Thursday, September 29, 2011

I got the power

Judy and I drove to the Powell Butte on Saturday. We stopped by the car show just as the awards were being given out and the show began to break up. I walked around talking to car friends and noticed Al Halligan's truck was there. I looked around for Al, and when I couldn't find him, left my card on his steering wheel so that he would know that I was around.

As we walked back to our car, I heard someone shouting my name. Turning around, Al was waving to me so we walked back.

"I have something that I need to show you!", he said with excitement. "This is great and I thought maybe you and I might go into business with it.".

We walked back to his tent area and found a well built man standing with his wife. "Show Lyle how that works.", Al said. The man had a rubber like bracelet on his right wrist. I had kind of heard of something like that before....seems like it used magnetic pulses or something to sort of balance you.

Now, I am always open for new things but am a bit of skeptic at the same time. "So, if I use this will my body transform itself into yours?, I asked. The man laughed while his wife made some sort of remark about his belly.

"No", he stated, but let me show you what it will do.

He had me balance on one leg with my arms straight out from my side. He then used two fingers on my left elbow to throw me off balance. He had me hold the band in my hand and using those same two fingers could not throw me off fact, he could not even using his whole hand with force. I seemed to have gained extreme balance all of a sudden.

Then, he had me stand straight with my hands to my side. With the band in my hand, he pushed down on my left hand with all of his might. He could not bring me down. Then he had me hand away the band. This time, he brought me down in seconds. I had super human strength with the band.....incredible!

I was sold. If he would have had a band, I would have bought it on the spot. "Does it work for other things?, I asked. "All sorts of things", he stated and went on to tell many stories of the effects of the band.

As we left, Al yelled over. "I will get in touch with you, Lyle. We are going to do this together."

All the way home, Judy and I talked excitedly about the product. I had asked the guy if it would help anxiety and he said for sure. I could just see it working for my PTSD and us able to do things in life that we want and yet cannot do. "We could take that trip to Utah!", Judy said.

That night, I decided to go online and see what was out there. This is one time that I am very thankful for the web and it's information. I discovered not only was the band a fraud but how this man had persuaded me into thinking it so powerful. It all has to do with your center of balance. When he used his two fingers, to pull me over, he put more pressure on the inner finger thus pushing me outward. When he wanted me to balance better, the pressure was on the outer finger thus pushing in towards my center.

The same goes for the strength test. By pushing inwards, it looks like I am very strong. The next time, he pushes down, he uses an outer push and brought me down. It is all so subtle that you don't notice.

So, last night when the cool kids showed up, Al and his wife, Roxanne were with them. Al had his band and was telling me how that guy at the car show was pushing him to sell the product. So....I asked Al if he would allow me to show him something.

We did the same test as the man had done. But, I did the opposite. With the band on, Al seemed to have no balance and no strength and when he took it off, he had both. "OK, I thought it was too good to be true. How did you do that?", he said. So, I showed him the guys secret.

"Wow", Al explained, "The guy would have had to show me this sooner or later. I could never sell something like this that would defraud someone. How can he live with himself while doing that?".

Now, I have told you this story to tell you of other powers that are out there. In this case, the power of friendship. I had let the pressure of the day get to me and was feeling a bit blue. I did not want to go down to work but it was Wednesday and the crew might need help so I did. I just wanted to go home and to bed.

But, as I sat with Al and the rest of the cool kids (Ricki named them that), my spirits began to lift. We joked and laughed and then the guys all stood around the cars swapping stories. Al left me with his band so I could wow some customers and I suddenly realized.....I no longer felt blue. I was actually uplifted just standing there amongst my friends.

As we broke up, I made a statement, "Guys, I just want to thank you all. You have really made my day!". I don't know if they realized just how much they had. "Go out and sell some bands!", Al joked as he got in his car and drove away.

I watched them as they left and then walked back into the diner....a contented and happy man.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

For Whom the Bell Tolls

I know that I can be hard a times. Especially with sales type people. I believe that one has to be a bit to be in business. But, at the same time, some of my greatest and deepest friendships have been with the same. You will find me very easy to deal with when I am being served and serviced right and....I can be a bear when there is a problem that is not being addressed to my standards. My standards? I guess you would say that they are what I would be doing if I were in their place.

On a daily basis, I walk the floor with a pot of coffee talking with our customers. I am looking for more than just empty cups. I am looking to insure that each and ever customers experience is the best that it can be. I listen for key words and phrases that might lead me to inquire deeper. For instance, if ask how their meal is and they say 'fine', then I will inquire further. Sometimes that means they like it but many times it means they had a problem of some sort and I want to know what it is so I can solve it. I want that customer back.

