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The HeliOS Project is now.....
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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Of Life, Linux and Karma Angels

Despite what I've written in the past couple of months, all is not doom, gloom and stink pickles.

Fact is, something happened to Diane and me 2 months ago that can be described as no less than an "Oprah Moment"...a number of circumstances that accumulated into nothing less than a True Magic Moment. Stick around...Linux is a part of this, albeit just a small part. But in all, it has acted to remind both of us, that good things truly happen. Sometimes way ahead of the Karma Curve, if such a thing exists.

Let's talk about the good.

After being injured on the job and no longer able to do that job, I took a position for an in-state truck route. Same thing every day, varying little at best. It got to the point that I could have driven it by braille. During that time, I became good friends with the dispatcher for the trucking company and we became friends off the job as well. We would visit each other often, she would come to my house and I would visit her. We're going to call her Angel. Obvious reasons for that choice will become clear in time.

Angel had been working in that position with the trucking firm for several years, so it was no surprise that a lot of locker room talk would bounce from those walls from time to time. Angel was considered one of the guys so there were no limits to how rowdy or off-color the banter would be traded on any given day. It was during one of those times when Angel said something that could only be construed as an admission that she was gay. Everyone laughed and business carried on until quitting time, then Angel was called into the manager's office at 5PM.

She was summarily "terminated for cause" and escorted off the property.

Angel filed appeal after appeal only to be denied on every attempt. Texas is an "at will" employment state so being terminated for cause can mean anything. Over the next few weeks, Angel became more and more fearful of losing her house, as she had just purchased it a year before. On top of that, her HP desktop had taken a nose dive into severe brokeness and that made it extra difficult for her to look for work. I put together a decent desktop for her and installed it that day, and was a Linux computer.

Angel didn't have even the slightest problem with the new machine, and she wasn't particularly good at using one. So, let's put another slash in the falsehood that Linux is too hard for the everyday user. Most of them anyway. YMMV.

To her glee, the OS picked up and configured her Epson all in one without her lifting a finger to do so. She almost clapped for happiness, stating that in Windows, installing that printer had been a nightmare, even with the included driver CD. And just to pinpoint the time frame for you, it was the summer of 2006.

Angel had several job interviews over the months but none of them resulted in employment for her. She began applying for just about any job that she could reasonably do, even to the point of applying for an animal control officer. Her job was euthanasia officer. Fortunately she turned that job down, on principle alone. Ironically, that was the only offer she got in all that time.

The beginning of her 4th month of unemployment, she called me just to vent and have someone to listen to her. She was despondent to the core of her being and for the first time, she wept as she told me of her experiences in an unsuccessful job hunt. She also said her savings were running out and she would be $400.00 short of her mortgage. She was in fear of losing her house. Angel wasn't asking me for money. She knew that I was behind on my bills too, being off work for so long. It was just a statement of fact. I promised to come and visit her the following weekend and we hung up.

I pulled up my paypal account to check my balance and sent Angel the $400.00 dollars she so badly needed. That was "incidental money" as far as I was concerned anyway. I wrote a note telling her the money was a gift and not a loan. I told her that if she ever tried to pay it back, I would use it for lewd and lascivious past times.

Fortunately, at the halfway point of her 5th month of unemployment, she got a decent paying job and we celebrated by ordering pizza and drinking beer at her house. I passed out on the couch and she just let me sleep.

Time passed into years and Diane and I had been together for almost 7 years. Angel had been promoted at work to a supervisor's position and the pay was fantastic. She had already gone on a 7 day cruise with her current significant and hiked the Grand Canyon. She wanted to know if she could come over for lunch the next Saturday and not to worry about fixing anything, she would bring it with her. Diane and I told her that she was more than welcome.

Angel arrived at our door precisely on time and carrying a bucket of chicken under one arm and a six pack of Shiner under the other. I took the beer and she came in and closed the door behind her. We hugged each other and gathered around the TV, watching a DVD movie she had brought along. She joked that the beer was to offset how terrible the old Robert Mitchum movie was. Soon enough, Diane suggested that we take a seat in the dining room and eat. I didn't have to be asked twice.

So the beer flowed along with the KFC cole slaw and chicken. She stood up and offered a toast to the announcement she was about to make. We figured it was concerning her recent raise so we all stood and toasted to our friendship. No sooner had we taken our seats, Angel made her announcement.

"I'm giving you guys ten thousand dollars".

The room went completely quiet. Robert Mitchum eventually broke the silence by starting a fist fight in the living room. I cleared my throat to assure I could speak. "What did you say?"

I knew perfectly well what she had said. It just seemed like the thing to do, asking her to repeat the fact that she was giving us ten thousand dollars. Tears welled and streaked down Diane's face as Angel went further with her explanation.

"Kenny, you gave me money when I was days away from losing my home and you saved my ass. You were just as broke as I was. Look, I know you guys struggle and that old Explorer is on her last legs. Let me give you enough money to at least buy something that will last you a few years.

