What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Snap decisions. I remember the first time I bought a house – way back in 2001 – and it felt like a much more civilized process. Sure, there was an endless supply of paperwork to make the offer, go through the negotiating rounds, and square away financing, but it wasn’t clogging up my inbox every day demanding immediate attention. The agent or mortgage guy would call, I’d find some time to stop by their office, sign off on this or that, and then go on about by business. In this latest version of the game I’m feeling a little hammered by incoming rounds of email from inspectors, mortgage brokers, my agent, my bank, preliminary calls to insurance companies, and the call sheet from hell which lists all of the other services and utilities I’ll need to build new relationships with between now and (assumed) closing. I’m making a lot of snap decisions and I’m fairly sure I’m making good ones, but this could be awfully close to a full time job if a guy let it… and one of those at a time is more than enough.

2. Broken dream. I’ve always secretly thought Alaska might be a nice place to live. Lots of wide open space between me and the next guy. Plenty of food on the hoof. Not needing to learn a needing to learn a second language like I would if I washed up on an island in South America. However, consistent morning temperatures hovering between zero and five degrees have now officially led me to believe that I am singularly ill equipped to deal with sustained stretches of stupid cold weather. That dream is officially over.

3. The morning commute. I get it. You ended up in the left turn lane, but you really wanted to go straight. You know what you shouldn’t do? You shouldn’t just sit there in the left lane with your right blinker flashing in hopes that some kind soul will let you correct your mistake while the turn arrow cycles through its all-too-brief green phase and 300 yards of traffic backs up behind you. That’s especially true when your dinky toy car is too small to be seen around Big Red and people behind me think it’s just me sitting there like a jerk off holding up their day. Next time go ahead and turn left, pop a u-turn, and let the rest of us get along with our morning without paying the price for your asshattery and inability to manage basic driving skills. People like you are the only reason I’ve resisted the temptation to add a bull bar to my front bumper… because if I had it, I know I could’t resist the temptation to just nudge your dumbass out into traffic and be on my way. I’m just not caffeinated enough at 7AM to deal with that level of foolishness.

That would be great…

Christmas vacation is about to get truly under way and as much as I’d like to say I’m going to spend the evening warming my toes by a roaring fire, the reality is something more like packing out an expedition from Everest base camp. Between now and the time my head hits the pillow this evening there are hundreds of pounds of equipment and material to be toted, lifted, and strategically placed in the truck to ensure proper load placement and balancing. All of these preparations must be carried out in such a way as to avoid raising the suspicions of either of my canine traveling partners – as that would lead to passing a very uncomfortable night with a dog firmly attached to each hip from fear of being left behind.

This part of the annual rites of winter is not particularly restful or relaxing. By Friday, though, the initial mayhem and chaos should have worn itself down into something a little more manageable. If not, I’m fairly sure there’s a flask or two in one of these bags that will help smooth the way.

As much as I always look forward to the trips back into the beating heart of the little piece of geography that made me, getting there from here (regardless of where in the world “here” technically is at any given moment) always boarders on exhausting. Fortunately a good night or two’s sleep will shake that off.

For all the others out there preparing to do battle with the interstate highway system, good luck and godspeed to your destination of choice… And if slower traffic could go ahead and merge to the right that would be great. Mmmmmkay? Thaaaaaanks.

Deluge…

I knew it was going to be a bad drive back to the rental casa this afternoon when it took half an hour just to make it from the parking lot to the turn off for the highway. It seems that while the marshland of the upper Bay is good for waterfowl and blue crabs, it’s decidedly ill equipped to drain off large amounts of water. In fact, five of the roads I use during my daily commute would probably have ranked as “dangerous” under most circumstances.