I often talk business with my buddy, Frank, who seems to get a kick out of some of my stories both in the front and in the back of the house. He says my way of dealing with salesman that are not servicing my business up to my expectations is that I will encourage and prod from a distance. If I don't get what I want, I get a little closer and encourage more. Somewhere along the way, my encouragements get more demonstrative. He said, the problem comes when all of a sudden, I am in their face and they wonder what changed Dr. Jeckyl into Mr. Hyde.

That being said, let me tell you my waffle story. It actually starts quite a while back. When I was managing Jake's back in the early 90's. I always wanted waffles and had called my friend and mentor, Jack Mangin from the Pilot Butte Drive In (the man who created it). Jack came over and showed me the ins and outs of waffles and introduced me to the company who makes the best. The Carbon Waffle Company. Their malted waffle mix is absolutely the best.

All went well until my delivery man and I had a problem. I don't recall the problem but I do recall that our personalities clashed. The problem was resolved when I called his company up and discussed it with them. I did not want the man fired, I just wanted to get what I felt was good service. That phone call seem to resolve the problem and I was told that Shawn was still there so I felt that all was good.

Now, fast forward to the more present. A few years back, I walked into our storeroom to find a huge amount of waffle irons. It seemed that the salesman was just dropping them off and not picking them up. Trying to be the good guy, I called the company (Waffles Northwest who distributes for Carbon) and told them that they might want to pick them up. Unfortunately, that salesman was not doing what his business wanted him to do and he lost his job. I kicked my self for not talking to the salesman first. He was a very nice man who we seemed to get along with well.

The next salesman was different. And he immediately began changing things. The first thing that he changed was he began charging me for my irons. I remember challenging him regarding that and he told me that it was company policy. I reminded him that the company provided me with irons for using their product exclusively. He told me that the only person who could override that was not him, but Shawn. Shawn? The same Shawn who had delivered back in the 90's and I had a problem with? I asked him if Shawn was now the manager. "He is more than that.....he is the owner.", came the reply.

I was shocked remembering back but went on to contact Shawn about the issue. I recall the conversation as I felt that he seemed to either remember me from before or he had just not changed his style. He told me that many customers were abusing his irons and that he had to charge for that abuse. I told him that my crew does not abuse and that we only need irons when they get used too much. He said that he would leave it up to Chris, our new salesman, and if Chris felt that my crew was abusing, he would charge. If it was normal wear and tear, there would be no charge.

We went on quite well....until this spring. I was working the line on a Saturday when I noticed some of the waffles coming out a bit too brown. When I inquired, I found that the timer bells on the iron were not working. My first step was to have Jim talk to Chris about fixing the bells.

A while went by and I had the same thing happen again. When I asked the cooks about the overly brown waffles, they made mention that the bells still did not work. So, this time, I called the company direct. I left a message stating that I wanted the bells fixed. No call was returned and to my surprise we received timer bells in the mail. Jim installed them but we had to really play around to get them to ring true.

I then received a bill for shipping on the bells. I called the company to complain and was told that I had ordered the bells. "No, I didn't.", I countered, "I said I wanted the bells fixed.". I then informed them that I would not be paying for the shipping on the bells.

So...this summer, I started seeing overly brown waffles once more. And, to my surprise, found that the bells on the iron were not working. I called the company and received no word back from them. And so, I took the next step and called the Carbon Waffle company. I believe I also emailed them so that they would know that I really had a problem. I was soon called by Chris, the salesman. I told him that I was getting a bit frustrated over all of this and that I wanted my timer bells to work. He said that he had sent me bells and I told him that they did not work. I remember getting a little frustrated with him and telling him that I wanted him to fix the bells, the next time he was over. I do know that my tone was firmer as I was on my cell and after I got off, one of our cooks said, "Remind me not to get on your bad side.".

His next time here was on the 24th of September. And on the 25th, my bells did not ring. I looked for the bill to see if there was an explanation and found something else. A charge for a new iron. Now, I remembered back that on the month before, he had refused to deliver an iron saying he was out.

And, so, I ratcheted up to the next level. I looked online for any other distributors. Waffles Northwest had the only rights in the area. I contacted my other purveyors and had them begin to check into their programs. No one had malted waffle mix. I called Waffles Northwest and left a message. I sent emails to them and to the Carbon Waffle company. When I did not hear back, I saw a number on the side of one of their boxes and on Monday morning, called the Carbon company. I was told that they would inform Waffles Northwest. I said that I had already done that but they were insistent that they needed to do that so I conceded.

