Encounters with friends & strangers

Racing To Make Accusations

, , , , | Friendly | February 5, 2021

I race dirt oval stock cars a few nights a week. I’m in a mid-level class — not the rookie divisions, but not the top-dollar, fastest cars, either. Mostly, it’s a class for drivers to have fun and compete without needing to spend multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars every summer. As such, as competitive as we are on the track, all of us drivers and our pit crews are also great friends who go to great lengths to loan each other spare parts or extra hands during emergency repairs. We want to race each other, and racing is no fun when all the other guys are broken down in the pits.

On opening night one season, a bunch of us have gotten to the pits early and are hanging out shooting the breeze, waiting for the racing to start. At the last minute, a massive enclosed trailer shows up at the pit entrance. This thing is easily fancier than any other trailer in the pit area — even the top-level classes — and looks like something that should be on pit lane at a NASCAR race, not just a weekend dirt track show.

The pit area at the track is generally divided by car class, and to everybody’s surprise, this fancy trailer heads over to the class that I race in. They park and start unloading the car, and all the pit crew guys are wearing matching uniforms — compared to everyone else in grubby jeans and T-shirts. Nobody from the trailer makes an effort to introduce themselves to anyone else, and they’re giving off an arrogant vibe, so we all comply and stay away from them.

We get through hot laps and move into the heat races. I’m in the same heat as the new car from the fancy trailer. The green flag drops and we all take off racing.

A few laps into the race, another driver and I make contact, and I get knocked off course — and straight into the new car. I end up hitting him hard and damaging both our cars badly enough that we can’t finish the race. We get towed back to the pit area, and before the new car is even off the hook, the driver is out of his car and storming over to me.

Before I can get out of my car, he starts yelling.

Driver: “I’m going to sue you for damaging my racecar! You ruined my easy win against all you amateur fools!”

Blah, blah, blah. I stay in my car because I don’t want to risk getting suspended from the track for fighting on opening night, and the other driver eventually gives up trying to fight, turns on his heel, and stomps back to his own trailer.

I climb out of my car and some of the drivers and pit crews from my class and other classes gather around to make sure everything is okay. I explain what happened, and after my adrenaline wears off, I walk over to the fancy trailer to try and explain what happened and offer to lend a hand to their repair efforts. 

Pit Crew Member: “Get lost!”

So, I headed back to my own trailer while they loaded up the car and left the track.

Meanwhile, the other drivers, knowing that sometimes bad stuff happens in racing, helped me bodge together a quick repair job on my car, and we managed to get the car running in time for the feature race later that night. I didn’t finish the race — some of the bodge jobs just weren’t permanent enough to stand up — but at least I started, unlike the guy with the fancy trailer that I assume was filled with all sorts of professional-quality tools and spare parts.

The team with the fancy trailer continued to show up every weekend and continued to give off the same arrogant vibe. I don’t know if they ever actually tried to sue me or not. I can’t imagine they found a lawyer who agreed to take on a case where a RACE CAR got damaged during a CAR RACE. But even if they had found a lawyer, all drivers at the track have to sign a waiver agreeing that they accept the risks and that they can’t sue the track or other drivers for car damage or injury unless it is blatantly intentional, so I would have been covered anyway.

I managed to win a handful of races that season. The “professional” team with the fancy trailer won absolutely nothing.

1 Thumbs

We Happen To Know Several Boys Who Are VERY Cute

, , , , , , , | Friendly | February 4, 2021

I’m walking through a park and a very sweet puppy comes over to say hello. I don’t pet it in case that isn’t okay with its owner, but I greet it as warmly as I can.

Me: “Hey, cutie!”

The puppy’s owner whirls round to glare at me.

Owner: “He’s a boy, actually!”

The owner stormed off, pulling the poor puppy behind him. I didn’t think puppies had a concept of gender, let alone one so fragile that being called a cutie might threaten one’s masculinity.

1 Thumbs

This Is An Ex-Computer!

, , , , , | Friendly | February 3, 2021

My friend asks me to visit her one weekend to help with some household tasks, including diagnosing and repairing a tower computer that will not boot. When I arrive, I try turning on her computer and it indeed appears grim. It cannot successfully pass POST and nothing is displayed on the screen, an amber light flashes on the front, and it gives a loud diagnostic beep code. My friend is not very technically educated but she has taken the initiative to read the troubleshooting manual and says that the beep code and flashing indicate that the issue is with the power supply or motherboard. I agree and remove the casing and immediately spot the problem; many of the capacitors on the motherboard are obviously swollen and domed up on the top.

Me: “Bad news: your computer is damaged beyond repair. See all these capacitors? They are all puffed up. Either oxygen somehow leaked inside of them or, more likely, the computer was subjected to a power surge. I recommend getting a surge protector and keeping your computer plugged into it instead of plugging it directly into the wall.”

Friend: “Can you fix it?”

The computer is a lower-range computer for basic needs and it still uses IDE cables during the time when SETA has become the new standard and IDE is on its way out.

Me: “I could order a new motherboard and put it in, but it would cost more than the computer is worth. You’re better off getting a new one.”

Friend: “Aww, but I like this computer; it’s really good. Isn’t there anything you could do? I think it might be the power supply; the manual says that a bad power supply could be the problem.”

Me: “It could, but it isn’t. See these capacitors around the processor and RAM? They are blown.”

I take her hand and rub her fingers over the domed capacitors.

