About I make colorful, unique posters and creatively enhanced photos for any occasion.

I am a Retired Army Disabled Veteran doing what I love to do. Web Site: www.cmetzposterdesigns.com Blog: Cmetzblogs.wordpress.com Email: MAIOUI2000@YAHOO.COM

MY NERVOUS BREAKDOWN AT IKEA

For years, I’ve loved shopping at IKEA. Like many others on a tight budget, I have learned to spruce up my home on the cheap by using some of their ideas in their creative displays. The other day, I went there just to look around. Not that I needed anything. God knows that I can’t even fit a paper clip in any of the rooms in my house. But I thought that looking around wouldn’t hurt, plus I’d get some much-need exercise, even with my bad knees, just walking around their sprawling two-story modern warehouse.

Truthfully, I thought that I might see a cute, space-saving container or cool-looking wicker basket to store extra stuff in and neaten up my spare room, which has started to look like I’m planning to hold my own private indoor garage sale. Just looking around to get ideas to rearrange what I already have.
One of the things I like about IKEA is how they set up their displays. Everything is so darn neat and color coordinated to entice customers into thinking, “Hey, my rooms can look like that!” Yea, I say to you: keep dreaming! But I think once the IKEA stylists plant a decorating idea in your head, you can’t shake the urge to buy something before you reach the checkout counter. IKEA is adept at suckering customers in that way.

Mentally, I oohed and ahhed as I got to each display and scanned it while I drooled at the mouth. I marveled at the ingenious methods of making a room look chic, airy and livable, not ‘lived in’ like a cold, cramped, over-decorated cave of mismatched, outdated stuff which passes as furniture these days. Lingering at each spot, I went through several instances of heated discussions with inner myself who keeps me sane when I tend to binge shop:

ME: “Hey, I can use that in my bedroom to …!”
INNER SELF: “No, you can’t fit anything else in there.”
ME: “But if I move the…”
INNER SELF: “Stop it.”
ME: “That’s a cute table centerpiece.”
INNER SELF: “Yeah, it is cute. Keep moving!”

And so as I continued this back-and-forth discussion with my INNER SELF, I arrived at a display with clothing racks. Now, I’ve got two sturdy black metal clothing racks. I’ve got a blue zippered clothing rack with an inside shelf at the top. And I even have a hanging clothes rack with slots for shoes or folded sweaters. So, I went at it again with my INNER SELF.

ME: “I could always use another clothing rack.”
INNER SELF: “Where would you put it? On the patio?”
ME: “Shut up.”

Out of all the clothing racks, one boldly spoke to me:

CLOTHING RACK: “Hey! Pick me! Pick me!”
ME: “Why should I pick you?”
CLOTHING RACK: “I’m easy to assemble. You’ll be done in no time. Plus, I have wheels! Wheeels!”
ME: “Sounds good.” And the price was right, too. Cheap!
INNER SELF: “Listen, stupid. You really don’t have room for this thing. Cheap or not. Plus there’s one major thing that you’re not considering.”
ME: “What’s that?”
INNER SELF: “It’s white, so you know you’re gonna have trouble with it.”
ME: “That’s racist! Naw, I can manage.”
INNER SELF:”All I have to say is that I have two words for you: donald trump. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

So I looked at the tag on the rack and jotted down the number and aisle for its location in the warehouse pick-up area near the cash registers. After I found the box, I took it off the shelf, and surprisingly, it wasn’t heavy at all. I carried it to the checkout counter, paid for it and headed to my car. After I got home, I took the box up to the second-floor landing. After opening the cardboard box, I emptied the contents on the floor near the steps. Out tumbled several long, white metal poles in different sizes, a plastic bag full of metal bolts and screws and two elbow-shaped thingies to screw in and tighten the bolts into the slots in the poles. You might ask, “Why stop on the second-floor landing”? Well, except for the patio or balcony, it’s one of the few areas in my house where I had room to set this thing up.

And then I faced the moment of truth: reading the instructions. Though they were in German, there were pictures which were explicit enough that even a republican ape could put this thing together. But I especially HATE reading instructions. AARRGGHH!!! I had a hard enough time in the Army, mainly because I hated to read those damn overly inflated, wordy manuals, regulations, guidelines, and SOPs, apparently written by left-brained idiots. I’m a right-brained person. A rare, creative genius, mind you. I don’t have time to read tedious instructions telling me to go from step A to step D. In the Army, I usually skipped several steps in that equation and would come up with the same results and much quicker! I’ve always been a ‘hands-on’ person. Don’t make me read shit or tell me how to do shit. Just show me how to do shit and let me maneuver through the minefields on my own. Sorry, I digress, but anyway, I picked up the instructions and the pictures looked simple enough. The explicit drawings pointed to which screw should go into which slot and which pole would fit into which hole. I did a quick scan of each page. Reluctantly, I briefly looked at the instructions again and shook my head before quickly tossing them aside.

