I’m Not Exactly Clear About How Deer Use Guns

There’s a fire station just a few blocks away from us, but out here in Rural Town the only police are state troopers and the county sheriff. I’ve always been curious about response time. If, say, a couple of deer started shooting up Main Street how long would it take for help to arrive?

I use that example because the local deer have plenty of motivation for revenge. I think more are killed each year by vehicles on our village and township roads than are shot in the woods of the entire state. When they decide to fight back, they’ll be coming after drivers not hunters.

Early last week, Wendi’s station wagon took out a young buck. It was technically a victory, but the wagon is likely to be written off as totalled. It’s certainly not drivable at the moment; parts of the outer body are missing and the electrical system’s gone hysterical. Still, at only one deer collision in the decade we’ve been out here, I’d say we’ve come out ahead.

That does mean that we’re down to just my Saturn Ion for a bit. This complicates my plan to get its alignment fixed, but the bigger problem is that sometimes we need to be in different places. Saturday, for instance, I had planned a day of movies with friends (12:00 – ~9:00) while she had an evening game (5:00 – 1:00). Not an insurmountable problem, but one that required some thought. Wendi exchanged a kitten visit for a ride to the game, and I dropped by after the movies and hung out until the game wrapped up. Problem solved.

We were on a country road when a police van pulled us over. It turned out that one of my headlights was out. My proof of insurance was out of date (which I would think is more common than not), but after checking me against the Naughty Persons Registry the officer let us go with a caution to drive safely. Exhausted from the long day, yet suddenly alert, we continued on our way home.

We were in the center of town, just a few blocks from home, when we were pulled over by a police car. He ran the license plate and came over to Ion. All of our papers were out and ready.

“You’ve already been pulled over?” he asked.

We laughed wearily and allowed that we had.

He jotted down a few notes and wished us a good morning.

I’m no longer concerned about police response time in our area. When the deer finally do come for us, I’ll just bust a headlight and start driving. The police will arrive within moments.



My car is getting old and, apparently, senile.

On Saturday I drove to the post office. I could have walked, but I had a handful of errands and we just never know what sort of packages will be waiting for us to pick up. I retrieved our mail (a small package this time), climbed back into the car, turned the key… and nothing.

Several more attempts ended in futility. There was not so much as a hint of it trying to turn over. I collected the mail and walked home.

I wasn’t ready to deal with the situation yet, so I walked to the market in order to complete my original task. (For programmers: it was a matter of priority, not simply order in the stack.) When I came back, Wendi left messages for a tow company to come give the car a jump.

Time passed, and we never heard back from the tow company. It was a snowy day, so they probably had a lot of cars to pull out of ditches. Eventually I remembered that I keep an emergency kit in my trunk, and it likely contained jumper cables. Unfortunately, being a practical matter, I haven’t the faintest clue how to jump a car. Luckily, Wendi did (although there are no cables in her station wagon).

Sometimes life comes up chocolate and peanut butter.

Wendi drove us over to the post office and sidled her wagon up to the left side of my car. I figured that we’d need keys in the ignition at some point in the process, so I slid in through the passenger seat and put the key in. On a whim, I gave the key a turn.

The engine promptly started.

I don’t put up with hijinks in car electronics. I needed this infernal contraption to get me to the airport in two days and expected it to still function on my return. So off to the repair shop it went. It’s closed on the weekends, so we left the keys and went on with our weekend.

At 8:00 AM on Monday I called the shop and explained the car’s behavior and my need to drive it to the airport at 3:00 PM. They said they’d get right on it and see what they could do. (I love our local repair shop.)

A few hours later I got a call from Wendi. They’d called her (her number’s the one listed with them, because phones and I are not exactly close). It turns out that the part of the ignition system that recognizes the key was wearing out, and we could expect it to start failing more often.

My car needs to remember the key, and because it’s grown old and forgetful it won’t let the engine start.

They got a new ignition switch configured and installed with an hour to spare. I’m appreciative, but once again a security feature has left me baffled. How is this supposed to help anything? Isn’t the whole function of a key that it “prevents” unauthorized usage? Or is this their way to compensate for the limited permutations of key designs available?

I just hope that my car doesn’t have a security feature that allows it to forget how to brake.

