Need Your Suggestions

 

After 3-1/2 years on the road, I am confident the following observation is a real (as opposed to imagined) occurrence. I’ve also discussed this with other RV’ers and they confirm my findings. All I lack is a term to describe this phenomenon.

Here is a description of the regularly occurring event:

two-lane-roadImagine I’ve been driving for at least a half-hour on a two-lane back road. I have not seen a single car coming towards me from the opposite direction or behind me. Just as I see an oncoming vehicle, I am certain to spot one behind me. (As an aside, there seems to be an unwritten rule of the road that any vehicle behind an RV must pass it. The relative speed of the vehicles is not a factor. The compulsion to pass an RV — the absolute necessity to not be behind a Winnebago — is imperative.) As to the two-lane road,  it does not matter which state I’m, nor does distance from an urban or suburban center affect the outcome. You with me so far? OK, now imagine I spot a lone bicyclist ahead pedaling in the same direction as I’m traveling. Lo and behold, sure as the sun rises in the East, I am virtually assured to also see a vehicle coming towards me. Then, sure as the sun sets in the West, just as I’m passing the bicyclist, the oncoming vehicle and my RV will pass each other at the very same time.

I’ve also discovered that this event is not necessarily restricted to RVs and bicycles. For example, when I’m walking my dog, Missy, along a paved path in nearby Floral City, FL, I can go for about a half-hour or so before spotting an oncoming bicyclist. When I turn around to glance behind me, I’ll spot a bicyclist approaching from behind. And when do the two bicyclists pass me? At the exact same time, of course. At least when I’m on foot, I can (and do) step off the path to get out of the way. Bike riders being passed by vehicles don’t typically have the option of getting off the road. Under the “share the road” model, they probably wouldn’t if even they could.

In addition to other RV’ers, The Dame can collaborate this singularity. While traveling with me through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, she witnessed this event several times. I seem to recall that by brainstorming, we came up with a suitable alliterative label for this event. Truth be told, I can’t remember what it is.

This is where you guys come in.

I need your help coming up with a catchy phrase to describe this recurring experience. Any suggestions? Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Payback’s a Bitch

I wrote the following earlier this month and placed it on an “Embargo,” a print newspaper tradition from an earlier, gentler and more honorable time. An Embargo means the content is not publically released until after certain events occur, such as the delivery of a Presidential speech. In this case, I was waiting until my Mother could update my brother, who is in Australia (New Zealand? Bali?), during their next phone call.

In a stunning development, my mother opted for hospice for my father. I cannot state emphatically enough how unexpected this is. Not one member of my family, and I’m including more than a dozen relatives (my mom, my son, my brother and sister-in-law and their two sons, my cousins and their husbands and children — a group that includes a large number of long-term strategic thinkers) ever considered that my mom would outlive my dad.

The silver lining of this unanticipated event is blinding. For starters, my Mom — not me, nor my brother nor my sister-in-law — is making The Big Decision.   My Dad’s medical challenge is his inability to swallow food. My Mom’s choices were to insert a feeding tube or contact Hospice.

Before my Dad was placed in the so-called Memory Care Center (currently my favorite oxymoron) a while back, he occasionally spent a sleepless night mulling over how he could possibly live without my Mom. My Mom’s response always was, “Vic, there’s no sense worrying about it before it happens since we both know it will.”

Well, apparently, it won’t. That’s my Mom after 70 years of marriage to my Dad. Considerate to the end.

From a phone conversation with my Mom a week after I wrote the above:

 ME: Hi Mom. Have you heard from Gary yet?

MOM, cheerfully: Oh yes, days ago. I had time to re-evaluate what was going on and recover from my conversation with the doctor. (Note that she called ME immediately after hanging up with the doctor.)

ME: What’s ‘going on?’

MOM, still cheerfully: Oh Dad is so much better. I’ve been getting reports from the Memory Care Center that he’s been able to swallow liquefied food with his nutritional supplement. And now when I visit him, instead of finding him napping in his chair in his room, he’s out participating in activities. This man is not dying anytime soon. He’ll outlive me yet.

