Monday, August 16, 2010

Dirt Roads, Free Car Washes & Playing People For Suckers

Dirt Roads

The rural subdivision that I live in, does not have paved roads. Our roads are hard packed clay, with a layer of crushed granite gravel on top. The road had not been properly maintained for several years. When it rains, the clay gets soft, and the weight of the vehicles traveling over it, pushes the gravel down into the clay. After several years of this, we essentially had a mud road every time it rained. Then last winter when the snows came, my good and industrious neighbor to the east, used his John Deer tractor with a blade attached, to clear the road so we could all drive out to the highway, which is kept clear by the state Department Of Transportation. This scraping of the road, pushed what little gravel that was left on the surface, onto the grass at the sides of the road. This had to be done for three heavy snows last winter. The first two snow storms were bad, but they were just snow. The third storm was a bear, dumping copious amounts of extremely wet heavy snow, that broke down trees, knocked out power and generally made the neighborhood look like a disaster area.

The scene in the picture above was repeated throughout the neighborhood, with trees downed across roads and power lines. Naturally, the power company had to send in men in trucks to clear the fallen trees. They would drive to a fallen tree, then stop and get out to cut up the tree. Then they they would get back in their truck, gun their engines and spin their wheels, taking off to the next downed tree. Each time they did this of course, their spinning wheels left a small pot hole in the wet clay road. If you are familiar with the anatomy and life of a pot holes, you know that they never get smaller. Every time a tire sinks down into one, it scours out more material. By spring, our road looked like it had been cluster bombed. Trying to drive out to the highway without jarring your fillings loose, was like trying to negotiate the gates of a slalom. It took real skill, and even the best of slalom drivers couldn't avoid them all. Additionally, if had rained for a day or two, just driving the quarter mile out to the highway, would leave your tires, undercarriage, and fenders coated in an unsightly splattering of gray mud. Obviously something had to be done.

We contracted the services of a road grader to come in and fix our roads. He had to wait until we had at least two consecutive days of rain, to make sure the road was soft enough, so his blade could dig deep enough to not leave a washboard effect. In the past, my neighbor tried to grade the road with his tractor blade when the road was merely damp, and it didn't have the requisite weight, so it bounced and left a washboard surface, that was worse than negotiating the potholes. After a few days of rain, our contracted help came in with his massive yellow industrial size road grader, just like the type you see on new highway construction, and in a days time he had plowed up decades of gravel that had been compressed down into the clay. When he was done, our roads looked better than they have at anytime since I moved here over 17 years ago. Still, it's a clay and gravel road, and when it gets dry, it gets dusty. If it hasn't rained in a few days, driving over 10 MPH will raise a rooster tail of dust behind your vehicle.

Free Car Wash

Keeping a car clean when living on a dirt and gravel road, is virtually impossible, unless you wash it every day, so imagine my delight, when on the way to my mother's in Richmond for Monday night supper, I ran through not one, but two very heavy downpours! I'm talking about the kind of rain that requires you to turn your wipers up on high, and slow down to 45 MPH, lest you slam into the invisible car ahead, who's driver hasn't thought to turn on his lights.

My truck had been covered in dust, and the windshield was splattered with the aftermath of hundreds of head on collisions with flying insects. It really was a disgrace, but by the time I pulled into the parking lot of my mother's high rise apartment building in Richmond, save for it's interior which could stand a good vacuuming, it was spic-and-span! So much easier than spending an hour with a bucket, rag, garden hose and chamois.

Playing People For Suckers

My mother baked salmon fillets tonight, accompanied by Lima beans, baked potatoes, and a tossed green salad of Romaine, cucumbers, baby carrots, sliced purple onion, grape tomatoes, and crumbled Feta cheese. Butter pecan ice cream topped it all off. Living by myself, I tend to do quick and easy microwave meals, so it's nice to get a meal outside of my normal routine once a week.

My beloved sister and niece arrived after me, so until they got there, I had to try and make pleasant small talk with my bro-in-law. Imagine trying to have a pleasant discussion with a surly troll. Ask him a question about any subject that he hasn't brought up, and all you get are indifferent one syllable answers. He is a sexist pig, who only comes to supper for a free meal, and to try and impress my sister and niece with what a man he thinks he is.

Tonight, he bragged about how he set up a professor of business administration, who happens to frequent a local eatery that he goes to a lot. He hates the guy, because he thinks he's a pedant. The irony of him thinking the proffesor is bag of wind, is totally lost on this consummate braggart.

