Friday, June 24, 2005

Vacation (Part One)

Today's the first day of my vacation. I have eight days off. It's going to be kind of relaxing. We don't have any major plans, really, to go anywhere or do anything. My father will probably come visit, or we'll go visit him. We may take a day-trip here or there, or go see Rockome Gardens or some other place within a half day's drive or less.

We went out and purchased my son a swimming pool today. He'll be two in September, and he went instead of a baby-sized pool right to a kiddie-sized pool. Man, did he have a blast playing in his pool.

It's a shame that you've got to work the way that you have to work to get vacation time to spend with your family. I work ten hours a day and I drive two hours a day just to get to work. Out of a 24 hour day that's 14 hours on the road or at work. If I try to sleep six hours a day, which is about the norm for me -- well, that leaves me four hours, and one of those hours my son is awake. So I have about three hours -- an hour getting ready for work -- so that leaves me two hours in the evening with my wife. Three hours a day with my family. Five days a week. And of course I get two days off most weeks.

But it's crazy you've got to do that kind of work -- that kind of driving -- just to build up some vacation time to spend with your family. Where did the world get this crazy idea of working our tails off and not having any time with our family? It's no way to be successful if you ask me.

What do you think about it?


Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Pizza That Got Away

We ordered pizza from Papa Johns last night. We ordered it online, actually, which may be a pretty normal thing to do in much of the world, but it's not so common in Smalltown, Indiana. In fact, Papa Johns is the only pizza place in the area with the option of ordering online. Pizza Hut's website allows online ordering in some areas, but not ours.

We don't normally order from
Papa Johns. For some inexplicable reason, Papa Johns puts peppers in the box with every pizza they deliver. I don't care much for peppers, and since the entire pizza -- box and all -- absorb the flavor of the peppers, I don't care much for Papa Johns pizza. But we ordered online from them once quite some time ago because of the convenience of ordering online, and my Wife remembered their pizza as being better than she had expected, so we thought we would give it another try.

We popped online and made our selection. With nothing smaller than a $50 bill -- which is also not normal for us -- we were a little concerned about the driver having change. Wife scoured the web, and there was no mention of the driver carrying limited change, but also no way to include a message with our order asking for change for a $50, so we took our chances and ordered.

Now you might not expect to get much change from a $50 when ordering pizza for your family, but with only my Wife and I and a 22-month-old son, it doesn't take a lot of pizza to make a meal.

We sat back and waited the obligatory thirty minutes or so before a strange car pulled into our driveway. "The pizza's here," I called to my Wife as I headed for the door so she could prepare our drinks, etc.

A friendly enough young guy came bounding up the steps as I walked out to the porch, carrying three small sized pizza boxes in his hand. "That'll be $20.12," he said, stopping abruptly as he saw me holding out a fifty dollar bill.

"I hope you have change for a fifty," I said. "It's the smallest bill I have."

"I don't think I do," he answered, staring at me like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck.

"It's the smallest thing I have," I repeated, expecting that he might check his wad of cash to see how much change he had. It seems to me that every time I don't need change, the pizza driver has a wad of bills in his pocket bigger than the gross domestic product of most third-world countries. "If you don't have change, I guess you'll have to take the pizzas back," I said.

"I guess I'll have to take them back then," he said, turning to proceed down the steps and back to his car. I stood there
dumbfounded, and more than just a little upset.

My Wife, of course, was shocked and upset at the news when she heard it. "We'll just call and order
Pizza Hut," I said. "You like it better, anyway."

That's exactly what we did, and this time I was able to tell the person taking my order that I would need the driver to have change for a fifty dollar bill. "Not a problem," she assured me.

Again, the obligatory thirty minutes ticked slowly by before another strange car turned into the driveway. "That'll be $25.31," the driver said as I met him on the porch in a strange deja vu. Just why is
Pizza Hut the most expensive chain pizza in the country, anyway?

"They said you'd have change for a fifty when I called," I said as I held out the same bill the
Papa Johns driver had refused.

