Category Archives: Acreage

Kitty Condos

The kits Mittens and Nitty have cooler condos up in the shed where they hang out – each condo is made of five squeaky coolers I taped together in little two-story “houses” and lined with old rags. But the other day they were both sitting out on the porch in the cold wind looking miserable, so I made them each a one-room “vacation home” on the deck so they could get out of the wind. They seem to like ’em…

Wifey’s medication comes in coolers, so it’s a bit of a challenge trying to find ways to re-use them. When I get time I cut ’em apart and nail them to the walls in the shed for insulation. It might not be a perfect solution, but it’s gotta help a bit…

Springtime Ramblings

Apologies for being absent the past few weeks – we’ve had a lot going on, seems like… Wifey’s illnesses are still illin’ her, we’re still hoping for some good news from her insurance company, some friends of ours held a benefit for us last weekend, and I’ve been busy with general springtime madness.

I’ve been trying to clear out some of the deadwood in our grove, get some grass seed planted in a few problem areas (mostly trying to clear up some gunky corners where I can’t mow and get a handful of grass seed to “take” to keep the weeds down a bit), planting some cuttings I took earlier of our little willow tree and some austrees (we desperately need a windbreak/privacy/keep-the-road-dust-down to the south and east, and most of our grove is mature trees that look like they’re on their way out – or ash trees that will be susceptible to the Emerald Ash Borer infestation that’s headed our way in a few years). I’m trying to do as much as I can with what we have on hand…

Every year since we moved here I’ve had to take the truck to town to buy more bark mulch for the raised flower beds we have around our house. The wind in the spring is so bad it would blow about 70% of the bark away every year. It’d cost about fifty bucks or so. Last year a friend sold us some pavers for cheap so I put in a new little garden on the windy side of the house and opted to put rock in instead of bark mulch. It looked great and lasted through a whole season without any maintenance at all. This year I wanted to update the little wildflower garden we have that’s been hiding our septic tank manhole covers and make it a little more formal and tidy as we have about an acre of new wildflowers in the pasture now. But buying rock at $3.50 a bag… I estimated it’d take about $75 to $100 to do. Icky poo. I was a little surprised when I found out that the same rocks were $15 a TON at the local aggregate dealer. One truck load of rocks later and viola! Next year I’ll replace more of the bark with another load of rocks.

Flower beds waiting for flowers

A couple flower beds waiting for flowers

Hooked up the battery, an oil change, some grease, and the mower actually started yesterday. Huzzah!

The Real Problem with Solar Power

When we first moved here to Happy Hippie Acres about six years ago, I had visions of someday getting wind or solar doodads hooked up to help offset our power bill, be self-sufficient, and, equally importantly, reduce our carbon footprint a bit. We live in Northwest Iowa, so it’s windy all the time, and there are plenty of places to put solar panels to take advantage of the sun, so why not look into those avenues? After we got settled into our new home and had been here for about a year I e-mailed a few companies that specialize in solar power asking them for advice, prices, etc. Of the four companies I e-mailed only one responded.

“Why would you want solar? Energy is cheap where you live. It would take years for you to recoup the investment. I wouldn’t bother.”


Well, it’s not all about money. It’s about a bit of independence and helping the environment. But the response put me off for several years. I looked at wind energy, but again I was waved off by everyone I contacted, “the technology isn’t ready for home use yet.” Sigh.

After about the 90th time I found myself airbrushing power lines out of photos of my acreage I started to wonder… If solar isn’t viable for my home, would it at least power my shed and garage so I could get rid of the ugly power lines? Hmmm. Not long after that, the local power company came and replaced the pole in our yard and I absolutely loved the way things looked when there were no power lines dangling about…

So just a few days ago I finally found time to do some research on the issue. Could I find an inexpensive solar system to power my shed? I started thinking about what I really use in the shed as far as power goes.

  1. The dogs’ “invisible fence.” (Very, very low power usage, but it needs to be on 24/7 365.)
  2.  A couple fluorescent lights. (I’d love to replace them with LEDs, but I haven’t the faintest idea how to go about that.)
  3. My old stereo from the 1990s that is plugged in about three times a year.
  4. A chainsaw sharpener – basically an electric grindstone. I use it about 15 minutes a month, if that.
  5. In the summer I’ll plug my power tool batteries in up there to keep them charged.