Some background information: My Mom’s Golden Rule is to never, ever interrupt my brother’s travels with bad news. More than once I’ve been reminded of an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in which Larry David’s mother passes away and he misses the funeral because his mother’s last words to his father were, “Don’t bother Larry. He’s working.”

Well, my brother is pretty much traveling all­ the time. My mother shows no such reluctance to disturb ME during my travels. Nor, apparently, does she seem inclined to update me when the crisis passes. I suppose this could be interpreted as Payback or Karma is a Bitch.

Payback for what? Well, calls from college with me on the verge of hysteria over some incident or other. It seems I may have overlooked updating my parents when the situation improved. I vividly recall fielding a call from my son during his freshman year of college, trying to convince him that surely there were other options between flunking calculus and killing himself. He soon after opted to drop calculus and take advanced Spanish; however, he neglected to inform me of his solution. When I told this story to my mom, I received absolutely no sympathy. Instead she said, “There IS a God.”

So I’m curious as to just how man y times my Mom intends to demonstrate to me her belief in this Supreme Being. Come on, Mom, are you really entitled to double payback? I’m actually jealous since I’m unlikely to experience the time-honored tradition of assuring one’s child, upon watching the defiant behavior of one’s grandchild, “Oh you were EXACTLY the same.” I’ve always imagined this statement would be followed by a hidden, satisfied smile. But since my son has no intention of having children, I’ll never know.

My concern over my Mom’s behavior — forgetting to update me — stems from the fact that I’ve recently been assured by both my oldest nephew and my son that she and I are either very similar (my nephew) or exactly the same (my son). I distinctly recall hearing the word “clone” used. Not necessarily in a good way.

I staunchly contend there are worse people than my Mom to turn into. At 92, she’s a testament to healthy living and a positive attitude. Growing up in Chicago, I remember her serving fresh vegetable and fruit salads. My parents always played tennis, golfed or sailed. Using her walker, my Mom continues to take daily strolls and only recently purchased a scooter. Although I recall once seeing a copy of The Carpetbaggers, my Mom was far more likely to read books such as The Cancer Ward (by Solzhenitsyn) or Rabbit, Run.  She continues to play bridge twice a week — but only with the top bridge players in her building.

mom-in-grocery-storeIt’s all the more remarkable that my Mom has reached her 90s given her many and varied health challenges. Not that she complains to anyone outside of the immediate family, but her litany of medical issues includes a bad heart and, as is quite apparent, acute scoliosis. Plus her poor bent over body makes breathing difficult. Genetics and healthy living have contributed to my Mom’s longevity, but surely not beyond her mid-80s. The rest is purely attitude.

As I’ve said and written before, my Mom is remarkable. Really my only complaints are that she likely will predecease my Dad and plays a mean game of Payback.

You Have Mail. Maybe.

Those of us of a certain age may recall backpacking in Europe and receiving mail at a local American Express office. This was long before cell phones, email and internet cafes with faulty keyboards. I mention this “old school” delivery system because the modern post office provides a similar service. Yes, General Delivery still exists.

Theoretically.

Before I go on to trash the USPS, I want first want write about the important contributions of this once noble institution.

For starters, the postal service was considered vital to democracy, so much so that it’s written into the U.S. Constitution: Article 1, Section 8, known as The Postal Clause, empowers Congress “To establish Post Offices and post roads.”

From a review of How the Post Office Created America: A History,  written by Winifred Gallagher and published in 2016:

“The founders established the post office before they had even signed the Declaration of Independence, and for a very long time, it was . . . the central nervous system of the new body politic, designed to bind thirteen quarrelsome colonies into the United States by deliverying news about public affairs to every citizen — a radical idea that appalled Europe’s great powers. America’s uniquely democratic post powerfuly shaped its liverly, argumentative culture of uncensored ideas and opinions and made it the world’s information and communications superpower with astonishing speed.”

