Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘luck

Tomorrow

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

May 18, 2021 at 6:00 am

Everything Fatigue

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I can totally relate to the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engine suffering metal fatigue last weekend. I’m feeling a bit of everything fatigue lately, although, I do my best to avoid raining debris all over people around me, unlike that airplane in Denver Saturday.

I’m clinging to my thread of sanity with a weary, wavering grip. There is a climate calamity unraveling right in front of our eyes that appears to deserve a lot more change to our ways of life than the slow-responding societies around the globe are revealing any willingness to undertake. Communities are burning, flooding, freezing, suffering drought, or reaching intolerably high temperatures –sometimes experiencing an unlikely combination of the extremes– but I still climb in my gas-powered car and drive an hour to work like always.

It just feels wrong.

It also feels dangerous. Yesterday morning, I had a close encounter that used up some of my limited luck on avoiding a collision on the interstate. I commonly operate in cruise control mode with my car holding the speed and distance related to the vehicle in front of me. A business panel van passed me on the left and then slowed down entering a curve in the highway. My car maintained the cruise speed and caught right up beside the van in the turn as it slowed, at which point he decided to move into my lane.

I hit the brakes and swerved as little as possible, having no time to look to the lane to my right for clearance. My lunch tote on the front seat instantly relocated to the floor below.

It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to honk my horn to alert the other driver to my position. I suspect the assumption was that I had been passed and was no longer a concern. It wouldn’t surprise me if the other driver wasn’t even aware of having slowed at the curve.

The event provided me an unwelcome shot of adrenaline and triggered visions of a fate I flirt with two times a day, four days a week. Haunted by a belief that anything can go dangerously wrong at any time when commuting in traffic, I’m feeling the fatigue of having tolerated the risks of this trip for too many years.

I’m fatigued with the pandemic, its death toll, and everything related to coping with the ever-present threat of spreading the virus.

I’m even growing fatigued with our latest jigsaw puzzle. We picked one with way too much solid black background that is cut entirely of one primary classic puzzle piece shape: four arms, a knob on each end, two cutouts on each side. The only variation is the size and shape of each of those features.

It is very possible I will give myself permission to give up before placing every piece. That just depends on whether searching for the barely perceptible features of each completely black piece distracts me from the other angsts nibbling at me and releases the blessed endorphins when I stumble upon ones that fit.

Endorphins do wonders for fatigue.

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Fractious Trips

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There but for the grace of God, goes my car safely through the curves to arrive at the day-job undamaged during a cold snap with overnight snow flurries. Two days this week with the same conditions both mornings. With temperatures well below zero (F) on Monday and Tuesday, combined with a faint dusting of snow, an invisible icing glazed the pavement and normally innocuous curves of the interstate became bumper car (un)amusement rides.

I was lucky to leave later than others who exposed the surprise hazards before I arrived. My first clue was from an overhead message board reporting a crash ahead causing delays.

After a prolonged wait, during which we crawled along just above idle speed in approach to the point where three lanes were funneled down to one, I reached the scene of autobody shrapnel scattered every which way blinking little reflections of the multitude of flashing emergency lights.

For the rest of my commute, each turn was marked by disrupted snow against the cement barriers, sliding tire tracks slashing across the marked lanes, and pieces of plastic and metal sprinkled about. That is, when there weren’t still emergency vehicles in place and flatbed tow trucks collecting their prizes.

Minnesota auto body shops might be busy this week. Just a little snow caused more than 300 crashes Monday morning and more than 60 drivers spun out according to Minnesota State Patrol.

The main problem: Black ice.  (https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2021/02/08/how-does-black-ice-form-in-subzero-temperatures/)

I once had to take a previous vehicle to a body shop after someone slid into me when conditions were slippery. It’s the worst time ever to need repairs. The repair shops get inundated with work all at once. No fun for the shop that can’t fix things fast enough and even less fun for the sad car owners whose lives get significantly disrupted.

I admit to frequently driving faster than I probably should in snowstorms, but I have no problem with slowing way down for curves when conditions are ripe for black ice.

Since I can’t control what the cars around me choose to do, I consider it pure luck each time I arrive at my destination unscathed by the calamity of careless spinning disaster-makers.

These fractious trips fuel a growing urge to visualize a day when I no longer need to make these hour-long commutes.

There but for the grace of God…

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Written by johnwhays

February 10, 2021 at 7:00 am

Lucky Surprise

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Well, well, well… nature didn’t have it in for me after all. That predicted snowstorm I referenced in yesterday’s post got upgraded several times, deservedly so, and smacked us hard with wicked wind gusts driving the falling snow horizontally, making it near impossible to tell whether the accumulation was actually from the clouds overhead or from flakes blowing in from South Dakota.

