Nobody Likes January

Christmas is over and all the guests have gone home but the driveway still needs shoveling a couple of times a week. We call January our off time of year but its really just the month when  you schedule all the stuff you don’t have time for during the rest of the season. 

Our Ontario office is on the ground floor. Or, more accurately, our office is built on the ground. There is no basement where you would normally find pipes, drains and plumbing clean outs. Instead all that stuff in our office is buried under 6 inches of concrete. 
It has been very cold here and it seems one of those pipes is not buried the requisite 4 feed down. So it froze, and backed up and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s the pipe from the toilet. Our office now smells like the port-a-potty at camp that Brooke writes so eloquently about.  
As luck has it, the smell started to waft out on the very day I had scheduled a road trip to the North American Crane Workshop in Chattanooga, Tennessee with a stop in Washington DC for a meeting. 
One of our trucks is a crew cab with four doors and a full length box. It is powered by a Cummins diesel which gets good mileage when not pulling a forty-foot trailer and, as with most diesels, miles don’t mean much. At a 100,000 kms, it’s nicely broken in. 
It’s a big truck that gets admiring glances from all of those pick-up types most everywhere in the U.S. but in DC it’s as welcome as a skunk at a garden party. 
Also there are no open, surface lots anywhere near Capital Hill. Millions of car disappear below high rise office towers into basements, the likes of which they could use back home right now. 
There are metered spots on the street but it takes a pocket full of change for an hour and I knew I’d be longer than that. Plus, every time I spotted one, a little Smart Car zipped into it with a look of disdain like I was driving a Hummer to a Birding Festival. So I navigated the truck into an underground lot and slipped just under the overhead clearance sign. Than I pleaded, cajoled and charmed the nice attendant into letting me park my combine in the one over sized spot he had. As I left, I tried to pay him and he said “pay when you pick up, no credit card, cash only.”
After an enjoyable meeting with our friends at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, I headed for an ATM to get the requisite cash. My personal funds are handled by a large National back in Canada, which I have uses in Mexico even. They have Touch Technology and all the other latest innovations, but they also have a bunch of computers that scan transactions for anomalies. Not only did my truck stick out in DC but so did my debit card, at least to that computer. In fact, I tried several ATM’s, but no joy. 
No techno-slouch myself, I Googled branches of my bank near me and up popped one six blocks away. I walked over only to find it was it was their DC investment office and they didn’t deal with lowly ATM card holders, especially if they drove big trucks. As a last resort I called the useless number on the back of the card, waded through their half hour, recorded routing system and was finally connected to a pleasant clerk. 
I travel a lot so, in our household, my wife does most of the banking. The first ID confirmation question the clerk asked was, “what is you monthly mortgage payment.” Hmm, next question please. After six such dead ends I felt like a complete moron and hung up. My wife kindly texted me the correct answers to a few questions and I started the half hour process again.
Once they were confident they were speaking to the real me???? they corrected the problem in ten seconds. Unusual behavior, said the computer. Don’t you think there would be a backup system in place before they leave a long term customer stranded? I speak from experience because its happened several times before, even in Wisconsin where I spend half my life. 
Six blocks back to the truck to pay the now triple parking fee and I left just in time to hit DC traffic.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Washington but if you visit, drive your smallest car and carry some cash.

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  1. Babs – WA January 12, 2017 6:48 pm

    Hi, Joe …
    Simple. Buy a Smart Car and toss it into the back of the truck. Then, as you approach DC, find a Mall and park in their lot. Toss the Smart Car out of the truck – drive to DC and there you go .. no parking problems!!
    Belated Happy Holidays to you, the family, and the entire OM crew!!

    Babs – WA

  2. Pat (FFMN) January 12, 2017 1:49 pm

    Oh Joe>>>drive your smallest car and carry some cash.” Needed serious out-loud laugh about now (blizzard conditions, MN) and your column provided that~~ THANKS…

  3. Jean P. aka CrabtowneMd January 12, 2017 12:47 pm

    If it makes you feel any better Joe, I live only 30 miles from DC and resist driving in it for exactly the issues you had. Bil and David’s advice for your next trip ? Sure hope your meeting generated the hoped for support. TY for all your efforts.

  4. Grandma January 12, 2017 11:52 am

    Oh, Joe, what a day you had! Hope your return trip north treats you better. Once again thanks for all you do for our Whoopers!!

  5. Dorothy N January 12, 2017 10:06 am

    I hate to laugh at other people’s problems, but I couldn’t help it, Joe. Consider doing stand-up comedy in your off months.

    I hope the meeting went well. I’d love to hear an evaluation of how Natl Fish and Wildlife thought their new plan went this year and what their thinking is for the future.

    • Heather Ray January 12, 2017 12:03 pm

      National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is not the same as Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). NFWF, in partnership with corporate partners, provides funding for projects that sustain and restore wildlife and the habitats they require 🙂

  6. bil aylor January 12, 2017 9:59 am

    You’ve probably done this. Hit the Metro at some outlier station. Might not be cheaper, but the frustration factor was pretty low when I went up to turn my back on Bush.

  7. David A NaDell January 12, 2017 9:53 am

    I can swap you a vehicle that would fit right in there if you’re interested ? DC ?

  8. Sally Swanson January 12, 2017 9:47 am

    Poor Joe! Washington is not for amateurs!


  9. Jane Maher January 12, 2017 9:23 am

    The patience you have acquired stalking birds came in handy.

  10. Karen Anne January 12, 2017 6:39 am

    I have two credit cards. One is cool and the other suspects fraud if I do exotic stuff like buying gas a few blocks away. I have learned that telling that one in advance that I will be out of state or whatever helps with this stuff.

    Also, usually I am telling women that they need to know all about their family finances, looks like this time it’s the other gender 🙂