I occasionally toy with the idea of getting a small heater of some kind to put up there to keep the barn kitties a bit more comfortable and to offset the bitterest cold of an Iowa winter a bit, but that’s so very low priority that it’s not even on the table… The shed’s about two-thirds insulated and has plenty of holes in the walls.

When you add all that up, it doesn’t seem like I’d need much juice to power the shed. I’d need less for my garage – all we have in there are a few lights on a motion sensor and a garage door opener that gets used every couple days. So I was excited when the first solar power kit I saw online was a $150 setup – way, way more affordable than I thought! Huzzah! Visions of those power lines coming down danced in my head, along with the thought that maybe with solar power I really could put a passive heater in the shed during the winter.

Then I started reading…Output is 12 megapascals per hectare, the voltage is ohm with jelly, you need some sort of battery (I’m assuming double A size, I don’t really know), you need to put iodine on the kerjigger to make the farvel whoozit, snark morgle kerbam woof in parallel except on Tuesday but you have to buy a donkulator to carburate the flonk.

Evidently some of the words were English, but I have close to zero idea what any of it meant. I’m assuming the kit could power either a cell phone or Kiev in December, but I don’t really know. After reading the description I wasn’t even sure if it plugged into the wall somehow or if it was all some sort of battery-powered thing.

I'm pretty good with a screwdriver. How hard can this "electricity" stuff be?

I’m pretty good with a screwdriver. How hard can this “electricity” stuff be?


I looked up a different model – “The first complete home solar power kit on the market. Runs appliances, lights, and devices up to 800 watts. Plug and play, no installation required.” Sounds perfect to me, even though I don’t know what the “up to 800 watts” means! But once I read a little further it became apparent that this “complete home solar power kit” didn’t include solar panels, any mounting brackets, wires, or anything – it’s just some sort of a funky battery. You have to buy all the other stuff separately and hope it all works together by magic, I guess.

Which leads me to the main point of this article – the REAL problem with solar power.

The real problem with solar power is that I want to go online and find some unit or kit somewhere that says quite simply, “This will provide enough power to run the lights in your garage and the garage door opener. Everything is included, and this is how it works.” I don’t understand voltiwatts or ohmages, I don’t know how many electric kerjiggers I need by number, I just want to know how much gunk can I run with this unit. Plain English. I mean, c’mon, I’ve got a job, I don’t have a month of spare time to fiddle with this, I just wanna buy a thing that works with a description I can read without pulling a dictionary out.

Until some company comes up with a description that uses language that hippies, artists, and tree-huggers can understand, I’m afraid I’ll be left on the solar sidelines. Sadly.

The Prairie that Was My Yard

Yea verily, it has been a full week since I ordered parts for my beloved lawn mower. (I need a spindle assembly and a couple bolts. I ordered fifteen extra nuts and bolts just because they were like twelve cents each and why not.) I’m not saying my yard is overgrown, but I went outside and threw the frisbee for our golden retriever – she got lost in the weeds not fifteen feet from the house. I just saw a confused gentleman wander past mumbling something about, “Livingston, I presume?” The neighbor called and asked if I wanted him to bale my front yard. My wife took a machete with her to get the mail. I think there may be a family of bison living behind the garage.

ANYway, so I e-mailed the parts company and asked them if they’d shipped my stuff yet as I’d not heard anything from them. Turns out my order was being held as two twelve-cent bolts were on backorder… “Keep the two bolts! Ship the rest!” I cried. The guy agreed that they could probably do that.

So, with luck, the savannah shall be tamed.

My Beloved Six-Foot Scag

My Beloved Six-Foot Scag

Uncle Hippie’s Happy Chainsaw Tips

Q: Running a chainsaw sometimes hurts my ears. I’ve tried earplugs, but they get all gunky and fall out. What should I do?

A: Move closer to the stage next time you go to a concert.


Q: My fifteen-year-old chainsaw has recently started billowing clouds of blue smoke. Is that normal?

A: Yes. Through personal experience, I know that fifteen is the age of experimentation. You should expect any fifteen-year-old to be difficult to start, smoke a lot, and kick back.


Q: Should I sharpen my chain at 30 degrees, or 32?

A: Yes.


Q: Uncle Hippie, what sort of lubrication should I use on my two-stroke?

A: If it only takes two strokes, do you really need any lubrication? I feel there may be other problems here.


