Fun And Games Off Duty · Fun With Suits! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Insurance Companies and Purgatory

So, over the holidays, we were at a family gathering when TDW-Mark II’s niece (an adult) departed to go home.

Shortly thereafter she returned to inform us that, due to the poor lighting and TDW-Mark II’s petite vehicle, she, the niece, had inadvertently struck my wife’s vehicle, leaving a dent.

BFD, bent metal, no bent people, all good.

So, we went to our insurance company in order to get the bent sheet metal, unbent. We could, indeed, have our insurance pay for it, since our vehicle was parked, BUT!, we’d have a chargeable accident and likely would see our insurance premiums rise. From the currently affordable, reasonable, “Give us all the money and nobody has to get hurt!” levels we currently enjoy, that is.

THAT sounds attractive!

Or, our niece’s insurance company could foot the bill.

The niece made her report to her insurer, and shortly thereafter I had a conversation with one of their genius, script reading (Thanks, Beans on June 3 ’19), slack jawed, pompous personnel.

It seems that, let us call it “County Garden Auto Insurance”, requires that you take your broken vehicle to one of their adjusters for an estimate. In this area, the freaking capitol of the freaking Un-Named Midwestern State, the (insert pejorative here) adjuster only works freaking Wednesdays, and, into the bargain, Young Ms. Mensa informed me that, since mine is the name on the title, well, I would have to show my happy hairy ass up with the bent vehicle for the estimate.

Well, ya know, I work Wednesdays. 12 hours. Days. I told Ms. Mensa as much. “Ma’am, I will not be attending this estimate. I’m working, my wife will be there acting as my agent.”

“Reltney”, she replied (and, as an aside, I had been previously unaware that she and I were quite that chummy), “You have to be there, since the vehicle in titled in your name.”

“Well, Ma’am, I’ll be working, and so my wife will be there with the vehicle.”

“Reltney, you have to be there!”

“Ma’am, I will not be there. My wife will be acting as my agent.”

“Reltney, you have to be there for the estimate!”

“Ma’am, perhaps you should write this down. My wife will be there, I will not. She will act as my agent, and I will be working.”

“Reltney, if you are going to be hostile, I cannot continue to talk to you. I’m simply trying to tell you how this process goes.”

“That’s fine. So, tell me my options.”

“Sir, it you are going to be hostile, you will have to talk to another agent!”

(My thought, at that point, was along the lines of, “Sugar, if you think that I have been hostile, you really, really have a severe poverty of life experience, that, should you desire, I can remedy!” A thought that went unspoken.)

“Ma’am, I thought you were going to tell me what my options would be? I’m waiting for that information.”

“Please hold!”

(lengthy hold)

“Reltney, your wife can meet with our estimator, but we cannot hand her the check. Can we mail it to you, or to your selected body shop?”

“That will be satisfactory. Mail it to the shop.”

“So, Reltney, what arrangements would you like to make for a rental?”

“Ma’am, we have made satisfactory arrangements for a loaner with our body shop. I suggest that you phone them, and have that conversation with them.”

“I do not understand what you just said, Reltney.”

“Call my shop, you have the name. Talk to Bob. Tell him what you just told me about a rental. Make whatever arrangements you wish with Bob about a rental. Bob will fill me in. “

“Reltney, I do not understand that, but I will notate it in our file.”

(Correctly, I hope, but do not trust…)

“Outstanding. Anything else?”

“No, Reltney, have a nice day.”

And the call ended.

Perhaps, the anticipated cluster…er, hug (HUG! Yeah, THAT’S the ticket!) will provide fodder for a subsequent blog post.

My take home lesson, here, is that there are jobs for the dull witted, and I am fated to spend my time corresponding with them.

Damn it!

Fun And Games Off Duty · guns · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact · Pre Planning Your Scene · Protect and Serve

Camping with my family

One Labor Day weekend, TDW-Mk I decided we ought to go camping. I was off, the kids were off, and we could all get out for one more weekend before the grind of school and autumn activities sucked us in.

She had reserved a site in the unimproved area of one of the northern state parks, a “rustic’ site. That meant that we got to carry water from one of several faucets serving the campgrounds, as well as go to the bathroom in one of several pit toilets.

The wimmin folk were not favorably impressed.

