Lessons on a snowy day…

Yesterday wasn’t the first snowy day I’ve had here on the homestead. Compared to last winter’s big storm, this one hardly rated a blip, except for the part where the last half of the storm turned to ice. It’s pretty to look at, makes for some interesting watching the dogs try to find traction, and cuts down trees and utility poles like nobody’s business. It’s that last bit that served to set the stage for the most important of the day’s lessons.

I’ve always known my AT&T wireless signal at home was spotty at best. Since I don’t make all that often, this fact was largely hidden by my home Wi-Fi picking up the slack for data purposes. It’s a system that works well enough under normal operating conditions. With Comcast having gone MIA due to any number of local lines being down, operating conditions yesterday were less than ideal. By “less than,” I mean that my fancy new iPhone was utterly and completely useless as a means of communicating for almost the entire duration of the cable outage.

Also learned yesterday was the fact that every penny I spent installing and maintaining my generator was money well spent. Twenty seconds after the lines came down, it roared to life and kept the furnace blower blowing, the well and sump pumps pumping, the dryer drying, and the lights lit. I cooked a normal dinner and settled in to watch The Hunt for Red October and then Master and Commander… while occasionally seeing candles dot the windows of the house across the street. It kept right on chugging through 18 hours without a moment’s complaint. With that I am well satisfied.

Aside from a few other minor details, yesterday’s experience was one up and one down. Over the next few weeks, I know I need to beef up my communications capability. That’s good info to have before I find myself in a position of really needing it. Once the ice melts off and I get a decent day, I also owe the generator an oil change and a pat on the proverbial head.

They’re not all shitbirds…

Temperatures are supposed to rise over the next few days. Even if it were going to stay cold,  firing up the snowblower for the two inches that fell yesterday would have been overkill. I was happy enough leaving things be and letting sun and warmth do their thing. 

Around 10:00 my doorbell rang, which is unusual enough in and of itself to be noteworthy. Standing on the front porch in all of 20 degree weather was a kid of about 12 wanting to know if I wanted the driveway shoveled. His partner, had already started pushing snow around the end of the driveway (which is a pretty shrewd sales tactic by the way). 

We always bitch about kids today who want something for nothing. But here, in a neighborhood where I would least expect it, were two kids looking to work for a little pocket money. It didn’t strictly need doing, but playing my part in this little life lesson felt like the right thing to do. My wallet is $20 lighter, but I feel like it means a hell of a lot more to them then it did to me. 

I won’t say My faith in humanity has been restored or anything… though I do now have some hope that they’re all not going to turn out to be shitbirds.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Hard right. Since Mr. Trump has bailed out of the primary debate this week as part of his ongoing “strained relationship” with Fox News, I’ve been quite literally stunned with the number of times I’ve run across posts labeling Fox a part of the “left wing media establishment.” I get my news from a lot of sources, both domestic and international, and thinking of FNC as a lefty mouthpiece just boggles the mind. See, that’s the real problem with the current Republican party. If you’re not in lockstep on abortion, marriage equality, and Jesus, well there’s just no room in the party for you. Sorry gang, but I’m going to call bullshit on that. I’m a Republican the same way Reagan was a Republican. The same way Goldwater was a Republican. The same way Eisenhower was a Republican. What I’m not is a fanatic who assumes mine is the One True Way. I’m a Republican. We use to be a “big tent” party and we could be again, if only we the rest of us have the personal courage to stand up and tell the dogmatic hardliners to GTFO. Otherwise we might as well fold the tent and go on back to the house, because the days of expecting a platform of “be like me or else” winning at the national level are profoundly numbered.

2. Underutilization. There’s not many jobs I’d consider myself too proud to do. From slopping barns, to stacking hay, flipping burgers, dropping fries, parking cars, accounting for tarps and body bags, ordering hundreds of thousands of tons of ice, or managing 1000-person events. I’ve done all of them and too many more to bother listing. The point isn’t that I’m too proud to do any of these things. The point is that it makes absolutely no economic sense for me to some of them. There’s always an opportunity cost that no one takes into account. Because I’m schlepping buckets of rock salt, that means there are five or six other things that aren’t getting done in a timely manner – things that generally tend to require thought, analysis, and problem solving. With half a career’s worth of experience behind me, my services don’t come cheap. The all-in “fully burdened” cost of having me on the clock is something approaching $100 an hour. Whether that money is spent on turning ice into water or on making sure the uber-boss gets the information he wants is decided by someone else. I’ll go where and do what I’m told, but I’ll always wonder why we so rarely seem to take the time to match the skill set with the person instead of just grabbing the nearest body and making it fit.

