Monday, September 21, 2009

Car repair made easier

Waiting room? What are we waiting for?

MARK’S ARTICLE – September 21, 2009 “And, the fourth worst driving distraction is…”

WAITING ROOM -- I’ll tell you right up front, I would not be here with you if you were the one waiting for your car to get repaired. You readers are just nicer than nice. I’m beyond flattered. I’m… Give me a second. – I’m the size bigger than Grande flattered. Venti is what I am.

Honestly, I don’t think we’ll be here all that long. They’re just checkin’ my cruise control. It went out after they changed my timing belt last week. You have to loosen up and unplug a buncha stuff to get to a timing belt. I heard that somewhere.

If your timing belt goes out while you’re driving, it will cost a lot more to repair the engine than it will to replace the thing before it goes out. A friend of mine had that happen to him. Thought I’d change mine after 90,000. I think that’s scriptural.

And, no, I don’t know what a timing belt is. I don’t think cars used to have ‘em. Dad never changed ours. To my knowledge. And, the man coulda done it. That was back in the day when you could actually work on a car yourself. I couldn’t, but Dad could. Pretty much.

I really hated it when Dad would crawl out from under the Chevy Biscayne and say, “Mark, I want you to run down to the auto parts and get me a ¾ inch reprometer arm(or something like that). Here’s 10 bucks. That oughtta cover it.”

Inside I was screaming, “Nooooooo!” I never said that to Dad, though. Don’t know for sure what he would’ve done, but it’d probably end up with me uncontrollably flinching the rest of my life. Instead, I’d say, “A reprometer arm? And, at the auto parts they’ll know what I’m asking for?” – “Sure. Go!”

The guys at the auto parts acted like they never knew what I was asking for. Either that or they just enjoyed giving me a hard time. They’d ask me a hundred questions. Questions about ratios, valve clearance, vacuum pressure, differential gap… Stuff that would bring tears. But, I had to come up with answers on the spot. Dad would expect it. I’d eventually come home to get yelled at. “What th—What is this? Doesn’t even look like a reprometer! Do you see an arm on this thing?”

I wanted to say, “Dad, we go through this every time. When will you learn not to send me?” But, you never questioned Dad’s reasoning. I guess he was thinking something about a roomful of monkeys typing out the Gettysburg Address. Something like that.

At one time I think I made four trips before bringing back the right part. Dad could’ve done it in one trip. I guess he was trying to teach me something. Humility? Like I didn’t already reek of it.

That’s pretty much why, over the years, I never tried to repair my car. No confidence. Oh, I once tightened a flywheel on my LeMans, and put shocks on my old pickup. I even adjusted a carburetor once. Cars don’t have carburetors anymore. They’ve got… something else.

Today’s cars are so complicated that you need a computer to figure out what’s wrong. That’s why I always take my car back to the dealership. They’ve got the right computers with the right codes. You’ve gotta have the codes. I have no idea what that means.

Right now they’re just looking at my cruise control. I’ve gotta have it. Do you have any idea how many speeding tickets I’d have without cruise control? That was rhetorical. Quit guessing. You were way low, anyway.

Before the advent of cruise control, my speed varied depending on what I was thinking while driving. If I thought about an action movie, I drove fast. Plumbing jobs made me go slow. A visit to Hobby Lobby would occasionally have me pulling to the side of the road.

What you’re supposed to do if you don’t have cruise control, is to pick a car that’s going about the right speed and plant your bumper on it’s tail. I read that on “Hints from Heloise.” Probably. If everyone tried that, the first guy on the freeway would set the speed for the entire day.

What reaction do you have when you see someone driving while talking on his or her cell phone. Makes you wanna kick ‘em doesn’t it. I’d be on the list of kickees, ‘cause I’ve sure done it. Fortunately, I’m smart enough to do it.

Of course, I’d rather people their phones while driving than do it in the waiting room. Listen to that lady. She acts like she’s talking to someone through a wall. Do you have any change or fruit I could throw at her? You sure?

Text messaging is also bad when you’re driving. It’s the third worst driving distraction. It’d take both hands and a bare right foot for me to text message. My nephew, C.J., can drive, talk, point and check the glove compartment while texting. He’s got a gift. It’s called a guardian angel.

