The Unbearable Lightness of Being Stupid

August\September, 2000

Greetings participle danglers!

It's the Read and Delete Newsletter for August! 
otherwise known as: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Stupid.

This newsletter is delayed due to an extended bout of incompetence. What do a set of spark plugs, a laptop computer, a wedding ceremony, and a rotator cuff have in common? That's right! They're all things that I managed to screw up in the last month. Do I need to explain?
There are those moments in our lives when certain events transpire that lead us to exclaim, "I must be having one of THOSE days." (In my case there are moments in my day when the events that transpire make me exclaim, "I guess I have one of THOSE lives.") This chronicle would best be described in the following "soap opera" format:

Scene one: Saturday.
The scene opens with Neil and Wendy driving to a wedding in a distant suburb, when suddenly the car shuts down right on the highway, in a pool of transmission fluid. Neil's brother Jim (enroute to the same wedding) stops to render aid by getting Wendy to the telephone and the motor club. The motor club snaps into action by sending out a driver from the "Four Dollar Per Mile - Free Scratch and Dent towing service", to tow the dead soldier back to the transmission shop 50 miles away. Neil & Company miss the wedding, coming only to the reception. 
Scene two: Tuesday.
The transmission shop calls Neil, saying, "We can't get the car started, so we can't find out what is wrong with it." (actual quote) Neil replies: You guys are mechanics, right?" The shop replies, "We are transmission
specialists, before we can access the transmission, you need to see an engine servicer." Neil says, "Does this mean that I need to contact a towing service provider and have my vehicle uninstalled from your shop?" Trans
shop: *click* The tow truck delivers the car to Neil's garage, where it is put under life-support.

Scene three: Wednesday (Wendy's birthday)
A family pizza party is planned for that evening. (Every soap opera has a party scene and hospital scene-- but the hospital scene comes later) Neil takes a Metra train to work, in order to let Wendy use the only remaining
Maloney mode of movement-- the minivan. Wendy will pick Neil up from the Route 59 train station at 4 PM- and the party will begin. The trip to work is uneventful. Duties at the plant that day include being hijacked into a
late meeting with the sales/marketing group- late meaning holding Neil for time enough to make him run to catch his train (the 3:46 from the Belmont Road station).
At 3:40 PM -Neil is still a block away from the station when he hears a train whistle and the crossing gate bell. He has been running at a speed commensurate with his age, mileage and general physical declination (while
toting his notebook computer/briefcase/portable hernia with a shoulder strap) and he makes a command decision. Neil decides to "go for it", and make an heroic attempt to break the land-speed record for laptop-laden middle-aged morons chasing commuter trains. Putting on that extra burst of speed - "faster than a speeding glacier" Neil bolts across the parking lot and onto the platform towards the now stopped train.
In order to actually board the beast, Neil must run across the tracks and embark from its leeward side. The closest end of the train being the front, he decides to pass across the bow of the locomotive (now stopped at
the boarding platform). He looks up towards the front window of the locomotive, makes eye contact with the engineer- who waves Neil across (probably out of sympathy) Neil then bounds across the rails, and with his
last bit of caffeine and jelly doughnut induced energy, attempts a giant leap onto the concrete platform. Unfortunately, his foot slips backwards off the rail and catches on it, instantly re-directing his massive forward and upward thrust into a downward direction. Instead of completing a graceful  cat-like leap onto the boarding platform, he crashes into it (like the slamming  of a book)-- our "hero" valiantly absorbing the impact with his mighty rotator cuff, rib cage, thigh and Compaq notebook-- before sinking back down onto the rails--six feet in front of the locomotive. 
     What happens next? Neil looks up at the massive Burlington Northern emblem on the nose of the locomotive and makes the realization that in less than fifteen seconds the large "BN" insignia will stand for "Broken Neck", unless he gets up off the tracks. In other words, if he moves- he will hurt--- if he doesn't -- he will die. He vaults himself (of sorts) onto the platform, and stumbles into the first car. 
Once onboard, the conductor berates Neil, calling him "lazy"-- for waiting in the parking lot instead of on the platform, saying, "Don't you know that this train is twenty minutes late?". Neil then discovers that the train he ran for was not the 3:46 as he had supposed, but the 3:20. When Neil explains this to the conductor, the conductor's countenance changes dramatically. Neil is no longer a lazy bastard, just a stupid one. (Lesson
to be learned here- Commuter trains NEVER run early. They never leave the station early EVER.)
Neil attempts to hide his injury from his family-- but Wendy becomes suspicious as she sees her husband doing an incredibly believable impersonation of Quasimoto as he gimps around the Route 59 train station. 
Scene four: Thursday morning-- Copley Hospital E.R. (I told you so!) After a night spent discovering sleeping positions that give new meaning to the word 'pain', Neil shows up at the emergency room, looking for
aid and comfort from any M.D., including Dr. Kevorkian. The medics take a couple of x-rays of Neil's right shoulder (now the size of Andre the Giant's) and his spine (now in the shape of the Human Question Mark) and
ask him, "What happened to you?" Neil says, "I cut myself while I was shaving." They prescribe 'anti-inflammatory' medication and put his arm into a sling.

Scene five: Friday night- Neil's garage. Neil (now in a sling) is working on his dead car. The autopsy reveals that frayed insulation in the ignition primary circuit caused an electrical short that vaporized the engine computer and melted about ten feet of wiring under the hood. Neil wonders, "How could this happen?"
Scene six: Flashback-- same car, same garage, same Neil-- exactly one week earlier (Friday night.)
Neil is giving his car a 'tune-up'- changing the oil, changing the filters and (yes!) changing the spark plugs. He does not see the frayed wire as it is located under the intake housing. During re-assembly, the wire is
pushed into a position where it will eventually short out to ground, causing the computer to grenade and the engine to shut down at full load, and as an added bonus, force the transmission to over-pressurize and dump excess fluid onto the pavement.

Moral of the story: Saving money can kill you, if it doesn't bankrupt you first.
spark plugs-- $7.95
computer---$183.19 (car engine computer)
laptop computer $0.00 (I fixed it myself--got away lucky here.)
train tickets--$27.50
E/R copay---$50.00
meds copay --$5.00
MD copay----$38.50
-------------->$530.06 (PLUS TAX)

SECOND MORAL: Crossing in front of a train in the station can pretty much guarantee you a closed-casket funeral. If I had been a little more dazed or knocked unconscious when I fell, my body might have ended up resembling a pile of crumpled drinking straws. There might have been a ten-second item on the 10'oclock news: "Stupid man killed in Downers Grove--- Judge rules it a 'justifiable suicide'.

Thank God for His angels.

It's been over a month since I've emerged from the sling, and now I can almost raise my right arm completely over my head (without passing out, I might add.) Tomorrow is my birthday, and I'm going to celebrate. Anybody need a tune-up?

Gotta other car needs an oil change.