Back to the Tooth Doc

It's been a long time since I went to the dentist. I'll blame my insurance.  It couldn't be my fault.

See, the way my previous employer worked, the employee benefits were in a constant state of flux. Every year, without fail, the medical and dental benefits were reevaluated to see if a dollar or a nickel could be saved. I never knew, from year to year, what changes were in store for us the following year.

Case in point: I had finally found a dentist (that's him above) I really liked and he was reasonably close  here in the Covington area.  I think I was able to visit them twice before the end of the year came, and wouldn't you know it? My insurance changed and that dentist office was no longer on the 'approved' list. Sure, I could have gone in regardless but what I really needed was sure to be something spendy like a new crown or repair, and I wasn't about to do a crown unless it was maximum benefit so my outlay was minimum.

Now I'm at Boeing and I get to go back!  Good thing--I needed it.  The previous visit was a long time ago.

I came out of there last night with a pretty good overall score.  They could tell I had been flossing (for a change), and that's good.  While nothing has rotted on me, there is definitely some work to be done.  I guess I'm pretty much past getting cavities... Now my teeth just basically break, chip, crack, and other varieties of structural integrity failure.

That dentist is as good now as I remember them all being two years ago (or however long it's been), which is a very good thing.  Besides, doesn't that picture give you the warm fuzzies?  Don't you want to go to the dentist now too?

Black Bart: Part 2

First of all, read the previous post if you haven't already.  It introduces you to Black Bart and chronicles my drive to Oklahoma City.

Unfortunately, due to my neglect and recklessness, Oklahoma City turned out to be Black Bart final resting place.

Like many people that join the military, I was feeling my oats and I was aching to get out on my own.  I was tired of being under the rule of my parents.  I longed for the day when I could do anything I wanted to do with no grow ups watching over me.  I was longing for some 'get into trouble' time I guess. You know--teenage boy time.  Sometimes I'm surprised I survived.

It seems like I have had always gotten into trouble with cars.  In my first two years of driving I got stopped by police quite often.  I never seemed to get a ticket though.  It may have had a little to do with the size of the town, or maybe it was because whichever cop that pulled me over happened to know my dad.  I don't know.  My job at Karl's Chevron in Auburn may have helped too because they had the contract to service the Auburn police cars.  Whatever the reason, that luck didn't follow me when I left town.  Within the first month of my arrival at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City I had gotten one ticket for speeding and one for reckless driving--both on base.  Those two tickets totaled 9 points, putting me 3 points over the line and placing me into mandatory remedial driving class.  The reckless driving ticket was kind of funny really because I got it while stopped.  I was cruising through a housing area on base (20 mph speed limit) and for whatever reason a little puddle of water in an intersection caught my eye.  I must have been really bored.  I stopped with my rear tires in it and started doing a power-brake burnout.  The tires had just started smoking good when I heard woop woop.  I looked in the rear-view mirror and there was a cop--sitting right behind me with his lights on.  I was busted at that point, so I just let off the brake and finished the burnout, rolling to a stop a little ways ahead.  I must have been a pretty oblivious kid back then.  He was probably behind me the whole time.

There is something about driving that always clicked with me. I have always been one of those guys that, when behind the wheel of a car, almost had a sort of symbiosis with it.  When I am driving a car, it's like I feel the car. I notice the way it feels when I corner or brake or accelerate.  I feel the little things about the road surface and the car both.  Some of the moves I make tend to seem reckless to other people.  When I was younger my driving skills were constantly being tweaked and improved. I wasn't content to take a corner fast and call it good--I wanted to know how fast I could take the corner.  I wanted to know my limits, and I wanted to know my car's limits.  I was learning laws of physics (inertia, momentum, gravity, etc) by the seat of my pants.  Trial and error.  I had my share of spin outs and other boo-boos but they just added to my experience.  I like to think I might have had enough ability to have been good at racing, but I know I lacked the focus and determination that such a thing requires.  Oh, and money--there was none of that either.  I was in it for fun.  Most of what I learned about aggressive driving was learned while driving Black Bart.

