A Twist In The Wind On A Friday Afternoon

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It was a typical Friday here – until a little after 3pm. I heard the EAS go off on my cell phone for only the second time since I have owned it (the first being throughout Hurricane Irma last year), but this caught my attention instantaneously. My area was under a Tornado Warning.

Even with some strong summertime thunderstorms, we’re lucky to get one such warning a year – although five years ago during a summer storm in June 2013, our neighboorhood had a microburst with no warning. I was aware a front was passing through the Tampa Bay area – I just wasn’t expecting it to be this strong. I turned on the local TV stations, who were already on the air tracking the front.

One of my neighbors was gathering up loose objects from their yard – I counseled the neighbor to cease immediately. Their intentions were good, I suppose – but with tornadoes, every second does count. Better things go flying than the people themselves, right? I knew the front was moving very quickly through the area, and the moments being used up might wind up being moments they didn’t have, so I saw and said something.

During the warning, I get a call from Pinellas County emergency management – warning as of the tornado alert. I did withstand the temptation to pick up the phone and angrily say, “I KNOW!!!” I get that not everyone has a cell phone and could get the EAS signal, but at the same time – they could be calling someone who needs to stay hunkered down, which seems to me as being counterproductive.

The tornado threat passed without damage where I live, though Seminole, a town directly west of here, had a touch down that knocked down trees on the busier roadways and caused a roof of a condo to collapse. Had the tornado stayed on the ground longer, it might have been a close call for us – lucky, it wasn’t.

A Blast From The Past

This is one of the earliest (but not the earliest) videos I’ve ever shot for YouTube. I noticed, one day back in 2007, a thunderstorm approaching the house – so I conducted an experiment to see if I could get the footage on a digital camera I was using.

I was lucky to catch a lighting bolt landing just north of me – but overall, it was a foolish effort.

20 Items Or Less: Here We Go Again

Believe it or not, it happened again.

A trip to Walmart earlier in 2017.

I was at the local Walmart here in Pinellas Park on Saturday, and I didn’t have a lot to get. I’m getting near the end of my hunt, and I’m counting items.

At the end, my count is at 19, or so I think. Perfect! I can get at the “20 items or less” lane and likely save some time. The Walmart employees have given me guff last year about using the automated checkout, the only problem was every time they dinged me, they were wrong.

Surely in a lane with a cashier, they wouldn’t do this again. But they did. And I was wrong. I didn’t have 19 items. I had 20. The horror and sacrilege!!!

This cashier also didn’t like the fact that I was correct. Every time I tried to grab a plastic bag from the rotating tray, she’d spin it around on me. Then she tried to shoo me without giving me a receipt, but I demanded it.

She told me she was sorry, flashing me a fake smile.

I shot back, “No argument from me.”

And so, the persecution of 20-item shoppers or thereabouts goes on. If it happens again, I think I have a good idea what to do, but I’ll save that for another post some time in the future.

Aircheck: WYOU, 6/1/1969

I’ve been looking back at some Florida radio history every other Sunday recently, and this week, it’s an aircheck from WYOU radio, 1550 on the AM dial from Sunday, June 1st, 1969. Now a days, 1550 is WAMA, a Spanish language sports talk radio station.

There’s an ad in this aircheck for the Joyland country night club in St. Petersburg, which presently is part of the city of Pinellas Park, and isn’t too far from where I live off of US 19.

The country music sounds totally different from what it sounds like these days, and the station even has a gospel hymn playing every hour, as many country artists of the era would often perform gospel songs, the most famous of which may have been Johnny Cash.

Worth a listen.

20 Items Or More

It was another trip to Walmart on an early Wednesday morning, getting to the store just before sunrise at 6:30.

Why do I always talk about my Walmart trips? They’re like snowflakes. No one trip to the store, no matter what the hour, is like any other trip to Wally World. Each trip is like its own individual experience. I might get the same thing every time I go, but the list is never same. The impulse buys are never the same either, as they are masters of placing something in the store, it’s mere location setting off some kind of psychological enticement, kind of like how Facebook plays games with your head.

