Feeling Whipped

Starting the day off with something negative is never a good thing.

It was frustrating. I have been at this job technically since late October, but have really only been doing the job for a few months. In all that time you'd think that someone would have told me all the do's ad don'ts of the job right? If not all the do's, at least all the don'ts should have been up front and lying on the table in plain sight, right? Well, I guess not.

I don't like getting in trouble. Yeah, I know sometimes it seems like I go looking for it. I may let my guard down and occasionally do stupid things, but I don't go looking for trouble. I don't go looking for someone to antagonize or a situation where I just do something to see if i can get away with or not. I'm too old for that.

When I suddenly find out that something I thought I have been doing right all along is really a no-no it bothers me. I can't help but have it bother me. Like most males, I like people to believe I'm thick-skinned and I can take anything. The thing is, when I get it chewed out (in so many words) it eats at me. I was sullen all day. I just had an overwhelming feeling like I just wanted to get in bed and pull the covers up over my head. Couldn't someone maybe have bothered to tell me?

I felt like I had been set up for a fall. It's like being blindfolded and told to walk a curvy road that's littered with traps and pitfalls. Maybe everyone isn't watching me, but at least the one that blindfolded me probably is, and he's just waiting for the inevitable fall.

Yeah, I know I'm just being paranoid, but I can't help but wonder what else I'm doing wrong without realizing it.

Confirmation of the Suspected

It's unsettling when you get a dreaded announcement from a family member.  The announcement that a loved one's life is not only finite (which we all know anyway), but actually has an expiration date penciled in.

Very unsettling.

We've known that Jackie's husband, Gary, was not well.  He's had a series of unfortunate things that have happened to him in a short amount of time.  There was a heart attack one time, and most recently his spleen ruptured.  Who knows what kind of things have taken place in between.  Our family members have never been very forthcoming when it comes to that sort of thing.  We're not one of those 'news travels like wildfire' families.  We all know that he's been gaunt and losing weight for some time now.  The news of stage 4 lung cancer was no surprise, but the news that it had spread to other areas was not good news.  Brain lesions too.  I don't know much about the significance of that sort of thing, but I know our brains are encased in a hard shell for a reason.  They must be kept in perfect condition for us to function.

The outlook?  Not good.  If everything goes perfect he'll see next Christmas.  That's not very damn perfect.

When Jackie first sent me the email yesterday morning, I read it and sat in stunned silence while I absorbed it.  I was at work.  I re-read it a few times.  When you read something like that, it's 'hard news'.  It's not just talk.  When you stare at the words, it's fact.  I had to work pretty hard at sticking to my job after that.  I tried to push it out of my mind but it kept creeping back.  All day long it was orbiting around my brain--sometimes doing a pretty close pass.

Very unsettling.

I think what's going through my head the most is just an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.  It's like I'm on the outside of a room with my face against a window.  Even if I could get in I don't know what I would do once I was inside.  I stand outside with a false bravado, nodding and smiling and hoping that it helps.

What else can you do?

Sarah asked me last night if I was going to go visit them.  I told her, "No, the last thing they need is a bunch of people descending on them."  We saw them recently--maybe a month ago or so.  We'll go when we feel it's a good time.  The trouble is, Jackie and Gary live in a pretty isolated place.  Out in a rural area near Port Orchard is not someplace you just 'drop in and visit' like you do when someone is located nearby.  I'm pretty sure they moved there for that exact reason:  To gain some privacy.  That doesn't make things any easier on anybody on the outside of their household during times like this, but it may be exactly what they need.  They'll have physical privacy, but we're still all connected via email and phones.

I feel bad for Jackie.  I'm glad that she's a go-getter.  She's an active lady that's always doing stuff.  That sort of person generally has a better time at holding all the loose, frazzled ends together--no matter how overwhelming they may seem.  The bad thing is that neither of them are working, and their monetary worth is pretty much non-liquid.  They need to sell things--things that they have lovingly accumulated or created for their enjoyment during their lives together.  That's sad because it has to happen, and frustrating when it doesn't happen at the speed you need it to.