ME: “I can do this.”
INNER SELF: “We’ll see, moron.”
ME: “Shut up.”

For safe measure, I counted all the contents to make sure I had all the screws, pegs, and other assembly pieces. Thank God the end pieces had the wheels already attached. After accounting for six long threaded screws, six short fat threaded thingies, two smaller threaded thingies, two plastic doohickies and two elbow-shaped thingies to tighten the screw thingies, I quickly scan the instructions one more time and once again, I tossed them aside.
ME: “I can do this.”
INNER SELF: “We’ll see, moron.”
ME: “Shut up.”
For safe measure, I counted all the contents to make sure I had all the screws, pegs, and other assembly pieces. Thank God the end pieces had the wheels already attached. After accounting for six long threaded screws, six short fat threaded thingies, two smaller threaded thingies, two plastic doohickies and two elbow-shaped thingies to tighten the screw thingies, I quickly scan the instructions one more time and once again, I tossed them aside.
ME: “I got this shit.”
INNER SELF: “No, you don’t.”
ME: “Shut up!”
Clumsily, I tore open the plastic bag, which caused all the metal screws and washers to fall out on the floor. Most of them scattered around my feet, but a few tried to escape and headed down the stairs. DAMMIT! With my bad knees screaming in pain and cursing me out, I hobbled the steps to retrieve the runaways scattered on a few steps below. I scooped them all up, brought them back upstairs and put them in a place where they couldn’t escape again. Then, I set the two slotted end poles into the two end pieces with the wheels. That done, I inserted two skinny poles into the holes of the two end pieces and tightened the screws into the thingies using the elbow thingies. Then I looked at the partly finished product, which looked like what was left of a car involved in a bad accident. I looked at the instructions again and noticed that the bottom of the rack should consist of four poles, not two. So I had to unscrew one of the end pieces, remove it, insert the two skinny poles into their respective slots, then reattach the end piece.

That done, it was time to attach the top piece. I looked at the remaining bolts and screws and noticed that I had inserted two bolts into the wrong slot on the bottom. Trying to use a shortcut (thanks to my right-brained self), I partially unscrewed one of the bolts leaving just enough room to switch the bolts for the screws. Lo and behold, one of the screws thought it would torment me and slide down into a hole in one of the poles. DAMMIT! As I moved the pole in a see-saw-like manner, I could hear that fucking screw noisily rolling around in the pole, but I couldn’t get it out because a hard plastic plug sealed each end of the pole. SHIT! I stepped away for a few minutes to have a cold beer…then another. Sufficiently buzzed, I went back to tackle that sucker again.

ME: “For something that looked so simple to set up, this is taking up way too much of my damn time.”
INNER SELF: “Told ya!”
ME: “Shut up!”

Finally, I got the damn screw out of the pole, but I had to pop off the hard plastic end piece with a couple of blows from my hammer to pop the end piece from the pole. Little did I know that I could have saved myself some agony. I could have just unscrewed the hard plastic end plug from the end of the pole. Sigh! Tackling the rack again, I managed to get the right bolts and screws and poles where they should be. That done, I looked at the finished product. Yes, it finally looked like the drawing in the instruction booklet, and the wheels made it easy to maneuver.

ME: “See, I told you I could do this.”
INNER SELF: “But where ya gonna put it, you idiot?”
ME: Sigh! Time for a few more cold beers.

The Train Crash That Never Happened

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Sometimes, life can be an evil bitch.  And if you’re like me, I’m sure many of you have experienced life’s best and worst. Often life will morph into an innocent little lamb or disguise herself as a precious tiny tot to draw you in.  And when you get close enough to her, she sucks you into her webs of deceit, distraction, or balls of confusion.  Many times, it’s like that for me.

Life is also loaded with treacherous twists, tricky turns, and unexpected trap doors, which can send you plummeting into an abyss filled with the fires of hell or hungry alligator friends that you owe money to.  With these things in mind, I must ask, “Have you ever faced a near-death moment in your life?”  I have.  One particular incident left me traumatized for years.   The adage, “God takes care of babies and fools, “rings true, but it was never more apparent to me than several years ago.

On one beautiful day in 1986, I found out just how big of a fool I was and how much of a sense of humor God had.  I remain forever thankful to Him for letting me live to talk about it.

