Got to Test Out My New Car Horn in a Big Way

Posted by Kathy on July 8th, 2013

geese crosswalkA few miles from my house is a little creek where geese hang out. It’s a very natury place to call home if you’re a goose.

Except for one problem.

The area is divided by a busy four lane road that was packed at rush hour tonight.

As I headed down this road, I came upon a stop light at a highway interchange. Right where a party of a dozen or so geese decided now would be a super fine time to cross the road to get to the other side.

I was horror-stricken. They all just walked as a pack right into the busy road without a care in the world.

This ain’t gonna end well, I thought.

Until….

Until….

All of us drivers, every last one of us, laid on our horns, loud and steady, which had two effects:

1. The cacophony of horns alerted all over drivers that something was wrong and they all slowed, now knowing why.

2. It made the geese run faster across the street, right into oncoming traffic.

OMG, please geese, move your little asses or fly, dammit!

I just didn’t want to see anyone get hit in front of me, mere feet away. I couldn’t look, but I couldn’t not look because …. because …. I was willing them to move.

Still honking our horns and marveling at the beauty of cars stopping and nobody rear-ending each other, we drivers waited until all the geese made it across without a scratch.

And still without a care in the world.

Did they even know how close they came to certain ends?

Lucky day, my little goosey friends. Lucky day.

* In case you’re wondering why geese walk across roads, rather than fly, here you go.

How Much House Do We Really Need?

Posted by Kathy on April 26th, 2009

mansion

Attention Bing visitors: I’m getting tons of traffic today for this post and everyone’s using exactly the same search string to get here. I’m perplexed why this is happening. If someone could leave a note in the comments explaining what led you here, I’d be super grateful!

November 16, 2010

——-

I enjoy watching House Hunters on the HGTV network, where a single person, couple, or family decides which house to buy after touring three of them.

Yesterday I watched in amazement as a woman said she was concerned that a 4,000 sq. foot house wasn’t enough room for herself, her husband and three small children.

Four thousand feet isn’t enough? Gimme a break!

I grew up with two parents and four siblings in a 1,250 sq. foot house and survived. And here’s the incredible part. All seven of us shared ONE bathroom and we didn’t die.

My husband and I share a 1,700 sq. foot home and that’s plenty of house for two people. In fact, we don’t even use the two front rooms at all. One is I guess what you’d call a sitting room. We don’t sit in there. We store crap in there.

The other room is our dining room. Ha! Dining room. That’s rich. We barely cook. So we have more crap and decorative items in there that we could do without if we had to.

Together we watched another episode of House Hunters where a couple sought an apartment in Paris. They had a budget of $300,000US and wound up buying a flat with no more than 400 sq. feet!

We agreed we could totally live in that small space. The payoff, of course, is that we’d be living in Paris.

How much house do you have? Do you wish you had more? Could you live with less? What would you want in exchange for less room?

Throwing Money at the Problem

Posted by Kathy on February 22nd, 2008

chain gang All too often I’m complaining about something. If you heard that’s what happens here, sorry to disappoint you for today.

The thing is it snowed last night. Not a blizzard, but enough snow to make the prospect of shoveling it unappealing to my husband Dave and me. We’re off work today and really wanted to kick back and relax. The more it snowed, the more our backs instinctively started hurting.

The plan was to watch the forecast and estimate the best time to go out, between when the snow was expected to stop and when the sleet was expected to start.  We had another hour to complain about work neither of us wanted to do.

Just then Dave heard some kids walking up towards the house. Kids with shovels. Five of them. In the ten years we’ve lived in this house, we never had kids come by to offer to shovel for us. I figured that was an activity today’s youth wanted no part of, or their parents were afraid to send them out the door to strangers’ homes. I thought what a sad sign of the times. As kids, Dave and I shoveled for money. All our friends shoveled for money. Doesn’t anyone want to shovel for money anymore?

Before the kids even rang our doorbell, Dave handed me 25 bucks. “Here, this should be enough for the driveway.”  I opened the door and before the kid could even say anything, I thrust the money at him and said “Is this enough for the driveway?” The look on his face was priceless. Red-cheeked from the cold and eyes wide open, he said “Yeah!! Thanks!!”

