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I’ve found over the years that when things go wrong, stuff tends to happen fast.

A couple of nights ago, my mom decided to throw out a quart and a half of leftover cole slaw taking up room in the fridge. The problem began when she decided it would be a good idea to put it down the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink…and you guessed it, the drain clogged solid.

I figured it wasn’t the biggest deal in the world, but I haven’t needed any household work done in a few years and didn’t have a current reference for a local plumber, so after seeing nothing of note on craigslist I tried Nashville Citysearch, the online reviews site that’s served me well several times before when researching local businesses. Sorting the results by ratings, I was a bit surprised to see that the hoary old standard Roto-Rooter was about the highest rated service and contributors mentioned they had very competitive prices, so I gave them a call. I was a bit leery since I’ve found many times that Big Name outfits weren’t as satisfying to use as smaller companies that tend to be leaner, meaner and more efficient, not having a well recognized name supporting them, but…what the heck.

To their credit the service fellow showed up within a half hour. He took a cursory look at the sink, retrieved the power snake from his vehicle, and got to work. 15 minutes later, the job was done, the drain was clear and he’d replaced the snake in his truck. Then the fun began.

My mom asked him to look at a faucet in the bathroom that had developed a bit of a drip. Sensibly, he asked me where the water cutoff valve was for the house and I pointed out its approximate location on my front lawn. Unfortunately, it seems to have been a bit overgrown by some nearby junk foliage that the fellow who does our lawn cutting was supposed to have cut back this summer, but didn’t. The fellow looked for the valve for a couple of minutes, then gave up, retreating to the bathroom. I figured he was simply going to examine the offending faucet and proceed from there.

I figured wrong.

Two or three minutes later I heard a yelp of dismay from the bath, followed by the unmistakable rushing sound of a large amount of water suddenly let loose. “Pipe let go!,” he yelled, and came tearing back to the living room. “I gotta find that shutoff!,” he cried, heading for the lawn again. Under this much stress I doubted he’d see the cover for the shutoff valve even if it was in plain sight, and followed after him, feeling pathetically useless as I rolled along in my chair. By the time I got to the street he was already running back to the house. “There’s gotta be a cutoff in the basement!” he exclaimed over his shoulder as he rounded the corner and I turned to follow, trundling along. Dumping an emergency situation on someone with my kind of disability is a bad idea, not only because I move so infuriatingly slow but because as I’ve mentioned before, trying to digest new information is tough since MS steals my brain’s RAM, to use the computer analogy…I could feel my brain locking up like an obsolete computer asked to multitask. If this man had asked me, I’d have told him that there were no valves in the basement; it’s a part of the house that was added well after it was built. As it was, I could only return to the living room to wait…remember, I haven’t been able to get to the basement for years since I lost the ability to walk, much less deal with stairs. My mom hadn’t been idle, thank goodness, she’d fetched a plastic garbage container from the kitchen as soon as she heard the guy holler and was now collecting and bailing water that was geysering from the broken pipe under the bathroom sink.

After several minutes, the man emerged from the cellar looking defeated. He asked me how he could gain access to the affected pipe and I informed him he’d need to get there via the crawlspace under the house. He headed that way and a few minutes later the sound of the water stopped…he’d found the cutoff for the water to the bath.

Still overwhelmed by the situation, I went in search of my little cat, Vya, who’d disappeared in the fracas, worried that this guy might have let her get outside in his frantic haste. I didn’t find her outside and assumed she was hiding from the commotion somewhere…at least I hoped she had. She did in fact reappear later, cautiously emerging from the cellar where she’d been hiding like a soldier who’d been in a firefight coming out of a foxhole.

I returned to the living room and was surprised to find the service tech already going over paperwork with my mom. He’d just charged her $250.00 just to clear the clogged drain, and had prepared an estimate of over $900.00 to repair the broken pipe! He then packed up and left, promising to return on Monday to do the work. Uh huh. For my part, I was so tipped over from the assault of the mountain of data needing processing that I headed for bed, where I collapsed for almost 9 hours, only getting up late in the evening last night. I know, it sounds like I’m a wuss, but try not to judge too harshly, that’s the effect of overloading someone with the cognitive issues brought on by MS.

You’ve probably heard stories of unscrupulous workmen taking advantage of the elderly or disabled…I do believe I just experienced that. Looking back today after some rest that allowed my frazzled mind to calm down, everything that transpired seemed just a wee bit contrived. That workman shouldn’t have touched a suspect water line without locating and using the cutoff for the main water supply…his actions were entirely unprofessional. I don’t doubt that that piece of old galvanized pipe was old and weak, but I’d replaced that faucet myself just a few years ago when I was only beginning to be affected by multiple sclerosis and hadn’t had a shred of trouble. I’m going on instinct and have a sneaking hunch that this workman saw an opportunity to generate a nice lucrative repair job and went for it. The fact that he immediately presented my mom with a huge bill for his 15 minutes’ work in clearing the clogged drain as soon as the emergency was contained but the overall chaos was ongoing supports that suspicion, too.

