Road Rage 2

on Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Today I was making coffee deliveries and was the victim of road rage.

The closing of the Division Street (Hwy 23) bridge in St. Cloud has left only two bridges open, one is the University street bridge, the other is the Saint Germain street bridge. Traffic piles up along both those routes, so I try to avoid them when possible or to travel there at less busy times. Sometimes I have no choice.

I was in the right-hand lane of Saint Germain, waiting to turn right onto Lincoln Avenue, which is how the detour is routed, traffic was piled up in both lanes for about 2 blocks behind me. When the light finally turned green a young black woman in a white car started to try to change lanes in front of me.

"Oh, no you don't." I said.

Because our windows were all open she heard me.

"Fuck you, bitch!" she yelled, "I'm gonna fuckin' turn...blah, blah, blah..."

I didn't listen to the rest. I wasn't doing anything wrong except not letting my "Minnesota Nice" shine through. Fuck that, if she knew she was going to have to turn right she should have gotten into the right lane farther than a half-block back.

She cut off the guy behind me and I could hear her cursing a blue streak at me. I ignored her. But that's not to say that my blood didn't start pumping a little faster.

I made my right turn, she made hers. She immediately got into the left lane and hit the accelerator. I turned on my blinker to make a legal lane change. She hit the horn and forced me back into the right lane, as she passed me she flipped me the bird and continued her verbal assault. She flew into the lane in front of me and hit her brakes. I changed to the left lane, she changed to the left lane, continuing to drive aggressively.

When we got to Hwy 23 we hit a red light. She was going straight, but I needed to turn left. Fortunately there were two cars in front of me in the turn lane while she was first in line in the left lane. I knew what was coming, or at least I thought I did, so I rolled my passenger side window up and waited for the light to turn green. When it finally did she didn't go, she had one more thing for me. As I passed her, still ignoring her, she flipped her bottle of water at me. It splashed harmlessly on my windshield.

After it was over I called her every nasty thing I could think of: bitch, cunt, slut, asshole, motherfucker... I even dropped the "N" word and I don't like saying that. I cursed and cursed, but none of the words made me feel any better.

Anyway, I hope she got to fucking Shopko or whatever on time. And I hope she eventually realizes what a stupid bitch she'd been.

And next time I play Minnesota Nice and let the girl go first.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

on Friday, June 13, 2008

I usually keep a journal on my vacations, here's what I wrote about my most recent:

• June 10, 2008

A new vacation! This time with Kate. We're on our way -- we actually got on the road before noon, 11:53 am, to be precise. We still have to make a beer stop, but we'll do that in Sauk Centre, then it's off to Glacial Lakes State Park near Starbuck, MN (I wonder if there's a Starbucks in Starbuck?).

• Later

The campground is deserted save the two of us. When we got here they were just finishing up mowing all the grass, that, coupled with the towering oaks that surround us, makes for one of the prettiest campgrounds I've ever been to. It looks more like a well-groomed city park than a state campground.

We did a couple of miles today after we set up camp. The park is mostly prairie, which isn't really what I wanted, I prefer hiking in the woods, it's cooler there. Prairie hiking has its charms though, hot as it can get. We hiked to the highest point in the park (1352 ft) and the view was stunning! We could see for miles and the terrain rolls in smooth, graceful yet dramatic arcs.

• Even later

We just got a visit from the park ranger, he said that all the employees will be "in training" tomorrow and no one will be here. That rocks! Unfortunately, he also said that it is probably going to rain all day. Crap!

We were hoping to do around six miles on hiking tomorrow. I guess we'll see.

• June 11, 2008

We haven't even gotten out of the tent today because it's storming and raining like mad. That made me think: this is the first time I can remember in all the times I've gone camping that I've been stormed and rained on.

When we got here yesterday we realized that I'd forgotten the propane for the camp stove (fucking idiot) and it's raining too damn hard to try to build a fire. I'm thinking about running into Starbuck to try to find some. Then at least we could make some coffee.

As it turns out it stormed really hard, our camp site turned into a mini river that fortunately turned just before it hit the tent. That didn't stop water from starting to pool up on the vestibule of the tent. I ran into Starbuck and got some propane, came back and made coffee. The weather report I managed to hear said it was going to rain all day, all night and probably for the next two days as well.

We stood there under our measly little "Casbah," a 5'x7' tarp tied to trees on one side and staked to the ground on the other. Why we thought a little tarp like that would keep is dry is totally beyond me, I'd chock it up to being excited to get out of town, and it was one of our last purchases before we did. We decided then and there that we didn't want to spend the next three days holed up in the tent, so we broke camp and changed our plans.

The lady at the store in Starbuck said that if we changed our minds about staying at the park that we should come back and have omelets. That seemed like a good idea while we figured out what we were going to do next. We sat there as she made a crap load of hamburgers for the local treatment center's lunch. We sat and sat. While we sat we looked at a map and tried to figure out what we were going to do next. And we sat. After about 40 minutes, with no sign of omelets in our near future, we decided to continue on our way.

We took a county road that turned to dirt after about two miles. There's nothing like driving on saturated dirt to scare the hell out of you, but we made it to the next highway and drove to Brooten to fill with gas and have lunch.

