Hello Again

Huh. It’s a blog post! Considering my last one was in December, I thought I’d write another one and try to be better at it. I said try, folks.

In said post I had mentioned that COVID cases continued to surge. That’s no longer the case as more and more people get vaccinated and numbers are actually dropping. As a result, the state has entered a lower tier and restaurants are starting to open for indoor dining, stores are allowing more customers in their doors, and gyms are welcoming back the resolutioners that haven’t thrown in the towel yet.


I have acquaintances posting family pics at Mongolian BBQs. Ann has friends who couldn’t wait to get smashed at local bars and posting selfies of their exuberant debauchery.


Perhaps I speak for myself when I say that we’re still in the midst of a motherfucking pandemic and it’s still way too soon to be getting shitfaced at Moe’s Tavern or be slurping udon with your family in a restaurant.


Anyway…

(Update 3/25/21: I learned yesterday that a family on our street — known to have had plenty of social gatherings during this pandemic — all came down with COVID after one of their drunken soirées because one of the members was unknowingly exposed and spread the virus. It cost one of the eldest members his life. Worth it?)


I haven’t been shot yet because I do not meet the state’s criteria of being a fat…uh, morbidly obese nor do I fall within the age range of being 60+, work in field that puts me at risk, or have any underlying conditions that put me at a higher risk of dying from COVID. Damn you, you healthy stinking body!

Ha ha. Sucks to be you, I guess. Go eat some oranges you healthy sucky-suck.


Frankly I have a greater chance of getting hit by cars while out for my morning walk/ride – and it’s already happened more times than I’d like to mention.

The family hasn’t been vaccinated yet either for the same reasons I’ve stated although they do have asthma and one is a cancer survivor. (Ann is now two-and-a-half years of being what the doctors call “unremarkable” and still exceeding all the -ologists expectations!) My mom has gotten both shots and in-laws have had their first dose. My brother got his today although I suspect he, as he always does, stretched the truth to get it. I mean…there’s a history of that and all…

And when we finally do, don’t count on any post-vaccination selfies. Because.


In a post last May I had mentioned that I was going to write a three-part blog series called The Days of Wine and COVID with Part 3 being called The Return to the Office (ala the J.R.R. Tolkien books which I did read, thankyouverymuch). While I got through Parts 1 and 2, Part 3 isn’t happening any time soon. My employer continues to monitor the state’s situation and will follow those guidelines when the time comes although we are at no obligation to ever return to the office. While I do miss being around some coworkers, being home has proven to be a viable alternative to the typical workday. We’ve gotten just as much done at home as we would have at the office and I have much more freedom to do what I need for the family. I miss the location of the office and my coworkers but this is just too easy.

So aside from all that, what’s new?

I’m down 20 pounds. I started to track my weight when I got my Wyze scale last April and weighed in at 237 lbs. Holy, holy fuck. I’m currently at 217 and working on reaching 25 pounds lost by this April. So far this year I’ve logged 500 miles between daily walking and cycling with the occasional rest days. Change is always possible even in the most adverse of situations so don’t give me the “But we were in lockdown!” or “The gym was closed!” excuses for weight gain because I did this during lockdown and never set foot into a gym. You want it? Find a way and work for it.


I’ve joined some virtual challenges. With running events being on hold indefinitely, virtual runs/walks have become more popular. I’ve completed several Conqueror Challenges and have set a goal reaching of 2,021 miles this year so with 500 miles in the books thus far, it’s gonna happen by October. As of now I’ve earned 5 medals and they are soooo cool.


L-R: Mt. Fuji (46 mi.), Mt. Everest (40 mi.), Giza Pyramids (46 mi.), Grand Canyon (280 mi.), St. Francis Way (312 mi.).

New iPad Air. Stimulus money be damned! I got a 2017 Nissan LEAF EV last July and Ann realized on the last day of 2020 that I qualified for a $1,000 rebate, so I hastily submitted my application with the appropriate paperwork and got approved a few months later. Once I got the check, I used a portion of it along with some cash I had saved up for this specific purchase and some Amazon gift cards to get the iPad and an Apple Pencil 2 (required for newer iPads). That said…


Y’all wanna buy some stickers? Part of the reason I got my new iPad was to be creative and draw more regularly. I had one of my drawings of Milhouse Van Houten made into stickers and my first batch is up for sale on Etsy. I’ve sold a total of one but will have more on the way.