Q: My chainsaw is running quite rough and stalls a lot. I feel the problem may be with the fuel mixture. Is there a way to adjust that? How should I go about doing it?

A: Yup, here’s what you do. First, make sure the engine is off. You can tell an engine is off by listening very, very carefully. If you can hear your wife yelling at you to take the garbage out, the engine is indeed most likely off. (See question #1.) This is very simple, but you MUST complete the following steps in order. It will be tempting to skip to the last step, but don’t. Remove the two nuts holding the safety cover on, take the safety cover off, move the blade bar back, and remove both the chain and the bar. Get a regular screwdriver and slip it under any likely looking piece of plastic and gently try to pry it off to get to the engine. Once you’ve broken that, try the other side. Okay, now that you’ve spilled gas and oil all over your workbench and have broken all the plastic bits off the unit, you should be able to see the engine. I’ve found that most of it isn’t really used, so go ahead and just sort of start turning whatever you can see that turns. I mean crank on it. Most things on an engine will make a “cracking” noise right after it’s broken – that’s what you’re listening for (see question 1). Now, the final step – again, do NOT proceed to this step without completing all the steps above. Show the pile of broken parts to your wife, explain that you’ve tried everything you can think of to fix the saw but it’s useless, then go buy a bigger saw from the store and grunt in a manly way.

An Interesting Sort of Day

It’s been an interesting day.

So far, in addition to my regular work, I’ve fixed my chainsaw, repaired the dog’s invisible fence (still gotta bury about 450 feet of wire in a month or so when the ground thaws), and got my updated version of QuickBooks up and running. (I’m all excited – someone buy something from me quick! I want to send out an invoice RIGHT NOW. New software makes me all tingly.)

Hooray for gettin’ stuff done!

Now I gotta go stake down parts of the fence and get some brush cleared before sundown. (The guy who farms the land adjoining our acreage commented that he was going to swing by sometime with a chainsaw and take care of the branches that were hanging over the fence into his field. I almost wept. I puffy-heart trees! I hug them! So I’m running out there whenever I can to trim the trees the way I want them trimmed in hopes that he’ll kinda leave them alone…) Then we’re back to our regularly scheduled program!

Wood Chipper


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When I bought this unit I had high hopes and grand aspirations for gleefully turning my brush pile into beautiful, glowing mulch to put around some trees I planted last year. As I giddily drove home to my acreage with this fine chipper in the back of my truck I knew beyond a doubt this machine was going to be a life-altering purchase of vast import. Future generations would look back on this day with reverence as The Day Hippie Got a Chipper and Changed the World. Also I couldn’t help but notice that I was wearing plaid in my wood chipping daydreams. And I had a better beard. Manly, I was. Manly.

I pulled up to my place and backed my truck up to the brush pile. I briefly considered going inside to find a flannel shirt and some suspenders, but I was too eager to play with my new toy. The first thing I noticed is that it seemed to have gained roughly 150 pounds during the trip home. I quickly realized there was no way I was gonna get that thing out of my truck by just picking it up. Hmmm. Manly.

I backed my truck down in the ditch – my thought being that would get the tailgate much closer to the ground and I could simply wheel the chipper out. Instead of hoisting the thing about three and a half feet down I could just lower it down about six inches this way and be on my merry way towards wood chipping nirvana. No problem! This is going to be easy-peasy. No sooner said than done. I’ll just lower it down right here…

So once I got back from the chiropractor, my first action was to kick the spiteful machine right in the tire. I was able to wheel it up out of the ditch and over to the woodpile without further insult to my sacroiliac, grumbling the whole way. Stupid chipper. I paused for a breath, looked at the woodpile, looked at the chipper.

Okay, let’s do this.

I checked the oil and gas, set the choke and throttle, kicked the clutch bar into position, and yanked the beasty to life. Second pull and it was happily chugging away. Things were looking up! I looked at the woodpile and estimated it’d take about twenty minutes to chip it all. Okay… I kicked the clutch bar into the “turn it on” position and grabbed a branch.

This may be the point in the narrative where I admit that I’ve never used a chipper/shredder before. I’ve never even really seen anyone else use one, to be honest. So…

Okay, do I put the branch in the top? Or into the chute doohicky? I’ll go with the top. Okay. Glancing around to make sure none of my neighbors were around, I rather gingerly edged closer to the chipper and kinda sorta half-tossed the branch into the hopper at the top of the machine. Nothing happened. The branch just sat there. I eased closer again, grabbed the top of the branch and kinda jiggled it a

HOLY CRAP! Yowza! I was NOT ready for that! Oh. My. Lord.

