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View from the Corner

News, updates, humor, homespun wisdom, commentary, idle ramblings, and true stories with a down-home Southern twist. My tribute to Mark Twain, Lewis Grizzard, Cecil A. Rogers (my grandfather), and other great Southern storytellers.

This page will need the most work, as View from the Corner has the most articles.  I need to decide what format to use, whether to bring over all the articles in one fell swoop or just bring over selected articles one at a time, etc.  This will be a major undertaking.

2015.07.25 Berenstein Bears are Real

posted Jul 25, 2015, 4:34 PM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Jul 25, 2015, 4:35 PM ]

So, today I had what I call a narwhal moment.  That's when you find out something you believed for a long time is different than you thought, has always been different, and you feel mad at the world for conspiring to keep that secret from you.  Search for something like "I just found out narwhals are real" for examples.

Remember the Berenstein Bears books from when you were growing up?  Well, it turns out they're actually spelled Berenstain.  Always were.  In spite of how perfectly I remember reading Berenstein and arguing with friends about whether it was pronounced Berensteen or Berenstine, it turns out it was always Berenstain.

I think I'm going to lay back down for a while.

2015.06.20 Amazon Delivery Drones

posted Jun 20, 2015, 7:29 PM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Jun 20, 2015, 7:30 PM ]

So, I keep reading that Amazon wants to use drones (those cute little quadcopter things) to deliver small items almost instantly.  I mean, you could order a new hard drive for your computer and have it delivered in less time it would take to drive into town, buy it at a store, and return home.  This is probably a really good idea.  But every time I hear about this, one question keeps going through my mind:  Which would be better, shotgun or butterfly net?

2011.03.19 Utter Lack of Free Time

posted Mar 19, 2011, 1:45 PM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Mar 19, 2011, 2:09 PM ]

I realized it had been a while since I'd posted, so I thought I might need to update everyone on what's going on with me here lately.  First and foremost, I'm a lazy, selfish, SOB.  If it's a choice between writing something for you, my dear readers, and taking a nap, I'll be taking that nap now.  In fact, today I've spent most of the day doing laundry.  I now have clean bedclothes and clean pajamas.  Now that I've cleaned up the bathroom, I intend to take a long, hot shower.  I then plan to put my clean body in my clean pajamas, lay in my clean bed, and just feel clean for a while.

Yes, this is how I spent my one day off this week.

I've been playing entirely too much Minecraft of late.  Minecraft, for those of you who don't know, is an open-ended sandbox game where you dig up and place blocks while running from evil monsters.  You also have friendly little piggies, sheep, and cows (not shown).  I've been playing the game since it was in alpha status.  It is now in a fairly player-friendly beta.  I figure by the time it actually goes into production, I'll be tired of it.

If I'm not playing, I'm making and editing videos.  Most of Troy H. Cheek's YouTube Channel is taken up with my Minecraft videos.  These are, to put it mildly, not very good.  I still don't have a decent microphone, so the earlier videos use in-game signs and YouTube's own annotation devices.  I did finally dig out my own headset microphone.  After using it for a few hours, I remembered why I had resealed it in its original packaging and stored it deep under a desk.  The thing gives me headaches.

If you want to watch good Minecraft videos, I suggest Coe's Quest, Guude's Stuff, and JSano19's Channel.  I had several others I used to recommend, but they've mostly moved on to other things now.

Work is keeping me busy, as always.  We've had a temporary change in schedule where some of us are working fewer hours a day but more days a week, so the total number of hours is the same but somehow it feels like free time is drastically cut.  Not that I'm complaining about the work schedule, mind you.  I most certainly am not complaining about the work schedule.  I am not complaining because the last time I complained about a work schedule, I got put in charge of it.

Another time killer is farm work.  The good news is that my brother finally convinced the family that we need to buy that backhoe attachment for the tractor.  The bad news is that my brother finally convinced the family that we need to buy that backhoe attachment for the tractor.

More news as time allows...

2011.01.11 Snow Day

posted Jan 13, 2011, 8:43 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Jan 13, 2011, 8:49 AM ]

It snowed just a little here the other day.  While way up North they might have gotten snow measured in feet, way down here a few inches is all it takes to bring life to a standstill.  We got at least six or eight inches of white fluffy rain, as my brother likes to say.  Still, we managed to have a grand old time.