NOBODY LIKES MILHOUSE!


We’re growing stuff! No, not that stuff. After a year of being home, we decided that having a garden would be fun so we used our existing planters and any empty areas in the backyard to plant a bunch of stuff: onions, pumpkins, peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, etc. It’s been a lot of work but so worth it. This is just a small part of it.

Green goodness!


Fresh eggs are comin’! I eat two eggs every day for breakfast, so I thought hey, why not have fresh ones? I have a chicken coop coming and once it’s built, I’m getting a hen. It seems we’ve turned into city farmers – maybe even hippies with my EV – and it feels kinda nice picking what we need from our backyard. And no, my hen isn’t going to be on our plate one day. She’s going to provide the eggs and be our pet, and we’re looking forward to having her.


And that’s pretty much been life since December!

Another DMV Visit

As some of you may know, I haven’t had much luck in passing my motorcycle skills exam. In fact, I’ve failed it twice (and you can read the reasons why both here and here).

But today was different. I knew I was going to pass it and with flying colors. Or so I thought.

I took some time off of work to squeeze in my DMV appointment and still managed to get in some hours once I was done. And you know what? Even though I had a scheduled an appointment well in advance and only had to take a simple skills test, I accomplished absolutely nothing during my visit.

Here’s how it all went down.

But first, this. Now that I’m on two wheels, parking at the DMV isn’t as bad as it used to be. There are designated areas for motorcycles and more often than not, they are empty. And now that the other local office is going under refurbishment, the traffic at this particular location is ridiculous – if you’re in a car. As for me, I whiz right by the lines of cars waiting for parking spaces and pull into the motorcycle spot. It’s like nobody is there.

That’s until you get inside.

Anyway, once inside, I was directed to Window 30 since I already had my appointment scheduled. When I finally got helped, it started off rather painless. I told the clerk why I was there and handed him the necessary documents: my permit, registration, and proof of insurance. Simple. I’d be done in to time.

But then things hit a snag.

The clerk was carefully inspecting my proof of insurance and registration. Just when I was about to ask if there was anything wrong, he spoke up.

“Do you have any other documentation on your bike,” he asked. Why would I? What more could you possibly need or, in this case, what more would I need to carry on my bike in the event I ever needed any of it?

“No, I don’t. Why?”

He took off his glasses.

“Look at the VIN on both of these. They don’t match.”

Say WHAT?

I grabbed them both and, using those keen proofreading skills that got me out of that grocery store job, read them both. They matched until I got to the last six digits.

“…oooh. I see,” I said. The VIN on the registration was correct. The insurance? Although the make and model matched mine, the numbers didn’t. He then spoke again and, considering I’d taken some time off work to get this crap done, gave me news I really didn’t need to hear.

“Unfortunately, I can’t let you take the exam if these don’t match.”

But I can see his point. Technically, I had no insurance on the bike which obviously doesn’t go over well with them and at this point, I started to feel like one of those seedy people I see waiting at the DMV because it was almost like I was trying to pull a fast one over on him.

Okay, I get that. But wait. Remember I said that this would have been my third time taking the exam? I thought about this after he told me I couldn’t proceed. I got a *little* bit agitated once I figured things out.

“So wait. You mean to tell me that I took the exam twice already with the same documentation and nobody noticed anything?”

It’s obvious that the previous two clerks who let me take the exam weren’t exactly dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s. Then again, I wouldn’t expect anything less from those who work at the DMV (much like the USPS or any other government agency).

The clerk began to apologize as I tried to remain calm.

“And I can’t check anything right now because our computer system is down,” he said. Hey, now there’s a total surprise – their system was down. “But if you want to wait about 15 minutes…”

I’d had enough – and was annoyed. “No, I don’t. I already wasted a day of work. I expected to get something done today but I guess not.”

He handed me my registration and insurance card and I began to walk away, but not before he called me back to tell me I had forgotten my permit.

At that point, I almost told him to keep the damn thing. But I’ll get to that later.

So I gave Ann a call once I left the building and told her to double-check everything with Big Insurance Provider to make sure it’s kosher. (Since the annual premium on the scooter is so cheap, we pay it in full.)