3. Cities. Watching the news out of Baltimore all week and wondering how in seven hells they’ve managed to spend an entire week tinkering around with their plows and not give every street at least a courtesy pass with one of their trucks. Yes, cities are densely packed and often streets are narrow, but still. Come on. You’ve had a week to give everyone at least a fighting chance at getting out of their frozen prison. I live in a subdivision in what might charitably be called an out of the way location. By Sunday evening we’d had enough of a route cut that someone with 4-wheel drive could safely navigate out to our principle access road. By Monday night it was largely down to blacktop. I’m simply perplexed that a major American city – especially one prone to snow in the winter – has this much trouble figuring out what to do. I avoid Baltimore as much as humanly possible, but in this case I’m throughly annoyed by a city government that seems largely made up by the gang that can’t shoot straight.

When four equals eight…

I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the extra four hours off this morning. I never turn my nose up at free time off. That being said, four hours is just an awkward amount of time. Given the passible but not clear state of the local roads, my commute in is going to take an hour. Given that the average driver is stupid and there will undoubtedly be more than one driver on their way home this afternoon that puts it into a snow bank, my drive home will likely be over an hour. At a commute to work ratio of less than 1:2, if you’ll excuse the phrase, it just feels like something of a waste of time – as if we’re opening the doors today just so someone can say “yes, we’re open,” without having much concern for whether or not anything actually happens inside those doors.

Liberal leave – time off for which pre-approval isn’t required – is an option. Due to the peculiarities of Uncle Sam’s timekeeping regulations, though, under these circumstances one can’t combine the 4-hour delay with an additional four hours of liberal leave. If you’re going to stay home, those four hours in the afternoon are going to cost you a full eight hours of vacation time. That was a hard lesson learned.

So now the roads could be running with lava and there could be a troll under every bridge between here and there, but damned if I’m going to spend eight to get four. The math just doesn’t work, so I’ll go in, eat lunch, check some email, bitch about the snow, and then schlep home. Not exactly a recipe for productivity, but I’m sure it counts on someone’s report card as a full day’s work.

Stepford…

I can’t speak for anything beyond the field of view that stretches a couple of hundred yards on either side of my own driveway, but from all outward appearances the county has done a respectable job at getting things scrapped down to pavement. The fine exurbanites in the neighborhood have been diligently blowing, plowing, shoveling, and salting for the last three days. The whole place looks about as much like Stepford as anyone could ever want.

Being the hermit I am, hanging out at the house for the last two and a half days hasn’t exactly felt like a burden. It hasn’t actually felt like much more than a normal weekend, really. Now there’s an impromptu three-day weekend and curiosity is getting the better of me. The two winding back roads leading out of my little slice of Americana roll past farms and fields and a few sections of deep woods. In fair weather there’s a decided charm to it.

In the current other-than-fair environment somehow I doubt that they’re quite as inviting. I can think of two or three places on both routes where things are probably still sitting over the side or in the ditch from sometime yesterday. The whole county can’t be Stepford. I forget that sometimes. Maybe this afternoon I’ll fire up the four-wheel drive and have a look at what the rest of this mess looks like from outside the warm and toasty.

Taking advantage of the captive audience…

Most of the people who read this blog are a captive audience tonight. I feel like I should use the opportunity to say something insightful or at least drive up the weekend’s hit count.

This is the first snow since I took possession of the new homestead here and most of my stray thoughts tonight are given over to how the place will handle the weather, how robust the neighborhood electric grid will be once the wind cranks up, why they built this place without a secondary heat source, and generally coming up with ways to entertain myself for the next couple of days. Somehow I think that regardless of circumstances I’ll manage to find something to while away the hours.

If you don’t hear from me in a few days you’ll know the lights went off and took my painfully weak cell signal with them. So far as I can tell that’s really the only down side of living back here off the beaten path… and it’s a problem I’m doing my best to remedy in the coming weeks but that will come too late for this particular party.

Stay warm. Enjoy a day or two of enforced seclusion however you choose to spend them. I’ll see you once we get started with the big melt. Or maybe before, depending on how quickly boredom sets in and other circumstances.

Scheduling…

If spontaneity were measured on a scale of 1 to 100, I’d rate myself somewhere around a -36. I like it when there is a plan. It provides order in the face of a chaotic world and clearly delineates options and deflection points where things could go astray. A good plan is a thing of beauty.

Since time immemorial my weekly plan has designated a 45 minute block of Saturday morning for carrying out the week’s primary sustenance acquisition. Given the onrushing storm that’s being hyped without end as Snowpocalypse 2016: The Revenge of Global Warming, planning for a Saturday grocery run seems somewhere between overly optimistic and potentially foolhardy. That means there needs to be a deviation from the schedule in order to pick up fruit and vegetables, meats, coffee creamer, and the rest of the assortment of items that made the cut this week.

Sure, the plan for the week makes allowance for deviations, but now it’s put me in a position where I’m going to have to fight the masses who are religiously unprepared for a minor disruption in their supply chain in order to pick up my basic groceries. While I could ride our a day or two of snow without putting a dent in the canned goods stockpile, fresh food on hand his just better all around. Sadly, it means a direct confrontation with the bread, eggs, and toilet paper crowd sometime in the next 48 hours.

It’s going to be stupid and angry making and precisely the kind of thing a decent plan should prevent. I’m going to have to reevaluate the whole damned schedule now.