Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saratoga Thomas and Patricia Cooper

So after our first date,  Saratoga Thomas and I continued to spend more time getting to know and learn about each other, as well as trying to find a good time for us fit another date into our respective hectic schedules.  I was still on Cloud Nine from our date, and Saratoga was on Cloud Nine from me blogging about our first date (although she did point out a key detail which I had omitted,  which I quickly added in, much to her further appreciation), and things seemed to me to be heading in the right direction,  much to my delight.

Then one evening we were talking, Saratoga told me she needed to get another car to replace her  car of ten years. She had already done some shopping around, and had her choices narrowed down to a 2011 Honda Accord and a 2011 Mini Cooper (she had also briefly considered a Toyota Prius before deciding it was way too ugly for her to ever be seen in). She asked me which car I thought she should get, and I said the Accord, as I thought it was more reliable and would be a more practical a choice for her and her daughter. "But I WANT a Cooper", Saratoga said. "I know the Honda has a better reputation,  and my head knows it's a better choice,  but my HEART wants the Cooper. It's what I can see myself in." I could practically see the pouting through the phone.  "Well ok then, if the Cooper is really what you see yourself in", I said, "then follow your heart."

"No no no no no!" Saratoga exclaimed. "Don't be a pushover.  Tell me what you really think." So I grabbed my tablet,  googled as much as I could on the 2011 Honda Accords and Mini Coopers, and gave her my report, which was essentially that while devotees of the Mini absolutely loved it,  there were others who had experienced some not so trivial mechanical issues. Likewise, while most expert reviews were positive about the Mini, there were a few who had some questions about the car's performance. Overall,  the Mini Cooper was generally well thought of, but not universally so. On the other hand, as expected,  there was nothing that I read about the Accord that wasn't overwhelmingly positive.  The Mini was mostly well liked, and loved by its devotees;  the Accord was universally well thought of. I had what I needed to know, and stuck with my choice of the Honda as a better option for Saratoga Thomas.  She thanked me for giving such a "compelling argument with a simple presentation. "

And then she bought the Mini Cooper...

She named her new Mini "Patricia" - and, naturally,  she calls it "Patty". "Patricia Cooper:", I remarked, "a appropriately British sounding name for a British car". "I had to get it", Saratoga said.  "I couldn't see myself in the Honda;  this was the one I saw myself in, so I followed my heart." Hmmm, funny, I seemed to remember offering that advice before I was told not to be a pushover...

It's all good, though. I was flattered that I was asked my opinion on the car choice, particularly so soon after we started talking and seeing each other. And if Saratoga Thomas is happy about the car, then the Angry Nerd is happy for Saratoga Thomas.  Besides which,  she looks pretty damned good next to Patty...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


It's almost halfway through 2014 (GEEEZZZZZ) and I've posted, what, twice? For those that have asked, I don't have a real good explanation. I've been doing plenty of writing, actually, but I've had some combination of ADD and OCD going on: I've had a ton of good ideas and assorted characters to write about, but instead of working on one story at a time, I always end up starting like a half dozen or so new posts, and then bouncing back and forth from one to the other as I juggled different sentences around in my noggin (it's a wonder I didn't get a few concussions). All that back forth accomplished nothing more than a shitload of drafts of varying degrees of being finished, which wasn't helped by my constant worrying about whether every word, phrase, sentence was exactly the way it should be to keep anyone who would (attempt to) read this stuff (assuming, of course, I ever FINISHED any of it) from feeling like they lost time out of the life they would never get back trying to slog through the work of an untalented hack...

So, anyway, after months of this neurotic behavior, I finally had to ask myself, "Are you going to post something or not? Time to shit or get off the pot!" And since I wasn't ready to just let this thing die a slow death, I decided I would go aheadnand take a shit. But then, just as I was about to dazzle y'all with my literary brilliance, some spawn-of-devil created algorithm somehow decided I was engaged in some sort of "suspicious activity" (angry nerd terrorism!) and suspended my account. Eventually, they decided I was a threat to no one or nothing (except maybe good taste) and gave me back my blog - and all my drafts - which was a moment of joy and relief that lasted right up until I discovered that there gigantic minus signs everywhere I had attached pictures in all my posts. Aye yi yi... Oh well. In any case, I'm baaaaaack, and expect to see a bunch of my shit over the next several days. And expect the shit to appear in different forms, as I have turned one blog into three:

