Thursday, August 22, 2013

Too. damn. early. And yet...

I ran errands over my lunch break yesterday. I stopped at a local department store, which resembles a throwback to earlier department stores, as it has clothing, shoes, housewares, toys, and some foodstuffs for sale. I picked up some food items, and on my way towards the back corner of the store to the foodstuffs section, i saw an endcap display with Christmas cards. I groaned.

And, completely surprising myself, picked up a box.

At checkout, i remarked about how it seemed way too early.

Both the cashier and bagger nodded in agreement.

"Yet, here i am buying them all the same, so what does that say about me?"

They both smiled and said nothing.

Too. damn. early. Just hope i can find the @#($#( box when i'm ready to fill out and send the cards.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tea for the tillerman--actually a tiller for this tea gal

I do look at things on Craig's List* from time to time, just to see what's out there. Most of it is either out of my price range or drek.

But, occasionally, something really grabs my attention, and i follow up either with an email or a phone call. Many times, the initial phone call or email is met with, "Sorry, that item sold." Occasionally, however, i get lucky. It's how i met my down-the-street, around-the-corner neighbour, as he was selling his boat and had listed a lot of the boat paraphanalia on Craig's List. I got a few small fenders that have come in handy for my dinghy and a wonderful portable chart table that i've yet to use "for real" on the water, but i can see that time coming soon.

And so it was a few weeks back, when SFB and i went for a sail, that he noticed my tiller needs replacing. I realized at the beginning of the sailing season that i should most likely sand off all the old varnish and start again, rather than just slap on a few more coats and call it good, and vowed i'd do that as a winter project. But, it's beyond not only another coat slap, but also the sand the varnish off as well. SFB pressed into the knob end of the tiller, and the wood is soft. Soft enough that he made a hole, showing rot quite clearly. He suggested using the tiller from the midpoint back, and it should be okay for the last bit of this sailing season.

I decided to take a look and see if i could find a replacement. The shop that made the original one closed up earlier this year after its owner died. Remaining stock was scooped up by several marine outfitters, some charging a bit more than the original owner, and some charging an arm and a leg more. I thought of asking our neighbour up the street, the one who loves woodworking and car projects, if he'd consider making me a new tiller from the huge branch that fell off the old maple tree out front. There's still the fattest part of the branch that we didn't cut up, and that might do. It would be neat to have a new tiller from an old stalwart. Himself had the same idea, about asking Mr Woodworker up the street, but he hadn't thought of using the branch. He liked that idea.

Mr Woodworker is one of those nice chaps who'll say yes, even if he doesn't really want to do something, if he sees you clearly need the help. And, i don't want him to have to feel he must say yes, so i'm mulling over how to ask. I want him to say yes because he'd like to do it, but because he feels compelled. Or is that impelled? Well, you get my drift.

I looked at Craig's List last evening, just to see if anybody had a tiller that might do the trick. Turns out, one looked a bit promising. I called, the man kindly measured it for me, and the length sounded about right. A little long, which was fine by me, as we could always cut off an inch or two. He advertised the price of one dollar and said in the description to make an offer.

I'd seen other such listings where i guess they have to put some price, so they put in a really small one. If this one were actually not rotten, i could see where it could get him a few bucks. I checked ebay. Used tillers between $50 and $150. Some of the new ones i saw online were in the $120 range. I decided in my mind that my top offer would be $25.

He gave me his address, asked if i knew where it was, as it was about an hour away from me. I didn't, although i knew the main street in the town, and i could use mapquest to get directions. We agreed to meet at 5 pm today. I printed out the directions.

I ended up having some last minute work things to do, so i was late in getting underway. I called, apologized for the tardy start and said that i'd be there closer to 5:30, would that be all right? Turns out it was and worked out better for them, he said, as they had a to run an errand.

I arrived just before 5:30. I saw a "For Sale by Owner" sign, and in the garage were a number of items that had either been in a yard (boot) sale or were being prepared for one. As the garage door was up, i walked in and knocked on the door leading to inside the house. Most people i know use their front doors only as emergency exits. An older man answered, i introduced myself, and he bade me to go around to the front door. There on the shady porch was the rudder and tiller. I had thought to bring my measuring tape. Yep, a few inches longer, and a skinnier than the tiller on Retrouvé, but it'd work all right. The hardware attaching it to the rudder was in good shape, although i have no use for it. Definitely worth the $25, i thought.

I told the man i thought it'd meet my needs. He asked my offer and i said, "Twenty-five dollars."

"Oh, no," he said, and i braced myself for him to say he wanted fifty. "That's too much money."

I'm sure i did a double-take. "Um, okay. Fifteen?"

"No, still too high. How about ten?"

"Ten? Ten's fine by me," i said, and i gladly handed him a ten dollar bill.

"After all, you came all this way," he said and smiled.

It's all relative, i suppose. I told him i had a friend who lived about halfway between us, and i'd stop for a quick visit on the way back home. So, worth the trip.

He smiled and handed me a new book he wanted me to read about real hope. How if i were interested at all in religion, i'd be glad to read this book. I thanked him and accepted the book. I said how we could all use some real hope. I have my own ideas about religion, will discuss it when asked, but i find that i can say more about my religion by the example i set than by any words i can say.

I drove back, and the friend i visited on the way back was SFB. He and his wife both looked at the new-to-me tiller. SFB mentioned how the hardware was nice and could easily fetch what i paid at the marine consignment store. His wife and i discussed our recent Scrabble games on Facebook. The last game we played against one another, she was almost assured a victory, but in my last move, i bingoed (used all 7 letters) and used a triple word score, to add 92 points to my score, pull ahead, and win.

