Friday, October 28, 2011


Life brings us plenty of "oh, shit!" moments, moments where things are moving along nicely, you're all fat dumb and happy, then something happens that makes your heart sink into your stomach and your stomach head down toward your ankles.

When you're not a healthy specimen, those "oh, shit!" moments can take a toll. I could hack the "out of gas" scenario from May of 2010 when it happened, but just two months after that my aorta did an "Oh, SHIT!!" of its own. There's no way I could hike up that hill now.

In nearly three years of driving the X-11, I've been stranded several times, mostly in the first 4 months, all of those caused by a crappy carburetor design that poured more gas into the engine than it could burn. I ran out of gas two years after that.

Then there's this past Wednesday. I was headed down to KFC and made it all the way to 9th Avenue and Bayou Boulevard. KFC's on the southeast corner.

I was first in line, waiting for the left-turn arrow. I pushed the clutch in, ready to shift, and BANG there went the brand-new cable I put in a month ago.

Oh. Shit.

All I could do when the light changed was stay in neutral and coast slowly downhill through the intersection, flashers on, half a million rush-hour people tied up behind me in the lane...almost there...c'mon, baby, just...a little..further...

Awww, goddammit. This is where Bayou Boulevard starts sloping upward. Pleasepleasepleaseplease...


I just made it to the edge of KFC's driveway, which slopes up even more...I jumped out and started pushing, straining as hard as I could.

A Citation weighs around 2,400 pounds.

I made progress in inches at first, huffing and puffing and groaning...a little more...and then I just couldn't go anymore.

It took everything I had left to just hold the car there.

Oh, and my goddamn shorts were starting to fall off.

So I stood there, and the car stood there, and my shorts slipped another notch.

Rush hour traffic whipped past up Bayou.

A guy in a black suit came running from the northeast corner behind me and got behind the car. He started pushing...the car started moving...and my goddamn shorts did, too. A freaking landslide of red fabric, the cool touch of autumn air, and something added to the show for people in the westbound lanes of Bayou Boulevard.

I let go of the damn car and hiked my britches up.

We got the car over that little slope; from there the entire parking lot slopes downward. My savior asked if I was okay, and if I knew what was wrong. I told him about the clutch cable.

He nodded, then whipped out his wallet and passed me $20: "Here, man--this'll at least get you started fixing it."

I was too tired to argue, so I just thanked him. What a cool guy!

I let the car roll down and parked in front of KFC's dumpsters (no wiseass remarks!), sat until my breathing and pulse slowed down, then pried myself back out of the car to see what had happened to my clutch cable.

The damn thing was gone. The cable housing was still in place, but the cable itself had seemingly evaporated.

I hobbled into KFC, arranged for a tow truck, bought the dinner I'd come for with half of the $20 that guy gave me. I tipped the tow driver with the rest.

It turns out that I screwed up when I was installing the cable last month; the replacement item doesn't fit properly at the firewall. With this end of the housing not lined up correctly, the cable was binding at that point. The retainer at the inner end broke off. When the clutch arm snapped back, it just whipped the entire cable out of its housing and dumped it on the street.

The "Idiots" tag is for me, this time--that, and a montage of Gibbs slaps from "NCIS":

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The 53% Who Suck At Math.

One of the more amusing--and pathetic--responses to the 99%/Occupy Wall Street protests that have blown up into a worldwide movement in the last few weeks has been the righties' "53% Movement." I ran across this write-up of these mathematical illiterates at Speakeasy in the last couple of days.

See, in their world, only 53 percent of Americans pay Federal income taxes. Everyone else is a deadbeat, a leech, or whatever--and those valiant 53 Percenters are supporting all the rest!

They conveniently ignore the fact that for people making less than a certain amount, there's no tax. For the 10% or so who can't find jobs, there's no tax. If you have enough deductions, there's no tax.

I used to be in a 10% tax bracket. In my last job, I was making just above minimum wage and making about $15,000 a year. Now I'm on Disability and making somewhere just above $9,000. Oh, I'm living it up.

The amusing thing is, every one of the excerpted posts in the Speakeasy piece is parroting the talking points I'd already heard from various right-wing turd-hurling howler monkeys just a few days earlier, including several of the Nine Stooges who think they're presidential material--"Only 53 percent of Americans pay taxes!!"

I especially liked this woman's "logic":
3 years ago I started my own business with nothing. Finally after 3 years I’m starting to see a profit. I work a second job over 40 hours a week, and I go to college full time! I do all this while raising and providing for my two toddler sons. I don’t have a babysitter, and can’t afford daycare, so instead of complaining and being lazy, I found a second job where I could work from home… I fight and struggle every day! Yes, it’s hard, but it’s not supposed to be easy! … I’m a good role model for my kids so they will never be one of the 99%.
Um...yeah. See, unless your kids grow up to be multi-billionaires who own 40% of the country, your kids will be down here in the 99% club with us non-taxpaying deadbeats.