  • "BALTIMORONS!" will be where I write about all the assorted characters and quirks of my beloved hometown of Baltimore, MD;
  • In "The Pop-Pop Chronicles" I will regale you with tales about the "joys" of having two grandsons and their mother taking over my humble home; and
  • The rest of my demented thoughts will (for now) continue to be posted under "The Angry Nerd"
So if you're ready to read about crackheads,  jerks, bad ass kids, (crazy) women, food, sports, politics, race, language,  culture, stupid people, music, bad manners, bad breath, Jeopardy!, and whatever other random craziness I experience, think about or imagine, STAY TUNED! But remember: some of y'all asked for this shit!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Pop-Pop Chronicles: "Cell Phone Madness"

A little over a month ago, I decided it was time - almost three years - to retire my beloved cell phone, a Samsung Galaxy. Now mind you, this was the ORIGINAL Galaxy, not the II, or the super-sized III or IV versions - that's how long I had been using this relic.

My original intent was to upgrade to the newest Galaxy, but then I went online to my cell phone provider's website to see what kind of deals I could get with my upgrade eligibility, I came upon an interesting tidbit of information: I could get an Apple iPhone 4s for - drum roll, please - FREE! Between my upgrade eligibility, a sale on the 4s while Sprint was pushing the new 5s, plus a discount for ordering online, and some other instant rebate, I wouldn't owe a penny if I ordered the iP4s. Suddenly, my desire to stick with one particular cell phone product line - particularly when I had only used ONE phone in that line - wasn't so important anymore. And so, within a couple of days, I was the newest member of the i-Nation...

Fast forward about a month, to a few Saturdays ago. As usual, I had a pretty full day planned. I went to the corner carryout to grab a Scrapple Egg and cheese sammich, then on to pick up some groceries. After putting away the groceries, I ran back out to drop off and pick up some dry cleaning, by which time my daughter C-2b was ready to head off to work, which meant the beginning of my babysitting duties for grandsons GC-2 and GC-4. 

I got these two little ones packed up to head to church with me for choir rehearsal for my Gospel Choir (one of three choirs I direct and play for), after which we headed back home, hopefully for a little nap time (Pop Pop included). We got home, got off our coats and ate lunch, and then we plopped down on the living sofa to watch TV.I reached for my iPhone, only to discover...that I didn't have it...

Now, even though I'm not exactly the biggest talker in the world, I'm still like the  rest of you cell phone addicts: misplacing my phone puts me in a state of hysteria. I'm not sure if the resultant separation anxiety is more akin to a loved one missing or withdrawal from some addictive drug, but whatever it best compares to, my urge to find that danged phone was immediate and more intense with each passing minute, as I turned the house upside down - illogically, since we hadn't even been home that long. After that, I patted down GC-2, a frequent phone burglar; no luck. Then I started retracing my steps in my mind; have I even used the phone today? 

Finally, I decided to not just mentally retrace my steps, but physically do so. I got the boys and myself back into our coats, and off we went, to the dry cleaners, the carry out restaurant, the grocery store, the church. No one acknowledged having a lost phone turned into them. Well, I DO have insurance on the phone; guess I better use it...

I got online, filed a claim to replace my phone, paid the $100 deductible, arranged for the phone to be delivered to my job, and then spent the rest of the weekend suffering withdrawal symptoms. Come Monday, I received the new phone, then ignored doing actual work so that I could spend time doing what really matter, namely activating my phone and loading it up with my contacts and favorite apps. HALLELUJAH!

Home I went, relieved that the agony of being with my cellie was over. I ate some dinner, and headed up to my bedroom for a little peace and quiet, which I knew would short lived before one or both boys came crashing through the door. Sure enough, after a few minutes, here came GC-2 and GC-4 bum rushing my reverie. Only there was something that caught my attention; GC-2 ran up to me with something suspiciously familiar in his hand...

"Here, Pop-Pop", he said, holding out what looked exactly like my damned iPhone...WHAT THE...?
I reached for my cell phone holder; the new phone was there, so GC-2 hadn't pick-pocketed me when I came in (a skill that he is a little too damned good at), which means the little chump HAD MY PHONE THE WHOLE TIME...