When he turned around, he waved the cash at his buddies and their faces lit up. They got crackin’ immediately.

Before they got halfway done, Dave asked me “Do we have any more cash laying around? We should ask them to do the back sidewalk.”

I frowned. I only had about three bucks in my purse and he only had eight more singles. I cursed the fact that I almost never have cash on me, since I prefer to use my debit card at stores. I considered writing a check. Dave and I discussed how stupid it would be to write a check to a child. I suggested we write it to one of the kids’ mothers, but then that seemed too weird. Dammit!!! We need more cash! And, hurry! They’re almost done with the driveway!

After nixing the check idea, we did the only thing we could do. We raided the change jar for quarters. There we stood, counting out enough quarters to round out to 20+ more bucks. As dumb as it felt to give them a pound of change and some bills, money is money. I hardly think they would care. They didn’t.

I opened the door and yelled “Hey guys? Is twenty good for the sidewalk?”

They shouted back, “Yeah! Cool!” And off they went. We had ourselves our own little snow-shoveling chain gang and now we didn’t have to get bundled up, get wet and cold or break our backs on what looked like very heavy snow.

When they were done, the leader of the group returned to tell me they were finished and to thank me for the money. No, thank you!

God bless you, Chain Gang. Your parents should be proud that you’re not afraid to sweat for a few bucks. I didn’t think I’d ever see that sight for the rest of my life. I hope I see them again next year. I’m pretty sure after making almost 50 bucks for a half hour’s work, those kids will remember our address.

“Y’all come back now, ya hear!”

So do any of you see kids shoveling for money (or maybe for nothing) in your neighborhoods? Or do I just live in a really lazy section of town?

The Shampoo Snafu

Posted by Kathy on January 3rd, 2008

I have characterized The Junk Drawer as cheap therapy because it’s where people can come to unload and unwind. Rants are more than welcome here. I have them, I support them and I listen to them because I feel other people’s pain. I believe ranting is how we survive our days.

This is why my sister, Ann, felt it entirely appropriate to call me up today without so much as a Hello, and rant thusly:

Me:  Hello?

Ann:  I’m never going back to Wal-mart as long as I live. Do you HEAR me???

Me:  What happened?

Ann:  I left a freaking bag over there and now I have to battle traffic to go get it!!! I got home and was looking for all my shampoos and stuff and I realized I left it there!!!

Me:  Mm-hmm.

AnnYou know what the problem is?

Me:  What?

AnnI’ll tell you what it is. It’s those stupid bag carousel things that the cashier puts your crap in and when they spin that freaking thing, your bags are out of sight and you don’t know how many you have to take and they put like only two things in each bag trying to match up similar items.

And then you have like seven bags to carry and God, I wouldn’t care if they put a turkey in a bag with my lipstick! Just put it all in one bag and I’ll throw it over my shoulder like Santa Claus and hightail it out of there!!!!

Me:  Breeeeathe. Release. Breeeeeathe. Release.

Ann:  Why do they even have those things? What ever happened to just throwing the bags on a flat bin thing like every other store has? Huh? Then you could see all your bags and not forget any. God!!! I can’t believe I have to go back there! You know how bad their parking lot is!!! I wanted to come home, relax, eat and lay on the couch. But nooooo! I have to go out in this freezing cold wind and battle through all the people to get to my stupid bag. I’m never going there again. Do you HEAR me?

For the record, my sister is a kind and reasonable woman who is only rattled by forgotten, loosely-filled bags.

Oh, now wait a minute. Ann just called back with an update. This next rant is worse than the first and I have to hold the phone a foot from my ear because there’s a TNT explosion coming out of it.

Ann:  Do you freaking believe this!??! They didn’t have my bag!!! They told me to go to the stupid Returns counter behind a line of people. I’m not making a return! I’m picking something up! I flagged down a lady and begged her to check for a bag that I just called about. She brings a bag over, I look inside and IT’S NOT MY STUFF!!! It’s somebody’s else’s shampoo! It’s Pantene! And mine had Sunsilk! And there’s other junk in there that’s not mine. Oh my God! Why are there two forgotten bags with shampoo in them? Why is this happening to me?

