Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

23 May 2018

Cab Driver Stories: Taxis versus Uber, Part I


Throughout the world, and especially in the U.S., public transportation of people for hire is regulated. Whether it's a small municipal bus service or one like Greyhound that travels across state lines, operators are subject to various government regulations. Whether it's a small air charter operator with a single-engine Cessna, a little helicopter giving rides at a county fair, or a big airline like JetBlue, same deal.

The Department of Transportation regulates for-hire travel here in the U.S. And for good reason. We don't want just anyone starting an air service and carrying passengers around for a fee. We expect that there would be some minimum standards of service. Pilots need to be properly trained and licensed; airplanes need to be inspected and maintained and airworthy; the operation must be defined as to scope and area.  You wouldn't want a charter operator in flat and swampy Pensacola to fly up to and start doing business in, say, Colorado without special training on the hazards of mountain/winter flying.

Wherever you look, whether it's a railroad or just a shuttle bus in your home town the service is regulated by some agency or entity. Even taxicabs have traditionally been subject to regulations, although mostly on the state or local level. We put up with such regulations because we understand that there needs to be some sort of governmental oversight and scrutiny in the interest of public safety.

Then along came Uber...

Uber initially claimed that they were not taxis, oh no! Uber was merely an informal, internet-based “ride-sharing” service by which people could arrange for a car to come and take them somewhere for a fee. Why, that's not like a taxi at all!  Uber claimed that they were only an intermediary (just an internet app, really), matching up like-minded passengers with independent drivers.  The fact that the drivers actually work for Uber, and that Uber insures the trip, collects the money for the trip and pays the driver...well, they were swept under the carpet as inconsequential.  Not like a taxi at all!

Along the way, Uber morphed into a “ride-hailing” service.  And what kind of vehicle do we hail? Right, a taxi. Local governments were too stupid to notice the subtle change.  And in any case it didn't matter - Uber already got their nose under the tent and there was no stopping it.

From the federal down to the local levels, our government is typically run by old people who are generally not hip to all this new technology with which we're constantly bombarded. All across the land, moronic local governments (like the one here in Pensacola), smitten and awed by the shiny technology of hailing a cab ON OUR PHONE!...gave Uber carte-blanche to operate with basically ZERO regulation or oversight. No special driver licensing or background checks/fingerprinting, no vehicle licensing or inspection...no commercial insurance...no nothing. Anybody with a car could now be a cab-driver!

(To clarify, a taxi must have expensive commercial insurance in place for EVERY mile it drives here in Pensacola, whether empty or with a fare. On the other hand, Uber only provides commercial-level coverage for the passenger when they are in an Uber car. At all other times the Uber driver relies on his personal auto insurance policy. It's a clever manipulation of the rules and could arguably be considered insurance fraud.)

What happened next was predictable: the dismantling of the taxi industry. Full-time cabbies who depended on driving a taxi for their livelihood found themselves put out of work by a bunch of part-time, unregulated independent-contractors driving for Uber as a “side-hustle.” Nationwide, cab companies have been systematically put out of business by these “ride-hailing” companies which governments are now calling “transportation network companies” which is just a bullshit way of saying “a cab company but we don't want to call that.”

Here in Pensacola, the taxi business at the airport is virtually dead; Uber has taken over. In this town, the only thing taxis have going for them is that the Navy doesn't allow Uber on the base...yet. There are approximately 4,000 sailors and Marines here, fresh out of boot camp, most of whom cannot own cars and all of whom want to be OFF THE BASE! on the weekend. So from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening there just aren't enough taxis to handle the demand. For a cab driver, you can make a pretty decent living just working the base on weekends. Which is what my friend, Terry and I did...or used to do. But once the Navy starts letting Ubers on the base, it's game-over for the taxis. I suspect that'll happen sooner rather than later.

