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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Every Detail

My phone rang while I was in the office, instead of under a car or truck, always a plus.

“Hi, Bernie, this is Every Detail (name changed in Dragnet fashion). I want to make an appointment for an oil change, and check-up."

I can do that. I recognize her as a very good customer I’ve had for over two decades. She’s an older lady, which means she’s not much older than me. Ms. Detail employs a sharp edge when dealing with service providers; and I’ve been on the receiving end of these interrogations for a long time, so I’m used to them. In the late 80’s, she needed a clutch job on an early 80’s Toyota Tercel she had. The Tercel was one of those vehicles you must remove the engine to do the clutch, so the expense is rather high. She was less than enthused, and she pulled the dealer card on me, as in ‘I could get it done for that at the dealer’. I pulled my have a nice day, and I wish you well at the dealer card in reply. Ms. Detail was angry she didn’t get her own way; because at the time, she still believed all trades-people ripped off a woman.

Three days later, a tow truck showed up at the shop with Ms. Detail’s Tercel. She jumped down from the tow truck cab, and Ms. Detail was fuming. A local Toyota dealer (out of business now) pulled the old ‘we have to disassemble the clutch, and find out what exactly you need’ card, but it won’t be as much as that (My) estimate. Ms. Detail happily let them. This is a legitimate way of estimating, if done in a truthful manner; and in California, with a written estimate. The dealer called Every with an estimate for twice what I had quoted, claiming they would have to do X,Y,Z to the transmission. They of course charged her the teardown time before allowing her to tow it out. They made a slight error though, no written estimate. One call to them, reminding the Service Manager of the dim view the California Bureau of Automotive Repair takes to this bait and switch tactic, and he immediately offered to refund her ‘teardown fee’. I didn’t find any ‘transmission’ problems, and finished slightly under the estimate. After all this, my dealings with Ms. Detail go just like yesterday’s.

“Can I bring it in Tuesday morning, and wait for it?” She asks.

“I have the very first appointment open for the day, and you can wait for it if you like,” I reply, knowing she’ll hold me captive in the office for longer than the job takes.

“See you then,” she agrees and hangs up.

Every arrives right on time. I write up an estimate; which includes a couple extra things she tells me she needs: wipers, washer fluid, rear tail light bulb, and a dash piece which fell on the floor. She signs the detailed estimate, and away I go. After twenty years with her as a customer, I know the estimate was a formality. The interrogation would follow anyway. It’s her quirk. I finish, back her car out, and present the invoice to her in the office. It is identical to the one she signed, containing only the items she specifically asked me for, yet she sits down and stares at it for a few minutes as if she’s never seen it before. Every looks up at me then questioningly.

“So, what did we do to my car today?”

My teeth were clenched tightly together, expecting the usual question from Ms. Detail. Sadly, it didn’t help, I still bit my tongue. :)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Adware.Win32.ExpDwnldr Trojan

Well, I spent a couple days researching stuff for my YA novel attempt (coming along very well, and I'm watching my word count, Jordan), and wouldn't you know it, I ended up with a self-replicating Trojan virus. It would hijack my browser, going to these rip off security sites, and constantly popping up windows warning me of non-existent problems. With McAfee Total Protection, XP Repair Pro & Privacy package, Windows Malicious Software tool, and even AOL Spyware, I've never had a problem. They couldn't do a damn thing with this Adware.Win32.ExpDwnldr Trojan. The security programs I have would kill off a part of it, but the self-replicating piece of crap would reassert itself immediately. I bought a program that stated it would take care of it; but of course, it didn't. Then I entered the exact problem in Google, and I came up with only one choice, SpyNoMore. Their web site had my exact problem. As many of you know, these things will drive you crazy, so I bought their program, thinking I'd probably end up with another dead end. It killed the Trojan with one scan and remove! I'm blogging it because I love things that do what they claim to do. I linked it. I don't own stock in it. I'm not getting paid for it (so few people come here, I'm lucky I'm not getting charged for the space :) ). If you get something like I picked up, try SpyNoMore. I wish I could tell you where I picked up the Trojan, but I don't know. I was doing Latin incantations and demonology research on about twenty different sites, and I'm not in any hurry to investigate where the Trojan came from. :)

Monday, June 18, 2007


A young man in his very early twenties came jogging into the shop, dressed in the inexplicable garb of the time: pants flopping over his shoes, tops of pants hanging down to show his underwear, inside out strapped t-shirt, ball cap on sideways. Now, you’ve probably seen these GQ role models for dress, but have you ever seen them try and run. It’s hilarious. It’s like the human version of March of the Penguins in double-time.

