Don’t Give Me That Look

I am a responsible adult. That means that I get the oil changed in my car regularly. Though regularly may be up for interpretation, I shoot for every 5,000 miles. My car turned over 50,000 miles and even with my mathematical limitations, I knew it was time.

As I type this, I’m taken back to the time, lo those many years ago, when I first drove by myself to get my oil changed at a quick-service center. Driving over a large hole with a person waiting in said hole was a little nerve-wracking. The guy waving me in like I was driving a 747 seemed unaffected by the potential disaster that my car careening into that hole would cause. To his credit, his confidence in me was not misplaced.  I tried to act nonchalant, but it was a proud moment. Just another day.

But this time when I pulled up I encountered someone who had hand signals of his own making. First he did the come straight ahead signal with both hands extended and fingers moving toward his palms. Then he waved me a little to the right. Then briefly back to the first signal. Then he did this thing that was like he was imitating a butterfly with his hands fluttering towards each other and then away. I, of course, stopped. I figured he must be messing with the guy down in the pit or chasing a mosquito. He then yelled for me to pull forward.

When he reached my window, I told him I wasn’t quite sure what he wanted me to do. To that he replied, “First time, huh.”

Because he was going to be fooling around under my car’s hood, I decided to let that one go. I turned off my engine and pulled out my phone. That was a mistake. He said he needed my mileage. I looked at my dark dashboard. I wondered if I turned my car on if I would rip the hands off of the guy under my car.

You know how you can turn your key to the left for battery power? Of course you do. You’re no idiot. The problem for me is that I have a push-button ignition and in the 4.5 years that I’ve owned this car I’ve turned on battery power maybe once. And that was by accident.

So then I had to look at this joker and tell him I didn’t know how to find that information for him without starting my car. He gave me a look like this was my second strike. I was beginning to feel self-conscious so I blurted out, “This really is my car.”

He then very nicely told me what to do. I gave him the exact mileage and he walked away while I tried to figure out how to turn off the battery power without, once again, starting my car and then abruptly turning it off, all the while wondering if I could really hurt somebody (and I’m not talking about the guy who waved me in). I decided that it didn’t matter if it was on. If my battery went dead, somebody there would give me a jump.

The story has a happy ending. Nobody was hurt during my routine oil change. I didn’t fall in the hole. My battery didn’t fail me. I didn’t smack the young man who asked me for my mileage. Plus, when I got home I checked in with my engineer to see if my anxiety about turning my car on was justified. He said I could have hurt somebody if his hand was in the wrong place and I turned on the car. I think he was pretty proud of me for not causing any injuries that day. So proud that he said next time he’d be happy to get my oil changed for me.


Seasoned Greetings and Happy 2019!

The holidays are behind us now and that means another of my husband’s office parties is in the books. That makes 39 of them. My guess is that we have only one more to go before retirement.

As I sat at the Capital Grille with engineers the age of our children, I pondered parties gone by. I remembered that first party. Bob, a recent college graduate, was enjoying his first career job. We had a ten-month-old baby. I had quit my job to stay home with him and was where I had longed to be – home with a baby.

What I didn’t realize, though, was how out-of-it I would feel among a group of professionals who were quite a bit older than us.

Here’s another shocking realization: They were about 15 years younger than I am now. That meant they were in their mid-to-upper forties and I was a mere 23. Engineering was a predominantly male dominated career choice, so I was sitting with a bunch of seasoned women who knew each other and knew the company and drank a lot. It was awkward.

Except for one woman. She was so kind. She picked up on my quietness and drew me out of my shell enough for me to almost enjoy the party. She was also my husband’s boss’ wife. I felt like a little kid there, and rightly so, but she assured me that everyone would love to hear about my life as a young wife and new mom. She said they could all relate and never tired of hearing about babies. She was wonderful.

Back to the present, as the oldest woman at the table (and possibly in the room), I felt completely at ease – another perk to getting older. Plus, Bob works with an amazing group of people who seem to have found equally amazing people to bring to the party – be they spouse, child, or once even a good friend who happened to be the kid, now grown, who lived behind us for years and was like an extra son to me. It truly is a small world.

