Night Moves: Juneteenth

I am still trying to wrap my head around the weekend’s events at my place of employment. Two of my team mates, in addition to myself, were selected as Department Managers.

Tim C, Food Court Manager; Alex L, Foods Manager; and yours truly, Merchant Nights Manager.

June 17, 2022 – On Friday, I celebrated 20 years of continuous employment at Costco. I was given a card of acknowledgment by my General Manager. I graciously received it and paused. I thought, it’s really been two decades already?

I won’t drone on about my humble beginnings, but lock my eyes forward on this new task.

Speaking of humility, I’m grateful to have the continued support of my warehouse. In a watershed moment of my life in 2015, I was given some career advice by two men that I consider my mentors.

“Carlos, if you don’t have a team that supports your decision, that’s actively cheering for it, then you won’t be successful.”

~ Chris Hendrix, and Peter Gruening

I was humbled over the weekend as the announcement was made on Saturday morning. The team is excited about my new role within the walls of the warehouse. I was congratulated by many persons, which I thanked each person as they did.

Management is excited about my new role, as well. I have the resources, and support to make this successful.

My start date is tonight, June 20, 2022.

Since Juneteenth falls on Sunday (6/19), the federal government observes it today. What is that exactly, you ask?

Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of enslavedAfrican Americans. Juneteenth marks the anniversary of the announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas.[7] Originating in Galveston, the holiday has since been celebrated annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States, often broadly celebrating African-American culture. The day was first recognized as a federal holiday in June 2021, when PresidentJoe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.[8][9] The Juneteenth flag is a symbol of the Juneteenth holiday.

Juneteenth Flag

I’m grateful for the sacrifices done before me so that I have the freedoms I enjoy today, and I’m relieved that the enslaved folks were freed 157 years ago.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you’re free to do whatever you set out to do.

‘los; out

What’s That Smell: Call A Mechanic

One aspect of car ownership is repairs and fixes – no one really likes them because they tend to be expensive, and you couldn’t do the work yourself if you wanted to.

Most people, at least Americans, don’t want to do much more than gas and go with the occasional oil change thrown in.  Especially when I was young and brash with my brand new car, a 1997 Honda Civic. When I ask what’s that smell, I usually don’t call first.

The following is the funniest car service call I’ve had about any vehicle I’ve owned and/or operated.

What’s That Smell?

What’s That Smell: Call A Mechanic

Prior to the turn of the century, I prided myself on my ability to do my oil changes, and other regular maintenance tasks. There was one however, that I simply couldn’t figure out.

One summer day, I got a whiff of fuel, and thought, What’s that smell: call a mechanic – before it’s too late. I loved and cared for my car because this was the first one that was brand new, no one owned it and I’m making payments towards it! I was really #adulting at this point!

For weeks I’d been smelling this gasoline like smell every time I accelerated or braked. I thought for a hot-second it was a fuel line leak or the exhaust line. I crawled under, over, and scoured the engine bay. I put a piece of cardboard underneath it to catch the fluid drops – nothing! I gave up asking what’s that smell: call a mechanic. I was convinced it was a type of repair that would be covered by warranty so I call the Honda dealership from which I bought the vehicle.

I briefly described my issue over the phone with as much technical data and terms. I knew they wouldn’t guarantee anything over the phone, but had appointments open so we agreed on a date and hung up the phone.

A few hours later  after dropping off my car at the Lynnwood Honda, I received the courtesy phone call.

“Mr. Bayne?” the caller asks.
“Yes, it’s me. Did you isolate the issue?” I pressed.
“Oh, yes. We did. Do you want the good news first or bad news?”
I paused, “Bad news so the good news can help soothe it.”
The tech continued, “Ok, then. Mr Bayne were you aware that you had a bottle of fuel injector cleaner in your trunk?”
I literally had nothing more than and maybe one of item. “Yes, why?”
“Bad news is that it’s leaking which would explain why you only smelled it when you were on the gas or brake. It was toss it around the trunk as it moved around on the carpet.”
I frowned. “Ok, what’s the good news then?”
“The good news is that it’ll only cost one-hour of labor of $85 plus tax, of course.”
“Of course,” I repeated. “I’ll be there soon,” as I clicked the phone dead without so much as waiting for the usual salutations.

I literally paid someone to look into my trunk. I might as well have asked where do the blinker fluid go …

Have you had a funny and/or shareable car problem story? Wanna post it below in the comments? Let me know!