After I hung up with Ann, my mind started going again and I thought of two more things. First, if I had been riding since July 2014 and never changed any of the information on my insurance, it seems to me that the premium we paid was going toward covering some else’s scooter. Right? This sure wasn’t my VIN on there but when entered on the Big Insurance Provider’s website, it comes up as the same make and model as mine. Really weird. I guess we didn’t think twice about it and could be partially to blame for this whole mess.

That, or Big Insurance Provider screwed up. I’ll go with that.

Second, being I had the wrong number on there, I had technically been riding all this time without insurance. But hey, at least I was permitted, right?

Ahem.

Once I got home, there was an email waiting for me from our provider with my new insurance card attached – the one with the correct information that I had relayed to Ann while I was still at the DMV. I printed it out, stuck it under my seat, and rode to work.

So now, after all that, I have to schedule yet another appointment to take the exam and hope that I pass it just so the state can add two little digits onto my existing license: M1.

Now, about the dismissal of my permit at the DMV. I have been in the market for a new bike for some time now and have gone to a few different dealers. I struck up a conversation with a salesman at the last one I visited on Monday regarding all the BS you need to go through to take the exam and its overall difficulty.

“A buddy of mine rode for nearly 40 years without an M1 license before he finally took the exam. And he didn’t pass it,” he told me.

At my current age of 46, I don’t intend to be riding (or for that matter, still breathing) when I’m 86. But considering what a mess this whole examination process has become, riding without the endorsement is beginning to sound like a good idea.

After all, this dude did it for almost 40 years. And that would mean one less DMV visit I’d have to make.

Legit

Well, it’s official: as of today, I’m a permitted motorcycle rider according to the wonderful state of California.

Permitted but not licensed. I will get that one I pass the skills exam, the behind-the-handlebars test that shows the DMV that I can skilfully navigate through a row of five cones and a “lollipop” course, both scenarios that drivers routinely encounter on a daily basis here in the Golden State.

I’m being facetious, of course.

But yeah, anyway. I had been reading the official handbook and studying for the written exam off and on until I got a good idea about what the test might include. Once I believed I had learned enough, I went online to schedule an appointment to take the written exam.

That was a week ago. I now had a week to make sure I knew my stuff, so I then started taking some online quizzes that are supposed to be very similar to what the DMV administers. I took them over and over this past week plus studied the handbook in PDF format. And while you get three attempts to pass the exam, I wanted to be done with it on the first try, hence my endless studying.

And people, I did that. I fell asleep countless times with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 on my lap, the screen still displaying the page where I left off. For that week, I did nothing online at night. I wanted to get this exam done and over with.

Well, today was the day I made it happen and like most Californians, I despise dealing with the DMV. Even with an appointment the place is always packed with not just people who need to be there, but also their entire families complete with screaming kids. And, at least to me, most people there seem to be shady or of criminal intent. Call me crazy but that’s just how I feel. It’s a perfect environment for taking tests for a legal document that shows you know how to drive.

Fortunately, freaky people and families aside, my process turned out to be painless, probably because a) I had an appointment and b) I filled out my forms properly. That said, I don’t think the appointment expedites things as much as correct paperwork does. It makes the otherwise miserable DMV employees a bit less stressed when they are dealing with someone who is competent.

The good thing about going to the DMV is that the average person doesn’t have to go there more than maybe a dozen times in their life and usually there are years between said visits. At 45, I’d wager to say that I’ve been there maybe a total of six times for exams and behind-the-wheel tests. I couldn’t tell you the last time I was there but I do know that when I took my exam, it was on paper.

It’s not like that anymore. The DMV now uses touchscreen monitors which I think is an attempt to not only cut down on paper use but to also discourage cheating. The exam questions are no longer numbered as they used to be on paper so there’s no real way to cheat. They could also be completely randomized as far as I know, and your incorrect answers are shown immediately after you touch the Submit button.

But I didn’t know this when I started taking my first exam which was the standard driving test that I was required to take for some reason. I answered the questions and didn’t know if I was getting them right or not until, finally, I got one wrong. I missed only one question on the driving exam.

Then I started the motorcycle exam. This was it and I was nervous.

I read the first question and chose my answer: it was wrong. Ugh. I was screwing this one up already. That sort of set the stage for the rest of the exam with me taking my time with each question, pressing the Submit button with my face wincing as if in pain.

The exam seemed to go on forever with me missing a few here and there. I think I was up to about five wrong answers when I started to feel the pressure. I didn’t know when it was going to end when finally, after what seemed like Question 5,742, I submitted my answer.

