Archive for July, 2009

The Return of Skunk Bait

As I pulled into the Alewife MBTA station parking garage at 8am, I noticed that there was a long line of traffic waiting to leave. While I was parking, I was continually passed by cars that were heading for the exits.

“That’s odd,” I thought, “I wonder if there was some morning event that people just got out of.”

I am not very perceptive.

When I got into the train station, the reason for the mass exodus became clear: there were people scattered all over both levels of the platform. It seemed that there had been no train service for quite some time. Also, over the loudspeaker, some blowhard was shouting unintelligible commands in a very condescending tone at T passengers while they tried to get off of a broken-down train.

You could hear his voice, and his attitude, but he apparently had the microphone tucked into his cheek because none of his words made sense. Nothing makes a hot, humid, cramped situation better than some hack with an attitude problem shouting at people who are going to be late to work, and who are supposed to be the customers in this relationship.

I made my way past the crowd on the upper platform, walked down the stairs, weaved through some people on the lower platform, and got on a train. Pretty amazing, I thought, given the number of people standing around. The train filled up, then stopped and started about 27 times, but eventually we got going. Everyone was pressed pretty closely together, and at one point I turned my head and caught a slight whiff of skunk.

Ah yes, skunk. That would be me. The night before, I had been sitting on my couch and speaking to The Megger (my wife, who is in Philadelphia) on the phone when the rich bouquet of an annoyed skunk wafted into my living room. I ran to the back door and looked for my dog – Callie – and saw to my relief that she was lying peacefully in the yard. Just to be safe, I called Callie into the house and found that despite her calm demeanor she had, indeed, been liberally doused by a skunk. Skunk Bait had struck again. As I let loose a stream of profanity that peeled a small amount of paint off of the dining room wall, I heard my wife’s laughter ringing in my ear.

The Megger was laughing because this exact scene had played itself out a few years back. It was July; she was in Philadelphia and was actually on the phone with me while our dog was in the back yard getting skunked. This is an unhappy trend.

“Do you remember,” I asked my wife last night, “last week when we were picking our dog up from the vet and we saw that special skunk shampoo for sale? Do you remember that you told me that we didn’t need it because ‘the dog hasn’t been skunked in years’?”

More laughter.

I said goodbye to The Megger, grabbed a bottle of tomato juice, picked up Skunk Bait and went upstairs to the tub. (Aside: As an added frustration, when we had our bathroom redone a while back, we had a special hand sprayer installed for just these types of situations. It worked for one day. On the second day it started making noises like a metal drum being pounded with a hammer, and then it simply stopped working. Good times.)

Tomato juice does a few things well: It creates furry clumps on my dog; it causes drains to work very slowly; and it makes things red and sticky. It does not particularly work well for removing skunk scent from a very furry pooch. So, as a result of the bath, the dog, the bathroom, and I were all tinged red and smelled like skunk, the dog’s fur was sticking up in random directions, and I had no more tomato juice.

I then showered and scrubbed, but even the next morning I was still catching the occasional whiff. Apparently Ivory doesn’t work much better than tomato juice; which explains the scowl on the face of the woman who was pressed into me on the train. I can just imagine what she was thinking: “The trains are broken forever, so I’m going to be late; that MBTA hack starts shouting at me; and now I’m stuffed into a train next to a guy that smells like skunk. I need a drink.”

The Day to Day Grind Tim 30 Jul 2009 1 Comment

I’m the Whiner

My old friend Rick O’Shea sauntered into the coffee shop and flopped down into the chair across from me. He took out a rumpled piece of paper and threw it on the table. I looked at it from my chair, and despite the rumples and folds, it appeared to be a citation for exceeding the speed limit.

“Yep, I got pinched,” he said, “I came over a rise in the road and there he was. I pulled right over to the side before he even waved me over. I keep reading about this whole head injury fund rip-off that you write about, and now I get to contribute to it.”

Well, you shouldn’t go about with such low regard for the laws of the Commonwealth. Are you going to fight it?

“Probably not. The guy had me dead to rights. I thought he might give me a break for pulling right over, but nope.”

The insurance companies can’t be expected to survive if these people aren’t out raising surcharge money for them, my friend. You should fight it. Always fight it. What do you have to lose?

“A vacation day from work. Those are like gold to me and I don’t want to waste one in a courtroom. Do you waste vacation days on stuff like this?”

Yes. It is worth it. I always do. I’m a habitual rule follower, so my records are generally pretty spotless, but once in a while I get bagged – usually for something stupid – and I have a decent track record of getting out of it.

In middle school one day, a teacher named Mr. Steele –

“Bald Guy?”

Yes, the bald guy. I think he taught math. For some reason, he went running down the hall past me. Now, I was just standing there by myself, but I gave him a sound effect by vibrating my lips as he went past, like one you might hear in a cartoon if a car was going by. It wasn’t loud, but he sure heard it. He stopped mid-stride, marched back, and started yelling at me.

I was stunned. I stood there with my mouth agape – a fat kid in an overly tight ¾ sleeve t-shirt and Toughskins – while he shouted something about me being disrespectful, and then WHAM – he gave me my first and only detention (we called them “white cards”).