Mic drop *bOoM*
‘los; out

Godzilla Lives

I have a story about an iguana that became Godzilla … in my shared apartment.

I was playing NASCAR ’98 in 1998 on the Nintendo Play Station that was purchased by my girlfriend at the time. She had two cats and two iguanas. I felt it was Animal Planet up in there!

My then-girlfriend entered into the living room to interrupt my game play.

She was crying as she said, “Edward is dead.”

That’s the name of one of her iguanas. After pausing the video game, “Wait. What? How?”

She explains that while cleaning their separate tanks, she accidentally switched the iguanas. She put Francis in Edward’s tank and vice versa. Edward was frustrated so he busted out. He wandered out to the cold bathroom floor. She nudged him but he didn’t react so she assumed he’s dead, because being a cold-blooded animal and died of lack of heat.

Godzilla Lives

“He’s not dead,” I grumbled in response.

I then located some leather gloves to pick up the carcass. I searched the 2nd bathroom for Edward’s body. It was behind the toilet tank so basically the most inconvenient place to reach.

I sighed with disbelief.

I knelt down to be closer. My outstretched trembled as it neared his hindquarters. I muttered under my breath, “YOU bastard. I resent you for making me do this.”

As my hand was one millimeter away, Edward’s eyes popped open. Then he hissed at me as he thrashed around. I yelped like a teenage girl discovering a spider. I raced out of the bathroom as he bolted after me to give chase.

I was screaming down the hallway, “Godzilla! GODZILLA LIVES!”

I jumped up on the couch, clad in shorts, and T-shirt, and leather gloves, seconds before Edward crashed against it. He hissed again, as I pointed and screamed at the killer iguana. What the fuck?

Then the girlfriend casually scoops up Edward like a kitten with comforting words, “Oh my, so glad you’re not dead.”

She wanders down the hall to put him back into his tank.

“Dead, my ass,” as I stepped down from the couch and removing the gloves. “Told ya, he was alive.”

‘los; out

2022 What’s The Difference: Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day?

A few years ago, there was a viral Facebook post about a woman getting a haircut before Memorial Day weekend. She had lost her husband in a Navy helicopter crash months prior. He died on deployment, never having met their youngest son. So, when the smiling receptionist wished her a “Happy Memorial Day” after she had buried her spouse, the words cut extra deep.

Before you tag every veteran and service member on Facebook and wish them a Happy Memorial Day, remember that, in this community, Memorial Day means something much, much bigger than the start of summer. The day feels fraught with memories of those we’ve lost, mixed with gratitude for the times we’ve had.

While it is true that every day is Memorial Day for the families of the fallen, they aren’t asking that you stay inside and wallow.

But we do owe it to them to pause. Reflect. Remember. Honor.

Gold Star wife Krista Simpson Anderson, who lost her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Michael Harrison Simpson, in Afghanistan in 2013, said, “I get upset when people scold others for enjoying the weekend or having BBQs. What do you think our service members did before they died? Mike sure did enjoy his family and friends. What better way to honor them than to be surrounded by family and friends living. But we are also so grateful for your pause and reflection as you celebrate our heroes and the lives that they lived.”

Memorial Day and Veterans Day are different holidays with unique purposes — and unique ways to honor each.

How to Honor Veterans Day

Veterans Day is the day to tag all your people, posting photos with your brother in uniform or the selfie with your bestie before he or she deployed. Veterans Day celebrates the living who served our country. Offer veterans a discount at your business. Call your favorite vet on the phone and thank him or her for their service. Attend a parade. Celebrate a veteran.

How to Honor Memorial Day

Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring every single man and woman who has died for our freedoms — men and women who were mommies and daddies, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, patriots, incredible Americans and really, really great friends.

You want to honor and celebrate patriotism and the military this Memorial Day? Then you have to honor the complicated feelings surrounding it. Express your knowledge that this day is about remembrance.

Attend a memorial service at a national cemetery. Run or walk a mile to benefit the non-profit Krista Anderson started in memory of her husband, and then pledge your mile for wear blue: run to remember.

Talk to your kids about sacrifice, about service and about what this three-day weekend really means. Observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. Monday with a minute of silence.

And then, like Krista said, live. Live because freedom isn’t free.


Two Bikini Baristas Go ‘Round The Outside …

I know you hummed a few bars of Enimem’s song, Without Me. If not, I’ll help you:

Two bikini baristas go ’round the outside / ’round the outside / ’round the outside /

Two bikini baristas go ’round the outside / ’round the outside / ’round the outside /

The following is how I inadvertently visited and patronized not one, but TWO bikini / lingerie espresso stands in the area in the same week in 2016 …

Feels Like The First Time

BEFORE you chide me, and judge me for the experience, please know I didn’t know anything about drive-up espresso stands like this. I heard about them, but never sought them out intentionally.

