Friday, May 31, 2013

Thrilled to be working on my son's car with him

A few weeks ago, Junior bought his first car.
Well, technically he borrowed the money from his parents to buy his first car, but he is slowly and surely paying it off.

He is good about stuff like that.
For a first car, it is nice. It's a 1998 Cavalier Z22 with barely 105,000 kilometres on it. It is a shiny red, five speed that we acquired at a good price.

My first car was a red 1972 Toyota Corrolla. It had a four speed hooked up to a 1,200 CC engine and was, without argument, the slowest car in my entire high school.

I am pretty sure the school’s lawnmower could go faster, but it was a car and it was all mine. Looking back, it was the perfect car for someone with my enthusiasm for driving: it was slow, it got great gas mileage, and it was slow.

I drove it for three whole days before getting into an accident. It was a minor fender-bender when I clipped the back bumper of a rather large truck, ripping the front right fender from where it was supposed to be.

I sheepishly drove the car home and showed my dad who was less than impressed with the customization I had done.

Eventually I found a replacement fender, painted it a similar colour and the only way you could tell it was in an accident was by looking at it.

It was still pretty obvious the car had been crunched, but considering what was in store for the little car that could, an odd-looking fender was the least of it.
Numerous speeding tickets (I guess it wasn’t slow enough) and at least one accident later – I rear-ended a car that stopped on the bridge and sliding into the ditch in the snow does not count as accidents – it was time to get rid of the beater-mobile. I had put on more than 48,000 kilometres in less than 18 months and the car was a little rough around the edges, and in the middle, and the front, and back and...

I sold the Crash-olla and purchased a very beat up 1969 Nova. It was rusted, blew more smoke than a Woodstock reunion and was in need of some serious repairs. I loved it.

The next couple of years would see me scouring every auto wrecker in the city, looking for one part after another.

One particular wrecker had a great selection of old Chevys and quickly became my favourite stop. It got to the point where the guys behind the counter would look up, see it was me and simply point to the back, allowing me free access to roam and find what I needed.

While Junior's car is much cooler than my little Crash-olla, and in way better shape that my Nova, we still made a trip to the wreckers the other day because he wanted to replace the shifter knob.

It was almost magical to be heading to the wrecker with my son to retrieve a part needed for his automobile.

Being a small item, the man behind the counter said, “The Chevys are on the far fence, help yourself.”

Awesome, now I could traipse through a car graveyard with my son on a quest to find a needed part.

As we searched, we talked about this car and that car before finding the part we needed.
The shifter knob was not a perfect match, but we drilled it out a little bit so it would fit.

Once it was attached, we spent the next hour going over all the modifications he wanted to make from a thumping stereo (just like dad's) to fancy rims (just like dad's) to a bevy of motor modifications.

“All it takes is time and money, son. You'll get there eventually.”

It took me almost three years to transform my rusted-out Nova into a beautiful three-tone blue cruising machine with a rebuilt motor, chrome rims and a stereo loud enough to be heard in space. Finances dictated the engine remain stock, but at least it was a good looking car.

I sold my beloved Nova 20 years ago to pay for bills life had thrown at my wife and I. I miss that car to this day.

But now, I get to go through the car-customizing process again with my son.

How cool is that.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A shopping we will go and go and go and...

I thought it would be a fun little thing for us to do - some together time while spending money, who wouldn’t enjoy that?
Do to a nasty sewage backup – that is not the fun part, believe me – we had to replace several damaged items in our basement.
The insurance company was really good and signed off on our claim without a single word of complaint, sending us a cheque to replace our damaged goods, allowing us a small shopping spree.
The Missus and I discussed the new pantry we wanted to get, along with a few other items that were, um, soiled by the backed-up-pipes calamity of 2013.
I am not a real big fan of shopping. There are a few exceptions, but generally it is not my favourite sport.
The Missus, however, has taken it to a whole different level and this is where things started going off the rails.
Heading out to area stores, I figured we would go in, get what we need and get out seeing as we already knew what we wanted.
After 25 years of marriage, you would think I would have learned by now, but no one ever accused me of being a genius – ever.
Our shopping plan was going perfectly, until we arrived at the store that is.
I went straight to the aisle we were looking for, located the pantry we wanted and was pleased that we would be out of there in a matter of minutes.
Then I turned around and saw the Little Woman at the other end of the aisle checking out different cabinets and pantries.
“Um, Honey, Sweetheart, the one we want is right here. See, I am touching it right now. Look, there it is.”
Barely glancing up, my wife informed me she kind of liked the one she was looking at.
OK, no problem, let’s get that one.
“I don’t know. I like this one, but the other one is nice too.”
Thus starting a debate with herself that would result in us leaving the store without either one so she could think about it for a while.
So she thought about it, then thought about it some more, looked at the space, and spent the next couple of days thinking about it.
Meanwhile I was thinking I could have already had the pantry assembled and stocked with enough food to get us through the apocalypse, or until my teen age son and his friends came by – which, by the way, often feel like the same thing.
Anyway, there was still an empty space where our new pantry should be and we continued to dig through boxes to find the dried foods we were seeking.
My wife then went online to search out more pantries, resulting in a trip to a different store to look at different cabinets that looked very similar to the ones we had already looked at, but were different enough to make her go home and think it over for a couple of days.
I am beginning to notice a pattern here. Another trip to a another store uncovered even more pantries. They looked very much like the other ones we had investigated, but they were different enough for my wife to want to go home and think about it and…you know the story by now.
We made several trips to various stores before settling on a pantry that looked a lot like the first one we were checking out. It might have been for all I know because by that point, I had lost track.
I lugged the big box full of wood to my humble home, assembled it and loaded it with food, happy the pantry ordeal had finally been resolved.
However, I was not out of the shopping woods yet – not by a long shot.
You see, the hallway carpet also had to be replaced and when we walked into the flooring store I almost hit the floor as I looked at the dozens of options available to us.
Darren Handschu

