Too Much Tracking

This anal retentive ability to track a package should be satisfying, yet I’m always wondering why it’s stopped?

“Are you calling from the cockpit?” Those were the exact words from a friend as I called from the car a few days ago. My little car is noisy and my Bluetooth headset doesn’t help–actually it makes things worse.

I broke down last week and bought a model known for its noise canceling acumen. It’s a somewhat obscure brand and not available locally. I ordered online.

Like every other purchase nowadays I received a tracking number. I have tracked it a dozen or more times since last Thursday. Tonto wasn’t as dedicated a tracker as I am! It’s currently “out for delivery.”

This anal retentive ability to track a package should be satisfying, yet I’m always wondering why it’s stopped? Why isn’t it moving? What’s taking so long? Often billing information is received long before the package!

Google Maps (another refuge for the impatient) says the first leg is a 14:33 drive. What happened in the three plus days from “Departure Scan” to “Arrival Scan?” I suspect it really didn’t depart, but waited over the weekend.

It’s certainly possible we’ll be getting GPS based tracking before long. As soon as one company adds it they’ll all have to follow.

My point is, maybe we (and by “we” I mean “I”) would be better without access to yet another tool allowing me to overload with information.

Moving Out – Stef Returns To College

After I flunked out of Emerson (At the height of the Vietnam War. What was I thinking?), I took a job at a radio station in Palm Beach, FL. I packed everything I owned into my VW Beetle. I still had room to pick up a hitchhiker on the way (who let me sleep on a couch at a dorm at Georgetown).

Again, everything I owned in a Volkswagen. Everything! But I digress.

Stef returned to campus today. She’s helping the underclassmen move in, so she got her room in the dorm a few days early. We set out at 2:00 PM, knowing we’d have time to get lunch before the dorm officially began accepting residents at 6:00 PM.

The packing had been going on for days at home. At times I made the fatherly mistake of questioning what was being assembled.

“You’re taking two dozen pairs of jeans,” I whined in the general direction of my non-sympathetic daughter. How could anyone “need” more than twenty pairs of jeans?

Steffie does! She says she does. Perception is reality here.

In a perfect world, Stef would go through life like Cher at a concert, changing outifts to something new and fabulous every few minutes. She’s probably reading this now and thinking how good an idea that is.

Last night my little car slept outside while Stef’s was parked alongside Helaine’s in the garage. She had backed in; the car’s hatch facing the door to the mud room. Let the packing begin.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but when it was all over, there was room for more… though not much. Stef and Helaine managed to stuff both a full size and compact SUV! There was room for me to ride as a passenger, but only barely.

I was riding shotgun as Stef left, around 2:00 PM. We saw Helaine leave the driveway and then she was gone. We took the turnpike. Helaine went on the parkway.

Actually, Stef and Helaine have very different driving patterns. Helaine is cautious and moves at a moderate speed, staying with the prevailing traffic.

Steffie drives faster – too fast really, but that’s out of my hands at this point. She’s is very cautious, constantly checking those around her in her mirrors. Thankfully, she avoids the speeder’s trap of weaving in and out of lanes.

As we crossed the Throgs Neck Bridge, Stef told me how she likes taking thte bridge so she can catch a glimpse of the New York skyline. I was pleased to hear that, because I feel exactly the same way.

She said she knew there were lots of people who wait their whole life to go to New York and that she was lucky to have it at her feet. Again, I totally understand.

We made it to the campus a full half hour ahead of Helaine. She doesn’t drive that fast. The turnpike is just a faster way, even though Google says it’s only three miles shorter.

After lunch we headed to the dorm. As is always the case, we headed inside to get a giant, wheeled, rubber cart… but there were none! We’d have to carry everything by hand.

Moving a child into a dorm isn’t like moving in a moving van. Clothes, though on hangers, are loose. Lots of bulky items, like the TV, are brought ‘as is,’ not in a box. We had more bulk than we had weight, and we had plenty of weight.

This year Stef’s in a single. It’s a small room about the size of a walk-in closet. It’s got a bed, dresser, wardrobe cabinet and desk. It’s high up, on the 14th floor of what looks like a poured concrete building.

She has an amazingly unobstructed view of the Manhattan Skyline, nearly twenty miles away. When I asked her to look, she was blown away. It’s breathtaking, even at that distance.

Stef sees more than the city. She can watch planes landing at LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports and most of Nassau County, Queens and Brooklyn. With binoculars, I suspect she’d see the Statue of Liberty.

As nice as the room is, there is one downside. It is on the 14th , but the elevator only goes to 13.

I’m serious.

With each load we’d leave the elevator, walk a short corridor then open a fire weight metal door and climb a flight of stairs where another fire weight metal door was waiting.