If memory serves me well, it was dark out, and definitely outside the scope of normal, operating business hours for Starbucks. Especially the Clearview, WA location, whether it was late at night or early in the morning, the only coffee stand I spied while traveling southbound Highway 9 was XO Espresso

My lizard brain guided my hands to turn in so we can have some fuel-injected caffeine.

I was not mentally prepared for the following. I stop the Sapphire Sled at the service window. My eyes land on the slender redhead standing on high heels, in thigh stockings, garter belt, thong underwear and a pink bra.

AH, CRAP, I mentally lamented. It’s one of THOSE stands, and that’s why it’s the only one open at this hour.

Barista: Well, hey there, handsome, what can I whip up for ya?

Me: I would love a 16 ounce, 3-shot Americano, please.

Barista: Sure thing, sugar. She turns around to prep the shots, and while she wait she managed to flap and/or claps her butt cheeks for me.

She, of course, bends at his hips towards me to present the coffee and collect payment for services rendered. I gave her more than the usual tip amount, er gratuity. And I drove away.

OOPS, I Did It Again …

Later that week I had an appointment with my realtor, Julie. We teamed up together to find me a house to buy, there were some houses she wanted me to see in the Bothell area. BY THE WAY, hit up 5 Star Home Group for all your real estate needs!

I was driving along eastbound Highway 522 scanning for espresso stands. I spotted one that I’ve passed by for years but never stopped: Beehive Espresso.

It’s brightly colored yellow stand, and it was a sunny day with my Sapphire Sled’s sunroof open, windows down, music up.

I thought, Why not, it’s inviting, and I like new experiences.

Two Bikini Baristas Go ‘Round The Outside

An El Camino was in front of me with a single, male driver with a beard that was being quite chatty with the unseen barista. I mentally grumbled, C’mon, man. Let’s move along while we’re young.

Eventually it was my turn, so I slowly rolled up to the service … DOOR? Yeah, it was a sliding glass door with the curtains drawn. The blonde barista in high heels again, a yellow string bikini moves back the curtain to greet me.

Barista: Hi honey, what can I do you for?

Me: AGAIN? Really, Los, I mentally lamented. She was a very pretty woman with a svelte body, and blonde – I feel a case of the yips welling up in me. I blurt out, a 16 ounce Americano, please.

OOPS, I did it again!

I’ve learned to scrutinize my coffee stand selections from then on.

‘los; out

Do You Love Raspberry Pi?

Everyone loves pie, but do you enjoy Raspberry Pi? Yeah, I didn’t think so…

Several years ago, a friend invited me to tag-along with her to her son’s S.E.A.M. Workshop (Science, English, Arts, Music) at his school.

One of the science stops was the Raspberry Pi presentation. I didn’t know what it was, or ever heard of it so that automatically piqued my interest! After listening a grip, and taking photos, I researched it further on the ye old Internet using my Goodigilence (yes, that’s an Urban Dictionary word)

Here’s what my research yielded.
The Raspberry Pi is a series of small single-board computers developed in the United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and in developing countries. The original model became far more popular than anticipated, selling outside of its target market for uses such as robotics. Peripherals (including keyboards, mice and cases) are not included with the Raspberry Pi. Some accessories however have been included in several official and unofficial bundles.

According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, over 5 million Raspberry Pis have been sold before February 2015, making it the best-selling British computer. By the 9th of September 2016 they had sold 10 million.

As usual, this phenomenon reached across the pond to the United States and it’s schools. And then I reminded of a childhood toy that set me up for future success that initially HATED!

That’s right, y’all.

I absolutely hated a gift given to me. Well, at least initially. You see, it was my birthday so I was quite clear on what I wanted as a teenager (thinking on it I’m pretty sure I was 13 or 14 years old) I requested G.I. Joe Action Figures, LEGO® kits, and that was it.

I unwrapped one of my gifts from my Dad with great anticipation of one of those aforementioned toys. What I saw in front of me amongst the crumpled gift wrap was …

Do You Love Raspberry Pi?

160 In One Electronic Project Kit by Science Fair – are you kidding me?!

My Dad smiled while my face was red with anger.