Snow Day 1-11-11

2010.05.26 Bifocal Built for Two

posted May 26, 2010, 7:31 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated May 26, 2010, 8:52 AM ]

When you're an old man with diabetes, every little change you notice in your eyesight is cause for alarm.  This is crazy because, I'm told, that the changes in the eyes caused by diabetes are actually ones that you don't notice.  That's the reason why you need regular checkups.  Otherwise, you wouldn't notice them until it was too late to do anything about them.  With regular checkups, my eye doctors assure me, serious conditions can be caught early and monitored.  You might notice that they don't say anything about actually fixing these serious conditions, just that they can be caught early and monitored.

At one of these regular checkups just a few short years ago, I was asked if I had noticed any changes in my up close vision.  I hadn't.  I was assured that I soon would.  I laughed at this.

I'm not laughing now.

I recently noticed that when reading fine print up close, there was a certain distance at which anything closer was actually in better focus if I took my glasses off.  I caught myself taking off my glasses or looking over the tops to read or work on the computer.  As I'd been making fun of people for years about this, I was quite distressed to find myself doing it.

As I had completely forgotten about the questions concerning changes in up close vision as we get older, I naturally had a complete and utter panic attack at the thought that I was losing my eyesight due to diabetes.  I made an appointment to see an eye doctor.

One of the first things the doctor did was assure me that the changes I had noticed were not caused by diabetes.  This was because, as I mentioned before, the changes caused by diabetes are such that you don't notice them until you're nearly blind.  This was simple aging of the eyes.  In fact, a quick checked showed that my vision at distance was exactly the same as it had been during my last vision test.  Indeed, my existing glasses were found to be exactly the prescription he would have advised had I needed new lenses.

While I didn't necessarily need new glasses, I decided that I could certainly use them.  The old ones were pretty much falling off my face every time I made any sudden movements.  They were also digging in behind my ears, leading me to cock them up at strange angles or tuck the ends up under my hat.  Of course, this made them not sit on my nose correctly, but that did help with the looking over them when reading something up close.

Besides, I'd been in several fights and scuffles and "incidents" while wearing the old glasses at work, and the nice lady at the eyeglass store I used to frequent had made it clear that she didn't think she'd be able to bend them back into shape many more times.  The previous set of glasses had just given up and snapped right down the middle for no apparent reason whatsoever one day.  I think that pair had been bent back into shape one too many times.

Once I'd decided to get new glasses, the question arose as to whether I wanted plain lenses or bifocals or even trifocals.  I didn't care much for the thought of bifocals, as I'd heard those lines are very distracting.  However, I was assured that the new seamless lenses have no noticeable lines.  In fact, the seamless ones blend from one type to another and actually give you a range of corrections.

I also checked out frames.  While there were several on sale and several that were fashionable and several that the girls in the office said I looked very nice in, I picked the ones that, once I put them on, I couldn't tell that I was wearing them.  "They don't look too bad, do they?" I asked.

"No, they don't look too bad," I was told.  "They look quite nice.  That style is quite fashionable.  They were all the rage two or three years ago before they were discontinued."

I decided since I was going full out, I'd even get the lenses that tinted themselves when exposed to bright light.

They were going to have to send off to have the glasses made for me.  At their request, I gave them several phone numbers so I could be reached just as soon as the glasses came in.  Then it came time to pay for them.

Once the total was totaled, there was a bit of sticker shock.  After the insurance and discounts were applied, it was still a bit more than I had on hand in cash.  Luckily, I had my "go to" credit card in my wallet for just such an emergency.  A year or so before, I'd gone through all my credit cards and picked out the one which had both the highest limit and the lowest interest rate.  I kept this one for emergencies and necessities and whatnot.  I'd been slowly paying off and canceling all the rest.  I whipped out my "go to" card.


I had them try it again.