As it turned out, Angel had filed a lawsuit against the trucking company that fired her for being gay. The first thing she did with her settlement money was pay off her house. The second thing she did was give us ten grand.

Diane's quiet tears erupted into a full force hurricane of sobs, gulps and intermittent nose-snuffling, and all the while trying to talk. And a piece of advice to the ladies. If you are immersed into a full scale sobbing jag, please don't try to talk. You sound like Laura Petrie right after she says, "Oh Rob..."

Just sayin.

Angel hugged Diane and told her everything was fine. She told Diane her bladder was way too close to her eyes and even I laughed at that. When we were all able to sit down with at least some semblance of normalcy, Angel suggested that we begin car shopping immediately. THAT dried up Diane's tears immediately. If there is anything Diane loves dearly. it's shopping. She is infected with the the SSG. short for Super Shopping Gene. But let me use this time to warn anyone who may ever consider purchasing a vehicle from a private party, with cash...tread carefully.

So the "reported limit" that can supposedly be withdrawn without the government stepping in, and from a personal bank account is $9999.00. However, the US Government has  been busy arm-twisting said banks and credit unions to fill out a form, reporting anyone drawing large amounts of dollars that seem suspicious. What deems someone as suspicious? Who knows. You can read up on this further government intrusion if you like, but be prepared, the lengths our government will go to, in making an innocent withdrawal from your bank to buy a car will piss you off to the nth.

Buying a used car is like navigating through a minefield. There are so many things you have to know and to look out for. I seesawed back and forth between using a dealership or a private individual. There are pros and cons to either. In the fifth week of our search, we decided to stay on the safe side and purchase our car  at a Chevy dealership. Our choice was a Kia Sorento. It was a one owner car with only 76K for original miles. Not bad for a 2007 model. In fact, that was a super find, given Kia longevity. Unfortunately, our used car guy went to get the keys only to find out it had sold yesterday, they just didn't pull the ad.

We looked around and around for two hours, taking notes on the different cars we might be interested in. Our guy Mac ran us down and invited us to the main used car office complex. When we turned the corner, there it was. A 2009 Chevy HHR. dark gloss mercury in color, the body was flawless and the certified mileage was 58,500 roughly  Several years before I worked an Avis car rental kiosk located in the Austin Lexus dealership. When they ran out of Lexus loaner cars for customers in for lengthy repairs, they sent the customer over to us and we would fix them up. I ended up falling in love with the funky HHR and told myself if I ever bought another car, it would be the Chevy HHR. There was an almost surreal aura around the entire experience and I wondered if the universe had arranged this, silly me for thinking so.

Mac knew that we could only spend $8.5K on a vehicle so when I asked him the price, he told us it was ten grand out the door. I wasn't able to fully stem my anger when I asked him why the hell he was showing us this fantastic car when he knew we couldn't afford it.

He held up his hand and grinned sheepishly,  motioning with his head toward the door. We followed him inside and to his office.

"My manager has authorized me to get you into this vehicle for $8300.00 out the door". The Sales Manager had looked up our reglue website provided on our info sheet and knocked the price down to almost the price they paid for it. It was later told to me that they tried to work out a donation to our non profit but they had already donated their dollar amount for the year. The way it was, there was just enough on it to compensate Mac for his work. Less than an hour later, I was handed the keys, temporary registation tags and wished the best.

Diane and I gave Angel big hugs and we parted ways for the day. Diane and I sat in our new car and neither said a word for 3 minutes...fooling around with the radio, fiddling around with our courtesy 90 day free trial from SiriusXM, playing with the device that would give us wall to wall internet hotspots. We basically flipped, twisted and turned every button or switch we could reach. I started the car and we drove off the lot, beginning our hour-long journey home. I was surprised at how quiet the engine was.

When we pulled into our drive, it was hard not to notice our old Explorer parked there, ready for the next Reglue mission. There were six on the calendar already for the coming week. A stroke of luck had befallen us earlier in the year and we had the transmission rebuilt for pennies on the dollar. That way, we didn't need to purchase a vehicle for Reglue. The Explorer was rock solid for a car with over 300K on it. Yet, going from the HHR into the Ford was a bit of a shock. The poor old girl had given us everything she had and was ready to give us more.

So looking back on the entire sequence of events, it's difficult to track all the little things that had to come together in order to make this happen. Diane and I went into the house and she fixed dinner. We sat in the living room for an hour, fidgeting, and trying to concentrate on the show in front of us. Neither wanted to be the one to say it. I finally broke week and broke the silence.

"You want to take a drive this evening?"

Diane smiled widely.

" I thought you would never ask. Let me get some shoes on".

All Righty Then...


lowey said...

I always look forward to your blog, Ken, but this one made on old, fat guy in Australia's head leak. What a wonderful story.

PV said...

Beautiful story - thanks for all that you do.
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Mechatotoro said...

I join lowey and my friend PV: Your blog, your stories are inspirational, even the sad ones. Thank you and keep it up!