I asked the line cook who had been on when Chris delivered if anyone had looked at the irons and their bells. I told him that I was surprised that he (the cook) had not said anything to Chris. "I don't talk to Chris. He is a jerk.", came the answer.

That afternoon, Chris called me. Now, I am the bear that Frank talked about. I could have easily been diffused by a simple apology and a promise to get the problem solved but Chris became quite confronting. "I fixed your bells. They work!", he demanded. "No, they don't!", I countered. I asked him if he did not promise to fix the bells this time around and he countered with "I sent you bells". The conversation got a bit heated with Chris telling me that I always seemed to have problems with him every time he stops by and with me saying that I only had one problem but now had two as he had charged me for the new iron. He stated boldly that it was Waffles Northwest policy that all irons be charged for if they were overly dirty or misused. Since I knew that my crew keeps pretty good care of the equipment, I asked him if that meant the latter. He then accused me of twisting his words. He said, "I can't deal with you anymore. I am passing you over to Shawn.". I said, "Fine". Hanging up the line, I dropped my head and attempted to relax. I had let him push my buttons and had let my anger build. I have never liked the feel of anger.....especially the after effects. I tried to compose myself and ready for the next call. But....the call never came.

Early this morning, I stopped by Frank's office to chat. I shared my waffle story with he and his crew and they uplifted me with their laughter over my story. Frank asked me what I was going to do since Shawn had not called me. "I don't know. I think I am going to call the main company again.". I asked Frank if he thought that was a good idea and he agreed that even though it wasn't the best, it seemed to be the only option.....that or stop selling that brand of waffle.

So, I called the hot line again. This time, I talked with a young man. At first, he thought I was having problems with my mix and he began his normal explanation of how to properly mix the mix. "You are not listening", I interrupted, "My problem is my timer bells don't work. And I cannot get anyone to fix them.". He agreed that the timer was important to get the best quality waffle. I then went on to inquire about the waffle iron charge. He said $25 was pretty cheap. Some companies charged $50. "But, the program states that the irons are provided.", I countered. "Look", he said, "I promise you that I will contact Shawn and we will get this problem resolved. He will call you today.". So, I hung up and waited for the call.

Around 1PM, I received the call. "Hi Lyle, this is Shawn from Waffles Northwest.". "Hi Shawn, I am glad you called". "Well, you won't be. I am done with you. I am giving you a 30 day notice. I will be in your business at the end of next month to pick up my equipment and I will no longer be servicing your restaurant.". "I am sorry you are doing that", I stated. "I am sorry you went over my head.", came the answer. "All I wanted was my timer bells to work.", I said. "That problem is easy.", he angerly stated. "Just clean the bells and they will work fine. You know well that the problem is over spraying that clogs up the bells. All you would have had to do was take them out, clean them, and put them back in. They would work fine.". I could see that this conversation was not going to turn out good and that if I continued that I would just get myself all worked up so I simply thanked him and hung up.

I sat there at my computer looking up Carbon's mission statement that states how important the customer is and how they endeavor to delight them by exceeding their expectations. Had my expectations been that out of line? And then I read articles where it's president stated that their salesman would provide and service irons free of charge for simply using their product. I guess nothing is as simple as it seems.

So, today, I guess I get busy. I have to decide what the best step to take is. I know that their seems to be no other waffle mix like Carbon's. It is simply the best. So, I guess I call the company back up and look at what my options are now. I probably will bring up those articles that I read but I know that probably doesn't mean much right now. They don't know me. They do know Shawn. And, Shawn is their man.

So, for whom the bell tolls.....I guess it tolls for me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Balloons

I was just about to go to bed when my phone started its song. I looked at the caller ID and my heart it read "Alarm". That told me that the alarm company was calling me. I looked at the time....9:48. It didn't make sense. Did someone hide in the bathroom or something? Were they trying to set the alarm and messed up? I was already up off the couch as I answered and was told that the motion detector in the back room had gone off and that the police were on their way. "I am too", I stated. "How long and what are you driving?" "Five minutes and a white Nissan.", I answered as I already had my shoes tied and hat on.

I shouted to Judy the word that we both dread. "Alarm". "Please be careful.", she answered. "Are the police on their way?". "Yes, I will and yes, they are!", I shouted as I raced out the door.

Thoughts flew through my now very active mind of previous calls and the damage that I had found when I had arrived. I hoped for the best and prepared for the worst. Then it hit me. The area of the motion alarm. I remembered just hours before when Judy and I had supper with our Model A friends. Some of them had left me a bouquet of balloons. I had decided to just leave them in the back room until today. They must be swaying in the breeze caused by the air conditioning.

