Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Ganging Agley a Little Too Aft

Funny how that happens.

Anyway, this morning's activities were relatively simple--1) Go down to the county jail building to get my pistol license renewed, 2) Go pick up Ashley from her grandparents' house, 3) Take kids to McDonalds to pick up the newest piece of plastic (Happy Meal toy, not food), 4) Go home.

The clock went off at the usual time, but I was bound and determined to go back to sleep this morning, so after rousting Miss Reba I was back in slumberland. Some time later, a little girl--soft as a box of hammers--sleepily scrambled under the electric blanket. Seems she had doused herself during the night, so Mom washed her down with a warm cloth and put her in with me so she could finish sleeping. I just hoped that was all she was going to finish doing.

Reba gave me some sugar before she left and I dozed back off, only getting punched in the throat once, and only once getting an elbow gently placed into my eye. (Catherine is usually much more active.) Finally got up about 8 and started getting everyone roused up to get going. Answered some e-mail and played with the blog comments for a second, dunked Cat in the bathtub to finish cleaning up, confirmed our schedule with Ashley's grandmother, and started getting everyone dressed. Tiny Terror was a sight to behold--red Joliclub (I have no idea) Cheer Squad shirt, blue sweat pants, and rainbow-striped toe socks. I would say she did this herself, but occasionally I will dress her that way simply for comic effect. I like seeing the disapproving glances of the prissy sorts as they think to themselves that they would never let one of THEIR children out of the house looking like that. (Since Middle Girl and Boy both dressed themselves, they didn't suffer such indignities.)

Dressed, everyone saddled up, and time to go--BUT FIRST, had to go to the Food World at the foot of the hill to get some money and shampoo and deodorant and hopefully some tire goo, if they had it.

I've been rolling on a set of front tires that are held together with the barest of carbon black molecules and a large amount of prayers. Back before we got the Honda, this was Reba's van and her lack of concern about such things is a wonder to behold. She never checked anything, and one day I absentmindedly looked at the (very nearly new) tires and saw that the outer shoulders of both the front tires had ground away to a broad band of slickness. AAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!! (This is what I said in my head. Such an outburst in an audible manner would have created a flood of tears from someone who admittedly has only the barest of understanding about things frictional.) Anyway, the front end was aligned and I vowed to get as much more mileage out of these ruined rubber rings as I could before having to change them. I've been seeing wire now for a good while, and the driver's side tire only holds air for a day or two before needing to be reflated. Obviously, this is dangerous, especially in light of the fact that I occasionally carry kids around, but dear old father-in-law has stepped in to purchase some new skins, so it was just a matter of when we could meet to get the transaction done. I figured some time this week while I'm off.

Anyway, I figured I would get a can of spray-in tire goo to hold me until later on in the week, so after I got my Sure Unscented and the bottle of L'Oreal Kid's Fruit Blast Kewl Radical FasDRY Blasted Fun SunPoo, I found my can of ick, and then decided I had better get the piranhas something to eat so they wouldn't attack me. Three little milk bottles and a fried pie apiece (yes, I know that wasn't the healthiest foods in the store, but they don't really like tofu doughnuts.)

Time to check out, and for once, the Uma Thurman Girl actually smiled. She works the morning shift, and I see her every so often when I stop in to buy my morning repast of dried meat snacks and sugar-free carbonated beverages. She really does look like the dark-haired Uma of Pulp Fiction--tall, rail thin, generously-proportioned nose and lips, straight across bangs, lots of eye makeup. But she always a sort of weary ennui about her--I imagine it’s a combination of things, caused in part by having to fight off the hounds all the time, and then having to work as the early morning cashier at a Food World when you look like Uma Thurman. Anyway, she hardly ever says anything, but today having the kids with me seemed to break the ice a bit--I actually caught her smiling at least twice in the short time it took to run the register tape!

Off then, shoved the kids in the Plymouth and proceeded to empty the can of highly combustible junk into my tire, finished that, threw the can in the handy trash bag by the cart return corral, and drove back around the long way to the Citgo with the free air. Hopped out, finished filling up the driver's side, topped off the one on the passenger side, and it was off to the jail! Whee!

I went up Chalkville Road and made sure to get out my permit and stick it under the clip on the sun visor so I could be sure and get it. Made the turn onto the interstate without having to stop and headed on down the ramp and…gee, that tire sure was running rough. Went on a little bit further, and then the whole van started vibrating like I was driving over cobblestones--"Kids, I think we've got a flat."

Sure 'nuff.

It was the tire over on the PASSENGER side. Flatter'n a flitter. I always joke with myself that it's only flat on the bottom, and I never fail to make myself giggle. Even today. (I have a low comedy threshold for such things, I think.)

The kids started trying to work up the requisite fear and anguish--"ARE WE GOING TO GET KILLED!?"

"No, kids. I just have to change the tire."


"The SPARE tire. Just hush and sit still and hush and be quiet."

Closed the door and opened the hood to get the jack out and just then a big pickup truck with a conversion package and custom stripes pulled over in front of me and started backing up. It stopped and out jumped a short, burly, awfully friendly lass with a tightly curled mullet, wearing jeans and a plaid shirt. "You need some hep!? Ah got a cell phone, or if you need some hep, I can hep you!"

