A Double Helping

Linda: “Hey, I thought your little ego stroking blog was suppose to have trivial little observations on it with some meaningless babble about how it almost brought you to tears or something?”

Me: “Yep”

Linda: “Well, it looks like all you’ve been doing is barfing up photography related crap post after post”

Me: “uh, Sorry!”

Linda: “Don’t be sorry, get off your slacker butt and give the 3 people who actually read this drivel what they want”

Me: “K”

Well, that was awkward, but as always, she’s right.  I had to dust off my little blog idea notepad and fire up Photoshop to work on the required accompanying image.  Oh, for the record, I don’t cry … just wanted to get that out there for the record.  So today’s intriguing observation actually occurred a number of months back in the Menard’s parking lot.  Linda and I had done a little shopping and had made it back to the truck.  Okay, it is impossible for me to do a “little” shopping at Menards thanks to it being like a giant candy store for me.  Anyway, I had backed out of the parking spot and was proceeding up the aisle when we came upon an elderly man pushing a lumber cart with two full size plywood sheets on top.  Based on the brief time it took to pass him, it became apparent that he was struggling with the load trying to balance the weight of the plywood while negotiating the upward slant of the parking lot.  This scene actually hit a special chord with me.  Since owning our first home, I have been purchasing plywood, drywall and pressboard to complete one project after another.  Probably 90% of the time I am alone when the materials are bought and eventually hauled out to the truck.  I wouldn’t consider myself the strongest person out there, but I work hard to stay in some form of shape (thanks to a commitment in college to never become a stereotype of my geek profession).  Regardless of my bench strength, it is always a struggle to get those 4×8 sheets into the truck alone.  Add wind to that equation and you have plenty of fodder for a funniest home video show.  Not once has anyone offered to provide any assistance in this effort.  This doesn’t bother me on the receiving end, but I’ve always recognized this lumber battle and make it a point to offer my assistance to anyone in a similar situation (especially if it is WINDY!)

If I struggle with this type of material, clearly this individual was going to have similar issues.  After making my way past the guy, I pulled into an empty parking space and jumped out to lend a hand.  As soon as I got out of my truck and headed towards the man, another guy in the exact same truck (both in color and model) pulls into the empty space next to mine and gives me a nod of confirmation.  He had seen the scene and made the exact same decision.  By the time we had made it back to the old guy he had reached his vehicle which turned out to be a U-Haul truck.  The other guy asked him if he wanted the wood in the rental truck (mainly to confirm that we had the right vehicle).  The old guy was a little surprised and hesitantly said yes.  The other guy opened the truck up and jumped in while I grabbed the plywood and tossed it up to him.  The old guy thanked us for our help (still had a look of surprise on his face) as we put the cart back in the corral and headed back to our trucks.

It was an interesting coincidence that two people in the exact same vehicle saw the exact same scene and made the exact same decision to help someone out.  However, what really held my thought was how this situation even came to be in the first place.  I can understand nobody witnessing the guy getting the plywood onto the cart based on my experience that there is never anyone in Menards when you need help with something.  If one of the other employees had not assessed this situation, clearly the cashier could have sized up the customer and called in some help.  Apparently not the case!  In summary, it felt good on the soul to help my fellow man, but left a sour taste in my mouth due to the lack of customer attention from one of my favorite stores.   The good news of all this is my Rapture quotient should have gained a few points to the better… of course, that really doesn’t mean much anymore does it (ha)

Let the Ghoul Show You the Way

Let’s just keep the Halloween theme going.  The previous post was driven by our annual Halloween Cookout Party.  While I was gathering up the materials for the fire pit patio, I decided to go ahead and pick up some extra items in order to attempt a new decoration  idea that I had been kicking the tires on for some time.  Each year, we try to add one new decoration to the collection.  Typically these are the latest air blown offerings, but this year we went in a different direction.  Living out in the country, it can be difficult to actually navigate to the house.  This is even more difficult at dark since there is little ambient light in the area.  This makes for a great stargazing, but not so great on the driving.  Oh, and to top it off, the GPS directs everyone to my neighbor’s driveway which is a down the road a bit.  What started as a internal debate on how to ease the difficulty for our guests resulted in this new decoration:

This particular shot was taken before darkness fell making it look a tad less scarier than it did once the guests started arriving.  Not only did this fit the overall theme of the party, but due to the clever hand placement, it also provided a functional role since it was placed at the road as an indicator for drivers to turn left into the correct driveway.  I wanted it to last from year to year, be able to withstand various weather conditions and (most of all) be relatively easy to disassemble and store away.  I don’t know about you, but those types of conditions almost always lead me to PVC.  In the sharing spirit, hit the jump to see how it was built.