This year, our table was greeted by the Chief Something-or-Another from the home office, who again was young enough to be our son. Anyway, he started up a conversation with the four engineers at the table trying to ascertain who worked on which project. I sat there happily with nothing to add until he asked the spouses some questions and seemed genuinely interested in our opinions of the company. The twenty-something version of me probably would have said freaked out. The current version of me didn’t care how what I said sounded, as long as I didn’t make Bob look stupid.

Once he left, I had a few questions for the young engineer who specializes in AI. He had all the enthusiasm about his project that every engineer I have ever met has. That’s a lot. It also meant he used words that once upon a time I had never heard, but as I said, this wasn’t my first rodeo. Of course, I had heard them. I didn’t know what they meant, but I had heard them.

This young engineer and I had a connection. He had recently taken his kids to see Ralph Breaks the Internet, which I had seen with my grandchildren. When I asked him about the scene from that movie where Ralph and Vanellope take a trip down a wi-fi router and find themselves at the google help desk, he lit up like a Christmas tree. He loved this scene, too, and said it should be required watching for everyone as it was a great description of AI and how it’s used by google. Would it stretch things to say that it turned this Disney movie into an educational film? Probably, but it gave me the “in” I needed.

That’s my journey from young mother to grandmother. It’s all about confidence and relaxing in the situation. It’s all about talking to people. It’s all about making good use of the cartoons you watch. They’ve always been a significant part of my education.

That’s all folks!


Bob and the Fob

Time for a Fob Story

We have two cars in our family, but mine is clearly the favorite. It’s newer and has more safety features than Bob’s does. For instance (in the newer category), I have a push-button starter. I leave my key fob in my purse. You can also start the car remotely, which has been helpful in keeping good attitudes when it’s 95 degrees outside so we can enter our car with the AC blowing. I have used it for the heat once, but if I lived up North, oh baby, that would be a desirable feature.

But initially there was a very minor, oh so small, downside. I hesitate to mention it because I know by now you think of me as a technological genius, but here goes:

The adjustment to the key fob was fraught with problems for me. You see, I’m a checker. With this newfangled thing, you simply have to have the fob with you for the door to unlock or lock. A pass of my hand over the “lock” and it locks. Or does it?

With my old car, I would yank on the handle to make sure I locked the door. Now, with my fob in my pocket, I would yank on the handle and the door would open, like it’s supposed to. How in the world was a checker like me ever going to be confident that her car was locked? It was mildly traumatic. For a few weeks I would dig my fob out of my purse and manually push the lock button, like someone would do way back in the year 2013. Embarrassing. Even I knew this was ridiculous, so I engaged my handy-dandy engineer, Bob, to help trouble shoot this enormous problem. (As I’ve told you before, always have an engineer around. They come in very handy. I’m so glad I had the good sense to marry one.)

Bob indulged me by keeping the fob in his pocket, locking the door, and walking away. I’m not sure if he walked away for the test or just to distance himself from me, but either way it worked out because I could pull on that car door handle until the cows come home and have proof positive that the car was locked.

Now I hardly ever doubt myself (at least when it comes to locking the car). I am a confident door locker – I thought you’d be happy to know that. I can pass my hand over the handle and walk away.

But Bob has his own fob problems. He has trouble with the unlock feature – his hands are not as delicate as mine, so sometimes it takes a couple of tries for him to register the unlock feature when he puts his hand around the door handle. Another problem with Bob and the fob is that he loves the remote start. Often on a cool evening he will use that feature and when we enter our car, I’m greeted by an AC blast. Well, that drives me crazy, but Bob is so happy to start the car from far distances, I’d hate to end that kind of entertainment for him. Then one day I realized that I always have a fob in my purse, so I can get in the car first and shut off the air. I tell you, my life is complicated.

While on the subject of riding in the car with my husband, I’m wondering if anyone else goes through a scenario like this one. It’s getting slightly warm in the car, so I open my window. Things are perfect for about two seconds, then Bob realizes that he, too, is warm, so he opens his window. Of course, I become cold and wind-blown, so I close mine. Bob becomes aware that I’m uncomfortable so he closes his window. It’s the cooling cycle of life, I guess. We finally give up and turn on the AC with the dual control feature.