"How the? What the?" I couldn't even get a complete sentence out. I mean, I had patted him down Saturday. I had looked through the whole house trying to find this phone? How did he manage to keep it out of sight for two days?

Finally, I collected myself enough to sputter, "Where did you get this from?" Apparently, this was funny to GC-2, as he turned tail and ran out of the room laughing, with his little brother bouncing out behind him, leaving me with one extra phone, one hundred fewer dollars, and an infinite amount of frustration and confusion over a question I'm never going to get the answer to...

Baltimorons and Running

I am a runner. It's always been my favorite form of exercise. And not running on a treadmill; I like running in the outdoors, as hard as that may be on my knees and back. Besides the obvious health and fitness benefits, it is a time for relaxation and meditation. To me, it's the perfect form of exercise.

My favorite / most convenient place to run is Lake Montebello in East Baltimore, which is just a couple blocks away from home: 

The lake has a lane around it for running and walking, and a lane for bicycle riders. Car traffic is on the far outside, separated from the exercisers in some places by a median, and in some places directly outside the bike lane without any separation:

Seems like a great place to run, right? Absolutely! It's a perfect spot to walk, run, or ride a bike - or at least it WOULD BE, if it weren't for - OTHER PEOPLE...

A lap around the running lane is 1.35 miles. Along the track there are signs painted in the road and on signposts on the curb between the running lane and the lake that clearly indicate which lane is the running lane and which is the bike lane, as well as which way people should be going on each lane:

Now there are 36 of each of these signs (yeah, I counted them), which by my calculations means there is a set of signs about every 200 feet. In order not to see the signs, you would have to be legally blind; in order not to understand what they mean, you'd have to be suffering from some form or mental retardation. Yet every time I've ever been out on this track, there are people - and I'm not talking one or two - who somehow come out to this public facility, look at all the signs giving these clear directions, and make the decision to walk or run the other way:

Now, it used to infuriate me to no end to see people like the guy in the above photo. I mean, really, just because your head is back a bit, you can't see that arrow you just jogged past? But after running so many times on this track, I came to realize that people do many more maddening things than running in the wrong direction - I mean, you've got parents of young children who pay no attention to their youngsters wandering in the paths of runners, people who come out with dogs, and walk away from them dropping loads right on the track, groups of people who decide to stop and have a conversation smack in the middle of the track, blocking the way of everyone that's trying to still work out, and on and on - but still, there's something about people who come out to a public track and run opposite to all of these arrows pointing the way they're SUPPOSED to be going (or in the LANE they're supposed to be in) that has provoked my intellectual curiosity. What is the mentality, the thought process, involved in coming out to the lake, seeing all the signs, and saying, "Fuck it, I'm gonna go whatever way I damn well please"... I could see if there was some actual benefit to going the wrong way, but there isn't; the scenery's the same no matter which way you go, and the path and the curves are so long that you're not going to build up your legs by running the curve the opposite way. So then, what's the point?

I've come up with a few possible explanations:
  1. Maybe the person is so oblivious, so much of a space cadet, that somehow, against all odds, they just don't notice all the signs and symbols showing them the way they should be going;
  2. Maybe the person is so self-absorbed that they are the type that feels that whatever they're doing at the time is the most important thing happening, and if they want to ignore the signs and run against the flow of traffic, then dammit, that's what they're going to do, because none of those other people out there matter anyway;
  3. Maybe they feel that rules don't matter and are made to be broken. Live and let live, do your own thing;
  4. Maybe they are "wish a mutha fucka would" types, in a perpetual pissed off attitude, always looking for a fight, and hoping somebody will say something to them so they can get something going;
  5. Maybe their lives are so pathetically and joylessly controlled by others that running or walking the wrong way is their way of having one thing they are in charge of;
  6. Similarly, maybe their lives are constantly guided by rules, that ignoring them on the track is their act of freedom or rebellion;
  7. Maybe they are attention whores so desperate for people to look at them, that they don't care if most of those people are looking at their actions with contempt. Hey, negative attention is better than no attention, right?
  8.  Maybe they are antagonistic types who get off on intentionally doing things to get under people's skin;
  9. Maybe they are egotists with superiority complexes who make conscience decisions to run/walk the wrong way to show that it is beneath them to have to follow the same rules as all those "little people" on the track.
  10. Maybe they are "fight the power", "rebel without a cause" types who reflexively oppose any rule, and lacking a real injustice to fight against, take it out on the people trying to exercise and have some respect for the rules of the road...
So those are just a few possibilities; I'm sure there are other reasons I haven't considered. And I have actually tried to ask a few offenders about their thinking in going the wrong way. Amazingly enough, I've never gotten a real answer; instead, I've gotten cussed out, laughed at, told to mind my business, stuff like that. Not one person has ever given a response along the lines of, "I choose to come out to a public track, see all the directional signs, and choose go in the wrong direction anyway, because..." Now, to be fair, I may not always have asked about it in the most pleasant and understanding demeanor, but still...