I called Judy so that she would not worry and then quickly called the alarm company and was answered by a friendly female voice. I told her who I was and that I was responding to an alarm. "What is your address?", she answered. "2210 NE Hwy can't have that many alarms going off right now.". "What is your security code?", came the canned response. "****", was my response. After she was sure I was who I was, she then let me tell her that I thought I knew what the problem was. "Could you please let the police know that they don't need to come.", I asked. "Yes, we will and thanks for calling us back.", she responded.

I arrived to find two police cars outside the building. "Sorry guys!", I stated, "I know what the problem is. I am OK.". One of them decided to come in with me of which I greatly appreciated as I knew that I could be wrong but was pretty sure of myself.

Sure enough, as I entered the back room, there they were.....swaying in the breeze. I reset the alarms and walked out with the officer. "I will be here in the morning with my wife.", he stated. "We are looking forward to sharing one of your omelets.". I asked him when in the morning and he said that it depended on when he got off. I thanked him for his quick response and we both agreed that we were happy that it turned out like it did.

I shoved the balloons into the back of my rig and headed home. As I drove, I called the alarm company on my blue tooth. The same female voice came on and I told her who I was. "What is your address?" "My address is 2210 NE Hwy 20 and my security code is ****.", I stated. She thanked me for calling her back and wished me a good evening. The adrenaline rush now behind me, I suddenly was very tired and headed off to bed after putting the balloons on the dining table.

I was awoken by the yapping of Mia. Her bark told me that something was not right in the house. I jumped out of bed knocking my nearly full glass of water off onto the floor as I grabbed my bathrobe and shot down the stairs to find Mia........barking at the balloons.

So, thank you Speedy, Teresa, Marv, and Pauline for the thoughtful balloons. Thank you East Cascade Security for your call. Thank you Bend Police Department for your quick response. And thank you, Mia, my home security alarm. And thank you , Judy for informing all on facebook of my mini birthday demise. It has definitely made the beginning of my day very eventful. I can only wonder what the rest of the day will be like.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Life

I want to preface this post with something. When I do post about the annoyances in my life, they are meant to be in an anecdotal way. I am very happy with the life that I have been given. It is not perfect (far from it) but who's life is? Make no mistake, however, I appreciate every blessing that graces my path and know without a shadow of a doubt that I am blessed.

I think that the measure of a person is not always what he accomplishes but how he handles the things in life that are put in his way. Does he let things get him down or does he attempt to laugh at them. I try and chose the latter.

My buddy, Frank, laughs at me when I stop and see him and tell him of the things that are going on in my life. He says that Jerry Seinfeld would have a field day with me. There always seems to be something going on with my business or in my day to day life that is.....interesting. That is also one of the reasons that I love it.

For instance, the lady who came in last week with a complaint. I was away and one of my wait staff met her at he door. She came in with a to go box filled with hashbrowns that she wanted redone. The waitress opened up the box to see hashbrowns that had been half cooked and scattered.

"These are not our hashbrowns.", the waitress stated. "They most certainly are!", demanded the lady, "I just bought them here.". "Do you have an receipt?", the waitress asked. "No, I didn't ask for one.", came the reply. "Well, is this the box that they came in?", asked the waitress. "Yes, this is exactly what you gave me just minutes ago.", replied the lady who was now beginning to get quite annoyed.

The waitress asked her to follow her to our hot box area where we put together all of our togo orders. She showed her a stack of styro boxes and then pointed to the card board box that the lady was carrying. "We don't use those kinds of boxes. We have nothing like that here. Are you sure that was the container that they came in?", asked the waitress. "Of course it is. What has happened to the quality of the food around here, anyway. Your hashbrowns used to look so nice.", came the reply.

The waitress then pointed to orders that were about to go out. The hashbrowns portions were squared off and brown. "These are what our hashbrowns look like. Those are not our browns and that is not our togo box.", the waitress stated. The woman stared at her angrily. "Are you going to give me credit for these hashbrowns or not?", she asked. "No, I am sorry. I could if they were ours." was the reply. "Well, I am never eating in this place again.", she yelled as she turned and walked out the door.

The occurrence gave the staff quite a bit to talk about and I made my self ready for the possible phone call from this disgruntled woman and was hashing around in my head just how to handle it. After all, it was just hashbrowns. It would not hurt us to cook her up an order. I know there is a principal of sorts to this but it was not like it was a steak or something.

I chose to leave it for what it was.....a good chuckle for the crew and regulars. I would handle the call as I saw it when the lady called. But, no call came.