Continue reading Let the Ghoul Show You the Way

A Service Recap

I thought I would take the time to recap some recent service experiences I have had.  If you recall, I was complaining about having to load just about all of the cement bags at Menards by myself.  I am still a little torqued about that, but I ended up patronizing their store again to purchase the treated lumber for the bridge span (which will sit atop the cement purchased previously).  In this load (and there will be multiple) I purchased 25 2x12x12x10′ and 15 2x2x8′ treated boards.  Pulling into the wood shed, my heart sank noticing that the 10’s were on the end of the  SECOND floor of the shed which has one set of stairs a loooong way away.  The worst part of it, is the distance from the second to first floor which made it impossible to simply slide the boards over the edge and then move them to the truck.  A close second was the weight of these boards.  If you want to test your strength wrestle a few of these babies out of their storage location in a small aisle.  I made it through 3 and quickly decided this was going to take a few hours.  Although my history of help is less than stellar at Menards, I noticed an employee on a forklift helping someone on the other side of the shed.  A few internal pride discussion ensued before walking down and asking the guy to help me when he was done.  He agreed and promptly came over to help once his other business was completed.  Turns out the railings of the aisle come off providing a means to simply slide the boards straight out and across the raised forklifts.  He helped load the 25 boards on the lifts, assisted in moving them to my truck and then went with me to help get the 15 8 footers which are stored in another location (I have no idea why by the way).  So I need to keep some credit to Menards and their employee (ironically named Bryan) some credit for saving some sweat and allowing me to get out of there in under 30 minutes.

Contrasting this with a Burger King visit last week in East Peoria.  Hungry after a night out, Linda and I decided to catch a late quick dinner.  This place actually keeps a display in their back kitchen area that grades their service for the day.  Rarely have I ever seen it over a ‘C-‘  but that night it was at an ‘A’.  We walked up to the counter and looked for someone to take our order – everybody was back in the prep area.  Minutes passed before one of the employees said he would be there in a little bit… waiting … waiting …. waiting.  Finally he comes up and takes our order where I explicitly state I want onion rings instead of their fries.  I go to pay and he walks away and says someone else will be back to get my money.. waiting … waiting …. waiting.  A lady eventually comes up and takes my money.  The food arrives the original clerk asks me if I want sauce for the chicken fries – thankful for him asking since I always forget, I requested one ranch and one sweet sour.  He then stuns me and questions “You do not want more than that?”  I responded that I really wanted two sweet and sour (which I did) and he said sure, “We don’t charge you like some stores try to do!”  I knew exactly who he was talking about and thanked him for the free extra condiments.  Although I had to wait, this experience put a satisfied smile on my face… which lasted until I was driving back to the house and Linda informs me they gave me crappy fries instead of the requested onion rings – Sigh.

Note, as a confession I was early to Menards on Sunday so dropped by Micky D’s to get a quick breakfast sandwich.  I order a sausage and egg (no cheese) bagel.  Forgetting to check before I left, the prophecy came true about carry out and there was cheese on the sandwich.  I honestly though that the service industry was better when the unemployment rate was high but  it is cresting over double digits now (thank you current government and oh great no change orator) and the service is not improving.

Oh well, shame on me for not validating the orders I guess.

Another Set of Fails… or Wow, My Hands Still Hurt

The feeling is starting to come back in my hands, but rather than push it, I’m going with another set of fails to provide some humor in your day.  Hoping to get back to some in depth blogging for the next blog… but then again, why start after 1.5 years HeHe.  Okay, let’s start with a save the environment pamphlet.

So here we have an Earth Matters music festival, but what band is selected to participate in this event?  That would be the Backyard Tire Fire band of course, because nothing says I love the Earth than burning tires.

I think my mother clipped this one from the Springfield State Journal Register.  It appears Springfield has as entertaining a Police Beat section as our local Journal Star.

A pretty poor scan, but essentially this entry relates an apparent car burglary at their Best Buy.  It is not clear from the context, but either the Viper Car Alarm was not installed and thus diminished the value of the system or it was installed and the customer needs to call up Viper and have a little chat.

