Mrs._Puff_(Doing_Time)

ARGH!


I guess you could call me SpongeBob.

If you’re not familiar with the show, one of its running gags is that SpongeBob is a terrible driver and has failed every single behind-the-wheel driving exam he’s taken, much to the dismay of Mrs. Puff. He’s even ended up inadvertently putting her in prison because of his poor driving skills. It’s a long story.

Anyway, you might recall my euphoria way back in July 2014 when, after studying really hard in the hopes of passing the written exam, I obtained my permit. That permit, despite a few restrictions, granted me the right to ride my scooter legally for one year and in the meantime, gave me time to schedule an appointment at the local DMV so that I could take my skills exam.

I did indeed take my skills exam in March 2015 – and I failed it miserably.

So here we are on July 28, 2015. I had scheduled my DMV exam a few weeks ago for this day, the day before my permit expires.

I’ll admit that it was probably a case of bad nerves that made me screw up the first time. I went into the exam with little to no practice and wasn’t quite prepared for it. But this time, I decided to do something much different.

Last Sunday I rode over to the local DMV to ride their test track so that I could get a good feel for it without being stressed out about it. They even left the cones out for some reason.

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I had the track all to myself to practice so I took advantage of it. After about 10 runs of the Serpentine Ride (weaving between the cones), I was confident in my ability. In fact I didn’t hit a single cone the whole time I was there so I was pretty happy about that.

Then came the Slow Ride in which you start in the right lane, ride around the circle at the end twice, then end in the left lane. That was a bit more challenging.

But after a few runs, I had figured out that if I didn’t touch my front brake, the bike wouldn’t suddenly stop and pull me out of the circle. (Riding on the lines is fine but going outside or inside the circle is an automatic disqualification.) Not only that, but if I throttled up at the last cone, the momentum would carry me about halfway through the circle. A few more tried and I had this one down perfectly.

With the Serpentine Ride mastered, I started the Slow Ride. Again, laying off the front brake worked wonders and I eventually got the hang of it. I was going to kill my exam this time.

I then came home and drew a huge circle – the exact dimensions, no less – in my neighbor’s driveway so that I could practice even more before today’s exam. I was going to pass no problem because I could now ride at least five times around the circle before falling out or putting my foot down.

My appointment was at 1:45 and I was ready. And because I had already taken it once, I had to pay a $7 re-test fee which I could have easily lied about because my previous DMV witness didn’t write my results on the permit as they are required to do. Had I known that, I would have probably told them this was my first time.

So I get in line and there was a guy ahead of me with his shiny BMW motorcycle who didn’t even acknowledge me, most likely because I was riding a scooter. Whatever, dude.

He failed the second he entered the circle when he put his foot down. He then complained that the circle was smaller than at the DMV office where he practiced. The DMV official wasn’t impressed.

“They’re all the same size,” he said as he marked the results of his exam on his permit. “Go inside and schedule another appointment.”

Off you go.

Then it was my turn and on boy, was I ready. The instructor was really cool and probably a rider himself with how he was speaking to me and the previous guy.

So how did I do? The Serpentine Ride was perfect. Flawless. Unbelievably simple. The instructor even gave me the thumbs up when I was done. Just one more to go and that M1 license would be mine.

I started the Slow Ride. In the right lane, no problem. Around the circle once, no problem. Around the circle again…problem. Watch what happens at 0:59 of the video.

No. NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

One more turn and I would have had it. I don’t know what the hell happened to make me swerve into the circle. I didn’t hit the front brake. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.

Whatever the case, the instructor let out a loud “OH NO!” the second I fell inside the circle and unlike my previous exam, he wouldn’t give me a second chance which I thought was kind of lame. My first exam, I put my foot down which is an automatic DQ but they let me go again. What does it matter if I drifted out of the circle for three feet this time? I was literally 99.5% through the exam and had only one section to go. Why not give me another chance or better yet, just pass me so I can get this over with? I showed him I could do this.

Nothing doing. He marked the Slow Ride a DQ. After all this practice, one minor mishap killed me. I was NOT happy about this because with my permit expiring, I now have to pay for and take the written exam again (already scheduled) and then take the skills exam again.

ARGH. Just unbelievable.

The good thing is that scooter riders aren’t exactly tops on the list of people to get pulled over. So I have that going for me for the next few weeks, which is nice.

The Daily Post: “Finite Creatures”


Fleetwood_Mac_-_TuskIn response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Finite Creatures.”

I’m trying something new today — I’m replying to a tweet posted by The Daily Post in which they ask, “At what age did you realize you were not immortal?” My answer to this one is as simple as it is complex and yes, it involves the album you see to the left.

