Monday, February 4, 2008

Sarah, Get Me Sheriff Taylor!!!!!!!!!!!!

(This post is about 2000 words long, but it's a true story, so I wanted to tell the whole, rambling story...)

Sometimes tragedy befalls people, and their deaths leave unfinished business that require attention. I can think of multiple times when a politician has dropped dead or hit a tree while skiing without a helmet and their spouse stepped up to fill the vacated political position until an official election could be convened.

This blog nearly experienced a dose of regicide last week. However, I don’t think Gail would have stepped up to continue the blog had I been required to face judgment before my Maker. (Question…with Johnny Cochran now deceased, I wonder if he is available when it’s time to defend my life?) “He spent some time in an Earthly Jail, but he sho’ don’t deserve no Hell!!!!!!!!! 1-2-3-4-5-6-7!!!!! Judge open the gate and let this white boy into Heaven.”

Yeah I think that could be helpful when they open up the book. We always picture it as a long, single file line on the Day of Judgment, but they may have multiple lines. So if Johnny Cochran is busy with another case when it’s my turn to face lamb/goat classification, then I may try to track down Nipsey Russell. I don’t think it actually has to be a trained litigator…I mainly think the key to acquittal is finding somebody (anybody) who can bust out some catchy rhymes.

Gail will not continue this blog if I die. She’ll be busy writing her own blog about gorgeous cabana boys at 5+ star resorts all over the world as she “mourns” my death through the extravagant spending of life insurance pay-offs. (George Bailey ain’t the only fellow who is worth a heck of a lot more dead than alive…)

I have a friend who will remain nameless (TERRY) who has been telling me for five years that I really need my own reality show because every 3 or 4 days things happen in my life that are just abnormally weird (but highly entertaining). A classic example was last Tuesday…your typical snowy/icy day on the frozen Eastern shore of Lake Michigan.

Before I could back out of the driveway, I had to go out and get rid of the 5 inches of snow that had fallen during the night AFTER the freezing rain had left a nice 1/4 inch of ice on top of everything. So I got all bundled up and pulled on my goofy John Deere cap with the winter ear flaps and headed for the garage. I mainly wear the hat because it ensures I look completely retarded as I blow snow. It keeps my ears warm, but it does make me look “special”.

Anyway, wearing the goof-ball John Deere Winter Earflap Cap, I went out to the garage and opened the overhead door. Then, I jumped onto my 1981 John Deere model 214, fired up the Kohler engine, and engaged the PTO that set the auger spinning on the 37 inch snow blower. I shifted into first, heard the chinkling of the chains on the weighted tires and I grabbed the Variator lever as I headed into the snow drift that showed where the lower 3 feet of the garage door had been.

I love blowing snow on my garden tractor. Honestly, it takes about 5 minutes to clean my entire driveway, and if I am lucky one of my neighbors will be out with a stand behind snow blower and I can watch him complete two rows (10% of his driveway) in the five minutes it takes to ride along on my big Green and Yellow 1000 pounds of All American steel, snow chucking Wonka-mobile. Hell, even at 26 years old, this thing is so impressive I really deserve to get some of that Mellencamp Farm Aid money just for owning this thing. And if I get to do this in front of a shivering neighbor pushing and pulling on an unwieldy little machine made by MTD, then it is the equivalent of pulling up next to the former high school bully in your Mercedes Convertible and telling him you would love to chat but you have to get your supermodel wife off to a photo shoot before you go off to do your night job as a heterosexual male porn star. You could say I like blowing snow.

(Sometimes, very in this photo from a couple of years ago...
it's warm enough to blow snow without the hat.)