Then, a couple of days later as I sat at the counter with some friends who had stopped by, one of them said that she needed to talk with me in private. We went off to the side and she told me of a lady from her church who had called her on the phone. The lady asked her what had happened to the quality of the food at Jake's, specifically our hashbrowns. I smiled as I listened and then pointed to the table that was closest to us. "What do you think of them?", I asked. She looked over at the plate that had just been delivered to two smiling patrons. "Well, those look good.", she replied. "That is what our hashbrowns look like.", I stated, "Would you please ask this lady to contact me. Give her my cell phone number. I would love to talk with her.".

To date, no call has been made. Customer service isn't always about whether you are right or wrong....but more how you handle the situation. But, I would sure like to know where she bought them from.

Now, from that, I had a situation from the other side of the counter the other day. I was out with my Model A friends and we stopped for some treats at a local ice cream store. Now, I know that the sheer numbers of us probably frustrated the young servers a bit and I did feel for them as I know what it is like to have a bunch of people come in when you are not prepared.

I saw a picture of a nice ice cream cone concoction on their board. Wanting to keep it simple, I pointed at it and said that I wanted just that. I asked for it in the same type of cone. The young man pointed at three sizes in front of me and asked me which one that I wanted. I said the small. He made up the ice cream and placed it in a small bowl. "I would like a cone like it shows on the board.", I asked. He looked at me with a blank look and then placed the small bowl in the next size up large bowl. "Here", he stated. So, not wanting to cause a fuss, I took the bowl while Judy's smoothie was being made. I watched him as he poured a small amount of liquid in the pitcher of ice. I knew their was not enough liquid from making my own but said nothing until the young man tried handing me a glass with solid ice chunks in the bottom and a sort of mixture at the top.

"This is not a smoothie.", I stated. "Well, I ran it through three times....this is the best I can do.", He said. "No, it needs more liquid. It is not a smoothie.", I said. Disgruntled, the young man poured a small amount more of liquid in the mix and put it back in the blender. While it blended, I paid my bill......$5 for the smoothie, by the way.

I could see the smoothie was still not mixing and when one of the other young men were close to me, I asked him if he could teach my guy how to make the smoothies. I felt that it was probably his first day or something. Well, I hit a raw nerve. The boy blurted out, "He already knows how to make them......we are busy, can't you see!". I could see and I felt for his frustration so I just left it. Our server handed over something that looked like a snow cone type of drink. "This is not a smoothie.", I stated as I took it and handed it to Judy. The young man looked at me and stated before he turned to help someone else, "Our smoothies suck!".

And....he was kind of right. Everyone who had ordered a smoothie had the same thing. I was left with the thought that I know that when I am not around, things can happen. It is a part of human nature, in a sense. I hope, however, that if someone does have something happen that they do not like, that they will tell me. It is the silent customer that scares me the most.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hanging with Jay Pt 2

Every year, Jay and I go to a Duck game. It is my birthday present to him. I always let him pick the game and then I go out looking for the best seat for the price that I can get. This year, he chose Nevada.

After searching around, I managed to get two seats on the south east corner of the field, 8 rows up.

We arose around 6AM and drove to Jake's for breakfast. We then drove to our friend, Sam's house to follow him over to the game. Sam has season tickets and always tailgates prior to the game. Jay had told me how much fun he had last year going with Sam and asked if we could tailgate also. Sam had changed his spot this year and was with the Boy Scout group across from the stadium and I had found that we could also purchase parking there.

We followed Sam in and were stopped at the gate to pay for our parking. They agreed to let us park next to Sam so we followed him in. We were stopped three times along the way and had to persuade each one to let us continue on. The last one was adamant that we were not to park there. 'This area is for season ticket holders only.", he stated. Finally, he gave in with a "It will be your problem if you are caught.". We drove in and parked next to Sam in the middle of a field. All around us was shade but we were right out in the hot sun. Jay and I got out our chairs but our next problem became very obvious. Jay was struggling with the dry grass and his asthma. Fortunately, Sam's wife, Nancy had a bottle of pills and loaned us a couple to help him deal with his sneezing and breathing problems. While they didn't totally stop his symptoms, they made him able to deal with them.

We sat and talked as the boys threw the ball around. Sam and Nancy cooked up some breakfast sandwiches and we ate while we waited for the start of the game. The shade looked so inviting that a couple of us retreated to it while we waited and watched the boys as they set up a pick up game with some local kids. The only problem that I had was the language coming from the college group next to us. Both sexes were flying the F word as if it were a common word.

Soon, it was time for us to start our trek in so we locked up the car and walked out to the road. We were in a totally different area of the field than we normally sit so we walked around the outside of the field to find the closest entry. Jay was wearing our ice chest back pack but we had forgotten to pack in the snacks that I had packed for us. At least, we had water. I checked my wallet and realized that I only had $7 and checked the price of a hot dog...$4.50. I hoped that I would be able to use my card but knew that I would be OK as I had eaten just before going in.

