Monday, May 22, 2017

Fire Drill

When I was about 9 years old, we lived in a big two story house in Hutchinson Kansas. My father worried about us being able to get out of the house if we were upstairs and there was a fire. He bought a long rope, tied big knots in it every 12 inches, and then tied it to the bed post next to the window. He had us practice throwing the rope out the window and then using the knots to climb down to the ground.

My 7 year old brother, Chuck, and I thought this was enormous fun.

In the summer, the neighborhood kids would roam from yard to yard unencumbered by the fences that are so common now. One summer afternoon while my mother was at the house next door, the neighborhood swarm of kids ended up at our house. My mother came home to find my brother and me along with half a dozen other kids conducting fire drills by climbing out of the upstairs bedroom window and going down the rope.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Neighbors

One time I had a load of seed corn to deliver to a grain elevator out in the middle of nowhere Kansas. When I got there, I couldn't find anyone around. There was no one at the elevator and no one at the house next to the elevator. The only other house anywhere around was a small house across the road. I went over and asked the nice old couple sitting on the porch if they knew what was going on.

According to them, the guy who ran the elevator lived in the house next to it and had probably just gone into town. They expected him back soon and invited me to join them on the porch while I waited.

I spent the next couple of hours drinking tea, eating homemade cookies, and chatting with Henry and Martha about their grand-kids. When the elevator manager finally returned, I thanked them for their hospitality and walked across the road to get my truck unloaded.

Jim, the manager, apologized for making me wait, but I said, "That's OK, I had a nice time chatting with Henry and Martha across the road." He explained that Henry was the elevator manager for more than 30 years and was forced to retire when he turned 65. He said, "Henry was really upset about being forced to retire. He and his wife haven't spoken to me since I took over for him."

Here were two nice families who were neighbors living out in the middle of Kansas, 20 miles from any other people, and they weren't speaking to each other.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Car Bargaining

About 6 years ago, Lan's car was due for replacement. It was almost 20 years old and parts were starting to become hard to find. One afternoon when we were coming back from the market in Sunnyvale, we decided to stop at the Ford dealer.

They were having a sale on the Ford Focus, Lan likes small cars, so we thought we'd check one out. We talked with a salesman who took us for a test drive. We didn't like the Focus at all, but decided to have some fun.

We went into the salesman's cubicle where he started the car salesman's pitch. He told us we could buy the car for only $19,800. We countered with an offer of $18,900. He went back to the salesman's secret room to, "Check with his manager."

When he came back, he said we could have the car for only $19,500. We countered with an offer of $18,200. Every time he came back with a new offer, our offer went down another $500 or $600. After a few iterations of this, he said in frustration, "You can't bargain that way!"

We said, "You bargain your way and we'll bargain our way."

When we got back to our car, we both burst out laughing. We didn't buy a car, but we had a lot of fun bargaining.

Title Company Fun

When you buy a house, the last step involves the Title Company. Here you have to sign-off on about 20 pages worth of disclaimers and warnings before turning over your cashier's check and getting the deed .

The last time we bought a house, the Title Company's charge was $1,600. Lan and I decided that we would try to get our money's worth.

Most people quickly scan the documents and just sign each page in a process that usually takes about 20 minutes. For us, it took an hour and a half. We read each section carefully, discussed what was meant, and asked the Title Company rep, Megan, for clarification on each point.

When we got to the bottom of each page, there were two places for signatures. As we had planned, Lan signed first and then I signed below her signature. After about an hour of this, Megan was starting to get visibly annoyed. When we neared the end, she turned to me and asked, "Why does your wife always sign first and then you sign below her?"

"Isn't that the way everyone does it?"

The look on her face when she realized how we'd been messing with her was almost worth $1,600.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Bottled Water

A few days ago, as I was leaving Safeway, I saw a pony-tailed, gray-haired man take 2 empty 5 gallon water jugs from the back of his Volvo station wagon. He put them down in front of the "Pure Water" vending machine.

I watched as he put one of the jugs in the machine, put his quarters in the slot, and started filling the jug. I went over and offered to show him where his water was coming from. I directed his attention to the water faucet that was about a foot from the vending machine. It had a copper line that branched off the faucet and went to the back of the machine dispensing "Pure Water".