I swear a demon reached up out of the chipper, grabbed the branch, and yanked it down into it’s gaping maw with a half second “ZZZXXXKSKKZRRRRRRRRR” – leaving me standing there, stunned, still holding a leaf, sawdust gently swirling in the air…

What the…? Seriously? Did that just happen? I grabbed another branch and eased it into the hopper, then pushed it further in with another branch. “GRRRIZZZZZINK!” The chipper grabbed the branch and devoured it in a heartbeat, leaving naught but a teaspoon of sawdust and an angry echo reverberating through the hills. I snuck around to the other side of the chipper, kicked the clutch bar back out, and very trepidatiously turned the machine off. A wisp of smoke came out of the chute leaving the slightest smell of burning souls in the air.

I’ve heard animals can smell fear. I’m positive if this thing were alive it would have smelled plenty of fear. And possibly a little pee as well.

Pale, shaking, I wheeled the chipper into my garage, where it’s sat ever since. I find myself edging around it whenever I’m in the garage, giving the machine a good six or eight feet of room. It scares me.

FedEx is inferior

What’s Wrong with FedEx?

This is a picture of Mick, our UPS man, showing how it’s SUPPOSED to be done. 

The Photography Shipment

Last October we finished the last of our wedding photo shoots for the season. As is standard I ordered a custom DVD case and DVD as a presentation piece for the couple. I’ve done this many times with no problems. I placed the order and received a confirmation saying the order would be delivered a few days later on that Thursday. Great, no problem. I e-mailed my customer and said I’d have the photos ready for them by the end of the week. They were very excited and anxious to get their pictures!

The next day I received an e-mail from the photo lab saying I’d made a mistake on the order and they couldn’t start the processing until I fixed it. No biggie, I fixed the problem, and called them to upgrade the shipping to next-day to ensure the product still arrived in time to meet my deadline in spite of my goof. It cost me about thirty bucks, but I’d rather lose the money than have a product go out late and lose a customer.

The photo lab always shipped UPS in the past, and both the lab and UPS had always been very, very dependable, so I was surprised with Thursday slipped away into evening and there had been no delivery. I checked the tracking info – for some reason the lab had shipped the order FedEx instead of UPS. My heart sank. FedEx has a nasty habit of delivering our packages to a post office in a town 25 miles away and letting the United States Postal Service make the actual delivery. This would be fine, except when FedEx hands the package off to the USPS they mark it as “Delivered” and claim the package was delivered on time, yet it may take the Post Office several more days to get the package to us. It’s very, very inconvenient when you’re trying to plan something. Sure enough, the package was marked as “Delivered,” yet I had no product.

I e-mailed the photo lab and told them the shipment hadn’t arrived, even though I’d paid quite a bit extra to ensure it would get here on time to meet my commitments. They never answered me. I e-mailed FedEx as well, but I received no response from them either.

The package finally arrived in the mail the next Saturday, and my customer was very understanding about getting their order a day late, but it wasn’t a fun experience for me to explain to them that I couldn’t meet the deadline.

The Gift

Beloved Wifey and I don’t have much money at the moment, but we did decide to treat ourselves to one holiday gift this year – a cast-iron stovetop grill that caught our attention. “Voodn’t it be nice to be able to grill up a nice chicky-breast?” she said in her neato Germanic accent. “Und you could make sandviches und grilled pineapple. Ve could eat healthy!” So we waited a few days for a sale, then ordered the $25 gadget online (originally $48!) from and called it a Christmas present for both of us.

About a week later I looked up the tracking situation on the griddle doohicky to see when it would be delivered. Hooray – it was to be delivered that very day! Yay! Then I saw who the shipping vendor was and my heart sank. FedEx. We’ve had very bad luck with FedEx in the past. “Well, the tracking software says the grill thing should get here today,” I told Beloved Wifey, “but they sent it FedEx, so it’ll probably be next Monday before it gets here.”

Sure enough, the day came and went with no sign of a FedEx van. We weren’t surprised. The only thing they actually deliver on time is Beloved Wifey’s weekly medical supplies (more on that later).

