What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Electronic License Plates. My beloved home state of Maryland is launching a program to test “electronic license plates.” I have no earthy idea why bits of stamped tin that have been good enough and dirt cheap to make for more than a century needs to be made electronic – and more expensive, and trackable, and more prone to being damaged and needing replaced. It can’t possibly be as a means to make some state service less expensive or the process to receive it less onerous because God knows that’s not how we do things in here in Maryland.

Sleeping separately. Over the last ten years you can count on maybe all your toes and fingers how many nights I haven’t slept in the midst of dogs – some in the bed, some in crates, some loose on the floor, but always close enough to hear every snore and snort. With Maggie’s second accident in as many nights, though, I banished both dogs to the laundry room and their crates in wee small hours of the morning. They didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. I’m fairly sure the cat was fine with the arrangement, though. At least for the time being, this will have to be the new order of things. The alternative is planning to scrub the bedroom floor every night between 2 and 5 AM, which feels like a complete nonstarter for any number of reasons. Since we don’t have a definitive diagnosis yet there’s no way of telling if this is the short term fix or the long. In either case, it’s annoying and displeases me greatly.

Landlording. I bought a condo back in about 2001, fresh into my first professional job and figuring I’d be there for the long haul. Two years later, I was pulling up stakes for greener pastures and I’ve been renting the place out ever since. I’ve never been at risk of retiring off the rents received – once the property manager and inevitable repairs are paid for, it’s a break even proposition most of the time. I got a call this week that my property manager was winding down his business and I think that means it’s probably time for me to settle up, take back a little bit of equity, and finally let the condo go. There’s no one thing that’s really getting me out of the landlording business, but the steady drumbeat of needing to find new tenants, make repairs, replace appliances, and now the prospect of needing to learn to work with the quirks of a completely different management company are all combining to tell me it’s time to accept that the capital gains tax isn’t going to get any lower and move on.

The rare bit of social interaction…

Honestly it had been so long since I’d gotten rid of my old Wrangler that I’d forgotten about the propensity of other Jeep drivers to wave to one another in passing. I know motorcyclists follow a similar protocol when passing each other and maybe there are other vehicle brands that do the same. I certainly never experienced it in my wide range of other vehicles. Drivers of Cavaliers, Corsicas, Grands Prix, Mustangs, and Tundras certainly don’t engage in this behavior. If I’m honest, I should be calling it the “Wrangler Wave,” since the Cherokee, Renegade, et al, don’t participate… but let’s be honest, when someone says Jeep it’s the round-eyed icon from the days of the world at war that everyone’s mind conjures up.

While being reminded of the “Jeep Wave,” I’ve also noticed a few trends in the last few weeks. Your most consistent group of wavers are the drivers of “old fashioned” two door Jeeps. It’s even more likely if they’re lifted or kitted out for the trail. The Unlimited 4-door drivers seem less likely to lift their fingers from the wheel. I have no idea if that’s circumstantial or if it has something to do with the type of people who buy hard riding, wind-noise and leak prone, impractical 2-door vehicles versus those who want the same experience but in the more suburban, practical 4-door variety. There are definitely “two-door people” and “four-dour people,” but we can leave that discussion for another day because I’m mostly focused at the moment on “Jeep people” in general, because someone willing to put up with the ride, the noise, the leaks, and the fuel economy that hasn’t budged since 1986 are a different breed altogether.

In any case, it’s real thing that people do… and it’s a rare bit of social interaction of which I cheerfully approve and engage in.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Hate speech. Here’s a fun fact, just because you happen to disagree with something someone says, that doesn’t make it “hate speech.” If that were the hight of the bar it needed to cross, damned near everyone I talk to on a daily basis would have to be considered a hate-spewing douchcanoe. As it is, these people generally just happen to have opinions with which I disagree. I suspect the key difference is being able to tell the difference between getting your little feelings hurt and someone who actually says something threatening. Many can’t seem to make the distinction, or maybe they’re too deep entrenched in their “safe space” hiding from the scary words to be able to tell the difference.