"C'mon, Angry Nerd", some of you may say, "What's the big deal which way people run? It's not that serious..." Well, the fact of the matter is, that in addition to simple rudeness and lack of consideration for other people sharing a public facility, ignoring the directions often becomes a safety issue. I have seen people running into or tripping over each other, bicyclists wiping out, small kids getting knocked down, and even a dog getting run over - and in EVERY instance, the incident was caused by someone who didn't following directions mattered.

So readers, help me out: what is it about following simple directions - especially when there's no point or benefit to NOT following those directions - that so many people think is unnecessary?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Baltimorons and Fine Dining

So Saturday while I was out and about I stopped in Wendy's and sat down to enjoy a chicken sammich and fries. In the middle of my meal, a prototypical loud, attention-whoring, "look at me, I'm so important" brotha came storming into into the restaurant carrying on a VERY loud conversation on his cell that caused all heads to turn his way, as he proceeded briskly to the order line.

"Aaah, lemme get a 3-piece spicy with red beans and rice", he practically shouted to the young man waiting on him. As I was seated fairly close to the order line, my ears pricked up immediately. 3-piece? Red beans and rice? Where does he think he is?

"Um, sir, this is Wendy's; we don't have that on the menu."
"Wendy's? Whatchu talkin' 'bout, ain't this Popeye's?"
"Um, no sir, it's Wendy's", the young man said, pointing at a sign in the window.
"I'll be DAMNED! I don't believe this SHIT! I thought I came to Popeye's!"
"Well, do you want to order something, since you are here?"
"Sheeeeeiiitttt, I don't eat in no places like THIS!", he said as he stormed out, cursing loudly about he couldn't believe he came to the wrong spot, and how he would NEVER eat the "garbage" they served there...

So, let me understand:

Wendy's is garbage that you wouldn't ever eat from, but Popeye's is fine dining?

All right, Angry Nerd readers, y'all might have to help me out on this one. Either I don't eat enough fast food, or my hood sensibilities aren't up to par, but is Popeye's really that much more desirable a destination for dining than Wendy's? Inquiring minds want to know...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Workplace Drama: "Road Trip"

As a member of the "Global Technology Team" for a large multinational mining, chemical, and steel making company, my job involves working on various projects in new product development, process improvement, and tech support for the five plants worldwide that are in the particular business division that I am employed in. In past years, this often meant that there was a lot of travel between the plants in question to get more of an up close and personal, hands on feel for the difference processes and the people who control them. In the years since I've been here, however, the economy has been such that most of that travel has been curtailed for anything that wasn't absolutely necessary, and as a result, I hadn't actually gotten to travel to any of the other plants that I was involved in carrying out projects and experiments for.

A few weeks ago, however, I started on a project that could be very important to the future of two of our plants, one in the U.S. and one in China, which are basically twin plants that make the same product. As always, we set up a miniature, lab-scale version of the process at these two plants, and started conducting some testing. For the last several months, my boss had been making her opinion known that after almost six years, I was overdue to make my first visit to one of the other facilities, and this project was a perfect opportunity to see the full scale version of the process I was working on, given its importance to the future of the two plants in question. The department manager agreed that I needed to make this trip, but they surely weren't paying to send me all the way to the plant in China. That meant that I was going to be headed to...New Johnsonville, Tennesee...