I paid with one of my other cards, which luckily I hadn't canceled yet.  I left the doctor's office mumbling to myself in confusion.  Once home, I called up the credit card people, chose menu options at random, never managed to speak to a real human being, but did eventually determine that my credit limit on that card was a tiny fraction of what I thought it was.  I dug out my old statements and discovered that the limit had been reduced a year or so before, right around the time that I decided to make this my "go to" card.  Apparently, paying off and canceling other cards is bad for the limits on the cards you keep.

Working this out took several days, whereupon I realized that I hadn't gotten the call about my new glasses yet.  I called.  "Oh, yes, Mister Cheek.  They've been here for a while.  We were wondering why you never came in to pick them up."

"Because you never called me."

"Why would we call you?"

"To tell me the glasses were ready to be picked up."

"But we just told you."

Since I was fighting off a sudden migraine headache for some reason, I let my oldest nephew, N1, drive me down to pick up the glasses.  They were everything I had hoped they would be.  Well, except for how they felt on my face.  I had chosen those frames specifically because when I put them on, I couldn't feel them.  Since that time, the frames had been properly adjusted to fit my face.  Now, they pinched me behind the ears just like the old ones did.  After several adjustments, they felt much better, but I've never recaptured the way they first felt.

Now, I'd like to tell you stories about headaches and dizziness and falling down flights of stairs because of the new bifocal glasses, but I'm afraid I didn't suffer from any of those things.  I didn't even need the two weeks that the eye doctor said to give the glasses before I gave up and let him replace them with plain lenses.  I needed about 20 minutes.  It didn't take any time at all before I discovered the proper head bob maneuver to get things into focus no matter how far away they were.

I did have a tiny bit of nausea there at first, but I was also riding in the back seat with my 16 year old nephew driving. Unless new glasses can also cause urinary incontinence, I don't think I can blame this on the glasses.

2000.07.16 Florida Vacation

posted Mar 26, 2010, 6:30 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Mar 26, 2010, 6:32 AM ]

Hi folks! This is Barb talking. Troy's down at the hospital with my husband Bob, so Troy asked me to write this month's column. Don't worry about Troy. I'm sure he'll be just fine. Bob's hit himself with that weed whacker many a time, and he's always been "treated and released," and he barely clipped Troy at all today.

I don't know why men make such a big deal out of yardwork. If they'd just get a couple of push mowers, they'd be finished in the time it takes them to change the oil in the lawn tractor. It seems like they're always re-building, re-wiring, or re-welding something. And when they're not, they're griping at me because I don't.

Take my car, for instance. So maybe I don't check the oil quite as often as I should. Is that really such a big deal? The mechanic says it blowing up had absolutely nothing to do with the oil. Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself a little. Troy wanted me to tell the story from the beginning.

As Troy might have mentioned, even though we have a perfectly good house, Bob wanted a camper/trailer sort of thing. Bob says it's because I always want to travel and hotels are too expensive. I think this is just because he wanted an excuse to buy a really big truck to haul it around with. We bought the camper and the truck, going back to trade to larger models more than once. Finally, we were all set for a big family trip to Florida. My folks were scheduled to come down from up north, and we'd all ride down and stay together. We'd take my car along to make little side trips once we got there. Everything was all planned out like Bob likes to do.

The first thing that wasn't in the plan was that as I was driving home from work, my car suddenly stopped running. I tried starting it up again, but all it would do was make a clanking noise like somebody beating the inside of the hood. Bob said I probably lost a belt or bent a pulley or something. But when he got back from seeing the mechanic, he told me I'd broken the crankshaft and blown every gasket and wanted to know how I'd managed that. I had no idea, and told him so. Repairing or replacing the engine would cost several hundred dollars, and couldn't be finished before we were scheduled to leave, so we decided we'd just have to do without.

Deciding to take no chances, Bob took the truck to the dealership. It had been making a little rattling noise and Bob figured it'd be best to tighten those screws (or whatever) before making the long drive. The dealer guy came out and listened to the truck. Then he brought out a mechanic to listen to the truck. The mechanic said something like "Yeah, that's it" and went back inside. The dealer guy started writing down stuff. Bob asked him why.

"Oh, I need your VIN to order your new engine."