The car was powerful, it was fast, and for a big car handled great. After all, it was a cop car, right? Sure, it didn't handle as well as something newer and designed for handling would have, but I think it's safe to say that it probably handled better than most cars did in its 1961 model year. It was a cop car. It had to.  I learned to do 4-wheel drifts through corners. I learned how to do a reverse turn (when you go fast backward and spin the car around without stopping).  Black Bart taught me how to steer with the gas pedal.  I pushed the car far enough into (and past) its limitations that I learned what I could and could not get away with. I did things with that car that many young men (okay--boys) only dream of doing. Many of the things I did were not very conducive to keeping the car healthy either. Slightly airborne while racing on dirt roads for instance.  (By the way, the picture above shows the left rear damage that was caused when I lost the wheel on the freeway in Part 1.)  I managed to blow yet another rear end out of it during my time in Oklahoma, but that might have more to do with the first replacement being an unknown junkyard item.

I didn't have a huge circle of friends there at Tinker Air Force Base, but the ones I did have were pretty good ones. Not many were good drivers though. Tom had a white 65 Mustang. It was a quick enough car all right, but Tom was no driver. He eventually ended up buying a screaming fast Plymouth Duster and sold his Mustang to me, but that's another story.  Wendell had a 67 Corvair with a 327 V8 in the back seat. While it was seriously fast (it hardly weighed anything), it was fraught with problems and treated a little more respectfully. In other words, it was not a "daily driver".  I believe it was Wendell who first coined the name 'Black Bart'.  There were plenty of guys with fast cars but not many that really put them through the paces like I did. The only one of my friends that ever gave me any serious competition was Ken Shelly in his 68 Pontiac GTO. He had a lot more muscle in his car than I did, but my low-slung cop car could easily out-maneuver him. He was also a good driver.

Some of my fondest experiences where playing "cat & mouse" with friends. All it took was for someone to decide (for whatever reason) that we were collectively going somewhere else. It didn't matter where we currently were or where we were going--we just loved to turn it into a competition.  It was one of those 'last one is a rotten egg' things. You know, "Race ya!" To the cars we'd run. Most times there were at least two of us in each car. That's just the way things always seemed to be.  I remember one time when I was getting off a highway cloverleaf, going from the upper roadway down to the lower one. Ken was behind me, and as usual we were playing.  To aid in my eluding him I cranked the wheel hard and took the car off the road and down the grassy slope--seriously cutting the curve and putting me inside the loop of the cloverleaf. I knew he would never take his car off the road and into the grass like that.  I was wrong.  To my surprise he didn't bat an eye and stuck behind me the whole way.  Sometimes nothing but driving skill or luck would lose him.

Actually, one of the funnest experiences I ever had in that car had nothing whatsoever to do with speed or recklessness.

There were four of us out this one particular day. We had left the base to go out to John's place and catch a little buzz after lunch. Afterwards, we were headed back towards Oklahoma City when one of the guys in the back seat started whipping his upper body forward and backward in a straight line as far as he could. Then the guy next to him joined in--both in perfect unison. They got the two of us in the front seat to join in, and pretty soon the four of us were in perfect sync, bobbing our upper bodies forward and backward wildly as we drove down the road. The street was a 35mph main drag that consisted of two lanes going in either direction with a turn lane in the center. I was driving, so that made it a little harder because of the steering wheel. Actually, the very act of driving while all this was taking place was hard.  Imagine the looks we got. Here were four guys wearing matching Air Force fatigues and hats, doing this wild, forward & back motion while going down the road in a resurrected 15 year-old cop car with huge windows. All the while we wore expressionless, deadpan looks on our faces and stared straight ahead. We could see the stares out of the corner of our eyes though, and there were plenty of them. We even kept it going when we were stopped at traffic lights. Great fun! That was one of Black Bart's best moments.  I wish we had YouTube then!

One time four of us were headed out to the northeast corner of the state for a weekend canoeing trip and we got pulled over for speeding. (Imagine that!)  I was sitting in the front seat of the state trooper's car while he wrote me a ticket. He was making comments about my beloved black cop car as he wrote.
"Is that thing even safe to be on the road?" he asked as he looked up at it momentarily then looked back down and continued writing in the ticket book.
"It'll probably outrun this Plymouth." I said, not caring what he thought about it.  I was already in trouble.