Since we are on the topic of newspaper entries, here is another one from the Springfield IL. paper.    After 50 years of wedded bliss, the Walmire’s are looking forward to a …

a trip to Menards.  I can imagine the scene around 6 o’clock when the guests of honor proclaim everyone has to finish their cake and leave because Menards is closing in a few hours and they need to make sure they get the fresh licorice and Spechter Root Beer (which is quite good by the way)  before the doors close.

It is Halloween time (although most of the stores around here have their Christmas stuff out) so pulling this morbid display out for your viewing.  I can’t remember the exact store this was in (some small shop in a small town), but it definitely caught my attention when I walked by it.

This brings new meaning to hanging the doll up.  I would think the clerk would notice how uncomfortable this was for the customers and wrap it around the arms or chest instead.  Fortunately, they didn’t leave a plastic bag on the head to help protect the hair!

Lastly, I never get enough Ass Signs.

This was taken at the Springfield State Fairgrounds while my dogs were competing in the National Teacup Agility competition.  In fact I have another sign picture on my phone from a recent team building outing I had to attend for work.  Bowling with my coworkers apparently makes me a better employee.   The same probably applies to the Women’s Bowling Ass that are meeting there later in the week.

That’s all folks, but I’ll keep the camera at the ready for more fails I stumble upon.

In Need of a Quick Calculation

Quick Calc at Menards

My summer task for this year is to finally do some clearing on my lot in order to highlight the scenic stream that runs through the middle of the woods.  This task may just kill me (now down over 10 pounds since my Steamboat Race and a mere 3 pounds away from my college graduation weight.  Fortunately, this is the kind of thing I love to do so even though it is hard work, I am smiling the entire time.  Part of this endeavor is to build a bridge so I can actually get to the back portion of my lot without getting wet.  My oldest brother is thankfully helping out with the design which is proving to be very interesting since it is over 49 feet across and I am unable to place a support structure in the middle due to the water and rock bed.  After trying all options to get a mechanical hole digger (nothing viable under a $600 rental fee) I decided to dig the footings and pour the concrete by hand.  So with my hands, a spade, a post hole digger, a 4′ chipping bar and a significant amount of sweat, 8 four foot deep by 12″ wide holes were dug.  Thankfully the new chipping bar (best $35 ever spent) made it through the roots and hardened sandstone.

The next stage in this endeavor was pouring the footings.  This consisted of hauling 64 of the 60lb bags of concrete and 8 of the cardboard pillar forms from Menards to the construction site.  For the record, a Menards’ employee managed to help load 16 (most my truck is rated for) of them into the truck – all the rest were loaded, unloaded and hauled through the woods with an ATV (5 at a time).  On the 3rd trip to Menards, I purchased the remaining four 12″ tubes for the job.  Now these tubes are 12″ nominal with a +- of 0.5″.  You might ask why they would bother with the size variance in today’s precision machinery era.  I am not sure if this is intentional or not, but this variance allows you to insert the tubes inside each other (depending on the variance of course).  I should also point out that the next size down had an 8″ diameter.

With that background in place, we are at the heart of this post.  Two of the four tubes fit inside the third, the third and fourth were the same size and purposely both at the large end of the tolerance.  While checking out, I informed the cashier there were four tubes in total and they were all 12″ in diameter.  The cashier then proceeded to look at the two exposed tubes with some confusion.  Noting that, I informed him that there was a half inch tolerance.  Without a doubt this resulted in math fog and I could tell he did not understand how that statement resolved the two inner tubes.  Keeping my peripheral vision, I proceeded to the credit card swiper.  Sure enough, he took the two tubes out and checked their labeling to make sure they were both 12″ as I had previously informed him.

I can understand the employees need to protect the company’s assets, but two things intrigued me about this event.  The first is an employee at a home improvement store having difficulty judging a half inch tolerance, but more importantly the 8″ tubes are CHEAPER.  Why would I willingly pay more for the extra two tubes?  If they were 8’s I would have pulled them out myself in order to save a few bucks.  Maybe lifting all those concrete bags impacted my powers of reasoning, but there is definitely room there for some lightening math skills.  By the way, the book used in the image is fantastic for those who like to improve their mental calculation abilities.  I was taking the picture of the ruler and noticed the binding on my bookshelf and felt it was a good fit.

Now time to go eat something.