Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Revisiting Washers, Toilet Paper Rolls, And Good People

 ["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published Nov. 27, 2019] ©2019 

One true upside to writing Let Inga Tell You for the last ten years is the opportunity to learn from readers.

We’ll get to my recent column about toilet paper in a moment but first, I’d like to revisit my column from earlier in the year about my brand-new washing machine.  It seems I am not the only person who is exasperated by the “smart” features installed in most new washers.  “Balance” seems to be a particular problem across many brands (probably not all that surprising since one repair guy maintained they’re all made in the same factory in China).  My machine wants to self-balance but if there is anything in there heavier than underwear (God forbid you should want to wash towels), it is scientifically designed to shift everything to one side then sound like it is agitating a bowling ball.  The only person more scared of this machine than the dog is me.  I can’t leave the house when it is running as I have to be prepared to race in and stop a machine that is literally flailing around like it’s possessed before it ends up in the living room.  Multiple calls to the warranty service people have ended with them suggesting I “not wash heavy objects in it.”  These would be the same heavy objects I have been washing in its predecessors for 40 years.  I did finally find one semi-solution which is to ignore all instructions in the manual.  I now over-ride the auto water level sensor on virtually all loads  and wash everything on “deep water wash and rinse” thereby obviating all the ecological advantages this stupid, useless machine was supposed to have.

And now to toilet paper rolls. I had long thought that the country was divided into Red States and Blue States but really it all comes down to advocates of ever-larger toilet paper rolls versus saner, nicer people who think toilet paper rolls should actually fit on toilet paper spindles.  By coincidence, the day my column appeared, the Wall Street Journal had an article about how Charmin and other toilet paper companies were responding to customer clamor for ever-larger rolls so they’d have to be changed less frequently.  I was whining about Charmin’s newer Super-Mega rolls but it turns out I was already waaaaay out of date.  Charmin now has Forever Rolls that sport 2,500 sheets and come with their own starter kit including a free-standing dispenser which in my house we’d have to take out the bathtub to accommodate.  The WSJ reporter did note that no matter how many sheets of toilet paper you get on a roll, it will still be the woman of the house who ends up changing it. 

I also had not been aware that a newer ecological move in the Toilet Paper Industrial Complex is tube-less rolls.  I have read the arguments for this and about why it is just a waste to be throwing out all those cardboard tubes (unless you have grade school kids. Do away with those tubes and you’ll never get a school-made Christmas gift again). If people whine about the five seconds it takes to shove a dowel through a new roll and snap it into the dispenser, try threading a dowel through a squished mass of a toilet tissue whose alleged opening has disappeared somewhere between denuding the forests of Canada and your local market. I gather from readers there is a lot of “GAH!s” and bad words that often go on in the process. 

As for the column about finally getting a window air conditioner for our bedroom after three brutally hot summers in a row?  It was one of the coldest summers on record and we used it for exactly 10 minutes – and even that was during a brief episode of Indian Indigenous American summer in early October. 

And now an update on Charles, the wonderful security guard at the credit union in the Staples shopping center in Pacific Beach whom I wrote about in March, 2016.  We’ve become fast friends ever since he ran out in a sudden downpour and saved me from running over my iPhone which had fallen out of my purse as I hurled wet packages into my car.  He refused a reward, but when I got home, I sent a letter to the manager of the credit union extolling his character. I never go to that shopping center without stopping for a hug and chat with Charles.  At the time, I said I hoped he had at least posted the column I wrote about him in the break room and maybe shared his new-found fame with his family too.  But in a comment that has stuck with me ever since, he modestly demurred. “Nah. I was raised by my grandma. She said that if you do something nice for someone, you keep it to yourself.” 

Charles for President?

 Washing machine from hell

The wonderful Charles, rescuer of cell phones

Monday, November 18, 2019

Inga's Ultimate California Driver's Test

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published Nov. 20, 2019] ©2019

Last week I wrote about getting my driver’s license renewed and having to take the written test since I’m over 70.  After some 40 practice exams (and 56 years of keen observation at the wheel), I think I can save readers a lot of trouble and just sum it all up in one all-encompassing test.  Pass this and you’re good to go.