The role the Post Office played in establishing roads cannot be overstated. Transportation routes in the orignial colonies were primarily along bodies of water on the Eastern Seaboard. The Post Office was responsible for building roads, often at a rapid pace, that connected much of the country. In 1790, about 2,400 miles of post roads linked 75 post offices; by 1820, 72,500 miles of postal roads linked 4,500 post offices. Expansion was not limited to roads and post offices but to employment, too. By 1831, nearly 30,000 postal employees accounted for 76% of the civilian federal workforce. As January 2016, the postal service had close to 31,600 post offices; 500,000 career employees and 132,000 non-career employees (often part-time employees hired at lower hourly wages with limited benefits).

Unfortunately, few of these 632,000 employees care about customer service. I know because I have experienced the following:

  • Been turned away in Arizona from collecting my General Delivery package because I was there in the afternoon. At this particular post office, General Delivery can be collected mornings only.
  • Failed to receive a critical part for my RV that had been mailed for overnight delivery from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego. Tracking showed it was on its way. After five days, tracking continued to show it was on its way. The postmistress explained mail is not considered “lost” until after its gone missing for at least 30 days. Naturally, the package appeared a week after I repurchased the missing RV part.
  • Saw a handwritten sign in a Los Angeles area post office notifying Passport applicants that due to a lack of film, no Passport photos would be taken that week, nor would passport applications be accepted. So here’s my question: Didn’t the person responsible for taking photos notice the dwindling film supply? I won’t even bother to ask why digital cameras aren’t used.
  • A particular decorative stamp was not available due to its popularity. It had sold out almost immediately. Can you think of any other business that wouldn’t order more of a fast-selling item? Me neither.
  • A package marked “Hold for Delivery” was returned to the post office because I had not provided a site number for the RV Park I planned to be at. Could the package have been left at the park office? Yes. Was it? No. Interestingly, the post card I received letting me know why the package couldn’t be delivered used the same address, i.e., no site number. This piece of mail WAS delivered to the park office. Go figure.
  • The website for a local post office in Texas indicated it provided General Delivery services. Turns out this means it will SEND General Delivery, not actually ACCEPT it. Why didn’t I call first? Because the post office does not answer its phones. Must be because the career and part-time employees are too busy serving customers by not taking passport photos and not selling popular stamps.
  • The postmaster of this particular Texas post office that didn’t accept General Delivery had the option of forwarding my letter, which contained a new debit card to replace the one that had been compromised, to the one post office that actually ACCEPTED General Delivery. Instead, he chose the “Return to Sender” option. It was returned to the sender. Eventually. Call me paranoid, but I sensed some hostility in this transaction.
  • My favorite hostile encounter occurred in Quartzsite, AZ, site of an annual January pilgrimage by thousands of RV’ers, some of whom want to receive their mail. I knew I was in trouble when I pulled into an empty post office parking lot on Monday. It was Martin Luther King’s birthday. I returned the next morning to the following scene: A post office employee (career? part-time? who cares?) opened the extraordinarily loud, screeching gate to the counter without a nod or greeting or apology to acknowledge those of us in line with our hands covering our ears to help
    post-office-outside

    It looks so welcoming. 

    block out the almost unbearably annoying sound.  When it was my turn at the counter, he informed me I would have fill out a form to continue receiving General Delivery mail. When I said I didn’t understand why this would be necessary, he recorded my name and in large, bold handwriting added an expiration date 3 days hence. He explained his branch would have to return any mail more than a week old, starting from Friday, the day the mail had arrived. No matter that the post office’s official delivery date was listed as Monday, not Friday, and that the post office was closed on Monday. Anything received after the coming Friday would be returned. By this time I realized he thought I would be in Quartzsite for the winter, not just a few days. He’s probably still wondering why I left the counter not angry, but chuckling.

Charming as it is to use old-fashioned General Delivery, I now use UPS or FedEx when I can. By the way, were you aware the Postal Service lost $5+ billion in 2015, 2014 and 2013, an improvement, nonetheless, from its nearly $16 billion loss in 2012.

Gosh, I wonder why.