The store I visit in Pinellas Park made a major change if you pay by debit card, as I often do. You no longer swipe your card in the slot of the right side of the card machine. It recognizes if you have a chip in your debit card (mine does), so doing things the old familiar way can’t be done. You have to stick your card in the slot in the bottom of the machine, which is how most stores do business these days. I find it a bit of a pain, but it’s one of those things done for security purposes.

I went to checkout this morning, and I was pleased to see that unlike my last blog entry a few weeks back, they had a register open that wasn’t restricted to 20 items or less. Not only that, they had a lady at the register AND a lady who bagged the groceries for me, as I was the only one in line. While that’s good in some respects, it keeps me busy most of the time because you’re putting things on the moving counter AND you usually have to bag things quickly after all of that effort.

When I go early and amble out of Walmart, I sometimes notice I’ve worked up a tiny bit of sweat. With summer time near, maybe I should just go at more normal times.

Harry And The Lawn Proletariat

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People who don’t like Mondays probably wouldn’t like my complex here in Pinellas Park.

A couple of years ago, a welcome change was made. Instead of the complex having lawn workers doing their bidding on Fridays (every other week from October to April, every week in the summer), they moved their worked to Mondays. This seems to work out a lot better for us, because we get a lot of rain in the summertime. That means instead of having our Saturdays at risk (which really isn’t fair to us, since we don’t control the weather), they just come during the next available weekday.

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My cat Harry, like many other cats, has an aversion to sharp noises.

(For those of you new to the blog, I’ve known Harry since Christmas of 2008, taken care of him on and off since 2010, and permanently since early 2015. He’s a tabby, and will turn eight on July 4th. That will make him, in human terms, 48 years old…and I’ve known Harry since he was nearly a babe.)

When the lawn people come, cutting the grass and whacking out of shape weeds, Harry usually makes a bee line for under my bed or under a reclining chair in the enclosed patio if I’m not home. Not even catnip flavored Temptation treats (his favorite) can coax him out once he sets up camp in either place.

By noon, maybe 1pm at the outside, it’s all over with. If I’m home, I usually give Harry a treat for surviving the “ordeal” and life returns to normal.

Until the following Monday..

Technical Difficulties At Taco Bell

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My love of Taco Bell goes back to 1984, when I was introduced to the restaurant (that had just opened up in southwest Largo) by my Dad, who brought home some Nachos BellGrande for us to snack on. It was the night of my last day of school for the calendar year, December 21st, 1984. Dad wanted to watch the BYU-Michigan Holiday Bowl that would likely give the Cougars the national college football title if they won. (Brigham Young did win the bowl game, and the title was theirs a couple of weeks later. Yes, this is how I remember things, cross-referencing them televised to sporting events.)

There was also a Taco Bell at the time by Largo High School, at the corner of Missouri Avenue and West Bay Drive, which is now a CVS Pharmacy. This was more a less my social hangout back then if hanging around school was an option. If I went to a football game in the fall or a soccer game in the winter, I’d stop in at “The Bell” and get a bite to eat beforehand, or bring it to the stadium with me, which made me look like a glutton to everybody. And yes, my food of choice was usually a Nachos Bellgrande, with plenty of napkins.

I hadn’t eaten at a Taco Bell since my trip to Orlando in April of 2014 at the Florida Mall, which connects to the Florida Hotel I was staying at. There had been allegations in recent years that the beef the fast food chain uses is actually horse meat, and that soured me on them for a while.

A couple of days ago, I thought I’d pay the Taco Bell in Pinellas Park a visit, as they’re about a 15 minute drive from where I live. Before leaving, I checked their online menu to see if anything had changed, and a lot had. According to the site, you can now order what you want online, then go to the store and get it, kind of like Papa John’s except you travel to their store, they don’t travel to you. As a bonus, they had an offer where if you buy $10 or more, they’d knock $2 off the price.