Fresh from graduating from the Defense Language Institute (DLI) German language course, I had just arrived in Heidelberg, Germany, for another Army tour of duty. After settling into my temporary quarters on post, I quickly succumbed to boredom, mainly because I had no car in which to tool around this beautiful area.  After slipping into a restless state, I stepped out to the balcony to get some fresh air hoping to clear my head of negative thoughts.

BALCONY VIEWS.002

From my vantage point on the balcony, I embraced the scenic bird’s eye view I had of the distant jagged, towering mountains covered with lush, stately trees.  Mesmerized, I started to daydream as I pictured the magnificent, expensive, ornate homes nestled in the thick forest.  As a slightly cool breeze gently brushed over my face, I thought I heard a faint whisper in my ear.  I knew it was Heidelberg’s ancient spirit calling to me.  This quaint, lovely little town next to the Rhein-Neckar River, beckoned me to explore its charm, food, and Baroque-style architecture of the buildings populating its Old Town section in the heart of the city.  Yes, I was itching to drive up the winding roads leading to the top of the mountains to visit Heidelberg’s famous, historical castle ruins and to take in the panoramic views of the town’s sprawling picturesque valley from the Old Bridge.

Though reliable and conveniently located throughout the city, public transportation just wasn’t my cup of tea.  And I wasn’t up for strolling through the town and up the treacherous, steep cobble-stoned streets either. I did enough forced hiking (road marches) in the Army, so I wasn’t keen on walking anywhere anytime soon ever again. I wanted to carve my own path and explore this fascinating area on my own schedule and at my own pace. I knew I needed a car to be able to do that.  By sheer luck, I found out that some good friends of mine, who had also recently graduated from DLI, were stationed in Heidelberg too. After getting in touch with them and chatting about our upcoming assignments, I told them that I didn’t have a car.  Since they had two cars, they graciously offered to loan me one of theirs until I could get my own. I was ecstatic and felt blessed to have friends like them.

They arrived at my quarters on a Friday afternoon. The husband drove one car; his wife had the other, which would be my loaner. We shared more information and excitement again about our respective upcoming new tours of duty. Before ending their visit, they handed me the keys to their vehicle and assured me that it was roadworthy. Before taking off, they told me that I could keep it as long as I wanted to. What a sweet deal from great friends!  I walked them to the parking lot and bid them adieu with warm hugs and the European kiss on each cheek. After waving goodbye as they drove away, I ran over to the car to check it out more closely.

crazy car.001

It was an old BMW, a faded banana yellow hoopty, which is a nickname for automobiles well beyond their heyday. I inspected the exterior and noticed no dents or rust.  Check!  The tires were so brand spanking new that I could smell the fresh rubber odor from where I was standing. Check! I opened the door and popped my head inside to look at the interior.  Greeting me was a heavy stench of mildew plus some other unidentifiable aromas, which assaulted my nose and caused it to wrinkle at the intrusion. Yuck!  I quickly retreated from the car to get back to some fresh air. But, the smell was the least of my upcoming string of worries.  All I could think of was that I finally had wheels!   I circled the car and looked through the windows to see that the interior was clean, and the dated black, white, and tan plaid tufted seats looked comfortable enough for the duration of my planned trip. Though the car was not in pristine shape, I didn’t mind its appearance, and I would try to mask the smell with generous spritzes of Lysol disinfectant spray and a few air fresheners I planned to buy at the nearest German gas station.  I could hardly wait to test drive it in the brisk traffic on the autobahn.

To take advantage of the weekend, I contacted another good friend of mine, who was assigned to a dental clinic in Illesheim, Germany, which was not too far away from Heidelberg.  She was stationed with me at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Both of us giggled and excitedly like two grade-school girls at the thought of reconnecting again.  So at her invitation, I planned to visit her for the weekend. I was glad that Heidelberg wasn’t too far of a drive from her location.  She told me that she had brought her mom and her two kids along with her on her tour. Though I had no idea exactly where the hell Illesheim was located, I looked forward to a visit there to see them all once again.

Before taking off, I checked my map and saw that Illesheim was a mere pinpoint in the middle of German farming country and was a few miles from Storck Barracks, the nearest Army Post. On the map, I highlighted the roads that I would have to take to get to Illesheim.

From that spot on the map, I formed mental pictures of this small country town. I imagined Illesheim as a quaint but rugged village, which probably sprouted up during the dark ages.  I knew this area would be sparsely populated by inhabitants, who no doubt, resided in rustic buildings made of timber, concrete, and blocks of stone.  I thought perhaps that the structures were hundreds of years old, and I assumed that the inhabitants would probably be around that same age too.  I didn’t expect to see any new concrete sidewalks, paved streets, or fast-food joints. But perhaps greeting me would be dirt roads, well-traveled footpaths, and distinct trails made by the cow and sheep herds that the farmers moved from one side of their fields to the other.  Naturally, I envisioned driving through a thick, stagnant cloud of ‘farmers air,’ with that noxious poop smell rising from the plowed fields reeking from abundant piles of manure potent enough to put down a herd of bull elephants.  All in all, I prepared myself for the stink to come.

