Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hurricane Season Looms

This was forwarded to me by my sister who experienced the evacuation from Rita (although not to the extent that I did) as did several million other geniuses.

I am not sure of the authorship pedigree, but this sounds a lot like Dave Barry.

Here are some hurricane tips.
Former Gulf Coast Residents
Current Gulf Coast Residents
Future Gulf Coast Residents; and/or
Those who know a Gulf Coast Resident

We have just entered the 6-month hurricane season. Any day now, you're
going to turn on the TV and see a weather person pointing to some radar
blob out in the Gulf of Mexico and making two basic meteorological
(1) There is no need to panic.
(2) We could all be killed.

Yes, hurricane season is an exciting time to live along the Gulf Coast.
If you're new to the area, you're probably wondering what you need to do
to prepare for the possibility that we'll get hit by "the big one." Based
on our experiences, we recommend that you follow this simple three-step
hurricane preparedness plan:

STEP 1. Buy enough food and bottled water to last your family for at
least three days.
STEP 2. Put these supplies into your car.
STEP 3. Drive to Nebraska and remain there until Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, statistics show that most people will not follow this
sensible plan. Most people will foolishly stay here in Gulf Coast area.

So we'll start with one of the most important hurricane preparedness items:

HOMEOWNERS' INSURANCE: If you own a home, you must have hurricane insurance. Fortunately, this insurance is cheap and easy to get, as long as your home meets two basic requirements:
(1) It is reasonably well-built, and
(2) It is located in Nebraska.

Unfortunately, if your home is located along the Gulf Coast, or any other area that might actually be hit by a hurricane, most insurance companies would prefer not to sell you hurricane insurance, because then they might be required to pay YOU money, and that is certainly not why they got into the insurance business in the first place.

So you'll have to scrounge around for an insurance company, which will charge you an annual premium roughly equal to the replacement value of your house. At any moment, this company can drop you like used dental floss.

Since Hurricane Katrina, I have had an estimated 27 different home-insurance companies. This week, I'm covered by the Bob and Big Stan Insurance Company, under a policy which states that, in addition to my premium, Bob and Big Stan are entitled, on demand, to my kidneys.

SHUTTERS: Your house should have hurricane shutters on all the windows, all the doors, and -- if it's a major hurricane -- all the toilets. There are several types of shutters, with advantages and disadvantages.

Plywood shutters: The advantage is that, because you make them yourself, they're cheap. The disadvantage is that, because you make them yourself, they will fall off.

Sheet-metal shutters: The advantage is that these work well, once you get them all up. The disadvantage is that once you get them all up, your hands will be useless bleeding stumps, and it will be December.

Roll-down shutters: The advantages are that they're very easy to use, and will definitely protect your house. The disadvantage is that you will have to sell your house to pay for them.

"Hurricane-proof'' windows: These are the newest wrinkle in hurricane protection: They look like ordinary windows, but they can withstand hurricane winds! You can be sure of this, because the salesman says so.
He lives in Nebraska.

"Hurricane Proofing Your Property: As the hurricane approaches, check your yard for movable objects like barbecue grills, planters, patio furniture, visiting relatives, etc. You should, as a precaution, throw these items into your swimming pool (if you don't have a swimming pool, you should have one built immediately). Otherwise, the hurricane winds will turn these objects into deadly missiles.

EVACUATION ROUTE: If you live in a low-lying area, you should have an evacuation route planned out. (To determine whether you live in a low-lying area, look at your driver's license; if it says "Galveston, New Orleans, Houston, or any other location close to the coast, you live in a low-lying area.) The purpose of having an evacuation route is to avoid being trapped in your home when a major storm hits. Instead, you will be trapped in a gigantic traffic jam several miles from your home, along with two hundred thousand other evacuees. So, as a bonus, you will not be lonely.

