Passing grade in feining kiss-ass

I had to go into work early Friday after having the previous two days off.   The reason for this was a change in my schedule due to the arrival of a VP of the company for a little ‘look-see’ and ‘press-the-flesh’ the executives do before major holidays.  Most of the time they’re ensconced over in Buffalo, much like the executives were in Syracuse with the last company I worked for.  They only ventured out for what they deemed ‘important’ dates, and the places they go have to ‘spruce-up’ and make nice for them, so they can see how the other half lives.  Except they never get the full measure (and they know it), because no one tells them how things are really going.

So to me, it’s a dog and pony show.  And it always has been.

The only time I’d ever been impressed with the manner in which an executive ever visited places was when I was working for the previous employer, and there was a hired gun brought in from California (it soon turned out to be an enormous clusterfuck, but it started out promising).  His method, at least in the beginning, sidestepped the normal method of pre-sprucing places for visits.  He would go to the stores he wanted to visit, or send in people that just shopped there, didn’t interact with the store management, and took notes on what they saw.  Who they spoke to, how they were treated, everything.  So when he went back in, in his official capacity, he could see through all the hoopla that was put in place to dazzle him.  And it worked.  He could say ‘Well, I was here last week on this day, and this happened, and I saw that, or one of my people saw this or that, experienced this thing, and why is that?”  Sure, maybe a ‘gotcha’ moment, but at least it wasn’t him showing up unawares, seeing everything looking pristine, and then walking out of the place thinking everything is great, when it never is.  These sorts of visits infuriate me.  But, I’m not allowed to say anything.  So, I don’t.  I glad-hand, make nice and get them out of my department.

I’ve worked for three different companies, and these visits are without a doubt always the same.  Spending an inordinate amount of time and money to create a visage for someone to see.  They’re trying to convince them everything they see is just fine, if there are fewer hours to work with, that’s swept under the rug.  Any other problems, same thing.  Just make nice and go on with business, as if that makes any sense.

I guess I just don’t understand the nuances of corporate executives.  If was running a company, I would want to know the crap along with the good stuff.  So I could fix the crap and make things better for not only the customers that make my business go, but the employees who are on the front lines.  But no one wants to do that.

As expected, we got word the execs were pleased with what they saw.  So, the show goes on.  And the overall problems remain.  Naturally.



A wheelbarrow is a lot like a roto-tiller, it has a specific time and place for usefulness, and for the most part sits around unused until it’s needed.  The wife brought into the marriage the one she’s had for 40 plus years, it has a wide barrow (tray) and just one solid wheel like most traditional ones have.  Two steel bars make the handles, they wind down and around the tray underneath and are bolted to the frame that constitutes the ‘feet’ and support the wheel mechanism.  When it was new it was a cheery red, now it’s a mottled rusted color with small patches of the original red peeking out from the patina.

It also is very worn down over the years.  The wheel is somewhat cracked, there are two bolts sheared off on the underside and within the last two weeks the hollow steel bar that makes the right handle has finally rusted through and broken, just under the tailong edge of the barrow.  Part is still supported by the bolts, and the other part sort of swings free.  Getting it welded might be a bit of a chore, but the wife believed that there was a cheaper/easier way to accomplish this, with a product called ‘JB WELD‘.  Granted it’s a substance that I’ve never used before, and a friend of mine informed me that it might work, but it won’t necessarily be as good a fix as someone spot welding the two pieces of metal together, either with a mig or tig weld.  Since I know literally nothing about the ins and outs of welding, I’d have to find a place that did the work, and would be interested in fixing a 40 yr old wheelbarrow.  Not the easiest task in the world, mind you.

From what I’ve been reading, the process is pretty straightforward.  Get the pieces in line, clean up the rusty area and then mix and apply the product around and over where the break is.  Then let it sit for four to six hours to cure.  After that, it should be good to go.  Having viewed a few YouTube videos, I can see that it will probably stand up to light use, but any heavy loads would end up probably breaking it all over again.  So in the meantime, we’re shopping for a new wheelbarrow.  Which has proven not to be the easiest thing either.

When I was growing up, my Dad had a pretty sturdy model, it was green, had oak handles and the tire was pneumatic, in other words, like a bicycle tire, it had an inner tube inside.  Why I decided to part with it I have no clue, but probably because I was moving across the state and didn’t really have use for it anymore.  So it got either sold, or left behind when we moved out of the parents’ house in 1992.  I didn’t see any sign of it when I visited the property in 2017.  So either it rusted out, or someone else is using it now.

With my birthday coming up, the wife has decided this is going to be my birthday present.  But even though I’m likely to be using it mostly, it needs to be a design that she can easily use as well, and we’re not alike in terms of size, ability to lift and so on.  So a traditional one-wheel model isn’t going to be sufficient, it needs to have a sizable (preferably steel) barrow, two wheels for stability and the ability to go over a curb or impediments without tipping over at an inopportune moment.  Having looked over the wares the nearby Lowes had to offer, and searching on Amazon, its not as easy a prospect as I would have thought.  Most of the ones on Amazon are similar to one another, the vast majority have poly or plastic barrows, and the wheels are either solid pieces or they’re not well supported underneath.  There was even one that came directly from China that was going to take two MONTHS to arrive.  Yeah, no thanks on that one.

