Friday, January 19, 2007

Singed Eyelashes, Scissors, All On Ice...

The day started off with me answering the phone at eight o’clock. Our laborer was at work, on the line, and sheepish in his approach to asking me for a favor.

“Hey, Scott. Can... ummm... would you uh... mind um... I mean would it be all right, if I ummm...”

“Sol. You’re killing me again. WHAT?”

“Scissors. Do you have any small scissors?”

“Yeah, I got scissors. What for?”

“Oh... ummm... I uh... just need to...uh... cut my mustache and some hair... “

“What did you do, burn your face off?”

“Well, kind of... how did you know?”

“Shit, Sol. I was just being a smartass.”

“Well, yeah, my heater sort of blew up in my face this morning. All my hair is sort of melted together.”

“You're kidding?”

“No. I’m not. My eyelashes are all singed and its driving me nuts.”

“Yeah, All right (coffee water whistling). I’ve got some fiskars.”

“Thanks, man.”

“See you in a bit.”

I put the phone down and got to my whistling pot. Scissors to cut eyelashes? OK. A first for me, but I can see it...

And then the handle just fell off my coffee mug. Two old cracks just decided that today was the day.


I had to pour hot water over my windshield and then refill and pour water over my door as it was frozen shut.

Crap! It wasn’t frozen, My dog had bumped the lock last time she was in there. Or maybe it was me? Hell. Who cares, but I shouldn’t have squeezed the handle so hard, I just broke it off in my hand.


I can get in if I go through the passenger door.

I live a few thousand yards from the driveway where we are building a house. It means a three minute commute for work. Maybe five, because I drive real slow to enjoy my quiet drive-time-- where all the good thoughts come-- and this morning I am less than a minute on the road and the three inches of ice also on the road, I notice, has been polished by the thaw/melt cycle and spinning tires.

Crap! Sitting askew with one wheel in a small ditch was a van, and on the side of the van was the sign of our heating and air guys.

Crap! We need that install finished because the drywallers are starting to mud, and second and third coats can’t freeze and won’t dry without heat. I pull over.

Their Mexican guy has come out by himself and cannot steer the big van on the ice, and is just sitting there

“You look stuck!” I yell to him.


I crawl over my gear shift knob and get out of my little work truck. That’s not easy to do when you are too big for the cab to begin with.

“You look stuck!” I say. “Need some help?”

Carlos smiled at me and got out of the van.

“I never drive on de ice before. It is very slippery.”

“Yes. Especially in a big heavy van. You want me to hook up the van and pull you?”

“I will not go up the big hill.”

“You wanna work today?”

“Yes, but my boss, he says if it is too icy, I should go back”

“I live just around the corner. You can park your van there and get your tools and I’ll take you up the hill.”

“I have to ask my boss.”

"You got a phone?"

“No. It no work out here.”

“Come on, then. I’ll pull you out and take you back to my house, and you can use my phone.”

I have a small winch on the front of my truck. I use it for pulling on stuff at work and whatever else comes along. I pulled his van out easily and he followed me back to my place. His English was not very good, and I kept wanting to take the phone from him and just explain the situation without the twenty questionshe was getting on the other end. Five minutes of holding on to this thought and I was about to lose it and grab the phone, but he was finished and he handed me back the phone and smiled like he knew what he had just put me through...

“He said I must go back to de shop. He said something about insurance...”


Crap! Carlos got stuck trying to back out my driveway, and he had followed me in. My bumper matched his reasonably enough and I backed out pushing a very large and loaded extended-bed van loaded with a heater and tools.

I made the same turn onto the same street I had found Carlos after less than a minute and now there was a school bus-- big, yellow, with black lettering and yellow flashing lights-- stuck between a cul-de-sac and a driveway, and as directly across the entire road as a school bus could possibly be.


Sol needed his scissors and I wasn’t able to get through. I climbed across my gear shift knob again and got out.

“You look a bit stuck!”

It was a woman. She looked capable and determined, but she looked stuck.

“Yeah, I tried to bail on the last thousand yards or so of this route and I couldn’t quite get turned around. I’m just spinning my wheels here.”

Indeed she was. She was on slightly slanted ground and it was just enough incline to cause her wheels to spin on top of the ice. She was about to go to a phone and call a tow truck.

Crap! That would take half an hour, probably more. We couldn’t possibly be the only icy rural road causing trouble this morning.

“I’ll get you out if you let me.”

“With that little truck?”

“You don’t need much. Sure, I’ll tug while you drive. Easy.”

The woman eyed me seriously. She could see I was serious and sure of myself and- rules be damned- she didn’t want to wait around either. It was cold out here.

“How are you gonna pull me, you can’t get around to get in front?”

“I’ll use a beaner.”


“A carabiner and that tree. I’ll move you ten feet that way, and then I can get behind you and pull you after you make your three point...”

“You sure?”


I have some webbing loops that float around in my toolbox left over from rock climbing. They are rated very strong and they have always held without breaking. I looped up a nearby tree, set a carabiner- doubled it with another- and then ran my winch cable out to the tree and then back to the school bus. Crap! I was short by six feet. Crap! My chain was frozen to the bed of my truck. I couldn’t pull it up. I took out a hammer and banged on it until it came loose and added the chain to the equation.

