Old Air

A comment on a Facebook post reminded me I'd written this and since we could all probably use something to make us laugh or at least smile, I thought I'd repost it.

You mean you’ve never heard the story of old air? Hell man, I’ve seen a guy so taken in by that story, I could hardly keep a straight face when he told me and neither could the cop who was there. Let me tell you about it.

I was working the night shift at the gas station – you know the one, just off the highway when you’re comin’ from the east – on New Year’s Eve it was. A car pulled in with a couple of kids in it and went to the air hose to refill a tire. While they were there, this guy comes just a-flyin’ in, slams on the brakes and slides halfway across the tarmac to the air pump. I seen this guy get out of his car and talk to the first guy. I guess he was asking how long he’d be, since he seemed to be in such a hurry. I don’t know, maybe he was trying to get home before midnight.

Anyway, the couple finish and I see them drive off, then pull off the road about a hundred yards off, where they could still see the air pump, you know? Meanwhile, I see this other guy, the speed demon, pull his car up to the air hose. It’s about ten to midnight by now and quiet, being New Year’s Eve and all, so I’m watching this guy because I’m bored and I’m also worried that in his rush, he might take the stand out when he leaves and I want to get his licence number. From the office, I’ve got a clear view of that part of the lot and the lights cover that area pretty good , so I can see everything he’s doin’.

Well, this guy is actin’ like he’s crazy. He starts with the left front and seems to be taking a long time checking that tire. I guessed the valve cap was stuck and didn’t think anything of it. Same with the left rear. Then, because he’s got the hose stretched as far as it’ll go, he goes back around the front to the right side, where I can see what he’s doing. What I can see makes no sense whatsoever. I’m watching this guy, who seems in a real panic by now. Since it’s almost twelve, I start putting my coat and stuff on and figure I’ll go out and wish him a Happy New Year. I’m still watching him, and I see him take a look at his watch, then let all the air out of his tire.

Now, you know and I know that isn’t usually recommended, ‘cause if it goes down the wrong way, the rim’ll cut the sidewall. But, as soon as it’s flat, he refills it, all the while sneaking peeks at his watch. Meanwhile, I take a look at the couple in the car, figurin’ maybe they’re gonna wait until he leaves then try to rob me. They’re sitting there, just killin’ themselves laughin’.

Then he moved on to the right rear. Same thing again. Let the air out, look at the watch, refill the tire. Well, by now I’m totally lost, so I figure I’ll go ask him what the hell he’s doin’. Just as I step out the door, Steve, the usual constable, pulls onto the lot. I wave at him and keep on walkin’. He sees where I’m headed and follows me over. I get there just as the guy’s finished the right rear and is putting the valve cap back on. I wish him Happy New Year, he does the same, then looks at his watch and he says “I didn’t think I’d finish in time.”

I guess he sees the curiosity on both my face and Steve’s for he says “You know, changing the air in my tires, like that other guy said I should. He said that if I didn’t, I could have trouble with the handling because I had last year’s air in the tires.”

Well, Steve and I can hardly keep our faces straight when we hear this. But Steve, who’s never slow with a line, says “Oh yeah. That’s tonight isn’t it? I guess that’s the reason the cruiser was in the shop when I reported in. The mechanics were changing the air. What about you Lloyd, got your air changed yet?”

I’m tryin’ hard not to laugh at this guy, then Steve comes out with this. It takes me about a minute, but finally I say “Not yet, I’ll do it in a while if it stays quiet. Don’t want to have trouble on the roads tonight. Not many people around and those that are aren’t in any shape to drive. But, I’ll definitely change it by shift end.”

Then Steve, who knows when he’s on to a good thing, says to the guy “Don’t forget the spare. I’ve seen a lot of problems with people who had flats, then discovered they still had last year’s air in the spare.”

“The spare?” says the guy. “Oh Jeez, thanks for reminding me. This is my wife’s car and if she has a problem with anything like that, she’ll kill me because I forgot the spare.”

Well, by now, Steve and I are ready to bust from keeping the laughs inside, so we go back to the office. The first thing we do is just about blow the door off what with laughin’ so much. Then I tell him what happened before he arrived. He shakes his head and says “Give me a couple of hot chocolates, will you Lloyd? I’m goin’ to give them to the kids in the sedan.”

“The kids in the sedan? Why?”