"I don't think I do," this driver said, echoing his rival.

"When I called, I told them I would need you to have change for a fifty. If you don't I guess I'll call them and see what they want you to do." I wasn't letting two pizzas get away from me in one night.

The driver counted out seventeen dollars and said, "I don't have it, but I can run to the gas station and break the fifty and bring your change right back." Now we were getting somewhere. This man did not want to go back with the same pizzas he left with.

"Okay," I said, and exchanged money for pizza. "Just bring me back a twenty."

A few moments later, he was back at the door, much faster than he could possibly have made it to any gas station. "I had a twenty in the car," he said.

The deal was done. We got our pizza,
Pizza Hut got our business, the driver got a pretty nice tip, and the Papa Johns employees probably all enjoyed free pizza last night. I guess everyone was a winner.

But I don't think I'll be ordering pizza online from
Papa Johns again any time soon. And I'll try to keep a few smaller bills around the house for the next time. Somehow, I don't think keeping smaller bills will be such a hard thing to do.


Saturday, June 18, 2005


The car I posted for sale in May is all but officially sold. I have a buyer who offered me $600 -- only $200 off my asking price, and $100 more than my bottom dollar -- and asked that I let him pay it over the next three or four weeks. He even suggested I keep the car until he has paid me the full balance. I agreed and took the For Sale sign out of the car and moved it to the back of my driveway.

Two days later there comes a knock at the door. It was Eric, the guy that's buying my car, a full day before I expected him to bring me the first $100 payment. "I brought you a hundred dollars," he said, holding out what looked like a wad of twenties and tens.

I took the money and put it in my pocket without counting it while Eric continued. "I left for work today and didn't make it there. The brakes in my car went out completely." I could sense that he was building up to something, and thought I could guess what that thing was. "I hate to ask you this," he continued, "and I'll understand if you don't want to do it, but I was wondering if you could maybe put a
lien on the car or something and let us take it now so I can get to work until I get my brakes fixed."

"Well, my father-in-law just sold his boat recently to a friend of his, and he had to fight just to get all of his money for it, and I'd hate for that to happen, not that I think you wouldn't pay me," I explained. "And the earliest I'll be off to go put a lien on it would be Wednesday. There's no license on it, so you'd have to put the license from your car on it, and if you got caught we could both be in trouble for that. I think I'd rather just wait until you have all the money and let you pay it all to me at once than do that." He seemed a little disappointed -- I guess he thought I'd agree -- and maybe a little worried about his lack of transportation. I took the wad of money that he had handed me out of my pocket and said, "Why don't you take this back and get your brakes fixed, then you can bring me some money when you know you'll be able to get to work and you can afford it."

"She'd just make me bring it right back to you," he said, referring to his girlfriend, for whom he was buying the car. "She kind of has her heart set on that car, and she doesn't want you to sell it to someone else," he explained.

"I'll tell you what," I said. "When do you get paid next?"

"Next Friday," he said.

"Okay. Why don't you take this money and go get your brakes fixed. If you have any left when you're done, you can bring me some if you want. Otherwise, just bring me a hundred bucks or so next Friday, and I won't sell the car before then. If I don't hear from you by a week from Monday, then I'll move it back to the street and put the For Sale sign back in it."

"Okay," he said, and took the money.

He headed back to his car, and I headed inside to eat the pizza that had just been delivered.

A short while later, my Wife and I were in our son's room, playing with his Baby Einstein flash cards with him, when I went into the living room for something. I noticed a strange car pull into the driveway and looked out the window. It was Eric again.

I went outside to see what he needed, and he greeted me with, "When you gave that money back to me earlier, did you have any extra money in your pocket?"

I thought he was implying that I didn't give him all his money back. "No," I answered as I double-checked my pockets.

He continued, "Because there was an extra twenty dollar bill when we got to
AutoZone to buy the brakes for my car."