Judge Not, Nor Jury Either

After freaking out for several months about my impending jury duty, it of course became a non-event. I showed up shortly after 8:00 AM, slightly delayed by the metal in my belt, and had chosen an aisle chair by the 8:15 reporting time. Of the four scheduled trials one had ended in a settlement, two had the defendents cop a plea, and one defendent (perhaps having seen us) opted for a bench trial. According to my Twitter timestamps, we were all let go around 10:30.

Of course, “let go” drastically oversimplifies the process. We were called up, one at a time, to return our badges and collect our pay cards. Then we stood in line at a custom ATM that read the cards and spat out — rather contemptuously — $17 for our inconvenience.

I had nearly made it back to my car (in a university parking lot half of a mile away), when the day again threatened to become legal. At a 4-way stop I witnessed a driver run the stop sign and smack the rear of another car.

The offending driver pulled up next to me and stormed out of her car, barking about lawyers and such. She asked me if I’d seen what happened, and I warily admitted that I had. Then the driver of the other car came over, and the woman who’d caused the accident started yelling at her.

“You had a stop sign!” she roared.

The women who’d been run into goggled at this and simply retorted “So did you.”

There was an awkward moment as the first woman stared at the sign she’d blown through.

“Oh God,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”

At that the two started to sort things out rationally. Relieved that my testimony would not be needed after all, I quietly slipped away.

Having dodged the jury box and the witness stand, my only remaining goal for the day was to stay clear of the defense table.

Death Awaits Me

I have seen my death, and I cross it at least twice every workday.

The intersection outside of the building where I work has been an all-way stop for well over a year. The traffic lights were “temporarily” taken out of service because of an extensive construction project on the next block.

Being a busy intersection in Ann Arbor, the lights never much affected pedestrian behavior in the first place. People cross whenever and wherever they damn well please. For now, though, at this instersection drivers are entirely at the mercy of the unwise crowd. I’m painfully aware of what damage a car could do to me, but even I just walk on through.  I don’t even pretend to watch or wait anymore but simply rely on drivers to accept their powerlessness.

Some day the construction will end, and the cars will regain the illusion of authorized ownership of the road. Shortly thereafter I fully expect to be creamed while blindly crossing against the light.

At least I’ll know that I had it coming.

Crosswalk Baseball

I understand jaywalking. Crossing against the light makes sense to me. Waiting for the signal even if there’s no traffic in sight? Having been run over, I’m totally down with caution.

What I don’t get is trying to steal the corner.

The pedestrian walks a few feet into the road, ready to cross yet not quite committed to the act. Oncoming traffic veers to the center, creating dazzling new opportunities for collision, while the player simply stands in the way.

It makes me want to have an accomplice and a baseball. My accomplice, being the disposable member of the duo, would run across the road and toss the baseball. I’d catch it and tag the corner stealer out.

They wouldn’t know what we were doing, but that’s okay. The ball would probably hit a passing car, sending the driver into a panic that would end up with the corner thief and me crushed beneath the vehicle.

On second thought, I’ll be one running across the street.