Another example of blatant vehicle abuse came one day when me and Ken decided to have a pushing contest with our cars out in the middle of the barracks parking lot. I carefully eased Black Bart up against the rubberized nose of Ken's GTO. When we got the signal from whoever it was that was there with us, we both floored it. Amid screaming engines and smoking tires, Black Bart steadily pushed Ken's car backward. When we let off the gas I found my throttle to be stuck and had to shut the key off to stop it. Ken parked his car and got out laughing his ass off.  When I got out and opened the hood to unstick the throttle I was surprised to find the engine sitting at a slant! Obviously, my antics caused the motor mounts, already weakened from age, to break completely apart.  With nothing to hold the engine in place, the torque took over and tried to spin it.  I'll bet it would have been interesting to see while it was happening.  After I freed up the throttle linkage the best I could I started the engine back up. With me gently playing the gas pedal while in reverse and a friend prying with a 2x4, we got the engine popped back into position.

I started to neglect Bart and it slowly spiraled downhill.  The wheel covers were probably the earliest casualties.  Over time they ended up coming off during driving stunts, and at some point I removed the remaining ones.  Although that made the car start to look a little more like a beater, it also had a kind of a stealth car look to it.  It had an almost evil "Get out of my way... I've got nothing to lose" look to it.  The paint ended up getting touched up with spray cans here and there, and wherever that happened the gloss was gone.  The fact that I lived in a barracks building didn't help either because there were limited places anyone could wash a car.  Over time I ended up adding to the cars that I owned, and that caused Bart to get more idle time and sit in the parking lot collecting road dust from passing traffic.

One day I came back to the barracks after being out partying with friends.  At that time I had four cars, and the three that weren't being driven were always parked on the outermost row of the parking lot, facing the street so they were out of the way.  I don't remember if I went to swap cars or went to get something out of one of the other cars, but I saw something was in the windshield of Black Bart.  I got in the car and across the whole top of the dash was a long piece of cardboard with a scrawled message across it that read, "Why not stick around?"  Apparently, my parents had dropped in during a vacation trip.  Remember, that was before cell phones.  I had no idea they were there.  I contacted the motel they were staying at, but they had already checked out and gone the day before.  That was strange to think that my parents had driven there from Washington state to visit me in Oklahoma City and never saw them.

One night I had driven Black Bart to a party at someone's house off-base.  I don't know what exactly (or how much of it) clouded my judgement, but Tom asked to borrow my car to go get some beer or something and I mistakenly let him take it.  Someone else went with him, but who it was isn't important.  A couple hours went by.  Tom finally showed up--without my car.  He said he got stuck or something out at Draper Lake.  I was mad obviously, because he was going to a store.  Draper Lake was a man-made reservoir that was surrounded by miles of fun, curvy dirt roads.  We liked to race and have fun on them and we all knew them well.  The next day a couple of us went out to retrieve my car.  When Tom led us to it, I found it straddling a 3-foot deep ditch with its oil pan bashed in.  It started right up, but sounded bad for obvious reasons.  After all, the crankshaft was spinning against the oil pan.  It also had no oil pressure--again no surprise.  In retrospect, I should have towed it.  I could have taken off the oil pan and fixed it right where it was.  No, I was stupid.  I jockeyed it off the ditch and drove it all the way back to the base.  I don't remember how far it actually was, but 'm surprised it made it.  It was sounding pretty bad and starting to overheat.  When I shut it off it stopped turning instantly.  No wind-down.  I basically killed my beloved Black Bart by stupidity on multiple levels.  Yes, I could have fixed it, but I had other cars to drive.  Instead, I called a roll-truck to come and get it.

I argued with the guy that picked it up and managed to get $35 cash out of him.  Regretfully, I watched my poor car go down the road.  I had let him down.

Black Bart had personality.  Black Bart was one-of-a-kind.  And his spot light even still worked.