We were the only ones in our section of the campground as we pulled in, which was of no concern to us. We set up our pop up camper, cooked dinner, cleaned up, and took a walk.

Once we were back at out site, we were inside the camper, organizing for bed time when another party arrived at a site, 2 or 3 away from our own. They were young-ish, and seemed high spirited. Whatever, live and let live.

So, several hours later, TDW and I were chatting quietly, when the noise from the neighbor site picked up considerably. I peeked from our window, and noted what appeared to be bottles of some sort of alcohol in hand, and our “neighbors” sounded to be involved in some sort of loud, animated, an not altogether amicable discussion.

When we heard the sounds of yelling, and breaking glass, I awakened the kids and had them lay on the floor of the camper. TDW called county dispatch on her cell phone, and I settled in next to the door of the camper, curtain ajar and Colt in hand.

One of the party, it appeared, felt the need to do some sort of work on the mirror of one of the trucks, and this seemed to involve attempting to wrench the mirror off of the door without using any tools. That maneuver elicited yet MORE heated words, and things were escalating, which made it convenient that that was the moment that the park ranger, a couple of sheriff’s vehicles, and a city cop arrived.

One of the officers approached out camper, and I took that opportunity to secure the pistol beneath one of the mattresses, seating TDW thereon.

I told the officer what I had heard, and seen, and he assured me that for this party, their camping weekend was over. “We’ll simply sit here, and watch them pack up and depart. We’ll circulate through several times over the rest of the night, and, if they return, they’ll sleep in the sheriff’s office. In the back.”

Then he added, “If you need us, call us back. Have a nice weekend!”

Fun And Games Off Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

SPOUSAL ADVICE

A few years ago, I was working a locums gig Up North. TDW-Mark II and I had lived our entire lives in The Un-Named Flyover State, and one recurrent feature of the winter news coverage was the seeming obligatory photograph of the snowy expanse of the northern part of the state. Now, I had grown up in Da City, largest in the state, nestled among the northern tier of states, and figured that I knew me some snow.

Well, it turns out, at least from the photographs of nigh unto 12 foot walls of snow adjacent to the roadways, featured in these photos, I did not know squat. So, when the opportunity arose to work on the shores of Lake Superior, and with this gig an opportunity to see, for reals, these selfsame walls of snow, well, off we went!

When you work 12 hour shifts, you get 4 days off every week. My placement was accommodating, bunching my days into a 3 on/4 off arrangement. That TDW and I plenty of chances to tour the area.

Unfortunately for our intended snow tourism, the winter had been mild, and that snow which had fallen, was paltry. To be honest, we had more snow downstate, than in The Great White North.

Whatever. There was still abundant history and scenery to take in, and we set out to do so. One of our tours took us to the norther edge of the state, to a lakefront town. It was pretty, although, surprisingly, with all the tourists gone, nothing was open.

So, this episode of our curiosity sated, we headed back to our hotel. Cleverly, I suggested that we return along the lakeshore road, which ran along a bluff and overlooked, you guessed it, the lake.

Remember that this was late December, and in Da Nawth, in winter, sunset blasts past you, and night drops upon you like a net. Or, so we experienced.

Simply to make everything nice, it had begun to sleet-mixed-with-snow. Let us review the scene, now: Night? (Check!) Snow/sleet? (Check!) Unplowed Up North roads? (Check!) Slush accumulating on the roads? (Check) And, certainly not least, Anxious Wife overlooking the drop off onto the icy, rocky shore of The Lake?(Why, yes, CHECK!)

So TINS ©, There I Was, Driving Along and Making Time towards our hotel, when I splashed through some accumulation of slush. Our vehicle jogged, just a little, and TDW emitted a shriek.

I suggested that, since it was black outside as a politician’s heart (should such a thing really exist), and I generally had this under control, perhaps declamations of impending doom, absent clear indications of said doom, might distract me from successfully managing to move forward, while maintaining our position on the pavement. Some might consider failure to accomplish this to be A Bad Thing.

She apologized, and I returned to navigating and aviating (so to speak).

A little while later, a county road commission salt truck/plow overtook us (and, yes I WAS driving that slowly!), passed up, and in doing so sent a moderate sized spray of slush and whatnot onto our windshield.

TDW shrieked, again.

I slowed even more, came to a stop on our nearly deserted stretch of icy snowy roadway, and turned to my bride.