Me:  Because it’s Thursday?

Ann:  So they say they don’t have my bag, but they told me I could go run around the store and get the items I’m missing and then go get rung up again. Are you freaking kidding me? Oh my God! I just did that 20 minutes ago. I don’t even KNOW what I DON’T have! By this point I look like Elaine [from Seinfeld fame] in that episode where she’s trying to drive her stupid houseguest to the airport. Remember that? My hair’s all over the place and I’m just standing there, like in a bubble. I couldn’t hear anything around me anymore. I thought everything was gonna go dark. All I was thinking is that I had to get home to meet Regan from school!!

Me:  What’d ya do?

Ann:  I left!!!

Me:  So you still don’t have your stuff?

Ann: No! I’m going to call them again and ask them to look again.

CLICK.

Ten minutes later………

Ann:  They have my bag. Wanna know where it was?

Me: Where?

Ann:  Right freaking next to the other person’s shampoo bag with a note on it that read "Ann FakeLastName. Customer forgot in store. Will pick up."

Me:  What are you going to do?

Ann:  Pick it up at 3AM when there’s no people there except for employees!!!! As God is my witness, I’ll never shop there again!! Do you HEAR me? Thanks for listening. I feel better now.

Me:  That’s what I’m here for.

CLICK.

————

So you see. If you’re spending too much on therapy that’s getting you nowhere, just stop by The Junk Drawer. I will never make fun of you for a rant, I will never tell you to lighten up and I will ALWAYS listen.

Got anything to rant about? The doctor is in.

I don’t get out enough

Posted by Kathy on October 3rd, 2007

So I just had a very embarrassing time of things at the grocery store. While waiting in line for postage stamps at the courtesy counter, a guy behind me says "I know you."

Uh-oh. I don’t know him.

He says "You live on my street, don’t you? Two doors down."

I’m not recognizing him in the least. I think I should know him if he lives only two doors away.

I give him my street name and he says "Yeah, we’re neighbors. You know Martha, two doors the other way."

Oh my God. He knows me and he knows who I talk to and who the hell is Martha? I try to get my bearings, but because I’m directionally-challenged and "two doors down" is not specific enough for me, I ask him "If I walk out my front door, which way is your house?"

"To your left." Nothing’s registering. "I’m the one whose red Jeep never leaves the driveway." That doesn’t help either.

"Which way is Martha?"

"She’s two doors to your right." Still nothing. I’m sure by now he can see light streaming straight through my ears, because clearly there’s no brain matter in there.

I’m so mortified and flustered by now and the cashier is trying to hand me my change and I don’t know who he is and he must think I’m a total moron. I try to salvage this go-nowhere conversation by at least asking his name, since it seems the neighborly thing to do.

He says "Andrew." We shake hands and he says in all seriousness, "Nice to meet you." How can I have been nice to meet? I’m a total clod. I wouldn’t know any of my neighbors if they sat on me.

I drive home and begin looking around for a red Jeep that never leaves the driveway, but realize he’s probably driving it home himself right now. God, just let me pull in the garage quick so I don’t have to see him again.

Still unsure who this guy is, I jump on my county’s tax records website and punch in my street name. Up comes all my neighbors’ house records and right there it is — an Andrew who lives two doors to the left. According to the records, he’s been living there 12 years. We’ve been in our house for ten. He’s been my neighbor for a decade and I didn’t know it.

I gotta get out more.

Round and round we go….

Posted by Kathy on September 20th, 2007

I admit it. I am directionally-challenged and it’s embarrassing. When someone starts giving me directions somewhere, I can only remember the first one or two instructions. After that, I need a picture. Better yet, a chauffeur. MapQuest doesn’t cut it because then I have to take my eyes off the road. And trust me, nobody wants that.