The question is: Should the transportation of people for hire be regulated on the local level as it is on the federal? Should there be any regulation at all? Many states, like Florida have abolished their statewide rules for taxis and vehicles for hire, leaving it up to local municipalities to make their own rules...or not. The states hilariously claim that this “levels the playing field” which it absolutely does not. Most cities simply follow the state's lead. But not all.

For instance, Pensacola still has their “legacy” rules for taxis in place, which seem onerous now compared to the free-reign they've given the “ride-hailing” services. The city even removed the one-and-only taxi stand we had downtown. If our idiot mayor thought he'd see less traffic downtown at night on the weekends, he didn't anticipate the substitution of the comparably few (or at least finite number of) taxis for the jam-up of unlimited Uber cars that now prowl downtown trying to snag the closest “ping.”

If anything, traffic is worse.  And here's why.

In the past, taxis would cruise up the street. In a time-honored tradition, someone would step out from the curb and hail one. The cab would stop, the people would climb in, and the cab would be underway again with fairly minimal delay. Now, an Uber passenger clicks on the app from inside the bar/club.  The Uber car goes to the pickup point, double-parks in the street with its flashers on and waits for the rider(s) to eventually come out of the bar, which they typically don't do until they receive a notification that the Uber car has arrived. The police have begun hassling such rideshare drivers for blocking traffic. Gee, whodathunkit? One problem for another. (Yes, I drive for Uber now. No, I don't work downtown on the weekend.)

Ultimately we have to decide how much government intervention we really need in our lives. Right now, people seem to want it both ways. We want air travel, buses and railroads to be well-regulated, but not taxis! We're willing to make an exception for Uber/Lyft because of the incredible convenience they provide, and we thus gloss-over or summarily ignore the issue of regulation and public safety.  Seems to me that carrying people for hire is carrying people for hire no matter what particular mode of transportation it is, whether they're in a four-seat Cessna or a four-seat UberX.

I'll deal with “the taxi problem” in Part II.

15 May 2018

Cab Driver Stories: The Big Switch


Me and my buddy, Terry May, Pensacola, Florida's two newest Uber drivers.  (It may not be clear in the pic, but Terry is the one wearing shorts and a knee brace.)

Life is strange. Don't ever let anyone tell you it's not.

As I mentioned in my post on May 2nd, I have switched from being a taxi driver to driving for Uber. And now, two weeks down the road (if you'll pardon the pun) I can report: So far, so good. It's like taxi driving, only easier.

My cabdriver friend Terry was witness to the speed and ease with which I was able to find a replacement vehicle for my aging Ford minivan. He has a similarly-aging Dodge. And although his van was still in pretty good shape, you just never know what's going to break next on a car with 200,000+ miles.

Casually perusing the online ads, Terry found a late-model Dodge for sale at a used-car dealership over in Mobile, Alabama. It looked to be in nice shape, but was priced $4,000 below “book.” Terry called the dealer and got the bad news: Hail damage to the hood and roof. Hmm. We decided to go take a look at it anyway.

The hail damage was minimal, or at least as “minimal” as hail damage can be. Yeah, it was noticeable on the hood if you looked just right. On the roof there was virtually none to speak of. We took it for a test-drive. With 86,000 miles it still drove like new. The interior was immaculate. Like mine, it was a one-owner car. The dealer had it since September and he wanted it gone; hence, the low price.

The taxi drivers here in Pensacola call Terry, “Mr. Lucky” because of all the good trips he gets. His good-fortune continued. A buyer “magically” appeared for his pickup truck that he hadn't been driving much in the last five years. Then a guy came along and wanted to lease-purchase his current taxi. Suddenly Terry had no reason to not buy this van. He did, and then with some understandable reluctance he signed up with Uber, which was the great-unknown for us.

So now we both have “new” Dodge minivans...vans with zero maintenance issues...vans that people get in and go, “Is this brand-new?” (Yes, they are that nice.) We went from taxi drivers to Uber drivers literally overnight.

