Octopus’ Garden

Det. Frank Drebin: Is there a ransom note?
Capt. Ed Hocken: Yes. The butler found it. It was tied to this window and thrown into the rock garden.

Police Squad!, "The Butler Did It (A Bird in the Hand)" (3/18/82)

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A few weeks ago my neighbor and I decided to coordinate some of our gardening activities this year. With a little luck it would keep the overall cost down and ensure that both families got lots of produce. She volunteered to start all the seeds during Spring Break (because we were away), so we’re looking at stuff that wants to get planted soon.

Last week S (my neighbor) and I went to the OrangeBoxOfTools to get some landscaping timbers, since I wanted a raised bed for the vegetable garden this year. Keiko is pretty good about staying out of gardens; sometimes I have to train her by using the cheap wire fences for a few weeks. But last year the vegetable garden looked kind of…I don’t know, forlorn, being at ground level and all. Plus, the raised bed helps with moisture retention in the soil and is thereby a bit more water-conservative.

The bed I wanted to build is 16 feet long by 4 feet wide by 9 inches (three timbers) deep, so we needed to get 15 timbers in all, and have the OBOT guy cut three of them in half. My worry was getting these things home, but S said it was no problem, we’d take her truck.

In her parlance, "truck" is a Lexus SUV wagon. It’s got space, but I’m not so sure about this. She swears they’re all going to go in this, and I acquiesce. We go in the Lexus. We get 15 timbers for me, a couple more for her, a bunch of 60d nails (about as big as you can get it before they start calling it a "spike"), and a few odds and ends she needs for the kitchen that she and her husband are renovating. On this particular trip that meant one of those huge buckets of joint compound and a sheet of lattice work.

Here’s an aside: the names of the nails used to be the cost per 100. Thus, a 60d nail would cost sixty cents per 100. The "d" is pronounced "penny" and don’t ask me why. At some point–not that long ago–they simply standardized the names into representing specific sizes. So a nail that used to cost 60 cents per hundred now retails for eighteen cents each

So here we are, in front of OrangeBoxOfTools, and this is where we discover that even when you put the back seats down, there still isn’t enough room for the timbers. Well, if you have to tie the tailgate down, that’s the way it goes. "No way," she said. "I’m not driving around like that." Now, even if you take side streets all the way (as we do), we’re talking no more than five minutes’ drive altogether. This isn’t a hardship. But for S, where there’s a will there’s a way. For her, the way is pushing the timbers through into the front seat area, and stacking them atop one another. After the first eleven we had to start a second row, which rested on the left side of the top of the passenger seat. The cut ones were much easier, of course; we just tossed ’em into the back area. And the lattice was tied to the roof of the car. We used about 700 miles of twine to tie that sucker down. If we’d attached it crosswise, the car would have actually caught air and taken off like an airplane. Which would have been cool except for the part where the wind would die down and we’d fall like the Neo-Nazis’ Ford Pinto did in The Blues Brothers.

Planter_bed(Pictured: not my bed, but it looks enough like it not to matter.)

That was last weekend. During the week, S. called around to see whether she could get a decent deal on topsoil. I figured I’d need in the neighborhood of two cubic yards of the stuff, and she needed about half that. She contemplated a lot of different ways of getting it, including buying an entire pallet of bags. But in the end, S got someone to deliver three yards in bulk, dropping it in the alley behind our properties. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I didn’t get all of it into my planting bed before the rains came yesterday. And as you know, there was a LOT of rain. I actually emptied several gallons of water from the wheelbarrow I’ve been using. So at this point, I’m looking at a lot of mud (maybe a half a yard or so) in the alley that still needs to be moved. That stuff is going to be heavy when I get back to it.

Look at That “S” Car Go!

Kurtz: I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream. That’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight… razor… and surviving.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

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One of the things that I truly enjoy about having the house in Parkville is having more space. Specifically, having a space to keep a decent-sized fish tank.

I’m the sort of person who would rather have about twenty small fish in my tank than two or three big ones, so I’ve got a pretty good mix going on in there. And now that I’ve got the Badass Gourami out of there, it seems like everyone’s getting along, so that’s cool too.