That stands for Vehicle Identification Number, Troy told me later. At that time, though, Bob was busy threatening bodily harm to the dealer guy. It seemed that this particular model truck engine had been recalled due to some kind of gasket that didn't fit right. Bob had to take the truck in last year to get the gasket replaced. However, the dealer guy told us, sometimes enough of whatever the stuff the gasket was supposed to keep in would leak out into wherever the gasket was supposed to be protecting before the gasket was replaced to cause permanent engine damage that only shows up later. Silly way to design a truck, if you ask me. Installing the new engine would take until just about the time we were planning to leave, if there were no problems. By now, Bob was planning for problems.

Bob explained that we had plans the next week. No problem, said the dealer guy. They'd lease a vehicle for us. Bob explained about the trailer hitch and special electrical connections and the fancy trailer brake box. The dealer guy wrote it all down and said he'd have no problem finding something like that for us by the next week.

The next week I drove Bob back to the dealership. We found the dealer guy and he was with this other guy. Introductions all around. The other guy gave Bob a set of keys and tells him "It's the white one parked right outside."

Bob looked. "I don't see a white truck outside."

The other guy kind of smiled. "Oh, we didn't have a truck available. Yours is the Geo."

While Bob started foaming at the mouth, I explained that we couldn't take us and my family to Florida in a Geo, let alone tow a trailer.

"Oh," said the other guy. "You should have mentioned that earlier." He reached to take the keys back from Bob. "Our insurance won't let you take any car you lease from us out of state."

I snatched the keys back. "At least Bob can drive it to work while we make other arrangements."

Bob immediately got on the phone. He must have called every rental place in two states, but nobody had a truck like we needed available. He decided to cancel the trip, but changed that decision when he found out he'd not be able to get his deposit back from the boat guy he'd hired to take us to all the good fishing places. He then decided that we were still going, but we'd stay in a motel instead of camping.

"I finally found us a place," Bob told me later. "It's only $100 a night and only 13 minutes from the beach. By the way, did you know the National Rabbit Wholesaler Organization has their annual convention in Florida every year about this time?"

Once we got down there, the stay was fairly pleasant, except for the fishing trip. Troy told us to take our sea-sickness medication the night before, the morning of, and in the middle of, the boat ride. We did, and I guessed it helped me a little. It put the kids to sleep, which I suppose was for the best. It didn't help Bob at all. He was sick as a dog. He kept telling me to go to the captain and ask him to turn the boat around. "If I had my gun, Barb," he told me, "I'd shoot him and turn the boat around myself." Once I pointed out that neither of us could find our way back to the mainland, he changed that to "If I had my gun, I'd shoot myself and put me out of my misery."

Bob perked up a little when we hooked our first fish, but after he reeled it in, he staggered back to the cabin. He pulled a chair over in front of the air conditioning vent and fell asleep there. This started a cycle: He'd wake up, reel in a fish, then go back to sleep in front of the vent. He kept this up the full six hours of the boat ride. Now I've got a freezer full of fish we'll never eat.

Speaking of eating, the good thing about letting Troy house sit for you is that you don't have to clean out your refrigerator before you leave. Troy will take care of that just fine on his own. He'll even point things out to you when you get back that you never knew before. Did you know that butter has an expiration date? Anyway, I don't know how he can stand to stay here. I'm always looking for a chance to get away, but he says it's nice and peaceful.

Well, that's all I have time for today. I've got to go check Troy out of the hospital, then we've got to drive down to every truck stop we stopped at on the way back from Florida. Seems that one of the kids was playing in Mommy's purse and left all my keys on a table somewhere along the way. Oh, well. We should have Troy back home by next week, and I'm sure he'll be able to type again by then. He's such a baby when it comes to ligament damage.

Bye from Barb!

2000.05.06 Carbon Monoxide - The Breakfast of Champions

posted Mar 26, 2010, 6:28 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Mar 26, 2010, 6:29 AM ]

Like most married couples I know, Bob has "his" car, which is actually a truck, and Barb has "her" car, which is actually a minivan. The last few times I'd seen Bob out in town, however, he was in the van.

"What's the deal?" I asked. "Barb doing all the heavy hauling?"

"Nope," replied Bob. "I just decided to take a page from your book and have the truck's exhaust system overhauled. Somehow, fumes are leaking up into the cab. I can't handle the smell. Isn't that what happened with you?"

What happened with me? Well, it all started sometime around early spring last year. Early spring in Tennessee is an interesting time. It's close to freezing every morning, close to 80 degrees every afternoon. I used to hate this time of year growing up. Mom would make us wear our big winter coats in the morning, then we'd have to lug them around with us the rest of the day.

As an adult, well, no big deal. If I want to dress to shiver for a few hours in the morning just so I won't have to sweat in the afternoon, it's my choice. Comfort is just a matter of running the heat a little on my drive in to work each morning.

It was one such morning that I noticed I was feeling a little funny. It's hard for me to get going before the sun come up anyway, but I was overly tired. It was a struggle to keep awake as I drove to town. Afterward, I noticed a headache and general weariness. I figured I was coming down with something. I felt better by that evening, when it was warm and the sun was shining and I rolled down all the car windows to enjoy the breeze.

Next morning, same thing. Again, everything was fine by evening.

Next morning, same thing. It was raining that evening, so I kept the windows up. I started feeling tired and had trouble keeping alert during the drive. I began to see a pattern. I climbed under my car and, sure enough, the exhaust pipe was rusted clean through right behind the muffler. This was right in front of the huge gaping holes rusted out in the bottom of the trunk. At the top of the trunk, there were the huge gaping holes where the speakers used to be mounted in the rear deck. Ah ha!

A little wire and a cut-up aluminum can took care of the immediate problem. I may not be much of a mechanic but I do know how to hold things together long enough to get to someone who is. I called around until I found someone who sounded older than the car he'd be working on. I found out what time they opened the next day and pulled into the parking lot 10 minutes before. I was third in line.

They made fun of my temporary repairs, but I'm used to that. While the car was up on the rack, they got distracted by another customer. He wanted them to guarantee they could fix his brakes in a certain amount of time before he'd let them look at his car. While they were arguing with him, I snuck under my car, borrowed a half-inch wrench, and tightened up all the bolts on the oil and transmission pans. I put the tools away and eased out before they were finished arguing. They welded on some new pipe and all was well with the world. I drove home with the windows up and not a headache to be found.

"Uh, yeah, pretty much just what happened with me," I told Bob. "Make sure it's fixed before you drive it again."

Bob drove off, and I decided that carbon monoxide detectors would make a good house gift for him and Barb next Christmas...

2000.04.15 Jeep On Fire

posted Mar 26, 2010, 6:23 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Mar 26, 2010, 6:27 AM ]

"Wheels on fire... Rolling down the road..."

I was just out of the shower, trying to get my size 42 stomach into my size 40 pants, when the voice said "Troy, can you pull me off?"

After I climbed back into my skin, I turned to notice Dad standing in the doorway. The men in my family have an uncanny ability to sneak up on people. We can't do it intentionally. However, if we're wearing squeaky size 12 boots, carrying 47 car keys, have $7.32 in change in our pockets, and are humming a show tune, we can walk right up behind you and you'll never hear us coming.

I gave Dad a questioning look. He repeated, "Can you pull me off? It's raining and the jeep won't start again."

"Sure," I replied. "I'm heading into town here in a minute anyway. Just let me finish getting dressed." I did so and then stepped outside. In the rain. Tennessee has 193 cloud-free days a year. This wasn't one of them.

One of Dad's many vehicles is a mid-1970's Toyota Land Cruiser with removable hardtop. We call this "the jeep" since it resembles the General Purpose (GP or Gee Pee or "jeep") vehicle made famous by old World War II movies. And, yes, I know that Jeep is officially a particular type of vehicle made by a particular manufacturer. If you want to argue trademarks, just take another swig of that coke, write a detailed commentary with your crayolas, xerox off a copy, and fed-ex it right over. I'll outlook a reply right back to you.