Black Bart: Part 1

I have had a lot of vehicles in my life.  This is the story of one of them.

Just Bought
It was 1975 when I first saw Black Bart, although he had yet to be named.  May or June I think it was.  I had just completed my 8 months of Air Force electronics training in Biloxi, Mississippi and was home in Auburn for a visit before going to my first real assignment at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City.  I was sitting on the front steps of my parents' house, drinking a beer and pretending to look cool.  Because Auburn High School is practically across the street from their house there is constant activity to keep your attention.  Anyway, I was watching people and cars go by, when all of a sudden a beautiful older black & white Ford Galaxie drove by with a 'For Sale' sign in its window.  I raced into action, grabbing the keys to whichever of the cars I had nearby at my disposal, and raced after it.  Maybe it was the 20mph school zone or maybe it was the heavy traffic in general, but whatever the reason I did manage to get a glimpse of it while it was still visible way up the road.  It was one of those things like you see on TV where every time I turned the corner I could just see my prey turning a corner onto another street way up ahead of me.  After playing that game for several turns I gained on it enough to see which alley it drove into, and I drove up behind it just as the guy was getting out of the car behind his house.  It turns out it was only $150!  What?!  SOLD!

Exploded Differential
It was beautiful.  It was a 1961 Ford Police Interceptor--exactly like the one they used in The Andy Griffith Show in 1961 (their show was sponsored by Ford so every year they got a new model).  The car had no dents or problems of any kind.  It had a 390 engine and 3-speed automatic and ran smooth as silk.  The spotlight even still worked!  The doors were not as shiny as the rest of the car.  They were originally white and had been painted black to match the rest of the car when it was sold to the public and they had oxidized somewhat.  It had a slightly stained area on the roof where the red "gumball" cop light spent its useful life too.  True to form (for me anyway) I broke the car right away.  I blew the rear end out of it not two hours after I bought it.  It may have had something to do with me doing a burnout at the gas station I used to work at (being a guy = showing off).  I put a junkyard replacement in it the next day and a few days later headed down the road for Oklahoma.

Rest Stop
I've always loved driving, but I really didn't know what to expect when I hit the pavement on my first ever solo road trip.  I took freeways when I had to, but for the most part I stuck to the old concrete highways of yesteryear.  I still love those roads!  At one point on my trip (somewhere in remote Colorado I think) I ran out of gas.  I was young and hadn't yet learned the 'when the gas gauge hits the 1/4 point start looking for a gas station' rule.  I ran out just shy (maybe a quarter mile) of the top of a mountain pass.  I remember that because I was high enough that the road was enveloped by clouds.  I immediately shut it off and coasted to a stop.  I let it sit for about a half hour, knowing that usually you can get an engine to fire back up after it sits like that.  When I decided enough time had passed I put it in neutral, turned the key, and slapped it into drive the instant the engine caught.  I think I just managed to clear the top before it died, and I coasted.  And coasted.  And coasted.  It was a long, long downhill, and believe it or not I finally coasted to a stop several miles later on the turnoff to a gas station, stopping about 100 yards from it.  Can you say lucky?

I wasn't so lucky the next day when I lost a wheel.

The old cop car had a "poor man's cruise control" under the dash, consisting of a t-handle that was hooked to the throttle linkage.  When you were going the speed you wanted, you simply pulled it out to take up the slack then turned it to lock it.  I was on a freeway heading east outside of Amarillo, Texas.  I had the "cruise" pulled out and was running about 85.  I was sitting with both feet across the seat like you would lay sideways on a couch and was leaning against the door, steering with one hand.  Suddenly, I felt an odd wobble.  I quickly swung my feet back to the floor and released the throttle lock, taking full control back.  I had no sooner did that when it wobbled hard and--BANG--the left rear wheel went flying past me, bouncing and rolling at 70+ mph.  The jolting bang was instantly followed by a nasty grinding noise as the part of the car that was previously filled with left rear wheel only a moment before tried to cut a groove into the asphalt.  When I tried to stop, the brake pedal went all the way to the floor.  I knew at that point that the brake drum was still attached to the wheel.  With no brake drum for shoes to contact they just expanded all the way out when I pressed the brake pedal.    Nothing to do but let it come to a stop all by itself.  When it finally did stop and I could survey the damage I was a little upset.  Not that the wheel had come off, but that in doing so it bent the whole left rear quarter panel of an otherwise pristine car outward while it was making its exit.  What had actually happened?  The axle literally broke off flush with the housing, and the wheel and brake drum were propelled forward like a slingshot by the weight of the car rolling over it.  Like I said--the wheel actually passed me when it launched.