More importantly--and this should be something obvious to her--99% is bigger than 53%. The imaginary piece she thinks she's part of is actually part of the bigger one, and both of us are getting screwed by the remaining 1%.

Wait, wait, it gets better!
I am the 53% and do not appreciate the lazy, liberal children of Hard Working Americans including me in their socialist 99% movement.
There's that math problem again, coupled with the standard wingnut "socialists!!!!11!1" scare-word and the assumption that the Fifty-Threes are their own majority.

I wonder what the odds are that many of these people are also Teabaggers. We already know they're Republicans. The math issues make that obvious.

There are so many more, and all of them are strangely proud of living in near-poverty, working their asses off, barely scraping by, and carrying the other 46% or of us around on their broad, tireless shoulders.

What an arrogant bunch of crap! What about the tons of other taxes we all pay?

I just registered my two cars and renewed my driver's license. Paid taxes on all three.

I went to Waffle House this morning for breakfast. Paid tax at the register.

Yesterday? Bought a drink at a convenience store. Paid tax on that.

Last week? Put gas in one of the cars. You bet your ass there were taxes in there.

In the next few months, the property taxes on my house come due. We pay tax on the electric bill, the water bill, various insurance bills.

The only difference for me in this is that I probably don't make enough money on Disability to pay much in Federal taxes. No one in my household does--there are three of us, ALL on one form of Disability or another--oh, what a healthy lot we are! Me with a damaged aorta, my mother with her damaged spine, and my sister with Cerebral Palsy.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Fifty Threes are just the fucking stupid part of the 99%. They're making excuses for the corporate dirtbags who've wrecked the economy and bought our political system. They listen to the right-wing scumbags who all have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are and parrot every talking point. They vote for the job-killing Republicans against their own self-interest, driven by stupidity and fear, listening only to the dog-whistles--"SOCIALISM!!! AAAAAAAAAGH!" "ABORTION!!!!" "QUEEEEEEEERS!"

Here's a friendly note to you Fifty Threes: The Ninety-Nine are bigger than you, and we intend to take this country away from the elitist 1% and set things right.

You can join us in making things actually better for all of us, or you can sit on the sidelines and whine about how those poor billionaires are being mistreated. But don't think to get in our way. We will walk around you and leave you behind.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I Made the 1% Rich.

According to that pizza-making idiot who wants to be president next year, it's my fault I'm not an entitled elitist rich raging asshole like him.

But actually, it's because of minimum-wage workers like me that he's an entitled elitist rich raging asshole. He didn't get there on his own, no matter what he wants you to believe.

No. His millions came because of waitresses and kitchen staff in his Godfather's restaurants, people who worked for whatever the company could get away with paying. His money came from regular people like me busting their asses for 40 hours a week, or maybe working more than one job.

I knew people like that in my last job, as a delivery driver for one of the national auto parts chains. I hired on in early 2007, working full time and getting a little more than $7 an hour. Because it was February, once my 90 day probation was done, I still couldn't get into the health plan, since enrollment only happened in January.

But their plan was utter crap; the one I could afford wouldn't cover much of anything. The one I needed was too expensive. I did without.

No raises for ANYbody. Most of the other drivers and counter staff who'd been there as long or longer than me hadn't gotten a raise in years. Every time someone brought it up with management, they'd get runaround, or told to talk to the district manager, who would just give more runaround and excuses.

But the store managers got their bonuses. The DM got his bonus. His boss got his bonus, and so on. Us non-management types got a share in the "store bonus," which was based on overall sales for that store. If your sales are down, you don't get the extra few bucks.

All the while, the DM was screaming that payroll had to be cut, no new hires, no overtime for anyone. This meant that everyone but the store managers got cut back to 30 hours or less and the stores were running on skeleton crews. Customers would complain--both walk-in and commercial--because there weren't enough people to handle the workload. There were only 4 people in my store in the morning: two drivers, one at the Commercial desk (selling parts to local repair shops), and the store manager running the front, alone, until the afternoon guy came in. This freed the manager to go do paperwork, make the bank deposit, and grab lunch. The Commercial side closed down at 5 pm, the store manager left, and the evening guy came in, leaving two people to run the store to close.

And so both walk-in and commercial customers would go to the competition, because the store managers couldn't do anything about it--can't hire anyone, can't bring extra people in to help--and so the DM would scream about getting sales up.

We two drivers did an awful lot to help--checking in stock, putting it on the shelves, helping customers, re-stocking, putting up displays, answering phones, cleaning, anything and everything. I knew the system well enough to do parts lookups and run a register, run the test equipment (batteries, starters, alternators, ignition modules) and brake lathe, maintained the delivery trucks, maintained store equipment (I rigged up a drain for one of the air conditioners when its pipes got clogged up, re-stocked half the hard parts when the part numbers changed or new stuff came in), and other stuff that a "delivery driver" didn't need to do. This is assuming I wasn't out on a run, where I interacted with the customers, listened to their complaints about how long it was taking to get their parts, told them about the company's cutbacks, and asked them to call Corporate and give them an earful.