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My name is Darren and I am not addicted to my cell phone

I think of it as a cosmic balancing of the universe.And I am OK with that.You see, I have a cell phone and that drives my wife crazy. Right now wives everywhere are rolling their eyes, shaking their heads and muttering under their breath about their own hubby’s cellular mistress.But this problem may surprise many wives out there - I am not addicted to my cell phone.In fact, I can’t stand the stupid thing.My wife on the other hand is no more than 30 centimetres away from hers at any given point in time.If it buzzes, rings or beeps she is on it faster than a dog on a three-legged cat.The youngsters are even worse. My son sends more texts in a day than I thought were humanly possible.As for me, I am not too attached the infernal device and I waited - perhaps better described as resisted - for a long time to get a cell phone.“But if you had one, then we could get in touch with you no matter where you are or what you are doing.”And that is exactly why I waited so long to get one. I don’t really want people to get in touch with me no matter where I am or what I am doing.And it is this attitude that drives the Little Woman absolutely bonkers.“Why do you even have a cell phone?” she has asked on more than one occasion.“Mostly because you made me get one,” is oft my reply as I watch the steam shoot out of her ears.I admit cell phones can be handy little devices in case of emergency. Like when you can’t find the Missus in the mall and if you spend one more minute rambling around the centre for shopping your head will explode.Then a phone comes in handy to send a quick text, connect with the Missus and plead my case for leaving.They also come in handy for keeping in touch with the children, who are usually scattered to the wind with their friends.But when I am doing yard work, exercising or engaged in a variety of other activities, I do not want to stop and answer the stupid phone – so I don’t, and that drives my wife nuts.But like I said, I consider it balancing out one annoying trait she has that drives me nuts.I can move pretty fast when the occasion calls for it. If we are running late I can fly around the house and get ready faster than The Flash on Red Bull. At work, I can move so fast there’s smoke coming off my keyboard.However, my wife only has one speed – medium/slow. That’s it. That is the only speed she can move at.It doesn’t matter what the situation is, how late we are running or where we have to be, she moves at medium/slow.It took many years for me to accept this is just how she is. No amount of talking, prompting or complaining will get her to move any faster.Believe me, I have tried and tried and tried…It still drives me crazy, but after 25 years of wedded bliss, it is just something I have learned to live with.And that brings us back to that infernal electronic gizmo so many people have.The way I see it, I have gotten used to her medium/slow pace, so she is going to have accept I am unable to bond with my cell phone.After having the electronic device from hell for less than three years (I told you I waited a long time to get one) I have no plans of increasing my cellular prowess.She will just have to get used to it, and one of these days I am going to summon up enough courage to tell her that.Hmmmm, maybe I could send her a text.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Big 5-0 here I come

