Friday, November 25, 2016

Feats of Derring-Do

Being a homeowner, I’ve discovered, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, you’ve got a roof over your head and a chance to build equity. You’ve also got property taxes, yardwork, and home repairs. Back when I was renting and the furnace cut out on me, I could just call the landlord. Now I have to get it fixed and pay for it. And since I live in a mobile home park, I’m still paying rent anyway. Show me the advantage of that.

And every fall, when the trees have finished shedding their leaves, I have to go out and clean the gutters.

This is not a fun thing for me. I have a stepladder, so I can get to the gutter that lines the awning. That’s not a problem. The problem is, the ladder’s about ten feet and the roof is twelve. I’m a short woman. Between the ladder’s and my own lack of height, we’re both just a couple inches too short to let me safely climb onto the roof so I can get to the main gutters.

Why didn’t I buy a taller ladder? Because I got this one from some neighbors who were moving and had it for sale at a bargain price. The neighbor was a guy and didn’t have to worry about height issues. Why aren’t I taller? Blame genetics.

I can clean the house gutters with my ladder, in spite of our shortcomings. I can safely climb the ladder high enough to reach them. I did this last year. That was roughly an hour’s worth of: 1) set up ladder; 2) climb ladder; 3) clean about two feet of gutter (as far as I can reach in either direction; 4) climb down ladder; 5) move ladder a few feet and set it up again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I don’t enjoy doing it. That flippin’ ladder’s heavy and not easy to lug around, and all that climbing wreaks havoc with my out-of-shape leg muscles. There has to be an easier way.

There is, of course. Get on the roof and clean the gutters from there. I could probably do it on my ladder if I climb all the way to the top, and  risk falling and breaking something, like an arm, or a leg, or my neck. Remember the word “safely,” quoted above?

Luckily my neighbors are all in the same leafy boat, and some of them do have ladders that will reach the roof. This year I borrowed one for the task before me.

I’ve been on my roof before this, using a neighbor’s ladder. However, that was several years and almost forty pounds ago. I’m older, heavier and in worse physical shape. Also, that time the neighbor held the ladder for me, while another neighbor stood by to call an ambulance in case I didn’t make it to the top. This time I had the ladder and that was it. I was on my own.

Another problem: that other time the ladder was one of those sturdy wooden ones. This time I had an aluminum model, easier to carry and set up but tending to wobble when two-hundred-some pounds of nervous human being starts scrambling around on it. As I discovered on my first attempt once I was halfway up. All of a sudden that roof looked ten miles away. Ditto for the ground. I would have kept going had someone else been there, but it was just me and the leaves.

I came down. Thought about it. Tried again. Panicked again. Went in the house to gather my courage. On my next attempt I tried repositioning the ladder. If I leaned it on the awning where it joined to the house, I could grab onto both for support if I had to, and use the awning as an extra foothold to get me onto the roof.

This worked. Had a couple tense moments the closer I got to the top, but when I ran out of rungs the awning was there for me to push myself onto the roof from. The ladder trembled but didn’t fall over, and neither did I. Yay for me!

From there it was a breeze. I had full access to the gutters from end to end of the house, along with the top of the awning where leaves had accumulated. The roof allowed me to reach spots I couldn’t get to the previous year using the move-the-stepladder method. I even found the guts to stand up a time or two. Mostly I kind of crab-scuttled along on my butt and dug leaves out by hand. Wet leaves in some spots, decomposing into loam. I probably should have just left the whole moldy mess and planted crops up there next spring. But I got the gutters cleaned. Took about an hour, with less effort and strain on my legs than last year.

That part of the job was a breeze. The big problem arose when I got done, and had to climb back down the ladder. That’s when I discovered the ladder’s position, which had gotten me onto the roof, wasn’t the best for letting me back down again. I’d have to either balance on the awning, which might not take my weight, for figure some way to get at least one leg over the edge and onto a rung so I could swing the rest of me down, while hoping the ladder didn’t shake or tip. My weight had worked to my advantage, holding me steady against the house while I climbed. Plus I could see where I was going. Going down backwards, not such a good deal. This is why you should always have somebody around to hold the ladder for you. Or better still, for you to hold the ladder for while they go up on the damn roof.

Fortunately, I wasn’t trapped for long. One of my neighbors across the street came out to rake. I got her attention and she came over, repositioned the ladder, held it steady and guided me down until I was back on solid ground again. She says she never goes up on her roof. She leaves that to her 16-year-old son, who’s probably taller, in far better shape, and a lot more courageous than I am. It’s my own fault; I forgot to have kids. What the hell was I thinking?