It took me a while to find the wheel.  The freeway was two-lanes in each direction, with wide shoulders, a wide grassy median, and no guardrails of any kind.  I was lucky the wheel didn't hit anybody, but traffic was pretty sparse if I remember correctly, so the odds were in my favor.  The car had gone quite a ways with nothing to slow it down but steel digging into roadway.  By the time it finally came to a grinding stop there was about an inch of steel gone from the bottom of the brake backing plate that the shoes are attached to.  The shoes were shot (more like half missing) also.  Not much to do but hitchhike.  A guy gave me a ride and I had him drop me about 2 miles up the road when a gas station came into view.  This was before the days of mini-marts--it was a real service station.  I went inside and explained my situation, throwing my usual humorous slant on things.

"This may sound funny, but do you know where I might find an axle for a 61 Ford?" I asked, fully expecting laughter.  After all, we were out in the middle of nowhere.  I don't think I got laughter though.  Instead, he pointed across the freeway.

"You might try [whatever his name was] place over there.  I think he's got an old Ford around there somewhere."

The gas station was on the corner of an actual intersection on the freeway--not an on-ramp.  Right across freeway, equally in the 'middle of nowhere' was some sort of repair garage.  Believe me, these two businesses were the only things for miles in any direction.

I made my way across the freeway.  I can't remember much about the place, but the guy had a tow truck and there were vehicles scattered here and there in various stages of repair and/or dis-assembly.  I walked up to the only guy I saw there, and hit him with pretty much the same thing as I did across the street.

"The guy across the way said you might know where a person might find an axle for a 61 Ford." I said, trying to sound both hopeful and sure of myself simultaneously.

"I think I got a 62 around back," he said, "Let's go take a look."

He was probably chewing on a piece of hay and wearing overalls (okay, probably not really--I can't remember that much).  We walked around back and it was literally a mini-junkyard.  Tall grass and nothing much had moved in or out in a long time.  When I saw that 62 sitting there in the weeds I was ecstatic.  I gave it a look over and told him it was indeed what I needed.  I explained my predicament to the good ol' boy.  He went out and fired up the tow truck.

"The inside dually on one side won't hold air no more, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem." he said.

I was fine with that... After all--I was already way ahead in the good luck department.  We hopped in and drove it up the freeway.  Because it was a freeway we had to go past it to circle back, and I remember seeing how forlorn it looked sitting there on the side of the road at a strange angle.  He hooked up to my car and towed it back to his shop--driving reasonably slow because of only having three of his four rear tires with air in them.  When we got back, he dropped it in front of his shop then went around back and lifted up the old 62.  Imagine his surprise when I popped the trunk of my car and I donned my personalized white coveralls!  On the back, in neon orange and outlined in black, I had airbrushed 'Willy', my nickname in high school auto shop.  I had all the tools I needed to do the job and got right to it.  I was able to remove all the parts I needed--both small and large.  When I was finished, he dropped it and drove back around front and picked my car back up.  Because the axle had broken off flush I couldn't get it out, but that's okay:  He knew just what do do.  He fired up his arc welder, got a good welding arc going on the broken end of the axle, then just stuffed the electrode (that's the stick that arc welders use that deposits the metal as it melts) right into it--extinguishing the arc.  For folks that don't know, what that does is basically fuse the electrode right into what ever you stuck it to.  He just casually unhooked the electrode holder from the end of the electrode that was stuck to my axle and turned off his welder.  He then bent the electrode and gave it a good yank.  The axle shaft popped right out.  Nice!  I installed all the transplanted parts from the 62 Ford (which were absolutely identical to the 61) and he set it down and unhooked me.  I asked him what I owed him--expecting the worst.  He was amused.  He made some comments about me having those custom coveralls and my own tools, and doing my own work.  He charged me $30!  I couldn't believe it.  I still can't--even now.  That was one nice guy.  In retrospect, I should have given him more, or at the very least, taken down his name and address.