Steve’s still laughin’, but he tries to tell me. “Think about it Lloyd. A guy’s checking the air in a slack tire and someone comes in and ask what he’s doing. Now, it’s about half past eleven on New Year’s Eve and the guy’s probably a bit pissed off. Then some jerk asks him what he’s doing, so he gives him a smart-assed answer about changing the air in his tires before January first. Now, from the guy’s reaction, this other guy knows he’s found a live one, so after he’s finished, he parks somewhere close where he can see the fun. The way I see it, they’ve earned those hot chocolates. They’re probably cold by now, so make them large ones. I’m a cop, so it won’t look suspicious to our patsy out there if I stop to check their car.”

While Steve’s talkin’, I’m thinkin’ about what I saw and I had to agree with him. I reached for the extra large cups. I look out the window as I hand the hot chocolates to Steve and the guy’s clearing stuff out of the trunk. Just as Steve pulls out of the lot, the guy, still holding the air hose, is climbing into his trunk.

Thanks for this story idea to the lady who was in that sedan.

From the bus

I had to go into Toronto yesterday. On the way home I was fortunate enough to get the first seat on the right side of the vehicle, which gave me a chance to observe things that looking out a side window might have been missed.

I’ve previously railed against people who will stand at a bus stop for ten minutes and wait until they are on the bus to fumble around to find their electronic pass. I discovered yesterday these are the same people who will wait until they are at the exit to fumble around to find that pass so they can “tap off”. The system in the Greater Toronto Area works on zones, so on the intercity coaches it is necessary to tap on when you board, and tap off when you leave, otherwise, you’ll pay to the end of the line. Why people, why do you do this? You know you need the pass to both get on and get off, so why can’t you have it handy?

In the far east of Toronto, I noticed a sign I’ve never seen before on a lamp post, so naturally I had to read it. Doing so didn’t clear things up one bit. The sign read “monolith sidewalk begins”. It didn’t look any different from 100 other sidewalks I’ve seen both in Toronto and the area I live, so what the hell is a “monolith sidewalk”? It can’t be referring to some archeologic site for it was next to an empty field at an interchange from Highway 401. And there was no huge black rectangular monolith anywhere is sight either as described by Arthur C Clarke.

Finally, when did chrome bumpers on vehicles become a thing of the past? My trip covered about 20 miles during the early part of rush hour so I got to see many vehicles of various makes, models and years. Of the fifty or so vehicles I noted, exactly two – both of them Ram pickups – had chrome bumpers. The rest all had the current molded, coloured body panels. Is it for safety reasons, or aesthetics?

Okay, now that I’ve given you some questions to ponder, enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist, we need love (and answers) too.

Cat.

Family curse

Have you ever noticed that in some families it seems that one career or industry keeps appearing in the working lives of relatives or ancestors? It almost seems like predetermination, or a family curse.

In my case, that curse seems to revolve around transportation in all its various forms. My maternal grandfather’s brush with transportation came when he was a hard hat diver who worked on the building of the current Welland Canal. This is the most tenuous of the connections. He wasn’t directly involved in transportation, but in creating part of the infrastructure.

His son, my uncle, worked for a trucking company specializing in boat haulage.

From there, the family moved into the office aspects of transportation. My favourite uncle worked for a couple of motor transport companies in what is called the Traffic Department This job involved pricing shipments among other duties that varied with the company. In one, I succeeded him in his job (remark from the interview “so you’re Bobby’s kin. Let’s see if you’re as good.”) I was. In his second company, he tried to hire me. I declined on the basis that it would have meant working for family. His son and daughter, my cousins, also followed him into transportation.

Both my grandmother and my worked for a travel agent – again, arranging transportation for people this time.

As for me, my first part-time job was as delivery boy for a drug store. My first full-time job was as an accounts payable clerk for a motor transportation company. From there I moved into their traffic department for a couple of years, then I succeeded my uncle. Several other jobs followed, always in motor transportation and always with carriers serving different parts of the country. From there I moved to a company that forwarded goods by both boxcar and airfreight. Sticking with transportation, I moved to Toyota Canada’s National Parts Department, importing parts and sending those parts to dealers. At one point I became the “VOR” clerk, “VOR” stands for “vehicle off road”, the most urgent category of complaint. I described this job this way: When a customer is standing in the dealer’s showroom yelling and screaming because his car needs a part, my job was to find that part anywhere in the world. My finest moment in that post was the time a dealer from Montreal called me on a Wednesday because his customer’s car needed something but couldn’t wait for a normal order because he needed his car for his wedding on Saturday. I found it in a California parts depot, got it to the dealer and the customer had his car back on Friday afternoon in time for the wedding. His new wife sent a nice “thank you” note to me afterward.

I further moved into international transportation after Toyota, working for a major importer where I was in charge of all imports into Canada. Fleet manager for someone else followed. When the economic downturn of the ‘80’s hit, I found work as a courier – again, transportation – and still later drove a cab for 7 years.