The deck railing doesn’t seem to collect any snow, but during last night’s final bedtime walk for Delilah, we discovered somewhere between 6 and 8 inches already on the ground, making the trek a bit of a challenge.

The silver lining surprise about it all is that we received hours and hours of significant rain prior to the snow. The rain completely cleaned the driveway!

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My big concern about the old glazed tire tracks becoming the base layer for today’s plowing didn’t come to pass. Hooray! Disaster averted.

Sort of.

Now we have the aftermath of the blizzard to contend with. There is an icy crust over everything from the mailbox to the chicken coop due to the rain that froze, and I’ve got a lot of plowing and shoveling to do.

A little over an hour after the precipitation had turned to snow, Delilah and I were traipsing along the main perimeter trail through the woods and I noticed the view ahead was much different than the view behind us.

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I took pictures of both scenes.

The frosted forest sure is beautiful to look at.

I sure am glad we had the lucky surprise of a clean start before the rain turned to snow.

I sure wish the shoveling was already done this morning.

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Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2020 at 7:00 am

Close Call

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For once, this time I was on the right side of a backup. On my way home from the day-job yesterday, my car was the last one to traverse the overpass from 394 to east-bound 94 before a big rig temporarily blocked progress. My position was coincidental but hinged on a split-second decision I made.

As east-bound 394 approaches Minneapolis from the west, the right lane becomes the exit onto 94. Since it is an ‘exit only’ single lane and involves a curving overpass, there is usually a backup of vehicles during times of heavy traffic. It is common for drivers to make their way over as early as possible to avoid the difficulty of needing to merge over later when the lane is filled, bumper to bumper.

I was in the right lane yesterday, early enough in the day that there wasn’t a backup of traffic. We were moving along pretty well when an 18-wheel tractor-trailer rig moved past me in the lane to my left. I was a little surprised by his speed (you know: anyone slower than me is an idiot and anyone faster is a maniac [ala a George Carlin routine]) and wondered if he wanted to be in that lane to take 94 west or would need to move into my lane before time ran out.

I was centered beside the big rig when the turn signal came on. In that second, I could’ve braked hard to get out of his way or sped up to get ahead of him. I chose the latter.

He tucked in behind me with little distance remaining before the exit makes that turn to the right. At about that same time, traffic ahead of us began braking to make the turn. I was splitting my attention between the rig in my rearview mirror and the slowing vehicles in front of me in order to maintain safe space between both.

Then the traffic ahead of us slowed quickly to just short of a full stop. Without time to divert my eyes to the mirror, I consciously figured the stop wouldn’t be a surprise to the trucker because the high vantage point in that cab would provide a full view of the many braking taillights.

As quickly as everyone stopped, the cars started rolling again and I joined without delay, staying as close as possible to the car in front of me to assure the truck behind me would have the best chance to avoid losing all his momentum.

When I glanced back to see how he was doing, something didn’t look right. The hood over his engine was popped open. It was tipped forward, blocking my view into the cab. The truck wasn’t moving. Nobody was moving.

I was the last car to traverse that ramp in front of a truck that was now blocking everyone behind it.

I’m guessing maybe he stomped his brakes so hard that the hood opened, but I never heard any indication of such. Hopefully, he just needed to hop out and close it so everyone could get going again.

When I got home, I checked traffic maps and didn’t see any indication of residual disruption.

As I rounded the completion of the bend in that ramp with no other cars following me, I mentally recorded this as one of the lucky days of my many workday commutes.

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Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Consummately Summerish

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Here is a postcard from the lake. We are having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.

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I probably should have gone to Vegas instead. My luck has been remarkably good with card games the last two days.

Maybe it is a result of being so relaxed from floating in the water and reading a book on the beach. Throw in the smell of wood smoke wafting in the air, grilled meals, corn-on-the-cob, Cyndie’s homemade peach pie, and we are enjoying a quintessential summer weekend at the lake.

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Written by johnwhays

July 28, 2019 at 7:00 am

Somehow Nothing

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Somehow, I have nothing to report in terms of storm related damage to our property. We survived relatively unscathed beyond the quick return of runoff rills in the paddock lime screenings. After having just bladed and filled the rills last weekend, the chore now needs to be done all over again.