“Yo…yo…yo…” my visitor begins calling out the moment he gets through the door.

I meet him halfway into the shop, having thoroughly enjoyed his approach from across the street, where he and his buddies were trying to start a car.

I see it all here. Visitors from Berkeley arrive in: peasant dresses, beads, Birkenstocks, ponytails (now with completely bald top), tie-dyed shirts, raggedy beards (now gray). Yea, I know there were avant-garde goofballs in my generation, and I get reminded of it often, because the meatballs haven’t grown up yet. They’re still trying to pretend it’s the Summer of Love, including the drugs. They haven’t had a coherent thought since 1968 either.

Anyway, I meet my new-age stop-in.

“I’m right here, young man,” I wave, trying to get him to quit calling for me. It’s possible he doesn’t like who he’s attracted, but I don’t have anyone else to send out. “How can I help you?”

I immediately evoke forty-five seconds of gibberish my evolved interspecies translator can’t crack, and I hold up my hands, pleading for him to stop.

“Hold it. Hold it. I did not recognize a single thing you just said. Slow way down, and remember, I’m old.”

This draws a quick snort of laughter; and he nods, either in understanding, or derision. In any case, he begins speaking in English.

“Do… you… have… a… funnel… I… can… borrow?” He asks. Yep, it was derision.

I grin and go get a long plastic funnel for him. I usually require they leave their driver’s license until they bring back what they borrow; but he’s just across the street, and he ain’t going anywhere. I only loan out three items: jumper cables, gas can, or funnel. Besides, watching the March of the Penguins in double-time back across the street was going to be a treat. He does not disappoint, and nearly takes a header in the middle of the street as he stepped on his pants. He glances back toward the shop to see if I noticed. I waved of course. I had to get back to work on a Chevy starter job, so I didn’t think about it for half an hour, until when lowering the car I was working on, I saw him walking across the street with my funnel. Damn, it was still the March of the Penguins… but it just wasn’t the same. He handed me the funnel.

“Do… you… repair… cars… here?” He’s still pissed I saw him trip.

“Whatever gave you that idea?” I asked with straight face. I like this kid. I’ll play for a while. “Was it the big sign on the building, saying I repair Domestic and Asian cars and light trucks? I’m just asking cause I don’t want to waste my advertising budget on something that doesn’t work.”

He stares at me blankly for a moment.

“Yea…yea… okay…” he manages to get out. “My car still won’t start. Do you charge to check it out?”

“Oh…yes,” and I told him how much. He was not pleased. Oh no!

“Just to look at it?!” He asks with incredulity.

“No, I can look it from here. That price is to actually find out what’s wrong with it inside my repair shop.

He shakes his head in anger, and turns around. The young man forgets himself, and gives me one last double-time March of the Penguins. I almost call him back to deduct his entertainment value from the diagnostic charge; but I remind myself of the fact no price would be acceptable to him, other than free. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Full Circle

So many blogs have had tattoos and piercings as subjects, I thought I'd share this futuristic short story I wrote for my Daughter one Christmas just to rag her about the tattoos she had acquired. Using my grandson, as a grown-up foil for my story, it zinged my Daughter pretty good. The real funny part is my grandson is now five in actuality, and he's already started questioning her about the two tattoos she has. I can't wait till he's all grown up and reads this story. :)

“Get the door, would you Colin?” The young man’s Mother called out from the back bedroom.

“Sure, Mom,” Colin answered, as he put down his video game controller, and pushed his almost six foot frame up quickly from the couch. He ran a hand through his close-cropped brown hair, hesitating momentarily as he considered whether to shut off the video game controller or leave it running. Believing he would have to hear about it from his Mom if he left it on, he sighed and turned it off. Vaulting over the back of the couch to make up for his lost moment of video game internal debate, he jogged over to the door and pulled it open. He smiled in surprise. On the doorstep stood his Grandparents, arms filled with brightly covered presents.

“Merry Christmas, Honey,” the elderly, heavy set gray haired woman said, her face crinkling into a familiar smile. “Are we too early?”

“Mom’s only been getting ready for the last hour, so she won’t be out for at least another two hours,” Colin answered quickly, taking the packages from his Grandmother, “but I suppose I can let you in.”

The elderly woman clucked disapprovingly, as the young man’s Grandfather laughed loudly in appreciation of his Grandson’s dig. “Don’t encourage him, Bernard,” she scolded. “He only says things like that, because he knows you’ll laugh.”

Colin stepped aside to allow his Grandparents to get by, grinning as his Grandfather stepped into him, jolting him back a couple of feet.