I go for as much realism as possible. No little plastic divers in there for me. I use live plants, real rocks (although I do have a fake piece of driftwood in there), a couple of pieces of coral I got in Florida, and a few giant barnacles. And, even though they tell you that you shouldn’t use it, I put real sand in the bottom of the tank, which I mix with pebbles. And then I’ll find an interesting rock or two and throw that in as well.

A couple of weeks ago we were, oh hell, I don’t know, somewhere in the Towson area. We were in a Red Circle Boutique picking up something or other, and as we circled around I spotted a PetSmart. I realized that I needed to pick up vacation feeders for while we were in Florida, so we stopped in. In addition to the vacation feeders I looked into the plant tank to see if they had anything cooler than the stuff they sell at Petco.

I asked the girl there, who appeared to have a pretty decent clue, if she knew whether the plants in the tank were genuine aquatic plants. Here’s something I learned the hard way: many of the plants that the big pet chains sell aren’t aquatic in nature; they just look kind of cool and that’s why they don’t live very long. So you do have to ask these things, as it turns out. She pointed out a couple and I said "great, wrap ’em up."

Not long after that I discovered that I’d also purchased a couple of stowaways.

At first, I thought that the new plants were fragile and/or weren’t taking root. I kept finding pieces of them drifting through the tank or floating on the top. Then I saw the two little black things on the glass. Is the charcoal coming out of the filter? No…wait. One of them is MOVING.

Son of a bitch. I’ve got snails in my tank and they’re eating the plants. So far I’ve found four of them altogether. The plants seem to be recovering, but I get the feeling that there may be one or two more. 

Funny You Should Ask, Geisha

Simon Baines: They can’t evict you on Christmas! Then you’d be ho-ho-homeless!

Go (1999)

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Today was my day in Rent Court.

I’d been there once before, when I was a renter and my roommate and I paid the rent a couple of days (as in, TWO days) late. Regional Management (Boo!) jumps on that sort of thing like a starving dog jumps on raw meat. So we had to go and demonstrate that we’d already paid. So I knew it was a lot of "Be There On Time So You Can Sit Around Waiting," therefore that wasn’t much of a surprise. Plus, this time I’m on the side of the angels so there’s no anxiety here.

As I mentioned earlier, on the day that I filed for the eviction I got a call from the tenants’ daughter, who was living with them. She wanted to meet with me. So GF and I went down to Morrell Park to find out what was going on.

It turned out that her parents had cleaned out their stuff and bailed out of the house, leaving her there. They didn’t even tell her that they were doing this; they did it on the sly while she was at work. They did, however, leave a check for the July rent, half of which, she told me, came from her.

So the parents, my tenants, are in a state of Whereabouts Unknown, and the daughter, who isn’t on the lease but is in the house, is left in the lurch. She and her boyfriend do want to stay, however, and even enlisted an adult friend (someone—ahem—closer to my age) to vouch for them. I wasn’t sure how this was all going to work out because we’re all in the woods from a legal standpoint. But I figure I’ll take the July check, keep the security deposit and call it August, and get the judge to vacate the original lease so I can start over with them. I contact my attorney friend and he says that judges tend to like any solution that doesn’t involve calling in the Sheriff, but we’d still have to get the court’s OK to do this.

In the interim, the check bounces because they’d put a stop payment on it. Even the daughter is pissed because she’s out her half of that money. In fact, she’s out twice because she’d paid them for July and August.

Flash-forward to today.

I’m in the rent court and, watching the other cases going up, realize that the judge doesn’t really want to hear the whole thing. So when I get called up, I tell the judge that the tenants appear to have abandoned the property. He asks me, "Have you reclaimed the property?" I tell him no, that I was waiting for the court to give me permission. He says, "Go ahead, then." And we’re done.

So I don’t know. Maybe I’m stupid to allow the daughter to stay, but at the same time I’ve been the broke kid who needs a little compassion from a relative stranger. But she also knows that she’s on thin ice because of what happened earlier, so I think she’s going to be more careful about doing stuff in a timely fashion. Worse comes to worst, I’m back in court again and the house-renting experiment is over.

