Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Grandfather's Security System"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

When my two daughters were just starting to toddle a means of locomotion that, in my case, has often involved beer my wife, Sue, and I had to install latches and locks on the drawers and doors of our kitchen cabinets so the girls couldn’t open them and spill the contents all over the floor.

It worked, at least in part, because it kept me out. To this day, I don’t know where anything is.

Now that our 1-year-old granddaughter, Chloe, is crawling around at record speed and has taken her first tentative steps, we have to repeat the process when she comes over to visit.

I recently went to Babies R Us to buy childproofing equipment and got a refresher course from two very nice sales associates named Nikki and Jessica.

“A lot of the questions we get are about diapers and breast pumps,” said Nikki.

“I don’t think a breast pump would work on me, although I do like to milk a joke,” I said. “As for diapers, I’m a geezer, so I guess it Depends.”

“Most of our customers are moms,” Jessica explained.

“How about dads?” I wondered.

“They come in once in a while,” Jessica said. “They’ll have a list of things their wives want them to get.”

“The mom is either still in the hospital or has just gotten home after giving birth,” Nikki noted. “She’ll send the dad here to buy stuff. We pay special attention to him, especially if he’s a new dad, because he’s usually confused.”

“How about grandfathers?” I asked.

“We don’t get too many grandpas,” Jessica said. “But when we do, they’re usually confused, too.”

“I’m a grandpa and I’m confused,” I said.

“We can help you,” said Nikki.

“Good,” I said. “I’m looking for latches and locks so my granddaughter can’t open the drawers and doors of our kitchen cabinets.”

“How old is she?” Jessica asked.

“She just turned 1,” I responded.

“That’s an active age,” said Nikki. “They get into everything.”

“Unfortunately,” Jessica added, “many of the guys who come in for latches and locks aren’t too handy. One guy wanted a lock that didn’t have screws because it would be too much trouble to install.”

“He probably didn’t even have a screwdriver,” Nikki said.

“All he would need,” I suggested, “is vodka and orange juice.”

“That would help,” said Jessica.

“Or maybe not,” Nikki added.

Nikki and Jessica showed me the store’s childproofing equipment. It included a pack of 12 cabinet and drawer latches, which come with screws, and a pack of three cabinet slide locks, which don’t.

“The slide locks fit on doorknobs and handles,” Jessica said. “The latches are best for drawers. You have to screw them into the cabinet frames and the inside of the drawers.”

“I’ll take both packs,” I said, thanking Nikki and Jessica for their help and insight.

The next day, I slid the slide locks through the door handles of three of our kitchen cabinets. It took about 10 seconds, not bad considering it took about 10 minutes to open the pack.

An hour later, Chloe came over. She scooted around, crawling even faster in the week since I last saw her and taking more tentative steps. She went into the kitchen and tried to open the cabinet doors, behind which are pots, pans, bowls and other things that might have been spilled all over the floor.

Chloe tugged, but the locks worked, so she scooted off to play in the family room.

“Nice job,” Sue told me. “Next you have to secure the drawers.”

“No problem,” I said. “The latches have screws. All I need is some vodka and orange juice.”
Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"The Hole Truth"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I am not a Rhodes Scholar because I have holes in my head, but I recently became a roads scholar because I learned how to patch holes in a road despite being suspended after only 10 minutes on the job.

I earned my street smarts with the help of a terrific crew from the Brookhaven Highway Department on Long Island, N.Y., which kindly took me out on pothole patrol and allowed me to help smooth out a rough situation without once telling me that I was a pain in the asphalt.

That did not, however, prevent me from getting into hot water actually, it was oil, which is used on the equipment because I got off on the wrong foot by having the wrong footwear.

My day began at the town yard, where general foreman Dan Curtin assigned me to a crew that would perform pothole repair on a residential street in the hamlet of, appropriately enough, Rocky Point. Dan gave me a bright yellow vest, which was more stylish than my bland blue shirt and faded jeans, and a hard hat, which wasn’t as hard as my head but which I had to wear anyway.

I was introduced to road crew worker Billy Lattman, who showed me the hot box attached to the truck we would be riding in.

“It holds four tons of asphalt that’s heated to 290 degrees,” Billy explained.

“I guess it’s safer to think outside the box,” I said.

“You’re catching on already,” said Billy, who drove with me to Asphalt Supply of Long Island to pick up three tons of the stuff.

“This past winter was one of the worst ever,” said Billy, who has been working in the highway department for 13 years and also is a volunteer fire chief. “So there are a lot of potholes to fill. And some of them are pretty big. I saw one with a hubcap in it. Another one had a bumper in it. It made me wonder what happened to the rest of the car.”

“Do you have potholes on your street?” I asked.

“Yes,” Billy replied. “We haven’t gotten to them yet. My wife keeps asking when we’re going to fill them in. I told her that we don’t get any special treatment. But at least I’ve never lost a hubcap or a bumper in a pothole. I avoid them because I know where they are.”

When we got to the work site, a narrow residential street named Friendship Drive, I met the rest of the personable and hardworking crew: Rob Nolan, John O’Sullivan, Gary Grob Jr. and Mario Desena.

I also met Tony Gallino, chief deputy of the Brookhaven Highway Department, who took one look at my ratty sneakers and suspended me.

“Not even 10 minutes on the job and already you’re suspended,” Tony said, adding that I should have worn safety boots. “You’re lucky the union won’t let me fire you.”

But Tony did compliment me on my work, which entailed shoveling hot asphalt into the ruts and potholes that pocked the street, smoothing it out with a long metal rake and going over it with a roller.

“You’re doing OK,” said Tony. “Still, I wouldn’t quit my day job.”

I learned that the crew’s day job is pretty tough. But they perform it with professionalism and good humor.

“You guys have real camaraderie,” I said.

“That’s because you’re here,” Billy responded. “We’re on our best behavior.”

It’s a good thing I was, too, because at that very moment, Dan Losquadro, superintendent of highways, came by.

“I hear you’ve been doing a good job,” Dan told me.

“I don’t like to brag, but you see that spot?” I said, pointing to an area that I worked on. “I did that.”

“Very nice,” said Dan. “You are no longer suspended. I am reinstating you.”

“Thanks,” I said. “On the next job, maybe the crew can do something about the holes in my head.”
Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima