Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In which I complain, and make cheap homonymic jokes

A few days ago, my wife told me one of the most annoying things that we, as homeowners could hear. "Optimisticalcynical*," she said "There's a puddle on the floor, and a bulging in the ceiling above it." And it was not raining, which means that there's an internal water leak, which means it is time for a plumber.

*Note, not my real name

I am, to put it plainly, not Bob Vila. I'm not dumb, I am just not able to do much around the house without instructions. I am capable of basic home repair, but I am not screwing with the pipes. However, using our collective intelligence, my wife and I ascertained that the leak was probably coming from the vicinity of our upstairs shower/tub. So, we resigned ourselves to the use of the downstairs shower, with the bracing semi-nude runs from the cold, cold ground floor that such showers entail. So, we didn't make it worse.

We have a home warranty, which is basically gambling that more stuff will go wrong with the house each year than we would be willing to pay out of pocket. The upside of this is that I get relatively cool through potentially expensive projects like this. I know that I will just pay the deductible, which is usually a good deal, and has already been used to procure a brand-new garbage disposal. The deductible is a not-insignificant $75, but what can you do. It's good when they solve the problem.

So I call. The insurance refers me to one of their plumbers. Also fine. Smooth sailing. The very nice gentleman informs me that he would come out that day, from 12 until 5. I did happen to be at work, and needed to stay there until 8, but you know. So, I made an appointment with him in the next day (yesterday), in the narrowest window he would allow. This still happened to be 12-3, insuring that I would likely miss a full day of work waiting for this guy. But, at least a professional will come and fully sort out my problem, making the necessary repairs, right? Right? Anyone there?

So, I wait. I do some dishes, I do whatever work I can from home. I sit and watch Idiocracy, knowing that I cannot go anywhere or do anything except stay inside until this guy shows up. At 2:00, the plumber rings my doorbell. He comes in, looks at the ceiling, at the pipes (there's an access panel) and at the tub. Thus far, I have waited from the time I got up at 7:00 until this very moment. This visit is now the focus of my incredibly wasted day. This is the moment I have been waiting seven hours for. He tells me that the seal between my shower and the tub underneath it is a little loose, and that caused my leak. A very small leak. Yay. The moisture will dry out if I leave the access panel open for a few days, and that the leak can be fixed with caulk. Yay! A simple fix. "So, can you caulk it right now?"

The guy informs me that THEY...DON'T...DO...CAULK. I'm sorry...I was under the fucking impression that they were plumbers. And that caulk, or, as it is sometimes known, plumber's caulk, was a basic tool of plumbing. Used by plumbers. While they are plumbing things. Which is what plumbers do. So, he writes me up a bill, tells me to leave the panel open, and tells me to caulk the places where he showed me the water was coming in. He asks for the check for the deductible, He says "Thanks! this was my easiest call of the day!" and then he shakes my hand and leaves at approximately 2:10 pm. He was a nice guy, a pleasant guy, and unquestionably a competent one. However, is it wrong to hope that his next job involves some sort of sewage flood? Breaking it down...

This was a 10 minute visit. this means that I paid him $7.50 per minute to squint at my pipes, point out the problem, and then tell me I have to fix it myself. This also means that my waiting time, from the time I woke up, was approximately 42 times longer than the time that he was actually there. And, he did not actually do a basic plumbing repair that he could have done in 30 minutes. Was he out of caulk? I would have bought him caulk. And donuts. And perhaps a hooker. Why? Because I now know that caulk sucks.

I know this, because I then took it upon myself to caulk the offending tub. I had to go out to where people were selling caulk, then I had to pick the caulk I wanted. Knowing my propensity for messing up, I got a big tube, so I would have caulk left over if I needed it later.

Then, I went to caulk the tub. Caulk applies pretty easily, sort of like cake icing, except more viscous and gross. Also, you can't waterproof a bathroom with icing. I've tried. Delicious, yummy failure. So, I got down on my knees in the tub, and started working the caulk. I put the caulk into every crevice I could find. The caulk goes on white, but dries clear. This is a problem, as we will see later. So, needless to say, I squeezed the caulk in, and it went all over my hands. I managed to clean the tiles, so that the caulk only went where I wanted it to go. Sometimes, caulk can be hard to control. Since caulk gives off fumes, I did the tub in stages. Or, the caulk would have made me light headed. It's hard to deal with a lot of caulk at once. So finally, after a couple of hours (involving smoothing, correcting mistakes, and re-caulking) , I finished off all of the caulking. I am no Bob Vila, but I think I did okay working with caulk.

Then, I went to wash my hands. Oddly enough, there are some problems in trying to get a clear, waterproof substance off of your hands with soap and water. It was as if I had dipped my hands in a less delicious version of library paste. I went out to dinner with the Wife and one of her friends later that night, and the clear caulk was still peeling off parts of my fingertips. I looked as if I had had some horrible disease, or a really bad sunburn. Of course, I do now have soft skin on my fingers. Is it true that caulk and its byproducts are good for yor skin?

The thing that really pisses me off is not the fact that I basically gave a guy $75 to tell me where a leak was, and then leave without providing any actual plumbing services. It's not that this makes me feel like I was cheated out of a caulking job that they guy just didn't want to do, meaning that I am some sort of a caulk sucker. It's not that I had to burn an entire day off waiting for this guy to tell me where the leak is. It's not that I had to make the repairs myself, when I basically have this insurance to make sure that a professional does those sorts of jobs.