With my route carefully planned and my bag packed, I took off at about six o’clock that afternoon.  Before hitting the autobahn, I stopped at the nearest gas station to buy a few air fresheners to mask the smell inside the car.  The entire day had grown cloudy with misting rain.   About 10 minutes into my trip, a drizzle started and quickly turned into a torrential downpour, which pummeled the hoopty relentlessly.

In addition to the dreary weather, the dark, dusky evening did little to keep the autobahn lanes highlighted enough for me to see clearly.

Plus the bright lights from the headlights of the cars traveling in the opposite direction in the adjacent lanes affected my vision and temporarily blinded me at times.  I wanted to pull over to a rest stop on the side of the autobahn to give my eyes a much-needed rest. But I decided to keep driving in spite of this annoying distraction and not extend my time on the road if it wasn’t necessary.  Even though I had carefully planned out my route on the map, I became increasingly uncomfortable and anxious about continuing driving in this late evening traffic on the unfamiliar Autobahns, especially in the rainy weather.

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AFTER ROLLING ONTO Autobahn 5 heading south from Heidelberg, I quickly gained some confidence in the hoopty’s ability to maneuver through the swift traffic and keep up with the fancy foreign cars capable of traveling almost at the speed of Star Trek’s Enterprise.  But, I became increasingly pissed at the super fast sports cars splashing rainwater on my windshield, which zoomed by the hoopty with a WHOOSH and scared the crap outta me. Too bad I didn’t have an Army Scud missile locked and loaded on the front bumper of the hoopty. BOOM! Take that, you speed demon.

HEARING THE ENGINE HUM like a brand new Beamer, I felt confident that the hoopty would get me to Illesheim without breaking down.  Autobahn 5 was heavy with evening traffic as was Autobahn 6 heading east towards Stuttgart and Heilbronn. So far, I had been driving for about an hour and was proud of myself for riding out the somewhat stormy weather. From Autobahn 6, I took Exit 40, which led me to my other exits.

AS DARKNESS FELL, the rain-slicked, dimly lit two-lane roads took on a more ominous tone, leading me through tiny, deserted villages that resembled ghost towns from the old Wild, Wild West.  Thought it was 7:30 at night, none of the houses I passed had any interior lights on, which would indicate that the inhabitants were probably fast asleep.  Everything seemed to be locked up tighter than a drum. I refocused on the road, but the farther I drove, the scarier and gloomier the unfamiliar two-lane roads became.

WHEN I ARRIVED at another village just outside of Bad Mergentheim a few minutes later, the rain eased up slightly. Recalling my route on the map, I knew that Illesheim was about 45 minutes away.  This timeframe gave me some comfort to know that I was that much closer to my destination.

I SLOWED DOWN as I approached red and white railroad crossing barriers, behind which lay a bank of railroad tracks. Since the barriers were up for cars to safely cross the railroad tracks, I continued driving, thinking that I would be on my way to the next village.

FOR SOME ASININE REASON, I miscalculated the road clearance because of its slickness and low visibility.  Erroneously, I veered slightly to the left, which forced the vehicle to run up on some type of ramp that I did not see.  This action sharply propelled the Beamer upwards and jerked me up from my seat. When the car landed back on the ground, I bumped the top of my head on the roof of the car, but the tight, sturdy seatbelts restrained me and saved me from any serious injury. I landed hard back in my seat, but the Beamer bounced and shimmied like a bowl of fresh jello. Oh, oh! I didn’t have a good feeling about this. I wasn’t sure of exactly where the car had landed.  I thought it was still on the road. It wasn’t.  I didn’t know it at the time, but the hoopty was straddling the railroad tracks just off to the left side of the road, which put the hoopty in a prime position to be broadsided by an oncoming train from either direction.

THE DRIVING ERROR immediately killed the engine and drove the hoopty into some kind of a profound, cosmic shock. And how did I know this? Because when I tried to restart the engine, it failed to turn over.  Instead, the engine screamed a high-pitched whine, which sounded like I had just run over a cat.   I looked to my right out of the passenger window and saw torrential rain drops vigorously bouncing off the slick, black road where the car should have been. DAMMIT! I took in a deep breath and exhaled it slowly while resting my head on the steering wheel. Seconds later, I snapped upright in my seat and somewhat came to my senses.  After quickly assessing my situation and realizing the location of the hoopty, I was stunned.  Shaking my head vigorously from side to side, I asked myself, ”What the fuck just happened”?