I am not quite there yet, but I am rapidly closing in on my 50th birthday.
That is half a century on this earth, five decades, 600 months, 18,250 days, 438,000 hours – you get the idea.
I thought by now I would be a lot smarter than I am, but I am still not as smart as my teenage children.
I never went through a mid-life crisis when I turned the big 4-0, but they say 40 is the new 30, so that makes 50 the new 40 (whatever that is supposed to mean).
Or maybe I am just having a delayed reaction to watching my youth disappear in the rearview mirror of life.
I wondered what I was supposed to act like when I turned 40. I still liked the same things I did when I was 30, or even 20 for that matter. I still liked motorcycles, martial arts and hanging out with friends.
Now that 50 is looming like a big rig careening toward me in the wrong lane on the highway of life ready to splatter me on the grill like a potbellied, bald bug, I must admit to feeling some pangs of mid-life troubles. I know I hide it well, but it true.
It is a bit of a falsehood actually, because mid-life at 50 means I will live to 100 and based on my less-than-stellar younger years, I doubt that will happen.
I wouldn’t complain if I did, but I am not counting on it.
So as I look in the mirror at my ever-whitening beard and the growing crop of wrinkles showing up where they never used to be, I have been reflectively looking back on my life and asking, “What the hell happened?”
It seems like just yesterday I was a snot-nosed punk in my teens ready to take on the world with enough energy and not enough smarts to actually try it.
Now, all of my children are teenagers. That can’t be right. When I was a teen, my parents seemed so old, so if my kids are now in their teen years that must mean I am, um, moving on...
The thing is, I don’t feel old. I don’t imagine my parents did at this age either.
My oldest will be out of his teens this summer. As he reaches another milestone in his life, I find myself thinking about what I was doing at his age and hoping he never finds out what I was doing at his age.
I was not really bad at that age (or any age for that matter), but there are a few things I would prefer my kids don’t do.
To the best of my knowledge they haven’t, but then again my parents never knew what I was up to so who knows what they are actually doing. I prefer to think they are spreading good will among their fellow man and helping little, old ladies across the street.
The thing that hit me between the eyes like a thunderbolt from the heavens was when I realized that when I got married, my dad was not much older than I am now.
I never gave it much thought back then. I never looked at life through my parent’s eyes (who does at that age), but as the years pile on I see things through more mature lenses.
It is interesting to see life from this point of view. I can look back and recall how I was feeling, what I was thinking and just how downright dumb I was all those years ago.
But at the time, I thought I was pretty darn smart.
Hopefully, the years will continue to tick by, and one day I hope to be a cranky old man sitting in my favourite chair, complaining about the government, these young whippersnappers, cold drafts and looking back at when I turned 50 and marveling at what a young punk I was.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Retreat, hell, we surrender

With each passing second the situation grew increasingly dire.
Slowly but surely, the noose was being tightened.
Young faces turned in my direction, longing for advice, guidance and perhaps a ray of hope from their newly appointed leader.
I knew it was up to me to make the decision we had long tried to resist.
There were no other choices and an act of desperation was the only door we could open to bring such a daunting situation to a close.
So I made the tough call: I sat down raised my hands and yelled, “We surrender.”
This decision pleased one of my young charges immediately.
“Yea, we surrender,” he shouted with glee.
A chorus of “We surrender. We surrender” quickly echoed through the woods as the others joined in.
We may have lost the battle, but our little rag tag group would escape harm and be ready for the next, thus ending the first paintball game of the year.
I am not sure how I ended up surrounded by bad guys with just four 10-12 year olds as back up, but I knew the situation was desperate enough to relinquish our flag to the advancing forces.
There were other adults on my team, but they were off in the bushes somewhere, waging their own war, leaving me and the young ones to defend our flag (which is actually an old dish towel) from the grubby grip of our barbaric foes.
At first, I thought maybe we could fight our way out. After all, when someone was hit they have to return to their own fort and touch their flag before rejoining the action.
That’s how I ended up trapped in my fort as numerous paintball markers rained their colourful ammo upon us.
I tend to get shot quite a bit at paintball, resulting in a collection of welts and many trips to the re-spawning point that is our flag.
I am large and rather slow, so stealth is not my forte, and getting the snot shot out of me on a regular basis is pretty much how I play the game.
It hurts, but it is also a lot of fun so the gain outweighs the pain.
Anyway, so there I was, the last bastion of hope to protect our flag. Once I re-spawned and was able to re-join the fray, I ran to the left about 15 feet before being hit.
I turned around, tagged the flag and was back in the battle – for about five seconds.
I moved to the right and got hit yet again. I then began to realize just how many enemy ‘guns’ were pointing at us.
I looked at the four young lads who were huddled under the flag, unwilling to move after witnessing so many paintballs splatter all over me like bugs on a windshield.
I knew they were not about to join the battle, nor did I expect them to, meaning it was myself against a far superior force.
Thoughts of Rambo, Arnold and Chuck ran through my mind.
I formulated a plan that would make any action hero proud. With the speed of a ninja on Red Bull, I would jump down the embankment, taking out one, possibly two of the devil dogs as I went. Then I would charge the others, blasting them into paintball Valhalla as I unleashed the full fury of my assault.
This would be the last thing they would expect. No one in their right mind would try something so brazen, so aggressive, so esprit des corp.
And there is a good reason why no one would try it: because it was stupid.
I made it less than 10 feet into my Hollywood-style assault when three guns opened up on me, sending a wall of paintball ammo in my direction.
OK, on to plan B.
With wide eyes, my four young comrades watched as the mist of exploding paint settled to the forest floor and I grunted like a water buffalo from the pain of being hit.
I looked at my charges and knew there was only one thing left to do – surrender wholly and completely.
Which we did - with enthusiasm.