As tornadic weather goes, the impact can be very localized. We were lucky. Jackie reported that the property where she boards her horse, just a few miles down the road, suffered a much sadder fate. Two sheds were blown over, one of which killed a horse.

Our trees wiggled a little bit, but we hardly lost leaves or branches.

The soil is now like a soaked sponge, so I chose to stay off it with any wheeled vehicles. I’m gloating over having gotten the main drainage ditch mowed last week when it was good and dry, providing a clear path for the flash flood runoff from Thursday’s storm.

Instead of driving tractors around, I occupied my time cleaning up the old lawn tractor and accessories and taking pictures to advertise them for sale on Craigslist.

It feels really good to have this finally done, because I have been neglecting it since last November when I bought the new replacement. Now, if I could just reach the desired fruition of someone seeing the ad and giving us some money to haul it away, I’ll be overjoyed.

I will appreciate the space it will free up in the garage, on top of the decluttering sensations of ridding ourselves of unused equipment that is just sitting idle.

If I actually end up with financial compensation, that will be icing on the cake!

The post was published last night and soon after I received the first text query asking if it was still available. I was tickled by the attention happening so quick and gleefully responded in the affirmative.

The response… somehow, nothing.

Really? Why wouldn’t they follow-up after finding out it was still available?

This is not my favorite phase of the process of selling things we no longer want or need.

I am going to focus my visualizations on the moment when the lawn tractor is loaded and rolling down our driveway and then on down the road. Hopefully, it will happen sooner than later.

 

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Written by johnwhays

September 22, 2018 at 9:20 am

Commuting Roulette

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The latest weather adventure to appear in our region involves a mixture of freezing mist and blowing snow. I left for work early yesterday morning, reaching my destination in good time, before the precipitation started. I decided working a short day was an option if the predicted glazing played out and threatened to turn roads into skating rinks.

About three hours into my shift, speckles of moisture started coating the window to the parking lot. Balancing the radar views with an attempt to get as much done as possible, I held out until about ten o’clock. The extra minutes I needed to spend chipping the frozen glaze off my car windows helped to assure me that my decision to leave early was justified.

If I needed any more proof of that, the two separate incidents of cars having spun out ahead of me to end up on the left shoulder, facing my approaching car head on, served as adequate confirmation.

Those were the scariest, but not the last problems to be dealt with. The next challenge came with a warning, as one of the overhead signs flashed notice of an accident ahead, with an alert to prepare to stop. To my relief, the problem was in the Westbound lanes, and I was headed east.

That one was a mess that involved a jack-knifed tractor-trailer, a lot of shredded metal, and a fleet of flashing emergency vehicles.

Surprisingly, despite all these incidents, my forward progress was barely hindered most of the way home. I drove as fast as I felt comfortable and reached our driveway in an hour and a half, as compared to the usual 60 minute drive.

Just to keep me from getting too cocky, as I braked for the turn into our welcoming driveway, my car kept right on going, sliding straight past the entrance.

I backed up, made the turn, and proceeded carefully up to the house, giving heartfelt thanks to my lucky stars.

Home, safe home, where the snow fell beautifully for a while, then turned back to that freezing slurry of icy pellets alternating with an almost invisible mist.

Cyndie recorded the sound it made to walk on the crunchy surface, because it was so uncharacteristic of the normal winter snow squeaks. She described it as walking on cardboard on top of marshmallow.

I hope my car tires are up to handling that on this morning’s drive.

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Written by johnwhays

February 20, 2018 at 7:00 am

Repost: Lucky Guy

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With my thanks to Rich Gordon, whose inquiry inspired me on Tuesday to revisit my memories of the Himalayan trek I did with Gary Larson back in 2009, today I am republishing something I wrote at the end of all the posts about that trip. From the Relative Something archives (with some updating edits), I bring you May 16, 2009’s “Lucky Guy.”

I’m feeling really grateful lately for a lot of things. Mostly, people who have enriched my life. I’m a lucky guy. Lucky to know so many special people with whom I have been able to connect, and who join me in discovering the subtleties and nuances of ourselves and our world. I was born into a family, siblings and parents, who certainly made me the person I am today, and they have all always been a step beyond ordinary. As time passes, I am learning more about what that has meant for me and how it contributes to the person I have become.

I am lucky to have Cyndie and my two amazing children. Those of you who know me understand how lucky I am to have Cyndie in my life. And I’ve said many times that my children have taught me more about myself than I wanted to know at the time, but that I now am eternally grateful to have learned; and who better to learn from? I have also been blessed by knowing and becoming a part of Cyndie’s family.