2. The new, new boss. I’ve only just formally met the new boss a few hours ago. He seems like a decent enough human being. He’s the third boss our office has had inside the last 12 months. I have no idea if that says more about us or them, not that it matters. It’s just another dash of mayhem in the day while he learns our names and we learn how he likes his PowerPoint charts and whether he wants one space or two after a period in written communication.

3. Ash and trash. The problem with relying on the media to give you information is that regardless of your source, it’s almost always going to be slanted by bias either intentionally or unintentionally. Like when you see Huffington blazing forth with the headline “The Middle Class is Dying.” While that makes a fine headline and all, they don’t dwell much on the actual meat of the Pew survey they’re referencing. What almost none of the stories I read based on that survey tell you is that while the percentage of middle income earners is decreasing, more of that decrease (as a percentage) is attributable to people moving into the ranks of higher income earners than because they are dropping into the range of lower income earners. You actually have to look at the Pew report to see that “Notably, the 7 percentage point increase in the share at the top is nearly double the 4 percentage point increase at the bottom.” Since that factoid doesn’t fit nicely into the narrative the media wants to sell, you don’t see it unless you dig a bit deeper. Sadly that’s just another example of why we need to be our own fact checkers when it comes to the ash and trash slung out by professional “news” sources.

4. The unmitigated asshat who decided rush hour was a good time to try taking his two-lane wide load across a two-lane wide bridge. Believe me when I tell you that it should not take 40 minutes to navigate the 4.6 miles between Aberdeen and Havre de Grace, but it did tonight thanks to one misguided driver and the parade of state and local police who forced him to see the error of his ways. If I wanted to deal with that kind of traffic buffoonery I would have taken the job at Ft. McNair when I had the chance.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Fall foliage. I live in the woods… but not the deep woods. That’s a plan for the future. After a couple of days of wind and rain I’m reminded that I have neighbors. For the first time since mid-May I’m starting to see them again. Well, not “them” exactly, but certainly their houses. I’m deeply happy with my little plot of land, but at this time of year I’d be ok with another hundred yards – or maybe a few more miles – of trees between me and the next guy.

2. Rain is the new snow. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen any rain to speak of. I know it must be a frightening and unnatural experience for everyone. I know this because for the last two days everyone has driven like there was eight inches of new-fallen snow on the roads. If nothing else, it has served to reinforce my long-held belief that most people are idiots. As usual, though, it’s probably all my fault for having even the lowest of expectations of my the average man on the street.

3. Draftees. As the American Army, the most decisive fighting force ever fielded in history, is drawing itself down to the pre-World War II levels, the Russian president is drafting an extra 150,000 of his citizens into military service. Let that sink in for a minute. In terms of troops in active service, that will put Russia within spitting distance of parity in manpower. Figure in their increased pace of modernization and the simple fact that they don’t have to move their personnel across an ocean to get at many of the world’s current “areas of interest,” and in my humble opinion, this brave new world of our is going to look very familiar… almost like the one we left in the early 1990s. Talk about back to the future.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Meeting prep. It’s bad enough when someone wants me to sit in a meeting on a topic way outside my general area of expertise. If they could at least do a little prep work first, though, that would be terrific. Maybe get me the slides an hour or two in advance so I can speak on the topic like I have some semblance of a clue what’s going on. It doesn’t feel like that’s too much to ask before someone shows up asking a lot of questions about material I haven’t ever seen before. But if past experience is any kind of guide, it’s at least as hopeless as asking one of the dogs for the winning Powerball numbers.

2. Bridging the gap. I have to pass through one of those sleepy one stop light kind of towns on my way to and from work every day. The main route is bottlenecked by a bridge that has been in urgent need of repair for at least the last five years. Now that the state has finally gotten around to doing something with it, we’re met by the usual bane of construction everywhere. Before work started, the bridge was going to be open for the duration of the project. Shortly thereafter it was declared “worse than we thought” and promptly taken out of service – expected restoration time 4 weeks. Tomorrow is the end of the 4th week and the latest word is “wait two more weeks”. Then, maybe, we’ll be able to press one lane back into service for gods know how long. The detours, the improvised 4-way stops, the drivers who don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground; those things would all be OK if in two weeks we had a good working bridge. Of course what we’re going to have instead is the end of the “preparation” for construction phase of the project and a bridge that will be open or closed on a completely unpredictable schedule for the foreseeable future. I get the distinct impression that I could be stuck in detours for the rest of my natural life.