Kentucky Fried Money Orders

Chandler: I’m gonna be moving out, so you are gonna be in charge of paying the rent.
Joey: Right! And when is that deal?
Chandler: First of the month.
Joey: And that’s every month?
Chandler: No, just the months you actually want to live here.

–Friends, "The One on the Last Night" (11/4/99)

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I’ve been having some trouble with the people renting my Morrell Park house. (Because it’s important that I make the distinction that it’s the Morrell Park house I’m renting out, I’m so goddamn rich. Heh.) Anyway, they’ve been late on the rent for awhile. June’s rent was a month late, and as of last week July and August hadn’t been paid. So on the advice of an attorney (who usually specializes in the tenant’s end of things), I composed a letter outlining the history of my attempts to collect rent and giving them ten business days to get things straightened out. Last Friday was Day 10, and I heard nothing. So on Monday I went to Rent Court to get a date for an eviction.

Rent Court is in the courthouse on Fayette Street, so I parked in the garage on Gay Street and walked over. As I went in, I had to empty my pockets so my stuff could be run through the X-Ray machine. The guard looked in the tub and asked if I had any change, since it could set off the metal detector. I had none and walked through.

Neither I, nor the guard, nor the metal detector ever noticed my glasses perched atop my head.

Got my stuff together and went down the stairs to the clerk’s window. I was second in line and we waited several minutes before someone finally got to us. I explained what was going on and I was handed a form, fill in all these spaces please and press down hard with your pen.

Pen? Damn. I took the form outside and walked a couple of blocks to a convenience store and bought a pen and a bottle of soda. Back to the courthouse and emptying my pockets again, this time including change. Glasses still made it through the detector.

I sat down and filled out the form, then brought it up to the clerk. She reviewed it, had me fill out a blank space I’d skipped, then told me to take it to the cashier’s window.

The fee for an eviction comes in two parts. Part of the fee goes to the court, and another part goes directly to the city. The cashier asked me first for the city portion, which is five dollars, check or money order only.

"I can’t pay cash?"

"Not for this fee, no."

I can’t believe I’m going to leave the building again. "Where can I get a money order around here?"

"There’s a place around the corner," she told me. Go out the front of the building, then around to the left, and turn right. There’s a fried chicken place. You can get them in there."

"Fried chicken, right." This, she found kind of funny.

Out of the building again and off to my first stroll along that section of East Baltimore Street that they call The Block. Sure enough, there’s a fried chicken place. I go inside and it turns out that there are at least four businesses in there. The chicken place, another place that sells cellphones and other gizmos, then there’s a booth that sells only lottery tickets, and all the way in the back is a liquor store. This is where I get the money orders.

Back to the courthouse for the third time. By now I’ve figured out the bit with the glasses and don’t even worry about them when I go through the detector. This is pretty much how Don Lucchesi bought it, as I recall, the deadly glasses routine. But, whatever. Back to the cashier’s window, where of course there’s a line now. I finally pay my fees and have a court date.

But here’s the weird part. About an hour after I got home I got a phone call from the renters’ daughter. It turns out that her parents abandoned the place, leaving her pretty much in the lurch. She wants to stay in the house, however. Stay tuned, this could get interesting.   

There’s a Little Bit of Snay in All of Us

Hurley: Dude, that beer has been sitting there since Rocky III. Maybe even Rocky II. It’s probably poison by now.
Sawyer: Yeah? Well Skeletor seems to like it. Bottoms up! [clinks can on corpses head]

Lost, "Tricia Tanaka is Dead" (2/28/07)

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The Pig Roast was a week ago. GF and I got most of the cleanup done last Sunday, but we left a few things out that we figured we could afford to. Among them were the folding tables and a pair of coolers that, last I saw, had nothing but ice in it.

Yesterday I looked out the back and decided I was going to finish putting stuff away. Yeah, yardwork is sort of low-priority for me. So I folded the tables and put them in the garage, along with some of the extra chairs. I took the first cooler and opened the drain, then dragged it to the garage, leaving a trail of water behind me.