“Honey”, I began, “I realize that you have concerns about the wisdom of driving on this road, under these conditions, tonight. However, since we are something like 30 miles from our hotel, and I am unwilling to spend the night sleeping in this car, driving to the hotel is out only reasonable alternative.”

She nodded.

“In addition, you DO recall, that I have driven in snow, for something approaching 50 years, right? And, therefore, know just a little bit about driving in these sorts of conditions, right?”

Again, she nodded.

“While I realize that you want to do your part to help our drive be safe, efficient, and trouble free, I want you to realize that, whatever you may think, it is really not particularly helpful, and nowhere near as helpful as you appear to think it is, when you scream at seemingly random intervals, while I’m driving unfamiliar roads, in pitch black night, in snow and sleet, along a cliff face.

Please, stop!”

Fun And Games Off Duty

Things You See on Road Trips!

In late 1989, I had applied for a job as a nursing supervisor in a little hospital Up North. As is customary in such conversations, they wanted me to meet for an in person interview. The drive from Da City, to the new place was on the order of three hours, and I did not see how arising at around oh-dark-thirty, bathing etcetera, dressing in my interview clothes, and then driving for three hours, all so I could be on time for an 0900 interview, was calculated for success.

So, I drove up the preceding evening, and secured a motel room for the night. On my happy way there, I drove, fat, dumb, and happy, casually listening to my CB radio. (for, these were the fabled Eighties, when CB radio was A Thing!)

As I motored along the interstate, somewhere kinda north of Bay City, I heard, briefly, the declamation invoking The Patron Saint of Regularity: “Holy Shit!”

That successfully snapped me out of my reverie. I slowed, moved into the right lane, and picked up the microphone and invited my corespondent to elaborate. “Station calling, what is happening?”

Several similar entreaties elicited no more information, I resolved to Pay More Attention.

Doing so, paid off shortly, as I beheld headlights of southbound traffic. This was unsurprising, as that interstate is kind of a major north-south artery.

What became surprising, was the insight that this particular southbound car, WAS IN THE FREAKING NORTHBOUND LANE!

That was startling, right there! Fortunately, after a manner of speaking, this vehicle was staying to his right, traveling southbound in the high speed lane of the northbound highway. He flashed past me, and I continued my deliberate, frazzled, way north.

Fun And Games Off Duty · Fun With Suits! · School Fun And Games

Hazards of Immobility







So, TINS©, TIWFDASL©, working full time and going to Nursing school full time when not in the firehouse. Oh, and sleeping. When I could.

As you may have surmised from the foregoing, I was acutely-on-chronically sleep deprived pretty much entirely through school. I have previously revealed what the director of the program thought of my first pass resolution of that problem, wherein I skipped lectures and slept in, however briefly. (Review: NOT MUCH!)

Therefore, I showed my happy academic ass up for every lecture, and attempted to take notes and generally avid snoring and/or drooling. In order to assist with my camouflage, I typically sat around 2/3 of the way back in the lecture hall, and about 40 degrees off axis from the lecturer’s line of sight. One particular failure of my strategy still stands out in my mind.

The subject was “Hazards of Immobility”. Unfortunately, one of the hazards of immobility, that the instructor did not enumerate and then explain in PAINFULLY elaborate detail, is somnolence. For those sleep deprived, as I was very much so in those days, sitting still was nearly a death sentence. I was wedged into my seat, and getting more comfortable, and more comfortable, and finally felt my pen slip from my fingers. I woke up at that, and retrieved my pen, again settling myself into my wedged-upright position.

I shook myself kinda sorta more awake, and resumed taking notes. Sleep crept up on me, again, until I heard our instructor asking, “Perhaps Mr. McFee can tell us about calcium and immobility. Mr. McFee? Won’t you join us?”

Without opening my eyes, without moving, I responded, “Well, patients who are immobile long enough, began to mobilize calcium from their bones, and excrete it via their kidneys. This places them at risk of both renal lithiasis, as well as pathological fractures.”

I heard the pause. She sounded surprised. “Mr. McFee, I was convinced that you were completely asleep!”

Still eyes closed, still unmoving, I cleared things up for her. “Ma’am, I understand how you might think so. In contrast, I find myself in an advanced state of relaxed alertness. Ma’am.”

I managed to stay awake enough to take notes for the balance of that hour.


