Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Driving and talking.

Well, when one of my “meat” friends first saw my blog he said I should tell the story of when I totaled my truck in 2001.

Then reading Swishy's post about her cell phone/driving adventures today was the second sign from the Gods that the story should be told. So with two separate signs I decided I simply must tell y’all this story or risk angering the Gods. I do enough things to anger most self-respecting Gods so telling this story seems like a real gimme in the God appeasement category.

In 2001 I had a contract with IBM in Saint Louis Missouri so I traveled back and forth regularly. My airplane was broken down (never buy a German propeller, trust me on this, or as a pilot friend of mine says, "Friends don't let friends buy MT Propellers") and even before 911 and the so-called "security" we have now, I simply despised the airlines on so many levels that I could not make my self do it so I just drove to Saint Louis.

I was on I-44 about half way between Tulsa and Oklahoma City heading home to Dallas. I-44 through Oklahoma is GREAT since the speed limit is 75 mph. That makes it well worth $13 to cross half the state of Oklahoma on it. I generally run 7 mph over the speed limit so I had the cruise control set at 82 mph.

The sky was very ugly. It is going to rain but it had not started yet.

My wife calls me for a position report and we were still chatting when I came over the top of a hill and whoosh! It had been raining like crazy on top of this hill and the highway was covered in standing water. I immediately started to hydro-plane. I felt the rear wheels break loose first. I dropped the phone first thing, killed the cruise control and tried to get the truck back under control. It was like I was on a sheet of ice, nothing I did really had an effect on what the truck did. I was fishtailing back and forth slowly at first but on every cycle I would get just a little more sideways. On every cycle I also said out loud, “Oh shit!” The further sideways I turned the more emphasis that was added to the “oh shit”. In just a few seconds I was sliding nearly sideways down I-44 at about 80 mph. I think I might have said ”Oh shit!” A few more times!

Suddenly the tires decided to grab. That would normally be a good thing but since I was almost side ways pointing at a concrete median barrier at 80 mph traction was not a good thing at that particular moment. The wheels grabbed and WHAM- I hit the concrete lane divider, spun around a couple of times and came to a stop facing into oncoming traffic in a pouring rain with a seriously bent truck.

Now something you have to understand about me. I do talk to myself. I will use pilot training as an excuse. During pilot training and testing they always tell you to voice your thoughts out loud so that the instructor or examiner knows what you are thinking and why. For example, you could flunk an exam for being off course by a few degrees but if you say out loud, “I am off course but I am correcting to the left to get back on course” then you get a pass. No one is perfect so they are looking to see if you realize your error and correct it or if you just obliviously fly on into the imaginary mountain.

So, with that excuse firmly in place, I talk to myself. Immediately after the accident the cab of my truck is FULL of white smoke. I can barely see the passenger seat through all the smoke. So I say, in a loud, manly and incredibly brave voice, ”Oh shit! I'm on fire!!” The door handle is broken so I rolled the window down to reach the outside handle. The door unlatches but because of the crash damage it only opens an inch or so. Keeping my imaginary flight examiner in the loop I say out loud, “The door is jammed! I can’t get out!” I hit it with my shoulder a few times trying to force it open, it creaks and opens a little more but not much.

However, with the window open all the smoke clears out and I can see there is no fire, it was just the air bags! Well duh. I had never seen them go off before. (or since) They make a LOT of smoke!

Now that I can see I realize I am facing head on into a line of traffic that is trying desperately to stop before hitting me on the very same stretch of incredibly slick road that just took me out.

I now know *exactly* how that poor bunny in the middle of the highway feels.

I look down, the truck is still in gear and the engine is still running! So I decided to see if it would move. The front tires are rubbing the fenders very hard and I had to really gun the engine to get that truck to move against all the resistance. There was all kinds of grinding and popping noises as I forced that very broken truck to move over onto the shoulder. It was shedding pieces as it went.

Once off on the shoulder I shut the truck down and took a few moments to just breathe and shake a little (in a very manly way, of course ) .

So after that sanity break I decided I had better call the Highway Patrol. Phone, where in the heck is my phone? I start digging around and I find it on the far side of the truck under a pile of crap that used to be under the seats.

When I find it I can see the call timer is still ticking. Oh yeah, that's right, I was talking to my wife when it all hit the fan. Is she still on phone? I held it up to my ear and said “Honey?”

She was crying and hysterical which really confused me since I was the one that had hit that median. Once she pulled it together enough to explain it to me though I got it.

From her perspective the phone call went like:

“Yeah honey, I should be home around 7:00 so we should be able to… oh shit... oh shit!... oh SHIT! OH SHIT!!” Squeeeeeeel. BANG! Crash, clangity-clang.

Then my voice, "Oh shit! I'm on fire!!”

“The door is jammed! I can’t get out!”

Bam, bam, bam, bam.


Grrrr, GRRRRR, squeeeeeeeee, bang, pop, pop, pop-pop, grrrrrrrr, swish.

Then silence.

She thought all the sound effects of me moving the badly broken truck off the road were the sounds of a truck becoming an inferno, crackling, popping and roaring as it was consumed by flame. She was convinced she had just heard me burn to death.

So, don’t talk on the cell phone while driving Swishy, we don’t want your mom to hear you crash now do we? :)

(EDIT: Why can't I tell a short story?)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Former Pop Star Gunned Down

AFGHANISTAN- Today, a great pop music star of the 60’s was killed on the eastern border of Afghanistan.