Our cab driver buddies act as if we've committed an act of treason. They plaintively ask us, “Are you coming back?” We reply ambiguously that we might return, but the truth is that neither Terry nor I would ever go back to driving a regular taxi. I'll get into the reasons why in future installments here.

In the meantime, Terry and I just laugh that we quite suddenly and unexpectedly made the Big Switch from taxis to Uber.  And it wasn't nearly as traumatic as we imagined.

10 May 2018

The Pensacola Beach Ferry Service


The geniuses who run this backwater burgh we call Pensacola, Florida, in a misguided effort to decrease the ridiculous vehicular traffic on the beach every weekend, will be instituting a ferry service between downtown and Pensacola Beach. Small ferries, you ask? Oh nooooo! Big ferries. But not car ferries...people ferries...150 passenger ferries.

A round-trip ticket is supposedly going to be $20. We'll see.

Two big boats have been purchased with a $5.2 million grant from BP Oil as a result of their Deepwater Horizon disaster back in 2010. An operator has been found that is experienced in such things. In the newspaper, they say they will hire between 30 and 40 people. Service is scheduled to begin (fingers crossed!) June 15th. No ticket kiosks or infrastructure of any kind is in place right now. Personally, I think the start-date is kind of optimistic.  We'll see.  

The ferry operator hopes to attract 900 people per day. And by that we can assume that they mean "Saturday and Sunday." Because nobody is going to take the ferry during the week, period. Weekly ridership will probably not even cover the expenses of running the two boats on those days.

Hmm, let's think about this. 900 people per day? They're dreaming. We're talking LSD-induced fantasyland here. But let's humor them! Let's figure 900 people times $20 equals $18,000 per day - less if we deduct the discounts for groups, military, children and senior citizens they're talking about. Still, setting those aside for the moment, that's potentially $36,000 for the weekend...and...ohhhh, let's be optimistic...maybe another 500 people during the week, or an additional $10,000 revenue, giving gross sales of $46,000 for the week. Roughly $180,000 for the month.

“Great!” you say. ”That's a lot of money!”

But hold on a minute. That's not year-round revenue. The ferries may be able to generate that kind of revenue on nice weekends during May, June, July and August. Maybe. But there's no way...no way! they can sustain that kind of traffic year 'round. I don't even know if they intend to run the ferries all year long, but the revenue has to be spread over twelve months because the costs of the boats and the infrastructure (piers, etc) don't go away. I'm not sure what the ferry service's annual operating costs are, but I'll bet that they're considerable! And I'll bet that the service will only run six months out of the year.

And let's not forget that even in the summer, not every weekend is suitable for the beach. We do get storms! Hurricane Season runs from the beginning of June through November. So there's always that possibility. But in addition, the ferry probably won't run if the water is particularly rough. So a storm out in the Gulf of Mexico that doesn't affect our local weather might render the boats unusable.

But again, let's be generous...let's assume they can do $750,000 in revenue for the year.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't know much about operating boats. However I do know a lot about operating airplanes and helicopters. And I'm sure that boats can be just as expensive to maintain, even when you're not using them. And while I have no idea what their actual operating costs are going to be, I suspect that the service will operate at a loss.  While the purchase of the ferries may have been subsidized, the operating costs are not.  It cannot run at a loss.

As I said and believe, the passenger ferry service is misguided. But the government has to do something. The weekend traffic out on the beach has gotten unbearable. It often takes an hour or more to get out to the beach at midday on a weekend.

The beach is a victim of its own success. It's beautiful! We've got that famous sugar-white sand. We've got some really good hotels, restaurants and clubs. As we used to say in the groovy 1960's, the beach is happening, man! Our Chamber of Commerce markets it heavily. We are known as “The Redneck Riviera” due to all of the visitors we get from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. It's not flattering but it's true.