Basically--and this isn't an exaggeration--I did everything. Most of us in that one store could handle someone else's job and chip in, because we HAD to. Most of us were making about the same, without raises, with our hours cut, and we heard the same bullshit from Corporate--"More sales! Less payroll!"

We got a new DM in January 2010, the third one since I got hired. This asshole went on vacation in February, but not before showing everyone a sales brochure for his $50,000 boat. Nice.

He started shuffling people around. I got moved to the hub store, which warehoused more parts than the others. I was back on a 40-hour week, which was good, and all I had to do was make 8 circuits a day from the hub to two other stores and back. During one stop, I learned that the Company had posted record profits for 2009, $300 million. The Company guys simply gushed about it on the employee indoctrination information website. We were expected to gush, as well, because we're all one big happy family!

Record profits--but at the cost of cutting payroll hours, running stores with minimal staff, running off customers who weren't getting good service, freezing any raises...basically fucking us over for their big profits.

It was people like me who made that $300 million for the Company, people like me who made those sales and helped those customers, people like me who busted our asses so the Company assholes could enjoy their bonuses and record profits while we decided whether to pay the electric bill, the phone bill, or insurance this pay period.

Car broke down? to juggle the bills around. Maybe one of the shops'll cut me a deal. At least I get a discount on parts.

Lights got cut off? They want HOW MUCH to turn them back on? Well shit, there goes that paycheck. Guess we're hitting Dollar General for mac & cheese, ramen noodles, and tuna sandwiches for the next two weeks.

But did you SEE the District Manager's new $50,000 boat?! It's got wells for keeping bait, it's got a cooler under this seat, a stereo...everything an entitled asshole could want! Maybe if we're productive enough, he'll let us buy some of the fish he caught on vacation while we were keeping his stores alive for him and earning him his next bonus!

Since the Aorta Fairy visited me last year, things have actually gotten worse for my former coworkers. No raises, payroll cut ever further, and the Company's entitled elites making ever more money.

No, we don't owe the fuckers any thanks for allowing us to work for them and bask in their light. They owe us for making them rich. They owe us better wages, better working conditions, some fucking respect for all the work we do to keep their companies going. Without us, their companies die and the money stops flowing. Without us, their customers go somewhere else.

They owe us the courtesy of keeping American jobs in this country, instead of sending them to places where people will work for much less than we will.

Fuck you, Herman Cain.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


It shouldn't take three hours and a month to do something as simple as changing out a bad clutch cable.

But it did.

It's not a complicated job. The cable's held in place by spring tension--just pull the pedal up against its stop, disengage the cable at the transmission end, unbolt it at the firewall, and thread the pedal end out.

Took me two hours to get that far last month when the X-11's cable went bad. It was frayed from rubbing against its housing because the mounting bracket wasn't lined up properly. I ended up having to use a crowbar and cable cutters to pop the cable end loose and get the thing out of the car. By that point, this body of mine had had enough. I could barely stand up, let alone walk.

A few days later, I was laid up in bed with excruciating foot pain, courtesy of my blood pressure issues. Started in the left foot, spreading over the next few days to involve everything from toes to ankle, and nothing but Lortab would touch it--and even that would only take the edge off. There was no walking or sitting; just touching the floor or even its own weight was enough to set that foot off.

Three days into that, my right foot decided that this would be fun, so it joined in. I spent two weeks in bed, barely eating, drinking Gatorade, sleeping as much as I could and hoping I'd wake up without sore feet.

What? Go to a doctor? No. No way I was moving. I didn't think I could handle it, so I took my Lortab and slept. It's not a macho bullshit thing, either--moving just hurt more than not moving.

By the time it had run its course, I was too tired to work on the car and ended up sleeping 18 hours a day, 2 hours at a time, and feeling more and more tired--and feeling guilty for leaving the car unfinished. Yeah, it's just a car, but I'm funny about this one, given its condition when I got it. I pretty much brought it back from the brink, back to life, after half a decade of sitting in someone else's driveway. When I can't drive it, I feel guilty; when I'm in the driver's seat, I'm in the coolest car in town.

I finally dragged my tired ass out of bed this past Saturday, grabbed my tools, and put the new cable in. Thirty minutes, no snags. The difference in how the clutch feels is night and day--much lighter, but now I'm learning to drive it over again. That's the fun part.

It shouldn't have taken a month to get here, though. I'm getting fed up with not being able to walk or ride a bike. If a simple job like that clutch cable can wreck me, just think of how it'll be if I have to replace the clutch.