The rest of my trip was uneventful.  Even given the time I lost running out of gas, the 6-hour breakdown when I lost my wheel, and two nights of sleep, I arrived at Tinker Air Force Base in record time.  I left Auburn, Washington, at 9am on Wednesday, and was in Oklahoma City somewhere around 11pm Friday night.

I must have not paid much attention to the speed limit signs...

Next:  Black Bart: Part 2

The Man Outdoors

I was sitting in a nice, warm cafeteria on the second floor, eating my sandwich. It was stormy outside, and i was glad to be indoors. I had just finished reading a story (Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck if it matters) on my iPad. I leaned back and looked around. Next to me, rivulets of rainwater caught my eye, cascading unnaturally fast down the outside of the window glass. The windows must have been treated or cleaned with something that made water bead off them like silicone. It made the water speed downward quickly.

I looked across the way. Outside the next building over, three floors up, was a window-washer. I watched him for a while, watching and thinking about how nasty it was outside.

Just because it's raining cats and dogs outside doesn't mean outside jobs don't get done when they have to.

I don't have to tell that to the man standing in that little steel cage at the end of a boom lift. He held a long-handled window squeegee in his hands, methodically sweeping it up and down, side to side. No doubt wearing waterproof winter clothes, he's probably one of those guys that considers his glass as half full. Glad to be alive. He probably tosses little 'isms' around in his head as if to give credence to being on what many people would consider to be "the wrong side" of the wall. Maybe he's thinking such positive things as:
"It's pretty warm outside for this time of year."
"I love being outside on a day like this. It makes me feel alive."
"Mmm, the air smells good out here today--fresh from the rain."
"Look at those people inside that office--stuck sitting in their chairs all day long. Probably stressed out about some kind of report or deadline. Poor suckers."
He probably knows all the right things to wear and all the right ways to wear 'em. He probably has the art of layering down to a finely-tuned science. Wearing his brightly-colored safety vest, he was probably indifferent or uncaring to the additional layer of wind proofing that it affords him. Most likely a job requirement, he wears it because he has to.

Who knows, he may have aspired to be a window washer just so he could operate a boom lift. Looking through little boy's eyes, I can see him riding his bicycle down a cracked and uneven sidewalk, zig-zagging back and forth and doing wheelies off the broken edges of concrete. Occasionally he would loop way out to roll his tire over an empty can or some other crushable object. Suddenly, he rounds a corner and there it is: A brightly-colored boom lift with a man in the basket at the end of the long arm. It looked like he was a hundred feet up in the air. He was enthralled as he watched the man, rising and falling, sweeping back and forth as he pressure-washed the flaking paint off the dull yellow building, each time hearing the motor of the lift whine as he did so. The boy thought to himself, "Wow, that is the coolest job ever! I want to do that when I grow up!"

Or, I'm totally off the mark and he just got hired as a general laborer.
Boss:  "Hey Joe, take the boom truck over to that building and clean the windows. Don't give me any crap about the rain, just do it."

Whatever. I was just romancing the water running down the outside of the window.

Non-Events of Epic Proportions

A milestone of sorts went by uneventfully this week:  My first Boeing paycheck.  Well, sort of a paycheck.  Well, the first one since 2001 (when I got laid off from Boeing) anyway.

It went by uneventfully because physically it was a non-event.  There was no actual paycheck in my hand--it's directly deposited into the bank (hence, the 'sort of' paycheck remark).  There was no creditor waiting there behind me with an outstretched hand turned palm-up, waiting for me to place some cash onto it.  On Thursday there was not a single mention or acknowledgement by anyone around me at work that it was payday.  I guess when you get paid as much as they do and never actually hold a paycheck in your hand it becomes a non-event.  Still, I mentioned it.  "Hey, today is my first paycheck!" I said aloud to no one in particular.  I don't think anyone responded.  No, I may have gotten a murmur or two.

