MASKING THE COVIDA LOCO

A SATIRE

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Somewhere deep in the policy administration department for the present administration.

“Mr. Jones, sir! You have to read this! The CDC mandated that everyone needs to start wearing underwear to combat this disease!”

Mac ‘The Truck’ Jones took the memo from his eager assistant Jimmy Deere. As legislative policy manager, Mac filtered all relevant and irrelevant material before things spun out of control.

“I don’t believe the Centre for Disease Control would say something like that,” said Mac throwing the memo aside.  “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Not the Disease Centre. The Caparison Decision Centre. They decide what accoutrements make the scene for year. You know, what shoe styles are in or out.”

Mac waived this hand dismissively. “Never heard of them.”

“The Caparison Decision Centre resemble the Illuminati,” said Jimmy. “They had a major tragic setback in the Victorian era when they advocated for those bottle green dresses. The manufacturers used arsenic to achieve that colour. So they always stay under the radar. But now the president already tweeted out how ridiculous the CDC was, maybe thinking that it the Disease Centre that issued the statement.”

Mac sat back heavily in his chair. “Oh man. Did he add anything else?”

Jimmy took a deep breath. “Yes, the president added that if people did not want to wear underwear, well that’s their decision. It’s a free country when it comes to underwear decision making. He later added that if the founders of the country did not wear underwear, then that’s the way it should be.”

Mac then sat his head heavily in his hands. “I don’t suppose you checked to see what there might be on presidential underwear customs?”

Jimmy seemed to blush every so slightly. “Yes, it seems that George Washington didn’t wear any underwear. A long shirt seemed to do the trick. And I checked with the History Museum, and it seemed that Martha Washington cast aside the corset during the Virginia Summers and just wore loose fitting gowns. So it seems that freedom, in all shapes and sizes, goes right back to the beginning.”

Mac looked up. He feared that this underwear issue could tear the country apart. “What’s the take on the social media?”

Jimmy pulled out a file. “Well, the issue is divided already along political lines. A quick polling found that half the respondents suggested that all people should be wearing underwear. Those would be the democrats. While the true Americans, republicans, said that people should be free to make their own choice.  I’m a bit concerned about a few Facebook sites that suddenly appeared on both sides of the issue. Intel suggests that these are already Russian bots, trying to sow some more controversy.”

Mac now looked concerned. “What makes you so sure?”

“Well, the sites didn’t use the word underwear. The translation was a bit off. Instead, the Russian sites use the term ‘Loincloth’.”

“Are people commenting on these sites?”

“Yes, for sure. Some people wrote that their nether regions need to breathe more, and no government agency is going to tell them what to do. In fact, real Americans need to go nude more often.”

“The other bot site is all for wearing loincloths. People on that site wrote that wearing underwear is not enough. People need to show their patriotism and show their underwear.”

Mac did not like where this was going. “What are they suggesting?”

“Supporters suggest that people should be wearing their underwear on the outside, to show their support. For the notion, not their own personal private support.”

Mac tried to look a bit hopeful. “What are the moral groups saying? They must be above this sort of thing.”

“Not too much. They are still hung up on the loincloth description. This seems to mean different things to different groups. But whatever their various positions will eventually be, we can expect them to be pretty unwavering after that.”

“So, what else are the sites saying?”

“As we have seen in the past, the Russian sites seem to take opposite sides of the issue. One side says that the disease does not even exist since you can’t see it. You can’t see the moon-landing site, so why should this virus be any different? Also they suggest that wearing underwear or loincloths causes more problems than the disease, not admitting the disease even exists. And if you have to wear clothing or an apron to keep hot grease spatter hitting you, then you are doing it wrong! The frying that is.”

Mac slapped the table with his hand. “Some southern states are not going to like being told that that they have been deep-frying the wrong way all these years. It’s the right of every American to cause a grease fire whenever they want!”

“Part of the problem seems to be the shifting expert advice,” said Jimmy. “At the beginning people were told it wasn’t necessary to wear underwear since chances are, they would be wearing it wrong in the first place, or buying the wrong type. There’s that entire cotton/synthetic debate going on all the time.  Even if you have the perfect underwear, this can give you a false sense of security.

Mac started to roll his eyes. As if this country did not have enough problems. “I suppose there will be some demonstrations soon?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so. Some right wing groups are suggesting parades in the nude. With legally registered weapons. Anyone with a concealed weapons permit will simply have to make do. The left wing groups seem to want to expand this to wearing all types of underwear from all cultures and nationalities outside of their clothing. The Russian bots are suggesting the hottest times of the day in the hottest spots of the country. There are going to countless episodes of heatstroke.”

“Ok, we have some work to do Jimmy. Is there anything else I need to know?”

Jimmy shook head and folded up the second report on a separate faction. The bra controversy could wait until tomorrow.

Adventures in moving.

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Dante Inferno describes nine levels of hell. Moving reveals a tenth.