“Merry Christmas GP,” the young man said as he snapped to attention, shifting his Grandmother’s packages to his left arm, and saluting smartly with his right.

Colin held the position while his Grandfather quickly threw the packages he had in his arms on the couch. Returning to the still saluting young man, the slightly taller older man clasped his hands behind his back and circled the youth with a critical frown on his face. The old man’s iron gray hair, cut to a stubble around the sides, and about an inch in height on top, gave the Grandfather’s lean lined face an impressive scowl. After a moment’s impromptu inspection, Colin’s Grandmother, Joyce, walked over and pushed on the old man, who looked at her, but did not move.

“Leave him be, you old goat,” Joyce told her husband, squeezing in between the young and old men to hug her Grandson, who finished his salute with a laugh. “I don’t know why you two have to play this game. Your Grandpa’s going to turn you into an old sarcastic goat, just like him.”

“Stay out of this, woman,” Bernard retorted, using a gruff accent reminiscent of a Mexican bandit.

Colin laughed and hugged his Grandmother. “You two never let up, do you?”

The young man’s Grandfather broke into a grin, which completely transformed his countenance. He stuck out his scarred, work worn right hand, which Colin gripped in his. “Merry Christmas Cole. You going to come back with us and work at the shop for a few days?”

“You mean I have to work at “Bernie’s Bored Shop” again?” Colin asked, letting his last words rise into a whining toned ending.

Both of his Grandparents broke into raucous laughter at their Grandson’s quip, as their daughter Eva joined them in the living room. Her dark blue dress highlighted her long dark brown hair. Although she wore black shoes with a slight heel, she was still slightly shorter than her Mother. She hugged both of her parents, and then helped Joyce off with her coat.

“You certainly look good, Honey,” Joyce said admiringly.

“Yea, you don’t look forty at all,” her Dad marveled, drawing another appreciative snort from Colin.

“I’m only thirty-seven, you…” Eva stammered, as both her Son and Father broke into open laughter. “Shit… I mean…”

“He got you again, Mom,” Colin chided her.

“Pay no attention,” Joyce sighed. “They’ve been at it since before we even walked in the door.”

“I heard Dad out here, chortling in his annoying little way from back in the bedroom,” Eva replied, shaking a finger at her Father. “What’s so funny?”

“Has Jim been by to see you, or something?” Bernard asked his Daughter. “Cole was remarking about ‘Bernie’s Bored Shop’, and I figured my second born had been visiting.”

Eva nodded, chuckling at the phrase, which she and her younger brother Jim had used to describe her Father’s auto repair shop. He had watched them many times during the day, as they were growing up, at the shop he owned in Oakland. Unless they were destitute for spending money, neither she nor her brother ever went back to his shop for work after escaping from what they kidded their Father was bondage.

“He came by on Thursday. Cole… Colin… damn it, Dad, now you’ve got me saying it. Colin told him about planning on working for you as much as he could over Christmas vacation, and he received the usual lecture from Jim, about the old horrors of working in the Nilson Brothers Garage dungeon.”

“I like working at his shop,” Colin protested. “He’s training me, right GP.”

“You bet, Cole,” Bernard agreed, receiving another icy look from both his Daughter and Wife for shortening his Grandson’s name again. “Someone has to take over looking out for the family’s cars and trucks. By next year, you’ll be fixing whatever new gadget mobile your Uncle Jim dives into debt over.”

“We’ve sold a mess of comics too,” Colin continued. “GP showed me how to do inventory, and introduced me to the supplier the last time I worked at the shop.”

“Oh great, another comic book grease monkey,” Eva exclaimed, holding her hands up as if in supplication to a higher being.

Bernard nudged his Grandson knowingly. “Just wait till she blows up another engine, Cole. You’ll hear a whole different story then.”

“You are never going to let me live down that old Chevy Camaro, are you?” Eva asked, shaking her head.

“Not in this lifetime, little one,” Bernard promised.

“Come on in and sit down,” Eva gestured to the couch. “I’ll get some tea made.”

As they were sitting in the living room, admiring the new artificial Christmas tree, newly decorated, Eva turned to her Son. “Tell your Grandfather what you want to spend your money on, Colin.”

The teenager hesitated, as if being forced down a path he did not want to take.

“Go on,” Eva urged. “Tell him.”

Colin looked at his Grandfather, who sipped his tea with his ever present amused look. “I want to get one of those chain tattoos around the upper part of my right arm.”

Joyce, who had been sipping her tea as Colin made his announcement, almost brought the mixture back up through her nose. Bernard, who had quickly patted his wife on her back, trying to ease her choking, turned a knowing look on his Daughter.