I increasingly have a difficult time believing that this has to be as hard as its turning out to be.  It’s a wheelbarrow for crying out loud.  Reading the reviews of the ones people have bought, one is good for getting over obstacles, but the tray is made of flimsy plastic and under load bends and buckles.  The next one has a steel tray, but the wheels are worthless and it doesn’t have an adequate support system to allow someone to believe it would last more than one season.  Seriously?  Our friends in North Carolina sent us a picture of the one they have, it looks quite nice and versatile, and using Google image search I was able to find the exact model….except that it’s only available in Canada.  And they won’t ship it across the border, you have to drive to one of their stores in Toronto and purchase it.

Today I took a suggestion my wife had and ran with it.  Her idea was going to the local Tractor Supply store, surely they would have several to choose from or at least look at.  After work I drove over there and….nope.  Not a one.  I asked one of the clerks about the lack of wheelbarrows and he suggested I could order one online, have it shipped to the store and pick it up when it arrived next week.  Thank goodness I don’t have a project I wanted to do today that required use of one.  Sheesh.

I went to the online TSC site and that site insists there’s the right one in store.  Unbelievable.  I was just there!  I guess I need to go back tomorrow and find someone that actually knows what they’re talking about.  Oy.

Kitty Forgiveness

I made a boo-boo the other day.  And inconvenienced the kitty inadvertently.  We’d been having power outages on Sunday, and it completely escaped me that the kitty box runs on electricity.  We’ve been using a LitterMaid™ for the past ten years, and it sits in the basement, raking the box approximately fifteen minutes after the kitty uses it.  I empty the collection box twice a week (usually on Wednesdays and Sundays) and fill the box with litter as needed.  I’ve been getting the inexpensive litter from Petco for at least the past three years, I paid the initial $20 for the 30# bucket and have been refilling it every time we’re in the area shopping or on some other errand.  It’s $10 for subsequent fill-ups, and that’s a nice bargain.

While I was working on Sunday, in the morning there was a blackout due to the state electricity provider (NYSEG) having a series of problems in their transmission lines that (from what I later heard and read) was caused somewhere in the Hudson Valley near the Indian Point nuclear plant.  Where I live has its own electrical co-op, so they provide electricity at a cheaper rate than what others can get from the state.  It’s one of the reasons it’s so relatively (by comparison) inexpensive to live here when we were outside of the village/town here, our utility costs were at least double what they are now.  So it’s one of the big reasons we stay put.  We could live somewhere that was more picturesque, but the costs of doing so are just prohibitive.

As I was informed by the wife at lunch via text, the power had gone out several times.  We have a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) at the place where our main computers reside, so if there’s a momentary or short term power failure, our computers are unaffected, we can shut down safely, rather than being shut down all of a sudden, which is not good for the components.  Businesses use the same sort of contraption for their registers since they’re highly susceptible to things like power spikes, brownouts and things of that nature.  Need to protect the data at all costs.

However, the cat’s litter box is considered a non-essential commodity in that vein, so I don’t have it hooked up to one.  And when the power goes off, it stops working.  And doesn’t turn itself back on.  It requires one of the humans that live here to remember that there are things plugged in that won’t just turn themselves back on when the power returns.  Except, in this case, both of them forgot.  And it didn’t turn out well for the littlest resident of the house.

Starting Sunday evening, Rochester was being vocal about something but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  I checked his food bowl and it was mostly full, his water fountain was running as it was supposed to be, but the fill container on the back needed some more water.  I filled that and cleaned up around his area of the spilled food, thinking that this might be the cause of his consternation.  He looked up at me, rower’d a couple of times and had a bit more food.  Then went off to another part of the house.  A encountered him a few more times during the evening and there was a similar conversation.  The cat box just didn’t occur to me, since we keep it in such an ‘out-of-the-way’ area.

By Monday morning, I’m certain things were getting out of hand as it had been about 20 hours since the power went off the first time.  Kitty was probably getting a little concerned that his box wasn’t clean when he needed to go to the bathroom, but since he doesn’t speak English, he wasn’t able to adequately communicate.  I got up for work as I always do around five, and he wasn’t at the top of the stairs to greet me, which I thought was a little unusual.  His normal routine is to come upstairs while I’m in the bathroom, keep me company and sit at the top of the stairs for his morning rub while I’m putting on my socks in preparation of going downstairs to get dressed and have my morning tea.

In my morning routine that day, there was nothing that required me to go to the basement, so I was still oblivious to the fact that something needed to be done about the cat box.  Rochester was still vocal about something, but I went off to work thinking things were ok here at the house.  Upon arriving home again nine hours later, I just happened to look down the basement stairs and saw something that looked like a pile of brown at the foot.  Going down to investigate, I found it to be a pile of kitty crap.  Oh dear.  It all started to make sense.  Glancing at the cat box, I saw there were piles of litter here and there, brown spots and heaps and the light on the box was most definitely off.  Kitty had finally had enough of trying to find fresh spots to do his business and started to (logically) make a new spot for his bathroom duties.  I felt really bad that I had goofed.

I cleaned up the area where he’d crapped, cleaned the box thoroughly and refilled it with litter.  Turned it back on and came upstairs to apologize.  Giving my buddy a good rubbing, telling him how sorry I was I couldn’t understand him as he harangued me a good bit about being a stupid self-centered human.  Yup, guilty as charged, buddy.  I told the wife about what had happened and she face-palmed as she admitted she forgot about it too.  Just one of those things that you don’t necessarily think about when it happens, you reset the clocks on appliances like the microwave and Keurig, and then go on about your day.

As I mentioned to a friend of mine whom I was talking to the next day relating what had happened, I suggested I needed to make a ‘to-do’ list of things that need to be checked after a power outage.  She said that it was probably a good idea, and would look forward to me doing something in that regard.

Since then, no more power outages, and Rochester is back to using his litter box.  So we’re set, at least until the power goes out again.