You might figure I’d have the most trouble finding my way around over long distances. You’d be right, and wrong. It’s possible for me to have trouble no matter how far I’m driving. Here’s how I got lost two tenths of a mile from my house.

It was October last year, the day my township was queuing floats on the street behind my house for a Halloween parade taking place nearby.

I drove up to an intersection just two blocks from home. A cop explained that I wasn’t allowed to get through until the parade got underway.

"How long will it be?"

"About 20 minutes."

"But I have ice cream in my car." Surely, melting ice cream qualifies as an emergency and aren’t cops supposed to assist with emergencies?

"You can drive down one block and loop back to Maria Lane."

Simple enough, I think. And then I remember. I’m a dunce. I begin to worry immediately that I’ll get lost in my own neighborhood and I might find myself still driving around by dinner time, and all I’ll have to show for it is melted ice cream and a massive headache. ‘Course, I could eat the ice cream, but then I might do it so fast that I get an ice cream headache. Either way, I’m going to have a headache.

I continue down to the next block and enter what I like to call Suburban Planners Toying with Me. I imagined them all sitting around a big table, then asking a 4-year-old with a box of crayons to draw some figure eights and squiggly lines. "Looks good. Now dump the houses here." There are more roundabouts and cul de sacs than through-streets. I drive through all of them. Twice. "Hi. Me again." Wave real nice. "Just ignore me."

As God is my witness, you cannot traverse this ridiculous maze of suburban streets to save your life, and thank God I have food in the car because I might actually have to save it.

I have a cell phone, but Dave’s at work, so it won’t do me any good. But there might be a series of answering machine messages that go like this:

"Dave. I’m lost. Come get me when you get home. I’m a block away."

Beep.

"Dave. I’m scared. Little kids are pointing and laughing at me because they know I’m lost."

Beep.

"Dave. People think I’m casing their houses. I keep driving past them over and over."

Beep.

"Dave. Tell the cats I said good-bye. I’m never getting home. I ate all the food."

After fifteen $%*@# minutes of driving around in Dante’s seventh circle of development hell, I finally found the cross street I needed to get me home. When I got there, I screamed a colorful expletive I only bring out for special occasions such as this, and gunned it. Look out! There’s a gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough with my name on it.

Pop goes the weasel! Now shut the hell up

Posted by Kathy on September 4th, 2007

This weekend while trying to relax my crooked back after my high-heeled shoe fiasco, I almost drifted off to a glorious sleep when I was shaken out of my calm by our stupid neighborhood ice cream man.

Now, I know I’m going to get shot down hard for saying this, but there is a special place in hell for ice cream truck drivers who play the same tune over and over again. A lot of people don’t mind the music at all. I’m not one of them. This guy only occasionally rings the bell, which I do find quite charming and nostalgic. It’s when he plays the same song on loop that I want to run out there and throw spike strips under his wheels and smash his speakers with a very large mallet.

I suppose it wouldn’t be all that bad if it wasn’t the particular song he’s playing. Wanna feel my pain? He came down the street just a minute ago and I managed to hide behind some bushes and stuff to get the shot. Go ahead, I dare you to click this.

Seriously, just imagine that over and over, and LOUD, and it just doesn’t stop and you want to rip your hair out!!! I’ve considered going outside with a fistful of cash, then buying up all his inventory so he HAS to leave. But then he’d realize there’s a market for ice cream on my street, and that’s not what we want now, do we?

There is precedence for silencing noise menaces, so I know I’m not the only one who’s annoyed. Boston’s trying to have it banned. And you might have heard about the guy in Jim Thorpe, PA, who can’t stand his courthouse neighbors who play show tunes five times a day from their bell tower carillon. He’s since backed off his lawsuit, but I stand with him on principle. All he wants is a little peace.

I could almost stand it if Ice Cream Guy weren’t driving his Cartoon Mobile down our street on Sundays. I don’t know who I’m angrier at, him or the thoughtless neighbors who mow the lawn for three hours. Doesn’t anyone consider Sunday a day of rest anymore? Or am I just that old-fashioned?