Even my hobbies involved transportation in some way. I was involved with the group that did timing for all races at Mosport Park and I enjoyed rallying.

Each and every job I’ve held involved some contact with or participation in, transportation. As I said at the beginning, it seems transportation is either my family’s destiny or curse, I can’t decide which. And just to carry it on to the next generation, one of my sons is a bus driver. Who knows what my grandchildren will do, but I’ll wager it will involve some form of transportation.

Maybe your family tree will reveal a similar pattern of employment.

Enjoy your weekend, stay safe on the roads and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and the occasional ride) too.

Cat.

Is that your high point?

I first wrote of this years ago, when I was using Blogspot, but it continues to irritate me, so here goes again.

Ontario is one of those jurisdictions that allow personalized license plates. Maximum of eight characters – letters and numbers only. Some show a lot of creativity, such as the Volvo I saw flying past me on the highway one day, well in excess of the posted limit (he must have been, because I was) with the personalized plate “NONE”.

Then there are the ones specific to the vehicle displaying them, like the white Volkswagen Rabbit with the plate “IM LATE”. Good, but if the next vehicle happens to be a minivan, the context is lost. Or “RED BMW”. As long as that person keeps buying red BMWs, fine.

But the ones that really irk me are those that celebrate a past event in the owner’s life. That is when I ask the question posed in the title. For example, I saw a vehicle one day with “SSGT RCR”, which to any former member of the Canadian armed forces can only mean the person was a Staff Sergeant in the Royal Canadian Regiment. For my non-military readers, the RCRs are a much decorated infantry regiment. As I said, with that plate, I have to ask whether the high point, the highest accomplishment of the owner, was being a non-commissioned officer in the army. What about all the years since? Has nothing else of import happened in your life since you left the service? I’m not denigrating anyone’s service to their country, I served myself, first in the Royal Canadian Engineers, then in the militia with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. But, I’m not going to get a personalized plate that reads “CPL QOR” to celebrate that fact.

No, I have something else in mind were I to get a personal plate. When I drove a cab, one customer, also a friend, told me she had my phone number listed on her cell phone as “leggy bitch” (I wore a lot of miniskirts in the cab – helped greatly with tips), so in order to avoid the censors in the Ministry of Transportation, I’d ask for “LG BEECH”. At the time, my cell phone number spelled out “legs”, so that plate would have seemed appropriate. At the moment, I have what the ministry calls “tourism plates” because they have Ontario’s official flower, the trillium, on them.

If you want personalized plates, go for it! But I would ask you to consider not commemorating something from thirty years ago.

Cat.

We’re all stressed

Last night I watched a programme about the fatal collision Bruce/Caitlyn was involved in back in 2015. I can’t say when this actually aired, for I recorded it for one of those “I can’t sleep so let’s see what I’ve recorded” nights.

At one point, they had a segment with a psychotherapist – actually they had many segments with her discussing the situation – during which she said that part of the reason B/C hit the vehicles in front was that he was distracted by transitioning in view of the public. This comment caused me to exhaust my abusive vocabulary.

Granted, being part of the Kardashian circus places extra scrutiny on B/C during the transition (and that horrendous “I am Cait” didn’t help), but c’mon now – we all transition in public. We don’t go around having collisions with whatever vehicle we’re driving and some other object. Well, not unless we’re perhaps under the influence of some intoxicating liquid we don’t. Many if not most of us can’t afford to hide away in our dwelling place, only venturing out at night for bread and milk or, heavily disguised, to visit doctors, until we think we have transitioned enough to feel comfortable in daylight.

If the psychotherapist’s comment was intended to elicit sympathy for B/C, it may have worked with people not familiar with the reality, but for those of us actually going through it, it gave us a chance to exercise our command of gutter English. Does this psychotherapist not think that any person transitioning feels stress and strain? Does she not think that for some of us, doing what we do in public can be tantamount to an invitation to violence? Does she think that for people who aren’t celebrities it’s all sunshine and rainbows? Or is she only concerned with finding an excuse for why B/C was driving too fast for the conditions and consequently hit one vehicle and pushed it into oncoming traffic, then hit a second vehicle?

Listen, sweetheart, every person on this planet is under stress and strain of some kind. For many of those people the reason may not be obvious but for trans people, the reason can be highly visible. So please don’t use the fact B/C claims to be transgender to excuse his/her involvement in a fatal traffic collision.

Cat.

Some random thoughts

Riding the bus today, my mind wandered and touched on various items.

