Friday, May 25, 2012

"The Waiting Game"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
As a motorist who has been driving (people crazy) for four decades, I am used to sitting in traffic for hours at a time. But I didn’t think I would have to sit for part of two days when I went to renew my registration at the DMV, which stands for Department of Mass Vexation.

My adventure began on a Friday morning, when I drove to the DMV in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., and found that, because of budget cuts, the place was closed. Instead of looking on the door for the office hours, which would have indicated the place was closed the next day, too, I went back the next day and found that -- surprise! -- the place was closed.

My keen deductive powers convinced me not to show up Sunday. So I went back Monday morning and beheld a scene that was something out of a Cecil B. DeMille epic.

“I’m sorry,” said the nice woman at the front counter, where I was given number F-130, “but we’ve had a lot of layoffs and two people called in sick today. You’re looking at a two-hour wait.”

I sat down with about 100 other poor souls in the hope that her estimate was wrong. After 20 minutes, I decided it was -- the wait would be at least three hours. I left and came back even earlier the next morning.

Everyone from the previous day must have had the same idea because they were back, too. I went to the front counter and took a number. It was F-120.

“I think I know what the F stands for,” I told the nice woman.

She smiled and said, “Good luck.”

I sat down next to a guy who said, “I’ve been here for three days.”

“Your family must be worried,” I replied. “Did you bring a sleeping bag?”

“I should have,” he said. “I showed up Thursday morning and the line was out the door. I waited a while and gave up. The place was closed Friday.”

“I know,” I said.

“I came back yesterday and the woman at the counter said it would be a two-hour wait,” he continued. “I stuck around for about 20 minutes and left.”

“Me, too,” I said.

“So here I am for a third day,” said the guy, who had number C-411.

A disembodied voice announced, “Now serving A-004 at window No. 4.”

“We’ll be here forever,” I said.

A little while later, the voice announced, “Now serving C-411 at window No. 3.”

“That’s me!” the guy exclaimed. People around us applauded. I high-fived him. “It’s like winning the lottery,” he said as he scampered up to the window.

I sat from here to eternity, watching people text, surf the Web on their laptops, read books or look at the overhead TV, which featured the Motor Vehicle Network. Programming included a game called “Can You Guess the Celebrities?” and a commercial for a law firm that specializes in personal injury cases resulting from motor vehicle accidents.

Finally, I heard the disembodied voice say, “Now serving F-120 at window No. 8.”

“Yes!” I exulted as other customers congratulated me. I stepped up to the window and was greeted by a pleasant woman named Dotty. I told her that I had been to the DMV recently to get my license renewed and that I was in and out in no time. “Everything was very smooth and everyone was very nice,” I said. “The DMV gets a bad rap.”

“We do,” Dotty acknowledged. “But we’ve been extremely busy lately because we are short-staffed. I hope you weren’t waiting too long.”

“Just a couple of days,” I replied.

“That’ll be $196.50,” Dotty said. “Make out the check to DMV.”

“How do you spell that?” I asked.

Dotty smiled. “Now you don’t have to do this again for two years,” she noted.

I nodded and said, “I can wait.”

Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, May 11, 2012

"The Height of Folly"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
How much wood could a woodpecker peck if a woodpecker could peck wood?

Only a birdbrain would ask that question. So it should come as no surprise that it has been on my mind. It also should come as no surprise that my mind is in the gutter. This explains why, despite a paralyzing fear of heights, I recently had to climb up to the roof of our two-story Colonial, not just to reattach the gutter, but to battle a demented woodpecker whose mind -- and bill -- must have been in there, too.

The problem began when my wife, Sue, and I were rudely awakened at 6 o’clock one morning by what sounded like machine-gun fire hitting the house.

“Whoever is shooting at us is a bad aim,” I said drowsily.

“No one’s trying to kill us,” Sue replied. “That’s a woodpecker.”

Sure enough, we suddenly had a fine feathered friend that came back at the same time every day to serve as an avian alarm clock. Then we noticed that part of the gutter on the corner of the roof had come loose.

“It can’t be,” I said to myself, because Sue had already gotten up. “A woodpecker couldn’t have done that.”

There was only one way to find out: Send Sue up there.

“There’s another way to find out,” she said firmly.

So I got the extension ladder from the garage and, armed with a power drill and a set of gutter screws, started a climb that would have given a mountain goat nosebleeds. I don’t like to be any higher off the ground than the top of my head. Unfortunately, the top of my head would have to reach the top of the house.

Complicating matters was a weeping cherry tree that partially impeded my long ascent.

“If I fall,” I told Sue, “I’ll be a weeping Jerry.”

Life has its ups and downs. So did this project, during which I went up and down the ladder about half a dozen times, frequently getting entangled in the cherry tree’s branches. I registered my displeasure in language that can’t be repeated here.

“Hon,” said Sue, who was watching this pathetic scene from the safety of terra firma, “you’re talking to a tree.”

Pretty soon I was talking to the power drill and the gutter screws, expressing similar sentiments because, like all inanimate objects, with which I have been waging a lifelong losing war, they wouldn’t cooperate. Finally, I got a hammer and banged a new screw into the aluminum gutter, its vinyl backing and the wood on the face of the house. For good measure, did the same with the loose screws (in the gutter, not my head).

While I was up there, I noticed some holes in the wood. I put 2 and 2 together and came up with 22. “The woodpecker!” I thought. “Maybe now he’ll go away.”

I figured he wouldn’t peck the aluminum gutter or the vinyl siding on the house, but just to make sure, I looked up “woodpecker deterrent” on Google and was directed to the website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Under “general woodpecker deterrents,” there were tips for getting rid of the birds by tactile, visual and sound means. Among them were aluminum foil strips, windsocks, handheld windmills, plastic owls and an electronic distress call system.

“Instead of windsocks, maybe I can use my own dirty socks,” I suggested to Sue.

“That would poison the woodpecker,” she said. “Then you’d have to deal with the animal-rights folks.”

I wasn’t about to climb back up to the roof and hold a windmill in my hand. And I didn’t want to nail a plastic owl to the shingles. I suppose I could have recorded myself doing a Woody Woodpecker imitation, but one of the neighbors might have called the cops.

So I put some aluminum foil strips up there. So far, the woodpecker hasn’t come back. Still, I wonder: How much aluminum could a woodpecker peck if a woodpecker could peck aluminum?

Only a birdbrain would ask that question, too.
Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima