Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tired, Sore and Still Kind

My husband Allen and our friend Louie are up under Louie's monster RV trying to whack life into the rear jack. It won't retract. That jack is stubborn. Like Louie.

He refuses to quit until he's master of that jack. And that jack resists change. It wants to stay down, flush with the ground here at Padre Island National Seashore, in southeastern Texas. So Louie and Allen (mostly Louie, shown in the picture) whack it, knock it, wrench it and yell at it for hours. Allen offers some supplies, runs to the hardware store for more and gets his  hands a bit dirty in the meantime.  But it's mostly Louie under there, straining, pushing, shoving. 

Now, there's another guy here. I don't know his name. But he looks like Santa Claus on vacation. He has a white beard and white hair. He offers a crowbar, but that's it. He plants himself in a chair and stays there.  Watching. Oh, he offers an  "atta boy" from time to time and he sips his water and reads his book. But he doesn't get up to help.

He sits there and lets Louie do all the work.

He moves his  chair around to stay out of the sun, using the shadow  thrown by Louie's  motorhome to shade his throne. But he doesn't offer a hand to help. He lets Louie do it all.

After hours of strong-arming the jack (and a few calls to a certified technician), Louie (alone under there by now) finally wins, and cranks the now subordinate  jack back up, with us cheering and hydraulic fluid squirting into his hair and down his arm.

Success. And Louie slides out from under there. And now, it's clean up time.

I hand the lazy Santa man his crowbar and he won't touch it. He moves his chin down and his eyes up and  says, "Is it clean?" 

Is it clean???!!!!

I walk away with the crowbar in disbelief.


This man sat in the shade for hours, quenched his thirst, fed his mind while Louie worked furiously on the ground,  got drenched in sweat and hydraulic fluid , cut himself, scratched himself, scraped himself. Stretched his muscles to the breaking point.


I walk over to Louie and hand him the crowbar. "He won't take it," I say, nodding toward the Lazy One. "Until it's clean."

"Oh," says Louie. "OK." 

Then this man, worn out, bleeding and sore, walks over to the spigot, and cleans the crowbar without complaint. Without judgement. While I stand there. And let  him do all the work.

Immediately, I hang my head in shame. Why didn't I clean it? Why did I hand more work to this man who's  overtired and stressed.

Because, I realize, I was too  busy complaining about the Lazy One to see how lazy I had become.

Today's lesson: Matthew 7:3: "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Salve for my soul

My lips are sunburned.

I push that thought to the back of my mind because I'm in church at the Island in the Son United Methodist Church on Mustang Island (in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Texas) and I need to focus on the Lord. And I need to be kind to the friends who brought us here by being polite. Being proper. Church-lady like.

I'm smiling, singing and worshiping, but my lips are so sunburned, I'm feeling the pain of each grin and all those Amens.

And I can't stand it any longer. Because I'm also hot and there's no air in here. My lips hurt.

So at the start of the next song, I decide to be kind to myself and sneak out the back (I'm in the back row anyway), run out to the car and grab my Carmex Moisturizing Lip Balm for relief.

OK. Go.

I scoot out unnoticed (so I think) and scurry to my car, where I swing open the door and find my purse. With my back to the world and my mind on my pain, I plow through the purse contents until I find my treasure, my little yellow tube of pain relief.

I unscrew the lid and before I even stand up, I smear the analgesic elixir way beyond the confines of my lips. I don't care how I look. I'm finding relief. I'm being kind to myself.

I straighten up as I turn around and a young woman is standing there, thrusting a gallon jug of frozen water at me.
A gallon-sized ice cube.

She's smiling at me. And she says, "Here, hold this. It'll really cool you down. You can even just sit there in church with it on your lap and it'll feel great."

I must have cocked my head or in some way looked incredulous because she explains  she noticed me fanning myself in church, then saw me leave in a hurry. So she figured I was too hot. And she wanted to help. To extend a hand. To be a good Samaritan.

I realize I just received a kindness.

I take the jug briefly and thank her profusely, and assure her I'm OK. The problem is my lips, I say, not my temperature. And we walk back into the church together, where another woman comes to me and lays a gentle hand on my shoulder. "Are you OK, honey?" she whispers.

Oh my. I just got another kindness.

Yes, I tell her. I'm more than fine. I'm full up with kindnesses.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Look, Up In The Sky ...

I'm looking up. Well, we're all looking up, waiting for what must be a most remarkable sight. The International Space Station is supposed to fly over our beach tonight, low enough and close enough for us to see. With our bare eyes.