The second cooler wasn’t a nice plastic jobbie; it was an old Omaha Steaks mailing box that GF’s mom used to bring the foods she’d prepared. She took the food out and we put ice in. I opened it up to pour out the water and found that it wasn’t just ice.

There was also a pair of bottles of the beer that Snay had brought to the party. Had I known they were in there, I’d have rescued them a week ago. As it was, they’d been in the heat all week and were likely skunked. So I popped the tops off of them ("Where’s the goddamn opener!?") and poured them into the garden. In case you didn’t know, this is a great use for old beer; it’s full of nutrients and your vegetables will love you for it.

It’s also a quick way to raised stewed tomatoes. Heh.

So when I harvest me a few tomatoes in a couple of weeks, I’ll have Snay Geisha to thank for providing me with some of the plant food. And I’ll have to remind GF that she’s eating some of the "weird beer" (as she described it) as she munches some of my bruschetta, or salsa, or spaghetti sauce.

PS Happy Birthday to Geisha!

Edited to add: OK, so it was Geisha’s beer, not Snay’s. They arrived together so a little confusion is, I think, understandable. But I kind of like this post title better. Plus, all the other stuff I wrote in the next post.

Our House, Is a Very Very Very Warm House

Gus McCrae: Well we don’t rent pigs and I figure it’s better to say it right out front because a man that does like to rent pigs is… he’s hard to stop.

Lonesome Dove (1989)

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Yesterday, GF and I held a housewarming/barbecue. It was the first time we were having serious company at the house, so we made an extra effort to get boxes unpacked (or stashed away) and turn the house into a reasonably presentable place. Between that and whatever shopping we had to do this week, it’s small wonder that I haven’t been seen here in the last few days.

The party was a pretty big deal, from a scale perspective. We had maybe 40-45 people there. It’s hard to tell, since there’s some ebb and flow to the guests, plus when I start tabulating bodies before the party, I don’t count kids and dates. And the centerpiece of it all was the roasted pig.

This is the part that a lot of people just didn’t seem to believe, that I was roasting a pig. The invitation said it was a pig roast; I’m not sure what the issue was. But a fair percentage of people insisted on seeing the pig.

Their next question was usually: "Where do you get a whole pig, anyway?" The answer in my case was Fenwicks, which is in the Cross Street Market. I found them through an Internet search when another place, which was recommended to me, didn’t return my call. One person, incredulously, asked me, "Really! They have pigs there?" Well, you have to order it in advance. It’s not as though you can walk in and point out the one you want under the glass. The address I had from my search gave an address on Charles Street, so in the morning I went down there and started cruising the area. Finally I gave up and called them. That’s when I found out they were in the market itself.

When I got there, they had my pig. At 49 pounds, it was a little bigger than I’d expected, but what the hell. They hadn’t butterflied it yet, so the owner, a fellow named Henry, took it out of its packaging and and I held it down while he took a hacksaw to the spine. Despite that, it’s a delicate operation (heh) because you have to cut through the bone but not the skin, otherwise you have two half pigs, which isn’t nearly as interesting.  Our operation actually drew a small crowd, and a couple of people who asked me where I live. Wee One and Daughter were with me. Daughter was simultaneously grossed out and fascinated. She’s seen me roast the pigs before but this was the first time she’d come face-to-face with it in the store. Wee One named it Wilbur. I can’t tell if that’s because she hated Charlotte’s Web or as an homage to it. 

Then, a quick stop at the Sam’s Club in Port Covington to buy a metric shitload of ice, and we’re back to Parkville. And I ran low on ice anyway, early in the evening. GF’s mom had to make a quick run to a supermarket. 

