Troy's Blog

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I'm just a typical Dad. I have a good wife of 20+ years and 2 good kids. All 3, at times, contribute to my hair graying or falling out.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Seniority at Waterford

If you remember, I am a member at the Waterford Fitness Center. You know, the retirement home. A person has to be 40 and over to join. I could take Ty as a guest but Kristi, once again, is not old enough to partake in the fun. It's crossed my mind that a business opportunity awaits - a defibrillator outlet store / ambulance service / mortuary located right next door - better yet, connected via sky walk.

I've been a member there for over 2 years. I realized I'd been a member a while when reading a sign for a Walk A Thon a couple of weeks ago. I thought - that looks like fun. I'd get to see some of the regulars I'd become acquaintances with. It'd be an easy walk - Waterford style. Then at the bottom I noticed it was being held at one of the "younger person's" fitness center. Pssshhhhht - no way.

Back to the membership. At first it was rough. I was the newbie. I'd park my trusty steed (Pearl - the big white Buick) along with the other Buicks and Mercurys. I'd walk in, change into my workout gear or swim trunks and proceed to the appropriate part of the fitness center. The area with exercise bikes, recumbent bikes, a couple of treadmills, and the weight machines was nice. Very seldom being used. The pool, however, is another story. Like the watering holes of the African plains, it was a place to congregate and establish territory.

Whether a person walks in the shallow side, wades in the middle, or floats and converses over at the deep side, there is definitely a pecking order. The first year or so I was shunned. After all, I still had my original hips, knees, valves, and had no vertical scar on my sternum. I'd been forced to sit along the side until everyone was done "swimming". Usually this meant the 2 ladies with the floaty noodle things had to finish gossiping. What better place to air other's laundry than in the middle of the pool.

I was scolded once with "don't splash me, I don't want to get all wet". First of all I was not splashing, I was swimming and, yes, it'll create some flying water. Second....if you don't want to get wet - don't go in the freak'n pool. I don't know how many times I was tempted to run into the pool area and do a cannon ball.

There were times I was forced to swim in the shallow end. That just doesn't do it for me. I think it's the fact that I could just stand up and walk easier. I was forced to swim next to the dividing rope - occasionally getting tangled in it with my less than Michael Phelpsish swim stroke. I NEED to swim all the way over on the deep side. When doing the backstroke, I know just how many rafters there are until the ladder and how many strokes from the ladder to the end. Although, a couple of goose eggs on my head over the months would lead you to believe otherwise.

Then something wonderful happened. A couple of evenings ago I walked into the pool area on a rather crowded night. The person on MY side of the pool, a newbie, recognized me from previous swims. She said she'd move over and that I could have the deep side. THEN the entire pool did a shift over one lane - opening up MY lane. Hmmmm. That's odd, I thought. Maybe it is because I got rid of my old Hawaiian print swim trunks. Actually they'd disintegrated from all the chlorine. That's one thing about that pool - lots of chlorine. Apparently the daily piss fest makes this a necessity. My blue trunks must make me seem more commanding. Then tonight it happened again. I walked into the pool area and the herd did a shift - opening up MY lane.

About 2/3 of the way through my swim - at the point when I'm wondering exactly how long it would take the 13 year old 50 lb lifeguard to rescue me from the bottom - it hit me. Seniority - I now have some seniority at the Waterford pool. Like the stealthy leopard at the African waterhole (or the old weary and battle scared elephant who is just too tired to be bothered), I have earned respect and my spot at the deep end. With my new found authority, I have a first thing on my agenda - turn down the music. They play that stuff just too loud.

All joking aside, it is a great place. Clean and uncrowded. After all, we're all there for the same purpose - to outlive each other.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

To Tip or Not To Tip

Are you a good tipper? Going out to eat is becoming rare as the kids no longer order off the kid's menu. Plus, since Sean started swimming again, he'd order two full meals. However, when we do, and it's not fast food, I tip about 20% or $2 per person at the table. I know there are still people who dig the change from their pocket/purse and tip what ever is in the bottom. 50 cents, 75 cents - now that's more of an insult.

