Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ten Most Frustrating Things I've Encountered

You need to keep in mind I'm not like most people. Your mileage might... will most definitely vary. I once bummed across Guatemala, by bus and hitchhiking, with fifty bucks and a machete. I was fifteen. That was easy. These got me fuming, over and over. Remember, "frustrating" is not exactly the same as hard:

  • Getting a utility pole put in place
I've done this a whole bunch of times at this point. It has never gotten any easier. There is a paperwork and voicemail labyrinth involved with setting the bole of a tree in a hole that makes walking on the moon look straightforward. Hint: the telephone company owns them.
  • Trying to sing while playing the bass
I am neither a good bass player nor a good singer. Imagine doing both badly simultaneously. I find it much easier to play the guitar or drums and sing, even though I stink even worse at playing those. The closest example I can offer to uttering sounds while fretting (over) syncopated rhythms, is juggling. You can't ever look directly at one ball or you'll drop all of them.
  • Getting a building permit
Like the phone pole, but more of a tag team beating. I've been responsible for hundreds of building permits in a handful of states for almost every kind of construction. It's the strangest gamut of Bureaus of Silly Walks interspersed with jailhouse lawyer neighbors you can mention. I was trying to build a little house on a plot of land that was laid out as a houselot since the seventies, in a little neighborhood near here, and a doughy neighbor woman dressed like a four dollar hooker got up and and said: "I'd like to read a prepared statement." This, in a room with a wobbly banquet table and few bockety folding chairs, presided over by four commisioners who were dressed in Sunday go-to-hell yardwork clothes, and me.
  • Unionized
People who are in unions that just collect dues and waste it on bribing state senators have no idea what I'm talking about. If you've ever been in a real union that takes an active interest in eveything a member does, you'd know it's more constricting than being a comedian in North Korea.
  • Changed the ball joints on 1966 Ford Fairlane
No one fixes their car anymore. Not changing your oil, and so forth, mind you, but effecting repairs so you can go to work. Used to happen all the time. Before emissions inspections, they just checked to see if you were sitting on milk crates to drive, made sure the horn worked, that the tires didn't have inner tube showing, and that your ball joints weren't dodecahedrons. Mine were. I took the car apart in my mother's garage, and started banging on a giant steel tuning fork to pop the conical part from its tapered lair. I banged on it for two solid days before I got it loose. When it came loose, it fell on my foot. When I got done swearing and exulting, I realized there was another on the other side.
  • set up a .htaccess redirect on a website via FTP
I had to do it. I did it. I have no idea how.
  • Grow grass
People who live in apartments, in cities where every square inch of everything is paved, like to write comments on blogs at three AM on how wasteful and unsustainable a lawn is. They're missing the possibilities lawns offer for population control -- because I swear if you tried to grow a little patch of grass around your house for your kids to play on where I live, you would have taken your own life by now.
  • Find a decent plumber
My first plumber was named Leaky. His name was an exaggeration. "Leaky" would indicate that at least some of the water was still in the pipes. After him, came Squeaky. He was a good plumber, but very strange, and now very dead. Dead is a bad attribute for returning calls. After that came Sully. I should have recalled that the shortest book that could ever be written would likely be Famous Irish Plumbers. All the trouble in Angela's Ashes could have been avoided if anyone in Ireland understood righty tighty lefty loosie, after all. Sully cut a trench through the center of my second floor that left overweight him, underweight me, and one quarter of the footprint of the second storey being supported on enough lumber to make a rickety hummingbird house. "Don't worry; wood is strong!" he said, while walking to the edge of the property line with his feet barely touching the ground.
  • Built a boat
I've built damn near everything at one time or another. I unrolled the plans for a little skiff, and while searching in vain for anything that resembled a rectangle, I realized that even the stuff that wasn't curved had beveled edges.
  • Put my kids in public school
Anything that resembles what I would consider a good education is unavailable at any price in the United States at this point, so I don't spend a lot of time wondering what else we should be doing with our kids. But I wouldn't mind if when my wife and I went to talk to my children's tormen... er... teachers, they would at least pretend that they didn't think I was just hit in the head with a shovel, and wasn't too bright beforehand anyway. I might be dumb, but my kids can at least learn to change the ball joints in a '66 Fairlane from me.


Andy said...

Ball joints. I found the ball joints on my 99 Dodge to be in a bad way last year, and pledged to replace them right after I finished replacing the intake manifold gasket, plenum pan and all. The shop down the street billed me for the ball joint work.

Meadowlark said...

I changed the ball joint... wait, maybe it was the u-joint. It was some sort of joint that had this bell sleeve around it. CV Boot? Oh hell.

Anyway, the point was that I did it when I was a 27 year old woman with two kids and a deployed husband. That repair STILL gets bragging rights.

That's why it's cooler to be a guy... guy-work has big bragging rights. I don't get much mileage outta "I ran the dishwasher today"


Dr Bob said...

Don't know much about telephone poles, but I'm with you on bass playing and singing. Sting is tolerably good (good singer, bass lines while singing tend to be very simple, though); the best I ever saw was Mark King of Level 42 -- saw him on SNL once and he blew me away with his complex funk bass lines while singing a fairly complex vocal piece.

Thud said...

My wife wants an outdoor pizza oven so its off trawling the net for plans I go.O.T. but step arrived at sisters...result, a very happy sister...ta!

Anwyn said...

Great post.

I wish I had something smarter to say than that.

River Cocytus said...

The .htaccess protocol appears to be part 2 of a series of Apache classes, of which the first part is now gone.

Try setting up virtual servers with it. The clarity that emerges vis a vis 500 errors - that there is an extreme many-to-one relationship between errors and messages, we'll say.

You could complete half of the beatitudes by just not cursing.

The Queen Vee said...

My husband has always told me I was lucky to marry him as otherwise I would have probably married a plumber. I've always replied, " I'd be richer and probably not have leaky toilets."

westsoundmodern said...

Found a good plumber just once. Great with copper and he had crates of spare parts and do-dads. He could fix anything. Wife came home unexpectedly one afternoon to find him trying on numbers from her nighty drawer. Big hairy guy. He bolted from the house in a purple teddy never to be seen again.

militant_marmot said...

I, too, know the pain of the ball joints. I have had to replace, in turn, our '69, '70, and '71 Mustangs. And nothing seems to hurt as much as swinging that hammer at the "tuning fork" for what seems like hours. When it does pop, though, tis a wonderful thing!