“Why this, Dad?” I exploded. 
Dad composed himself, “Because Son, you’ll need to learn how electricity works sooner or later. Might else well be now with me around to guide you.”
“This is bullshit. Why can’t you be like every other Dad?”
“I’m the best Dad you’ll ever have,” he answered flatly.
I grumbled wryly, “You’re the only Dad I’ll ever have.”
“That’s true,” Dad retorted. He suggested, “Why don’t you try reading the instructions on one of the easy experiments, and go from there?”

I stormed into my bedroom that I shared with my little sister, toting this gift like an albatross on a ship to pout. My Dad let me cool off for a moment or two before entering the bedroom.

“Son,” he explained. “We live in a society that is dominated by electricity and the devices powered by it. You’re a very intelligent young man, and you’ll be grateful for this lesson later on in life. If you understand the fundamentals of electricity then you’ll know how to operate, fix, and maintain a majority of things. Trust me.” 

Fine,” I cry.

I resigned to the situation because there was no changing it by exchanging this gift at Toys R Us. I struggled mightily with the first couple of ‘projects’ because electricity is an absolute. Either it works or it doesn’t. Up to this point, I’ve been conditioned that while some items I used were not operating at full capacity, at least they were operating.

Eventually, I was able to complete all the easy projects, then progressed to the advanced, and whatnot. And yes, I did so on my own. No matter how many tantrums of frustrations I exhibited, my Dad refused to step in and complete it.

“Son, in life, you’ll discover that the only resource you’ll have is yourself. So, read the instructions again. Walk yourself through them carefully, and then you’ll have the confidence to tackle anything on your own. If you have questions of clarification, I’ll answer them but only to help you along the way.”

True to his word, he didn’t step in. And yes, I completed ALL 160 projects. Now you can trust me when I say I KNOW how electronic devices operate and the electricity works. Which brings me to my point … (I can hear you groaning now, “Finally! The point of my rambling”)

When my DJ gear doesn’t work, I know how to troubleshoot my own technical issue because of this toy that I hated from minute one, but learned to love it by minute done. Or when my car doesn’t work, or when a GFI I’m trying to wire in my home isn’t working, and so forth.

Once my eyes landed on the #RaspberryPi experiments in the classroom of Sky Valley Education Center, I was relieved that the future generations are trying to understand how to operate the machinery, and electronic devices around them that they use on a daily basis.

In fact, they were demonstrative of how they can even manipulate it / them to what they want it to do. The young man who explained his experiment to me was so proud, like I was when I finally conquered the 160 in One.

I remembered my Dad’s words after I completed the last one. “Congratulations, boy. I knew you could do it. You see, I started you with electricity because it’s unforgiving like life. Either it works or it doesn’t. I love you so much and know I won’t be around forever to fix all your problems. My love for you forces me to understand I have a short amount of time before you grow up into a man. So I have little time to teach you how to be a law-abiding, tax-paying, productive provider of this society. You can’t provide until you know how to do so for yourself. That’s my gift to you.”

And there it is, y’all. On my birthday, I received the best gift of all, even though I didn’t realize at the time. I received the gift of knowledge, which tastes better than any raspberry pie I’ve ever tasted.

‘los; out.

Funniest Call Center Stories: Curaçao

Today, I attended a mandatory meeting for work. During the slideshow, there was a segment dedicated to Costco Travel. I worked there for 13 years, most of which in the call center.

As you can imagine, I have plenty of stories of the calls I received. In American society, invariably you’ve contacted a call center filled wall-to-wall with customer service representatives (CSRs)

The following is just one of the funniest call center stories I have to share.

Funniest Call Center Stories: Curaçao

This story took place at Costco Travel. It was my first year, so I really wanted to make an impression. My trainer, Corrie, was promoted to supervisor that same year. She was my direct supervisor, in fact. Therefore she oversaw my development.

One of my Funniest Call Center Stories was regarding pronunciation of words.

A Costco Member called in wanting to a book Southern Caribbean cruise that embarked from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He knew the itinerary but clearly didn’t quite know the ports of calls like I did.

We agreed on all but one: Curaçao.

He had a Southern accent, but he insisted on calling it kur-ROCK-co. I explained to him the name is Dutch in origin, but he kept grating on my soul with his rough pronunciation of kur-ROCK-co.

Funniest Call Center Stories: Curaçao

I was in my mid 20’s so I was in the “save the world, by educating everyone” MODE with my correct pronunciation of the island.

He refused to yield.

I found myself locked horns with a stubborn Southerner over the how to say Curaçao.