The concept seemed simple enough. Our adult children bought a house in Victoria. My wife and I hope to move in with them eventually and share costs. What better way to create a type of beachhead than to ship some of our excess furniture. And what better way for a daughter-in-law to benefit from the helpful advice of an in-house mother-in-law?

My plan involved renting a truck and hiring others to load it. This seemed cost effective except for the three days of travel, hotels, gas, and food. Crossing over the Rockies during the fall and early winter in an unknown truck seemed imprudent. Dropping the truck and flying back home seemed really imprudent. At least the level of in-flight service for the plane and three days alone in a truck would likely be comparable.

The next best option involved those transportable containers. So, I opened a container company account. Drop off, load up, and take away. What could be easier? I rented a couple of containers for 30 days. More than enough time. But as Stephen Hawking clearly proved, time speeds up when you enter the space-time continuum of a potential additional rental fee.

The company quickly delivered two containers. They seemed deceptively small, but the advertised videos showed how much stuff you could pull out of one of these things. Sort of like a clown car.

Next day, a couple of burly gentlemen picked up, packed up and bundled up all of the furniture.  I did wonder what clowns say to one another as they pack themselves into that car. I assume there is quite a bit of discussion of what everyone ate beforehand. The container company picks up the containers and they merrily make their way to the coast. Twenty-seven days remain on the rental.

Two weeks later the containers land in Victoria. The unpacking crew call to confirm when they intend to pick up the containers. The container company, a close relative, but still separate, also calls to confirm when I intend ‘to access the containers’. I try to clarify that yes, they will be accessed, just not by me. This becomes the first sign that there is a separation between the plan and the implementation.

The container company calls our son, and tells him that the unloading company had been ‘delisted’. And we would have to cancel. We enter the first level of hell. Thirteen days left on the rental.

Renting containers resembles buying flight cancellation insurance on-line. Both take perhaps five minutes and are deceptively easy to use. Heaven help you when you have to make a claim under the insurance. The two times I made insurance claims it took three months and several days of mailing in paper forms. You note the word mailing and paper. Even faxing did not appear as an option. The 1970’s retain a firm hold on filing for insurance claims.

I navigate the tortured confines of the container customer on-line system, cancel the job, and obtain a ‘store credit’. I receive a “VIP” credit number, separate from my contract number, separate from my container contract number. Numbers abound. Next hell level. Twelve days on the rental.

Two days later, I am BBQing and the phone rings while the pork cutlet catches fire. I let it burn for a bit since my father-in-law prefers it that way. The mover asks why I cancelled and I explain how he became delisted. The pork continues to burn away merrily. The mover will try to gain access to the containers still. The burning pork personifies my patience with this situation. Hell level uncertain.

The next day the container company denies the mover access once again. The mover gives me the name of the warehouse manager. I leave a few messages, but never here back from him. Abandon all hope ye who enter here. Ten days remain.

I futilely try to use their website to arrange delivery and unloading of the containers.  I get helpful return emails about using the website and using the credit. I send slightly perturbed but mostly desperate emails to the container company and to the moving company. I try to arrange delivery that week, the week following, and the week following that. I leap a few months into the future. No availability. I jump-frog several levels of hell. Eight days left on the rental.

I seek out a real person at the moving company but listening to the array of options can wear you down.  When I do find one she nicely explains to me that someone in a Ford 250 flatbed picked up the containers. My son confirms that no containers arrived. Thoughts of insurance proofs of loss dance through my head.

The company realizes their mistake. The warehouse does still have the containers, but the moving company does not move them, only loads and unloads them. She apologizes, and sends me over to the manager. I hear the same recording of options. A male answers, and I explain my sordid tale once again. This time he apologizes and says that they dropped the ball. I hear music this time, but it sounds more like the Twilight Zone theme.

He makes a note to file and gives me the name of another person that holds the containers. Although being held hostage also fits. This time a woman answers. She can help get the containers to the house. At a nominal cost. I am getting closer. I seized upon the following day opening. Six days remain.

Later that night, a Vancouver woman calls, apologizes more, and says the delivery will be free. I thank her profusely and make light of the number of emails, number of people called, and the number of levels of hell I travelled while listening to the various twilight zone holding messages.

Later that same night, the container company calls, and asks why I had not returned the equipment at noon. I simply ask what equipment. Perhaps she did not realize that she was holding my containers hostage and she could have extracted whatever concessions she wanted. She apologizes and corrects the file.

The next day the containers arrive. The steep driveway compels the driver to leave the containers on the street. However, one box remains bolted down. Apparently, they deliver free of charge, but if you want access, well that is another cost. Clever. Very Clever.

Another trip to have the container company remove the bolts. For free. And the real fateful day arrives. Many levels of hell traversed. Five days remain.

The movers arrive the following day and distribute the furniture throughout the house. Now, we just need to get the containers off the street before the persnickety neighbourhood association catches sight of them. Limbo welcomes us. Four days.

The next morning the company picks up the containers with three days left over and only six months taken off my lifespan.

Later on, I look around nervously around our house and decide what to do with the rest of our belongings. I open another corporate account. Kijiji. Look for the springtime ad.