It was then that I remembered: the change from the pizza -- the change for a fifty that I almost couldn't get -- was in the same pocket I had put Eric's $100 in. I must have handed him the twenty with the wad of cash he had given me.

I explained the situation to him, and he happily returned my twenty dollar bill. I assured them both that I wouldn't sell the car out from under them -- and felt much better about being so helpful to them than before -- and we all went our separate ways.

Sometimes it's the people you least expect it from that surprise you the most. Here's someone I don't even know, who has told me how he's struggling to pay the rent and put brakes on his car and afford to buy another car all at the same time, and he could have kept my twenty dollars. I would certainly have missed it when I stopped for gas on my way to work the next morning, but I would probably have never guessed what happened to it. Instead, this struggling man did the honorable thing and returned my money to me. It kind of restores my faith in my fellow man.


Thursday, June 2, 2005

Speeding Ticket

Something interesting happened to me this week. I don't know if you'll find it interesting, but I did.

It was Monday,
Memorial Day, and like most Retail Managers, I was driving to work. I commute almost two hours one way five days a week. Call me crazy, but that's what I do. Working a ten-hour day and driving four hours per day, I don't have much time left to divide between sleep and family. I sometimes find it difficult to drag myself out of bed at 4:00 in the morning when it's time to get up and get ready for another day. Monday was just such a day, even though it was a holiday.

I was trying to get to work just a little bit early to get a jump on the morning activities. That's when I passed a Sheriff going the opposite direction -- who wasn't going the opposite direction for long. I saw him turning around in the rearview mirror, and slowed down to pull off the road as soon as his lights started flashing.

"I clocked you at 72," he said as he approached the driver's window. The speed limit was 55.

"Really?" I asked, trying to sound surprised. "I dropped something and reached to pick it up, and must have stepped on the gas as I was reaching," I fibbed.

"Could I see your license and registration?" he asked.

Being very obvious about reaching over to unbuckle my seatbelt, I retrieved the documents he requested and he returned to his cruiser.

Time passes so slowly when you're sitting in your car with law enforcement behind you deciding whether or not to write you a ticket. I knew I was wrong, and that I probably had no hope of getting away with speeding on a holiday like
Memorial Day, but nevertheless, hope is just what I did.

The officer returned to my car and I could clearly see the ticket he was holding. "I cut you a break today," he began, standing just out of arms length behind the car door, "and cited you for no seat belt, which carries a $25 fine."

"I was wearing my seat belt," I said, before my mind sorted through the situation completely. "But thank you," I then continued.

He looked at me as if I was the most stupid person he had ever encountered.

"Really, thanks," I repeated.

"You can pay the fine by mail," he continued, "or if you'd like to dispute it --"

"Absolutely not," I interrupted. "Thanks."

As I pulled back on the street and drove on down the road, I felt a little miffed that I would be paying a $25 fine for something I didn't do. It took me a few moments to adjust to the fact that the speeding ticket I should have received carried a $116 fine. Okay, I can accept saving $95.

So I started wondering, why is it that he would let me off so easily? I couldn't possibly have given him an excuse he hasn't heard before. I considered several possibilities:

  • It was Memorial Day, and I have a "Hoosier Veteran" license plate on my car. Maybe he felt good cutting a break to a veteran on Memorial Day?
  • He stopped me on a State Highway. Maybe the speeding fine would go to the state while the seat belt fine would go to the county (he was, after all, a County Sheriff's Deputy).

Then, driving in to work today, it hit me. As I passed through a small town, I saw a Police Officer standing on the corner with his ticket book in hand, looking into every car that passed by, checking to see if they had their seat belts on. It was then that I remembered a news story announcing that there would be "increased enforcement" of the seat belt law over the holiday weekend. Go figure. Increased enforcement. No wonder I got cited for a seat belt instead of speeding. Someone in some office somewhere was focused on seat belt citations, and the officer who stopped me took advantage of the situation to chalk one up.

I guess I really shouldn't be complaining, though. It did save me $91.

What do you think?


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