The worse of them was US 40 between Aberdeen and Havre de Grace. A large portion of that stretch of road was under swift moving water to a depth I’d estimate at 10-14 inches (or not quite up to the bumper of the Dodge Ram I was happy to have acting as a pilot car) with locally deeper spots if one were unfortunate enough to venture too close to the “downstream” shoulder. At it’s deepest, the impromptu river was throwing enough kinetic energy at me to feel the tail end very much want to slide out. It didn’t, fortunately, but that was some of the most white knuckled driving I’ve done in my 20 years behind the wheel.

The other four crossings were less tense and covered much shorter distances, but nonetheless, cranked up the pucker factor of the commute considerably. I’m left thinking that powering my way down 40 relying less on skill than on the V8 power of 4-wheel drive and new tires was probably not my best decision even though it ended well enough. Seeing that the occasional Prius was making it ahead of me, though, assuaged most of my concerns. Still, I’m not sure I’d do it again under the same circumstances.

If I drive out of here tomorrow morning and find high water in the same places, it’s a good bet that I’ll waive off and take a pass on the day. All I’ll say is the risk analysis yields different results depending on whether the destination is home or some other place. You can draw your own conclusions on that one.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Christmas shopping. I know the old saying goes “It’s better to give than to receive” and while I’m sure there are some very good socio-religious reasons for that adage, my own Christmas shopping does not in any way reflect it. After a week of hitting the sales at my usual haunts, it’s pretty much Jeff: 10, Everyone Else: 0. I’m shooting to get most of my list covered down over this coming weekend. Fortunately, in the finest tradition of 21st century man, gift cards are pretty easy to find and I can have just about all of that knocked out in about an hour. I’m sure I could go spend the next three weeks carefully pondering what the recipients might want, but in the end, shopping for other people is mostly a wild ass shot in the dark. It’s better all around to take my chances with them knowing what they want instead of giving it my best blind guess.

2. Arguing on the internet. I’m a regular member of several online forums. One of the best aspects of the internet is that no matter what you’re interested in, there’s almost guaranteed to be a group of people out there interested in talking about the same thing. From investments to tortoise keeping, there’s a discussion out there for you. What I don’t understand is why so many people spend an inordinate amount of time and effort on these sites arguing with one another over nitpicky details that really make all that much difference. There’s something about having an internet connection that imbues people with the sense that they alone are the herald of the One Truth. I’m of the opinion that there is room for smart people to disagree, for there to be more than one version of the truth, without everyone being a bunch of doucheknockers. Then again, that theory depends largely on it being a discussion between smart people. Which may be the ultimate flaw in my logic.

3. Thirty minutes. That’s how much later than normal I left work on Tuesday. I signed off on it in advance and for once actually wanted to go to a meeting, but that didn’t take into account the fact that apparently leaving 1800 seconds after the end of my usual duty day approximately doubles the duration of my drive home from 45 minutes to nearly an hour and a half. If I wanted to deal with that kind of asshattery, I would have accepted the job down at Ft. Myer and not here in the sticks, thank you very much. File that one under the category labeled “Mistakes I Won’t Make a Second Time.”

Getting there…

I drove to work this morning up the Shenandoah Valley to Winchester. Early morning is one of my favorite times to drive, mainly because the roads here are relatively open. The temperature is cool, but still comfortable with the top laid back. The early mists were coming up from the fields and rivers and the sun just coming over the mountains was at my back. It’s one of the few truly magnificent short drives that are reasonably close by. It was a perfect morning to just cruise and take it all in. One of those moments you wish would last just a little longer.

Personal Best…

I am back in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley this week… and for every week until the end of time, apparently. It was my first real chance to get the new car out on the highway early in the morning for some reasonably unobstructed driving. All I can say is that it was worth every penny. I punched it up to 95 before every getting off the on-ramp. Good times.

And I shaved 15 minutes off my personal best time from the EC to Winchester… That may have something to do with having the horsepower to never really be stuck behind anything.

I wish there were something even marginally interesting to comment on this evening, but it’s pretty much work-hotel-dinner-hotel-sleep-work ad infinitum. I had tried to keep up with postings even when there wasn’t much to rant about, but I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t bore you with details when I’ve really got nothing to say.