Another part of this is due to our idiotic local residents. We've got about 300,000 people in the surrounding Pensacola area. And on the warm, sunny weekends they all want to go to the beach. These morons can't seem to get up before eleven a.m. They get on the road around noon, all heading for the beach. Anyone who's lived here through one summer knows that the beach gets FULL every Saturday and Sunday without fail. By one p.m. there is literally no place left to park. Traffic through the city of Gulf Breeze is choked to a standstill. The Three-Mile Bridge that goes across Pensacola Bay to Gulf Breeze gets backed-up all the way to Pensacola. But the faithful are undeterred. By God, they're going to the beach!

Our stupid Santa Rosa Island Authority (the agency that runs the beach) will not detour or shut down the traffic entering the beach; they just let people come and come and fight it out for the parking spots. And those people do come, mostly in cars and big pickup trucks carrying only one or two people. Car-pooling? Not in Pensacola, thank you! As a taxi driver I see this first-hand. As I'm stuck in crawling, bumper-to-bumper traffic, my passengers stare gloomily at the meter, which never stops clicking ever upward. You might say that I'm part of the problem, but I go out there and do not stay; I just drop my people off and leave.

There was talk once about building a multi-story parking garage on the beach. The plans came to naught. Turns out it couldn't be built between the end of one season and the beginning of the next. So that idea was dropped. Recently, someone actually suggested the installation of traffic circles/roundabouts as a way of smoothing the flow of traffic. Traffic circles! The idiots around here can barely navigate a conventional intersection much less one where the rights of way are not clear. Then there are the pedestrians – so many pedestrians!...yet the county will not build crossover bridges to get the people off the roads.

Local governments are horrible at actually solving problems. They'd rather just “kick the can down the road.” Which is what they've done here. The summer traffic problems on Pensacola Beach will not get better on their own. A passenger ferry service will do precious little to help alleviate the overcrowding.

But they can dream!

You can read the story in our local newspaper HERE

https://www.pnj.com/story/news/local/pensacola/beaches/2018/05/09/pensacola-bay-ferry-service-track-start-june-15-says-operator/592403002/

02 May 2018

Cab Driver Stories: If You Can't Beat 'Em...

Good-bye, old friend

It all happened rather suddenly. One day I was a happy taxi driver in Pensacola, Florida; next day I'm driving for Uber.

My taxi, a 2006 Ford Freestar was becoming...how you say...troublesome. The van has 206,000 miles. It was on its third transmission (a well-known problem with this make/model) and even this one was starting to act up. The $3,000 repair was not something to which I was looking forward. Plus, I'd been having air conditioner problems.  

My rear a/c had stopped working altogether,  and up front I couldn't keep a compressor working for more than a couple of weeks. (The shop I use kept generously replacing them under warranty but even they were getting frustrated that they could not find the source of the problem which clearly was in my car and not their compressors.) There were also other electrical glitches that I knew had expensive fixes. Clearly, the van was reaching the end of its useful life as a profitable taxi.

We all know this. We know that eventually vehicles wear out and need replacement. Smart taxi drivers put away money for that. You can keep putting money into the vehicle in repairs, but sooner or later it ceases to be economically viable. Parts for my Ford are super-expensive.

So I started looking for another van. I considered buying a sedan, but minivans are just so much more practical. Over the years I've been asked to carry so much weird stuff that would never fit in a sedan. I wanted a Chrysler/Dodge van. They're not particularly durable, but Chrysler made a gazillion of them. Parts are plentiful and they're cheap to repair. In 2008, Chrysler redesigned its iconic minivan. The design has been the same ever since, and the 2008's are nearly indistinguishable from a brand-new one.

I found a very nice, one-owner 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan at a local dealer. The thing had a little more miles on it than I would have preferred, but it was immaculate – cleanest one I'd looked at. It just so happened that my friend Terry and I visited them on the very last day of the month. And boy were they in a mood to sell!  We made a deal. I won't say that I "stole" it, but they did immediately come off their asking price, and they agreed to take my van in trade, sight-unseen, and give me a “fair” price for it as well.