Work is going at a frenetic pace, and i was having a bit of a frazzled day, but the drive on a late summer's day was a nice one, the tiller will be a durable stand-in for quite some time, and i was able to have a nice visit with friends.

Well, my tea is finished, it's late in my corner of the world, and i'm glad to be ending this blue moon day on such a happy note.

*Craig's List is an online bulletin board of sorts where people more or less local to you are selling or wishing to trade all kinds of stuff.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Maria asked a question about whether a restaurant owner was in the right for posting a photo of a table destroyed by a family with badly behaved children. I started to make a comment, but it ran too long, so i’m making it a blog entry instead.

I am a former server, and badly behaved kids or adults in restaurants have always irked me. The worst experience i had involved a six-year old brat who was so bad (how bad was she?) that every patron at every table around theirs clapped when this party with the brat left.

As a server, i couldn't say much, since i waited tables in the days where the customer was always right, but as a customer, i have had a thing or two to say. The most memorable to date was when we were seated at an outside table. The restaurant was a yuppified burger place that grew from a bar. To our left was a table with a mother and her two kids, about 8 and 10, a boy and girl. The kids clearly felt this meal out was a real treat and were very excited. Looked over the menu and told Mom with bright eyes what they'd like to have. There were about four tables to our right. The one on the end was newly in use with a family who had come from a kid's baseball game. The dad had picked the table, the mom was getting something out of the car, and Johnny Slugger, ran from the car towards the outside seating area. He saw Dad wave to him, and yelled at the top of his lungs as he went past our table. His yell went directly into my ear. Dad wasn't more than 16 feet away, and the kid stopped at our table and insisted on yelling at the top of his voice. Something in me snapped and i, able to match him decibel for decibel yelled, "Unless someone is trying to kill you, there's NO reason to yell this loud when other people are trying to eat their dinner and have a conversation!"

Here, Johnny Slugger turned to look at me, mouth agape. Dad got up and swaggered towards our table. He was about 6'4". He yelled at me, how dare i yell at his son, as he was only five. I replied that at five his son was school aged and if he didn't understand how not using his inside voice in this situation was appropriate, that spoke more to poor parenting than it did to anything else. That how i had as much right to be able to sit outside and enjoy a nice meal with my husband without some brat screaming in my ear and some inept parent upset because i found this sort of behavior entirely unacceptable.

Here, the dad realized i was NOT going to back down. I didn't give a rat's ass that he towered over me by more than a foot. I must have given him what my friends call "the look." Several have told me how frightening it is. As i’ve never seen it, i can’t say what it looks like. Only that it seems to stop people in their tracks. Loudmouth Larry still stood watching me, mouth agape.

"Shut your trap, you're letting flies in," i said to him. He obediently closed his mouth.

The father then looked embarrassed, realizing that i didn't give a toss. That the other diners were looking at him, wondering what he would do. I felt extremely alert and in a nanosecond thought of several different things to do if needed.

Ultimately, the father tried to slink back to his table. He and Loudmouth son were very quiet. They were moved to an inside table (the manager had come outside to witness the last part of the exchange), and the father said to me with a whine, "Well, i hope you're happy--we're moving to an inside table."

I replied, "I'll be happier still to learn i've sustained no hearing loss."

The manager went back inside, presumably to show the relocated party its new table.

The kids at the table to my left were wide-eyed. Himself wanted to dive under the table.

I looked at those kids, and said, "I'm sorry to have added to the disturbance. I noticed that both of you have such nice table manners, and it seems a shame no one seems to notice how well behaved you are, but they notice the loudmouth. I'll be sure to use my inside voice from here on out. Again, i'm very sorry."

The mother smiled, and the kids said that was okay, they thought he was a loudmouth, too, and were glad i said something. How kids like him give all kids a bad name. Out of the mouth of babes…i told them i agreed with them.

The manager came back out and approached our table. He asked me what happened. I provided the facts, and how my ear was still ringing (and it was). The manager then asked if perhaps the problem was that i didn't like kids.

I smiled and said, "If that were the case, i'd have asked for another table at once, as we were seated right next to a table with two children," and here i pointed to the table on my left. The manager looked at them a bit dazed. Clearly, he had overlooked them. "However,” i went on, “these children have demonstrated nothing but excellent table manners. (Here, both kids beamed.) So clearly, my issue is not with children, my issue is with unacceptable behavior. I've demonstrated that perhaps too amply. I have apologized, my apology was accepted, and we have moved on."

Here, the manager looked over at the two kids. They both nodded solemnly. The little girl spoke. “She did say she was sorry, and we said okay. Actually, she used her inside voice all along, except for when that kid screamed in her ear. He was REALLY loud.”

The manager then mumbled well, if there wasn’t anything else…I did ask if our server could perhaps refill my water glass. He seemed glad that the request was a simple one, one that could get things back on track.

The server smirked as she refilled my water glass. She apologized for the boy’s bad behavior, and i said it wasn’t her fault. She asked if we liked the food. We did and said as much.

I haven’t thought about that incident in a long, long time. In writing it out now, i wonder if that’s the first time either of those kids had a stranger who was an adult apologize to them for her behavior. It did change me. Any time now i’m at a restaurant where i see well behaved kids, i always make it a point to tell the parents in front of the children how i appreciate their good manners. Zig Ziegler was right. If we spent half as much time catching people doing something right (and telling them) as we do catching them doing something wrong, the world would be a much better place.