Me: “Feel that? Compare that to these ones that are still good.”

I move her hand over some good capacitors.

Me: “It is definitely the motherboard.”

Friend: “Can you try replacing the power supply and see if it still works?”

I try to convince her that whether or not something happens to also be wrong with the power supply is irrelevant because the computer will not function without those capacitors on the motherboard, but she insists on seeing if her computer will work with a new power supply. I relent and drive out to pick up a power supply. I return and plug it in without installing it because I know it will be pointless. As predicted, the computer behaves no differently, so I box the power supply up to return later.

Friend: “Can you fix the motherboard?”

Me: “Theoretically, it would be possible to solder replacement capacitors into the board, but it would be a lot of difficult work, and I’d be highly likely to accidentally damage other components and create shorts because those solder points are really tiny.”

Friend: “How much do those capacitors cost?”

Me: “[Friend], I’m not going to do that. This is a disposable computer; it is meant to be kept for a few years to do basic things and then thrown out when a major component inevitably fails. You got your money’s worth out of this machine and it is time to get a new one.”

Friend: “But I really like this one!”

Me: “I know, but it really was not a great computer and there’s nothing that can be done to repair it. I have a PATA enclosure I can use to recover data from your hard drive; is there anything in it you want to save?”

She confirms and I promise to bring my enclosure with me when I stop over tomorrow to help with other things. I go to the living room to rest while her mother prepares us dinner, and I see my friend holding the manual for her computer and softly reading out loud from the troubleshooting section.

Me: “[Friend]! Stop troubleshooting! Your computer is dead! It’s over! You lost!”

Friend: *Laughing* “Shut up.”

I did recover her data the next day, and she had accepted that there was nothing practical that could be done to restore her computer, but even after she had a new one, it took her months before she finally recycled its corpse. She now keeps her computer insulated with a surge protector.

1 Thumbs

Oh, Shhhhuttle!

, , , , , , | Friendly | February 2, 2021

I live very close to my local airport, so instead of paying an absurd amount of money for parking when I travel, I jog from my house to the long-term parking lot, a twenty-minute jog, and then take a shuttle from there into the airport.

On my most recent trip, however, I arrived at the long-term parking lot and discovered that the airport had recently closed the lot due to the health crisis, meaning there was no shuttle to catch to the terminal. It was another thirty-minute walk at least from there to the nearest open lot with shuttle service.

Worse still, I had already been gambling, since I knew rain was expected later that day; about ten minutes into my extended walk, a torrential downpour started. The rain was so hard it actually hurt to walk into the rain and slowed my pace even more. Meanwhile, I was worn out from the first twenty minutes of jogging, and my backpack, stuffed full as my only piece of luggage, was really starting to weigh me down. Despite leaving plenty of “wiggle room” in my plans, I was starting to worry that I was going to be cutting it close to catch my flight.

Fifteen minutes out from the lot I was headed to, I noticed a shuttle leaving the employee parking lot. I know they are not supposed to pick up non-employees — there are even signs on the bus saying so — but I decided it was worth a gamble. I stood at the corner of the turn that they had to take and made a praying gesture, looking sad, wet, and miserable.

Thankfully, the bus driver took pity on me; he broke the rules and stopped to let me get on the bus. I arrived soaking wet at the terminal shortly after, and thanks to his saving me the time it would have taken to walk to the other lot and catch a shuttle from there, I had enough time to make a pitstop at the restroom and change out of my soaking clothes and into some clothes my backpack did a shockingly good job of keeping dry. A local shopkeeper was even nice enough to give me some plastic bags to stash the wet clothes in so I could put them away without getting the rest of my clothes wet.

I caught my flight out and had a wonderful visit and babysitting session with my goddaughters. Thank you to the bus driver for bending the rules for me! I’ll try to plan better in the future!

1 Thumbs

Follow That Bus!

, , , , , | Friendly | February 1, 2021

As I’m waiting at a red light in the left turn lane, I look lazily to my left to see a smartly-dressed older woman tottering as fast as she can to the street corner in her kitten heels. The light turns green, giving us a turning advance, including a bus two vehicles in front of me.

The bus passes the next bus stop and I look in my rearview mirror as the older woman finishes crossing the road and stops on the corner, deflated. I stop at the bus stop and wait for her to walk to the stop to catch the next bus.

Me: “Come on, get in. We’ll go catch the bus.”

Woman: “What? What do you mean?”

Me: “Come on. I’ll get you to a stop in front of the bus.”

The woman’s eyes light up and she pulls the door open and climbs in.

Woman: “Really?!”

Me: “Yeah, let’s go!”

Traffic is bad so we’re together for fifteen minutes while tailing the bus. She tells me that her husband has headed to the airport to pick up her sister and she wants to surprise her by being there, too. By missing the bus, she’ll miss the next SeaBus, which means she’ll be behind by half an hour and unlikely to make it.

Me: “Oh, the SeaBus? I’ll just take you straight there. Then you’ll have lots of time.”

Woman: “Oh, dear, no. I don’t want to take you out of your way.”

Me: “No, it’s no problem. I was just getting home from work, anyway.”

Woman: “Well, thank you. I hope I’m not taking you too far out of your way.”

I give her a quirky smile.

Me: “The SeaBus stop is in front of my house.”

She thanked me over and over, but it was barely even a thing for me. I was done with my work for the day and happy to drive around a bit on a chilly afternoon.

1 Thumbs