“Well, well, well,” Bernard intoned, as Eva recognized the familiar evil, dawning on her Father’s face like a sunrise in hell. “Oh baby, the circle has finally closed on yet another little gem of history. So, what did you say, my Dear?”

Colin, intrigued by his Grandfather’s reaction, looked questioningly at his Mother, who had immediately leaned back in her seat, and rested her head tiredly on the back of the couch. “See Mom, GP doesn’t mind. What did…”

Eva sat up in horror, enough of her Father in her to recognize his whole script for this scenario was about to be played out. “Shut up Colin, we’ll talk about this later.”

“No, no, no,” Bernard said, with a grin that caused an icy, clammy shudder to race from the bottom of Eva’s spine to the nape of her neck. “Go ahead Cole, what were you going to ask?”

“I was just wondering what you said when Mom asked you if she could get her tattoos,” Colin asked earnestly.

“Why I…”

“Don’t you do it, Dad,” Eva pleaded, as Joyce tried to hold back laughter unsuccessfully.

“It’s like this, Cole,” Bernard said, leaning forward, warming to the subject. “Your Mom never asked me if she could get a tattoo. First, she showed up with one at seventeen on her ankle. She lied and told us it was a decal. Then, she went out in the first year after she turned eighteen to acquire that work of art extending down to the crack in her ass, she calls a unicorn.”

“Oh,” Colin said, suddenly realizing his Grandfather was not on his side in the tattoo controversy, but asked nevertheless. “So, what would you have said, Sir?”

“Well, I can tell you what I told her about tattoos from the time she was old enough to notice them,” Bernard replied, drinking in the resigned look on his Daughter’s face. “Your Great Uncle Jim went out and acquired a tattoo when he was sixteen. He said it was the worst thing he ever did, and regretted it his whole life.”

“I told her about that, and then I told her how my generation looked on young women who savaged their bodies with the travesty of colored ink doodles. If we saw a woman with a tattoo, when I was young, the first impression we had of her was: cheap, low life, trailer park slut. The second impression was usually just one word: whore. Now, as your Mom can confirm, I told her just that many times before she went out and did it anyway. Does that answer your question, young Jedi?”

“Yes Sir,” Colin nodded seriously. “If I were to go out and get that tattoo, someday, Mom will be sitting where you are, happily telling this same story to my teenage kid. I think I will skip the tattoo.”

“You have chosen wisely,” his Grandfather said sagely, turning to his laughing wife. “See, I told you intelligence and common sense skips a generation. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get some more tea.”

Colin and his Grandmother laughed even more uproariously as Eva put her hands over her face, after watching the old man spring up, and head out to his Daughter’s kitchen, singing ‘Oh Happy Day’.

Monday, June 11, 2007


I hear my motion detector go off, and I look out from around the car I’m working on. No one in sight, so I walk to my office, because I thought I heard the office door close too. Sometimes folks will walk in the office, thinking I’m in there. I open the door, and there’s a guy in a business suit swiveling around in my desk chair, looking through the papers on my desk. He’s in his thirties, with well groomed dark brown hair, and a little portly for his age. I allow the office door to shut, and stand there watching him silently. He hears the door close, and swivels toward me, leaning back in my chair as if he were greeting an outsider. He folds his arms over his chest, and gives me a big ingratiating smile. He has good teeth too. Possibly not for long.

“Bernie, sit down,” he reads the name stitched on my shirt, and points to the chair next to me he should be sitting on.

I won’t bore you with all the stuff shooting through my head. Age has mellowed me out, and given me a different perspective on life’s little annoyances, like people assuming ownership of things I’ve worked a lifetime to attain. Since this is the first time in the thirty years I’ve been here anyone has sat at my desk without my permission, I figure it’s a live and learn experience. I decide on the Terminator approach I save for occasions when I might say something that will lead me to mayhem. My kids call it The Vulcan Death Stare. Five seconds of it, and this guy jumps out of my chair, smile gone.

“Oh, I’m sorry, is this your chair?”

Five more seconds, and the guy I will refer to as The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit, TMITGFS for short, blathers out an introduction. He represents a security agency I will refer to as Acme.

“We are the small business solution for security needs,” TMITGFS continues his spiel. “Someone could have come into your office and escaped through your small door with an armload of valuables just now.”

“I don’t keep anything of value in the office,” I speak for the first time. “You should know that since you were going through my desk when I came in. Is that a new sales technique Acme came up with to get one of you reps killed?”