We found our seats and realized that the people in front of us had purchased the in stadium seats that are put in place before each game. These took some of our leg room away which was a bit frustrating as the people never came to the game. We tried taking off the seats but found they were zip tied on so we just settled in and made ourselves comfortable.

The Nevada team was warming up in front of us and some of their die hard fans walked by us to yell at their team. We also watched the Fox Sports team as they did their pregame interviews just a few feet away from us. The stadium began to fill and the atmosphere became electric as the people began to ready for the first home game of the year.

As the game began, Autzen began to rock as only Autzen can. An excited grandson held up his hands in an O and yelled as the first kick off began. You can watch the games on TV but there is just nothing like the atmosphere of a live game. It wasn't long before Oregon had the game well in hand. The crowd yelled as they scored in mass. One of their new freshmen scored right in front of us which gave me my good shot of the year.

Jay asked for a dog mid way through the second quarter so we walked back and were disappointed to find that no food booths inside the stadium accept cards. Since a young man can not go to a game without a dog, I had enough for his and that was the important part.

The second half brought much more room around us as many left at half time not interested in the blow out that was ensuing. But, we had paid the price and it was our only game so we stayed there soaking in all of the ambiance and getting our money's worth.

After the game, we followed others out on to the field to round out the experience. We attempted to walk out where the team walks as it was a much easier way to get to our car but were stopped by security and told that we needed to find another way out. That meant up the long stair case to the top and back down the ramps on the other side. A task but also giving me my allotment of exercise for the day.

As we walked back to the car, a group of college girls ran by us giggling. We followed the girls into the parking lot and I cringed as one of them began spouting that F word again. I mentioned to Jay how much that bothered me. One of them must have heard as she turned around and apologised. "She is just drunk." came the explanation. It did give me pause to talk respect with Jay however. I can only hope that some of my words will stick in his head when he gets that age.

We had brought some smoked beef in gravy with us along with buns and Cole slaw so Sam quickly heated up the pot and we all sat around eating sandwiches and waiting for the traffic lines to dissipate.

Soon, we could see the traffic started to get lighter so Jay and I took our leave and headed out. We stopped at the mall and the Duck store to get the rest of Jay's birthday present and picked ourselves up a smoothie for the ride home.

We had noticed the fires on the way over so I decided to take the McKensie pass to see if we might be able to see them better. Sure enough, at the top in the lava flow, we could see the billow of one of the fires and actually see flames of another. We arrived there just as dusk and Jay and I walked around enjoying the dusk vision of things and the utter quietness of the spot.

Arriving back at the house a very tired grandpa and an equally tired grandson called it an early night. Another great adventure and more quality time. Jay recons that our next great adventure needs to be deep sea fishing......I am not sure that I am ready for that one just yet.

Hanging with Jay Pt 1

The alarm rang far too early. I left the house shortly after 5 and drove to get Jay who was waiting for me sleeping on the couch. I did not have to do any coaxing today....he was excited. We were going crabbing. This all started last spring when we were visiting the coast and stepped out on the pier just south of Newport. "Papa, can we go crabbing?", he begged, "Please!". I promised him right then and there that we would before the summer was over. Since he was going back to school the next day, today was the end of summer.

Jay dropped off to sleep in the car seconds after settling in his seat. As I drove down the road in the dark, I looked over at his sleeping figure. He has grown so much in the last year that I almost can't call him 'my little buddy' anymore.

After passing through Sisters, I ran into the smoke from the large fires on the Santiam. I changed the air in the car to internal to help block out the smoke hoping that it would not cause him problems with his asthma. But the darkness and the smoke began to cause me problems. My anxiety issues were beginning to kick in.

I struggled and attempted to overcome them using the relaxation methods that the doctor was getting me to practice just for this type of an event but found that they methods only seem to enhance the issues. I broke into a cold sweat as the voice inside my head told me to run.

I looked over at the young sleeping body next to me. I knew he would be disappointed if he woke up and we were heading back home. He had no idea the battle that was going on inside of me nor how could he? The two sides to the battle became apparent. One was the anxiety that told me that I needed to turn the car around and go back to my 'safe' place and the other was the love for this young man sleeping in the chair within reach of my hand. I reached over and rested my hand on his shoulder feeling the rise and fall of his breath. I loved him so could I disappoint him.