About that: These old vans from the mid-2000's are not worth much, especially if they have high miles on them as my Ford did. The fact that the dealer would take it in trade (even if we all knew that it was going immediately to a wholesaler) was the deal-maker. It meant I wouldn't have to sell it myself, which would have required paying someone to take all the taxi decals off. They get baked on and are not easy to remove. Plus I would have felt like a shitbag for selling someone a van with a faulty airconditioner and transmission.

The biggest decision was not to put the new van back on as a taxi. Nope, I'm switching to Uber! Yeah, I know...consorting with the enemy and all...

There are a lot of reasons for this. In the end it was kind of a coin-toss. What tipped the scales for me is that as a taxi, working the Navy base and the airport has become a huge pain in the ass. It seems that nobody likes taxis anymore  - not the base commander nor the airport manager. In the end I just said, “Screw it!”  Working the base is just not worth the hassle anymore.  Working the airport is nearly as bad.

So it's good-bye, taxi and hello, Uber. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

25 April 2018

Cab Driver Stories: Driving Warren Buffett

People sometimes complain about taxicabs and their aggressive driving. Right after graduating high school, I drove a cab in NYC. And yeah, what you've heard about cabbies in the Big Apple is true: Most of us did drive pretty crazily, even me. However here in Pensacola, I'm not quite so aggressive. But neither do I drive like a little old lady.

As opposed to most other drivers on the road, we cab drivers are out there trying to make a living. We're not just joyriding around for fun. If we're on a trip we need to get our passengers to their destination. If we're empty, we're trying to get back to where the trips are (e.g. the mall, airport or the Navy base). Either way, we don't like to waste time because as we all know, time is money. So if I cut you off a little closer than you'd like, don't take it personally; it's just business. Obviously, some cab drivers get too aggressive. I've noticed that the more desperate for money the cab driver is, the crazier he'll drive.

Working three days a week, I drive between 2,500 and 3,000 miles per month, all of it in the city. So far I haven't had any wrecks or gotten any tickets, but I've come pretty close. When you drive for a living, you have to refine defensive driving into a fine art. You literally cannot be defensive enough; there's no such thing. And I thought flying helicopters required a lot of concentration! My buddy, Terry and I often compare stories of close-calls we've had due to the stupid things people do.

Still, though we are out there trying to make a living, there's no excuse for being rude or driving recklessly. But we do get impatient with drivers who aren't really paying attention to what they're doing. Oh, and we see that a lot! At nearly every red light now, the first driver in line won't take off right away when the light turns green – at least not until he finally notices that the light has changed and puts his phone down. Cell phone use at red lights is rampant. It's annoying. But I learned a long time ago that it's not my job to teach people how to drive. So I just shake my head and motor on.

The majority of drivers – especially guys – think that they are an “above-average” driver. Obviously half of them are wrong – must be wrong. Not everyone can be above-average, and trust me, not everyone is. There are a lot of really bad drivers out there. It's almost as if people, upon passing their road test forgot everything in the DMV driver's manual – if they ever knew it to begin with. Nevertheless, every guy will tell you that he's among the best. And he believes it! Sadly, the evidence is to the contrary.

Guys tend to believe that in addition to the space around their vehicle, they also own the space directly ahead of them out to a certain distance (and that distance varies). Violate that space and you'll be treated to horn-blowing and angry finger-gesturing. I just ignore it the way I ignore it when someone does it to me. I don't let my ego get involved with my driving.

Sometimes guys will just be toodling down the boulevard slowly in the left lane, blocking traffic. Once you find a hole and go around them, now they suddenly speed up! This happens...all...the...time.  It's bizarre. It's as if there is a subconscious, neurotic need in guys to not be passed...like it's an insult to their manhood.

My own aggressive tendencies reveal themselves when I drive a non-taxi. I'll find myself having to consciously tone it down a little and not be “driving like an idiot” as my dad would angrily say. He used to get really pissed at bad drivers.