3. Unknown callers. I’ve been receiving a call from an “unknown” number once or twice a night for the last three or four days. Is there someone out there who sees a number is unknown and answers anyway? I don’t. Hell, I don’t even bother to answer calls when a number comes up that isn’t associated with someone in my address book. Usually those are a one-time occurrence. No message. No repeat calls. Wrong number. It happens. But the unknowns, yeah, they just keep on calling. I’m sure they just want to sell me something so they could save themselves a whole lot of time by just leaving a message and then knocking it off. Messages I’ll at least listen to eventually. Spamming my phone with missed and rejected calls, though, that’s not going to get you anywhere. Sadly, I’m sure they only do it because some reasonably significant percentage of people they dial take the call and give these asshats the time of day. That makes those people just as guilty as the tools who are instigating the calls in the first place.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. I keep a running list of the absurdities of life that I think might be worthy of including in the week’s edition of WAJTW. Because this week happened to include a federal holiday, I’ve spent the whole week vaguely confused about what day of the week it happens to be. As a result, I reached to that list and accidentally used one of the annoyances as an actual fully fledged blog post. That doesn’t seem like it would be much of an annoyance aside from the fact that most things have broken my way this week and there wasn’t much of a list to begin with… which is exactly why the first annoyance for this week is strictly a process piece.

2. Sports metaphors. I’ve seen enough sports in my life to understand most of the metaphors, but I’ve never quite understood our desire to try to take the lessons of the field and apply them to every other aspect of life. Since I don’t generally follow sports in any meaningful way maybe the stories just don’t resonate for me in the way they seem to for other people. I’m just a guy with a hard time applying the relevant lesson of the scrappy underdog team to the issues I’m fighting with on the daily. I realize I’m probably the outlier here, so don’t mind me. If it looks like I’m stifling a yawn, that’s because I am.

3. Prius Drivers. On Tuesday morning I sat in the truck and watched a Prius driver open his door, lean halfway out of the car, and back into a parking space. The next nearest vehicle was mine and Big Red was at least two dozen spots away and in a completely different row. Look, I know I don’t have an unblemished record here, but backing up in an effectively empty parking lot and landing between the white lines just feels like something you should be able to do without needing to nearly exit the vehicle… Especially when your car takes up about as much square footage as my kitchen table. The poor schmuck didn’t even have a pair of passing yoga pants to use as an effective excuse.

Home stretch…

I was in the home stretch this afternoon. Four turns and maybe 2 miles from the house. I was even running a few minutes ahead of the normal arrival time. It was good right up until I approached the start of a sharp series of turns running alongside the state forest and saw the flashing lights blocking the road. Apparently some doucheknocker took the turn a little fast and a little wide and ended up getting his machine mangled for his trouble. I know from experience that the turns in that spot are tricky. The road is narrow, with guardrails and 20 foot drop offs on either side. It’s precisely the kind of turn you don’t want to be in when you realize you’re driving beyond your meager abilities. I’d be hard pressed to tell you the number of days a year I pass through that stretch and see fresh damage on the guardrails, thrashed car parts off in the woods, or the shimmer of freshly broken glass dust catching my headlights in the morning. It’s easily in the double digits. Those days are going to get more frequent now that the trees are filling in and you can’t see what’s coming in the opposite direction.

I wasn’t able to tell the full story this afternoon, but there’s a good chance I can read the road and tell you what happened when I drive through there in the morning. It’s not so much that care if someone outdrove their abilities. It’s not so much that I care they closed the road at just the moment I was trying to go through. It’s mostly that based on where I decided to live, a road closure in that one stretch of road causes me a 20-odd minute detour because there’s really no other good way to get here from there. Sure, that’s more of an inconvenience for the driver who smashed up his ride than it is for me, but it was just one more in a series of reminders today that this week has been and apparently plans to continue being one pain in the ass after another.