It was a great feeling to log onto the pay system at Boeing on Wednesday and see all of my pay info already up for me to peruse, even though payday was the following day.  They put a PDF file of the complete electronic 'pay stub' there for me to read, print, or save if I so desired.  Nice feature.

All this time I've been biding my time at work, earning money for doing not much of anything.  I have been getting things set up, and meeting some learning and access requirements, but not much of anything really constructive.  When I left them yesterday I bade them farewell until December.  I'll be going to classes in the South Seattle area for the rest of this month.

I'm getting more comfortable around everyone there.  Although I've been there for three weeks, the Two-Week Rule applied to me there just as I thought it would.  That was when I found myself becoming more tuned-in to the 'goings-on' there and found myself talking more to people.  I found myself being involved in conversations instead of just overhearing them.

I'm getting cubicle things in order too.  This week my phone was installed, so now I can order my Friday pizza from Papa Murphy's.  My name-plate showed up yesterday too, so now I actually have an identity of sorts.  I also got a visit from a gal from the Boeing Ergonomics department yesterday, and got myself a new chair, keyboard, and trackball ordered.

Like I told Suz a while back in a text message:  "Hear that?  That's the sound of things clicking into place."

Flushing Facebook

I've been a member of Facebook for what seems to be a long time.  I checked and the date I joined was August 17th, 2009.  At the time, Facebook was well on its way to super stardom.  Everybody was getting on board and wondering what all the fuss was about.

Early on, I was leery.  I resisted for quite a while.  I had been a member of MySpace in its heyday, and it turned to total crap in a very short time.  It ended up being riddled with a mass of blinky crap, and links that led you to viruses.  As I said--I resisted Facebook for a long time but I eventually got caught up in it.  It was different than MySpace because it was instant.  Everything you posted on Facebook was practically like you were there in the same room as the other people.  You would hit the enter button and BLAM--it was instantly on someone else's screen if they happened to be looking.  It was fun.

We didn't care that our personal space was in jeopardy because they knew what we were doing, and we could see what everybody else was doing.  It seemed to be justified somehow.  It didn't matter then that people knew when and how long you were online and that they could see what you were posting about other people.  It was entertainment, sharing, and even like having your own private detective that could track people down.  It was amazing!  Here you were--able to connect with people you hadn't communicated with since who knows when?  Wow!

Sometimes when I would connect with someone from my past, I'd feel all warm and fuzzy for a short time, then reality would hit me:  Why did I connect with them?  If we were really friends we would never have lost touch to begin with.  Other times I would request to be 'friends' with them and never hear a peep back.  I would wonder WTF?  I would be miffed for a short time then in no time I'd be over it.  What the hell--they weren't real friends anyway, right?  Coincidentally, it took about the same amount of time to get over that as it did for the new 'friendships' to become uninteresting.

I only reached out to touch them because I could.  Not because I wanted to.  I wanted to see what they would say.  Maybe I thought they would hold their arms wide open like a long lost relative.

I look at all my local friends that are on Facebook and do I share anything meaningful with them?  Hardly ever.  An email would be much more personal and to the point.

I watch other people that will post something just to cause trouble.  Antagonistic trolling seems to be their M.O.  If they can stir up some trouble within their circle of 'friends' then their meaningless lives are somehow more complete.  In the meantime I see the ripple effect that such crap causes and I hate it.  Why?  Because Facebook has just made it too easy for them.  If nobody was listening to the drivel and stupid comments that spew forth from their keyboards they wouldn't feel complete.  Because there are 'friends' in their Facebook circle, there is someone "listening" to them any time they log on.  People like this cause a lot of trouble, and everyone in their wake is constantly having to do damage control.

Then there are the times when something just plain goes wrong.  Someone means well but a voice inflection is not there to clarify their point.  People get upset and it spawns a whole new pile of grief and reactive communication while they're trying to sort the mess out.  When its all said and done, it should have never happened in the first place.  But it did.  Because Facebook made it too easy.  Again, damage control needed.