When you know somebody's time is short, it's almost worse than a sudden surprise exit.  The only advantage is that they have time to sign papers, tell stories, and sort things out.  Time to write the memoirs.

Three-Wheeled Thunder

Most people have never been inside of a Boeing factory.  In the buildings inhabited by Boeing employees you will hardly ever see anything that even remotely looks like a part of an airplane.  Why?  Because they are just tiny parts of the total picture that makes up the final product.  Yeah, there are some weird-looking parts and things out there in the aircraft manufacturing world.

But never mind that--that's not what this blog is about.  It's about the ubiquitous Boeing tricycle.

If you've ever been around a retirement community you've probably seen them before in the 'non-Boeing' version. The Boeing variety is virtually identical to the trikes that I used to occasionally see seniors struggling to pedal. The difference is that the yellow ones that Boeing buys are all 'heavy-duty' tricycles. They're manly, macho, and beefy tricycles.  Don't try to pigeonhole these trikes in with the garden variety ones that the oldsters ride. These babies have heavy-duty axles and hubs. Even their spokes are heavy duty--I'd say twice the thickness of the spokes found on a typical AARP-approved civilian tricycle. These babies are made to haul airplane parts.  Those childhood years of riding plastic Big Wheel trikes was in preparation of riding a real tricycle in adulthood.  A Boeing factory tricycle.

First of all, you can tell by watching them that they are not easy to ride.  I first noticed that years and years ago when I first saw senior citizens pedaling them.  They apparently only come in one gear: Too high.  Maybe it's for simplicity (less things to go wrong and less potential confusion from shifting).  All I know is that when you watch someone start to pedal away on one they really have to lean into it.  It takes a lot of power to get anything rolling when it's geared too high.  I don't know why they are geared that way to begin with.  Old people don't want to ride fast, and industrial plant workers can't ride fast.  It's against the rules.

I'm pretty sure I saw my first Boeing factory cruiser well before I ever went to work in the Everett plant back in 1998. I was a regular shopper at the now-defunct Boeing Surplus store.  Boeing Surplus had a long-running history in our area and had achieved a somewhat 'cult status' as a place you just had to visit if you're ever in the Pacific Northwest.  I don't recall ever seeing a trike for sale in there but I do remember these kind of bicycles for sale from time to time when they had exceeded their useful life.  They all had the same extra-heavy spokes, they were all yellow (with various custom tidbits like tape, stickers, and gadgetry brackets added), and they all had that gaudy, heavy steel plate attached in the center.  The plate had the organization or 'owner' welded onto it.  Yes, welded wording.  How macho is that?

What made me think about writing about the Boeing tricycle are my observations of the riders while I'm at work.  If it were legal to take pictures inside of a Boeing plant I would have some video or snaps of them, but that sort of thing is strictly verboten.  I'm not about to jeopardize my job over something stupid like taking pictures when I'm not supposed to.  (The pictures in this blog post were gleaned from the internet.)

There's probably a rule somewhere about people painting them because I only see them in yellow as I've said already.  One area I do see a lot of variation is in the cargo area of the trike.  Some have baskets on the front, some on the rear, and some have both.  Some have platforms, some have a mounted large, wooden box resembling a pickup truck.  I think they all have thumb bells (you know, the 'ching-ching' kind) on the handlebars.  There is one of them here that has a flashlight mounted on the handlebars.  I've seen them with number plates on the front--apparently pretending they are riding their racing motorcycle.

How cool can a full-grown person look while riding a tricycle?  The riders come in all sizes, shapes, and manner of dress.  After all, take a large assortment of people, each with their own 'brand' of fashion, their own unique body shape, or their own individual 'look' and put them on a Boeing tricycle.  They all look the same: Out of place.  Picture a guy with a gray ponytail, Harley-Davidson t-shirt (also ubiquitous at Boeing), and work boots struggling to pedal one of those bright yellow babies.  Then you have the opposite end of the spectrum.  I little-bitty lady sitting astride one and trying to get it moving.