When I get my hair cut, whether at a barber or if Kaitlyn does it, I tip a couple of bucks. I know Shirley tips the dog groomer about $5. (Why does the dog groomer get a larger tip than my barber?) As Ty will say "The dog has hair".

When Kaitlyn started working at Skateland, I let her in on a little secret. If it looks like the father will be paying, gently put your hand on his shoulder and ask if there is anything else they need. Nothing too obvious and nothing that gets the wife's attention. If we are out and the waitress puts her hand on my shoulder, it's an automatic $5 more. If HE puts HIS hand on Shirley's shoulder, I deduct $10.

When I get my car washed, I leave change lying around - not so much as a tip but to see if it disappears. Who are the people you should really tip? Your Dr. or nurse probably wouldn't hurt. Your kids' teachers would be most deserving. Our former mail lady should have been tipped. I don't care how bad the weather was, we ALWAYS got our mail. The school bus driver - is there a person who can't get paid enough?

This is our dilemma - the paper delivery person (PDP). Years ago, we'd pay the PDP monthly for the paper and they'd take the payment to The Forum. We may have tipped a little but I don't remember making a conscious effort of it. After all, what were they going to do? Not deliver the paper? Chuck it through out window? For the past decade, we've gotten only the Sat. and Sun. paper and pay The Forum directly. It is almost always delivered before we arise in the morning. The rarest of rare exceptions is a problem with the printing process or a blizzard. I know there are people that complain when their paper isn't delivered during a blizzard. I, however, don't want someone out risking their life so I can read the comics.

The trouble is, we don't know who the delivery person is. Is it the same person each week? Do they change routes? What if I left $5 in the door and their substitute gets it?

Yesterday (Saturday) our paper came with a small bag of chocolates and a nice Christmas card with a picture of a delivery person in the snow selling The Forum. A true Normal Rockwell scene. At the bottom of the card, it was signed "Merry Christmas from your PDP - baby on the way". I read it a couple of times just to make sure I was reading it correctly.

So last night I stuck a card in the door where the PDP would see it. It was one of the cheaper 100 cards for $2 stock. On the inside I wrote "Merry Christmas from the DeWitz Family - 2 teenager$, they each have their driver'$ licen$e, and will $oon be heading off to college."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ready for Winter

Yesterday was the day at the DeWitz household to batten down the hatches and settle in for winter. Sean and I got the snow blower out, put the lawn mower away (needs an oil spring will have to do), got the garden hoses drained and rolled up, got the pots and planters in or at least moved from harm's way, and all that fun stuff.

We have a storage shed behind our garage that is the catch all for everything. The patio furniture is always packed in first. The table is too big to carry down the steps the safe way. It has to be hoisted overhead and carried down above the rail. I've done it for years and it is not a big deal. Yesterday, with the 40 mph winds, I wasn't sure if it would be my last year or not, but I made it. Next is the other large stuff: mower, wheel barrow, fertilizer spreader, edger, trimmer, then we start piling the small stuff on that. The trampoline cushion and mat, the pots and planters, the leaf blower, the hoses, the sprinklers (like we ever need more water in Fargo), etc, etc. The hardest part is making sure there is 1/2 inch of space so the doors can close until next spring. At which time I'll open the shed and swear at the mess I created last fall. Trust me, though - there will be a time in mid January when someone somewhere will need something....that's stored in the shed. It happens every year. So then it is digging the snow away from the door, chipping the ice, and opening to the not so well packed mess. Best case scenario.......the "needed" item can be seen - way at the back. Worst case, it can't be seen, I assume it is in the back, but after rummaging realize it is not there.