Yes, there are a lot of things to overcome in our modern world, but as long as we laugh with each other about them, I think we’ll be okay.

He’s Making a List (on an Excel Spreadsheet) and Checking It Twice

It’s Christmastime again and there is no better season to be married to an engineer.  He comes in so handy.  This will be Bob’s and my 38th Christmas together as husband and wife, so I know what I’m talking about.

Each year, Bob and I sit down together to form our gift giving list.  In the early days of our marriage we would do this on paper.  In those pre-computer days Bob wrote down everything on graph paper.  This drove me crazy and may be the root of some of my problems with confined spaces.  I don’t like writing in tiny boxes, and I’m a little claustrophobic.  But my main problem was how do you use cursive handwriting on graph paper?  The answer is – you don’t.  Engineers don’t use cursive handwriting.  They print everything, which is good because when they do have to write something in cursive, for example their signature, you can’t read it.  Give them a piece of graph paper though and order and legibility return.

In order to keep me from having a bad attitude and possibly being placed on the Naughty List, we developed a system where I wrote everything down on regular paper.  At Bob’s suggestion, we used columns – person, gift, cost, etc.  I would check things off as we bought a gift and line through items after wrapping them.

This brings me to the present day.  Bob now creates the bones of our gift giving list.  He no longer uses graph paper.  He is much more current than that.  He uses an Excel Spreadsheet.  The first time he attempted this new-fangled way of keeping track of things, I balked at it.  I pulled out my yellow pad and begged him to let me use these things called paper and pen that had been my faithful friends since I was six years old.  He relented, sort of.  He kept his spread sheet and I kept my pad of paper.  I was stubborn, as I am with most things that relate to learning/using the computer.

But, I discovered, this was not building unity in our marriage.  It was not healthy for me to continue to resist his advances (technological or otherwise).  He waited patiently until I finally caved.  Now we happily use the spread sheet exclusively.  I look at it as a way to spread (sheet) peace on earth and bless Bob.  And, please don’t tell Bob this, it is very efficient.  In case you are thinking about trying to find our list, it is disguised in his computer files under a phony name.  You’ll never find it.  Trust me, I can’t even find it.  I know it’s there, because the computer has better memory function than I do.  Again, it’s a good thing I have Bob around.

There are other ways that having an engineer around comes in handy.  He easily calculates how many strings of Christmas lights we need for the outside of the house and hangs them most efficiently.  This year when he put out our lighted Christmas moose with the head that goes back and forth, we were sad to discover that there were lights burned out around his mouth.  All it took for them to work again was Bob taking one step toward the moose.  Things fix themselves in his presence.  He’s that intimidating!

photo (107)My fiber optic winter scene had a tiny ice-skating figure broken off at the base.  Bob went into his lab/office and concocted a bonding agent (glue) to put him back on his feet.  My kids always marveled at how they would put broken toys on Bob’s desk and they would miraculously appear back in their rooms as good as new.

As a matter of fact, my granddaughters are now picking up on this.  I suppose their mom has taught them well.  We finished our last day of Grandmom School for the semester and for a treat I told the girls we were going to plan a surprise for Bumpa (Bob).  Being the simple, non-flashy guy that he is, he had mentioned to me that he really likes the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.  The girls and I headed to CVS and bought him one and surprised him with it at his office.  They wanted a tour so he took them down in the lab and showed them around.  On seeing firsthand what he does, Mia exclaimed how this was the perfect job for him, seeing how he loves to make and fix things.  It was so sweet.

The one thing I have on him when it comes to lists at Christmas is that I used to be a secretary and I know shorthand.  So I write myself notes and ideas about what to get Bob for Christmas in that form and he can’t read it.  And, even though I have a smart phone, I still pull out my trusty paper and pen to make my list for him.  I’ve looked it over recently, but with two weeks to go before Christmas, I guess it’s time for me to check that one twice, too.

Musical Charlie Brown Christmas Tree