Then there is the Big Brother syndrome.  Does anyone really ever stop to think about how many people that are not even in their circle of 'friends' have access to their lives through Facebook?  It became more apparent to me when I was job searching.  Stories of people that lose their jobs because of a Facebook post, or those that were denied a potential job because of the overall "flavor" of their Facebook pages.

You know what else angers me about Facebook?  The way "Like" has taken over the internet.  Every single time I have to wait for a website to load you know what the last item to pop up is?  The item that the webpage was waiting for before you could actually scroll it around and use it?  It was the stupid little line that says, "Like us on Facebook".  Try watching for it sometime.  It's not always plain to see, but if you're scanning the page while waiting for the activity icon on your browser to stop turning, most likely you'll see that little Facebook addendum pop up to complete the page load.  Apparently, it has to get that line of code from the Facebook mother ship.

Screw it.  I'm done with Facebook.  I downloaded my entire history of posts from them and my account of 3+ years is closed.  I encourage others to get a life and do the same.  I just feel it's time to get our lives back to the roots.  That means meeting face-to-face, calling on the phone, and sending an email when you need to.

It would cause their lives to be a lot less dramatic.

Twiddling for Now

It’s weird being employed at Boeing again. It’s been years since I was here last, and yet—it’s the same culture, the same friendliness, the same group mentality--the same place it was last time I worked here. And I’m only two buildings away from where I worked when I was laid off in 2001. It’s kinda weird how many familiar faces I've run into. When I walked into the place on my first day I knew both of the guys sitting there in the first couple of seats, and they remembered me too. I've since seen quite a few people I know from back in the day--a few of which even remember me.

I was telling Sue a few days ago, “Here I've only been working there a little over a week and I've already gotten a free backpack and two t-shirts.” Well, now I can add something else as of today: a free, full-course prime rib dinner with dessert. One of the guys here went over the 30-year mark, so Boeing bought he and his group a catered dinner. He also got to bring his wife. Apparently, you get to choose from a listing of meals, and he chose prime rib. Good choice, Bill.

It’s been weird sitting doing “not much of anything” for two solid weeks. It’s not that I don’t want to do anything--I do. Trouble is, I can’t until I've completed the required three training classes, and they don’t start for another week. They will take two weeks to complete, so I won’t even be able to even attempt to do my hired job until the first of December. Even then it’ll likely take me a good year to actually gain some measure of competency. The first day I was there they found me a spot to sit and handed me a bunch of boxes. My new computer system. Putting my new computer station together was a pretty fun way to start the day actually.

What have I been doing? I've been setting up the many software applications and shortcuts that I’ll need to do my job, and getting the required accesses that I’ll need to run them. I've been learning about and signing up for the savings plans, medical and dental plans, and all that kind of stuff. I've been watching Boeing videos, reading Boeing stuff, and basically web-surfing Boeing. Sure, I can surf outside of Boeing from there too but I’d rather keep things on the straight and narrow. After all, the Boeing web is huge in itself. There is lots to explore and learn. I've also been taking web-based courses here and there--some of which are required, and others not. They all go on my training record though, and they’re all legit and good resume’ material. There are also lots and lots of good videos to watch.

It took me a few days to get over this overwhelming feeling of guilt that I had for just sitting here at my desk in the middle of all these people that were doing their jobs, just twiddling my e-thumbs. After a week or so, I heard the same thing from enough people that I finally relaxed a bit. They all basically said, “Hey, you've got another two weeks of doing nothing, so get used to it.” It’s almost like punishment.  Maybe it’s my hazing ritual. No, it was just a matter of dates. I had to wait for the next class opening.  They all went through pretty much the same thing.

I was lucky I got in when I did. Hiring every year ends at the end of October. Nobody gets in again until the first of the year. I barely made it, as did a couple other newbies in our group. I feel lucky about the timing of the whole chain of events that led me here. I was telling Sue the other day: If any one thing had gone differently I probably would not be employed there right now. Believe me, it feels good to have full benefits for me, Sue, Sarah, and even Keith at no cost. Who can argue with that?

I wonder what free stuff I’ll get next week?