It was 1976 when Dad passed away and I was a mere 7 years old. All I knew was that he was gone and “in heaven” or so I was raised to believe. (The whole concept death and Catholicism is something I won’t dare tackle in this post as I have very strong opinions on the matter. It’s a post, or even a blog, unto itself.)

Anyway, Dad was gone and my brother and I were actually handling it quite well, so well that it surprised everyone from relatives to our school teachers. We had each other for support and it definitely kept our minds off of things and in a positive state. There were tough times but we managed to make the best of them.

Three years later, Fleetwood Mac released their album Tusk which blew my freaking mind. A double-album, I listened to it from beginning-to-end-to-beginning-to-end and all over again. It was full of fantastic tunes including the title track, “Sara” and “Think About Me” but there was one track in particular that stood out and, to this day, still makes me relive my epiphany of which I remember every detail.

Side two of Tusk starts off with “What Makes You Think You’re the One” and like most of the album, it’s brilliant. My 10-year-old brain was digging the melody without giving the words much though. But then, while walking out of the Del Amo Fashion Center with my mom, through the parking lot to get to her brown 1977 Ford Granada and stepping over a red-painted and chipped curb with my blue Vans slip-ons, one of the lines hit me.

“What makes you think you’re the one? You can’t live without dyin’.”

The song is right. Dad was gone and one day, I will be gone.

And at that very moment, at age 10, I realized I was not going to be on this planet forever.

From that point, naturally, the questions began.

How long it eternity? What if there really is no heaven? What happens after eternity? When earth — the universe — eventually dies? Are we coming back?

They went on and on and eventually they nearly broke me. I had a seriously bad time when I was teenager regarding these questions and my mind just couldn’t process them anymore, so Mom decided that I needed to seek the intervention of Father So-And-So at church.

We went to the rectory. We had to make an appointment. As shaken up as I was pondering the questions of life and death and everything in between, they wouldn’t let me see him.

And that’s when my faith in Catholicism started to wane. Again, I won’t tackle it right now.

I’m now 47 and I’ve outlived Dad by 5 years. My son is 11 and I plan on being around for him a long, long time. While the questions surrounding my eventual demise still bounce through my head (and sometimes jolt me from a peaceful sleep), I prefer not to let them interfere with my daily life and do the only thing I know how to do: move on.

Unless Fleetwood Mac comes on the radio.

The Fever


mqnvjrihwvfxcsbbfwunThere’s an episode of The Twilight Zone titled “The Fever” in which a sensible woman and her curmudgeonly old husband – isn’t that always the case in TV? – win an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas. The sensible wife sees no harm in plunking down some spare change in the machine if, for anything else, just to have a little fun.

But her husband Franklin is against it and everything Las Vegas represents – until he catches “the fever” and starts to hear slots machines calling his name whenever they pay out. The machines get their way and eventually, Franklin starts to play them in the hopes that he will win the big prize.

He never does.

That’s kind of the way I was the other day when I took the family out to have some pizza for lunch.

The restaurant had a skill game called Barber Cut Lite, a game in which prizes are suspended from strings. In order to win, players must a) align the cutting mechanism properly so that it is inside the “scissors” and b) cut at the right time.

I don’t know why I had to try it but I did. It was probably that shiny iPad Air inside that made me do it, which makes no sense since it was only 16GB and my current iPad is 64GB. Why would I bother to try and win this?

Oh, that’s right. For $1 a play, why not? I could have a brand-new iPad for only a buck! This stupid machine just kept taunting me with that iPad helplessly hanging there, calling me.

And I eventually became Franklin.

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The first few tries were “so close” with me almost getting the string aligned with the cutters.

“Okay okay, now I have it. I have it.”

So I reach into my wallet and grab another buck. I put it into the machine, the music starts to play, and I make my move yet again.

This time I had it aligned and inside the cutters. Thinking it would cut automatically, I raised my hands in victory knowing I had defeated this stupid, stupid machine.

That’s when I realized that it wasn’t so easy. If you have the string aligned just right so that they enter the cutters, your next job is to time the cut properly. See, I knew it couldn’t have been that easy.

I had more singles in my wallet and tried again, knowing what I had to do. A few more tries later, I sure had it aligned properly but the cut came up short. Much like Franklin, I had to give it yet another try.

This continued for about another five minutes but they sure seemed like an eternity with me carefully watching the mechanism move from left to right, then forward, then the cutters doing their thing and missing nearly every time.

What makes matters worse? There’s a huge disclaimer on the front of the machine stating that the first cut may not break the string. In other words, you may spend a day just to get it aligned right but cutting the string may only weaken it. If you want to win it, you’d have to get everything just right all over again.

While I’m sure it’s possible to do it, by this time I had had enough and the family was starting to worry about my mental status. Besides, I had run out of dollar bills and ended up dropping 12 of them into this stupid machine. I’m sure if I had a few more left, I could have won that stupid iPad.