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Jeep

Dave Marsh and I went through almost all our army training together including Officers Candidate School. When we finished OCS, I went to Intelligence Officers school and Dave went to Helicopter Pilots school. We both ended up in Vietnam at about the same time.

When Dave got out of the army, he went home to L.A. and bought a new yellow Jeep CJ5. He took the Jeep from the dealer's showroom directly to a shop in L.A. that specialized in Jeep engine swaps. They replaced his Jeep 6 cylinder engine with a Chevy V8. At the same time he installed four wide tires on alloy rims.

About a year later Dave was on his way to Indiana when he stopped in Aurora Neb to say hello to my parents. My mother was blown away by Dave's yellow Jeep with the Chevy V8, wide tires, and loud exhaust. There was nothing like it around there and she thought it was the coolest thing she'd ever seen.

In 1972, Jeep came out with a factory V8 option for the CJ5. My parents bought a blue one about a year later with a roll bar and a black top. I bought them a set of wide wheels and tires to make it complete.

My mother just loved that Jeep. Guys would stop and stare as she blasted by with her gray hair flying under the roll bar, a big smile on her face, and the Jeep's top safely at home in the garage.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Heading Out

I pulled into the yard, parked my car, and went over to my truck to start a trip from Omaha to California. It was just before dawn and a crisp 20 degrees outside. I unlocked the truck and put my suitcase in the storage compartment under the sleeper.

I raised the hood, checked the oil, scraped the ice off the windshield, and then climbed up into the cab to start the engine. The Cat engine had manual glow-plugs on each cylinder that had to be warmed up before starting. Once the cold engine started, it rattled like a fuel dragster waiting at the starting line.

I turned on the heated mirrors to clear the ice and got back out to do my safety check. I went around the truck to check the tires, springs. and lights. I checked the refrigeration unit on the trailer to make sure it was maintaining the correct temperature.

Once I was sure everything was good, I closed the hood and got back into the cab. I brought my logbook up to date, verified the load manifests, and headed out.

I put the 13 speed transmission into 1st gear and eased my way out of the yard into the street. The oil in the transmission was still cold and stiff so I double clutched very deliberately as I worked through the lower gears.

Once I go onto I-80, the engine had warmed up to where almost all you could hear was the whine of the turbo through the twin stacks. The transmission was shifting smoothly as I made the last shift into 13th gear and got the truck up to 70 mph. The Kenworth tractor, the big Cat engine, and the 45' Utility trailer were all now working in sync.

Another potential adventure had begun!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mormon Baiting

Galen and I were both headed south on Interstate 15 en route to Los Angeles. About 50 miles north of St. George Utah, I got on the radio and told him that with his help, we could mess with the minds of the Mormons in St. George. That town had a number of people who had nothing better to do all day than listen to their CB radios.

When we were a few miles outside of St. George, I got on the radio and said, "Hey Galen, what's this I keep hearing about some moron table-knocker choir here in Utah?"

"I don't know. Why would anyone want a choir of morons anyway? And what's with the table knocking?"

That's all it took.

We could hear St. George Mormons ranting about those stupid truck drivers almost all the way to Las Vegas.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Skankware

When I worked for Cisco, the company had layoffs almost every six months. During one of those periodic purges, my friend, Chin, our resident user interface expert, was laid off. He had been volunteering in Santa Clara county schools for many years and used those connections to get a teaching job in one of the Cupertino high schools.

Chin taught remedial math to students who had previously failed the course. In one of his early classes, many of the girls came to class wearing what he called "Skankware." He came up with a creative solution to this outbreak of inappropriate classroom attire.

He made himself a pot of hot tea, put on his wool sweater, and turned the classroom thermostat down to 55 degrees. After 3 days , the "Skankware" problem was solved.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Word Games

I grew up with well-educated parents who relished verbal sparring. This, combined with my voracious appetite for reading, helped me develop an extensive vocabulary.

After my freshman year of high school in San Anselmo, CA, my parents moved us to Pawnee City, Nebraska - population 1300. The high school there was not noted for attracting stellar teachers. Many of the school's teachers came from the nearby Peru State Teachers College.

In this school, I would occasionally exercise my vocabulary in a quixotic attempt to stave off boredom. Once, after I had completed a particularly complicated verbal gymnastics routine, the teacher, who was also the basketball coach, said in frustration, "You think you're pretty eruditic, don't you Kunkel?"

"The word is erudite."