Fun And Games Off Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Child Rearing Tales

So, TINS, TIWFDASL….well, OK, really, this is another child rearing tale. Our oldest son, Adam, was approaching middle teen years, and, in The Unnamed Flyover State (TUFS), that meant anticipating driver’s education, preparatory to acquiring a driver’s license. At that time, the child in question had to be around 15 years of age, so, shortly after Adam’s fourteenth birthday, I sat him down for a little chat.

“So, Adam, you starting to get excited about taking driver’s ed?”

“Yep! I really can hardly wait!”

“Outstanding! Now, you do realize that, here in TUFS, you aren’t required to get my signature in order to take driver’s ed, or to get your license, right?”

He responded with a blank look. “Huh? All the kids in my class say that your parents have to sign for you to take driver’s ed, or to drive!”

“Well, they are mistaken. You do not require my signature in order to drive, or in order to take driver’s ed!”

He reflected upon this for a moment, and his face brightened. “Oh, yeah, right! I’ll just get Mom to sign!”

I sat back. “Say, I have an idea! How about you go talk to your mother, and ask her about that idea! Let’s say, for some reason, that I refuse to sign for driver’s ed, or for you to drive, ask her what her next move might be! Come on right back, and let me know what she says, OK?”

He scampered off. From another part of th house, I overheard low pitched murmurs, as of distant conversation. The murmurs ceased, and Adam made his reappearance.

“So, tell me about that ‘no signature’ thing, please, Dad.”

That told me how his conversation with his mother had gone. He had said something along the lines of “Mom, if Dad won’t sign for me to take driver’s ed or to drive, will you?” Her response had likely gone along the lines of “Have you lost your fucking mind? What makes you think your dad and I would not be on the same page regarding something like that?”

So, I answered him. “Well, Adam, in the Great and Sovereign State of TUFS, you do not require a parent’s signature in order to take driver’s ed, nor in order to drive!”

“Dad, that can’t be right! All the kids in my grade tell me that you need a signature!”

“Well, they are all wrong. Indeed, here in TUFS, you can get your driver’s license, you can take driver’s ed, without my signature, or you mother’s. Why, once you are eighteen, it is all very simple! You simply sign for yourself!”

He looked thoughtful for a moment. “But, Dad, why would I want to wait until I was eighteen to drive?”

Now, I looked thoughtful, for a second. “Adam, that is an excellent question! I am confident that your behavior between now and then will demonstrate the answer you came up with!”

So, fast forward several years. I had had this same conversation with Betty, Number Two child. She had taken, and passed driver’s ed, and acquired her license. She was driving whenever she could wheedle the loan of a car from her mother or me. She was also, as an adolescent girl, not entirely meeting behavioral standards.

Her mother TDW-Mark 1, and I, considered her transgressions, and intervened when needful. When behavior did not improve, we physically took her license, and secured it. After the “license grounding” had elapsed, she, again, could drive. More misbehavior, more license grounding.

Finally, she had demonstrated sufficient lack of grasp of acceptable behavioral standards, that we were done grounding her from driving. TDW-Mark 1 and I held a conference, featuring Betty. I reviewed past interventions.

“Betty, you did (whatever), and had been told not to. We took your license for a week, and told you that another violation would result in us taking your license for two weeks. You violated (whatever the rule in question was), again, and so we took your license for two weeks, and told you that the next time would be a month. Again, you violated (rule), and we took your license, and told you that the next time, we would simply yank your license and stop screwing around with this stuff. Well, last night you did, again, violate (rule), and so, now, your mother, and I, and you, are going to the motor vehicle office, and you are going to lose your license.”

She responded, “Well, I will just go there tomorrow, and get it back!”

I smiled at the sixteen year old. “I do not think that it works that way, Honey!”

She looked at me, and brought me up to speed (or, so she thought). “All the kids at school tell me that I can, and I just will!”

I produced her license from my pocket. “See this name here, at the bottom? Where it says Director of Department of Motor Vehicles? Read that name, please, Honey. The print is a little small for my old eyes!”

She read, “’Alyssa, M. Snodgrass’ Why do I care about that?”

“So, sweetie, which one of your classes is she in with you?”

“Huh? Nobody in any of my classes has a name like that!”