Al-Walnutti, who before converting to Islam and changing his name was the one time front man for the super group “Alvin and the Chipmunks”, was gunned down today while trying to sneak into the country. His long voiced hatred of America and, in his words, the Satan inspired music industry to which he once belonged were well known.

Therefore it was readily assumed by CIA analysts that Al-Walnutti was trying to sneak into Afghanistan to aid the regrouping Taliban.

However, close friends assert that CIA Intelligence has it all wrong. Far from aiding the Taliban, Al-Walnutti was on a mission of vengeance against them. The love of his life, one time lead of the Chipmunks backup singers “The Chipettes” was publicly stoned to death in 2001 in a football stadium for the crime of removing her facial hair which in that region is considered to be a sin against God and a disgrace to the women’s family requiring an honor killing.

After publicly voicing support for their leader’s decision to remove her whiskers, the other two Chippettes were shown mercy and merely had their left paws removed.

Al-Walnutti had sworn his vengeance against the killers of his love and his friends maintain that he was killed while attempting extract his vengeance.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Am I that guy?

Ok, I admit it. I am one of THOSE people. I am the guy that will strike up a conversation with perfect strangers while in line or on a plane or something.

I mean just standing in line is pretty boring right? So lets have a chat and make the time go by. In fact, I have had some truly wonderful conversations on airliners with complete strangers.

So last night I stopped for groceries on the way home from work. This fella in line behind me starts off with an innocent, "Heh, look at that, pumpkin flavored Peep's for Halloween. You know I just don't care for pumpkin."

In life there are "cusp" moments where your life can go one way or the other and the decision you make in that second could impact you for the rest of your life. The shitty thing about cusp moments is you never know it's a cusp moment when you are actually living it. It's only when you look back and reflect that you can say AH HA! Right there, at that moment if I had just done this instead of that my life would be markedly different right now

Looking back now, I can see that the next sentence from my mouth was a horrible, awful mistake. A true cusp moment. O lord how I wish I could relive that cusp moment and say NOTHING. The words that doomed me? I replied, "Yeah, I'm not that crazy about pumpkin myself."

Oh…….My……..Gawd! That was a major mistake! What possessed me to say something like that? To utter such words of power? Because those simple words empowered my new line buddy with free license to ramble on non-stop from one topic to the next, slowly spiraling down into the depths of insanity for the next 20 minutes. I swear, this guy has mastered the art of inhaling while talking because not once in the next twenty minutes did he stop talking long enough to take a breath. Amazing. If only he could use his powers for good.

He started off innocently enough on the genetic composition of Peeps and why they don't taste so good. Which led directly into an in-depth discussion of food coloring which then led to an example of how the most evil of the dark cabal of food colors are actually of red dyes #2 and #5 and how they are made from crushed tropical insects which eventually led to the vast conspiracy of the food moguls in general who deliberately fed us these particular insects so that we will crave more of their food and thus enrich them to the point that they can complete their dark plans against humanity. Thank God the checker got me bagged and cleared before I could learn about that master plan.

By summing up his diatribe in three sentences I am sparing you the dear reader from the interminable detail that the oral presentation of his masters thesis in conspiratology entailed.

I heard it, now I can't un-hear it! Oooooo, please make it stop.

So I had to wonder, am I that guy? Am I the guy that starts talking in line then just won't…..SHUT…..UP? Uhhhhh, maybe. :(

Now as a nerd, I am often deaf to subtle hints that most humans pick up on. At least on a plane if you have reading material I will get out my book and shut up to let you read yours. Lines are a different story though. People rarely brings books to lines. So, are my line companions silently screaming at me to shut the hell up? I don't know but after Satan's little conga line at the grocery store last night I will be more attuned to my vict, er, companions in the future.

So how about you? Do you enjoy a line conversation (assuming it is somewhat sane of course) or would you rather stand and contemplate the universe in silence?


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Origin of Species

You see, I am this odd combination of redneck hillbilly, professional computer geek, mechanical engineer, history buff, amateur aircraft builder, science fiction fan, amateur chef and pilot. I also have this odd desire to add bad musician and perhaps horrible poet to my list.

As you can see I have two distinct and conflicting sides, I am the geek that no one gets (Hey, *I* think I am hilarious!) but then I do have a nice wide swath of good old fashioned farmer redneck embedded in my DNA. The opposing twin aspects of my personality are always at war to see who will be dominant. Like the wobbly balance of power between neighboring third world states it is often best if neither personalty becomes dominate.

Sadly, no matter which personality is on top today, neither of them attract women.

So I could think of no better title for my new little swirling vortex of lost productivity than "The Nerdy Redneck". It fits me well. Far too well.

As a perfect illustration of my inner conflict, as a computer geek I am right on top of the latest technology in my area of computing. The redneck in me however is a bit distrustful of this here world wide interweb thing-a-ma-bob. I mean dem gub'ment types are monitoring yer keystrokes and such, right?

So the result of this conflict is that I am just right on top of this whole blogging thing! On the cusp of a new concept, Yep, on the leading edge of new ideas. Surfing at the bleeding edge at the speed of light slowing passing those pokey electrons as they go about their business.

So welcome to my little experiment.