But that’s it for this fall season, at least. The gutters are clean for another year. And I am never doing that again, not unless someone lends me a cherry-picker or airlifts me up there or something. Next year I’m hiring a guy. Let some macho male dirty up his jeans, scrape his palms on the shingles and risk life and limb climbing a ladder. I’m done.

Or, better still … don’t clean the gutters at all. Let the leaves dissolve into soil and plant marijuana up there. Then the cops will clean the gutters for me. I won’t have to do housework either, because I’ll be in jail. Sounds like a plan to me.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Business as Usual

It’s been over a week since the election, and I’ve had a chance to process the results. With the advantage of twenty-twenty hindsight, it’s clear now what happened: once again everyone courted the minority vote and ignored the average American. You know him. He’s the blue-collar working man, usually white, who may or may not have a college degree, who at one time was or might have become middle class before the factory jobs that paid living wages went overseas. Now he and his family are struggling to stay afloat, or else they’re unemployed through no fault of their own, and justifiably pissed about it. That’s who Trump went after, and that’s who turned out in droves to support him. Because Trump’s not a career politician. He’s not part of the system that wrecked the American Dream. He thinks the way they do, believes what they believe in, and says what they’re secretly thinking. That right there should scare the bejeezus out of a rational person.

Hillary? I don’t think she lost because she was a woman. She just wasn’t the right woman, just as Jesse Jackson wasn’t the right man to become our first black President. That should have been Colin Powell, and I’m still kind of sorry it wasn’t. Also, Hillary is the poster person for The System. America didn’t want another Slick Willy (Slick Hilly?) and they voted in droves to prove it.

The final nail in her coffin was probably driven home by a man-in-the-street interview I saw on our local news station. The middle-aged woman with the mic in her face said of Hillary, “She’s sly.” Yep, that’ll do it. It’s okay to joke about sexual assault, publicly make fun of the handicapped, vow to abolish women’s rights and be openly bigoted in regards to race or sexual preference, but “sly” is the kiss of death.

As someone who’s been laid off at least five times in four different professions, twice when a job went to India, I probably should have voted for Trump. I was just too scared he’d grab my pussy. This was a frying pan/fire election. Or the giant turd vs. the shit sandwich, as South Park so aptly termed it. America chose the President it wanted. God help us all.

Well, folks, good luck with that. You put Trump in office. Cookie for you. We’ve survived total morons in the White House before (Bush Jr. being the most recent example). Because it’s not the President we have to worry about. The real threat is Congress, our elected House and Senate. They’re the ones who make the laws. They can override Presidential vetoes. If they don’t like Trump’s policies, they’ll find ways to block him. And now we’ve got a House and Senate run by conservative, rights-repressive, woman-hating Republicans, possibly soon to be joined by a similar Supreme Court. All politicians, members of The System. That’s who’s going to be running the country for the next four years.

No matter what Trump’s intentions, good, bad, or hideous, I suspect he’s going to run head-on into the same brick wall Jesse Ventura hit when he was Governor of Minnesota. Ventura was the outsider-elect there too, and his Congress thwarted him at every turn. Wait’ll Trump finds out he can’t fire anybody. The drawbacks of a democracy. Well, at least Trump isn’t sly. He’s got that in his favor.

Be interesting to see how this all shakes out, though “interesting” may be too bland a word for it. Fasten your seatbelts, America, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

# # #

Meanwhile, out here in the everyday world, business also continues as usual. My cable provider is switching over to all digital broadcasting, so we the customers now have to attach a converter box to our TVs in order to receive the new signals. I got mine and hooked it up and even got it and the new remote running. Everything was fine until one of my channels went Spanish. Efforts to fix it fouled up the other channels. So I took the box and remote back and got replacements. This time when I hooked up the box, the power light started blinking red and green. The other one hadn’t done that. This meant a call to the helpful 800 number provided by the cable company, for some needed customer service.

I explained to the girl what the problem was. She attempted to send a signal to the box. Nope, still blinking away. “Did you get letters from the company?” she asked me. Not beyond the initial “we’re changing our system” announcement. “We don’t have the new signal yet,” the girl on the line said. “Unhook the box and wait until you get the letters. Then you can hook it up.”

This sounded odd to me, since when I took the malfunctioning box back the woman at the office advised me to hook the new one up immediately, otherwise I’d start getting phone calls. Not to mention the annoying crawl that had started appearing at the top of my screen—“If you can see this, you haven’t hooked your box up yet”—every hour on the hour. Luckily I live within walking distance of the cable office, so I went up for a second opinion.