Never heard of New Johnsonville? Well, no shame there; I sure hadn't heard of it either before I started this job. It's a town of fewer than 2000 people, in the northwestern part of the state. "What's it near?" was a question I asked people in the company who had traveled there before, and that friends asked me when they found out I was headed there. The answer to that question: NOTHING..."And what is there to do in New Johnsonville?", I asked my boss, who worked there prior to transferring to Baltimore. Same answer..."But it's nice and peaceful down there. And there are plenty of opportunities for promotion there, if you're interested; they've had a lot of good people leave over the last few years." Hmmm, you mean people like YOU? You're not exactly doing a good job of selling me on the place..In any event, since she was familiar with the plant and the town, it was decided that my boss would be travelling along with me to make all the proper introductions and help to give me a feel for the operation up close and personal. While we were there, we would meet up with my boss' boss and the tech from our Pilot Lab (the last stop in experiments before they get tried out in the plant), who were heading down the day before us for some meetings.

So off I went to Tennessee; it was an interesting trip, to say the least...

“What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?” -- George Carlin

My boss and I have a 6:25 AM flight from Baltimore to Nashville. Nashville's airport is about 90 miles from New Johnsonville, but that's the closest we're going to get by flying. My dear mother drops me off at the Southwest Airline terminal (thank you, Ma, for getting up that early!)

It doesn't take too long before I become very popular  at the Homeland Security checkpoint. After having removed my  belt and shoes and taking my laptop out of its bag, and putting all of it on the conveyor belt to be scanner, I walk myself through the scanner, only to be alerted that something was amiss, which tends to happen when you forget to empty your pockets before being scanned...I go back on the other side of the scanner, throw all my crap into one of the provided bins (why the hell did I scoop all these coins out of my change jar anyway???), and try to avoid all the people mean mugging me because my absent mindedness is holding shit up (hey, it's 6 o' freakin' clock, and this is my first flight in 7 years; whaddaya want from me?) Eventually I make it through the checkpoints, gulp down a quick breakfast, board the plane, pull out some reading material, open to the first page, and ZZZZZZZZZZZZ...the magazine reads ME pretty much all the way to Tennessee...

I wake up just in time to remember how much I dislike the descent and landing of airplanes I'm on. Thankfully, however, we touched down without a problem. Welcome to Nashville! I turn on my phone, and I start getting all these texts asking me what time I was leaving, because it's about to storm like nobody's business back in Baltimore. Hmmm, I guess that 6:25 AM flight wasn't a bad idea after all...

“I'm not stubborn. My way is just better.” ― Maya Banks, "Rush"

My boss and I pick up our rental car, which is in her name, since she's only going to be there for the day and is heading back to Baltimore that night. She's doing the driving because a) she worked at the Tennessee plant for a couple years, and is (sort of) still familiar with the territory, and b) you can't tell her SHIT, which I came to find out includes driving directions. We got into the rental, which was only a few parking spaces to the left of the exit gate out of the  garage; a quick right turn, pass through the gate, and we're on our way...or at least that's the way it SHOULD have happened...What happened instead was that (after wasting five minutes trying to convince her that the GPS she was trying to program wasn't working because we were in a garage, my boss finally decided on her own, as if I had never said anything that "I think it's not picking up a signal because we're in the garage". Ya think?) the boss put the car in drive and - despite the big "EXIT" sign, complete with arrow pointing to the right, and despite my almost yelling that she had to go right - turned left. From there she almost ran over a poor employee who was frantically waving his flags left trying to get her to make two lefts to get back in the direction she needed to go - of course, while she was in the midst of turning right and heading up to the next level of the garage. This is going to be a loooong drive...

Eventually, we made it out of the garage - without running into anyone or anything - and then :

"What the herrrrr?"

See, my boss is from China, and she has an affinity for English curse words, all of which are hilarious sounding coming from an under 5 foot tall, barely 100 pound, squeaky-voiced, heavily accented woman. "What the hell (or "herrrr" as she says it) is her absolute favorite expression, and one that never fails to amuse me. Only this time when she said, it was not so funny, as we stared out into the teeth of some horrific rush hour traffic. Geeez, I had it in my mind that Nashville was this laid back city, but this gridlock was as bad as anything I had ever seen in Baltimore - or anywhere else.

"It's okay", my boss said. "I know alternate way to go from when I used to work down here."
UH OH...

Two and a half hours later - after repeatedly ignoring the instructions of the GPS to get back onto Interstate 40 (why exactly did we haggle over programming the damn thing?), and instead taking single lane back roads through a gazillion dots on the Tennessee map, passing by all manor of trailer park, shacks, farms, and plantation-styled McMansions along the way - as well as three different businesses that sell metal and fiberglass carports - we finally arrived in New Johnsonville...

