Monday, May 31, 2010

Penny for your Quarters

I am not naive, but I tend to look at people with an open mind,
believing in the best rather than the worst of them.

Frankfort, KY, is not exactly known for crime, either big or small.
As a matter of fact, the cop who recommended the apartment complex
where I've been living for the past 3 years,
matter-of-factly said that the #1 crime
in Frankfort is "drunk and disorderly";
second is "domestic problems/spousal abuse".

Never mind that, a few weeks ago, my neighbors' cars
were broken into, with only minor things taken:
money, jewelry, phones, etc.
Many of the items were recovered within a 1/4 mile of the complex,
so police think it was a prank,
but I've heard locals say that other areas have been similarly hit.
I don't know why my vehicle wasn't broken into,
except that there was nothing visible worthwhile to take,
and, possibly, because I happened to have a video camera
aimed at the vehicle, as a deterrent to thieves
(it isn't set to record, but the crooks don't know that;
n.b., curious that none of the cars' alarms went off;
I mean, most of the time, they go off if a leaf touches them,
but not a single one went off during the burglaries???).

I've also seen people leave their cars running and open,
while they ran into the supermarket or post office, etc.
I've seen able-bodied people park in the handicapped spots
with and without handicapped placards or plates.
I've seen people leave their dogs and kids, unattended,
with the doors wide open; most kids weren't in safety seats;
most dogs were left without even a slight crack in a window.
I've seen people drive in their pick-up trucks
with their terrified pets struggling to keep their balance
as their "loving" owner caroms through corners at 30 mph or more.
I've seen people drive without seat belts,
and motorcyclists without helmets.

Despite that, Frankfort is relatively safe,
and the people are decent and law abiding.

However, while doing my laundry at 10am on a Sunday morning
at a local coin laundromat,
where I have been doing business on-and-off for the past 3 years
(there's a choice of 4 laundromats in the area,
though one closed a year ago),
I admit that I, as a New Yorker, did something
I haven't done since I was 12 years old (now 53):
I let my guard down.

There were 10 people in the laundromat:
eight Hispanics and two Caucasians (me and the staff member,
who was tending to customers' laundry).
I had a larger-than-usual load in the dryers,
with 10 minutes to go in the current cycle,
and only 8 quarters left, if I needed more.
I left the quarters in a plastic tub I use to hold coins
just for laundry day, and placed it under a plastic bag,
which would, eventually, hold the dry laundry
(usually, I have 2 loads worth,
but, with a sore back and arm,
I decided to take the finished load to the car,
so I'd have less to carry when the second load,
divided between 2 dryers for faster drying, completed).
The tub and bag were shoved into a nook between the dryers
and the soap vending machine.

I sat down a distance away from the dryers to read the book I brought,
figuring I could get through a few pages in 10 minutes
(there was no convenient place to sit near my dryers).

One of the Hispanic women started folding her dry bed linens,
taking great pains to keep it as high as possible,
presumably to avoid having them touch the ground,
which was difficult, seeing that she was only 5 feet tall, if that.
I wondered where her husband was (they arrived at the laundromat
at the same time as I, with their kids); surely he would help her.
I also noticed that she was folding the linens directly
between me and my dryers, so I couldn't see the dryers,
even though the folding table was directly behind and to her right.
Still, I didn't think anything of it.
Then, I see the husband walk out from behind her,
sneezing in a very phony way.
Yet again, I didn't think anything of it.
He then went back behind her, sneezing - - always fake - -
then walked out, sneezing.
He repeated this two more times.
Naively, I thought it was weird, but mentally shrugged it off.
When I heard my machines stop,
I checked, and, sure enough, the clothes were still wet.
So, I reached for my tub of coins, but it was gone.
The bag was there, but not the tub.
I thought the tub had fallen behind the vending machine,
so I looked, and, sure enough, it had.
But, as soon as I picked it up,
it was obvious that the quarters were gone.

A lightning bolt of realization hit me
(as it probably hit you, while reading the above paragraph),
along with that cold, horrifying, feeling of being violated.
The brujo and the bastard's wife stole my quarters
(oddly, the plastic tub was still closed; what a thoughtful thief!).

After calming down and thinking about it for about 15 seconds,
I decided it wasn't worth getting into a hassle,
much less to complain to the worker or call the cops.
The thieves weren't going to admit stealing, and I had no proof.
I even thought to ask, innocently, if anyone happened to take
the quarters thinking they were abandoned,
but, if that were the case,
he wouldn't have tossed the tub behind the machines
(I'm still wondering why he bothered to do that).

I could have taken some cash out of my wallet
and changed them for coins to finish my laundry,
but decided I didn't want to show anyone where my wallet was
(my front pocket; New York style, to prevent pickpockets;
pretty ironic, huh?).

There are multiple ironies to this:

1) I normally don't do laundry on Sundays.
2) I normally finish the load in one shot.
3) The laundromat usually isn't so crowded.
4) I could have put the remaining quarters into the dryers,
which would have completely dried the clothes.

Despite all this, I actually want to THANK the brujo and bruja
for the wake-up call. I never thought someone would steal
from inside a laundromat, and certainly not while I was only
a few feet away, and certainly not in Frankfort.
Now, thanks to a $2 lesson, I'm doubling my guard,
and, as far as the laundromat is concerned,
I'll always keep my coins on my person or in plain sight.
And, for certain, I'm not going to do my laundry
at 10am on Sunday, anymore;
I've been unemployed since Feb 2009,
so it's no big deal to go at some other time.
And, finally, I thank them for reinforcing
the stereotypical notion that all Hispanics are crooks.
I have no doubt that all blacks are violent gang members, too.

