Lazy winter's days in Lovely Ouray—blowing snow out Imax Windows and an ache in my gut—sentenced to a Lazy Boy recliner instead of a Lazy Daze camp in Arizona. My appetite and calendar are apathetic; I'm so bloated on Bowl Games I can't even stay awake. To be sure, there are more Bowl Games than exciting teams to play in them; thank God for the few nail-biter match ups with no-huddle rapid-fire action. Time ticks away game by game; only four more days till I get to "turn my head and cough."
Then, of course, I'll have to go get in a new line for surgery to stitch up the "blowout" in my loin-groin. FYI, If you must fall ill or off your bike, don't do it during the holidays as Docs are off playing golf on Caribbean Isles. Boo boos get caught in the Senior Suck Backlog of Breakdowns, and, to parrot NPR's "Click and Clack," even though it doesn't make me feel better when I say it, It could be worse.
Now, dear readers, let me add aggravation to injury. I waged war with a Chinese skylight yesterday—a motorized venting skylight, to be specific—and the experience reaffirms to me why women live longer than men and WW III is already underway.
One must first understand the "Drug" before they can understand the "Addiction." Against "orders" and common sense, I've been sneaking rides on an exercise bike while waiting for Doc "Holiday" to get back from his surf and turf get-a-way. It helps pass time, burns a few leftover Christmas cookies, and helps keep my man-boobs from becoming objects of envy for lesser endowed women at the Hot Springs Pool. Biking, football, and soaking…these are the days of my life.
Maybe this addict needs an "Intervention," cart my ass of to Betty Ford's Clinic for Substance Abuse, cause I can't seem to put my exercise addiction on the shelf in spite of the gut-breach plainly visible in the "Land Down Under." In the obsessive/compulsive rational of an exercise addict, "If God really wanted me to stop exercising, He would have broken both my legs and an arm;" in which case, you'd find me doing one-handed pushups.
The exercise bike has become my "bong," and is now a permanent fixture in the Great Room. It occupies a space right next the sliding glass door, with stellar vistas of the Hot Springs Pool, Lovely Ouray, and Mount Abram's pyramidal peak…all white with snow. Between the "bong" and ESPN re-hash on the tele, I can maintain a state of partial detox with no obvious symptoms of addiction. Everybody's happy...except the Doc, and what he doesn't know won't hurt me.
So I piddle, soak, and pedal…the latter two a sweat-lodge ritual for removing numerous IPA's…a mellow out supporting drug that goes quite well with exercise addiction. The process of purification by stationary bike in a stuffy room is not fun for a number of reasons, the main ones being overheating and boredom; hence the sliding glass door for distracting views and cool, fresh air. There's only one problem, I get nary a breeze as the rest of the house is closed up tight. After a few overheated rides it dawns on me to open our remote controlled skylight and allow natural convection to draw me a bath of cool air.
Twenty minutes into my pretend ride up Mount Abram I break a good purifying sweat and push the "Open" button on the skylight remote. Up, up, up it goes; ahhh, problem solved...like someone turned on the AC. Before I know it a beeper signals I've reached Red Mountain Pass; my hour is up and I go into cool-down mode; my shirt soaked with used IPA's. I promptly chill and shut the sliding glass door and hit "Close" on the skylight's remote; everything is groovy until I notice the skylight remains wide open.
A faded note pops up on the remote's screen and suggests it's time for a battery change. Whew, and here I thought it was broken...glass half empty cynic that I am. This is no big deal, especially since we have the right batteries, and my daily dose of glorious, mood altering endorphins are rioting throughout my bloodstream, such that I feel like a twenty year old.
Now common sense and science dictates that venting skylights should be located near the highest point in a room if they are to let heat escape. Our Great Room has a vaulted ceiling and thus the skylight can't be reached without a very tall ladder...which is a pain to drag upstairs even without a hernia.
I install new batteries and re-hit the "Close" button on the remote. Another message: "Failure. See owners manual." Oh boy, it's been over three years, I wonder where where it could be?
I don't have to tell you how it goes; a person starts off chasing one goose only to end up chasing another…hence the adage, "Wild Goose Chase." My endorphin party was pooping out but I gave the Universe another opportunity to be kind; after all, "it's the Holidays, for crying out loud; I have a hernia such that I can see intestines trying to make a Jail-break; have mercy!"
My prayer doesn't even reach the skylight, evidently, which is too bad because it's wide fucking open. Why do things like this happen in the dead of winter instead of the middle of summer when it would be no big deal? Good Grief, Charlie Brown, I know how you feel.
I remove the new batteries and reinsert them…a "reboot" in case electrons were confused…and hit the "Close" button once again. "Failure. See owners manual." "*%&@*#%!" It's down to 50 degrees in the house by now so I turn up the heat.
I begin a desperate search for the Owners Manual...picturing it buried 20 feet down in some landfill under miscellaneous two by fours and a trash bag of dirty diapers. Finally, Bobbie finds the manual way back in the dark and dust of a "catchall" cabinet. We skim read...looking for a Trouble Shooting Guide. The more we read the more confounded we become...trying to cipher a solution for the gaping hole in our roof from something written by our arch enemy, The Red Menace. No wonder.
I am shocked and dismayed to find out my very American Named skylight was actually "Made in China." Inquiring minds want to know why overseas manufacturing corporations that are headquartered in America insist upon hiring moronic, English-is-my-second-language imbecilic foreigners to articulate the "Assembly Instructions" and "Owner's Manuals" for products? Anti-endorphine "commies" now run amuck in my arteries, trampling my "Good Guys," elevating blood pressure, and casting gloom upon my domain.