It's that I still can't use my upstairs shower yet. Why? The caulk I used needs a day to solidify and cure before it is waterproof. That's right, I have to wait 24 hours until my caulk is hard enough to use.

"Thank you. I'll be here all week. Try the veal!"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I am as smart as a bucket. . .

Do you ever forget things? Like possibly where you put your keys? Or how to figure out a percentage without using a calculator? But perhaps you can remember where the Regal Begal was and that the older brother in Goonies was named Brand? And possibly lyrics to entire Debbie Gibson songs? Yes? Or is it just me that can't remember anything useful or practical or helpful (but oh, how entertaining)? I started thinking that possibly I should embark on some higher education so my brain doesn't atrophy completely and I end up voting for McCain just because his VP is a woman and I think that all women are interchangeable.

Anway, yesterday morning, in a response to an e-mail regarding higher education in general, I mentioned that I got a Phi Beta Kappa Key in college. And someone else didn't know what it was, so in order not to sound like a total dumbass, I looked up some information about it. And 'lo! I am special and possibly smart and even good at school and it's an honor, people. Did you know that? An honor! So I started thinking "Wow, I'm all sorts of awesome. I will start reading the Economist and do other smart things!" And generally was feeling kind of good about myself. Maybe I should use my brain for more than useless television knowledge

Then I went to Montgomery College to inquire about some more educating that I need for my nonsmart job and possibly to change careers to a more smart job. And still on the high of my aforementioned thinking that I am all awesome, the counselor looked up my records at MC. She casually mentioned that I don't have to take some computer classes because I already took them. Which I have absolutely no recollection of. None. At. All. So apparently I have taken two entire classes and completely erased them from my memory. Gone. Completely.

I ponder how I can possibly have senile dementia already and what I could have learned in these computer classes and when did I take these classes anyway? Then the counselor finds some more records of classes that I apparently enrolled in and never attended. In 1999. And did I withdraw from them when I didn't go? Not so much. So I have a 0.00 at Montgomery College. That's my GPA. A 0.00. I am so not smart.

I try to show her that after that I went on to college and did some smart things and possibly wasn't a deadbeat. I passed classes and even got A's - some with pluses! And did I mention that maybe I got a Phi Beta Kappa? And look here! I took Calculus for Engineers! For fun! My nerdery knows no bounds! But she was still shaking her head sadly and looking at me like the deadbeat that apparently I am.

So she gives me my options. I can take enough classes to average out to a 2.5 GPA (which would be a lot of classes), or I could file an appeal. This morning I look at the appeal form and they need an explanation and supporting documentation for my failure to withdraw. Supporting documentation? I really couldn't tell you what that would be. Possibly will direct them to the Regal Begal. Or something. Crap. Anyone have any ideas for the 30,000 classes I will have to take to get my GPA up? Possibly History of Television? Or could I teach one on how not to think you are all smart because someone will come along and smack you in the face with your dumbassery?

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Kvetch-ful Monday

What do I have to bitch about?  Let's see what I can come up with off the top of my head:

-  The financial world is ending (ok, too easy)

- People are racist bastards (but fortunately, they're also morons):

- The Redskins best pass-rusher won't play against Dallas because someone kicked him.  Wah.

- Sharon busted her ass to apply for a new job, and the POCs have gone MIA.  PDQ.  

- Our backyard is a jungle.  And weeding sucks.

- We have three types of unwanted grass (zoysia, bermuda, and... errr... crab) in our yard.  Well, in those rare places where grass actually grows.  Plus, two plant fungi.  

- A woodpecker is enjoying the bounty of our front columns.

- Air duct cleaners pulled a dust dinosour out of our ducts today.

But there are good things too:

- We're getting a new furnace and a/c on Wednesday.

- Rock Band 2 for the Wii (with downloadable songs) comes out November 16th.

- The Skins are actually playing well.

- My cholesterol is low.

- Obama's up in the polls.  For now.  But some of his supporters are idiots, too:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Down the Hatch

In this wonderful political season, I'm about jumping out of my shoes. I thought I felt strongly about making sure that George Bush didn't get re-elected in 2004. That was nothing. Finding that the race between Obama and McCain is a dead heat makes me sick to my stomach. The current polls show how little people care about issues, and how much they care about appearances. Especially when those appearances, particularly in the case of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, are basically thinly-veiled lies about her experience. As just stated by NBC News, the Bridge to Nowhere was dead when she finally decided to oppose it, and she didn't sell the plane on Ebay.

So, you say, hey Marshal (btw, not the first name, but the old-timey law-enforcer), why don't you get involved? Go out and do what you can to convince your swing-state (I guess "swing-commonwealth" doesn't flow as well) that McCain/Palin will take away more of our rights than Bush ever dreamed?

Sadly, I can't. Blame the Hatch Act of 1939. This "Patriot Act"-like legislation restricts the political activities of executive branch employees like me. I am not allowed to engage in any political campaigning. I can give money (which I haven't yet, but should), but cannot take an active part in any partisan activity*. It's goals are noble, I guess, so as not to allow any political influence into government work. But in the wake of the last eight years of partisan nonsense from the InJustice Department, I think I should get a waiver. All I want to do is hand out some literature, or draw a picture of Sarah Palin with devil horns. Is that really so awful?

* If you were inclined to actually check up on this assertion, these activities are not prohibited for most of the executive branch, but they are for my agency.  In the long run, that's probably good, as I am a distinct ideological minority at work.