“Just drive easy ten feet that way and then stop. Don’t keep going just because you are going.”

“I’m not stupid.”

“ I’ve seen it happen too many times.”

“Fair enough.”

My winch whined and my truck slid sideways, but I had just enough to pull the bus with the spinning tires ahead ten feet. I disconnected and moved to the back of the bus, and hooked my winch cable to the rear bumper bracket and as she backed and cranked, I pulled on the bus backwards and sideways, and we got the big yellow flasher turned and pointing back to the storage yard.

“Thanks.” she hollered out the window as I wound up my winch cable. “I owe you one.”

“Don’t you ever red flash me!” I called back. She smiled.

“I’ll remember that winch!”

I got to work an hour later than everybody else. There was a red truck missing in the mix.

“Where’s Pat?”

Pat was our female carpenter/painter that worked with us. She popped her head out.

“I’m here.”

“Where’s you truck?”

“Funny you should ask...”

The driveway on this house is steep, one way and makes a loop. It is steepest on the way down, and Pat had decided that parking was all screwed up and if she drove around again, she could easily repark her truck in a better spot without having to do any funny backing up moves...

Crap! She hit nasty ice and slid off the road.

“Oh, down there...” I said. “Want help getting out?”

“Would you please, kind sir?”

“Let’s get it over with. Sol. Here’s your scissors.”

It took me some thinking to figure out where or how to position my truck. She needed to be pulled up hill. If I did that, I would slide downhill. There was a battle I would lose facing me. I nosed the front bumper of my truck up against a tree and pulled her forward and out, but it took some doing.

One of our carpenters I call “Charles The Noticer” (because he notices everything- like a missing nail in a nail pattern) came up to me.

“The cement guys put one of the deck footings in the wrong place.”


“You’re kidding?”

“It’s six inches out.”


“Use my truck?”

“Think it will pull it?”

“Yeah, if we dig it out some.”

This was a footing to support two decks and a small shed roof. This was one of two that were four feet square by two feet deep under grade. They had a stem and a bracket that had to be exactly placed with leeway in one direction only. We built a tripod and hooked my winch up through a chain hanging from it and then down to the footing. Out first attempt simply lifted my truck in the air. Crap!

Time to grab everybody. We dug two spots for sixteen-foot two by four levers and set fulcrums. The two lightest were set on those. I sat on the hood of my truck while naked-eye Sol did the same, and Wizard and Charles each sat on a front fender.

The winch went to 4500 pounds and then ran out of torque. The front of my truck lifted to the tops of the wheel range of motion but the wheels stayed on the ground.

Pat and one of the drywallers were told to push like crazy on the two by fours, and this was just enough to pop the giant footing out of the frozen ground like a bad molar out of a hardened gum.


The winch was able to lift the concrete block in the air while we dug out under it. We added a wet slurry and replaced the block, setting it where it should have been poured to begin with.

Lunch came and Sol tried to go down the hill where Pat had crashed her truck.

He slid off the road and broke the sapling Pat had damaged in half. The sapling fell back and on top of his car. It was just big enough to hide the car completely.

I pulled it out in the same manner as Pat’s truck, and headed home for lunch.

“Hey Sol. Can I have my scissors back?”


Anonymous said...

Gee Scott,

Here I was thinking that spilling bright red nail polish on my cream carpet was a bad day, then I wander over here and wouldn't you know it... I feel sooo much better now.

By the way, even though I'm a nice Christian girl, I would have said way more than crap.

Shirley said...

When the handle broke off of your cup you should have known the day was jinxed. I would have just gone back to bed and let Sol deal with his eyelashes.

CapricornCringe said...

It is official. I will never whine about ice again ... til the next time :)

CSL said...

Wow, what a phenomenally bad morning. I hope it got better after lunch!

Nikky said...

Intestinal fortitude... you have it, in spades! I would have crawled back into bed shortly after the coffee cup went south!

Allie D. said...

Egads, man! I think your good karma was in a coma, my friend...

Scott from Oregon said...

You know, the only "bad" things that happened to me is that I broke a favorite coffee mug and the handle on my truck door, which sucks because I broke the inside handle months ago (I feel like Lenny of "Of Mice And Men Fame">> "I did a baaaad thing, George...")

Other than that, I was the hero. I cured everybodies ills with a small winch and my ingenuity.

I felt like I was a kid who got to play again.

15 minutes to midnight, at the END of that day, Mum fell backward (like a tree falling) and hit her head against sheetrock and dented the sheetrock. I let her lay on the floor for fifteen minutes with a pillow and a blanket before I had to bear hug her and dance her to bed.

She gets very week late at night, and tries to walk without her walker.

We have new rules about that, starting today...

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

You are a very sweet man for helping all of those people. And congratulations on being able to keep a sense of humor about it.

kario said...

Actually, I think your truck was the hero of the day. Sounds to me like you owe it something special. Perhaps a day off?