But, anyway, we got the doors shut and locked. The fun part of the day was taking my snow blower in for a tune up. In 1988 I sold my first car (well used by then) and took the proceeds to buy a new snow blower. The house we lived in had a single driveway leading up to a 2 stall garage BEHIND the house. I always knew the person who designed the "garage behind the house" had never grown up in ND. My point....we needed a good snow blower and the neighbor who had been doing our driveway had the balls to move. Back then, I even did some work for hire in the neighborhood. Not enough to pay for the snow blower, but enough to pay for gauze and ointment for my frost bite.

That snow blower has survived many a storm. The winters of 95-96, 96-97, and 08-09. I've done countless nieghbor's driveways. I've run several wood blocks, rocks, garden hoses, sprinklers, lawn ornaments, and stray pets through it over the years and have never done a repair except for the occasional spark plug and annual oil change. I've had it apart several times removing foreign, non snow, objects from it's mechanism, but nothing broken.

It has always needed full choke and it honestly had to be primed until the gas runs out of the carburetor to start. Yesterday, as we were getting it out and ready to be hauled to the shop, Sean asked why it had an electrical cord attached. I explained the trouble with starting a 8 hp engine when it's 30 below (leaving out his father's lack of patience when it is 30 below). So instead of moving it closer to an outlet (....let's look at that. First I'm too lazy to manually start it so pay for the electric start attachment, now I'm even too damn lazy to move it close to the outlet??!!)...I decided to try it the old fashioned way. Full choke, prime prime prime it until gas is running out the engine, key on, full throttle, and with ONE (yes, one) pull......boom, boom, boom, boom, smoke everywhere, machine rattling like a bucket of loose bolts, it comes to life and purrs like a kitten. Runs like a charm - always has. This thing doesn't miss a beat, as long as you POUR gas into it.

We loaded it on the trailer (see previous story) and hauled it to The Garden Hut. Neighbor Rob had started this business from scratch and it has really grown. I'd never been there so was anxious to see his new business (I have something else in mind, too). Sean and I get there, get it unloaded, do the usual small talk, and on my way out, Rob starts commenting about his new items in stock. Yeeessss, the real reason I'm here. I told him that the next time I need a new blower/mower, I'm doing away with one of each and getting a riding mower/blower. But that's a few years off......

Rob said "well, before you completely dismiss it, let me show you what I've got in back".

"I can't", I I rushed to follow him to the back. Sean was right behind me. I'm sure, going through his mind, was "oh, this is going to be good. Dad is going to sit on a riding mower, fall in love, and buy one. Besides that fun, when he has to tell Mom, I'll get to listen to him get in TROUBLE - AGAIN".

Rob took me back to furthest secret corner of the building. The place reserved for "showing" his best of the best. There it was. Spotlights shining like an epiphany from above on a brand new Cub Cadet "Cadillac of Cadillacs" garden tractor with a snow blower. I knew I didn't dare sit on it - as I hoisted myself up to the seat. The thing was like a stretch limo - and I like big cars. It even had a cup holder for my hot chocolate in the winter and iced beverage in the summer. Damn....I'd look good on this. I'd welcome the 3 foot chunk of icy sludge at the end of the driveway from the fk'n city plows if I had this machine in my garage. I'd be plowing FOR the city, instead of against them.

No, I didn't buy it. My mower is new and the blower works fine.

But (isn't there always a "but") as I was falling asleep last night, I started dreaming of me doing a "walk around" of my new machine. The final instructions before I took it home.

You know how when you start to fall asleep, you often jump because of some stupid thing in your dream - falling, getting hit, stumbling?? During the walk around in my dream I slipped on ice and woke up. I think in some sort of twisted way that Shirley was the patch of ice.

My brother in law, Jeff, is supposed to get the snow blower attachment for his new riding mower so he can endlessly brag about it when we're around - thus convincing US it would be a good idea to get one as well. I think my sister is his patch of ice. (oh, the comments that could come from that sentence).