"No ma'am--I just got a flat. I got a spare, so I reckon I will be okay. But you sure are nice for stopping!"

"No problem a'tall--but if you wan' me t'stay, I kin!"

What a sweet girl--"Thanks, but I think I got her covered." She hopped back on board her pickup and took off.

Found a hunk of tree to chock the wheel, broke loose the lug nuts, winched down the spare tire, praying that it had some air in it, came back around and started working the jack. Such a contraption--a screw-type pantograph jack, with a swivel handle that doubles as the lug wrench. There is just enough available leverage to scour only half the hide off your palms, one half-turn at a time. Any longer and it would have been too simple. I was vigorously rotating the handle when another kind fellow stopped by and offered a cell phone or his hydraulic jack. You know, I figured the days of people stopping to help someone along the roadside were over. It sure is nice to know it's not. I thanked him and told him I really appreciated that he stopped, but I just about had it changed.

Off he went and off came the flat. You know, another good thing is that they don't make cars like they used to. Back not too long ago, a tire with a gaping hole on the shoulder would have been a recipe for a spectacular loss of control incident. As it was, there was very little drama--just pull over and stop.

Jack a few more jacks to get the hub a bit higher, slip on the spare, tighten the lug nuts, drop the jack back down, further aggravating the dime-sized hunk of raw meat the trip up had caused, roll the old tire back around to the back. "I thought it was flat, Daddy. It doesn't LOOK flat!" "It's just flat on the bottom, kids." "Oh."

Winched it back up, stowed the jack and handle, and we were off. Maybe thirty minutes tops, but then I had to stop and get some new air for it. By the time I got back around to the station, (still in Trussville, by the way) it was only fifteen minutes before I was supposed to pick up Oldest. Well, we'll stop at the jail on the way back.

Got across town with no further emergency, picked up Oldest and headed back toward home. She said she was tired, and that her stomach hurt. She then went into clinical detail about her lower intestinal problems, and allowed further that it was That Time of the Month. And she had no pads. ::sigh:: "Could you not get one from Grandmama? Did you not have a spare in your purse?" She started to answer in the negative on both, then, behold, she had one in her purse. Whaddya know. "Well, would you like to stop and change?" (After all, her expedient had been a wad of toilet paper.) "Oh, I guess."

You know, I think were it my lower nether region, I would be begging to stop.

Anyway, we had to make a detour from the old back road we were on and get back out to Highway 78. Stopped at the Crown station, door locked, told her to go get the key, it didn't work except in the men's room door, told her to go back and tell them it didn't fit, she came back with the same key and said they had told her it fit both doors, try it one more time to verify that the women's room would not open, then told her just to use the guy's, which I inspected beforehand to make sure it wasn't covered in the normal service station men's room filth. Surprisingly clean!

NOW, thus completed with her hygienic pit stop, it was once more time to try to get something else accomplished. Oh, and it had started to rain.

Got to the jail (a.k.a The Melvin Bailey Jefferson County Criminal Justice Center, a.k.a. Eric Robert Rudolph's current address). It actually houses both the county jail as well as the Jefferson County criminal courts, and for some reason, the application office for pistol permits.

"Daddy? I have to pee."


"Okay, let's go inside first." Luckily, we had found a place to park on the street, which made the whole ordeal of getting four children out of a van in the middle of a downpour with only two umbrellas somewhat less onerous. Got them all out and safely across the street and in the door and…and…oh crap. Why in the world did I not just leave my permit in my wallet instead of taking it out and placing it under the clip on the sunvisor WHERE IT STILL WAS?

Because I am an idiot.

Rounded them all back up and back out to the sidewalk and had them stand under a big lightning ro--I mean, tree--while I scooted back across the (middle of the) street in the rain--a fine example, indeed. Leave the kids under a tree in a rainstorm while I jaywalk. Oh well.

Got my permit and ran back across the street, got back inside with everyone, paid my tab, finally got them to correct my weight (I haven't weighed 215 since, well, you don't need to know) and then it was time to go pee.

The restroom is over in the jail side of the building, so we went down the ramp and 'round the corner…"Is this the JAIL, Daddy?" Yep, sure is. "Is this the JAIL, Daddy!?" YES. "Is this where BAD people go?" Yes. "Is it a jail!?" ::sigh:: No, it's where they bottle Coca-Cola. "REALLY?" ::sigh::

Thus relieved of his pressure, Boy was refreshed and it was time to get back toward home.

BUT FIRST, a stop for a Christmas present. Ashley's little beau wants a book--I went out last night looking for this thing at Books-A-Million in Trussville AND at the Barnes and Noble at the Summit. Neither place had what he wanted, so I got a couple of others that would do the trick. BUT, not wishing to contribute to a disappointment at Christmas, I figured we would stop by the BAM at Eastwood Mall and just by chance maybe find it.

Eureka! They had it, a book with a 12-foot-long fold out timeline chart of architectural styles over the ages. Nifty. Got it and headed off toward home, with the final stop at the Clown Place for new plastic junk toys and wonderful foodstuffs.

It sure has been an eventful day. Ain't over, either--we have Bible study tonight instead of tomorrow, so there'll be more getting out and driving around in the rain with a carload of fussy children.

We're going in the Honda this time, though.

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