Feu de paille

Source: https://bit.ly/2Z0tXTK

Not long ago, spam filters fingered a questionable blog comment, leaving me the decision rather than deleting it outright. Indeed, in the best tradition of junk mail, it was useless (promoting “health products” I think).

However, what caught my attention was the blog title: The Elementary School Experience in Uruguay. What could I have written about that?

Nothing, it turns out: linked to the then-latest blog post of an enthusiastic couple who had moved to Uruguay from California with their young children…

…which ended up being the last blog post of an enthusiastic couple who had moved to Uruguay from California with their young children…

…celebrated by their last meaningful Twitter post. Their Youtube documentation of the adventure lasted six weeks. Their Facebook page went cold in November 2017.

It’s going on ten years here for us: many people come and gone. This is not the only story without closure, nor the only fire that burned hot but briefly.

But what happens next in the story?

I almost wish I had a creative writing class. I would assign that, in the genre of your choice: crime, humor, sci-fi, romance…. But the assignment would consist of only the first paragraph of the rest of the story, starting with: It was late February when we noticed….

Thanksgiving treat

“Thanksgiving” potluck late lunch including Uruguayans, Canadians, and South Africans as well as Americans. Quite a feat to organize (I didn’t) and fun to get together with some people we haven’t seen in a while.

And then this visual treat on the sand-covered patio:

More than a little ironic

Just shy of six months ago I totaled our Chevy Meriva. The driver of the delivery truck that hit me (the whole thing was entirely my fault) had no insurance, and I assured him I would help him with repairs. He spoke great English, and we had quite an interesting and unrelated discussion as we waved away the ambulance crew, who couldn’t quite believe there were no injuries.

It turns out I had no insurance, either, since the company never sent a bill, and lied that they had called me ten days before they cancelled it for non-payment – just a couple of weeks before the accident. And though I sent a couple of text messages to Jorge, the other driver, I heard nothing back. Was it possible I got his number wrong and he got my number wrong?

Yesterday my cell phone rang. That in itself is unusual, because it’s almost always in airplane mode, serving primarily as a camera.  It’s Jorge, wondering if I remember him (of course) and was still willing to help (of course). He said the repairs would be around USD 2,000,1 and I agreed to meet him today at the gas station near the accident, as he would be on his way to Montevideo.

Let the ironies roll: traffic was crawling on the highway, and I saw police cars and an ambulance, so guessing I couldn’t cross the most direct way, went over the bridge and through the awkward back streets to get there. I was early, and curious what the fuss was about.

Irony #1: it was about a car broadsided. Though I have heard there are many accidents in this crossing, before and since my car being broadsided I have never seen another.

car crash site
The closest point of grass in this photo is where the Meriva and I ended up, spun 180%.

Irony #2: I thought I had gotten a picture of the crashed car (silver, to the left of the police truck), but with shutter lag instead have it obscured by a black car.

Irony #3: that black car is exactly at the point of impact of my crash.

crash site diagram

Irony #4: the black car in my photo is in the exact position of the black car in the Google Earth screen shot I used to illustrate my accident back in March.2

Feeling little chills yet?

Anyway, our meeting was rather emotional and ended with a big hug, and Jorge telling me if I ever need something delivered from Montevideo, let him know and he’d do it for free.


1 I asked if I could see the estimate, and it was closer to USD 3,000
2 wrong lane, but hey….

It begins…

This summer (we’re now into autumn), we have been plagued for the first time by incredibly annoying acoustic pollution. Maybe as a kid, you loved hearing the piercing electronic truncated version of Für Elise, because it meant the ice cream truck was coming! Which maybe it did, once a day.

But not all day long, every day. Which is what the apparently-otherwise-respectable-in-terms-of-service gas company Acodike has been doing. When I wrote to complain, they responded that they can’t turn down the volume, because otherwise customers complain that they don’t hear it.

To which I responded, you have not been here the last eight goddam years, so how many customers, seriously, complained about not hearing something that didn’t exist?

End of conversation, needless to say. (I have a bit of a track record when it comes to ending correspondence using logic. A certain attorney in British Columbia comes to mind, but that’s another story.)

So fast forward, and the first deployment of anti-Akodike stickers has begun.

Sticker on trash container, Atlántida, Uruguay

Shut up, Acodike. It’s 2018. We have telephones.

Alas, these are just laser-printed paper labels. They won’t last long. I’ve got some high school kids, equally annoyed by this 1980s-era “marketing,” who may help post these. I say “may” because I delivered them to a couple houses  but not directly to the kids. Ya veremos. We will see.

This label stock is not sold in Uruguay, as far as I can find. I spent $30 to order 100 sheets @10/sheet, plus $7.95 shipping to Gripper, a Miami-Uruguay delivery service, and another $30+ to Gripper to get them here. And promptly trashed a couple sheets learning how to get them to print properly.

But it fits the characteristics of projects I like, such as freelance mentoring of at-risk adolescents in North Carolina, and adopting a bright and funny, but seriously socially disadvantaged 12 year old boy, also in North Carolina:

  1. I (we in the latter case) can maybe pull this off;
  2. If I/we don’t try to do it, nobody else will, and;
  3. It’s worth doing, even if it doesn’t end as you hoped (because it probably won’t, but that doesn’t mean you failed).

FWIW, the 12 year old boy is now cooking at Applebee’s in Prescott, Arizona, and has been awarded MVP (Most Valuable Player) status numerous times, and is training to be an instructor. I’ve lost contact with the others, but that’s OK: I didn’t want be a hero. Helping them navigate a little was enough. As far as I know, they are all doing well.