After 20-minutes, I caved. I needed a sale for the day, and this guy was clearly in-it-2-win-it. Corrie started walking around to ensure if her team needed her assistance, she would be there.

I timed her arrival, and my incorrect pronunciation of Curaçao with a loud “kur-ROCK- CO” which stopped her dead in tracks!

She and I exchanged PAINED looks while I talked on the phone. She attempted to approach me but I held up my hand, then with my index finger and wagged it back and forth as warning to “not EVEN think of correcting me”!

I was dumber for this conversation which I wanted to end it sooner than later.

Corrie knew from her experience with me at this point to not question my actions while still on the phone.

She asked later what was the drama, and why I purposely alerted to her to it.

I retorted, “I was right, and should have been recognized for it by the caller!”

She smiled, and replied softly, “Los, sometimes the simple satisfaction of being correct should be it.”

Instead of being puffy-chested about it, and let my ego get in my way, I sighed. She was right. I let it go.

So if you’re ever on the Dutch island of kur-ROCK-co, be sure to greet that stubborn caller as I’m convinced he was left there by Carnival Cruise Lines in the early 2000’s.

Until next time, be good like you should, and if you can’t be good, be good at what you do!

Mic drop *bOoM*
‘los; out

Oh, Canada – My Border Crossing

Last weekend, I noticed that I-5 North was backed up starting north of Marysville, WA down to pass south Everett. I mused that the US-Canada border must be busy AF since it’s recently been re-opened.

I have had the pleasure of living through of a worst-case, nightmare scenario at the Canada-USA border. At least I am resourceful enough to live through these stories in order to tell them to Spaceship Earth.

I call it: #OhCanada – My Border Crossing

Aiight, it was the mid ’90s so travel and border crossings were easier than today. I had just started working at the newly formed AAA Washington Express Travel Call Center after graduating from Edmond Community College with AA in Liberal Arts AND a Certificate in Travel and Tourism.

My live-in girlfriend was a tall drink of water, which clinched my thirst on the daily. You see, she was an aspiring model, young, fun, yet plagued with back problems with her height of 6 feet. Her prescription pain medicine was so strong it was narcotics based.

#TallDrinkofWater had shared with me in passing that she hadn’t travelled or been on a train. Since I was new to travel, I wanted to enjoy some of the few fringe-benefits that remained. Being the thoughtful and considerate boyfriend that I am, I purchased discounted #Amtrak train tickets to Canada to enjoy a one day shopping trip and visit of Vancouver, BC. Needless to say, she was excited at the announcement.

I also received my first adult passport (had an expired child). I showed it to her one morning over breakfast, and her consumption of her daily pain pills. After she physically examined it, she handed it back over. She only had her birth certificate and driver’s license, which at the time, was satisfactory travel documents.

I drove us to the Amtrak station in Edmonds, WA. I parked my car fairly close to save my girl a longer walk. Mind you, it was a time limited spot but based on my calculations we would be in the car and gone before time expired.

As Morgan Freeman would comment, “That would not how this story ends.”

We gathered up our belongings, and boarded the train. I was a novice photographer at the time, so my bags was simply my camera bag with my #Ricoh KR-5 Super II and #Pentax lenses. After stepping off the train, I guided her to what was called the Vancouver’s Rodeo Drive: Robson Street.

I had a grip of cash to burn, so we strolled up and down the area. After a purchase or two, we sat down for lunch in the sunshine.

We used the excellent public transportation system to motor over to the Gastown area. After taking some photos of her to help her modeling portfolio, I noticed it was time to make our way back to the train depot to get through security, check-in, etc.

And this is when the dream travel day turned into a nightmare in a heartbeat.

I handed over my passport, and Tall’s birth certificate, etc to the Canadian Customs Officer. He was wearing one white glove, and brushed my passport page with it. It turned yellow before our eyes. He nodded to another officer. He removed us from line, and ushered us to a stainless steel, unmarked door.

Fucking fantastic, I thought, as my heart sunk. Some doors shouldn’t be open, and that was one of them.

“Carlos, the Coke Dealer?”

OH Canada

After entering the room, the smile from the officer’s face quickly gave way to stern look complete with a furrowed brow. He forcibly removed my camera bag from my shoulder. I thought, Hey, asshole, that delicate photographic equipment.

Then he unzipped the top, and strewn all the contents onto the stainless steel table in front of us. He barked at us, “SIT!”