Thinking about it now, I’m not sure why he was running in the first place if he had time to come back and bawl me out. Besides, I was being complimentary by emphasizing how fast he was going. I’m still a bit confused about why he flipped about it. Bad day, maybe.

“Something tells me that there was more to this than you are telling me. Maybe you tried to trip him?”

Haha, no. Anyhow, I moped about it all day. A detention! That would keep me from my usual schedule of going home to hang around and do nothing. I just couldn’t have it. I couldn’t deal with the idea of doing the time. So, before the end of the day, I sought out Mr. Steele. I told him that I was sorry about what happened and that I hadn’t meant to be disrespectful.

“Did you mean that?”

Well, I hadn’t meant to be disrespectful. Anyway, he tore up the white card and my record was forever clean.

“You whined your way out of it.”

Essentially. Don’t knock it. At other times of my life I was written up for having an empty beer can in my college dorm room and talked my way out of it, and before that I got in trouble for throwing something in class while I was in tech school for the Air Force and maneuvered out of it. I couldn’t be spending my weekends guarding a door.

“I wonder if these people let you out of trouble because it’s the only way to get you to shut up.”

Possible. I tend to pout.

“You should have been a lawyer, or gotten into politics.”

Funny you should mention that. I have a friend we call ‘The Mayor’ who makes me look like a rank amateur. One time, in an organized touch football game as an adult, he got ejected for blatantly calling the referee a sexual slur. At halftime, he talked his way back into the game. I had never seen that before. He’s in sales now.

“Did you help him pursue that argument?”

I might have provided some corroborating evidence to back up his story. Anyway, if you have a clean record, they might let you out of this ticket. When was the last time you got pinched?

“About two months ago.”

Oh. Well. Best of luck, then.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 24 Jul 2009 2 Comments

All Star Observations (and Lou Brock’s Hair!)

My brother and my sister have a standing $5 bet on the All-Star game. I’m not sure when they started the bet, but for the first number of years, through the 1970’s and 80’s, my sister would have to pay when the AL team fell short. Year after year, she would dutifully hand over a five spot to my grinning brother. Things are a bit different these days. The American League hasn’t lost since 1996, and my sister has come to count on that money as a steady form of income.

I don’t bet on the game, but I am a fan of the American League in the All Star Game – probably because of my Red Sox loyalties. Lately, with the success of both the Red Sox and the American League, I might be considered a frontrunner, but the amount of losing both did throughout my childhood makes me feel like a longsuffering fan rewarded.

This past Tuesday was this year’s installment of the All Star Game, and I jotted down some thoughts about it:

– The pre-game activities were actually entertaining. Seeing guys like Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, and Bob Gibson is a thrill for me, because I am a baseball buff. I think that Stan Musial is one of the most underrated all-time greats in baseball history.

But, I don’t think that I can just watch Lou Brock walk around in 2009 with a helmet-like jheri curl and not mention it. I did an old fashioned double-take when I saw him on the screen. Wow. That thing was just awesome. I wonder if he’s trying out for a role in Coming to America II?

– Speaking of appearances, country singer Sara Evans sang “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch. At least, I think it was Sara Evans – there is a strong possibility that it could have been a traffic cone with a great voice. The guys from “How I Met Your Mother” need to break out that Intervention banner and have a conversation with her about the spray tan. Step away from the orange.

– My traditional complaint about Major League Baseball is that the games start too late. It was the case once again last night. The pre-game started at 8pm EDT and got finished somewhere around 8:45pm. The game went quickly – there were many one-pitch at-bats and several times the announcers emphasized how quickly things were going and said things like, “…We’re in the seventh inning ALREADY.”

Yet, despite all of that, the game still ended at about 11:20pm EDT. On a Tuesday night. Honestly, the pregame stuff couldn’t have started at 7pm, or even 7:30pm? Or, if that’s too early because west coast adults are still at work, then how about having the game on a Sunday? Start it at 7pm eastern, and everyone can watch it. Kids will grow up and remember watching the All Star game, instead of how they went to bed in the 5th inning. Having an event during the weekend works for the NFL, it works for the Masters, it works for college football, and it works for NASCAR. Maybe it’s that the powers that be at MLB don’t want to be as successful as the NFL? It’s frustrating.

– There are good things and bad things about the fact that the All Star Game now determines home field advantage in the World Series. The good thing is that the players might try harder (which continues to make this by far the best All Star Game of the professional sports). The bad thing is that it takes away some things that would be good for the game, even if they are not strategically the best idea.

For example, Tim Wakefield made his first All Star Game at age 42. He is well regarded around the league as a nice guy who does quite a bit of charity work, but he doesn’t get into the game. Really? Never mind how fun it might be to see other catchers chase his knuckleball around, it is a travesty that he wasn’t allowed to pitch. Instead, Mark Buehrle of the White Sox got to pitch an inning – and Buehrle started the All Star Game in 2005. Come on.

Next, Victor Martinez of the Indians was intentionally walked. Some kid in Cleveland stays up and finally gets to see Martinez bat with the go ahead run on third base, and the pitcher throws four wide ones. That’s awful. We’re watching the game for the player competition. Even if it means that my brother loses his chance at five bucks, there should be no intentional walks in the All Star Game.

Sports Tim 15 Jul 2009 No Comments

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