As I was leaving the Veranda after that week's Monday Night Jazz, I had mentioned jokingly to Ken and Gretchen Vork that if it was raining, we'd probably visit them for beer, so that's what we did. Ken met us there briefly, but had to go back to school to teach lessons, so we took a little nap on the couch until he got home. We had a beer with him and then went back to my house.

Ah, vacationing at home. Not my first choice, but we had limited options. We wound up watching the first DVD from the Firefly box set (damn good show!) and went to bed before midnight.

Thursday we woke up to beautiful weather: a sunny, blue sky with big, puffy white clouds, it was clear and clean smelling. We started regretting our decision to leave Glacial Lakes. To make the best of it we went to nearby Lake Maria State Park and spent about four hours hiking through its wonderful woods. We saw a couple deer, some swans, a bald eagle and dipped our feet in three lakes and a stream. It was wonderful! We came home and had a fire in the portable fire pit in the backyard and watched a storm brewing and pass through in about 15 minutes.

Kate checked the radar on the TV and we saw a huge, dark, concentrated cell of storms centered right on Pope County, where we would have been had we stayed at our camp site. We were suddenly very happy that we had split when we did.

Today our vacation ended. Kate had to get back to Minneapolis to start her new job, I have a gig tomorrow. The whole week was nothing like we'd planned, everything got tossed out the window with the rain, but we wound up having a wonderful time.

Next time, though, we don't stay home, we find someplace else. Apart from the time off from work, this didn't really feel like a vacation to me. Next time will be more fun!

Hiding From the Past

on Sunday, June 8, 2008

I haven't dug my fingers into the earth yet this year and was itching to do so. My friend, Naomi, brought me a catnip plant to replace the one I had that didn't come back this year (can you imagine that? A fricking catnip plant!) and after planting it I wanted more! I also have an area of the yard right on the front corner that is a pain in the ass to mow and have been thinking about converting into a small flower garden. So the other day I went to Home Depot to see what they had for plants. I picked out a Blanket Flower, a Coreopsis and a Speedwell and went to stand in line to pay for them. This is when the hiding started, I saw my ex-ex-boss, the guy who taught me how to roast coffee, the guy who fired me for being "too efficient."

I haven't spoken to him since the day he fired me and this in only the second time I've seen him in 13 years. The first time was a the funeral of Marge Hams, who, with her husband Al, ran Al's Music in St. Cloud since the mid-70s. I was talking to the guys from Slip Twister, who had just played a rockin' version of Spirit in the Sky, per Marge's request before she died, and I saw him come around the corner in the line of people going to the basement of the church for cookies and coffee. I made a hasty exit from the church before he could see me.

I worked for him for 2-1/2 years. I roasted beans for two of those years. I watched him take this lovely little coffee house with pineapples on the carpet and the flag outside (an international symbol of welcome) and crystal containers of sugar cubes at every table and turn it into a piece of shit. I swear, he must have lived by the motto, "Treat the Customer as the Enemy," because he drove people away in droves.

Tracto mos ut hostes hostium

The stories of his martinet-style of employee management are numerous, from penciling small "X's" on the floor of the kitchen area to make sure the employees were mopping, to telling an employee who was making drinks for customers to stop what he was doing and hang some shelves instead.

For a long time we got along great, I thought I understood his brand of crazy. I didn't agree with him on everything, but we got along just fine. The day he fired me came so far out of left field I would never have expected it.

It was a Friday, by this time he had closed the coffee shop because he didn't like people coming and going all day, but we were still roasting beans. He was out making deliveries, I was working at the roastery. I had finished all my work for the day, the shelves were full of bags of coffee, all alphabetized and organized, and I had everything prepped for Monday. It was 2:30 pm. I usually worked until 4:30, but there was nothing left to do. I sat there for a while doing nothing and decided to go home, better that than make him pay me for two hours of sitting around. Keep in mind that I pretty much set my own hours, we had no time clock and I had left early before with no problems.

Apparently he had forgotten some product and needed to get back to the roastery for more. Even though, as I mentioned before, the shelves were full and everything was well organized, he wanted me to be standing there handing him what he had forgotten. Instead he had to get out of his van and do it himself.

That Monday I had been working for a few hours by the time he came in. Normally we would banter a bit and then go off and do our own thing, but this time he paced the back hallway and the back room for about 20 minutes. I knew something was up, but what happened next took me totally by surprise.

He finally walked up to me, full of purpose and said, "Things just aren't being done to my satisfaction. I'll pay you to the end of the week, but you're fired." And he walked away.

I sat there stunned for several minutes.

Then I gathered my personal belongings into a small box and walked out the back door. He was doing something in the back of his van and as I walked by he said, "I love ya, man."

"You picked a really fucking strange way of showing it," I said.

I walked out of his door, around the corner and into the door of the new Meeting Grounds coffee shop. I asked them for a job and, because they knew who I was, was hired on the spot. I spent all of 30 seconds unemployed. I stayed with them for the next ten years until they went out of business and I started up Muggsy's Beans.

So I just stood there in line at the Home Depot as he and his wife shopped for gardening supplies while I alternately hid behind my plants or stood facing away from them. I didn't want them to see me. I would have nothing good to say to him, except maybe, "thanks for the great career, fucker."

I took my plants home and got them into the ground just before it started to rain.