Now, Friday night, I picked up a bunch of cinderblocks and some rebar to keep them from falling over, and I arranged them into a rectangle in the unpaved alley behind my house. (The alley dead-ends two houses down, so I wasn’t blocking traffic.) For the grill itself I’d purchased a stainless steel industrial wire shelving unit (also at Sam’s) and used two of the shelves from that jobbie. The holes in the corners that the upright posts go through made nice guides for the rebar. So the grill was about two feet off the ground. When I got back with the pig, I started a wood fire in this above-ground "pit". Once the flames had died down I threw in about ten pounds of charcoal briquets and put the pig on the grill, body cavity-side down. About every half-hour or so I’d throw a couple of handfuls of charcoal into the pit. After three hours I flipped the pig over. So it was about ready to eat by 5:00. The bad news was, the guests were coming at 6:00. So I had to basically "turn down the heat" by banking the coals a little bit and not putting as many briquets in. I also dumped about three quarts of barbecue sauce all over, which slowed it down a little as well.

About the barbecue sauce: My brother is a huge fan of barbecue and cooks on his grill using the smoker function a lot, and he gave me the recipe for the sauce. Of course, his recipe yields about a pint of the stuff, so I’m multiplying it to make something like seven quarts altogether. My version of the recipe involved chopping a couple of onions, and using an entire bottle of Liquid Smoke. You get the idea. I made it early Thursday morning specifically so I could get the tomato sauce cans into recycling that morning and not have them to deal with along with the other trash. Is that a little weird?

Six o’clock and the bodies start arriving. GF is giving tours of the house and I’m welcoming people and getting the food out, pouring drinks and so forth. We had two medical emergencies crop up within ten minutes of each other, but were organized enough that few people even knew the first one had happened. The second one took place in front of everybody, so keeping that one quiet was tougher.

At any rate, I heard a lot of nice things about the house and the food, and I was so glad that everyone appeared to have a good time. It was a nice mix of people, including work friends (one of whom I hadn’t seen in a few years), a bunch of my new neighbors and even a few people from the local blogosphere. So if you’re reading this and you were there, thanks so much for coming by and I hope you’ll return for future events! 

Not So Great News

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Dick Solomon: I want ceaseless joy and never-ending passion like Romeo and Juliet.
Mary Albright: They both wound up dead.
Dick Solomon: Antony and Cleopatra.
Mary Albright: Dead.
Dick Solomon: That couple from Wuthering Heights.
Mary Albright: Insane and dead.
Dick Solomon: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda.
Mary Albright: Drunk, insane, and dead.
Dick Solomon: Tristan and Isolde.
Mary Albright: Abgeschossen.
Dick Solomon: Aha, Siegfried and Roy.
Mary Albright: Okay, one.

Third Rock From The Sun

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Two bits of bad news I got recently:

First, nobody knows when, or whether, I’ll get promoted. I found out awhile back that they’d hired someone into the position I’d applied for. That kind of pissed me off, since I was told I was probably their strongest candidate. But then I found out that this person had been on the eligibility list for over a year, so it’s sort of a bad news/good news thing. I’m not necessarily out of the running. On the other hand, however, I already know that my school assignment hasn’t changed for next year so if they know that then chances are they’re not considering me at this time. Feh. Their loss.

Second, I noticed that the crabs are pretty lethargic lately. I did a little more research and it turns out that you really shouldn’t keep them in fresh water; they need brackish stuff. I don’t really have the ability to provide that for them, so they’re going to be dead before long, if they aren’t already. They might have told me that at the pet store, feckers.

When in Maryland

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Dr. Camille Saroyan: [about the crabs that had eaten away most of the victim’s body] Opportunistic little bastards.

—Bones, "Bodies in the Book" (3/14/07)

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For the first time since I moved down here I’ve had both the space and the money to set up a decent fish tank.

It’s a 38-gallon model. I got a decent deal at Petco, with the stand and the hood and a filter that will at least do the job until I can get an AquaClear.

I set up the tank and, as is my habit, I put a mixture of sand and gravel in the bottom. Yeah, I know that you’re not supposed to use sand (I forget why) but it looks more natural and it’s never given me any problems. In this case, however, the sand was pretty fine and the filter wasn’t getting all of the fine stuff out, so I had to do a near-total water change to clear up the water. Anyway.

I ran the tank for a few days, and once I figured I had a reasonably stable environment I decided it was time to get my pilot fish. A "pilot" fish is the one you throw into the tank, and if it lives, then you populate the tank as you like. Canary in the coal mine, as it were.