At a stop sign with at least a little bit of visibility on either side, you should:
(a) quickly glance both ways then increase speed and blow through it
(b) forget the glancing and just blow through it
(c) realize that STOP means “Slow To Observe Police”

You are stuck behind a total geezer driving the speed limit on a two-lane road where passing on the left is prohibited.  You:
(a) pass him on the right hoping to nudge him into oncoming traffic
(b) wait for the next ravine and make your move
(c) Old people should be put on ice floes and sent out to sea

As the light turns green, a blind person with a service dog is crossing in front of you.  You:
(a) honk and proceed (damn dog needs to learn to walk faster)
(b) assume the guy bought the cane and the dog’s vest on Amazon and is faking.
(c) should make a donation to the Humane Society in the dog’s name if you were wrong

With a Class C driver license, a person may drive:
(a) a two-axle vehicle if the Gross Vehicular Weight is less than 6,000 pounds and you are towing a horse trailer
(b) a two-axle vehicle if the Gross Vehicular Weight is more than 6,000 pounds but the horse trailer contains goats
(c) No one, including the DMV, actually knows what a “Class C” driver’s license is

You do not have to signal a left turn:
(a) if one hand is occupied with the wheel and the other with your cell phone
(b) if you drive a black SUV
(c) because it’s nobody’s business which direction you’re turning

Children who say “Are we there yet?” more than 10 times may be:
(a) left by the side of the road
(b) given phenobarbital
(c) addressed in a tone that is not our “inside voice”

Hitting a tree at 80 miles per hour while intoxicated:
(a) is most damaging to deciduous varieties and ornamentals
(b) makes a moot point of the whole 400-feet-to-stop thing
(c) may require your estate to replace the tree

The yellow light in a traffic signal:
(a) means “speed up or you’ll miss the light!”
(b) is also known as a “pink” light if the light has already turned red when you go through it
(c) All of the above

Alcohol concentration in the blood is legally described as:
(a) “a buzz”
(b) “hammered”
(c) “basted”

Just before a train hits your car that is stalled on the railroad tracks, your last words are:
(a) #@%^**^&!
(b) @(&^%$$%!!
(c) &$#@###*&%!!!

You must stop at railroad tracks when the bell sounds and the gate goes down:
(a) if you actually have time to wait for a whole frigging freight train to go by
(b) unless you think there is room to get around the gate before the train gets there
(c) This question should have been before the last one

If you park your vehicle in an area not usually used for parking:
(a) it usually means it is a primo make-out area
(b) you have no memory after that 10th Jello shot how you got your car ended up on top of that storage shed
(c) think the parking control people are too rigid in their definition of “sidewalk”

State law requires children to be restrained in an approved car seat until:
(a) the square root of their age plus the reciprocal of their weight
(b) the square root of their weight minus the reciprocal of their height
(c) they whine so loud that you can’t stand it

When using a roundabout, drivers should:
(a) be prepared to get sucked into a vortex from which they’ll never escape
(b) petition your Congress person to outlaw roundabouts which are confusing and terrifying to just about everyone
(c) just drive over the median on the smaller ones

It is OK to smoke in a car with passengers under 16 if:
(a) the kids are not coughing violently
(b) you can still see out the windshield
(c) it really depends on what you’re smoking (wink wink)

You can make a U-turn in the middle of a block when:
(a) you see a prime parking spot on the other side of the street
(b) you spot a Taco Bell advertising a two-for-one Chalupa special
(c) Police officers pursuing you have put up a road block ahead

The best mindset toward other drivers when navigating California’s roadways is:
(a) It’s all about me
(b) It’s only about me
(c) Move over

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The DMV, Real ID, and Me

[“Let Inga Tell You, La Jolla Light, published November 13, 2019] ©2019

DMV, how do I hate thee?  Let me count the ways.