By the way, the fourth most hazardous distraction while driving is blowing your nose. Takes both hands and requires focusing. Fourth worst. I doubt anybody has proved it. Big Al and I plan to prove it on one of our “From the Rooftop” episodes soon to be appearing on a local computer network. I’ll try driving while on the phone, while text messaging, while eating a burger, driving with kids in the car, while blowing my nose… eventually, while doing all at once. Hey, I can’t wait to see this. Probably should have Al try it..

Oh, and since we’re here at a car dealership, I think I’ll mention a car and bike show that’s coming up this Saturday (Sept 19). It’s being held to celebrate and support the efforts of the Texas Honor Ride. They’re the motorcyclists who accompany funeral processions of our fallen soldiers, and who are committed to helping “wounded warriors and their families.”

At the car show there will also be Frisbee dogs (little flat puppies), helicopters, live bands, food… a bunch of stuff, including Big Al and me. It’ll be eight in the morning to five in the p.m. at West Conroe Baptist Church, the corner of Longmire and Loop 336 North. Big place.

I have every confidence you’ll be there, ‘cause you showed up here in the waiting room of the car dealership. And, let me tell you, I’m blown away by it. Tearing up, even. And, it has nothing to do with what it cost to get my timing belt replaced. Hey, I don’t even know what it is.


Monday, September 14, 2009

A Galveston Birthday trip

I put this in 'cause I like Penguins.

MARK’S ARTICLE – September 14, 2009
“It turns mean at sundown”

Last Monday the Plilers and Hayters took another birthday trip. Birthdays don’t let up. Eventually they will, but right now they’re constant. Like phone calls at suppertime. Maybe not that frequent.

Maintaining our Birthday Day Trip Tradition (the ol’ BDTT), requires four trips a year. Four trips that demand we get home before sundown. Any longer than that and there are going to be fights. After ten hours with me, people get surly. Lose control. Turn into gooberheads. Mean gooberheads.

Even Kay. When we’re alone she’s okay. But, put the Plilers in the mix and Kay’s swinging away like the others. No explanation.

This time, to cut down on any rude behavior, it was decided we combine two birthdays into one. That would eliminate one occasion for fisticuffs. It was Virginia’s idea.

It was easy to figure out which birthdays would be combined. Kay and I were born two weeks apart. Kay was born on the birthday of the bombing of Hiroshima. I was born on the birthday of Benjamin Harrison. He was our 23rd President. I had to look that up. Regardless, all three births and the one bombing took place in place in August.

August is a bad month. I’m not telling you anything there. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but August is a hot month. It’s a continuation of July, only hotter. It’s the month that puts the kabash on any grass left in yard. It’s the month when sweat pours and TV programming stinks. It’s the month that school starts. And, it’s the month Benjamin Harrison was born. Enough said.

So, in light of August’s well-earned bad reputation and of the potential for the rude behavior previously mentioned, it was decided we celebrate both August birthdays on one day in September. It was genius.

I would’ve wholeheartedly agreed to put off our birthdays till December. Birthday, Smurfday! Let’s move on, people. I’ve got too much joy to spread to get upset about birthdays.

Of course, right off the bat, we had trouble agreeing on a place for the trip. Kay wanted to go someplace we’d never been. She couldn’t think of one, ‘cause we’ve been everywhere, man. Across the burning sand… Ah, forget it.

I suggested we go somewhere we hadn’t been in ten years. Obviously, I was referring to the IMAX at Moody Gardens. I love 3-D movies on big screens. They’re so much better than 2-D movies on tiny screens. And, get this, on Monday they had a one o’clock showing of “Wild Ocean.” Wow! It’s an ocean and it’s wild. I’m there.

Unfortunately, Kay wanted to see the 11:00 showing of “Dolphins and Whales.” Not wild enough. Plus, I knew it was impossible for the Hayters and Plilers to eat breakfast out, fight traffic and make it to Galveston before eleven. We would hafta get up at four. Too many morning routines. I don’t care to talk about it.