“I…I just wanted to demonstrate the weakness of your security system, and why it would be good to…”

“Want to know how much I’ve lost in seven years working here as a mechanic, and twenty-four years of owning it? Zero.” I tell him. “Want to know how much I’ve saved not paying security firms who never show up, and couldn’t do anything if they did? Eighteen thousand dollars plus installation.”

“That’s the beauty of this new system,” TMITGFS informs me excitedly. “Acme can install the system and maintain…”

“No, they can’t,” I cut him off again, realizing near death experiences have no affect on him. “Please leave the same way you came in, and don’t come back. Take a bit of advice, and adopt a new first meeting technique before someone blows your head off.”

“Uh… can I have a business card?”

I step aside, holding the door open silently. His survival instinct takes over and TMITGFS leaves without further conversation.

Civilization is not always what it’s cracked up to be. :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


Third Armor Division Half-Track

On this anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy, I honor and remember my Dad, James A. DeLeo. He landed on Omaha Beach with the Third Armored Division, and was the guy who operated the mortar launcher on a half-track armored vehicle. He was wounded badly when the Third Armored fought in the Ardennes. Carrying shrapnel in his spine and leg for the rest of his life, he walked with difficulty. The days he missed of work, while helping my Mom raise six children, could be counted on one hand. I’m fifty-seven, and to this day, he is the most man I have ever known. Three of his four sons served honorably in the United States Military, two during the Vietnam War. All six grew up to be responsible and productive citizens. Although my Dad did not write fiction, he turned me on to two incredibly different authors, who were his favorites and became two of mine: Edgar Allan Poe and Ayn Rand. Quiet, unassuming, and as tough as a two bit steak, my Dad led by example.

I remember him illustrating a point to me I never forgot. He filled a sink full of water, telling me to put my hand in it, and then pull it out. After I did, he smiled and said, that’s the hole you leave when you quit something, thinking you’re indispensable. It was the only time he was ever wrong. We’ve been trying to fill the hole he left in passing for over twenty years.

My Dad would have liked this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, which fits him, and all those who landed at Normandy on D-Day:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat.”

Monday, June 4, 2007

It's Back.

Here's the beauty, and the torn A-arm.

I answer the phone. It’s the 1965 Ford Falcon owner from last month. Arghhh!

“Hi, remember me?” He asks.

“Yes, Sir, may I help you,” my jaw is winding to full torque.

“My Falcon’s nice and quiet since you did the exhaust manifolds,” he tells me. “I have another problem now.”

Yea, you own a broken down 1965 Falcon you refuse to get rid of, I’m thinking. I keep my mouth shut instead.

“I was going along the road, and I hit one of those potholes the city won’t fix…”

Uh oh.

“…and the driver’s side wheel just collapsed. My friend came over, and we managed to get it over to the side of the road with a jack. He says there’s something wrong in the upper ball joint area. Can I have it towed over?”


“Have it towed over, and I’ll see what it needs,” I say instead. “It doesn’t sound too good. I’m hoping it’s just the ball joint I told you needed replaced, and you haven’t done any further damage.”

“Oh, do you think it will be expensive?”

“Since parts are nearly non-existent for your Falcon, I would have to say yes. If it’s only a broken ball joint, I can get those. If it’s the upper A-arm, it will be a lot more difficult.”

“I’ll get it towed right over,” he promises.

Oh joy!

“I’ll be here.”

The Falcon arrives on a flatbed tow truck, and it takes a jack just to get the Falcon off the tow truck. The fatigued metal has given out, and torn free of the solid metal upper A-arm. This means it needs a new A-arm, ball joint, coil spring saddle, shock absorber (which is shot), upper control arm and bushings. This means Mr. Falcon will again be in residence for the foreseeable future awaiting parts. An intensive search of the Internet proves productive, and I find everything I’ll need. Unfortunately, I won’t be getting any of the parts until the end of this week. I call the customer with the bad news to get his okay.

“How could this happen?” He gasps in dismay.

How could it not happen is a more logical question.

“Metal fatigue,” I reply instead. “The solid metal A-arm tore apart in the ball joint area. You’re lucky you weren’t going down the freeway.”

“It’s those potholes the city won’t fix,” he laments.

“It’s the forty-two year old rolling coffin you drive, Sir. While potholes are a bad thing, they won’t cause a solid metal frame piece to tear apart.”

“Can I get it back before the 6th?”

Only in my dreams.

“No, I’ll have to call you with an update when the parts actually arrive.”

“I hope it doesn’t take as long as the manifolds,” he sighs.

That makes two of us, I think, adding a prayer. :)