I was suspicious that a fast food chain could do this, so I brought my patience with me when I bellied up to the drive-thru. Sure enough, when I explained I had ordered online, I can hear the hesitation in their voices right away. The online order had never reached them.

I asked, handing my printout over to them: “Well, can I give you the order to make? I have cash on me.”

They agreed, with the general manager, a redhead I’d guess to be in her mid-20’s, explaining to me that next time I should just come in to place the order, and not do so online. I could appreciate her position, and we were both nice about it all, but…HUH?

Back when I lived in Marietta, Georgia in 1996, they had a Taco Bell off of Cobb Parkway where you pushed buttons on a computer monitor to get the food you want, kind of a higher-tech automat. At my local Taco Bell 19 years and change later, they can’t even accept an online order?

Is technology making progress go forward, or is it making it go backward?

Escalator Phobia

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When I was a kid, I used to hate escalators for some strange reason. I don’t remember the logic of why I hated them, I just did. Maybe I thought once when I got to the top of one as a child that it was going to gobble me up or something.

Whenever I went to Tampa International Airport, I had to take stairs or elevators to get from floor to floor, which wasn’t always the most convenient thing to take. This drove my parents crazy, allowing me to let these phobias control me instead of me controlling them.

In my middle school years, I took a PSTA bus to Pinellas Square Mall from west Largo one day. It doesn’t exist as it once did anymore, as a shopping center sharing an air-conditioned common corridor. It had loads of escalators to get from one level of the mall to the other. I got there one morning and just hopped on as many as I could find, and the phobia was gone.

Many years later, I was at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in 1996. They had an entrance to the place by the monorails where you had to go through all these shops to get up to the casino, which required an escalator to get to. This one day, there’s a couple with a baby stroller above me, the wife (or girlfriend) is holding the baby, the guy holding the stroller.

When they get to the top, the wife and baby get off fine, but the guy is fumbling around with the stroller, and it gets stuck. I have someone to the left of me either a step up or down, so I’m stuck running into this guy if he can’t get the stroller out of the way.

As I’m thinking about what to say, only able to get out a mumble or two, the guy thankfully is able to get the stroller out of its tango with the top of the escalator. I breathe a sigh of relief, going on to whatever business I had that day, imaging what I would be thinking if I had still been an escalator-phobe.

Now Where I Did I Leave That Ark?

When it rains a lot, Bayshore Blvd. in Tampa usually takes a pounding.  This pic was taken by Donn Scott Jr.
When it rains a lot, Bayshore Blvd. in Tampa usually takes a pounding. This pic was taken by Donn Scott Jr.

Tampa took a pounding from Mother Nature yesterday, with portions of the city getting five inches of rain or more from a tropical wave. Here in Pinellas Park we took a couple of inches of rain, but nothing as eye-opening as what happened ten miles to the east or so.

There are parts of Tampa that can’t take all of that rain when it comes so quickly. Bayshore Boulevard, which is a road that twists around the west side of Hillsborough Bay, is one such road. Dale Mabry Boulevard, a main north-south thoroughfare, is another road that gets flooded frequently south of I-275 and Raymond James Stadium where the Buccaneers play.

It seems to me (and I could be wrong) that the powers that be over there have never tried to get something going in terms of preventing such flooding. But with the area elevation, there may not be anything that realistically can be done. If our area ever gets that big hurricane it hasn’t gotten in over 90 years, definitely avoid the area. In fact, most of the Tampa Bay area would be underwater if a hurricane like Katrina came here.

Happier thoughts tomorrow…

Scenes From Walmart On The Eve Of Christmas Eve

If you’re looking for space and peace, 7pm at a Walmart on December 23rd is not where you’re going to find it.  But I had last-minute shopping to do, and this was the only time I could do it, so off I went the nearly three miles to the Walmart Supercenter in Pinellas Park off Highway 19 just north of the Gandy overpass.