I mentally cringed, So much for ‘delicate, and carefully calibrated’ photographic equipment. He silently searched the bag, by opening every pocket, and pouch, and removed everything. He didn’t find what he was looking for. He eyed us and barked more orders, as he pointed to me, “Stand up, turn around and place your hands against the wall.”

I finally asked, “What the hell is going on?” as I complied with the order.

He grumbled, “Shut up, punk.” He ‘patted’ me down. And when I mean ‘pat’ I mean he dug into my jeans pocket, and forcibly searched my clothes. He repeated the same actions on Tall.

He let out a sigh. He reviewed the camera, and lenses, everything. He held up a small piece of scrap paper I had used to take notes yesterday at AAA Express Travel Call Center. It had two woods: Coke or Pepsi? with the Pepsi circled. Then on the backside of it was a telephone number.

He growled, “Where’s the coke, Carlos?”

“Excuse me?” I asked in bewilderment.

“This, ” He holds up the yellow stained glove.This special glove detects drug residue. I’m trying to find the cocaine that you’re trying to smuggle across the border or already did. This must be the phone number of your dealer or your hooked junkies.” He put down the glove and held up the piece of paper.

As young, yet proud man, I fired back, “Or neither, because I don’t do that sorta thing. I work in a call center, and I was going to the soda pop vending machines which we had our choice of Coke or Pepsi. I scribbled down that phone number to call an AAA Washington Member back but you’re welcome to call it but I’m confident they will not appreciate a call from Canadian Customs Officer.”

In hindsight, being a young man, that’s dumb, I probably shouldn’t have issued that challenge because he did call it after he stormed out of the room leaving Tall and me alone.

She started to cry, and looked at me for comfort. “What’s going on, Los? I’m scared.”

My anger and frustration gave way to sympathy. “They think I’m a drug smuggler because I’m Filipino, and it’s racial profiling at it’s finest. Plus they have that color changing glove for evidence to back up probable cause. Please don’t worry, we’ll get outta here.”

“How about the train though? I thought you said there was only one train leaving today,” she asked.

Shit, I thought. She’s right, there is only one train.

“We’ll be ok,” I hugged her.

Without a doubt, I was sure they were watching on a hidden camera for reactions, and how we were coping.

Finally, the officer returns. “Mr. Bayne, we called the number. Lucky for you they answered. And they answered my questions. They were either telling the truth, or great actors. I’ve gotta ask, though. Do you take prescription pills for pain, or been in contact with someone who does?”

Tall and I instantly exchanged worried looks. “Yes. Her bottle of pain pills is right there,” as I point to it on the table amongst my camera equipment. “Why?” I growled.

“Because the residue of the pill is narcotics based, therefore giving us the impression you are a coke dealer. In the future, Mr. Bayne, be careful who handles your passport and when. Everything checks out, you are free to go.”

He unceremoniously exits.

“Thanks!” I say sarcastically as I gather up my camera equipment.

And the hits keep coming 

Aiight, well all that time spent farting around with Canadian Customs burned up our check in time. The train conductor was literally removing the sandwich boards in front of each of the train cars. We yelled, “Please wait!” as we started to haul ass down towards the slow moving train.

We literally jump onboard.

The conductor grumbled, “You should’ve boarded sooner.” As I was about to launch into a tirade of untold expletives, I felt a gentle grip on my arm from Tall. I faced her, she was shaking her head, with her pretty pursed lips. Her eyes were begging me not to fight this man, and not cause anymore trouble.

Cooler heads prevailed, as I huffed, brushed passed him, and lead us to our seats in seething anger.

We arrived quickly to the Blaine exchange point for dropping of Canadian Customs Officers for US Customs K-9 Officers. They made their way through each car, and we were seated in the last one.

Well, I’m sure it didn’t take you long to figure out where I’m going with this. The dogs, yes two of them, walked up to me, and sat down in the aisle.

“Excuse me, sir. Please stand up, and come with me,” the officer politely commands me. The other officer takes my camera bag over his shoulder. I’m a 5-OH sandwich with an officer and dog in front of me and the same behind me escorting me to the back of the train car.

Once the door closes that separates us from the rest of the prying ears, they start peppering me with rudimentary questions, like where I live.

I know what they’re doing. If this is a cover or that I’m lying they’ll trip me up. After 10 minutes of asking where I live, where I work, what my middle was, and questions about my girlfriend, they are exhausted. They obviously aren’t international interrogation experts.

They straight up ask why I was there, who I visited, and more. I retort with my explanation that it was a one-day shop excursion on a train to a foreign country so that my girlfriend can have that experience. And boy, has it been an experience!