(Why on earth would there need to be three carport dealers so near to each other, on this stretch of teeny tiny towns? But then when I started paying attention, I realized every damn building - even the most run down, rickety shack - had  one of them thar carports next to it. All right, so I was bored - sue me...) - 

                                                     "There is no 'there' there"
                                                      -Gertrude Stein, writer

We made our way down New Johnsonville's "main drag" - which consisted of  well...I don't know, not much? A trucking company, a gas station, a nondescript little grocery where my boss says everyone in town does their shopping when they don't feel like driving to the Walmart in the next town. That was about it for the main drag. Oh wait: as we sat at red light waiting to make a left turn onto the road where our plant was located - a road that also included a DuPont plant, and 2 or 3 other chemical plants - I looked to the left, and saw what passed for the local Fire Department: a converted gas station with two trucks parked in the garage bay and not much else. Lord only knows what would happen if there were  a major fire at one of these facilities...

We turned onto the road where the plant is located, and drove another couple of miles down mostly gravel until we finally made it to the entrance of the plant.  On first glance, it looked pretty much like any other chemical plant - well maybe except for the mailbox planted smack in the front of the main building:

How charming and oh so quaint! Then we walked inside, into the plant's lobby:

I actually waited until no one was in here to take this picture. When we first arrived, there were a few engineers and managers hanging out here with their feet up on the table shooting the breeze; I half expected there to be a spittoon somewhere nearby...

Dr. King Schultz: What's everybody staring at?
Django: They ain't never seen no nigger on a horse before.

-"Django Unchained"

After my boss and I got said our hellos, we met up with my boss' boss and the Pilot Lab Tech, who had come down the day before, and a couple of the engineers to talk about some of their processes, and a new furnace they had just gotten installed. Then after that meeting, we got on our hard hats and steel toed shoes so we could get a tour of the plant.

Now I was acquainted with the engineers and managers for the most part, because they traveled up to our facility a few times a year. My boss, as I said, had worked at that plant before transferring to Baltimore. The other two have been with the company for over 30 years each and had made this trip. I, on the other hand, was the newbie on site, and should I say this? I don't think I'd seen a single Black person since leaving Nashville, and I certainly not in New Johnsonville; and I guess if I hadn't seen any Black people here, then - judging from some of the reactions of people laying eyes on me - neither had any of them...I mean, the good ol' boys were doing double takes, backtracking in their steps to take another look. One guy who was working at pulling electrodes out of an reactor cell with a hoist almost smacked his partner with one of those electrodes. When we walked into the Operations Control Room, I felt for a second like Reggie Hammond walking into Torchy's (You Eddie Murphy fans will no doubt get that reference; anyone else, Google it): everything just STOPPED for a few seconds before people picked their jaws off the floor and slowly either went back into their conversations, or started to engage us in conversation and give us a tutorial of what they were doing.

New Johnsonville has no restaurants, so for lunch, the engineers drove us a few miles to the original town of Johnsonville - or "Old" Johnsonville, as they call it in those parts. "Old" Johnsonville (named after President Andrew Johnson) was abandoned and leveled by the Tennessee Valley Authority after a dam they built 80 miles away permanently raised the Tennessee River in that area to permanent flood levels. Eventually, some of the locals built New Johnsonville three miles upstream of "Old" Johnsonville, but in doing so, built absolutely nothing of interest there, although they were able to open a couple of parks, restaurants, and such in the old town, which is why we rode there for lunch, which was right on the same river whose flood levels forced Johnsonville's inhabitants to leave town decades ago, but which apparently now was safe. The restaurant featured a pier on which you could dine, shoot the breeze, catch a breeze, and drop bread or crackers into the river and watch some big ol' catfish come up and have a snack. It was all very peaceful and relaxing. I could almost get used to --- wait, what am I saying? Aside from hunting and fishing, this was probably about as good as it gets for activity in these parts without having to drive to Nashville or Memphis, neither of which is around the corner. Even for an angry nerd like me who doesn't go out much, this place was just a bit remote for my liking...