House renos during a time of COVID

I pack my favorite tools in a checked bag. I fly to Victoria and successfully avoid and evade COVID in order to help our son and daughter-in law with their recent house purchase. I pour over the inspection report whose main purpose includes finding as many defects as possible. Caveat Emptor. The buyer needs a thousand eyes, but the seller, well he needs but only one. That kind of university education does shake one’s faith in humanity a touch, but I persevere.

Arriving at the house, my son and daughter-in-law beam happily. But the house remains stoic. I am pleased that the house does justice for all of the photos from the report. Any photo from the realtor seems to distort reality, while the inspector’s photos bring reality back to focus. Sometimes harshly. Like all good things, a bit of distance does make things look better. Up close, some of the flaws can be distracting. Thoreau’s mild caution comes to mind for when the couple get their house, they may not be the richer but the poorer for it and it be the house that has got them. 

At twenty-five years, the house aged well. The first owners may not have aged as well however. When the original owners sold, a contractor bought the house a few years ago and saw an opportunity to do a quick gut and turn a bit of a profit. The subsequent buyers only had the place for a couple of years and decided to move to a different neighbourhood. Unfortunately, they had to sell during the time of COVID. The virus had not peaked yet, but the fear component was quite high. And Warren Buffet did recommend along the lines of buying when others are fearful, so this seem be that situation. Not that he made it into the realtor’s report.

The contractors revamped the exterior. This meant a new coat of paint that also meant painting the roof. They advertised the roof as slate tiles, but I eventually figured out the tiles were actually cement. Did painting cement mean anything longevity wise? How well does paint adhere to concrete? Many questions and not too many answers. The house inspector did not have a firm answer. This became more of a research project as opposed to a renovation project.

All the lovely flowers in Victoria seem to be a result of all the rain. So it seems that constant November to February showers bring March flowers. It does not sound as poetic that way. A problem with houses is that they are mainly made with wood. If the wood is no longer part of a tree, then the showers contacting the wood becomes a problem. Showers also bring fungus rot. Not as pretty as a flower.

And yes, we began caulking. One of those neat words that act as a noun and as a gerund. Builders cover many of the decks with vinyl to keep the area underneath the deck relatively dry. So whenever they cut through the vinyl to make way for deck railings, it just seems to defeat the purpose. Remember National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold was happily putting hundreds of little staple holes in his shingled roof? Something like that. More Chalking.

The main living area on the second floor faces a rock hill behind the house. This attractive feature diverts all of that surface water down to the base of the house. Lovely moss and ferns cover the rock face. This suggests that lots of moisture cascades down this area. Weeping tiles seem to be doing a great job in collecting the water and diverting it around the house. Except for all of those little spaces in between the house and cement patio. More Caulking.

A few deck posts appear to have been heavily puttied. This material covers up areas that have decayed away, until the putty starts to crumble itself. Cut and replace. Way past caulking.

At the far end of the deck, one of the main beams no longer reaches its final destination. A standing post. Just a few inches shy. A post too far perhaps. The next to last post is only four feet away, so this hovering beam needs to be redone. The beam can cantilever for a couple of feet, but it can’t cantilever there forever. Cut out the old, and put in the new.

Good job for a reciprocating saw. I have a nice rechargeable Black and Decker one. Did I say rechargeable with one of those large lithium batteries that seem to catch on fire occasionally when on a plane? The battery would have to come in my carry-on while the saw itself would have to stay in the checked bag. And does anyone besides me read those little boxes you check before printing your airplane ticket? One asks are you carrying explosives? Easy no there. The next one asks about carrying power tools? Answering yes kicks you out of the main line and into the exception line for check-in. In Canada, the attendant taking the bags simply told me that a saw would be fine. I have been dragged into the “exception line” in foreign countries on occasion. These rooms have metal tables and people with automatic weapons. No reasons were ever given, and it was not a Midnight Express experience, but something to avoid.

After the outside repairs, we can now look inwards. Not for introspection, but for the problems inside of the house. The one thing that could be worse than water, which gives life and appears so attractive in photos, would be termites.

Termites have a right to live too, just not in the house. Our inspection found this little insect colony near the boiler room. Termites become the kiss of resale death for houses in the US. The Western Drywood termites there can start on wood and carry-on merrily until they are done. The Victoria Subterranean Termites require moisture and they construct tunnels in order to move from one area to another. So they constructed little earthen tunnels. Taking out small parts of the drywall, we can see that they did not affect the wood at all and simply abandoned the nest. It resembled an ancient abandoned Mayan civilization. Only the structures remain. But we got rid of the termite structures anyway.

After a week of tearing some things apart and rebuilding others, I return home. The young adults seem pleased. Job done. At least for now. I pack away most of my tools. I leave some behind since I seem to own 4 or 5 of the same tool. I can’t resist shiny things.

Later that month at home our daughter calls. She just bought a nice turn of the century house. Come and have a look she says. Bring tools.