OH, MAN!  Gathering some composure, I tried to restart the engine again, but it just sputtered and coughed like an old man with a severe case of chronic emphysema.  So I thought I’d wait a few more seconds before trying to restart it.  Suddenly, a frightening drama began to unfold before me.  I felt adrenaline starting to pulse through my veins like a stream of oil leading to a roaring fire.

AS IF I DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH SHIT TO DEAL WITH in trying to figure out when and if I could start the car to get it off the damn tracks, another load of it hit me.  The red and white barrier came down in front of the road to block all traffic attempting to cross the railroad tracks. Then the red warning lights started flashing furiously, indicating that a train was on its way. SHIT! Piling an incredible amount of shame on top of my unbelievable embarrassment, I distinctly heard the caution lights yelling at me each time they flashed:  Blink ‘you bonehead,’ blink ‘you bonehead,’ blink ‘ you bonehead’!  Unfortunately, the hoopty was hemmed in, perilously straddling the tracks to the left of all this activity.  But, I knew that I needed to move the heap quickly before the oncoming train smashed it, with me in it, to smithereens and on to kingdom come.

AMAZINGLY, I kept my cool and hadn’t panic just yet.  I tried the engine again, but its sound clearly told me to just ‘back the fuck off!’   I looked to my left and saw the white light of a train’s engine as it steadily headed right towards me still sitting inside the hoopty, which was still straddling the tracks.  DAMMIT TO HELL!  I tried the engine again, but it was still deader than Chris Christie’s political career.  My mind went blank for a split second, but the impending disaster snapped me into thinking, “How the hell am I going to explain the damage the train would undoubtedly make to my friend’s car? How would I even pay for the damage? Thinking that this could be the end of my life as I knew it, I realized that I wouldn’t need to explain anything to anybody because I wouldn’t survive a crash of this magnitude and live to tell anybody about it.

SUDDENLY, an eerie, calm peacefulness washed over me.  For no explicable reason, I turned my head to the left again and focused on the engine’s white light, which grew larger and more threatening as the train approached. I thought I was going to die and that the white light might be my glorious path to heaven. With my mouth open wide enough for the Titanic to sail through, I felt my eyes momentarily spring in and out of their sockets like I was in some fucking freakish Warner Brothers cartoon. Strangely, I didn’t hear any train whistle, which I’m sure the engineer would have engaged if anything was on the tracks blocking his train’s path. I sat in the car with my ass frozen stiff in the seat.  Why? I don’t know. I can’t even tell you why today. Teetering on the edge of unconsciousness, I felt my legs become numb and immovable. But I distinctly remember seeing that the train’s engineer had poked his head out of the engine’s window. Undoubtedly, he wanted to verify what he was seeing:  an idiot sitting in a car on the adjacent tracks.  As the massive steel horse got closer, I became terrified when heard the ear-splitting noise of the train’s approach and felt the ground and hoopty tremble as if we were in the middle of an earthquake. Though the train’s engineer still had his head out the window, I couldn’t see his face clearly, but I’m sure he was probably both shocked and amused at my bizarre but harmless situation, which he could clearly see but I couldn’t.

MORE NERVOUS THAN A NERVOUS CHIHUAHUA AT A FIREWORKS SHOW, I didn’t scream. Surprisingly, I didn’t pass out either from the shock of an impending disaster.   I gawked in awe as the imposing black engine charged towards me.  With billowing steam spewing from its smoke stack and its cars following dutifully behind it, I prayed and braced myself for the inevitable.  And I waited for the crash that never came.  Incredibly, the train easily rolled by on the tracks behind me.  Divine intervention? More than I knew.  Profoundly relieved, I exhaled a sigh of relief, blowing out enough air that would immediately blow up a balloon.  I just sat there, staring at the train rolling by, watching it through my side and rear-view mirrors.  The poor hoopty shook helplessly as the train thundered along on the tracks behind us. And I distinctly heard that bitch of a train taunt me with, “SUCKER! Had ya fooled, didn’t we?”

At that moment, the disaster that almost happened was too close of a call for me to laugh off.   But I knew instantly that God really, really had a wicked sense of humor. Still dazed and confused for a few more seconds, I regained some semblance of consciousness to wipe away the profuse sweat which had accumulated all over my face.   It was at that moment that I made a pact with myself.  Wisely, I decided not to tell a living soul about this big blunder, not even my good friends who owned the hoopty.  Only God and I knew what a bonehead I proved to be, and that’s the way it’s been ever since then.

So after the tracks became clear, the barriers retreated back up, and the red blinking lights faded away. I looked to the right to watch the train disappear down the tracks. As if adding insult to no injury, the fucking little red caboose had the nerve to wave goodbye to me.