What really clinched me wanting to pen this phenomenon was watching what they do while riding them.  Their body language.  Their interactions with their fellow workers.

The other day I watched, amused, as a couple of trikers going opposite directions stopped next to each other.  You could tell they were trying to 'work' it.  In their minds they were astride rumbling Harleys or sitting in bright, shiny, classic convertibles talking to each other.  Their body language had that cocky one-handed lean on the handlebars with the body shrug going on.  I wasn't close enough to hear what they were saying, but they had that, "Whassup  Howzit goin' Yo" thing going on.  I could tell.  It was an interaction of vehicle cool.  It was like a Fonzie thing.  You could see them change modes as soon as they were within eyesight of each other.  Another time I watched a guy do a cool U-turn maneuver   While there is really nothing cool about making a U-turn in general, the way he coolly whipped his body and leaned in while he did it portrayed a very high level of 'check me out' cool.  I was instantly jealous.  It was masterful.

Culinary Abstract

Here in the US we lead a sheltered life.  We don't seem to care where our food comes from.  We only care that it's in a nice, clean, see-through package with nutritional information on it.  We don't stray too far off the beaten path when it comes to our ingredients either.  We like our predictable, ordinary vegetables, our ordinary meats, and everything else that same way:  Ordinary.

What about what's ordinary for other people that live in the US?  People that came from somewhere else?  If you want to experience such a thing, just take a leisurely stroll through an Asian food store.  Pick any of them:  Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese--it doesn't matter.  They are an adventure.

I recently spent some time in a market in Kent, called the Hong Kong Market.

You can find a lot of cool stuff, interesting stuff, weird stuff, even good deals.  For example, if you use a lot of crushed red peppers (the kind you sprinkle on your pizza for all you ordinary people) you can buy a huge bag the size of a small pillow for only $3.99.  If you thought you knew about seafood--think again.  There had to be 30+ varieties of fish and other seafood there--many of them still alive and swimming in big tanks.  I recognized maybe 3 or 4 of them.  What's impressive is that they don't come from anywhere near here and yet here they are, all gathered together for your shopping enjoyment.

Want a snack?  How about lobster-flavored chips, or shrimp chips?  No?  Maybe octopus instead?

Have you ever wondered if you're getting enough protein in your diet?  Maybe you need some insect supplements.  Cooked to keep them from running off your plate.

The produce section held some real wonders of the vegetation world.  Actually, they looked more like arts than eats.  Some of the shapes, sizes, textures, and coverings that I found were very confusing to me.  Do you eat the outside?  The inside?  Do you bake it?  Blanche it?  Skin it?  Maybe you dice or julienne pieces of it to put in your bug stew.  I dunno.  I only know that they were pretty interesting-looking.

The variation and complexity of those plant products will keep you puzzled.  I admire the people that first learned of such products.  Can you imagine?  You're walking through the woods or whatever--and you find the weirdest-looking thing you've ever seen growing on a tree or a vine.  What's the first thing you're going to think?

"Hmm... I wonder what this tastes like."

Maybe it was a dare between two guys.

"I'll give you two muskrat skins and a half a coconut if you eat this."

Then if the guy didn't die it was probably okay.  If he did die, you learned what not to eat, and you got to keep your muskrat skins and coconut.  Win-win!

I'm not sure if this "seaweed salad" is something that I'd ever even try.  Something about the color and translucency of it remind me of something that should be in a fish tank at the pet store.  It does not look like salad to me:

And now, if all of the weird stuff you found in the store weren't enough, and you still wanted that perfect "something" to go with your fermented snail nectar, how about this?  At least it's truthful labeling!

Bon Appetit!