The Ankle Bone’s Connected

I am a mutant.
Not the cool kind, with wings or a healing factor. No, I’m your run-of-mill genetic deviant with a mutation that does not improve my odds against the fittest. My gift is stiff ankles. To be medically precise the diagnosis was talocalcaneal ossification, which basically means that my heels are fusing to my ankles. This in itself doesn’t greatly inconvenience me; I have a somewhat restricted range of motion in my feet that sometimes puts stress on various ligaments. It was a Chevy that turned my relatively harmless mutation into a life-changing injury.
Mom did not approve of my friend Chuck. One day she fixed us sandwiches to eat. Chuck looked at it suspiciously and wound up burying it under his napkin. When I was done eating, he slid his sandwich into the trash. For a teenager, this counts as politeness. He didn’t make gagging noises or throw it on the floor, so in his mind he was courteously avoiding hurt feelings. Of course he was wrong, and I still hear about this slight whenever his name comes up.
I liked Chuck because he seemed happy being who he was, and this was completely outside of my experience. He did whatever the rest of us were doing without complaint, and if he liked sometimes to sit in his window wearing nothing but his underwear what of it? Plus, he had a car, a light blue Chevy sedan. That was another strike against him as far as my mom was concerned, but my friends and I loved the vicarious power and freedom of it. We’d take rides to anywhere and nowhere in particular, just because we could.
I was under strict instructions to never get a ride from a friend. A good part of my general anxiety has always stemmed from my inability to follow rules and my certainty of being caught breaking them. Oddly I only got busted once for accepting a ride, but it wasn’t for what I’d actually done.
I’d been invited to a party on the night of a varsity basketball game. I’d been told that parents would be there, so I was grudgingly allowed to accept the invitation. So I went to the junior varsity game to hang out before playing in pep band for the varsity game. My parents stormed in, having found out that there would not be adults at the party. This was news to me, but I was branded a liar and ordered home directly after the fulfilling my band obligations.
I was pissed at everybody, but what could I do? I waited for the varsity game to start, tooted my trombone on cue, and packed up. The first chair trombonist asked if I wanted a ride. I explained the situation, and he told me to get in the car. He drove aimlessly for a while as I ranted and blew off steam. When I’d come around to feeling better, he dropped me off.
Here’s the part where I got in trouble.
My parents weren’t hopping mad, but they were trembling with rage. They hadn’t realized (and would not believe) that there were two basketball games that night and that I’d be on band duty for the second. The junior varsity game had been in the 4th quarter when they’d arrived, so they’d expected me to return home shortly behind them. When that had failed to happen, my parents had launched an invasion of the party to search for me. I hadn’t been there, and everyone denied seeing me. That only convinced them that I was there somewhere.
Why they believed that an entire house full of teenagers would lie for me, I’ll never understand. I wasn’t Ferris Bueler, master of deception and beloved by all. I’m more shocked that nobody claimed that I’d just ducked out the back, just to sow some chaos.
Anyway, my story about a second game and a twenty-minute ride were dismissed, and I was grounded for not attending the party I was told not to attend.
This is to explain why I jumped out of Chuck’s car. I always expected to get caught, but not necessarily for things I’d actually done.
I lived only a half-dozen blocks from the high school, but the allure of piling into a car with my friends was great — even for a two-minute ride. I always got out at another friend’s house a block away out of fear of being seen getting out of the car. Chuck knew the score, and most days the little deception went off smoothly.
One day Chuck decided to be funny. He started to pull away from the drop-off point before I could get out of his Chevy and claimed that he was heading downtown. Filled with fear and possessed of poor judgement, I jumped. The landing wasn’t skillful; I splayed over the curb like so much dead deer. Amazingly I was unharmed, and I froze while adjusting to my survival.
Landing Safety Diagram

When jumping from a moving vehicle, do not rest until no part of you remains in the road.

If I’d played more video games, I would have known that you never rest until you’re on safe ground. As it was, my legs were still in the road. Concerned that I’d hurt myself, Chuck backed up.
I won’t describe the feeling of a large car backing slowly over my foot and coming to rest on top of it. The things I shouted to make Chuck roll forward worked after what felt like minutes. It seems that I sent him away after discovering that I could stand, but I really don’t remember anything other than limping into my friend’s house and waiting for the pain to subside.
At that point in my life I hadn’t been aware that you could walk on an injured foot, depending on the nature of the injury. My foot ached, but I could walk with only a mild limp. I weighed the prospect of recovery against that of explaining to my parents that I’d jumped out of a car I hadn’t supposed to have been in, and I decided that discretion was the wisest approach.
So it came to pass that my mutant power pinned my dislocated heel in place. Over time my limp became more pronounced, and pain came to dominate my life as arthritis built up in the joint. By the time I was 30 I couldn’t stand to walk more than a few blocks, and sufficient rest only brought the sharp jabs down to a dull throb.
As soon as I got decent health insurance I had a surgeon fasten my heel in a better location, making for a healthier gait and removing the space in which arthritis could form. I’ll draw a curtain over the details, while I still have a few readers. Some of my colleagues at the time got a bit queasy listening to me explain the surgery.
The surgery was six or seven years ago. I can walk now, and my doctor would like me to do more of it. Sometimes my foot aches after a lot of use, but so far it’s never approached even the background level of pain to which I’d become accustomed.
If there’s one lesson that I may impart from all this, it’s that you should really put on some pants if you’re going to sit in the window.