I looked at TDW Mark 1, and she looked at me. We then turned our gaze to our darling daughter. The TDW Mark 1 carried the ball. “Well, Betty, that is indeed a surprise! Since Ms. Snodgrass is the director of the department of motor vehicles, and is charged with writing, and enforcing, the rules for who gets, and who loses, a license to drive, perhaps she knows just a teensy, weensy, little bit more about how all that stuff works, than your illiterate, self absorbed, ignorant, prideful, and arrogant classmates. Doncha think?”

Betty gaped at her. Her mother smiled, serenely. “So, honey? Get your shoes, and let’s go. Now, Honey, now!”

With that, our little gaggle promenaded into the DMV office. Once our number had been called, we strolled up to the desk, and the civil servant asked, “What can I do for you?”

I smiled, my best won the jackpot smile, and proclaimed, “We are here to have this child,” and my sweeping wave indicated the glowering Betty beside me, “officially credentialed by the Great and Sovereign State of TUFS, as a pedestrian!”

The poor woman, only trying to get through her workday, looked at me blankly. After a second, she asked, “What?”

TDW Mark 1 clarified it for her. “We are here to yank this child’s license.”

“Oh, right. Please may I have the child’s license?”

I produce it. “And, your ID, please?”

We produced it.

Tap, tap, tap went the keyboard. Our new friend, the DMV Lady, then snipped off one of the corners of Betty’s license, and, looking up, asked, “Do you want this back?”

I looked at TDW Mark 1, and Betty. TDW Mark 1 looked back at me, and smiled at the DMV Lady. “Oh, yes, indeed, we want it back!” she exclaimed. “We’re gonna frame that bad boy, and hang it in the hallway, where all of us can admire it every day!”

Fun And Games Off Duty

Backpacking Changes your Perspective

So, when I was younger, I enjoyed backpacking. In the Midwest, unless you are going to travel several, several hundred miles east (Appalachian Trail), or west (Rockies, or their foothills), or north (Northern reaches of any of the Canadian provinces), Isle Royale is pretty much a zenith destination.

Two other medics and I shared this enthusiasm, and we planned on a trip along the Greenstone Trail, after a detour south along the Feldtman Ridge Trail. Traveling from west to east, we planned to wind up at Rock Harbor, where we could shower, get a room at the lodge there, and catch the ferry back to Michigan.

Our first day called for 8 or nine miles of hiking. (remember, we were all south of 30, and pretty much in peak shape. I would bicycle 50 to 100 miles a day, a couple of weekends a month, for amusement, for example). We anticipated the daily mileage would be a challenge, but no tremendous thing.

We read, voraciously, trail guides, commentaries, and articles in the various outdoor magazines regarding Isle Royale. The consensus was that we ought to cut ounces, as over time ounces add up to ponds, and pounds add up to pain. So we turned to freeze dried foods.

After much prep work, and detailed planning, we arrived on Isle Royale, starting our trip at the western end of the island, at Windigo. After registering, we set out, arriving at out campsite after around 8 miles, at Feldtman Lake. We set up camp, washed up with filtered water, and prepared supper.

Our consensus was that the freeze dried meal was superior to not eating, but not by much. One of my partners summarized things: “This mess tastes like salty cardboard!”

In the morning, we set out again after eating and packing up. After another day of up hill and down slope, we arrived at Siskiwit Bay Campground having made around 10 miles on the trail. We set up camp, washed up, filtered water for dinner and the next day, and ate.

We reviewed dinner, afterwards. “This mess still tastes like salty cardboard!”

The next morning, awakened, packed up, headed out. If you are familiar with backpacking, the daily routine is, well, pretty routine. The payoff can be found in multiple areas. There is the being outdoors aspect, very attractive to those (such as me) who find being outdoors to be attractive. There is the scenery to be found as you stroll through nearly pristine wilderness. There is the enjoyment found in physical activity.

So, we walked our next day away, again arrived at our camp, set up camp, filtered more water, cooked supper, and appraised it. “This shit tastes like salty cardboard. You gonna finish all that?”

Again, slept the sleep of the righteous, awakened, breakfasted, and headed out, once we had packed up.

Another day, more beautiful vistas from the Greenstone Ridge Trail, Reaching our campsite, we again set up, filtered water, cooked dinner. For our last night on the trail, we provided another gastronomic review: “This shit tastes like salty cardboard! And, the portions! They’re so small!”