The next day I waited until past FedEx’s normal delivery time, noted that there still wasn’t a neat grill/griddle thingy sitting by my door, and decided to let know that the delivery was late, just so they know. I went to their website, clicked on the “I Haven’t Received My Package” button, and wrote a short note saying the package isn’t real time-sensitive and it’s not a big problem that it’s late, but FedEx hasn’t delivered the package yet. I turned back to my work and didn’t think any more about it. Until half an hour later when I noticed another tracking e-mail from in my inbox. had immediately shipped out a duplicate order, with rush shipping and a guarantee that the product would arrive the very next day (a Saturday). I was VERY impressed at how fast they handled it! But I was also rather embarrassed – I didn’t need the grill/griddle doohicky the next day, I just wanted to let know that their shipping vendor bobbled their order. I went online and hit the “Life Chat” button at and explained the whole thing to a very nice lady, “I don’t need the second order, I was just letting you know FedEx isn’t very trustworthy around here.” But I was too late – they’d already shipped the duplicate. (It had only been about forty minutes since I’d pushed the “Shipment Did Not Arrive” button. Amazon is GOOD.)

The next day, Saturday, came and went with no shipment. I e-mailed and let them know (this time explicitly stating I didn’t need them to do anything to fix the problem other than let their shipping department know that FedEx missed a “guaranteed” ship date).

I e-mailed FedEx to let them know I was not amused, and that Beloved Wifey gets very expensive medical supplies delivered every week. “It’s not a big deal that our Christmas present was delayed, but the medical supplies are fragile, perishable, and if my wife doesn’t get them on time it could mean some serious health issues for her. Please, when you say you’re going to deliver something to our door, DO IT. Don’t send it to the post office.” (I got a message back about five days later saying, in its entirety, “The package was delivered on the 17th. I hope this resolves the issue.”)

We did get our Christmas grill/griddle chingus the next week, and a duplicate a day later that we now have to ship back. I’ll ship it via UPS.

The Medicine

As I mentioned before, Beloved Wifey gets medical supplies shipped to us on a weekly basis. We were sad when we learned the pharmacy was using FedEx rather than UPS, but there’s not much we can do about it. These shipments are the only time I have any interaction with a FedEx driver as most of the time they choose to send our shipments to us through the post office rather than do their job and deliver the packages to our door – but they must have instructions not to do that with Wifey’s medical treatments as they do deliver them personally.

When we order things that are shipped via UPS the delivery is a glorious occasion. We know about what time Mick, the UPS driver, will be by, so we can watch out the window for him. He always pulls up with a smile and a wave, hugs our dogs, gives them puppy treats, chats with me for fifteen seconds, then smiles and waves and off he goes!

The FedEx guy, on the other hand, has never once smiled. He doesn’t interact at all with our dogs and tries to sort of kick-push ’em out of his way (he’s not kicking our dogs, but he’s not being nice to them either) when he comes up to the porch. He doesn’t come at the same time of day, so I can’t be ready for him and have the dogs kenneled – which I hate doing anyway. He has to know that the packages with the big medical stickers all over them are important, but he just throws it on the ground anyway. Last week I saw him coming up the driveway, kenneled the dogs, and opened the door to see him standing there. He’s literally six inches away from me. He knocked on the door, looked me right in the eye, dropped the package, and walked away without a word. That could have been a $1,500 thud he heard when he dropped it. (The infusions were okay, but it worried me nonetheless.)

This morning Beloved Wifey got a call from the pharmacy in Omaha. It turns out FedEx says they may not be able to deliver her package this week (no explanation), so the pharmacy is sending someone to drive the package up to us in person today. That’s a round trip of about 260 miles that someone has to make because their preferred shipping vendor can’t handle the Christmas rush.

When we use UPS, we never, ever, ever have any problems. The packages are delivered on time, every time. But when we see we’re getting a shipment from FedEx it’s always a crap shoot…

Garage Door Woes

Dear Garage Door Company,

Hello. I feel we’ve gone off track here somewhere. I’m sure you can tell by the tone of my voice during our phone calls that I’m getting a little upset, but I’m not sure you know why I’m upset. I don’t want you to think my wife and I are difficult or demanding people, and I really want our relationship here to be mutually beneficial – you get some money and I get a garage door opener that works.