Dad's jeep doesn't like wet weather for some reason and won't start by itself on rainy days. This is odd because we've driven that thing through rivers so deep that I almost floated off the seat. My car has a little trouble starting on such days itself. I'm beginning to think this has something to do with the way that my brother T3 (our Mom gave us all names starting with the letter "T" to make us easier to remember) adjusts the carburetors. He gets the fuel-air mixture so lean that sometimes I think my engine is mostly burning the exhaust fumes of the cars in front of me. T3's also one of the people who thinks that there are carburetor designs that can give a '73 Oldsmobile 100 miles to the gallon, but the oil companies suppress them.

Anyway, when the jeep won't start, I pull it off with my car. For those not familiar with this procedure, it involves a logging chain and a more or less straight stretch of road. I drag the jeep along behind my car. Once we get up to speed, Dad puts the jeep in gear and pops the clutch. This forces the engine to turn with much more torque than the starter motor can provide. Those of you whose cars have automatic transmissions, computer-controlled ignition systems, and fuel injectors, please forget what I just said.

The first pass up the driveway was unsuccessful, so we coasted back to the bottom and tried again. "Bang!" went something behind me. I got out to see what the problem was. The jeep apparently backfired and blew the muffler off the exhaust pipe. The jeep was running, though, so Dad decided to go on to a local fast food restaurant for his usual breakfast. I stepped back inside to wash up a little, then headed towards town to take care of my own errands.

By accident rather than design, I ended up taking the same route and caught up with Dad after a few minutes. I noticed him waving his arms around. I thought he was waving at me so I just waved back and kept driving. Then I decided that he must have a bee or something in the jeep with him and he was swatting at it. When he pulled over, I stopped behind him to see what the problem was.

"I must have dropped the fire out of my cigarette or something," said Dad. "Do you see smoke? I can't get down there to look." Dad sprained his neck recently in a bizarre wood planing accident. I didn't see smoke, but climbed into the jeep and started poking around in the nooks and crannies. I finally found wisps of smoking coming from under the driver-side seat. It looked like it was coming from where the seat was bolted to the floorboard. I explained this to Dad. "Must be fumes from the broken exhaust pipe coming up through the bolt holes. I'm going to park this thing until I can get that muffler welded back on."

I was just getting back into my car when Dad spotted a break in the oncoming traffic and floored it. When he did, it looked like someone had turned on a headlight under the jeep, shining brightly and fully illuminating the pavement beneath. This, I decided, was the very definition of "not good." I tried to follow immediately, but had to wait for another break in traffic.

By the time I caught up with Dad, the jeep was pulling into the driveway. Both front windows and the sun roof were upon. Black smoke was boiling out of them. The jeep slid to a halt at the bottom of the driveway and Dad bailed out. He walked away in that quick step pattern that only fathers can do. The walk that says "This is an emergency and I'm going to walk very fast but I'm not running because I am not in a panic about this. I'm not. Really."

He came back with the garden hose and started spraying down the driver side of the jeep. At this request, I opened the passenger door to let the cross-ventilation carry out the smoke and steam. Something that sounded like a dozen very angry cats was hissing under the seats. Once this stopped, we started clawing around under there to see what had happened. Dad pulled out a few chains, drink bottles, plastic cups, a couple of rolls of toilet paper, and finally a couple of sections of green indoor/outdoor carpet. Well, it used to be green indoor/outdoor carpet. Now it was a soggy, melted, blackened mess.

As near as we can figure, hot exhaust and the occasional flames from incomplete internal combustion were venting from the broken exhaust pipe directly underneath the driver-side seat. This eventually got the floorboard hot enough that the carpet started smoldering. The floorboard was still warm to the touch, so Dad gave it another spritz or two with the hose.

"I thought I'd just about fumigated myself," Dad said, cigarette in one hand and hose in the other.

Dedicated in loving memory to my grandfather, Cecil A. Rogers. He's the one you have to blame for my habit of telling long pointless stories that don't go anywhere. He's also the first person that would have laughed at the sight of me and Dad putting out a vehicle fire.

1999.11.07 Why I Hate Hotels

posted Mar 26, 2010, 6:19 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Mar 26, 2010, 6:21 AM ]

Some people never have the urge to run away. They're always happy to be right where they are, never thinking things are better somewhere else, never wondering if the view is nicer over the next hill.

I hate those people.