Steffie’s next door neighbor and friend, Kim, was also moving in . Between Kim and (mostly) Stef, the hallway was soon a staging area for the final critical elements of the moving process.

After a while it was time for me to put on my pocket protector and become tech support. I set up the TV and DVD (please – no comments showing your age by grousing about Steffie having a TV and DVD in her dorm room).

Somewhere along the line she had lost the long cable necessary to circle the room to the outlet. She’s on her own for that one.

I untangled the rats nest of cables for her speakers and put them on a shelf above her printer. I hooked up a wired network connection only to find she had an excellent wireless signal. That’s new this year. For versatility, I hooked her up to the 802.11g signal.

A little after 8:00 PM, with much of the room still to be unpacked, we said goodnight and headed north.

We will miss Steffie a lot. This was a great summer for all of us. We enjoyed each other’s company and spent a lot of time together.

I’ll especially miss stopping by her room when I come home. We had some great conversations and I suspect I learned a lot about Stef this summer. She has changed with the college experience.

We’ll see her again in a few weeks when we all head down to Florida for my mom’s birthday. As much as we took today, I’m sure we’ll be bringing her something she forgot.

My First Car

The five of us went out this afternoon for a quick shopping trip. First though was a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for some coffee. It was there I spied the green Volkswagen.

As it turns out, there’s a guy in my town who has a business refurbishing these tiny cars.

The car I saw (and the car in the picture here on the web) is a ’67. Mine was a ’60. There is a lot of difference internally&#185, but from an aesthetic standpoint, it’s the same car. In fact, mine was the same color green, albeit faded and pock marked with rust.

Looking at that old Beetle brought back a lot of memories. With its narrow tires the VW moved around the road as if it were in a dance contest. There was no way to keep it in one lane as long as there was any breeze at all!

There were no seat belts, air bags nor any other kind of modern safety equipment. The dashboard was metallic and not padded. To make matters worse, the gas tank was under the hood, sitting pretty much on top of your feet.

Speaking of under the hood, that’s where the trunk was… and also where you filled the gas tank. I opened the trunk of the car at Dunkin’ Donuts and instantly was reminded the body had the thickness and resilience of an Altoids box!

With its little air cooled engine, it could accelerate 0-60 mph in a week or so. Actually, mine could barely get to 60 mph (I think I once got it to 63 mph). On a steep grade, even when starting at highway speed, you’d have to downshift to maintain. That meant a top uphill speed under 50 mph!

While cruising at top speed, I remember trying to throw my weight forward, as if it would help accelerate the car.

Since there was no radiator (it was an air cooled engine after all) the heater/defroster was challenged. It was always cold in the winter and anything that fell from the sky stuck on the windshield. The little wiper blades were totally ineffectual.

Did I mention I loved this car.

I bought it from what I thought was a private owner. As I later discovered, I bought it from someone who had purchased it after a wreck (let’s use the southern vernacular) and redid the body.

More than once the master cylinder, which powered the braking system, failed. I drove around for weeks at a time using only the emergency brake. What a stupid thing to do. I’m not proud. In fact, looking back, I am appalled. What was I thinking?

I bought the car with the intention of bringing it back to Boston where I was going to school. I paid my money, but didn’t know how to operate a ‘standard’. The Volkswagen had a ‘four on the floor’ manual transmission which had to be coordinated with proper use of the clutch. Two feet for driving and only the left hand dedicated to steering, with the right throwing the shifter.

The car’s seller sat in the front seat and gave me a lesson. We drove around my neighborhood of six story apartment buildings in Flushing for about five minutes. I hit no one. That was it. Lesson complete. Within the next half hour I was on my way north!

As I remember it, I stalled the car while leaving the toll booth on the Whitestone Bridge.

Having a VW was great for Boston. It could fit into nearly any space, legal or not. In that pre-computer age I collected parking tickets issued by the Boston Police Department and strung them together like a string of pearls.

Even today, 35 years later, I worry they may still be looking for me – somehow establishing a waiver to the statute of limitations since I owed enough to bail the Commonwealth out of any financial jam.

That little car that I bought for $400 meant so much to me. It was an integral part of my growing up. When I moved to Florida, it was the VW that moved me there – everything I owned and still room to pick up a hitchhiker on the way to Washington, DC.

Seeing this green car today meant a lot to me. I know I stayed and gabbed and slowed everyone else in the family down. I called Steffie over to look, but it was meaningless to her. You had to be there, back in the 60s when the VW Beetle was a symbol of the counterculture.

Today, again, for a few moments I was.

&#185 – All cars now, and the car in the photo above, have 12 volt electrical systems with negative ground. My 1960 Beetle had a 6 volt system with a positive ground. All it meant was it was impossible to find anything that worked in the VW that wasn’t specifically designed for it.