This has been a real learning experience. I postponed the scheduled ‘service’ call for Monday with Roto-Rooter and obtained a recommendation for a smaller local firm from my new ally Caleb who’d visited the night before with his wife, a service they’d used themselves before. Even with his praise for this company, I plan to take my time and assess each step before proceeding, and won’t allow such a situation to develop again.

I plan to have a nice chat with the manager or owner of this Roto-Rooter franchise, too. $250.00 for fifteen minutes of relatively easy work? Really? I’ve never encountered a home service of any sort that can charge $1000 per hour…at least not a legitimate one that doesn’t finish that hour with a ‘happy ending,’ anyway!

Whew. You can see why I’ve given healthy people the advice I’ve learned about the hard way over the last several years: never, ever become disabled. It does cramp the lifestyle.

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Some Things Never Change. No, Really, They Don’t.

Curse this blogging addiction. I just finished writing a fairly involved rant on a subject that’s been irking me for a long time on one of my favorite hobby sites, and yet here I am, tapping away again.

Guess I’m a frickin’ idiot. C’est la vie. Les jeux sont faits, and other snooty French cliches.

I couldn’t help it and I can’t help it. The lack of logic and perception in the world when it comes to some things that shouldn’t need much discussion in the first place has been getting on my last nerve for a good long time. More and more it’s obvious that sometime over the last few decades we’ve found ourselves living in Bizarro World, yet it seems like most people are either oblivious of this fact or don’t care.

They need to ruttin’ wake up and smell the ruttin’ absurdity.

The post I felt compelled to get on the soapbox and rail about will hold little interest for a lot of you. Just attend to the salient points, the details aren’t important so much as the fact that it’s about a whole lot more than model aircraft.

It’s my first and likely last comment on a thread that never should have metastasized to its current 36 pages. Here’s the short version: this bigmouth kid came bouncing in with the sort of obnoxious, arrogant, foul attitude that makes you think right away of cans of Raid…or Zyklon-B maybe, just to be sure. He was ostensibly looking for helpful hints while simultaneously boasting about trying to fly some gee-whiz model of a fighter jet he hadn’t a whelk’s chance in a supernova of succeeding with (and had crashed at least once already), and naturally everyone was quick to politely tell him so. He sneered at their responses, which weren’t really advice, but simply diplomatic statements trying to point out to him the painfully obvious futility of his endeavor. Painfully obvious to anyone who didn’t have the handicap of being unable to see past their own colon, I should add.

Flying a fast, advanced model jet fighter is a task requiring a lot of experience and knowledge, as well as the muscle memory needed to make almost instant movements with your hands. This muscle memory must be developed over a great many hours of flying, and can’t just be picked up. This kid is attempting the equivalent of performing a complex piano concerto with a musical education of having seen a piano once in a movie. It ain’t gonna happen. Again, everyone tells him so, and why.

Here’s where it got interesting…people started chiming in with helpful ideas even after being sniggered at rudely by this creature more than once. Others thought it funny, mocking him with grandiose suggestions for even more complex jets he should try his hand at flying. Still others, many of whom ought to know better, offered him tips on how to fix his now-crashed plane. Meanwhile, few noticed that the kid had already disappeared from the scene, doubtless convinced that his big, foul mouth, can-do attitude, and internet savvy hipness would overcome the fact that he knows absolutely nothing about what he’s trying to do. I expect he didn’t feel any need to pay any attention to all the stodgy old crocks trying to spoil his fun. They’re SO last century…don’t they realize you can do anything if you just know how to push the right buttons and scream loudly enough?

He’s going to fail miserably, of course. I’m really hoping he’s just given up and quit by now. I’m not against newcomers to the hobby, but we’re seeing a huge number of novices who have the same basic idea in their heads, though happily most aren’t as bad as this guy. They’re still dangerous, as I explained in my post. They’re dangerous because they’re trying to launch a missile capable of going 80 miles per hour that weighs up to several pounds without the slightest clue about what it takes to control it or the reflexes and skill needed to do so. They’re even more of a threat because they tend to pick public areas like parks and ball fields to make their attempts, rather than sanctioned model airfields that don’t put the unsuspecting public at risk.

See? This must be Bizarro World, because on my planet, force = mass times the rate of change of velocity…and you ignore that at your peril. No one seems concerned about this, since in Bizarro World things like physics can be overlooked without consequence. As I brought up somewhat indelicately, if distributors of these advanced models keep marketing them to kids (and credulous adults) with reckless abandon, sooner or later we’ll be treated to the shocking pictures of a toddler’s head skewered like a cocktail onion making its way around the internet when one of these would-be aces runs out of luck and crashes into a kiddie birthday party in the public park they figure is roomy enough to fly their ‘toy.’ The predictable response from the Proper Authorities when this happens will be to Crack Down on these ‘dangerous unmanned aerial vehicles’ with enthusiasm, and the hobby as we know it will be ruined for the rest of us.