I turned the key in the ignition and thanked God that the car started up right away.  More divine intervention?  Damn, right it was.  With the engine running, I tried a few back-and-forth movements with the hoopty before I could successfully rock it out of its embarrassing spot and move it off the tracks and onto the road to my right.

After driving a few minutes more, I winced as the putrid, sewer-like air from the farmers’ fields filled the car.  At least this ‘fresh air’ kept me focused and my head clear, and that’s when I knew I was closer to my destination.  I finally arrived in Illesheim about 20 minutes later.  My friend and her mom and kids welcomed me with open arms, hugs, and kisses. When my friend asked me how my trip was, I told her I had no problems whatsoever.   Of course, I lied and decided to internalize my embarrassment.  She knew me well and could see it in my face that I was visibly shaken by ‘something.’  She never asked, and I never told her what really happened.

Though I didn’t drink hard liquor, I gulped down three shots of 40%-proof Asbach-Uralt (German bourbon) my friend offered me to calm down my electrified nerves.  My visit with them was heartwarming and a welcome relief from the accompanying boredom of being single on another Army tour. But before leaving, I checked the hoopty make sure it sustained no damage from the ‘side trip’ I took on the railroad tracks. And for my return trip to Heidelberg, I got an early start to make damn sure that I would be driving back to Heidelberg during daylight hours. Since then, life has been good.

ANGELS WALK AMONG US

The other day, I had just dropped my friends off at the Frankfurt Hahn Airport, about an hour’s drive from where I live. After I drove up to the parking ticket dispenser and grabbed my ticket from the slot, I parked in a handicapped parking spot near the entrance. After they unloaded their luggage, we headed to McDonald’s to grab a bite to eat and to spend some time together before their flight.

We strolled around the tiny airport for a few minutes, but as it got closer for them to go through the security line and move to the waiting area for their flight, I bid them adieu (goodbye) with warm hugs.

Then, I went outside and started up my car, momentarily forgetting that I had a parking ticket to pay for. When that light bulb came on in my head, I got out of my car and used my cane to hobble over to the machine to pay for the time I parked. My eyes almost popped out of their sockets when 12.00 Euros popped up on the screen. 12 Euros!!! I didn’t have 12 Euros! I didn’t panic, though, but I knew I had some change in my wallet. I prayed that the change would add at least up to 12 Euros. Unfortunately, my friends had already checked in, and since they were already past the security check-in, it would be difficult for me to get to them to get some extra Euros if I needed them.

So I stood by the machine and stuck my walking cane underneath one arm as I poured the loose change out of my wallet into one of my hands to count it. I was sweating bullets thinking that the machine had made a mistake and that my parking fee was actually 2 Euros and not 12.00! But there it was on the screen.  Waiting impatiently for me to feed it, the machine screamed: 12 EUROS!!!!

As I was slowly counting my change, a young German lady came up to me. I didn’t hear her drive up or park her car near me, but there she was. In German, she asked me if I needed some help. I told her that I didn’t have enough money and that I had more Euro change in my car which was just a few steps away. She ignored that and looked at the 12.00 Euros prominently displayed on the screen as she proceeded to help me count my change. Thank God I had almost enough, but I was short 1 Euro. She quickly pulled out her wallet and handed me 2 Euros. But then she did even more. She took all the change from my hand, put all of it in the coin slot and waited as the machine counted down what I owed: 10, 8, 6 Euros and so forth. Then she deposited her 2 Euros to ultimately pay for my parking fee. After she did that, the machine spit out 50 cents change, and my ticket popped out of the slot…paid in full!

I was amazed at this young woman stopping to help me. First of all, I didn’t hear her drive up to where I was standing. She didn’t have to stop and help me, but she did. But before she left, I had to do something to return her kindness. She saw the relief and gratefulness on my face. I smiled at her and spread my arms out to hug her. She did the same, and we hugged like two old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a long time. Then she left, and I hobbled to my car a few steps away. This one random act of kindness from a stranger is a perfect example of how God sends angels to help us in need.

CELL PHONE SAFETY

I went on some errands today and thankfully remembered to take my cell phone with me. After numerous verbal counseling from friends who couldn’t get in contact with me when I’ve been on the road, I made it a point to keep it with me at all times.

I have a leather case for my cell phone but trying to find that case in my purse when my cell phone goes off was like trying to find a credit card at the city dump, but my purse doesn’t stink like one.