So I went back to Petco and I picked up a couple of live plants and—say, what’s that in the tank with the plants? A fiddler crab! I’d never thought of putting crabs in a tank before. But this is Maryland, after all. I bought two and put them in the tank as my pilots.

They worked out pretty well, so a day later I got a bunch of other fish. Nothing too exotic; I tend to get lots of little fish rather than two or three big ones. This tank has a few different tetras and a couple of dwarf gouramis. .

And, of course, a pair of crabs. Which, it turns out, are escape artists. They like to climb up the air hoses, the drop tube on the filter, whatever, and climb out of the tank altogether. It’s not cool when you’re checking out your fishtank and one of its denizens is scuttling around atop the hood.

A little research turns up that they actually need to do this; they have to breathe some actual air once in awhile. The hard part, then, is keeping them on the inside of the glass. I saw a posting on Yahoo! Answers that suggested using the plastic egg crate stuff ordinarily used as diffusers for fluorescent lighting fixtures. It’s cheap, it’s light, it’s easy to work with, and it will keep the crabs inside the tank while allowing them to climb out of the water. So we’ll see how that works out.

Tripping the Light? Fantastic.

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Dr. Cox: I don’t know what to tell you, there, Bobbo. Either this kid has a light bulb up his butt or his colon has a great idea.

—Scrubs, "My Office" (9/7/04)

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When planning the move, we started to think about whether we should get some new furniture for the Wee One. We made the final decision right after her grandparents decided that they were going to buy her a new set of furniture. Hey, who are we to complain?

So we gave some stuff to the people renting the house and got rid of other stuff. At this point she has a rudimentary dresser, a bed, and a lamp. The other furniture was ordered somewhere in Pennsylvania and they’re still building it, or growing the tree, or whatever. It’s not in her room, is all I know.

So she decides that she’s going to put her lamp on the floor next to the bed, rather than on the dresser. I don’t know, something about a night light. The lamp has a compact fluorescent bulb in it, the kind that’s all twisty, and no lampshade.

Thursday morning we’re awakened by a crash and a scream. GF gets up immediately and before she’s all the way into the room she tells me I need to get up. This is an hour before I’d ordinarily wake up, so I’m not so much with the being conscious thing.

Apparently she tripped and fell directly atop the lamp. The bulb shattered and gave her a three-inch laceration on the left side of her ribcage. Now, Wee One tends to be a little histrionic so it’s pretty important to keep her as calm as possible. My side of this is to be as calm myself as I can, make everything pretty casual, that kind of thing. But clearly she’s going to need a stitch or two.

Or ten.

That was the magic number. GF took her to GBMC and they put in ten stitches to keep all of Wee One’s insides, inside. I wound up covering a meeting at GF’s school before zooming over to my school to take care of one of my own meetings. The excitement never stops, I tell you. 

Moving Along

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Loretta Tortelli: We didn’t like our old neighborhood, so we just drove our house to a better one.

–Cheers, "Loathe and Marriage" (2/4/93)

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If only it were that easy.

Last Wednesday was our moving day. We didn’t have a lot of time to get all our stuff packed, so we were still working on getting things into boxes even on Tuesday night.

The movers finally arrived at about 9:30. One of them looked a little like Snay, but I won’t hold it against him. He had two guys with him; one was African-American and one was Hispanic, so we had a full-spectrum moving crew. All of them looked pretty young, like they could be in college. They looked around, did some hemming and hawing, and finally got down to work.

I have to say that I didn’t necessarily have any bad feelings early on, although I did think that the truck was a little on the small side. But since GF had talked to them I figured that they had some sort of idea of what they were getting into.

Well…they took a huge amount of time getting stuff into the truck, which I suppose figures when you’ve got a company getting paid by the hour. GF told me that night that there was a lot of "wow, this is heavy" and similar complaining throughout the day. I have to take her word for that; I didn’t maintain a lot of contact with these guys as I was in another room packing stuff. But what the hell?  Isn’t this your job, guys? Didn’t you come expecting to lift and move stuff?