I am lucky to have a friend in Gary Larson, a connection that was somehow made before either of us were aware of it, so at the time we met, we were both sure we already knew each other. Lucky to have discovered Pam on the trek. The whole group I traveled with have me feeling like I’ve won a lottery. Then, looking at the big picture, I’ve won that lottery of wonderful groups over and over. My soccer friends, cycling friends, Brainstorms’ virtual friends, lifelong EP friends, coworkers who became friends. What luck! I sometimes feel I don’t deserve to know people like Eapon and Chris and Andy. Rich, Steve, and Curt, Julie, Rhonda and David, Suzanne, Ann. Thank you, Laura, for allowing me to be a friend. Howard and Judy, Grace, RJ, and Ian in Portugal and Walter in New Zealand. David, Paul, Steve, David, Kevin, Todd, and Eric. Hal. Jodi and Jody. Kym. My other Gary. Murph, JC.

Some of you, I don’t see so much any more, but you’ve made a lasting impression that keeps you in my thoughts. You continue to contribute to who I am and to my feeling of being a lucky guy for knowing you.

Some folks say you make your own luck. If I have, I would be happy to take credit, but my thinking is, “How lucky is that?” As in, I am so lucky, I even lucked out and made some of my own, without even realizing it!

You are all good people. The named and the still to be named. Did I mention Warren? Or Ed! There are two Eds. And John. There are quite a few Johns. Katie. Judy, Linda, Elliott, Mary and David. Elysa and Julian. In this moment, I am thinking of you all.

I am a lucky guy.

2016 Dec addendum: The luck doesn’t end. Since the time that post was written, I would add, David, Ward,  the entire Rowcliffe family, Pattie, Tom & Sue, Bob, the Morales family of Dunia, Marco, Marco, & Jose. George and Anneliese. Doobie. I’d add Katie’s name a second time, because I feel doubly lucky for the ensuing years, as well as all the staff at the day-job. 

Good people, indeed —the named and the still to be named— as this is far from being complete in naming people who have enriched my life.

Just like the moment that post was originally written… today I am lucky to be able to think of you all, once again.

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Written by johnwhays

December 8, 2016 at 7:00 am

Sheer Luck

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In the midst of a series of days with unfortunate events, there is always the possibility for a little luck. Sometimes, even a lot of luck. Before I describe my recent brush with some happy happenstance, I will regale you with the latest unfortunate incident that I was given an opportunity to experience yesterday afternoon.

It is probably immaterial to the point, but it means a lot to me and helps provide some reference for how much frustration potential existed in this situation for me to explain that I left work early yesterday to get a jump on cutting the over-grown lawn at home. MondayNight

The weather was dry and sunny, perfect for mowing, and that contrasted sharply with the expected weather for the days ahead. Monday was my best bet, so I made it a priority to get home a little early to cut the whole yard all at once.

After completing one pass around the perimeter of the front yard, the mower deck suddenly became very sloppy beneath the tractor. I stopped immediately to check things out, expecting and hoping that a mounting clip had probably come off. That wasn’t the case.

I don’t know why, but one of two mounting brackets on the deck had completely broken off. It was no longer attached at all. End of mowing, just like that. A wave of “It figures” and “What else could go wrong” washed over me.I made two calls: One to “my welder,” Gaylen, who didn’t answer, and one to our friend, George. I guess my first dose of luck was that George was home, available, and willing to try welding the bracket back on for me. This meant that I needed to unhook the borrowed trailer from the truck and go find Cyndie to help me load the deck so I could take it over to George’s.

While disconnecting the trailer, I set a locking pin on the bumper of the truck. Then I forgot about it and drove up to get the mower deck. Cyndie helped me hoist it up and closed the tailgate. I trucked over to George’s and we picked up the deck and put it on the ground for welding.

He worked his magic and successfully attached the bracket and patched up holes. That wasn’t luck. It was good old-fashioned generosity. He dropped what he was doing to help me, and took on a task that required skills and equipment that he rarely uses.

IMG_iP1484eWe loaded up the deck and I drove back home, backing into a hill so I could slide the unit off the truck by myself. As I was rolling the cover of the pickup bed back into place, I stepped over the tailgate onto the bumper. The surface felt strange under my foot.

I looked down to find the locking pin still sitting right where I had placed it when I disconnected the trailer. It hadn’t moved a bit, despite my cruising down the road at highway speed, stopping, turning, loading, unloading, tailgate up, tailgate down.

It’s sheer luck, I tell ya.

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Written by johnwhays

July 26, 2016 at 6:00 am