The dogs sniff my bag and myself – no drugs. After what seemed like foreneverness, they are satisfied or frustrated that nothing came of this delay. They exit the train car since it was the last one. I trudge back to my seat with my camera bag as all the passengers are mean-mugging me.

I AM the reason we’re delayed.

OH Canada

Insult to injury … 

The train ride continues without further incident to Edmonds. It was picturesque along the tracks, and the sunset was beautiful.

#TallDrinkofWater and I walk out to my parked Honda Civic only to find an envelope underneath the windshield wiper.

It’s a parking ticket for exceeding the time limit during the posted hours. Of course, it was! Oh, Canada, you were unkind to me this time!

Keep digging,

Santa, A Knife, and AMFs

I generally don’t consider myself a social influencer, but I have noticed that I have an impact in situations – for the better, or for the worse. One particular situation was a dinner cruise with my girlfriend’s company party … I met off-season Santa Claus, a knife, and AMFs.

Lemme explain.

Argosy Cruises

In the late 1990’s, I was working at the AAA Washington Express Travel Center in Bellevue. My girlfriend also worked at AAA Washington in the Membership Accounting Department.

Every year the Finance Department would host a departmental party, so she invited me to be her date. She let me know it would an evening cruise out of downtown Seattle. Argosy Cruises is a Seattle-based company offering a variety of services such as corporate dinner parties.

I suited up as Barney would from HIMYM [How I Met Your Mother], and picked up my girlfriend.

Leveling Up

We boarded a 3-level cruise ship; one event per level for levels 1-2, and an observation deck. The AAA Washington party was the first level, and the other was above us.

Not long enough after departure, I saw something I hadn’t seen ever. Off season Santa in a gaudy looking sweater with a strikingly beautiful brunette in a white dress on his arm as they walked along the promenade deck.

The girlfriend caught on to my baffled look on my face, then turned to locate the source. And she quipped, “Oh, look. Santa is with a hooker nowadays!”

Real subtle, I groaned.

The director of finance was Dean (in fact I think he still is) He was essentially the boss of the party. One of the Argosy crew members approached him because they were ready to serve the cake but didn’t have a knife for some reason or another.

I volunteered to approach the other party upstairs.

[Moments later …]

I reappeared with a serrated edge knife and handed it over to the cake server. She looked confused, “This is a serrated edge knife.”

“Best I could do for honey, please make it work,” I grumbled my request.

We were each given two drink tickets for the evening. I decided that now would be a great time to redeem one.

Santa, A Knife, and AMFs

What’s An AMF?

I made my way to the small bar. The person in front of me had a visually pleasing blue colored drink.

Bartender smiles, “What will it be, sir?”

“What’s the drink you just made for that guy? It looks like a Blue Hawaiian or Electric Iced Tea,” I ask.

A smirk crept across his face, “It’s called an AMF. Want one?”

I shrugged my shoulders, “I’ll take a flyer on it.”

He pours in vodka, gin, tequila, and rum. I thought, Geez, this is already gasoline in a 10 ounce plastic cup. Then he topped it all off with blue curaçao, sweet and sour mix, and a splash of 7-UP. My eyes increased with each added component. When he finished, I pressed on, “How many drink coupons is this?”

“Two, sir,” he answered.

“Fair enough,” I was my rebuttal. “What does AMF stand for?”

He slapped his hand down on my tickets on the bar, and barks, “Adios Muthaf**ker!”

I smiled, “LOVE IT!”

I happily trotted back to my chair. Dean, my girlfriend, and my teammates were instantly curious. I sipped on it, and damn was it good. I told them the story to settle them down. Dean leaned over, and whispered to me, “I have control of all the drink coupons. Please get a round for the entire table.” He passes me over enough drink coupons to take care of it.

I zoomed back to the bartender. I asked for a round of AMFs at the table, left the drink coupons, and requested the servers bring them over all at once.

[Minutes later …]

While sipping on my 3rd AMF of the evening, I noticed on the tables of the entire party had those little blue, deliciously DANGEROUS drinks.

To this day, I don’t remember too much more of the evening. I didn’t see Santa Claus and his hooker disembark, if the serrated knife was used to cut up the cake or if any other drink was ordered the rest of the cruise.

I do know that eventually we collectively drank the bar dry of the AMF ingredients. That, and, the accounting departments like to drink at parties.

‘los; out

Lost American In Paris

Yesterday at work, I enjoy a micro-conversation with a self-proclaimed Italian Costco Member over the pronunciation of the words: La Croix. It was well-intentioned and very lively.