The brilliant old playful soul that I am, I decided to stick my cell phone in my bra for easy access and safekeeping. I couldn’t think of a better place for it to keep me on my toes for calls from my friends at any time. For safe measure, I put my phone on vibrate and when it vibrated in my bra, it would ensure that I wouldn’t miss any incoming calls from my friends. Additionally, I had set my phone to a pleasant melodic alarm which would go off at 0700 every morning for times when I need to get up early. Unfortunately, I forgot about this setting.

As a routine, I take a hot bubble bath almost every night, but I skipped it last night because I was too tired to make the preparations. So I hopped into bed, snuggled underneath my comforter and went to sleep.

A faint melodic sound from my cell phone awakened me early this morning. Irritated but slightly awake, I listened more closely and noticed that the sound was coming from underneath my covers. I threw back my comforter and discovered that the sound was actually coming from my chest, from inside my bra! I slapped my face with both hands to chastise myself. Then I reached into my bra and grabbed my phone, which was unusually warm, and turned off the alarm. DUH!

I had to laugh at myself, but I’m glad that I paid attention to my friends’ advice to always keep my phone on me, in spite of the alarm waking me up too damn early in the morning. So you see, this is what happens when I don’t take my nightly bubble bath.  To be safe, I’d better stick to my routine! It’s much safer!

MYSTERY OF THE REFRIGERATOR LIGHT

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Recently, I drove to Ramstein one weekend (again). Seems like I just can’t stay away from that beautiful area for very long. Plus it is so close to France, only 30 minutes from the border! Normally, when I drive there, I’ll take a trip to either Forbach (30 minutes away) or to Metz (an hour away) to do a little shopping. But this time, I opted to stay on base and just chill.

As is normal (or more abnormal considering my past unpredictable situations) whenever I travel, I always experience a wild, wacky episode or two. Always.

I can attest firsthand that God has a sense of humor. It seems as though He guides me onto paths that hold adventures, which provide me with the subjects of my stories. I consider my love of writing both a gift and curse.  A gift in that I can easily capture situations others might miss or ignore.  A curse in that I won’t rest until after I browbeat my trusted friends into reading my drafts before publishing.  For good measure, I warn them that I expect feedback or else they’ll have hell to pay. They always come through for me, so they’ve never had to pay any hell! My friends: I gotta love ‘em. So, bear with me on this one, because although it’s a true story, it’s still so stupid.

I checked into the Kaiserslautern Military Community Command’s new hotel on Ramstein Air Base. The KMCC, as it’s called, is a relatively new 10-story hotel near the base exchange mall, which also houses familiar stateside store chains and fast food joints.  All very convenient.

The rooms at the KMCC rival any four-star hotel.  I had booked one on the seventh floor with unobstructed  views of the flight line and the rolling hills of the countryside surrounding the air base. 

And I just loved the queen-sized bed, fresh linen, and fluffy pillows, all of which prove to be the perfect sleeping pill after a hot shower.  I remained pleased with the little thoughtful amenities which others might ignore: the shower, shampoo, soap, and toothpaste samples grouped together on the shiny gray marble counter in the bathroom.  And I can’t forget the roomy closet, which has two floor-to-ceiling sliding mirrored doors.

But back to the real point of this story:  the closet. 

Whenever I entered the room, I could turn on the light by the door by using the switch on the wall.  But I would have to go to the bathroom and use the switch on the wall in the bathroom to turn on that light, and I would have to go to the lamp on the nightstand next to my bed to turn that light on. 

Yet to save time and electricity, as the front desk people suggested, I should put my room card with the electronic chip in the slot next to the light switch by the door so that I could turn on all the lights in the entire room at the same time.  Not sure why they have this set up like this, but it’s the Air Force. They’ve always been the ‘different‘ military branch. 

So after using my room card to unlock my door, I dutifully put my card in the slot next to the switch on the wall and voila! I was able to turn on all the lights in my room at one time, including the bathroom. Will wonders never cease?

After unpacking, I took a shower (no chance of an overflowing bathtub this time which is another story).  I put on my jammies, turned off the lights and jumped into the bed to read by the light from the lamp on the nightstand.  All snuggled and comfy, I became distracted and rather annoyed when something drew my attention away from the gossip mags:  a glow from a light coming from the hallway.   

Irritated, I got up and saw that the door to the closet was ajar and that the light in the closet was still on.  I looked for a switch on the wall outside of the closet to turn off the closet’s light but didn’t see a switch.  I opened the sliding door wider and peeped inside the closet for a switch and found none.  Puzzled, I began to wonder what the hell I needed to do to turn that damn light off! 

Again, I looked inside the closet, but I still could not find any light switch.  Scratching my head, I thought to myself how the hell did this light get turned on in the first place?!  Then it dawned on me when a light bulb came on in my head.  This epiphany took me back to my childhood days.  It was a revelation bigger than the ego of the most narcissistic idiot on this planet.  It was the mystery of the refrigerator light!