And like I said, it's not that I drive super-aggressively in the cab. I mean, the passengers don't want to be scared or banged around. It's not an amusement park thrill-ride. You have to drive smoothly. But there's a way of being aggressive, safe and smooth. It's sort of like the difference between the kind of experience you'd get on a short sightseeing helicopter ride at a county fair and the one the pilots would provide to a Mr. Warren Buffett. The passengers at the fair don't mind a little bit of “rock 'n roll” (in fact they might expect it), but such flying would get Mr. Buffett's pilots fired on the spot and possibly shot.

Similarly, the military kids don't mind a little aggressive driving, especially when it's late and they have to be back by curfew. Plus, they drive that way themselves – they're teenagers after all. But then I'll take a trip off the airport and have to remind myself to drive like it's Mr. Buffett in the back.

18 April 2018

Cab Driver Stories: Good Hands


There are approximately 4,000 students in the NATTC (Naval Air Technical Training Command) here on NAS Pensacola. Virtually all of them want to be off the base on the weekend. Very few of them have cars. Some make the long walk off base to catch an Uber. But the vast majority of them rely on taxis, of which there is a veritable fleet of independents like myself who cater to the military and eschew the civilian market.

When liberty is called and they're allowed to leave base, they're not supposed to go out alone. They check-out with “libo-buddies” and they stick together until they check back in. So they come to the taxi queue in groups of between two and six, which is the maximum that most van-cabs can seat.

As I've said, we call them “the kids” because they seem so very, very young. And they are – most of them are basically just beyond high school age, and that's how a lot of them act: like rambunctious teenagers; they can be rowdy. This is not a bad thing, at least not for me. Their enthusiasm and lust-for-life is as infectious as it is entertaining. The stern-parent side of me might want to say, “You kids settle down or I'm gonna turn this cab around!” The still-a-teenager side of me says, “Party on, guys!” As long as they're well-behaved when we pass through the main gate, I don't care what they do in the cab. (Oh, and the military girls can be just as rowdy, if not more so than military boys.)

Since they always travel in pairs or groups, I get to witness some peculiar group dynamics.  After seven years of carting these fine young examples of American youth around, I've made some observations: some surprising, some not. 

Primarily they are, to a man, extremely proud of joining the military and serving their country.  They all have an admirable sense of duty and purpose and patriotism. They love this country. In addition, they are all incredibly close; their comradeship and dedication to each other is inspiring. They have a level of platonic intimacy that is quite startling when you first observe it. It's odd to hear straight guys profess love for each other, which we hear often (and not always when they're drunk). Each of these guys would absolutely lay down his or her life for the other, which is a profound thing.

The Marines are funny though. As close as they are, the Marines are all so incredibly competitive. They're always “one-upping” each other. If one guy says that the pickup truck he had in high school had 500 horsepower, the next guy will say his had 600 horsepower. By the time we get to the mall I'll be convinced that they all drove "monster" trucks to school, won every drag race, and out-ran the police every weekend.

The most bizarre example of this need to top each other was when I heard a Marine say that he got pinkeye in boot camp (apparently a non-uncommon malady). Another Marine quickly added, “Well I got pinkeye in both eyes!”

It's hard not to laugh sometimes.

Sometimes they talk to me, but just as often they're off in their own little worlds. I try not to eavesdrop, but really you can't avoid it. I had a car full of Marines coming back from the beach one day.  The conversation among them was loud and I really wasn't involved when I overheard, “Oh, you'd jump on a nuclear grenade for me, but you won't take a shower with me?” (I'm not sure of the context, because I only caught that snippet of that conversation. But I am certain it wasn't said in a sexual way.) The other Marines all laughed – not about taking a shower together (I guess that happens sometimes?), but because of the description: not just any grenade, “a nuclear grenade.”

Sometimes I just shake my head.

All cabdrivers have “regulars” – customers who ride with them more or less exclusively. We make sure they get rides when they need them, especially on a late weekend night when the cabs are all booked and they need to be back by curfew.  And we give our regulars good discounts. We get to know these kids...know where they're from and a little about their lives. Older drivers, like my friend Terry and myself...we unavoidably get to feeling somewhat paternal about them.

