Monday, July 4, 2011

The Weekend That Would Not Die, Part One

Okay, so I've had a particularly bizarre and surreal three-day weekend. It actually started on Friday, which by rights should have been a nice, quiet, relaxed day at work. Probably a full third of our employees were on vacation, and the rest were all just looking forward to the long weekend.

All except one.

I'm not entirely sure how to describe this guy, except to say that I'm pretty sure he's not actually human, but rather some sort of genetically altered chihuahua. That's not his appearance; just his personality. He's a classic case of extreme ADHD, only he doesn't seem to realize it and has no idea how to compensate for it. So, naturally, when a huge pile of work fell in our laps at two-thirty in the afternoon, it came from him.

But, all right. We dug in and made the changes he wanted (amidst a certain amount of grumbling profanity), and eventually got ready to go home.

As I left, I discovered that the speedometer on my car, which had been working just fine at lunch, had decided to take a vacation of its own. Which was annoying, but not vital; I can hold to the average traffic speed without needing a specific number for it.

I was halfway home when the Check Engine light came on. And unfortunately, I couldn't just turn around and run it down to the dealership right then; my wife was teaching an evening class, and with the three-day weekend coming up they had her teaching all five days, instead of the usual Monday-Thursday run. So I got home, sent her on her way, and called the dealership. It turned out that they would be open on Saturday - but not on Sunday or Monday, because of the holiday. I found out how early they opened (7:00 a.m.) and gave up on my fondly-cherished hopes of sleeping in.

Saturday morning, I made it to the dealership five minutes before they opened, and was still the fourth person in line. Everyone had still been asleep when I'd left the house, so I'd just put a note on the back door with the directions, and figured that someone would eventually come and get me if I couldn't get back on my own. As it happened, the dealership had a shuttle and was willing to take me back, so I hopped in the van and went. I thought about calling first, but everyone was sleeping when I left, and I really didn't want to risk waking them up. That... was a mistake.

I came in the front door and found the house empty. I went immediately to the garage, and I must have just missed them: the light in the garage was still on. So I cursed a bit and tried the Beautiful Wife's cellphone. Only, well, a week or two back one of the kids was playing with that phone, and managed to lock it. It requires a code to unlock it. Nobody seems to have any idea what the code is; it appears to be a hash set at the factory, and therefore the only way to find it is through the retailer... which, in this case, no longer deals with that brand of phone. So, yes: this security code may just be the stupidest, most ill-considered "feature" in existence.

So I had to wait until the Beautiful Wife came back (with both children in tow, and having just been lectured by some prat at the dealership about how not having a cellphone was a problem, in a particularly how-could-you-be-so-irresponsible tone of voice). This did not, as you might imagine, signal a bright start to the morning.

But we got things back under control, mainly by feeding everyone a large dose of breakfast, and the Beautiful Wife took the boys off to go swimming with her parents, at a pool run by their neighborhood association. (We live just far enough from them not to be part of the association, but we still get to take advantage of it.) We'd made plans to go get lunch with her parents at a Chinese place that we're rather fond of, so when she left the house she told me to meet them at the pool at eleven so we could go get food.

She'd forgotten that I didn't have a car.

So I napped for a bit and woke up in time to walk over there. The exercise was probably good for me, and if not... well, they say suffering builds character, so I have that going for me. And we did get everyone loaded up, and we did have a truly fine lunch.

After lunch, we dropped by the dealership to see how my car looked. The news was not awful, but it was comprehensively bad. In addition to the speedometer (which had likely set off the Check Engine light), the timing belt was 30,000 miles overdue for replacement - and this is 'no tolerance' engine, so if the timing belt ever goes, the engine becomes a singularly large and expensive brick. Also, of the two fans that keep the engine cool - something of a priority in Texas during July, where it's 105 degrees in the shade - one was dead and the other was making a funny noise. Oh, and... I stopped the guy there, because while the rest of list still needs to be fixed, none of it was as urgent as those three items - and those three items were quite expensive enough by themselves, thank you very much.

I'm lucky. I can afford this. But all of that together, just at that moment, was going to be a huge meteor smashing into our cash flow situation. Still, the alternative involves a lot more walking or bicycling than I'm comfortable with, especially in Texas in July. So I told them to get started on the critical trinity of problems, and make me a list of the rest.

Then we went back home, My wife napped with Secondborn for about two hours, while I tried to nap and Firstborn very successfully prevented me from actually sleeping. Since I couldn't sleep, I did the next best thing: I called my parents, who were out of town for their annual Independence Day pilgrimage to The Stagecoach Inn. They were perfectly willing to loan me some money, which would ease our cash flow situation considerably. (And it will get paid back, with interest, but this allows me to spread the damage out in a way that involves far less likelihood of us having to eat Ramen for a week or so.) Moreover, they were willing to loan me father's pickup truck, an idea I hadn't even considered.

Once Beautiful Wife and Secondborn awakened from their nap, I looked at Firstborn (who was doing cartwheels across the living room floor, or trying to leap from the couch onto my head, or something), and decided that more exercise was in order. So we ran everybody up to McDonald's. I have a selection of McDonald's restaurants; it's very important to go the right kind of McDonald's, and avoid the wrong kind of McDonald's. The difference between the two is determined by whether the restaurant in question has an indoor playground, or whether they're trying to give their customers heatstroke. (Again: Texas, July.) There are some additional considerations involving what sort of kids are likely to be at a given restaurant, and how interestingly the play area has been arranged; but air conditioning is the key consideration.

Both the boys ran around in the tunnels, and even played with another pair of boys, and generally did what I wanted them to (i.e. use up all their energy in a way that didn't leave the Beautiful Wife and myself exhausted).

We put them to bed, and then we collapsed.

Check back for Part Two tomorrow... I'll probably write it up during lunch.

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