Six of us stand at the end of the raised walkway within five feet of high tide on Malaquite Beach in southeastern Texas. We can hear the waves crashing against the sand and feel the breeze. We jabber away, about, well, just casual stuff.

We chat as we scan the sky, looking for something moving.

We're standing in the dark at the edge of the ocean looking up for something we've never seen so we don't know what to look for. Except something moving. We stand, chat, crane, watch.

Oh, look. Hurry, look! See it? There's a pinpoint of light breaking though the night sky, down to our south, making a beeline toward, well, up. It's arcing, like a tennis ball lobbed over the net, only it never breaks into descent. It just keeps going up.

Oh, look again! The point of light is now an orb, and it's getting bigger. Much bigger. Man! Look how fast it's going!

It's now arcing overhead and it's huge! It's transmorphed into that little triangular shooter in the original Asteroids video game. Well, it's now arcing higher and away from us and is getting smaller. It's an orb now. No, no. It's a pinpoint again and now, zip, it's gone. Just, well, gone.

Like it was sucked into a black hole.

We're still standing on the walkway at the ocean's edge and we're looking up. There's nothing up there to see anymore. But there's no idle talk, no chitchat, no jabber.

Just ahhs and ohhs and wows.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Domino Effect of Words

What I said got someone fired.

No, it's what SHE said that got her fired.

Actually, it's Camping World's  laudable zero tolerance for racism that got a woman fired for using the "n" word in conversation with me.

And it all happened -- her words, my horror and her firing -- within two hours today.

Here's what happened.

We need a hose for our motorhome's bathroom, so we stop at a nearby Camping World. Allen wants to fix the broken one with duct tape and Super Glue. I want to spend $75  to buy a new setup.

The saleswoman looks at me and says he (meaning my husband) likes to "n"-rig things (she uses the whole derogatory word). What? I ask? "N"-rig things, she replies. Stunned, because I'm sure what I heard is NOT what she said, I ask again. What? "N"-rig, she replies.

I don't know what that is, I say. "Some say jury-rigged," she replies.

I'm  shocked by her flagrant, unashamed use of the "n" word,  yet I walk away, saying nothing to her. I regret not telling her how awful her words are. I regret I didn't verbally wash out her mouth with soap.

As we leave the store, I turn to Allen and say "I feel dirty." And the only way to feel clean again is to address the situation.
So, when we get back on the road, I track down the e-mail address for Marcus Lemonis, the chairman and CEO of Camping World, and at 1:58 p.m. (Eastern Time) I send him an e-mail outlining my outrage.

At 1:59 p.m. -- I kid you not; a minute later -- he responds with "Nancy, I am horrified by this and will respond immediately.  This is unacceptable. ML"

By 3:15 p.m., I get an e-mail, from the president of Camping World, asking to talk to me personally.

By 3:30 p.m., we're on the phone, and he tells me the woman with the offensive mouth was fired. And assures me there is no room at Camping World for racism. And asks that I don't judge the 4,000 people who work there by the one who now doesn't.

And, he assures me several times, the woman with the racist language got herself fired because Camping World has a zero tolerance for such things. 

I can live with that. I regret that this woman' life got turned upside down because I ratted her out. But I hate even more the insidiousness of racism.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why Our Friends Won't Travel With Us

We're finally heading to Texas. And we're tired.

So tired in fact, we decide to let our GPS find the nearest Walmart for us to park overnight in the lot. (It's called boondocking; and it's free, convenient and safe.)

The one we're heading to now is in Quincy, FL. We turn off the highway and follow our little electronic travel guide faithfully.

Turn right. OK. No problem.

Turn right again.


Turn here? Down this dark, potholed road with no shoulders? Down into a blackened abyss?

Well, OK. We trust our GPS, a Tom Tom, we call Thomas.

We turn right, right into a Stephen King novel. It's a dark, dark road that fronts a few ramshackle houses, a burned-out doublewide and several weed-draped driveways. And it's getting smaller. Sandier. Rutted.

"Turn around when possible" Thomas blurts without apology.

WHAT? There IS no place to TURN AROUND. We're in a motorhome towing a car, so we're a mini-train. We can't just TURN AROUND or even back up and we sure aren't going to hop out and unhitch things right here where "Pet Sematary" was filmed.

We lock the doors. Bump along. Slowly. Watch for Freddie Kreuger. Finally, we see something. A sign: "The State of Florida. No Trespassing." Egads! Are we stuck?

No, thankfully, the road shoulders appear, ones wide enough for us to use to turn around without losing our caboose.