Or I could have ended up like this guy.

I’m on Bing Maps


About two months ago, I saw a Bing Maps surveyor and decided to follow it for a bit because I thought it would be funny to eventually see myself on the street maps.

Well, tonight I checked the maps to see if they had updated them. They did.

But first, take a gander at the video I shot and posted on Instagram. I always have my camera going when I’m on my scooter because you never know.

Now here I am behind the Toyota RAV4, sitting at the stop sign.

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I guess I should have waved at it for maximum effect but I didn’t even think about it. Oh well.

To see the precise location, click here. Note that you will probably need to view it in IE since Bing is Microsoft, Silverlight, blah blah blah.

Run the Runway


Okay folks, first things first. My wrist is feeling a whole lot better which means I can use a computer keyboard to write again. Granted, I would prefer to be in my corner of the den with my laptop but ah, it shuffled off this mortal coil months ago.

Secondly, my new glasses arrived today and I can see much better. Call that a two-fer. They will come in especially handy when…well, I’ll talk about that when (and if) it happens. So with all of that out of the way, let’s go.

I was at a loss as to what I should write about but in reality dang it, I had plenty going on but just got lazy. I let my social media sharing tell the brief story instead of giving a full report here. Case in point: the Run the Runway event on March 31, 2015.

The event was just as its name implied: you ran on a runway. It may not sound exciting if you aren’t a runner but you didn’t have to be one. Participants could walk or even skip if they so desired.

The whole point of this event was to celebrate the Grand Re-Opening of Runway R25 at Long Beach Airport which had gone thought a major renovation. And let’s face it: should you ever find yourself running the length of a runway, there’s a good chance you’ll either be pursued by authorities or be run over by an incoming plane.

But not at this event, which is why I thought it would be fun to attend. When else would I get this chance? Without being shot at or splattered?

The run itself was not very long. From the Start/Finish line to where the airport fire truck was parked only measured a half-mile and once you reached that point, you had to run back to the Start/Finish line. A solid mile for fun on a totally flat course – for free. Not bad. But even at free, there was still a line where participants – limited to 1,200 invitees – had to turn in their waivers and get their free t-shirt.

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There were also a few cool planes on display, including this one that flies to beautiful Catalina Island (a mere 26 miles away).

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And yes, there was even a sheriff helicopter that I soon discovered didn’t have a lot interior room. (This, by the way, will probably be the only time I’m ever in ANY helicopter. I’m not good at heights or small, enclosed areas.)

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Then there’s the runway itself, all shiny and pretty. Just imagine how it looks now only a few weeks later.

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It’s also not every day that you can get some interesting camera angles on a runway.

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Waiting for the event to start. This is when you get in some stretching and your preferred exercise tracking app ready.

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Once everything was cleared and the horn blasted, we all took off and being it was only a mile, it was almost over as soon as it began. I finished at my usual mile pace of 10 minutes which is by no means fast but definitely steady. There were no medals, only a commemorative shirt to take home and the bragging rights that come along with running across a tarmac with 1,200 other people.

All in all it was definitely a memorable event and one that we won’t likely see again in the near future. Thanks to all involved for making it spectacular!

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I’m smiling here, but I had to work the midnight shift later that night. Ugh.

Broken 


That’s pretty much how I feel after today’s unplanned visit to my doctor.

The tendinitis that’s been bothering my right wrist/thumb turned out to be a little worse than another doctor had diagnosed. I kind of figured that was going to be the case because the pain is still there and only seems to be getting worse.

In fact, this doctor — my on-again, off-again sawbones — did a much more thorough exam that included my squeezing his fingers and a lot of poking and prodding along the areas where I feel the pain. He confirmed that’s it’s definitely tendinitis and recommend a cortisone shot to alleviate the pain.

I’ll get it sometime. Today wasn’t that day.

Also worth noting is that the compression band I’ve been wearing on my wrist isn’t doing much good because most of the affected area is in my thumb. He suggested one that not only covered my wrist but thumb as well.

As far as the cause of it, he believes it to be a work-related injury because I can’t honestly tell you anything I might have done outside of work to bring it on. I’m 46 and my extreme sports days are far behind me (as if they ever existed) so he’s probably right. When I think about everything I do and have done at my job it’s easy to see how it could be the cause. Plus, throwing around 20-lb. boxes of frozen dough in the Bakery every night probably isn’t helping me. The job is very hands-on and physical with little time to take it easy.

In short, it has broken me.