So last Tuesday morning, I was down at the very end of my driveway chugging the snow blower into the big chunky ice blocks that the county salt trucks had scraped and pushed and filled up the end of my driveway. Honestly, the end of my driveway looked like a two hundred year old field stone fence made out of icy snow chunks that had started their lives on Terra Firma out in the road. The way I handle this is to bust through the wall on the upwind end. Then, with the breach established I managed to drive down the length of the wall with the snow blower acting as a ballista to level the wall by chucking ice balls 30 feet in front of the tractor. (I LOVE THIS!!!!!!!!!) Try to imagine the mechanical beauty of a mere 14 horsepower leveling an 18 inch high wall of icy softballs and volleyballs. CHUNKA!!!!!!!!!!!! CHUNKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CHUNKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! All the while looking over at your neighbor whose stream of snow out the chute of his little snow blower looks like the weakened stream of urine from an aged elephant whose urinary tract is narrower than a stick of angel hair pasta. Honestly, this is not a testosterone-enraged competition but as long as I managed to get a great deal on a basket case garden tractor 10 years ago…I should be able to bask in the joy that I receive from the creature that I lovingly restored to mechanical perfection.

As I got to the end of the wall, I had my head down looking for the gear shift lever that I needed to put into reverse when former Chicago Bears Free Safety #45 Gary Fencik (or possibly current Indianapolis Colts Strong Safety #21 Bob Sanders) came out of nowhere and put a lick on me that dang near knocked me off of my garden tractor. Just as I am basking in the glory of John Deere Driven/Kohler Powered bliss…I got hit on my right side with a 16 pound bowling ball traveling at 45 miles per hour.

The following disjointed sentences are the thoughts that went through my head over the course of just 4 or 5 milliseconds. It seemed like an eternity, but it was 5 milliseconds at the most. (It has been cleaned up immensely. I normally think in language that would offend George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Billy Bob Thornton, but for writing it down here I am changing the thoughts to a decidedly PG rating.)

WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?!?!??!?!?!?!?

HOLY COW!!!!!!!!!!! Where did that snow plow come from. That must have been a plow truck come by that I didn’t see. Dang, that’s how a fella gets killed out here. Man O Man if you don’t see the plow truck coming, he could kill you when he kicks up those ice balls from the street. DANG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know there wasn’t a plow truck. There were headlights but they were way too low and way too narrow to have been a county plow truck.

It was a pickup truck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And that means………..


Some guy wants to drive down my road and spray up snow and ice just because I’m wearing this Retard hat?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

------------------- End of Thought Diary -----------------

That was it. That whole thing went through my head in 5 milliseconds. Then, I turned to look down the road to see who had chosen to do this juvenile but evil stunt.

Here is what I saw…………

It would seem that rather than intentionally spraying me with snow, a young fella had managed to lose control on the ice and pass his 4000 pound banana yellow truck within a couple of feet of my snow-blowing butt as he took out my mailbox and parked in my front yard.

My PG-rated thought was HOLY SHUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Notice the newspaper in the orange bag out in the street. It was in the mailbox prior to impact.)

He ended up being a very polite young man, but as he stumbled out of the truck, into the icy street, over into my driveway, he was experiencing an adrenaline rush of near combat magnitude. He is borderline freaking out as he tells me how sorry he is and how he will fix my mailbox.

I tell him everything is ok. I ask if he is hurt. He says he is not hurt. I assure him he is ok, and I tell him to relax and to not worry about the mailbox, because insurance would cover the whole thing.

He then said, “I don’t have any insurance.”

Apparently the expression on my face under the ear flapped hat must have changed, because I saw fear in his eyes. Acting like the mature adult I am (and remembering everything I have learned in the years of court mandated anger management sessions), I paused….took a very deep breath…….let it out very slowly…………took another breath…….let it out even slower…… Then, I softly said, “Really?!?!?! No insurance, huh?!?!?!?”

He was a very, very polite young man. This was a guy who recognized that his best approach was hat-in-hand apologies. He said, “I’ll pay for your mailbox.”

“Oh yeah, well what if you had hit me? What if you had been two feet farther to the right and had run my butt down and it took hundreds of thousands of dollars to put me back together….would you have paid for that, too?”