There was a message on the screen congratulating me on passing the motorcycle exam. I took a deep breath, pumped my fist, then finally smiled. It was over, and I can finally ride without fear of being pulled over. Because, you know, police are always looking for guys on scooters to bust for exceeding the speed limit.

I walked over to waited in another line to turn in my paperwork for approval. The clerk congratulated me, I had my picture taken (it’s 1,000x better than my Class C license, back when I was a 300-pound gastropod), and I was done. She then told me I had a year to schedule my skills test which gives me some time to get even more used to riding. I’ll wait a bit to schedule that one.

In the meantime, I’m just happy to have gotten this far and that my endless nights of studying paid off.

http://instagram.com/p/rDVZ7JDQpm/

Composed on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 using the WordPress app, because the laptop was too cumbersome for me tonight.

(Un)employed

It’s official: I’m no longer unemployed.

This was the result of about a week of inquiring, calling, and probing a cashier at our local grocery store with questions relating to the store’s current employment status. Finally, after all of that and finishing with my interview today, I can say that I have job.

The cashier in question is one that loves Anthony to pieces and always talks to him whenever she helps us. One day after she rang us up, I asked if she knew if they were hiring. She said that many, many people had recently left and that there should be some vacancies. I slipped her my business card and told her to give me call when she found out.

I never got that call but, after dealing with this craptacular day last week, I went straight to said grocery store and asked the Manager On Duty if there were any positions available. She told me to call the manager the next day and talk to them, which I did. My interview was scheduled for today at 1:00 pm.

I was pretty much told I had the job before I even had a seat. The manager also said that I was overqualified for the job but after telling them I needed a change, they didn’t seem as intimidated by my professional experience. I filled out a few forms, took the drug test right there, and now I await the results. Provided I pass (and I’m sure I will), training will begin the following Saturday.

And that’s that. As for my last blog post in which I was obviously ticked off, I feel it was definitely justified and my feelings pretty much remain the same toward everything I mention in that post. In fact, I might have a little more spite for the EDD after reading this story which claims that 90% of calls go unanswered. I can tell you that after trying to get a hold of them for a simple question, it sure seems like they don’t answer. They are practically impossible to reach.

Oh, and Congress? I may be starting a new job soon but you still suck more than I can put into words for ruining peoples’ lives by not extending unemployment benefits.

It may be part-time and minimum wage but considering the time it took to find something and ultimately get the job, Ann was more excited than she was when I got a job paying 3x more. It’ll be tough but I’d rather survive on a little than worry about when Congress makes up its mind about EDD extensions – and get nothing in the meantime.

The Disneyland VIP Experience

To paraphrase the Walt Disney quote, it was all started by a text.

On Friday afternoon, Ann received a text from longtime friend Colleen (pseudonym). She said she was in town for the week and had a question for her: would you and the family like to join us at Disneyland on Saturday?

We immediately thought, “With what money?” Ann got another text explaining that it was complimentary. Then another stating it would be 100% free. With every text, Ann asked if this would cost us anything.

The conversation ended with Colleen texting, “Ann, I don’t play.”

She also mentioned that it wasn’t just a trip to Disneyland. Colleen had booked a VIP Tour Guide for the duration of her family’s trip. For those who don’t know, a VIP Tour Guide is a Disneyland Cast Member – they wear a blue-and-red plaid vest – who escorts celebrities and other dignitaries around the Park so that they can get immediate access to all attractions.

Meals would also be included. We would pay nothing.

Our jaws dropped. In this, the third day of the new year, we’re getting some incredibly awesome news. This was bigger than getting my picture printed in the newspaper. Big, I tells ya.

Ann confirmed that we would go then asked about parking.

We would park in the valet of the Disneyland Hotel and charge it to Colleen’s room. Well, okay then…

Ann called Colleen ahead of our arrival so that she could meet us at the hotel. By the time the car was taken by the valet attendant, she was waiting for us.  She said that her family was still eating breakfast and asked if we could wait which is exactly what we did. Once finished, we met them outside the hotel and wandered over to Disneyland.

It was a horrible trip: maybe a quarter-mile walk through Downtown Disney. The Monorail, adjacent to the hotel, could have taken us but it was down for temporary maintenance. I wasn’t complaining.

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