It just happens that his daughter-in-law's brother is living with him, and he happens to be a young executive and rising star, in a large energy company. The young exec is taking a non-resident course in business administration to advance his career, so my bro-in-law decides to use him to set up the professor of business admin, by goading him into pontificating about getting a degree in business administration. He tells him his daughter-in-law's brother is working on his degree in business admin, so the prof asks the young man where, and what course he's taking, and the young exec replies that he's in a non-resident program at X University. The prof, who doesn't know the young guy is highly paid business executive, takes the bait and says, he shouldn't be wasting his time on the non-resident course, since the better programs are the resident ones. The young exec then says he doesn't have the time to do that, because he has a job and can't take too much time away from it, and the prof says, well most people quit their jobs to attend the resident program if they want to succeed. So then the my bro-in-law's roommate delivers the coup de grĂ¢ce by saying, "Yes, well I don't want to sacrifice a quarter of a million dollar a year executive job with XXXXXX Energy, to get my degree."

Of course my bro-in-law is just gloating over this great coup he pulled on the hated professor.

I looked across the table at my brother-in law, and I was actually ashamed of him. Believe it or not, he is a retired Lt. Col. in the US Army Reserves. You would think he would have more class than that. I said, why in the world would you ever want to do something that mean to someone? He said, because he didn't like the guy. I said I don't care how much you don't like him. Not liking someone, is not a justification to deliberately set them up to demean them. He just didn't get it. I've know him for thirty years, and the more I see of him, less I respect him.

I know women can be catty when they don't like someone, but this level of meanness seems to be a guy thing. I don't like it. I don't like it at all.

Melissa XX


Caroline said...

Our roads are now nothing more than a patchwork of patch repairs. A hole has to have a specific depth before it will be dealt with and when they arrive the yellow marked hole will be patched leaving all the slightly less deep ones to get much worse before the next inspection. The fact that the roads have in many places been cracked in such a way that a good frost on a wet road this winter will cause major damage needing expensive repair is ignored. We pay a fortune in local tax to watch this pantomime.

Ask your sister and niece to cut into his stories like all my girlfriends do, ask if anyone wants more food, get up and clear dishes!...

Pictures of snow!!!!

Caroline xxx

Melissa said...

Last winter, I saw all the snow I ever wanted to see, but after the desert heat we have experience this summer, snow looks beautiful again. What fickle creatures we humans are!

My sister and my niece feel the same way that I do, but are just to polite to cut him off. I think because I had to work with his type for so many years, that I have a lower tolerance for his BS.

Melissa XX

Rachel said...

We had quite a lot of snow last winter but nothing like that in your beautiful picture. It was still enough for me not to be able to get the car up the hill and out of the village. Rain though, we get lots of that :-)

I really hate practical 'jokes' and those made at the expense of other people. They only seem to serve the amusement of those making the joke. When I was a kid TV used to be full of shows aimed a making members of the public look foolish. Happily these seem to have fallen out of fashion. Your brother in law sounds like an idiot.

Rachel XXX

Stace said...

We have an issue with the motorways in winter here. The water gets into the road, freezes and then when lorries go over it great patches (sometimes 1/2 m2) just cruble and try to take out peoples windscreens.

It's not unusual to drive down a motorway in winter to find emergency crews blocking half a motorway trying to hold back the tide of holes appearing. Or to see cars swerving at motorway speed (75mph here) to avoid a large hole that's as deep as the top layer of tarmac.

I don't know what to say about your brother in law except good luck...


Jenny said...

Ah, your winter snows are nothing! Here in the UK we usually get TEN WHOLE MILIMETRES of snow, sufficient to block all roads on the entire island and cause the whole country to grind to a halt.

It's embarrassing. That said, this winter we did get about 8 inches and it was rather inconvenient. My parents townie neighbours with their 4WDs holed up for the winter. My dad meanwhile packed a shovel in his 25 year old Volkswagen and kept going. Our roads have a better surface than yours, but they suffer from the same problem as Stace's motorway. Holes that could swallow our little cars whole appear round every corner.

Your brother-in-law would try my patience too far I think. You are a saint for not putting him in his place.

Lucy Melford said...

Roads are a problem in Sussex too. In fact they are pretty appalling in places. And yet here and there you'll come across beautifully madeover stretches. Not just a repair - a complete fix. I suppose it's finally got through to the Highways Department that the annual patching-up with cheapo filler is not a good long-term solution.

They've even done my local road. That was Pothole City. Now it's as smooth as a putting green. Same elsewhere in the village. How did they find the money and the will to do it? And why have some roads been done and not others?