The fact that fairly experienced modelers were trying to help the loudmouthed nimrod baffles me. They’re actually offering aid that might help him roll the dice again in the vague hope it won’t come up snake eyes, get someone killed and destroy my favorite hobby, which to my mind is worse than the original nimrod’s hazard…he’s probably quit already, but these people are still around to encourage other nimrods. That’s why I’m mad that the thread went on for so long, and I said as much in my post: People like this need to be shunned when they make it clear they’re that pigheaded and dangerous, not encouraged or enabled. There comes a point where you don’t try to convince them any more. You don’t keep offering helpful hints to try to add sugar to the bitter medicine of the sound advice you’re trying to get across; all that will do is help them go back for another try at their insanity…their minds were made up long ago and they have no inclination to let facts interfere with their plans. You don’t even talk to them any more when it’s as obvious as obvious gets that they’re not going to pay any attention to your words. Remember, they’re just amazingly awesome in their superiority in being able to do anything they decide to do, even on a whim…even if that anything puts peoples’ lives at risk. So you turn your back and shun them.

How do people like the original blockhead I described come about? Well, there’s a big fat hint in the first line of the response I posted and linked to here. The kid wasn’t there for advice, he was there for validation. People like that have been encouraged, chin-chucked, coddled and told over and over just how wonderful they are since day one. I might as well title this post “I’m So Bored, Part Two” since this is what happens when people who’ve never had to learn any real life lessons are also continuously told how unique and special they are in an effort to pump them full of that oh-so-important self esteem that’s been the fashion for decades. Even when the individual in question is by any standard a dull, useless waste of protoplasm, we must constantly reassure them that they’re the smartest, the prettiest, the most lovable creature on the planet, even if their face could stop a clock (I should talk…) and their highest intellectual achievement is pulling wings from flies.

It goes a lot deeper than just their upbringing (sic) at home. The creature that receives high praise for scoring an F minus on a math exam doesn’t have to worry about being penalized for substandard performance; lots of teachers well indoctrinated in how best to maintain the status quo learned long ago how to grade on a curve so that even if they oversee a class full of mouth breathing little savages, their budget, perks, and standing won’t ever be threatened. In fact, the occasional bright student is more often than not made to feel like an aberration for excelling at a subject. Their ability to actually accomplish something without being told the answer in advance not only might make the other students (sic) feel bad, but also stands as an indictment of the whole rigged educational system, a crime only rivaled by those who exhibit (gasp) tendencies for independent or original thought. Fortunately, that same system also learned how to deal with such impertinence long ago as well, with the enthusiastic help of Big Pharma: the aberrant student, having attracted the wrong sort of attention, is quickly diagnosed as afflicted with “ADD” and hustled off to the smiling school nurse or ‘guidance counselor’ if any resistance to the idea is shown. I seem to recall more than one story of local Child Protective Service (sic) officers offering their official assistance in especial cases of a student’s or parents’ stubborn refusal to dose the kid up with this close chemical cousin to cocaine in the form of some friendly arm twisting…letting it be known that if said drugs weren’t begun being taken, CPS would just have to kidnap take the youngster away from the parents for ‘endangering the health’ of the child. When in doubt, parents must defer to the State, which is of course far wiser and more capable than any Mundane. I’m sure that Ritalin is actually beneficial to a very few kids that thrive when taking it…but I question its wholesale distribution to the sheer numbers of kids who’ve been deemed sufficiently ‘afflicted’ to require it. I suppose that puts me under suspicion of being some sort of malcontent or dissident, but hey, I’m brain damaged thanks to multiple sclerosis, what do I know?

As for you, Constant Reader, how could you possibly be against anything that’s For The Children? Of course you couldn’t, that’s only something for Bad People Who Hate Children.

We now have several generations of people who have not only grown to adulthood without ever learning the fundamentals of independent or creative thought, but the majority also believe the hubris-filled sunshine they’ve been marinated in all their lives that every one of them is the most special, smartest, and most capable human being alive.

These people not only occupy many of the most influential positions in society but also have the levers of power clutched in their sweaty, chubby hands, including control of strategic weapons that can wipe out large numbers of human beings in minutes. Oh, yes, speaking of marinating, their ranks are swelling all the time with those kids who’ve been scarfing down all that Ritalin since they were finger painting. Don’t you feel better with that knowledge, Citizen? I know I feel better knowing that our world is rapidly becoming a cross between Mike Judge’s film Idiocracy, Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984. Sure I do.

All kidding aside, I think we’re past due to start a lot of serious shunning here. Sooner or later, if we’re to survive as a nation, world, or perhaps as a species, we need to quit allowing the idea that being the loudest, most vulgar, and most self-righteous means being the ‘best.’ Only by withdrawing our consent to this nonsense in large enough numbers can we hope to prevail. Peacefully withdrawing consent has been a proven solution for dealing with these would-be tyrants for a great many years, but a lot of us seem to have forgotten about it. Now is not the time to let it pass entirely away, or we will, as I’ve said before, most certainly be be dragged along with them into a new Dark Age.

Some things just never change. The good news is that the solutions to many of the problems we face don’t, either.