HURRICANE SUPPLIES: If you don't evacuate, you will need a mess of supplies. Do not buy them now! Hurricane tradition requires that you wait until the last possible minute, then go to the supermarket and get into vicious fights with strangers over who gets the last can of SPAM.

In addition to food and water, you will need the following supplies:

23 flashlights. At least $167 worth of batteries that turn out, when the power goes off, to be the wrong size for the flashlights.

Bleach. (No, I don't know what the bleach is for. NOBODY knows what the bleach is for. But it's traditional, so GET some!)

A 55-gallon drum of underarm deodorant.

A big knife that you can strap to your leg. (This will be useless in a hurricane, but it looks cool.)

A large quantity of raw chicken, to placate the alligators. (Ask anybody who went through Hurricane Andrew in Florida; after the hurricane, there WILL be irate alligators.)

$35,000 in cash or diamonds so that, after the hurricane passes, you can buy a generator from a man with no discernible teeth.

Of course these are just basic precautions. As the hurricane draws near, it is vitally important that you keep abreast of the situation by turning on your television and watching TV reporters in rain slickers standing right next to the ocean and tell you over and over how vitally important it is for everybody to stay away from the ocean.

Good luck and remember: it's great living in paradise! Those of you who aren't here yet you should come. Really!

Friday, June 15, 2007

"Daimler Chrysler"

Sounds like a curse, doesn't it? Yeah, well, it is starting to feel like one to me these days. Especially after this last week of automotive trouble.

It all began when we decided to get the A/C fixed in our 2000 Dodge Caravan. We took it to our regular mechanic here in Alvin last Friday. I have Fridays off, so I took my wife to her job.

I knew what the problem was, basically. There was a hose with at hole in it the size of the Khyber Pass. Turns out the hose is about $200 alone. Then you have to get a contortionist to put it on. And the dryer had to be replaced because of “contamination”, probably because there was a squirrel or cat caught in there.

OK, so they replace THAT on Friday, to the tune of about $500. Before I came to pick it up, I got a call, and the unlucky Steve said that there was a leak in the OTHER hose now. “Daimler”! But we could take it home for the weekend and bring it back on Monday.

They called Monday with semi-good news; the other hose wasn’t leaking, there was a slight problem with an “o” ring on the new one. Fixed no problem. Saved us another $450 or so. But later they discovered that the driver’s side wasn’t blowing cool air. The mechanic traced the problem to an expansion valve. So they order the part. It won’t be in till Tuesday. OK, I can take Kelly to work for another day.

The part didn’t come in till late on Tuesday, and it turns out it was the wrong one. Wednesday we’ll get another one. “Daimler!”, we carpool AGAIN! In the mean time, the shop had decided to go with the Mopar dealer, but without charging us the difference. Even THEY were feeling bad about our situation. Surely the all-knowing dealer would be able to provide the correct part. Not so.

Wednesday, I called (which was call #23) and when they told me that news, I told them that I needed the van back anyhow. The air couldn’t be blowing any hotter than my wife, who had been stranded at work for 4 days already. They said a new part was coming from Dodge and it was surely likely that it was correct. Almost definitely.

Thursday I drove the “room temperature” van to work and my wife took my mostly air conditioned car to her job. Some time after noon, Steve called and told me that the new part came in and it was suspiciously similar to the original part that came off the van. Which isn’t a resounding “Perfect!”, but in light of the other three parts, none of which bore even a passing similarity to the original part, even a slight familial resemblance was a step in the right direction. I told him that I would bring it in on Friday and they could do the work.

I just now got the call that the A/C service is complete and that all we lack is the state inspection that is needed by the end of the month.

I will likely never view another Dodge commercial without launching into a tirade about this incident. The burden of being a Geezer.

So the state inspection didn't get done on Friday, as planned. It seems they started the engine without a particular vacuum hose connected, and the computer picked that up and tossed a "Check Engine" code on them. They reconnected the offending hose, but couldn't get the computer to clear the code, and that code precludes an emissions test.

So I bring it back on this next Friday.