Though I'm something of a homebody myself at times, at other times I just pack up and go. Pick a direction and see how far a tank of gas will take me. Not far, given what I drive, but far enough. Anything out of local calling range is usually sufficient to get some peace and quiet. Usually.

Sometimes, I don't even get out of the county before things start going wrong. The other day I went out to the car, opened the door, started to climb in, and heard "Meow." I looked down and my brother's cat, Buddy, was curled up on the driver's side. I tossed him out and went on my way, vowing not to leave the windows down that night.

The next morning, I went out to the car. "Meow." Hmm. Windows were closed. I noted that one of my speakers was no longer in its usual hole in the back deck. The hole provided access from the trunk. The trunk is rusted out in a couple of places big enough for a cat to enter. I carefully replaced the speaker and went on my way.

The next morning, I went out to the car. "Meow." The speaker was hanging by the wires. I secured the speaker with a wire tie and went on my way.

The next morning, I glanced in the back window to see that the speaker was still firmly in place. Good. I glanced at the speaker on the other side. It was hanging by the one wire still attached. I checked the interior, but could not find the cat. I beat on the hood and trunk to flush him out, then left for work. I was running late.


I pulled over and searched the car again. No sign of the cat. I started down the road again.


Not even slowing down, I tried to look in the back floorboard. While my eyes were off the road, I heard a thump under one of the wheels. I stopped the car and checked 50 feet of road without finding anything I could have run over. I spent the rest of the day wondering if I'd just killed my brother's cat. But when I returned that evening, he ran out to meet me as usual. "You've been bugging me so much I'm starting to hear things."

I was planning to run away that weekend, so I decided to take precautions. Using some extra wire, I tied the speakers to the cardboard which makes up my back deck. I also tied down a little electric heater I bought, so as to keep the rear window defrosted. I used some scrap cardboard and half a roll of duct-type tape to close up the holes in the trunk. "Ha!" I said to Buddy, who was warming himself by the electric heater. "You'll have to find some other way to bug me now!"

I arrived in a small town in a neighboring state at about sundown. I pulled into a motel I had stayed at in the past. The rates were decent, the rooms didn't stink much, and the roaches generally stayed out of the beds. That, in spite of the various problems I'd had there, kept me coming back. They knew me.

"Can I help you?" the desk clerk asked in his usual less-than-helpful tone. He sneered at my choice of luggage: a silver and blue backpack that had seen better days. Just to irritate him, I tossed it onto the counter between us.

"Yes, I'd like a room for the night, one person, non-smoking." If you really want to bug them, ask if they have hourly rates. If they say yes, though, stay somewhere else.

"What name might the reservation be under?" The sneer was getting more pronounced.

"It might be under Smith," I said, deadpan. "However, since I didn't make one, it probably isn't under anything at all."

The clerk then proceeded to give me a 10 minute lecture on how one should always reserve a room, as you never know when the International Association of Rabbit Wholesalers will be having a convention in town. I had to let him run down before he could confirm that there was NOT a convention in town that particular weekend and he had plenty of rooms.

"What credit card will you be using to pay?" he asked.

"The green one with pictures of dead presidents on it," I answered, counting out twenties.

"Sir, if you do not give us a credit card, some of our services will not be available to you, and you will be asked to pay in advance."

I dug in my pockets for correct change. "And what, pray tell, does it look like I'm doing now?"

I took my room key and reached for my backpack, but then decided to vent some steam. "Every time I come here, it's the same thing. Somebody gripes that I don't have a reservation, even though it's a Friday night and your parking lot is half empty. Somebody gripes that I won't pay with a credit card. Last time I was here, somebody cleaned up the bathroom while I was gone and broke the zipper off my little toiletries bag. The time before that, somebody straightened up the chest of drawers while I was gone and re-packed my dirty underwear with my clean underwear. Every time I come here, you people find a new way to annoy me."

The desk clerk looked smug. "I'm afraid I'll have to annoy you again, sir."

"And how are you going to do that?"

"I'm going to have to charge you an extra $10 for your pet."

"Pet?" I sputtered. "I don't have a pet!"

Just then, my backpack said "Meow."