Sweat poured off of my brow and I began to cramp up as my body started to feel the signs of my struggle. I prayed silently for relief and worried that I would soon become physically sick from the worry that ravaged inside. But, I kept pushing on..figuring that I could always pull over if I was going to get sick.

I began concentrating on things that Jay and I have done in the past and of all of the fun that we have had. The memories began to soften things a bit, kind of bringing my mind into a sort of happy place.

The sun crossing the horizon burst into my rear view mirror bringing my mind into the present. With the waking of the day came the waking of Jay. "Where are we, Papa?", came the voice from the rolled up body next to me. "We are on top of the pass, son.", I returned.

The sun became blocked by the mountain now behind us but the light brought a better perspective of the area around me. It did not close in as it had been and somewhere on that road, the switch inside my head switched off. I don't recall the moment but do remember the feeling......I knew I was going to win this battle and we were going to have a great day.

We passed the time talking of football, fishing, and other 'guy' stuff and I handed him the stack of papers that I had printed off of the internet to teach him what we needed to know about crabbing. You see, I had never done it either and had no idea what I was getting into. I only knew that he wanted to do it and that I had promised to take him. The two crab traps that Ron, one of our employees, had loaned me were in the back along with gloves, a bucket, and some zip ties that Ron had told me to bring with me.

As the sun rose into the sky, so did our moods as we came closer and closer to one of our mutual favorite places, the Oregon coast. The first glimpse of the waves on the beach always lifts your spirits and as we drove through Lincoln City, the fog bank just off of the coast played with the air around us as we drove in and out of it's cloud that darkened the sun.

I had checked the tide tables the night before and found that we would be arriving at Newport right around high tide. The times of high tide and low tide are called slack tide and I was told that they were the best time for crabbing. I had also looked up and found a small store on the south side of the river to get my license for fishing at. Jay did not need a license just yet.

We stopped at Safeway for some breakfast of bagels and a drink. We picked up some chicken legs for bait at the same time. With the breakfast and a cup of Starbucks 'Salted Carmel Latte', I was ready for the day.

We admired the coast and talked of different times and things that we had experienced along the way between Lincoln City and Newport. After crossing over the bridge, we drove straight to the small store and garnered the piece of paper that gave me permission to go catch some crab.

We each grabbed a trap in one arm and a chair in the other. Jay took his chair out of the bag. 'It will be easier to carry if you leave it in the bag and drape the handle over your shoulder.', I instructed but the growing young man had other ideas. "I will be OK, Papa.", he stated. I don't argue in these cases but do use them later when I am trying to get my point across. We had only gotten part of the way down the pier when he gave up and left his trap. "I will go ahead. You stay here, Papa, OK?". He ran down the pier with his chair in one hand and our drink bag in the other. I walked slowly keeping an eye behind me on the left behind parcel. He was soon running back past me to get the trap and we met at the end of the pier....a relaxed grandfather and a now sweaty and heavy breathing but excited grandson. "Do you think that would have been easier if you would have carried that chair over your shoulder in the bag?", I asked. "Probably.", came his shy but smiling answer.

He was so excited as we set ourselves up to cast out our first trap. I let him do all of the work, reaching in and placing the bait inside the inner box and I helped him zip tie up the side of the trap. One problem became immediately apparent as to how I was going to cut the tie when we brought them back up. I also realized that we did not pick up a measure to insure that we had legal catches.

I left Jay on the pier and drove back to the store, getting the small plastic size chart and a pair of wire cutters to cut the zip ties. I arrived back at our spot just in time to raise the first pot. An excited young man had already talked to a couple of other crabbers and informed me that we had our traps on the wrong side of the pier. The tide was beginning to go out and we needed to change sides or chance getting the trap caught on the pier below as the tide drew it under.

Jay started giggling as we the first trap broke through the water below loaded with crabs. Our first catch. I had Jay hold it at the water line as I took a picture of it. He struggled getting it out of the water so I took the line and helped him raise the first basket and lowered it to the pier. The first thing that I noticed was the clicking noises that the captured crabs made.

I cut the zip tie and let Jay check out the captured crabs. We could only keep the crabs that were 5 1/2 inches and that were male. We had studied the pictures and this became pretty easy. Jay drug female after female out of the pot. As he carried one over to the edge, it's claw grabbed his finger through the glove. "Ouch, this hurts, Papa!". He managed to shake it off and it tumbled into the water. "I bet it did", I returned. He had just learned his first lesson on how to carry a crab.

We zip tied the trap and moved it over to the other side of the pier. Jay threw it in as I snapped his picture. Then we hoisted up our second trap. This one too was loaded with the clicking crustaceans and Jay laughed as he realized that we had caught our first legal male crab. After a picture, Jay placed it in the bucket and we reset the trap and cast it out also.