Of course it can't happen without traffic holdups. And then we all, me included, fume at being delayed. Aren't humans odd?


Lucy Melford said...

I'm not sure whether I can comment on your Brother-in-law, Melissa. He's your family, not mine, and it seems presumptious.

That said, I would like to agree that as a general matter men are aggressively inclined, and this type of thing is an aspect of it. The professor's pomposity was tiresome but not life-threatening and surely not something to make him a target for extreme personal dislike. I'd simply avoid talking with him.

There used to be such a thing as Good Manners. I'm speaking generally and not accusing anyone, least of all your Brother-in-law, of any deficiency here. But to possess good manners was to put up with (and perhaps 'manage') annoying people, encouraging them by example to behave better. It oiled the interactions between people and made conversations much more harmonious. No put-downs. No bragging. Smiles and consideration all round.

I dare say it was a getting-along-with-people device that utterly failed to reform the unreceptive, and some would say that it was dishonest and artificial not to confront offenders with their social faults. But, like opening doors to ladies, and offering them your seat, and raising your hat, and just giving them a few moments of your time, it was nice in an old-fashioned sort of way. I always admired the manners of Cary Grant, for example.


Veronica said...

I'm glad he's not my brother-in-law. I hope you don't have to put up with him too often!

Two Auntees said...

Your brother in law is an asshole. Plain and simple. Ignore him as much as possible. Change the subject. Maybe he will meet some woman who is as miserable a human being. Hopefully, they will marry and she can take him off your hands. There is no changing people like him. I have had lots of experience with people like that.

Two Auntees said...

As a retired First Sergeant, I have had to deal with several Officer types who won't listen to his subordinates much less other Officers. So knowing that he is a retired Lt. Col, Reserves, I can guess what a pushy, know-it-all person he probable is. The way he runs over the women of the family is probable the way he pushed his female soldiers under him around.

Just keep interrupting him and changing the subject to childbirth, or periods or other female related subjects.

Sarah, the other Auntee

Caroline said...

Just done a fifty mile cross country run only meeting a handful of cars and fewer potholes!

How did they get such special treatment when there is still a couple of potholes outside my local councillors home.

Caroline xxx

Melissa said...

Thanks everyone for your comments!

@ Rachel

You have such a sweet gentle nature. I'm not surprised that you despise practical jokes as much as I do. What is the point of getting someone's goat, other than pure meanness, and making yourself feel superior?

@ Stace

I would have thought the Dutch motorways would have been similar to the German Autobahn. Their road surface is something in the neighborhood of 37" of concrete and asphalt. I can't even imaging a pot hole forming in a road surface that dense. Here in the USA, the Interstate highways are about four to six inches of concrete, topped with no more the three to four inches of asphalt. The life of the asphalt is about 6 to 8 years at best, before it has deteriorated so bad that if needs to be taken up and replaced.

@ Lucy

Of course you may comment on my b-in-l. Unlike his royal lowness, you know what it's like to have impeccable manners, and how important they are to maintaining civility! You are absolutely right about the deterioration in manners today.

Cary Grant! What a shining example of good old fashioned chivalry! I loved him too! I don't think I ever saw a movie of his, that I didn't like!

@ Veronica

Oh, Veronica! Thanks so much for caring! He really is a pain in the hind parts! Fortunately I only have to see him once a week at my mother's for supper. Lately he has been coming even less than that. I hope it gets to be a habit! ;-)

@ Kay & Sarah

Well sweeties, you don't pull any punched, do you? :-) Yes! He is an asshole! He's a first class asshole! Still, he was married to my sister for 27 years, and stood by her, even as she slowly deteriorated, and eventually died of metastasized lung caner. I may dislike him at times, but I can't hate him. I watched that cocky, self righteous former Green Beret, be reduced to tears. For once, I thought he was a regular human being, but six months later, he was back to his cocky old self. I really do think that personalities are set in early age. His mother spoiled the crap out of him, so he thinks his sh*t doesn't stink. His WWII vet Navy pilot father on the other hand, always knew he was a spoiled brat, and had no respect for him. This distressed him to no end, and to compensate for his masculine insecurity, he adopted a super macho persona. He joined the Army, went to jump school, and then trained to be a Green Beret, but was never once deployed overseas during his entire military career, let alone to a combat zone. So in essence, he's your typical chicken hawk.

@ Caroline

Local roads are always the last priority. It makes no difference how many taxes you have paid. Best to make sure you have a set of good steel belted tires, and heavy duty shocks.

Thanks all for your comments! I really do appreciate them!

Melissa XX