1999.10.24 90 over 70... Degrees

posted Mar 26, 2010, 6:02 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Mar 26, 2010, 6:19 AM ]

In spite of the title, this rant doesn't have anything to do with my blood pressure. Not directly, anyway. My blood pressure generally runs so high that a reading of 90 over 70 would be discarded as instrument error. Battles over the thermostat do raise my blood pressure a little, I suppose, so maybe the title does have something to do with my blood pressure after all.

The facts that I'm overweight, diabetic, have high blood pressure, and am blessed with a metabolism similar to that of a hummingbird all combine to mean that I'm comfortable at temperatures that most people find frigid. Naturally, I'm constantly at odds with the people around me about what "room temperature" should actually be. I'm used to that and it doesn't bother me.


What bothers me are people who want to run the air conditioning full blast all summer, bringing the temperature down to 60 or so, then turn around and run the heat full blast all winter, bringing the temp up to 90 or so. I mean, think about it. If you can't handle 85 in the summer, why does it feel like heaven in the middle of winter?

During highschool I remember wearing a flannel shirt (long before such things came into style) on cool days, maybe with my old denim vest over it (which never came into style). I was quite comfortable standing by the road waiting for the bus, quite comfortable in the auditorium before classes started, and mostly comfortable in the classrooms.

Except for one teacher who liked to keep her class room temperature somewhere between "tropical" and "broil." In her class, I'd sit in the back row. When she wasn't looking, I'd open the windows. On a good day, I could just about stop sweating before she noticed and made me close them. I'd open them again as soon as I thought I could get away with it.

I didn't mind getting sent to the principal's office. He kept it nice and cool all year round. I wonder how many other juvenile delinquents he saw were really just protesting the thermostat settings.

I dropped in to visit some friends the other day. Being a typical summer day, I was dressed in my usual T-shirt and shorts. It was warm outside, and the air conditioning in my car never did work. I was fairly comfortable on the drive over. As soon as I stepped into the house, however, I knew I'd made a mistake. I shivered a little as I scraped the frozen sweat off my brow.

"Come on in," said Barb's voice. I couldn't see Barb for the condensation of my breath in front of me. It made quiet little tinkling noises as it fell down to the carpet. "Shut the door, silly! You're letting the cool out." She bounced by me wearing the skimpiest of shorts and a halter top. I stared. I had never before noticed that little mole on her... Well, never mind.

I skated over to the couch, where Bob sat sipping hot chocolate, snug in his parka. He handed me a blanket and a mug. "Your wife has a nice tan this year," I said as neutrally as I could.

"Ayep," Bob replied. "She's been going to the tanning salon all summer long. It's costing me a fortune, but she says she needs her healthy glow." He sighed. "You'd see a lot more of it, but she put on her modest clothes because she thought you were the air conditioner repair guy."

I didn't think I could stand to see much more of Barb's tan. I kept repeating to myself that they were happily married. "Your air conditioning seems to be working fine to me," I said through chattering teeth.

"Oh, the mechanism is fine. It's just that I kinda accidentally on purpose broke off the knob and she can't set the temperature any lower than this."

"This" appeared to be about the freezing point of nitrogen.

Barb had a kitchen knife and was scraping frost off the inside of the window. She peered out myopically. "You guys tell me when he gets here," she instructed us. "I don't want to miss him."

After she left the room, Bob turned to me. "I can't understand her metabolism," he said. "All summer long, she has to run the air conditioning full blast. About October, though, she's going to start running the heat full blast. Remember last Fall?"

"Do I?" I gushed. "After I visited for Thanksgiving I had to stop at the hospital and be treated for dehydration. And remember Christmas?"

Bob rolled his eyes. "Who can forget a Christmas when the fire department comes to visit? The attic got so hot the insulation started smoldering and the neighbors called 911."

"Good thing they did," I countered. "I think your mother was having a heat stroke."

We sat remembering as we chipped the last of the frozen chocolate from our mugs, listening to the howl of the timber wolves as they hunted the back hallway. Suddenly, I heard the sound of a cow bell ringing.


"What's that?," I asked.

Bob got up. "That's our special emergency signal. You'd better go. She doesn't like people seeing her like this."

"Like what?"

Bob grinned. "I think her butt is frozen to the toilet seat again."

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