Midday and GF tells me that I have to go to the bank and get money. It turns out that these guys take only cash. OK, that’s a little weird but maybe they’ve gotten burned by bad checks in the past. So I hit the bank and take out what I figure will be enough money to pay them and give each guy a tip besides, and maybe have a little cash left over.

The truck is full. There’s still stuff in the house. Plus, there’s a storage space they were supposed to empty as well. They’re not even done packing and we’re at 2:30 PM. But there’s no more room in the truck, so off we’re going to go.

There’s no good (i.e., fast, direct) way from Morrell Park to Parkville. What we did was go up I-95 and through the Fort McHenry Tunnel, then took Moravia Road to Harford Road and into our new neighborhood. So we’re not talking about horrible streets, here. This becomes important in a moment. 

The guys start unpacking the truck and GF marks the rooms with sticky notes on the doorways. This, apparently, did not help, as there are boxes everywhere located everywhere else: Kitchen stuff in the basement, Daughter’s stuff in the dining room and so forth. GF told me that the Hispanic guy barely spoke English, so maybe he gets a pass. But when the boxes are all marked, you have to figure that he can at least match words. And then comes the coup de grace.  The dining room table is broken.

I’m not talking about a crack or a separated joint. I’m talking, the table went into the truck with four legs and came out of it with NONE. The table has these two pedestals and, at the bottom, are these arced pieces of wood that curve down to form the feet. The wood was shattered through these feet. It’s completely irreparable. I ask the Snay-looking guy how this gets rectified, and he tells me that there’s nothing he can do because it didn’t happen while they were physically handling the table. It doesn’t matter that it broke in transit, apparently. Then he starts reviewing the invoice with me. It comes to $1150 and he wants to be paid right away, even though the truck isn’t empty yet. (I’ll say this, though: they’re billing me up until about fifteen minutes earlier.)

Wait a minute, I say. What about the table? Something needs to be done there. Even if it didn’t break as a result of you guys dropping it or whatever, the fact that it broke on the truck says to me that it was packed improperly. This isn’t right and it needs to be addressed somehow.

I get on the phone to his boss and he asks me, "Did you take the extra insurance?" I said I didn’t know anything about "extra" insurance, aren’t you guys insured already? He tells me to have the guy call the office. By the time I get outside, his cell phone is already ringing. He spends several minutes standing at the front of the truck, then another several minutes in the cab.

The bottom line for this guy is, they’re going to knock $50 off the total cost because according to the contract, their liability is 50 cents per pound or $50, whichever is less, unless extra insurance is taken out at the time of hiring. I go back into the house and try to call the boss again.

In the meantime (I don’t know about this as I’m on the phone), the guy has closed and locked the back of the truck. GF’s mother is now arguing with him as well as GF. As I get back outside, GF’s mom picks up a dolly and starts brandishing it at him. There’s more "open the goddamn truck" and "don’t you threaten me" and other dick-measuring stunts between the two of them. I can’t raise the boss again. It’s 5:30 by now. The guy says something about the contract and I ask to see it. He holds the clipboard in front of my face, refusing to let it go.

Now, I’m angry but I’m not about to do anything stupid. I can’t see the whole thing because of the way he’s holding it, so I tell him, "Relax, I’m not going to tear the thing up or whatever." He responds, "Yeah, I’ve heard that one before." I just give him a dirty look and take the clipboard from him. I sit on the front steps and read the thing about the 6 cents/fifty dollars deal, and all the other stuff. Finally I ask for a pen. I note on the form that insurance was not offered or even discussed until I called with a problem, and I pay the guy. He unlocks the truck and they finish unloading. Meanwhile, I have to go back to Morrell Park and get one of the cats.

As I return, I call the house and GF tells me that they just left. What’s more, one of them actually hinted at maybe getting a tip.

You want a tip? Here’s a tip. Don’t fuck up the client’s furniture, asshat.

And here’s the other thing I asked GF: You grew up watching cartoons on TV featuring the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote’s numerous failed attempts to catch him. Don’t you know better than to hire a company called Acme?

This story isn’t over. GF has her attorney on it but there isn’t much else to say at this point.