To pacify Kay, I suggested that after the IMAX we could take the ferry to Bolivar and survey the damage Ike had done to Crystal Beach. Crystal Beach is were we used to rent a beach home for the weekend. We had a blast there. We needed to return to see what was left.

With the itinerary set, we got up Monday morning and headed for I-HOP, where they were just starting out a Football Celebration menu. Get this, they offered stuffed French toast in the shape of a football, sitting atop a sea of blueberry syrupy stuff. You can stuff anything with a fluffy whipped cream and I’ll eat it. Even a football. Oh, and I-HOP puts the coffeepot right on the table. It sounds wilder the more times I say it. Right on the table!

So, after we pigged out, we headed for Galveston. Oh, before shoving off, Freeman turned around and gave Kay and me our $15 to spend. You see, the birthday people get $15 to spend on something they wouldn’t ordinarily get. Something frivolously fun.

But, and it’s a big BUT, we’re not supposed to get the money until we decide on what we’re gonna buy with it. Hey, it reads right there in the Handbook of Traditions. So, I said, “No, Freeman. You see, we’re s’posed—“ That’s when Virginia said, “Hey, just take the money, Mark. We don’t wanna hear it.” What a rudebousky!

Well, we made it to Moody Gardens at 12:45. I was proud as could be. Freeman and I ran to the ticket office, while Kay and Virginia sat at a picnic table and tried to explain to an overly friendly grackle that they had no food. According to them, the bird practically sat in Kay’s purse.

When Freeman and I got to the ticket booth, we were told that the 1:00 showing of “Wild Ocean” was cancelled due to a power outage. We could wait around till 3:00 if we wanted. No one wanted. We feared the grackle had friends.

So, we then went to lunch at an overpriced seafood restaurant (that’s so redundant). I came out in tears. Fortunately, I still had the $15 Freeman gave me.

Then we ferried over to Bolivar and saw… well, it was sad what we saw. The Gulf had moved so much closer to the highway. All of the beachfront homes we remembered were now gone. Homes that had been a good distance from the shore were now beachfront. And, the beach was, well, not all that inviting.

The little cafĂ© where we always ate breakfast was gone. I don’t mean in ruins. I mean it was no longer there. There was not a place that had not in some way been altered by the storm. None that we saw. It was a sad visit.

All in all, it turned out to be one disappointing trip. No IMAX, way expensive seafood, Crystal Beach not even a shadow of itself. And, Kay and I ended up not spending our birthday money.

Just so you’ll know, I’m saving mine for the Dollar Store. I’m buying a bunch of stuff I wouldn’t normally get. Peanuts from China, a box of Spiderman pencils, a tire pressure gage that whistles… stuff like that.

Either that or I’ll go back to IHOP for more football French Toast. And, coffee. They set the pot right there on the table. That’s wilder than wild.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Rooftop view of Bristow, Okla

A picture I took of Mom on the Bolivar Ferry. She looked unhappy 'cause she knew her picture was to be taken. She weirded up when a picture was to be taken. Like me.

MARK’S ARTICLE -- September 7, 2009
“Rooftop view of a small town”

ROOFTOP -- I’m telling you right now, if that cloud goes away we’re climbing down from here. I can’t believe it’s mid-afternoon and we’re on the roof. Wild and crazy is what I am.

One of earlier pictures of Mom and Dad.

I felt the need to get outside after reading Mom’s history. It was something we talked her into writing before she passed. Figured it would be so much easier to write than after she passed. I’m the one who thought that up.

I was re-reading what Mom wrote in research for the book I’m hoping to write about Dad. Dad didn’t leave a history. He died way too soon. No one thought to ask.

The reason Mom’s stories made me want to go outside is because of all the small town activities she wrote about. There’s something about small towns that make people want to gather outside.

Mom wrote of carnivals at the end of Walnut Street. There was a time when I enjoyed carnivals. That was when I was just a kid, too stupid to know better.

Having said that, if I lived in Bristow, Oklahoma, I would welcome a carnival. You really had to dig for fun things to do in that town. A carnival might give you another reason for prolonging life for at least one more day.

Mom said that a roller rink was set up at the carnival site. She didn’t mention if it was inside a big tent. I just assume it was.

