if he cuts out above 135, I'm supposed to contact his doctor.

And the number one reason my Mack couldn't possibly be a female ...

1. Want to know how my Mack works? He's totally explained in a book.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Effort vs Inspiration. Success Stories vs Little Bastards.

I was a B student at university. I can even attest to 2 D's on my transcript ~ French and French Literature. The first, I blame myself. The second, I blame the throat-clearing burn-out who lost her train of thought whenever she lost her place in her notes.

In any case, I have never been an inspired, 'natural' learner. I was of the work hard, show up each day and go home and do your homework each night, vein of student. I am arrogant enough to realize I'm smart. I'm also aware enough to know smart don't count except in inked-in crossword puzzles.

The first rule of success is showing up.

I had a smug little bastard in a class back in the early '90's who blew off too many lectures and too many assignments, then showed up for the final. He'd already failed, of course, but had a right to take the test. He later showed up in my office, talking about how he'd been bored by the level of material and the stupidity and struggle of the other students. He was planning on attending an Ivy League one day.  ...blah. blah. blah.

And I admit to some pleasure in telling him that those "stupid" students were heading for university while he was not. ... Success is showing up.

So here I am, a student once again. I want sooooo much to learn! Sometimes I'm frustrated that there are few mentors in my current workplace. Still, most times I'm excited by each new 'ah Hah!' moment, each new skill.

For 4 months, I've been inspecting the same 6 trucks, day in day out. And every once in a while, there will be a day when I think, "I've never noticed that before." Missing dust caps on the brake chambers. A slipped splash guard that is now rubbing a tire.

For a week, I've been puzzling over a random shiny spot on the steer arm of my beloved Mack. Today, I had that lovely Eureka! click. I climbed up in the cab, fired him up, turned the wheel ...and viola. Turning the wheel to the right, pulls the steer arm back, and 'there.' The tire hits the steer arm. Not good. and yet how much fun to puzzle and solve, to work the problem, to grow as a driver.

I may be an ocd witch, but I ain't a little bastard.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


One of the great honors of my life has been to be present for a few hours of the final twenty-four hours of a good friend's life. I held his head in my palms as his wife and his nurse adjusted him on his bed, the last day of his life. Once he had slipped into the quiet beyond us. He was warm under my fingers, and his hair was clean, and he was angel and man, peace and struggle, united in that hospice bed.

Grace in life and grace in passing. It was last year that his wife and children lost him. That they lost him, and we lost him too. One life means so much. His did and does.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Driver's Life for Me

Lots of folks think a driver's life is Over the Road (OTR), and certainly many an OTR driver is out there tonight, inspiring those luddite folk-song writers I love in the way that I love all lost causes. My current favorite trucker song being Bobby Braddock's "Gear Bustin' Sort of a Feller" (ya gotta hear it: )

But there's another driver, the local guy, who usually starts his-her day at 7am or so. or 11pm. Or some odd-ass hour that attempts to minimize rush hour hassles with those annoying little passenger vehicles -- road-remoras like Escalades and Hummers and Suburbans. Schools of Priuses, flowing and weaving like sardines. So cute. But annoying in their huge, shimmery, unpredictable and chaotic numbers.

These days, I have the 9:15am shift, ending at 6pm. The Sweet Babboo has an 8pm shift, ending around 7am. Plus a 1.5 hour commute each way. You don't have to say it. He's a masochist, we know. A masochist with an OCD-like obsession with providing for his family (c'est moi et notre chiens) and being a good man.

With differing days off, we have 1/2 days together and a few days when we share only our commutes, mine home and his to work, his home and mine to work. Thank God for cell phones. ... and those 1/2 days after a few days' absence where we cram in as much loving and longing and sharing and reconnecting as two middle-agers can. (Hint to 20-somethings, it's a LOT, no viagra needed.)

... "If you bought it, I brought it." Not only is this a lovely bit of alliteration, it's true, without exaggeration. The bringing and bringing and bringing, though, promotes some crazy lifestyles. I'm happy enough with mine right now ~ hell, I'm happier these past 4 years with my husband than I've been my entire life ~ still, I look forward to a time when we have the same hours and same days off.

Not the oddly romantic, quirky, valiant, insane, inspiring life of the OTR guy, but I'll take it.