The woman behind the counter had no idea what the girl on the phone had been talking about. She scheduled me for a free service visit, have a tech hook the damn thing up.

That worked out better. The tech came by and had my set up and running in about ten minutes. The blinking that prompted my call was the box processing its software. It stopped after about five minutes, just as the tech told me it would. He also had no idea where the girl on the phone got her info. The customer service handling box-related issues comes from an out-of-town call center. No telling how long, or if, any of them were adequately trained.

Either the girl got a dose of misinformation from a similarly-clueless instructor or, as I suspect, when confronted with a question she couldn’t answer she made up something to get me off the phone and out of her hair. Doesn’t matter that she was totally wrong. Doesn’t matter that she would have left me waiting for a letter that wasn’t ever coming. Her problem was solved. People do whatever’s easiest for them. Life among the minimum-waged.

So the more things change, the more they stay the same. I’d like to see more bucks in my wallet. Bush Senior promised us “no new taxes” and then reneged. But he was sly. You get what you pay for, and sometimes what you vote for. Wishing you a pleasant good day …

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Here we are, finally, at election day. I've already voted. Mostly it's the old and the unemployed who are out at the polls at this hour. Since I'm both, do I get to vote twice?

Frankly, I'd rather not have voted at all. This has been one ugly election season.

That's not even counting the usual electoral shenanigans. Example: In my area we've got a referendum on the ballot. They want to raise the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75. That isn't how it's worded, though. The question on the ballot is, "Should judges be forced to retire at age 75?" If you vote "yes," you just voted to raise the retirement age. Voting "no" keeps the cutoff at 70. I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't heard it explained on the radio this morning. Welcome to the devious world of politics. No wonder no one trusts politicians.

Which brings us to the presidential contest.

Quick: tell me where either candidate stands on one of the major issues. Taxes. Immigration. Women's rights. Health care. Don't know? Me either. Most of their speeches and all the commercials were centered around the reprehensible actions taken by their Unworthy Opponent. Hillary's taking money from terrorists and sending emails to the Kremlin. Trump's managed to offend damn near everybody, in between grabbing women by the crotch. Even before election day, he was claiming the system was rigged.

I recall seeing an ad for the second debate on CNBC that presented the candidates like two contenders for the WWE world title. I'm surprised they didn't promise us Pence and Kaine in a ladder match.

This is what we've come to. Two little kids shoving each other on the playground, going, "You're a poopie head." "No, you are!"

And one of them's going to be President. Our public face to the rest of the world.

A devious liar and a man who's demonstrated borderline psychotic behavior. Both with horrendous hair. Seriously, this was the best we could do?

When Bush Junior got in, I used to tell people, "I never thought I'd look on the Clinton years as the good old days." When Obama ran the first time, I couldn't in good conscience vote for either him or his opponent. That was the year I wrote in the ticket of Jesse Ventura and Hulk Hogan. Now it's 2016 and all of a sudden Barack doesn't look too bad. Why couldn't his wife have run for President? I'd have voted for Michelle in a second.

I've been a registered Republican all my life, but I can no longer support the Republican Party. I swear to God, a deep and abiding hatred of women must be one of the party platforms. Trump was a joke and a moron long before he announced his candidacy and everybody knew it. Yet here we are. I keep wondering at what point Earth was replaced by Bizarro World, that the Donald got as far as he has.

And Hillary's no prize either. It's less about me disliking her than it is I don't want to see Bill back in the White House in any capacity. (What would his title be, should she win? First Gentleman? Will he be expected to bake cookies and give tours of the White House to civic groups? They'd better keep him far away from the Girl Scouts troops. Trump too. Just sayin'.)

So what are we, the American people, supposed to do? Vote Libertarian? You know, we really should. Maybe this will be the year everybody says Screw It and abandons the two major parties and votes in a third-party candidate. I recall one of the Triple Crown races years back, where some unknown nags shot to the forefront and came in first, second and third. The favorites didn't even make the top five. I'd love to see that happen. Some man or woman nobody's been paying attention to suddenly gets elected by the people and ends up running the country. It would serve all the poopie heads right.

My personal choice would be that woman in the city where riots and protests were happening, and she saw her son looting on TV, so she went out and got him, read him the riot act, and dragged him home, all on camera. That's a woman who won't take shit but will take action. That's who we need to be President.

She's not running, alas. We're stuck with Humpty and Dumpty. By tomorrow morning we'll be living in a brand-new universe. I may not get out of bed.