When good lawns go bad

Posted by Kathy on August 27th, 2007

We used to have neighbors who obsessed about everything: car, house, and yard. They were both the envy of the neighborhood and the subject of much backyard gossip. It bears mentioning that they were both retired, so they had tons of time to tend to these things. We all stood by and watched as our houses turned to crap and theirs looked like Better Homes and Gardens. They put us all to shame.

Obsession is really putting it mildly. I’ve witnessed the wife getting down on her hands and knees to scrub their sidewalks clean. No kidding. The husband, Hank, installed Astroturf in their garage, swear to God. He also vacuumed out his car trunk monthly, though it’s doubtful there was anything to suck up. Really. Above all, they kept an immaculate lawn. Mowed that thing every Monday morning at 8AM sharp and fertilized all the time. Remember the drought of 1999? You wouldn’t know it over at Hank’s place. We considered calling the cops because he was clearly violating the water restrictions.

Here’s what it looked like the last time I took a picture of it (for an article I’m writing about living in suburbia):

Recently, after some nudnicks moved into the neighborhood, the couple realized they’d had enough. Too much noise and oil-leaking cars in the driveway for their tastes, they up and moved. That was in the spring.

Nice new, normal neighbors moved into the house and the first thing that stopped getting love and attention was the lawn. Here’s what it looks like today, after not having gotten the "Hank Treatment" all summer.

We have a secret kinship with these new neighbors, as now "Hank’s lawn" looks like absolute hell, much like ours — worse, actually. I think if Hank and his wife came driving around the ‘ol hood, they’d die a little. I’m sure the first thing he’d do is grab a water hose. Crying, screaming, and spinning in a circle, the lawn would get a great soaking.

One thing these before-and-after shots illustrate is what can happen when you over-fertilize your lawn and then suddenly stop. My friend Jason Slipp is my go-to guy for all things environmental. He knows everything about organic foods, natural-fiber clothing, biodeisel fuel and how the earth is going to hell in a handbasket. I went straight to him to find out why this lawn is deader than dead.

He explained:

Humans have been fertilizing their soils since the beginning of the agricultural revolution (probably without knowing it at first) with manure (human and non-human) and organic waste (plant/animal). This "waste" re-supplies the soil with much needed nutrients (nitrogen/phosphorus, potassium), and is important if we want to grow food.

Then came the "green" revolution when scientists realized they could manufacture synthetic fertilizers based on cheap oil and natural gas (all synthetic fertilizers are based mainly on natural gas – which essentially makes ammonia. Umm, isn’t is great that we are eating ammonia?). So for 50 plus years, to increase their yields, farmers have been spraying, injecting, and genetically modifying crops using synthetic fertilizers. Fertilizers have also gone commercial, and people are now hiring companies like ChemLawn to douse their lawns with synthetic fertilizers. These fertilizers make your grass green because they are giving the soil exactly what it wants, more nutrients (nitrogen/phosphorus, potassium). However, they are also changing the biological makeup of the soil and most likely poisoning ground water.

We are now seeing massive soil degradation, and many of the essential nutrients are not being replaced (essentially, soil is becoming over-used). So more fertilizers are required to uphold crop yields – it is a vicious circle. The same thing is happening to Hank’s grass. Basically, that lawn either needs to be heavily fertilized and/or watered. The lawn probably became dependent on the injection of nutrients from being fertilized over the last few years, and now it is suffering – basically, it is going through withdrawal and dying. We have also had little rain fall, so that doesn’t help, but I guarantee, even without rain, if the lawn was fertilized it would look exactly the same as it did last year.

The reality is, it is a lawn. And, I would rather see our dwindling natural gas and oil supplies be used for something else besides keeping a lawn green. Not to mention how environmentally damaging lawn mowers are (use fossil fuels for manufacturing and running and are very polluting). Enjoy your green grass in the spring, then watch it die in the summer (hey, less yard work!).

I’m anxious to see if the neighbors’ lawn ever comes back to life on its own, or if they decide it needs fertilization. The way it looks now, I wouldn’t be surprised if they discovered one huge dirt pile after the last winter thaw. Maybe they can Astroturf it.