Hey, look down there beyond the big oak. I can see Mom at the carnival walking with two of her sisters. Can you see ‘em? That’s part of the allure of the rooftop. Things come into focus so much better up here.

Mom (In front) and Paulene in California during the war. Dad was building ships.

See? There’s Paulene, Vera and Mom walking by the weird mirror thing. Each of ‘em has a candied apple. They’re about to—Beg pardon? Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to freak you out. If Big Al were here, he’d have pushed me off the roof long before now. Let’s move on.

Do you know what kids did on Halloween back in Mom’s day? She mentioned it in her history. They didn’t trick or treat, ‘cause it hadn’t come to Oklahoma yet. I believe a kid tried it in 1933, but it didn’t turn out well. Dressed up like a hula girl. What an idiot.

Anyway, instead of going door to door and begging for candy, the kids went budding. I had never heard of it either. Seems the kids would go to houses in the neighborhood and pick their flowers. That sure sounds cruel, but that’s what they did. Mom lived during some weird times with weird people. In fact, I fear she was one of ‘em. Once again, Bristow, Oklahoma. What are you gonna do?

Whoa! The cloud just left us. Tell you what, let’s move down to the lower part of the roof and get in the shade of the tallow tree. Here, let me help you. There you go. We’re on an incline here, but we’re safe. I’m safe. Your chair is still a bit tipsy. There, that’s better.

Of Thanksgiving, Mom wrote that after the big meal, the family went to the football field to watch the Bristow Purple Pirates play. I can’t believe they made high school kids play football on Thanksgiving Day. I imagine they only did it ‘cause televised pro football hadn’t been invented yet. Food alone is not enough to salvage Thanksgiving. There needs to be some sport involved. Preferably one with tackling.

Mom didn’t mention anything about chinaberry fights. I know they had ‘em ‘cause we saw plenty of trees during our summer visits with Grandma and Grandpa. I thought of the chinaberries ‘cause of the Chinese tallow tree here. Don’t pick the little green drupe thing. It’s—See, I told you not to pick it. It’s got that milky sap in it. Sticky as all get out, isn’t it? Well, I told you. No way can you have a good fight with tallow berries. You’ll end up a sticky mess.

No, we’ll climb down in a few minutes. You can wash up then.

Mom may not have mentioned chinaberries, but she did write about the birth of her kids. I mention it now, ‘cause it was the only part of her history where I was mentioned.

Mom said that Lynda’s birth was a real pain. Lynda was doing the feet first thing, and the doctor messed up one of her feet trying to straighten her out. But, the doc made a wooden shoe for her that he taped to her foot. The foot turned out all right.

Larry was born in the house. The doctor and his nurse came over and birthed him one snowy January evening right there on the table. Larry will tell you he remembers the experience, too. What a goober.

Susan was Mom’s best baby. She, too, was born at home with the Doctor and his wife present. Mom said that as a child Susan didn’t care if you held her or not. It was all the same to her. All I know is that when I came on the scene, Susan didn’t like for us to touch her. She’d knock the fire outta ya. Susan liked me before I could talk. However, here she's picking my pockets. (That's a joke, Sue!!) That's big brother Dennis sitting left.

Dennis was the easiest birth and the prettiest baby. Dad was actually the one who said he was pretty. Dennis was delivered by a chiropractor. The one kid with the least flexibility was birthed by a chiropractor. Try to figure.

When Jill was born, a friend of Mom’s put her in a yellow dress. A nurse carried her up and down the hall showing her off. Jill, not Mom.

Mom said she was talking out of her mind most of the night after Alan was born. I think that had a bad effect on him. I just do.

Of her number three son (that’s me) Mom just wrote, “Mark was born in a hospital on Jackson. He was coming feet first, but the doctor turned him around.” That’s it. That’s all she had to say. I guess the most important thing to note about my birth was the fact that I was the first Hayter not born in Bristow, Oklahoma.

You’d think that’d make me less weird. At least I don’t go around picking people’s flowers. Right outta their yards. That’s just mean.

Okay, okay, enough already! Go down and wash your hands. I’m gonna stay awhile and watch when Mom first met Dad. Mom and her girlfriend were walking down that dirt road right over there, and…

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