We concluded the origin of the words was French, and regardless of your attempt it’s difficult to pronounce correctly. I reminded me of a time when I lost an American in the French city of Paris …

Paris, “The City of Light”. Despite that light, I still had a lost American in Paris that I needed to find.

It was in 2004, I was in my 2nd year at Costco Travel. In those 2 years I had accomplished so much in such little time, I had the biggest task assigned to me. To travel with and escort as a Costco Travel representation for the Kirkland Signature European Cruise Tour. I wasn’t the tour guide, per se, but more like an assistant to the tour guide assigned by Princess Cruises while holding the best interest for the Costco Members and Costco Travel. And somehow I had lost one of the members on the first real day together …

Lost American in Paris

Before I left the office, I had several meetings to prepare me for the 12-night Cruise Tour. The overall message that I detected was my primary responsibility was all Costco Members were to be protected. Thankfully, I would be meeting up with the Princess Cruise assigned tour guide to speak the various languages, be knowledgable about the countries, and have instant access to the various resources that’ll need to be used while aboard. My presence there would be to ensure that everyone had a good time, guided probably, and not have a lost American in Paris.

Notre Dame

As the title suggests, this travel package consisted of a cruise and a land tour. The order of this trip was the tour first, then the cruise. Our first night was in London, England so everyone can meet up, and gather up. Our tour guide was Marie-Agnes, and when we met up, she and I cooperated immediately. I knew she would be my best resource should I have a lost American in Paris on our second day.

We boarded the Chunnel Train early morning so we could travel from London to Paris. The first stop was the cathedral of Notre Dame. You see, priority is given to visiting tour groups. Oddly enough, it was a Sunday, and Notre Dame is a functioning church so we were visiting prior to service of the day.

And this is when I lost an American in Paris.

Once the tour was over, Marie-Agnes, and I advised everyone to board the bus to travel to the Eiffel Tower next. After reviewing the faces of the crowd, and double-checking the manifest, I was missing a husband named Larry. Somehow his wife, and him were separated inside Notre Dame. They were traveling with another couple, too. The tour guide was getting anxious as we had a succinct itinerary and we were running behind.

Great, I thought. The first real day and I’ve already trying to locate a lost American in Paris!

Now I’d have to contact the police for a missing person, check in hospitals, and more. First, I kept the wife with Marie-Agnes to keep her calm. The other couple stayed for moral support. Second, I sent the bus onto to the Eiffel Tower to ensure the group stays on-track.

Then I literally ran back to Notre Dame to search myself. I discovered that all tourists were sent out because service was in session. Awesome, I grumbled. I’m having to search for an unfamiliar face in a French crowd of thousands!

Since I was running already, I might as well take a lap around the cathedral. It was then and there I realized just how ginormous this church is.

I couldn’t find him.

Now, at this point, I’m starting to panic. I reverse my direction, and kept running. I still couldn’t find him. I’ll return to the mini-group at the original bus pick up and where I left the remaining group.

They were all smiling!

I furrowed my eyebrows, they must’ve learned more information since I left. Sure enough, they informed me that the bus driver spotted a lost American in Paris at the Eiffel Tower. It was Larry! The group was gathered around him, and my mini-group were waiting for me to return.

Taxis in Paris have a maximum capacity of 4.

Right about then, the church service concluded therefore the patrons were pouring out of the church and piling into taxis. I flagged one down, and had Marie-Agnes, Larry’s wife, and the other couple race off to be reunited with Larry. I assumed I’d be able to grab the next one. By the time, I secured them into transportation, all the other taxis were taken.

I looked into the distance to see the Eiffel Tower like a beacon. Since I was sweaty and upset from panicking, I thought I could use the time to walk and cool off. It was summer, therefore the sun was out and it was indeed hot. After walking for about 5 minutes, I encountered a taxi driver waking up from a nap in his BMW. I asked him nicely in English, if he even spoke English. And then if I could have a ride to Eiffel. He was agreeable to all of it.

He asked me if I was with a tour group from the United States, and I replied yes. He pressed on, why I wasn’t with the group. I smiled, I was trying to find a lost American in Paris, and he was finally located at the Eiffel. He smiled in returned, and quipped, are you sure you’re not the lost American as he looked into his rear view mirror.

I smiled, and joked, I just might be. All’s well that ends well, right?

Until my next drop, Spaceship Earth, be good like you should, and if you can’t be good, be good at what you do!

Mic drop *bOoM*
‘los; out

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