Here’s the skinny:

We moved to our happy little acreage in the boonies just about three years ago. In that time we’ve had at least five people out here trying to fix the Linear D050 that’s hanging up there, and we’ve replaced the entire unit once. I’ve spent way, way too much time up on ladders with a pocket full of tools, scratching my head, with very disappointing results. The garage door has been a constant problem.

My wife has developed some severe health issues. She’s slowly recovering now and is hoping to go back to work next week (she’s been unable to work for quite some time now). But she’s not nearly strong enough yet to hoist that garage door open and closed by herself. Though I work from home, there are times I’m simply not around to open the door for her – so if I’m gone for one reason or another she’s effectively stuck here at home until I get back. We tried simply leaving the door open for a while but that doesn’t work now that the snow is blowing, and there are quite a few gentle woodland creatures hereabouts who attempt to take up residence in our garage.

It’s surprising how scary and upsetting some of the gentle woodland creatures can be when you startle them in your garage. It’s also surprising how fast a startled hippie can run when confronted by scary woodland creatures up close.

So, we called yet another local pro to come fix our garage door opener, but he was really rude to us and said he couldn’t get out to do the work for a week or two. That obviously wouldn’t work, so we called your fine company. I’d found your number taped on the back of the garage door, so I figured you were involved in my garage’s past at one point or another… The nice lady who answered the phone was very polite and cheerful indeed, and said they could have someone out that very afternoon to fix our woeful problem. I asked the cheerful lady on the phone if they’d be able to start repairs that day. “Oh, of course! The guys have everything they need right there in their trucks!”

Hurray! Huzzah, even! With a feeling of giddy glee I felt I might finally be able to put this problem to rest! My door will be fixed!

That afternoon we were having a small Thanksgiving/Birthday celebration for Beloved Wifey, but I was very happy to put my fork down and run outside as I saw the cheerful white truck pull in the driveway – we really need a garage door that works. The Door Guy turned out to be a very polite and knowledgeable guy indeed, and immediately spotted the problem. “You need to replace that unit with another one that’s a lot more expensive, this one’s shot.” Well, okay, at this point I’m fine with that, though I’m a little disappointed that he didn’t get on a ladder or examine the existing opener other than to look at it from fifteen feet away. I told him to go ahead and replace it. “Well, I don’t carry that particular unit in my truck,” he said, “I’ll have them order one and we’ll get it installed Monday or Tuesday next week.”

Well, poop. That’s disappointing. Okay. “Well, poop. That’s disappointing. Okay,” I said.

The nice man started scribbling on a Job Invoice. “That’ll be… um… four hundred and fifty-four dollars. Unless you wanna go with the Deluxe Super-Duper Extra Torque model that will last twice as long, then it’ll be about a hundred more. I’ll need at least half the money now.”

The thought that ran through my head at that moment was, “That’s about twice as much as I was expecting, and about three times as much as I can afford. Beloved Wifey has been out of work so long… But if I pay the WHOLE AMOUNT right now, maybe the nice man, Alex, will be even nicer to me and will get here sooner and will do an extra-good job and we’ll never have problems with the garage door opener again. And we really need this done quickly.”

Hands shaking, I wrote out a check for the entire amount, hoping I’d find a way to get the money somehow. “Here you go.”

“Okay, great!” said the nice man. “Someone will call you first thing Monday morning to set up a time on Monday or Tuesday and we’ll be out and get this done for  you!” He smiled, got in his truck, and off he went in a cloud of dust.

Back inside I went. I told Beloved Wifey what had happened and what the plan was. “Wait,” she said. “Wait, you gave a complete stranger four hundred and fifty dollars – and they didn’t do anything? Do you really think they’ll be back? Are they a reputable company?”

I had to admit I’d never heard of the company before I’d called them. “But I’m sure they’re reputable,” I continued. “I mean, he had a truck with a logo on it, and he gave me this fancy invoice and everything.” I paused for a moment. “And I’m sure they won’t cash the check until after they’ve finished the work – they just need it as a guarantee so they’re not stuck with the bill for the parts if we back out.”

Monday morning finally came. I didn’t know what time the company considered “first thing in the morning,” but I really didn’t want to miss the promised phone call, so I got up a little earlier than my normal 4:30 or 5 a.m. just in case. By seven that morning I still hadn’t heard anything, but I needed to get in the shower (the dogs wouldn’t even come close to me), so I put the phone’s ringer on stun and set it on the sink next to the tub so I could hear it if it rang. It didn’t.