It's a cunning Communist Plot, you know, one that over time will bring the good old U S of A to its knees. Not by war-headed missiles, mind you, not by a massive lock-stepped Red Army, not by improved views on Free Market and For Profit Capitalism, but still maintains the Communist Ideology of, "Money good…Freedom still bad." Nope it will happen by the simple, subtle, and underhanded act of printing Assembly Instructions that befuddle our Best and Brightest in the Pentagon and drive the rest of us to an early grave. I can hear the Commie bastards now, "Ha! We confoose instuction book…make Round-eye verwee angree...give many haught attack."
And we put up with it because we want to save a few bucks at Walmart, whose majority stock owners are now…you guessed it, Chinese.
Long story longer...it turns out that every time the remote needs new batteries one must go through the labyrinth maze of "Setup" all over again…which means they must find the God-knows-where Disinformation Manual and jump through the "hoops" and endure the stress of its dead end contents...
"Find and shut off correct breaker (power source to skylight) for one full minute (not a second less and not ten seconds more) while simultaneously removing batteries from remote. Reinstall batteries immediately after power is reapplied."
Only then can one go through the lengthy step by step processes of re-registering the remote with the skylight (so they can "shake hands"), if, mind you, it is done in less than ten minutes…which dictates that you start over. Lord, really?
So we trial, error, and fail repeatedly. With each failure I feel more constriction in my chest...sense my carotid artery bulging to the point of bursting. If I had a "White Flag" I'd wave it. Just get my skylight to close, please! It's cold in here.
I cursed everything Chinese…their MSG food and cheap toys that don't last beyond Christmas. I even swore off rice, Kung Pao Chicken, Kung Foo fighting…I crossed The Great Wall off my bucket list! and vowed never again to knowingly buy a single import Made in China no matter how much money it saved.
Minutes from a 911 call, Bobbie reads on page 89 of the nothing-short-of-a-Novella Owner's Manual…"The skylight must be in the closed position in order to reprogram the remote control."
"Well Jesus H. Christ, if I can't reprogram the remote unless the skylight is closed, and I can't close the skylight until I reprogram the remote, WTF am I supposed to do?" It's the old "Catch 22."
Bobbie skims along: Page 118… "Insert a small pointed object in hole "A" to close skylight." Hey, shouldn't that be on page ONE? Hernia and all, I climb up on granite counter top looking for the "A-hole" while cursing the A-hole who wrote the Manual; very dangerous in nylon socks, FYI. I need a tall ladder.
Outside now, digging under snowdrifts in tee shirt and flip flops, no gloves, I locate my eight foot step ladder and carry it upstairs... banging walls and railings...cursing Chairman Mao...and plant it under the skylight from hell. I leave a trail of ice, snow, leaves, grime...and one unhappy woman in my destructive wake.
On the second to the last step (one step above the sticker that says, "Do Not Climb Above This Step") I reach the skylight. Bobbie steadies the ladder while I search for the A Hole. Ten minutes gets wasted before discovering that the A hole is on the other side of the screen. Finally, screen removed, a tiny, obscure opening, slightly smaller than a matchstick. I find a match and whittle it down to fit, then, blindly, poke and "feel" for something spring loaded to push on. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Bobbie steadies the ladder with one hand while holding and reading the Disinformation Manual" in the other. It's life or death now, a race to beat my impending heart attack and/or stroke.
Page 129…"you must push and hold the switch in hole A for five seconds…"
"How do I even know if I'm on the freaking switch?" (understand, all these questions I'm screaming at Bobbie are strictly rhetorical). Confucian confusion…it's going to take us down without a shot being fired.
I continue push-searching for "something," five seconds here, five seconds there, move, push, hold...move, push, hold, till finally, I hear the motor engage. The skylight opens wider. I don't know whether to celebrate or cry.
page 131…"When the switch is pushed for five seconds the skylight will cycle open and then close." Progress!!!
With the skylight closed, Bobbie addresses puddles of melted snow and ice on her kitchen floor. In a daze, I watch last fall's leaves sail the ponds like miniature canoes. Heat ceases to escape into the great outdoors. We rejoice.
Bobbie says she's had enough...that we should just wait till summer to deal with it. "We don't need to open the skylight till then, anyway."
"What about my workouts? I've got the Commies on the run...I can't quit now. The mess is made; the ladder is here; I'm going to get this thing programmed and working even if it kills me."
I fall further into their "web." I swear I can hear people laughing somewhere in China.
Oh the joys of Home Ownership. I just finished up resealing a leaky glass shower stall for the third time in eight months. The renters, meanwhile, email a note saying their glass shower is now leaking. There are mounds of snow to be shoveled, Christmas lights to be taken down…all while I'm incapacitated and not supposed to lift more than five pounds. A gallon of milk weighs eight pounds.
A skylight gets stuck open in the middle of winter…all because I needed a little fresh air. My groin throbs, presumably from wrestling a heavy, ice laden ladder from snowbanks, around corners and up a flight of stairs. I imagine the simplicity of living in Goldie…a place where I can pretty much fix anything with duct tape…a wheeled house that moves with the seasons...runs away from problems...a place where taxes are three hundred instead of three thousand dollars per year.
I take up the tedious trial-and-error task of reprograming the remote...breaker off for one minute, R and R remote batteries, breaker on, race upstairs, complete absurd sequence of registration steps on Menu…all in less than the allotted ten minutes. "Oops. Starht ohvar, round eye, Ha ha. We give you haught attack. Sarendar now?"
You know, I worked on and around instrumentation electronics most of my career. All of this grief could be avoided with the addition of a little one dollar "chip" in the remote control that "holds" the programed settings whenever batteries are removed and replaced.
A long time ago a friend asked me how much money I thought it would take for me to consider myself rich. The answer was immediate:
"Enough so that when something goes wrong or breaks down, I can pay someone else to fix it!"
Beware…The Red Menace!