After lunch, we headed back to the plant for a meeting, and some time spent in Engineering going through their process control panels to get a better feel for how things worked. Then at the end of the day, we said our goodbyes, and my boss and her GPS left to make her way back to the Nashville airport to head back to Baltimore. In the end, everyone was friendly and helpful. Despite their initial reactions, there were no haters or racists apparent, from what I could tell, anyway; they were just...confused...

Mona Lisa: What?
Vinny: Nothing, you stick out like a sore thumb around here.
Mona Lisa: Me? What about you?
Vinny: I fit in better than you. At least I'm wearing cowboy boots.
Mona Lisa: Oh, yeah, you blend.

-"My Cousin Vinny"

Since my boss was headed back home, I hopped in the rental with her boss, and with the Pilot Lab Tech, and we made our way to the hotel. Since New Johnsonville also has no hotels, that meant driving to the metropolis of Camden (twice as large as New Johnsonville, although that's still only about 3800 people), which about 15-20 minutes away. As we got close to the hotel, I looked out of the window and saw a sign that said "Nathan B. Forrest State Park". Immediately my Jeopardy senses started tingling; Nathan B. Forrest, Nathan B. Forrest, I know that name...

And then it hit me: Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate General in the Civil War, and the Founder of the Ku Klux Klan. And they have a state park named after him right around the corner from where I'd be laying my head for the night. Lovely...When I posted this fact on Facebook, I got some responses about how Forrest eventually renounced his affiliation with the KKK and publicly sought racial reconciliation. I get that, I really do, but it was still...I don't know, a little strange seeing his name commemorated on a state park. 

My boss' boss dropped me off in front of the hotel, and then went to park. As I was about to enter into the lobby, I saw this sign in the window:
Then, displayed prominently on a lobby wall:

Lawful concealed carry of guns, AND the Ten Commandments displayed in public? Toto, we aren't in Maryland anymore...

"Where you from?" asked the oh so bubbly woman checking me in. "Oh, I'm from Baltimore, Maryland", I replied.
"Really? My husband is travelling up y'all's way this week."
"Oh really? Where's he headed?" I asked.
"Oh he's driving to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Dee-troit"
I started - and stopped myself - a couple times to tell her that those cities are NOT in Baltimore's area, but somehow I got the feeling that for her, North was NORTH, so I left it alone...

Just as I was finishing up my registration, in come my boss' boss and the Pilot Lab Tech - two old White guys.
"So, what room are you in?" My boss' boss asked, rather brusquely.
The desk clerk - not realizing we were all together - immediately put her bubbly demeanor on hold. Standing directly in front of her, I could see her very subtly shift a little closer to the counter's edge and slide her right hand underneath it. UH OH...
I quickly turned to my boss' boss and told him my room number (to let the clerk know we were there together), then turned back to her and said as much. Back came her smile and her hand from under the counter, and we were on our way. PHEW...

"She didn't like me asking you what room you were in, did she?" my boss' boss asked, laughing.
Hey, no shit, Sherlock. I bet you wouldn't be laughing if she had come up from under that counter with a gun pointed at ya...

A half hour later, we met back at the rental car to head down the road to Smokehouse,  a steak and BBQ joint, for dinner. The restaurant is L-shaped, and we - arriving just ahead of the dinner crowd - were seated in the leg of the "L" that was in the front of the joint, facing out onto the main road. While waiting on our orders, the restaurant began to fill up, yet every single person who came in after us was seated to the branch of the L that was off to the side, leaving us sitting  by ourselves in the front. Finally, three teenaged / young adult couples came in, were seated at a long table between us and the front window, and began to talk and laugh and not pay us any attention whatsoever. Then  a few minutes, in came an older woman who looked like she could have been the mother of a couple of the youngsters. She sat down, looked up, and:


Next thing you know, that  group was joining everyone else on the other side of the restaurant, because - as mom made it a point to loudly claim - the setting sun was casting  too bright a glare where they were seated (never mind that she had sat down with her back to the window; she was just looking out for her kids. Such a concerned mother...). And so it was that we spent our meal in the solitude of a crowded restaurant...

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a gas station, where I loaded up on munchies and drinks for the night. Nothing short of a fire was getting me out of my room after dark...
The next morning, we met in the lobby for breakfast. There was a sweet old lady who looked to be about 106, but who made the biggest - and maybe the best - waffles I've ever had.  I mean, they must have custom made a waffle iron to make waffles that big! Man, some chicken would be awesome with this waffle,
I thought, but for some reason, I wasn't trying to ask anybody in here for some fried chicken...