I moved our things over the to the new side of the pier and then noticed Jay. He was sitting in his chair with the bucket in front of him just gazing down at his new prized possession. He had caught his first crab. It was as if he was bonding with it. I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped a couple of shots. "Are you going to name it?", I asked. In previous adventures, he had named fish that we had caught so I thought it appropriate to ask. "Nope.....I am going to eat it.", he answered.

With each hoist of the trap, we became more seasoned pros at this sport. "This is the easiest fishing that I have ever done.", he announced.

Around 12:30, we called it a day. I wanted to have the time to get the crabs cooked and iced down for the trip back home. I had intended on getting home by five or six as some of my buddies wanted to get together and play some fun poker.

We drove down to the small crab store that we were told about just south of town. Leaving the bucket next to the crab cooker, we went into the little restaurant behind and enquired on what we needed to do. We found that they would cook the crab for $5 and clean each one for us for 50 cents more. We paid for the service and ordered up some lunch. Funny, neither of us wanted fish and we both ended up ordering up some corn dogs instead. "We have the best fish in town", the server smiled as she must have been laughing inside over these two guys who were crabbing but did not really like crab.

Around 2 or so, we carried our catch out of the store and iced it up for the way home. The lady in the store had been gracious and showed us how to clean our crab for future reference.

A tired but excited grandson talked all the way over the pass but it became evident that I was going to be late for the poker. We stopped in Sisters for a bite to eat at the new Hawaiian shop behind the market that my friend, Stan, who owns the building told me about and then headed the car home arriving around 7.

I dropped a happy young man off with his mom and headed home with one of the crabs for Judy's supper. We had caught three keepers and Jay kept the two larger or his mom and friends.

After arriving home, the day just seem to hit me. I was so exhausted from the day that my stomach was off, so I took a shower and just crawled into bed....totally tired but happy. I had won a battle, enjoyed a day with my grandson who I love so much, and had done something that I had never done before in my life. Sleep took me seconds after my head hit he pillow.

Friday, September 2, 2011

End of Summer?

We held our last big BBQ of the summer along with the High Desert A's in the annual End of Summer Car Cruise.

And it felt like the end of summer. I had been watching the weather reports for a week, hoping that they were wrong but to no avail. This time Bob was right and just the day before, the temperatures dropped. This caused worry throughout the day but all was set and the show must go on.

I arrived at 3PM to find two rigs parked in the main line area. One was an employee but the other must have been from one of the surrounding businesses as when I made a couple of calls, it disappeared. My Model A friends showed up at 4 and we quickly filled up the 16 prime spots with the polished A's.

The guys helped finish off the remaining set up while the ladies stood by and supervised. Then we got them all together and set up two shifts for the BBQ. That way, one could eat while the other worked. As we prepared, many beautiful cars showed up and garnered good spots in the lot. A motor home showed up and took up 5 spots. They were playing cards inside when I asked them to move just outside the lot. The man was gracious and the spots filled up just as fast as he pulled out.
At 5:30, Jimmy rang the dinner bell and the feed began. The band finished their set up and the tunes began to waft out over the line of hungry eaters. Richard had once again put together a great group including two Grammy award winners in Andy Armer and Ken Emerson (Ken is considered by many to be the best steel guitarist in the world).
As I walked around looking for problems to solve, all seem to running smooth and the people sitting down eating seemed happy and quite satisfied. Everything seemed to be going so well. At 6, I looked out over a parking lot crawling with people sitting by their cars eating while others looked over the variety that had shown up. The band was rocking and people were dancing in the lot to the music that they provided. All seemed to be running perfectly....all except the weather.

As the temperature began to drop, so did the customers. Judy and I ate with some friends and when I came back out into the lot, I noticed the line was now sparse and a couple of cars had left. The colder it got, the more people left and so did the cars.

By 7, the lot was looking empty. By 7:15, it looked deserted. By 7:30, the band was playing to an empty house except for a few cars and our Model A's. By 8, we were all packed up including the band.

As we packed things away, I noticed a few cars showed up and we did get some customers inside but the End of Summer car show had officially ended. A tale of two hours...success at 6...failure at 7.

But in that short period of time, we fed 133 hungry customers who enjoyed a great band while walking around some pretty awesome cars. Any restaurateur will tell you, to feed that many in that short of time and have them all happy is an accomplishment of it's own.

Thanks to the High Desert A's for all their hard work, to Jimmy for another delicious BBQ, to Richard for another great musical set, to all of the car guys who brought in their polished autos, and to the many who came and helped us raise money for the automotive scholarship at COCC.