So we turn around -- barely -- and head back to civilization, where we turn right and find our Walmart a few blocks down.

Diagonal from the Quincy Annex of the Florida Department of Corrections -- the state pen. Which is where, apparently, we just visited. In the dark dark of night. Thank you, Thomas.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

An overnight sensation

 It's a simple request to solve a small problem.

 My husband Allen, the Technofile, the man who packs his own roving Internet Wifi and four computers when he travels, left home without his iPad. The newest addition to his wired and wireless family, his baby, his newest passion lay on his desk back home while he and and I head south for the rest of the winter.

 So we ask our friend to overnight the baby to us, using the U.S. Postal Service, registering it, insuring it and spending $50 for the peace of mind that the package will arrive by 3 p.m. the next day.

Which it doesn't.

So, we wait a few more hours, giving the U.S. Postal Service the benefit of the doubt. Our doubt has limits, so we call around 5 p.m. After crawling through excessive computer-generated options, I bang repeatedly on the phone's "zero" until I get a human voice to respond.

Nope. They cannot find the package. "We'll call you back real soon."

An hour and a half later, we call again and bang through to a human voice.

Nope. They cannot find the package. "We'll call you back real soon." Which they didn't.

In the morning, I check the USPS Internet tracking page and YEA! The iPad has made it to the local post office.
I wait for the call.

I make coffee, sit by the door, read my e-mail, then visit the bathroom. Upon returning I hear the postal truck DRIVING AWAY. I run to the door, throw it open and YEP. There, on the stoop, lay a little brown note saying the USPS TRIED to deliver a package.

I run back into the house and call the number on the little brown note. Again, I repeatedly bang through to a person. Ergh.

A guy answers the phone. I might as well have called McDonalds.

No, he says, he cannot call the truck back. He has no way of communicating with the driver. No, he cannot reschedule delivery for this afternoon. No, he can do nothing until Monday (It's Saturday).
We paid $50 for this service?

How can I, I ask, find out where the truck is? Because I'll jump in my car and catch him!

"I have no way of knowing; call your post office," the unhelpful fellow says.

"You ARE the post office," I seethe. "Give me the number," I ask (rather demandingly). "What's the zip code," he asks, maintaining a distanced calm.

"YOU ARE THE POST OFFICE SO YOU TELL ME!" I say back rather loudly. My voice is quivering. I must get a grip.

He flips through stuff (I can hear it) and gives me a number.

I call and the phone rings for more than a minute, when a woman answers. I tell her what I want (the package redelivered NOW and why I want it). She puts me on hold for 15 minutes. 15 MINUTES.

I hang up and call back, four times before she answers the phone again.

The moment she answers the phone, the mail truck pulls up outside. She's a miracle worker!

I slam the phone down (I do tell her HE'S HERE!) and I  run outside AND THE TRUCK DRIVES OFF!!!!
Is this a circus?


He stops.

I must have drawn lots of verbal weapons because the driver immediately starts defending himself aggressively. SO, I see my box, calm down, become pleasant, sign stuff and take my package.

Drama over.

Next time, FedEx.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stumbling ahead

And we're off. On our annual adventure.
Without a hitch? I think not.

To get going, we scurry about scrubbing toilets, dusting bookshelves, draining pipes and tending to a million last-minute things (including arming our burglar alarm systems) just to leave our house in good order.

Without water, by the way, bathrooms don't work. We didn't think of that; thank God for great neighbors.
Because our last-minute list expands into hours, we leave late in the day, around 3:30 p.m. and finally head south to Florida to see family and friends. But not yet.

Less than three hours away, we tunnel through sleet and snow and, about an hour after that, we hit ice. Ice forms fast in the great Northeast in winter. Exhausted, after a four-hour drive, we slide into a hotel that welcomes us and our dogs. (No water in a motorhome means the bathroom won't work.)

The dogs, our perfect wonderful dogs, defile the hotel room on sight. One pees on the bedspread and the other poops on the carpet. What? Allen scrubs the carpet and I hand-wash the bedspread, and then we collapse, still exhausted.

In the morning, the weather quiets down. As we continue our drive south, smiling at the pretty blue skies and inhaling crisp, dry air, I spill a full cup of coffee with creamer onto our carpet and one of the dogs throws up on the bed. The vomit soaks though two blankets and two sheets, all the way to the mattress.

So, Allen scrubs the carpet and I scrub the bed.

And we just shrug, and continue heading south.

It's a Murphy's Law beginning to our next great adventure. One to remember. One to chuckle about. Now that it's over.