The Hess Report

Thursday, September 21, 2006

God Bless the Internet (again) 

This seems to be a common type of occurrence these days (in outline format for your abstracting convenience):

A. The Setup
  1. Put clothes in dryer late on a Friday afternoon
  2. Dryer ceases to function
  3. Smell of smoked electric motor hits my nose

B. Diagnosis
  1. Upon examination, determine that the motor that spins the dryer's drum is dead

C. Options
  1. Obtain replacement motor.
    • $105 for new part + shipping
    • 7-10 days to receive part
    • Replacement of motor requires complete disassembly of dryer
  2. Obtain all new dryer
    • Immediate
    • Around $500 for a new version of what we have now
  3. Check Pittsburgh craigslist
    • within thirty seconds find 1 year old dryer, one model level up from the current, deceased one (which was probably eight years old) for $125

D. Action
  1. Email the seller from craigslist
  2. Within five minutes get reply that it is available
  3. Obtain directions to seller via Google maps
  4. Three hours later, the almost brand-new dryer is drying laundry at our house

E. Conclusion
  1. How did anyone live before the Internet?
  2. God Bless The Internet (GBTI)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Eeeee! Eeeee! Eeeee! 

For some reason last Friday, the girls wanted to have a sleep out in our room. That means they built little beds on the floor out of a mini-futon and several layers of sleeping bags and pillows. Odd, I know, but at least they're not asking to get tattoos!

By the time sleep!Joy and I made it to bed, it was getting close to midnight. The girls were very cute in their improvised beds, Piper curled up on her pillow between them. We turned out the lights, and were talking as we sometimes do. The discussion turned to different methods of showing compassion or a lack thereof. One of my points was that many times in our society, sentimentality and emotionalism is seen as the only valid expression of compassion. You don't feel sad because some tragedy happened halfway around the world? You lack compassion! I also pointed out that this was one of the classic male/female divides in our culture. Stereotypically, women talk and feel, while men act. And uh oh... as soon as you start bringing up stereotypes, people start to think about being offended. Fortunately, there was a diversion.

Flap-flap-flap. It was much like the sound that Piper makes when she "shakes it out" and her ears flap against the sides of her head. But not quite. I heard it again, but this time near the ceiling, where I was pretty sure that Piper was not. In the darkness, something darted across my field of vision.

"Joy, there's a bat in the room."

"Argh," said Joy.

It was a kind of puzzle. If I simply ignored it and went to sleep, Piper would eventually notice that there was a rodent in the room, freak out with the barking, and scare everyone half to death. If I attempted to capture the bat, I would have to turn on at least one light, probably make some noise, and almost certainly wake the little ones. "Daddy, what are you doing?" "Trying to catch that bat. Don't move. He's right behind you." "AAAAAAAAAA!!!"

I decided to at least try to get him. My eyes were adjusted to the darkness, and I could see him flitting around the room.

"I'm going to turn on the little light," I said.

"I might scream," said hilarious!Joy. She seemed to be slightly amused with herself, as though she knew she wasn't intellectually afraid of bats, but at the same time aware of the fact that, when in your pj's at midnight, a bat landing on your head might provoke a certain type of involuntary outburst.

I turned on the light, and the little fellow disappeared. I poked around for him, but there were open doors to two closets, and he could have been between any of the dozens of hanging clothes. I did shake out the curtains, as they will sometimes hide there when surprised. I couldn't search too vigorously, though, as I had two sleeping kids a few feet away from me on the floor.

practical!Joy and I resolved that I would open the window in Lucy's bedroom, in case I was able to catch him. Doing it in our room would have been too much of a commotion and probably lead to the previously mentioned conversation ending in "AAAAAA!"

As I switched on the light in Lucy's room, something whizzed by my head. I jumped back out and quickly closed the door. Got him! Now, go back to bed and let him find a nice hiding place in Lucy's room so she can find him tomorrow after school, or just finish it tonight?

I grabbed a shirt out of the closet, went into her room and opened the window. The little bat was doing laps around the ceiling. Now, I know that I'm intellectually unafraid of bats, and also physically unafraid of them in general, but for about the first minute I was in the room, I knew that in the specific case of him flying straight at my face, I'd give a yelp of some kind.

After a brief time in the room with him, though, he could have landed on top of my head and I wouldn't have cared. It was clear that this was not the evening he had been looking forward to.

It would have been easier to just get a badminton racket and smack him silly, but I'm not the kind of person who kills things for little reason, even if it costs me some effort and sleep. My least-harm plan was to envelope him in the shirt, then toss the entire bundle out the window. He'd squirm his way free, then be off to chase mosquitoes!

Over the next ten minutes of jumping and spinning around the room, I caught him twice. Both times he escaped. I was trying to be gentle, because they're fragile animals, and like mice, simply holding them too tightly when they're freaking out can kill them. Eventually, he flew near the open window and with some guidance on my part found his way out into the night.

Compassion lives in action.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The World's Most Exciting Gas Station 

The city gas station across the street from where I work. always has something wacky going on. Sometimes it's a crazed old man who doesn't understand how to use pay-at-the-pump and yells and screams at the clerks in the store. Sometimes it's people who freak out on the outside attendant because they can't buy gas from the fleet fueling station. Often, it's just people being rude and darting in to steal a pump when someone's been waiting patiently for a while, causing horns, load swearing and everyone else looking around nervously and wondering if things are going to get out of hand. As in Bang! Bang! out of hand.

Yesterday, I had to put some gas in the car before I headed home (it's the only station that I don't have to go significantly out of my way to reach). Ooo! Open pump! I quickly pull up to it, but see an "Out of Order" sign across the readouts. Drat. Oh well, at least I'm first in line behind someone else.

The car ahead of me is empty, and the pump attached to the gas tank. An elderly woman shuffles from the pumping stations toward store. The car is a big Chrysler, which means that it's probably the lady's. I've seen this scenario here before. Put nozzle in car. No gas. Why not? P-A-Y-I-N-S-I-D-E. Oh. Go inside. Give credit card (or cash). Back outside. Pump Gas. Go inside. Retrieve credit card (or change).

I was going to be there all afternoon.

Less than a minute later, a hipster kind of dude bopped out of the store, talking on his phone. Could it be? Was I wrong?

Yes! It was his car. The taking-forever-lady had been a false alarm.

So, the guy gets directly into the car. And starts it. Now, what did he forget to do?

I jumped out of my car and run up to his, just as he was starting to put it in gear.

I wrapped on the driver's window.

"You're still connected," I said, and pointed toward the gas pumps.

His eyes got wide. He quickly mouthed "oh my God" and hung up the phone.

He thanked me very much and told me how his day had been crazy, etc.

After he had gone, I pulled up to the pump. As I was getting started, some weird guy shambled up and asked me if I had a quarter to make a phone, which, buddy? They cost more than a quarter now. If you're going to try to scam people, at least get a credible rap. Or ask to use my cell phone, then try to run off with it or something.

Frankly, he's a disgrace to the world's most exciting gas station.

Amendment: Appanently, the world's most exciting gas stations are in Australia.