1 – The Region of Durham is doing some serious road work at a major intersection. This of course is causing massive traffic backups and pretty much throws bus schedules out the window. The irony in that is the construction is they are installing “bus only” lanes to speed up public transit.

2 – If you were to ask Canadians the origin of Canadian English, no doubt most, if not all, would say “England”. According to a documentary I watched, they would be indirectly correct. The documentary stated that the major influence on “Canadian English” actually came from the United States, which was settled in large part by the British. Pronunciation, definitions and some nuances are all courtesy of our friends south of the 49th parallel. Spelling is a different matter. In the 1870’s, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister at the time was the head of the government that passed a bill that made the use of “u” in words such as colour the only official spelling. So when I use that spelling for neighbour and honour for example, I’m only following Canadian law.

3 – Watching some programmes on Germany before and during WWII. Am I the only one who sees irony in the fact that the Nazis ideal was a tall, blond, blue-eyed physical specimen while neither Hitler nor his inner circle were anywhere near that ideal?

4- This isn’t exactly a random thought, but was a private Facebook message regarding a string I was involved with, and thought about during my bus ride. I think it bears repeating here:

I am horrified by some of the postings I read from my American friends regarding their troubles with housing, medical care and employment. Granted I lost a job when I came out, but someone through church told me that if I could get my Pickering taxi licence, he’d hire me. I did and he did and I drove for seven years until I was injured. Perhaps it’s the Canadian psyche, but except for the young drunk men on Friday and Saturday nights in the cab, I’ve never had a problem. As an example of what appears to be the general view (and yes I know generalities can turn and bite me in the butt), during the last provincial election campaign, not one candidate; not one reporter from any media, nor any member of the public brought up the fact that Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, is lesbian. Everyone stuck to the issues. I think that had this been an American election campaign, her sexuality would have overshadowed the actual issues. By the way, she won and now heads a majority government. Based on my experiences over the past twenty years, I sometimes think that my brothers and sisters in the United States would consider Canada, specifically Ontario, a trans Utopia.

Not quite, but we’re working on it.

Since it’s Friday, enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist, we need love too.

Cat.

Not their Crowning moment

Picture this: You’ve gone to the bank to take care of some business with a friend. The day is bright and sunny, but the temperature is hovering around 10 Fahrenheit. While your friend is finishing her banking, you decide to call a cab to get back home so you call the company you’ve been using for the past five years.

After waiting over four minutes for them to answer the phone, you ask for a cab at the bank branch at (and you name the intersection). Instead of the expected “that’ll be about ten minutes”, you get “what’s the street address?” You’re not from around here, so you don’t know and say so, then give them the location again. Again “I need an exact address”. Finally, in frustration you say “forget it, I’ll call someone else.” Your friend has finished her dealings and joins you then calls you an idiot because you can’t even call a cab.

She tries. Only three minutes waiting this time. She gets the same kind of runaround you did. Meanwhile you’re outside trying to flag down a cab. You finally succeed and she hangs up. The cab you’ve flagged is from another company and you immediately ask for a card, which the driver gladly supplies. In a weird ‘six degrees of separation” moment, the driver recognizes you because you both drove for the same cab company in the town where you live.

Not fiction or a bad dream. This actually happened to my friend and myself this past Friday afternoon.

Now, the explanation as I see it. First, keep in mind that I was a driver and dispatcher for a small cab fleet in Pickering Ontario for about 7 years, so have some knowledge of which I speak. About a year ago, Co-op Cabs, a large Toronto company, bought Crown Taxi, also of Toronto and about the same size as Co-op. They continued to run as two separate companies until about a week ago when they came up with the bright idea of a single, centralized dispatch. And like many cab companies these days, they decided to also switch over to satellite dispatch. Unfortunately for their clients, the new company, Co-op Crown (hereafter referred to as “CC”) hired new order takers who – from my telephone interaction – have no experience or knowledge of the city. An experienced or knowledgeable order taker would have known that an intersection is sufficient location for a dispatcher and a driver to find the place. It seems obvious by the insistence upon a street address when provided with the name of a business and a location that the order takers don’t trust the dispatchers’ knowledge either. Bad move. Rule number one for anybody working for a fleet is “Never piss off the dispatcher”. Many taxi dispatchers are former drivers, whose knowledge of the streets equals or exceeds that of the drivers. In speaking with drivers, I found they are not happy with the new system either.

When we returned home, both my friend and I called and filed complaints with the dispatch manager at CC.

By the way, being a dispatcher has to be the best job in the world because where else could you get paid for telling people where to go?

Cat.