After we ate, we checked out - with the same woman we had our little near incident with the day before. And you know, it seemed like she still had a little 'tude with him. We got the hell out of Dodge as fast as we could, and made our way over to the plant.

Following a tour of their laboratory, the Pilot Lab Tech and I had some free time while my boss' boss had another meeting to go to before we hit the road. We decided to make another walk through of the plant, just us two, to get a closer look at things. Having visited the Plant many times before, the Pilot Lab Tech knew his way around pretty well, and had plenty of stories about old equipment and assorted mishaps and tech support projects that our department has worked on for the plant over the years. As we walked around, we got a few sideways looks, but at this point people knew who we were, so we were pretty much left alone.
Then, just as we were finishing up our walkaround, we came upon a most unusual sight: there, in the far end of the plant, with a shovel and barrels, digging out some trenches, was a BLACK MAN! Well, Glory be, there were indeed some Black folk in this neck of the woods (a little over 1% in the county, as I found out later). But why was ol' boy out here doing this shit job by himself? Was he a company employee? A contractor? They couldn't give him any help? Shoot, it was already blazing out there at 10 AM; I was sweating just looking at the poor guy; but what did I know? He might have been contracted to dig that crap up, for more money than I was making standing there looking at him. At any rate, he was doing his thing, and whistling while he worked, so what could I say?                                                                                                                                                                                                   

"Take me to another place,
Take me to another land"
- Arrested Development, "Tennessee"

After the boss' boss made it out of his meeting, we said our goodbyes and got ready to make the drive back to Nashville. Before leaving, more than one of the engineers made not-so-subtle hints that the plant had trouble keeping personnel in New Johnsonville (gee, and it's such a lovely place with so much to do, can't imagine why anyone would want to leave) and that they could always use some good people to come down and work. Considering these other two that were with me are getting close to retirement, that left me as the target of the sales pitch. Hmmm, thanks, but...I don't think so...

And with that, we were off to Nashville to catch a flight home. Since I riding with someone that actually follows directions, the drive took almost an hour less than when my boss was driving. Before I knew we were in the air, and less than two hours later back in Baltimore. I hopped on the Light Rail to ride from the airport back into town, at just about the time when people were getting off of work and ready to start the weekend. With each stop, as the train filled with people - all White - leaving their jobs, as well as some Boston Red Sox fans - all White - in town to attend the games their hated team were playing against the Orioles, a funny thing happened: even as the train became jam packed, not a one of them would sit next to me. Even at full capacity, they all preferred to stand - away from where I was - rather than sit by me. And as we all rode into downtown Baltimore, the only thing I could think, with an empty seat beside me, a halo of empty floor space next to my seat, and a crowd of people sitting and standing elbow to elbow, hip to hip everywhere else, was that maybe New Johnsonville and Camden, Tennessee were so bad after all - or at least not all that different...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Baltimorons: Wash your mouth out with soap - MOM

So I was headed into the house after a grueling, back-breaking day of observing chemical reactions, pushing buttons on analytical equipment, and entering data into spreadsheets, and I passed by two pre-teen girls who lived down the block from me, as they walked in the direction of Belair Road. Chasing behind them was a much younger little girl, maybe 3, who was yelling "I wanna go, I wanna go". The older girls clearly didn't want the little one tagging along with them, and were trying to shoo her back to the house, when off the porch stomped this "lady" - I'm assuming the mother of the little girl (I didn't recognize either of them) - who proceeded to yell the following to the now crying little girl:

"Girl, bring your little ass the fuck back up here! Them little bitches don't want you to go with them! Shut the fuck up and come back up on this damn porch, 'fore I beat your ass!"

I don't know where to begin with this one: Cussing out a 3 year old? Calling 9-10 year girls "little bitches"?  I just wanted to hug that poor child and give the mother the kind of slap in the mouth my mother would have given us (who am I kidding, STILL give us) if she had heard my brother, sister, or me use such language (Moms didn't have time for washing nobody's mouth out with soap), but of course, that would have had some unpleasant repercussions, so instead I trudged into the house feeling more than a little down about those three young girls...

So next time you're out somewhere, and are shaking your head about the behavior of some foul-mouth, ill-mannered children, just think about where they learned it from...