Like me, no doubt you did this same thing when you were a kid. Initially, I couldn’t figure out if the light inside the refrigerator stayed on or not when I closed the refrigerator door.  Like me, you probably stood in front of the fridge repeatedly opening and closing that refrigerator door until your little brain discovered that when you shut the damn door, it pushed a button inside the refrigerator that turned the refrigerator light off!  I was blown away!

So remembering how excited I was back then when I solved the refrigerator light mystery, I simply closed the closet door and BAM!  The light went off! Just like that! I was tickled that the refrigerator door light technique had survived over the years and had figured into the construction of these lovely closets in this modern, military hotel. 

Also as a youngster, I was proud to have figured out the mystery of the refrigerator light all by myself. I kept quiet about my Ah-Ha moment, though, and never discussed my discovery with anyone else in my family.  I think if I had mentioned this to any adult in my family, especially to my two older brothers, I would have never heard the end of it.  Knowing those two knuckleheads, they would have suggested to my parents that they plant my little ass in front of a child psychologist for weekly sessions and treatment for my rampant curiosity, which never killed this cat! 

So now, as a full-grown, somewhat mature adult, I felt really stupid not knowing that the light in the closet would go off once I closed the damn doors!  Just like the refrigerator light did when I was a kid.  Seems like the simple stuff never gets old.

A SNOWY LESSON IN FUTILITY

IT WAS FRIDAY, 29 DECEMBER 2017

When I left the Post Exchange (PX) this evening, I saw that snow had blankedt the entire area outside. I didn't know that much snow had fallen while I was shopping. Anyway, I dusted off my car, took a few pictures to send to friends in warmer places, and headed home...slowly. Normally it takes me about 15 minutes to get home from the PX. That evening, it took me almost an hour and a half!
It was a beautiful drive that night of stop-and-go movement, but oh so slow! Too slow for my lead foot! During a few stops in the stau (traffic jam), I even took time to play a few games of Solitaire on my iPhone before the 'turtles' ahead of me started to move again.
After I got to my town and headed up the street to my turn off, I noticed that a big city bus was blocking my turn. Apparently, the driver tried to make a left turn to go up the hill, but the bus had other plans because it slid over to the sidewalk on the right side of the road! Well...I slowly drove around the bus on the opposite side of the road, looking at the helpless-looking driver as I passed his bus. He had a forlorn look on his face as if he was crying out for help. But I couldn't do anything for him except to pass his bus, which was blocking one side of the street. Thankfully, when I turned, no cars were coming on the opposite side of the road.

Then, I got to the street where I had to turn off onto the cul-de-sac where I live. When I got to my cul-de-sac and tried to go up the hill to my house, my car couldn't make it even halfway up even though it has snow tires! I tried backing up and trying to drive back up again five or six times, but my car kept slipping and sliding like a pig on ice skates. I became frustrated because my home was ever so close. Only a few hundred yards away.
Suddenly, I saw the lights of a car coming behind me. There was enough room on my left side so that the car could pass me and go up the cul-de-sac. I noticed that the car was actually a jeep, which belonged to one of my neighbors who lived on the corner at the entrance to the cul-de-sac. He parked his jeep and got out to come over to see if he could help me. I tried one more useless time to get up the hill but the snow wasn't having it. This was a snowy lesson learned in futility for me. As my neighbor approached my car, I rolled down my window. He told me that it would be better to park my car down on the street and walk up to my house.
SAVED BY SOMEONE WITH COMMON SENSE! LOL
So I backed up my car and parked on the corner at the entrance to the cul-de-sac. I sat for a minute. I had so much stuff from shopping to carry up the hill to my house that I was trying to decide what I needed. I got out the car and thought I'd carry whatever I could without slipping and injuring myself any further. My neighbor stood by and came over to me to ask me if he could help me bring some things to my house. "Yes, thank you." I beamed. I gave him one bag and he said, "I can carry something else if you'd like." I forgot that this strapping young man was much younger and stronger than I was. I remembered that he and his wife are hunters and have two beautiful hunting dogs. No doubt they're both in great shape. So I gave him my six pack of mineral water, took out one of my canes, and locked my car before we headed up the snowy street to my house. We chatted along the way. He shared with me that one of his dogs was pregnant and would deliver her pups soon. I was glad for him. The short walk up to my house didn't get me winded at all, which was pleasantly surprising considering that I had to walk with a cane.
I told my young neighbor that he was an angel for being in the right place at the right time. He just laughed and said he didn't have any wings. So, this has been my experience so many times. God prepares me for situations before I even get where I'm supposed to go! One thing I know for sure: God sends me angels when I need them and they're right on time!