By quarter to nine I was starting to get a bit nervous. I mean, “we’ll be out sometime Monday or Tuesday” is a bit vague… I called the number listed on the invoice to see what was going on, but no one answered, so I started canceling my appointments and plans so I could be sure to be available. Dentist appointment, canceled. Meeting with a customer, postponed. Phone conference, rescheduled. It took a bit of effort, but I cleared both days.

Monday morning turned into Monday afternoon, which turned into Monday evening. Still no phone call, no service man in a gleaming white truck. I have to admit, I was starting to get seriously depressed – we’ve been messing with this garage door for years, and now I’m wondering if I had been scammed out of a week’s pay. Beloved Wifey noticed that the check we’d written Friday afternoon was cashed first thing Monday morning. So much for my theory that they wouldn’t cash the check until the work was complete… 

Tuesday morning, still no phone call. By mid-morning Beloved Wifey called the company’s office. It turns out they couldn’t get the right garage door opener for some reason. “But we’ll be out Wednesday between two and four in the afternoon.”

Well, crap. I’d already canceled and rescheduled everything for Monday and Tuesday, now I need to block out most of the afternoon on Wednesday? Okay… My work is flexible, but I do have commitments to my customers, deadlines that are important to them, and I’m going to do my best to meet those commitments and deadlines.

Wednesday morning Beloved Wifey had a minor medical procedure that involved anesthesia. We had to make rather elaborate plans and backup plans on to ensure someone was available to drive her back home again afterwards to make sure I was able to be home by two so I could wait for the nice garage door man, and I had to reschedule yet more work stuff. But it all worked out. By two Wednesday afternoon I was standing by the window, boots on, hat and gloves ready, waiting to see the happy white truck. By two-thirty I was outside, pacing in the snow. By three I was getting agitated.

I’ve borrowed four hundred and fifty dollars to pay for this venture so far, and lost two and a half days’ work to make sure I was home at the right time to get this done. I’m going in the hole fast here.

By three-thirty I was back inside, head hanging low. I’ve been taken. I seriously feel like a failure of a man – I can’t even HIRE someone to fix my goddam garage door opener. Not only can’t I fix the problem for my wife, I can’t even manage to pay someone money to do it.

At five minutes to four in the afternoon the phone rang. “Hello, this is the garage door people,” said the familiar cheerful voice. “We’re having a little problem. I don’t think we’re going to be able to do the install today after all.” Seriously, I’m not surprised. I wasted half of another work day so I could be here “between two and four.”

Trying not to weep into the phone, I held back my bitter, bitter sobs. “Okay, why?”

“Well, it will take two people to do this install and one of our guys had some problems driving in the weather.”

Really? We drove in it just fine so we could be here for this big event. “It’s okay if they come later,” I said. “We’ll be here all night.”

“I’m sorry, but Saturday morning is the earliest they can be there.”

“If they’d like to come out early tomorrow morning, that’d be fine,” I said. “I’m usually up by four-thirty anyway.”

“I’m sorry, but I can have them there by nine Saturday morning, will that work?”

No, it won’t work – I’ve already rescheduled half a work week because you said you’d be here Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. And guess when I rescheduled most of it. Saturday morning. “Yes, that will work fine,” I sobbed into the phone. “That will work just fine.”

It’s Wednesday night now. I’m trying to figure out how to move my Saturday morning appointments to a different day. My work is flexible, but I do have commitments to my customers, deadlines that are important to them, and I’m going to do my best to meet those commitments and deadlines. That irritates me.

But what irritates me more is that I feel like I’ve been taken advantage of. I feel disrespected because the company didn’t feel I was important enough to call when they promised to call on Monday – which cost me a considerable amount of work. And again Wednesday afternoon, why did they wait until five minutes to four to call and say they wouldn’t be there because someone had troubles driving earlier that day – why not call me right away? That cost me more time and money.

What irritates me even more is that their website promises “24 Hour Service,” and “No Overtime Charge for Nights.” Except for me, I guess. I don’t count.

But what really scares me is the thought that I’ve been scammed. I’m really really really hoping that at nine o’clock Saturday morning I’ll see a shiny white truck in my driveway and a shiny new garage door opener being installed – but I have the sinking feeling that won’t happen. Borrowed money, lost work, high hopes, all thrown to the wind.

This kinda stuff seriously makes me feel like a failure.