Now the fun part. Because I’m in the Bakery, I’m constantly putting on and taking off gloves. It’s gotten to a point where putting a glove on my right hand is a painful experience, one that is repeated all night long. There’s no way I can get better if I’m doing this, plus wearing a compression sleeve on top of that. I haven’t even mentioned how many times I wash my hands in a typical shift (let’s just say it’s plenty).

And if it doesn’t get better then surgery could be in my future. Just what I always wanted! (Can you sense my sarcasm?)

If I get a doctor’s note that limits my workload, I really don’t know what I would be doing because everything in a grocery store is very physical. I know for sure that my current position would be out that’s since what broke me in the first place. Bagging and front end duties would also be impossible. I just don’t know, but I guess I’ll find out when I get a note from him on Monday. The only logical solution would be to get a less physical job and trust me, I’ve been looking but nothing is turning up. Even so, writing with a pen tends to inflame the injury, making it hard to do. Heck, even moving it in the wrong direction will make yell with pain. It’s no fun at all and makes me grumpy. We’ll see what happens.

I also found out I gained about 15 pounds between visits (about 7 years) so he wants me to work on bringing that down as well as getting some blood work done. I’m on it.

But there has to be some kind of good news amongst all this, right? Well there  is. I’ll just let this tweet summarize things.

So…there’s that.

Goooooodnight, everybody.

Composed on my iPad using the WordPress app and SwiftKey, because it’s not as painful as typing on a traditional keyboard 

Finders Keepers, Part IV


Whether I’m running or riding, I tend to find personal items that the owners would probably want returned to them. I find so many of these things that I’ve decided to create a subject that will be dedicated to the topic of my findings, herein titled Finders Keepers. This is the third installment in what will probably be an ongoing series of blog posts.

But before I go into the few details about yesterday’s find, let me refresh your memory on the three previous incidents:

  • First incident, date unknown (not blogged): I found a small pouch containing a phone and money. I was able to get in touch with the owner who then picked it up and rewarded me with a gift card a week later.
  • March 2012: I found a Blackberry and returned it to its owner.
  • January 2014: I found a wallet that a local branch of law enforcement refused to accept.

And now, yesterday’s find.

I was scooting along on my way to work when I happened to see something lying in the middle of a residential street. If it were a busy street I wouldn’t have risked trying to retrieve it since, well, California drivers. The good thing about being on two wheels is maneuverability: you’re small enough to lane-split (which I love more than I can express) and you can pretty much turn on a dime. That was the case here when I saw the wallet.

Once I spotted it, I turned around quickly and picked it up. It was all documented by my trusty HTC Re Camera which I attach to my helmet in case something bad happens and I need evidence. (As of now, nothing has and I delete all the videos later.)

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Granted, there was a chance that the wallet would be empty because hey, people throw stuff out and who knows where it will end up. But after I picked it up I looked inside in the hopes of coming across something that would indicate ownership. In this case, there was about $60 and two movie vouchers but no form of identification.

Bordering on being late to work, I picked a house that was adjacent to where the wallet was found and knocked on the door. No answer.

At that point I figured I’d hold onto it and figure out things later like posting signs around the neighborhood.

I threw the wallet in the storage compartment under my seat and shut it. Just as I started up the scooter, I noticed a girl – she may have been around 11 or 12 – frantically looking around her property while her dad was crawling down the street in his car.

If this was her wallet, it would have explained the absence of an ID inside. I opened my “trunk” and grabbed the wallet. As she darted across the street to her dad’s car, I looked over at him and held up the wallet. Their faces of concern turned to relief when they realized I had found it.

Dad opened up a dialog with me, thanking me for finding it and returning it. The girl ran over, thanked me, grabbed her wallet and got in the car, smirking and hanging her head in embarrassment. She would have had one bummer of a weekend without her sixty bucks and movie tickets so I was happy she got them back. I told them it was my pleasure; no thanks needed.

An aside: remember when $60 and movie tickets were all it took to make you happy?

Anyway, I once again did the right thing because it’s in me to do this type of thing. If I ever lose my wallet or anything else of personal value, I would hope that the finder would do the same for me. That’s just how it should be because the universe sort of has a way of paying you back for making it a better place. Yeah, it’s that karma thing again. But I’ve learned my lesson with finding money: just keep it.

So I was feeling very satisfied with myself knowing I helped brighten someone’s day. No doubt they will have a story to tell at school tomorrow when they explain that some scooter-riding dork wearing a helmet with the Flying Tiger livery found their wallet.

Still feeling high, I arrived at work where that buzz was shot down quicker than (I can’t think of anything so use your imagination). Not cool, universe. Not cool at all. As for what happened at work, let’s just say it’s been an ongoing issue and I’m making a call to my union representative in the morning to go over it.

In the meantime, it’s off to scour the usual job sites after I finish up this week’s Coursera lesson which I’m happy to say I’m sticking with.