There is a group of Navy kids I carry around a lot. Age-wise, they are all over twenty-one (some only by a month or two), and they like to drink. Oh boy, do they like to drink! They are extremely close friends – you can just tell. Each one is a strong personality in his own right. They are all prototypical alpha males, let's face it. But there is one who is their ringleader: the one they call “Scott.”

Scott always sits up front. He is loud, boisterous, obnoxious (in a funny, good way), and he's usually drunk. He instantly takes command of the taxi – mostly the conversation but especially the music, which he likes LOUD. He's not a big, tough, macho kind of guy, although like all of them he can be. But he is the life of their party. This charismatic man-boy just dominates.  Oddly, the others defer to him in a not-so-subtle way. Scott is the alpha-alpha male, and they know it.  He is just a natural leader. He's the kind of guy (we all know the type) who walks into a room and owns the place.

My friend Terry and I feel honored to transport these “kids” around. We tell them that they made a wise and smart decision to join the military...that they are embarking on the greatest adventure of their lives, and that no one knows what's in store for them once they leave Pensacola, only that it will be awesome and they better enjoy it!

When their time here is done and we finally, and sadly, drop them off at the airport on their way to their next duty station, neither Terry nor I know where these guys and gals will ultimately end up. Some surely will be deployed to some of the “hot spots” in which we are currently embroiled. We always wish them well, we thank them for their service, and we earnestly hope that they'll never have to see the kind of situations for which they are all trained and ready. It's comforting to know that our country is defended by such fine young men and women.  Don't worry: We're in good hands.

If we only had such faith in our civilian leadership.

11 April 2018

Getting Organized


I'm ecstatic. Not just figuratively ecstatic, but literally ecstatic too. In fact I'm beyond ecstatic: I'm overjoyed. The reason, you ask? Well I finally did it – I finally broke down and bought myself a three-box rolling tool chest. I cannot tell you what a relief this is.

The new box

I have worked on cars and motorcycles all my life. And over the years I've acquired a bunch of tools. But I never had an organized place to keep them, so they ended up in plastic totes and tool bags. This was mostly because when I'd go to the junkyard I'd need to bring certain tools. The totes just kept getting fuller and fuller. Oh, and heavier, by the way.

My garage was a holy mess, with tools all over the place. “Where'd I put my power drill?” God only knows. And he's not telling. This kicker was just recently when my friend Jacob was over. We were doing...something...and we needed a Torx bit. (A Torx bit is a star-shaped tool that manufacturers favor in place of Phillips head screws. They come in various sizes from very small to very big.) I was certain that I had said Torx bit, and I did, but it took forever to find it. And let's not talk about all the motorcycle parts I've collected over the years...

I have two old motorcycles that I'm going to restore, and I need workspace...that is, space that's not covered with various loose sockets and crap.

With my nomadic lifestyle I never really had a garage to work in. Now I do. And even though I've lived in this joint for seven years, it's never truly felt like home – mostly because I spend about half the year up in Washington State. But now that that's over, and now that I'm finally buying this house, I want to...how you say...settle down. Remodeling the bathrooms? That can wait – I need a workshop!

I've been looking for a tool box for a while. The stuff that was advertised on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace was just junk. After a fruitless search, I decided to shift gears. Sears had a three-box thirteen-drawer tool chest bundle on sale for not a lot of money. But I was hesitant, thinking: Do I really need thirteen drawers? I went, I looked, I bought. I got it home and put it together. And guess what? Those thirteen drawers are filling up awfully fast! I may need another, supplemental box.

Now, is my garage suddenly well-organized? Oh, hell no. But we're on the right track. It's a very small thing, I know, but it's amazing how satisfying it is to put your tools away where they're supposed to be...where you'll be able to find them again when you need them. Now if I could just do something about all these motorcycle parts!