The parking lot, or at least the front of it, was jam packed as you’d expect it to be, but I have a strategy for times like these: park somewhere in the back, particularly a section of the lot that is well lit.  Let everyone else play the game of trolling the parking lot, looking for that one good spot up front.

The mission was threefold: first, find shampoo and some Neosporin for a nagging cut in the front of the store to the right of the registers.  Then, off to electronics to get some requested DVD’s and my gift to myself: an NHL 15 video game for the XBox 360.  I don’t usually watch hockey until playoff time, but I think Doc Emerick of NBC is the best announcer today, pound for pound.  When EA Sports signed him up to do play-by-play duties on their NHL franchise, I had this on my to do list.

Electronics was a Chinese fire drill.  The associate who got my games placed me in front of a couple of women who had been waiting prior to my arrival.  I heard their side of the story, did the quick math, and got behind them.  It was such a wild scene in that I walked over to groceries and forgot to take the game and put it in my cart!  Before I got too far, they got my attention and handed it to me.

Over to the back left side of the store it was to hunt down the groceries, and…

BOOM!

I feel the impact of a pallet jack impacting the right side of my body driven by a vertically challenged woman who could not see the path in front of her.  Lucky for me that my six foot one, 290 pound body absorbed the blow without injury, I just bounced right off of it.  I told her she should get a side mirror for her jack like they have in automobiles, and we shared a laugh.

And so the night went.  I made sure to say hello to all the young children that were at the store.  No, I’m not some kind of pervert or anything like that.  You see, Christmas might be a pain in the butt for most of us adults, but we have to remember one thing this time of year that goes more and more forgotten the older I get: Christmas is for the kid in all of us, but especially for kids.

No one knows who among us will be here when Christmas of 2015 gets here, so we need to do all we can to make the day Jesus Christ was born as special as we can for all that we can.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

A Weird Weekend

It was a strange weekend for me.

It started Saturday morning, having some orange juice for breakfast. There was something odd about the OJ, but I didn’t think anything of it. Sure enough, a few minutes later, I’m rushing to the bathroom to puke away for only the third time in the last decade and a half. I smelled the OJ, and despite the expiration date not having been reached, it had a very skunky smell to it.  I quickly discarded it.

Sunday evening is usually the extravaganza of a golf cart parade where I live. They usually go up and down the streets of the complex where I live in Pinellas Park. You don’t go to the parade: the parade comes to you. So I was standing out of the street at 6:15, not knowing when the parade would get to us. At nearly 8, I had to give up the ghost. I heard the parade process through the neighborhood, but they never came by our street, and the parade route is a more guarded secret around here than Homeland Security.

Would have been nice if the powers that be would tell us that things changed, but I guess communicating with the commoners is beneath them.  Oh, well.

The Art Of Hen Pecking

Striking a pose with my IPhone, from December 9, 2013.
Striking a pose with my IPhone, from December 9, 2013.

My mother wanted to get an IPhone yesterday morning, so she brought along an expert to make sure she didn’t get taken advantage of: me.

By the time we got to the Verizon store here in Pinellas Park, there were more people working there (three) then they had customers (two). They show her an IPhone 5c, let her pick out a plan, give her a screen protector and a nice case.

And this is where the fun begins. Instead of ringing her up and letting her go, the visit to Verizon becomes something resembling the Spanish Inquisition.

They show her a Samsung tablet. Not an IPad, but a Samsung tablet. She wasn’t interested.

They ask her about her home phone. They tell her they have a better plan. She wasn’t interested.

They ask about her cable. They tell her they have a better cable system via FIOS. She wasn’t interested.

You can see where this is going, right?

Not to be deterred, they tell her about a home security system. She wasn’t interested.

My mother is now shooting me exasperated looks, as if to say, “I just came in here to buy a new phone.”

I shoot her a look back as if to say, “I’m noticing this.”

Before they give her the IPhone and the accessories that come with it, they remind me that they have a special for those with other phone carriers if they switch over to Verizon. Namely, me.

And yes, I wasn’t interested, especially seeing how they treated my mom as if she had won the Powerball lottery.