My new motto: Trust no one and be more secure.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Last tennis until Fall :,(

Due to growing injuries, my last tennis for the spring/summer will be this Saturday. Other than watching it live and on TV, and being "forced" to play with a friend coming in from out-of-State on a June weekend, I'll be sitting at home, doing very little to exacerbate all that ails me. Without a job, it should be easy, though I have an interview this coming week for a temporary, part-time (i.e., one day a week and as needed), rural delivery job for the post office ($13/hr; no benefits), and, perhaps, lifting 70 pound sacks of mail won't be easy. On the other hand, maybe it'll build muscle, if not character (I've heard from friends at other postal facilities that temps are treated like personna non grata, since they are non-union; no wonder they "go postal"!).  ;)

I've also done some research into my condition. My arm injury might actually have been exacerbated by my  having increased my racquet's string tension to a very high degree (for me), in order to get more control and spin on the ball (the control part hasn't been that great, but the spin has picked up, slightly). It may be best to go down to the mfr's "middle" ("default") setting, when I resume play in the Fall.

Can't afford to eat

Went to Kroger's supermarket to pick-up some stuff for a nice weekend meal.

    * 1-1/2 lb angus steak @ $3.99/lb: $6.50 (had a "Mary Tyler Moore" moment with that)
    * 1 canteloupe: $2
    * 2 lbs cherries @ 4.99/lb: $9.95 (reduced from $8.99/lb (!!!) with shopper loyalty card)
    * 2 lbs mixed salad @ 2.99/lb: $5.95

Total for the trip: $24.40

That's for ONE person, though, granted, I'll eat it all over three days,
which comes out to about $8 dinner, which, I suppose, isn't so bad,
but . . . SERIOUSLY???
$8.99/lb for cherries????
CHERRIES?!?!?!?
Were they mined at De Beers?!?!?!?!?!?

And, yes, I returned them as soon as I saw the self-checkout screen display
(gotta admit, there are some things about technology that I love!).
Heck, I considered the $2 canteloupe to be a "luxury"!


[FOLLOW-UP]
On June 2010, the same supermarket had the same cherries on sale for $2.50/lb
(I wonder if they read this original blog!) ;)
Much better . . . but I'm still not buying them!
(how do poor people eat at these prices??? Oh . . . )

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A friend's woes with a great little car

My friend drives a secondhand, 1995 vehicle (the make and model aren't important).

During a casual conversation about cars, she mentioned she had lots of rain come into the car. When I inspected it, I found that the weather stripping on both sides of the vehicle were disconnected from the frame. I offered to fix it at no charge (she has a low-paying job and does a lot of volunteer work, so I considered my help to be a "reward").

The rubber was pretty much intact, so I removed the old glue and caulk, cleaned the frame where the strip made contact, and caulked the strips back in (I didn't glue it because I wasn't sure if there was a different problem; i.e., if the caulk worked, great; if not, then I would remove it and get new stripping or find another source of the leak). I then did a basic car inspection. The tires were very good; the muffler was new; the interior was a bit shoddy, but otherwise okay. All four doors were nearly impossible to move, so I greased them (incredible difference!).

Then, I made the mistake of openning the hood!

There was NO oil on the dipstick. Not "low". NO! NONE! NADA! ZIP!!! She claimed that it just "vanishes" without a trace. However, that's no excuse for not having ANY oil, or at least going to a mechanic to find the problem. Then I discovered NO fluid in either the radiator or the windshield wiper fluid reservoir! I put two-and-two together, and asked if she frequently drives over a gravel or dirt surface. Surprise-surprise, she does! At her aunt's home: a dirt and gravel road with 30 degree incline did her in. Due to a bad back, I can't go under cars, anymore, but I told her that it would probably cost under $1,000 to repair or replace the radiator, oil pan, and wiper reservoir, but she said she couldn't afford it, and, besides, it would just happen, again! And there was virtually no water in her car battery, which, as it turned out, is nearly ten years old (I refilled the water: each cell took 8-12 ounces!). Her brake and power steering fluid were "okay".

Given the oil and radiator problems, I declined to run the engine at all, much less to check the transmission fluid! And, last, but not least, the air filter appeared new, but there was debris in the bottom of its housing, which, due to poor construction, could not be removed by hand, so I told her to get a canister vacuum to suck the junk out. I couldn't find the PCV valve, but the exhaust manifold appeared to have a gap where the exhaust pipe met the engine block. Unfortunately, I don't have tools to tighten the bolts, and, even if I did, I wouldn't have done it, because the bolts were badly rusted, and I'd be afraid of stripping or breaking them, leading to an even bigger repair job.

I have never seen a vehicle that was able to drive with little or no fluids! That particular model is no longer available (of course!). She loves the car, but doesn't want to do even basic maintenance on it, anymore, relying on the kindness of strangers and her father, I suppose! I told her that her car is living on borrowed time, and if she doesn't attend to everything, as soon as possible, she could find herself with an even bigger expense, vis-a-vis, towing, repairs or replacement.


The irony of all this?
I take excellent care of my car!
But, this morning, the battery was dead. =sigh!=

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Back off!!!

During a heated tennis match, I ran, backwards, to get a lob, and tripped, landing squarely on my back! I thought I was going to be in severe pain, but, oddly, it felt pretty good! More embarrassed than hurt!

Went home. That is all.