The first time your license expires after you turn 70, you have to show up in person at the DMV regardless of how good a driving record you have. I guess they want to make sure you haven’t gone blind and that you still have enough synapses firing to pass the written test.  I decided to get my Real ID at the same time.

Frankly, I’d rather clean the restroom floors at Grand Central Station with my tongue than go to the DMV.  No wait, that’s get a new iPhone.  But the DMV is a close second on my aversion list.

To even get an appointment at my preferred location, I had to register on-line with DMV.gov and create an account that required choosing FIVE utterly stupid security questions, the least bad of which included: “What is the name of a college you applied to but didn’t attend?”  (They have to remind me about all the places that didn’t accept me 55 years ago?)  And: “On what street is your grocery store?”  (Is this the 1950s?  Do they mean Sprouts? Trader Joe’s? Gelsons? P.B. Vons? La Jolla Vons?)  Plus: “What is the name of the doctor who delivered your first child?” (How the hell would I know? He’s adopted!) They clearly get their security questions from the same place as United.

The DMV site advises that to “save time,” one should fill out the required Driver’s License Application form, the DL 44, on-line.  Believe me, I could have saved a lot of time filling it out there.  I thought I could just sign into my account at DMV.gov and access it. But no, the DMV has apparently “partnered” with something called ID.me which required another whole registration process including a “two factor authentication process” that sent me a code – good for only 15 minutes - that I had to input to a window that I’d accidentally clicked out of.

Given all the horror stories I’d heard from people who were turned away at the Real ID desk for failing to have the proper documents, I tried to bring five of everything.  Puzzlingly, a California Driver’s license is not acceptable as one of the proofs of ID for a Real ID.  (So is ours an UnReal ID? An Ersatz ID? A Wannabe ID?)  It basically has to be a passport or a birth certificate.  But not so fast. The name on the birth certificate has to be the same one that will be on your Real ID which means it works for 99.9% of men and about two percent of women.  Otherwise your stack of documents need to include an original copy of your marriage certificate. Probably just as well in my case. My birth certificate, after 72 years moldering in various safety deposit boxes, had the consistency of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Handing it over to the DMV lady would have been its last hurrah.

BTW, while you can download the 132-page Driver’s Handbook on-line, actual copies of it reside in public libraries (the College Room at the La Jolla Riford Library, in our case.) This is the best kept secret in California.

So I read the manual, carefully underlining all the number stuff (speed limits, how tall a kid has to be not to have to ride in a car seat, etc. etc.)  I took eight practice tests on-line and aced them, even learning a few things like you can no longer smoke in a car with kids under 16.  When I was growing up in the 50s, it was amazing parents could see out the windshield.

One question I kept getting wrong: that it is illegal to park in an "unmarked crosswalk."  Inquiring minds wanted to know how you know its a crosswalk if it's unmarked.  Turns out an unmarked crosswalk is the portion of the roadway at an intersection 10-feet wide that would connect opposite sides of the street.  (My second PSA of this column.)

I have to say that some of the questions on the practice tests were freebies, like what does a "No U-Turn" sign mean? In fact, there ought to be a few key questions on each test that are automatic fails, like under what circumstances you can mow down pedestrians and blind people.

Two days before my appointment at the DMV, I decided to take a few more practice tests - and failed 14 out of 18.  These questions were exponentially harder: What is a crossbuck sign? (It's the X-shaped railroad crossing sign.)  How many classes of mopeds are there? (Three.)  What does a pentagonal sign mean? (School.)  The average California driver would know "pentagonal" means five-sided? 

I was in full-scale panic mode the morning of the test.  Fortunately, the questions were of the type on my first set of practice tests and I got a perfect score.  (What I couldn't do was work the test machine.)

Well, theoretically, I have a Real ID on its way to me and I will hopefully be dead (or not driving) the next time my license expires.  It's all I can hope for.