“Sir, I am very, very sorry.”

“You know…you can’t be driving without insurance.”

Now, I am sure he was fixated on the hat, but all I could think was, “am I supposed to call the Sheriff?” so I said, “Ya, know…I should probably just call the Sheriff. Anybody else would just call the Sheriff, but I don’t want to have to do that.”

“Sir, I get paid on Thursday, and I will bring you $100.”

Cha-Ching!!!!!!!!!!!! Capitalism Alert!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let’s profit from the negligence of others!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“One hundred dollars?!?!?!? The mailbox alone cost One Hundred Dollars. Not to mention the lumber post and the time and effort to put it in.”

“Sir, I will bring you $200 when I get paid on Thursday.”

“Well, ok…$200 is about right.”

Then, I say, “I’ll need to get all of your drivers license information, but if you need to call somebody to pull you out, then you can use the phone.” The story takes another interesting turn….

“Sir, it’s my uncle’s truck, and he doesn’t know I borrowed it, so I really can’t call him. Can you pull me out?”

My brain shouted, CALL THE SHERIFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I paused. I chose to not let him know that in the back garage behind my house sat a Jeep with Air Locking Differentials and a 9000 pound Warn winch. Instead I pointed at the blue Jetta in the garage (the garage door was still open) and I said, “PULL YOU OUT?!?!?!? I HAVE A VOLKSWAGEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I also ignored my wife’s V8 Jeep Grand Cherokee parked next to the VW, and he chose not to bring it up.

He said, he would try to get out on his own since his uncle’s truck had Four Wheel Drive. I supported his efforts by loaning him a snow shovel.

Then, we discussed the possibility of his screwing me over. I explained that 99 people out of 100 would just call the Sheriff. I told him that in addition to the driver’s license information I was going to take a whole bunch of photos of him and the truck so that it would strengthen his resolve to return on Thursday with the agreed upon cash.

We talked more as I shot the photos, and I found out he was 19 years old, and he had just finished up his 3rd shift job down the street at my former employer. (That’s the same company that paid me to move up from Indiana 12 years ago when I was an ambitious, young, brilliant, and successful mechanical engineer. That was back when I still thought I could set the world on fire.)

His driver’s license indicated he lived at the trailer park about 3 miles away.

He managed to dig the truck out, and when he walked back up to me to return the shovel and confirm the plan, he promised he would be back on Thursday. I told him Of Course He Would. Without saying it…I reminded him that with all of the photos, his butt was mine. All I had to do was contact the Sheriff and/or his Uncle….and his life would get real tough. He got in the truck tried to get traction on the icy street as he headed home to sleep, having worked all night building car parts.

I went back in the house and thought about a lot of stuff:

I get paid on Thursday…. (I could actually see the wheels turning as he tried to figure out how much he was going to net from that paycheck.)

He was so polite. There was no thug attitude. He was polite.

He doesn’t even have his own car.

His license is valid, though.

If he’s working third shift down there, that means he is still with Manpower, so they can’t be paying him more than $8 or 9 bucks an hour.

$200 for my Step 2 plastic mailbox and a pressure treated 4 x 4 post.

Two feet farther to his right and I would be dead. Not maimed….dead. That truck had to be going 45 mph at least. Oh, yeah…dead.

What was the deal with all of the Emergency vehicles this morning? Oh, the guy down the street with the big John Deere Garden Tractor with the Snow Blower got run down by a yellow Dodge Ram. Was he hurt? Only for about 5 milliseconds…then he died.

The quote of the year: “I don’t have any insurance.”

I get paid on Thursday.

A normal person would call the Sheriff.

There were lots of thoughts I dealt with. I just kept coming back to the fact that a normal person would just call the Sheriff.

I, honestly, waited 6 hours before I called.

I made up my mind about 4 hours after it happened, but I didn’t call for another two hours. I decided he deserved to at least get 5 or 6 hours of sleep after working third shift.

I didn’t call the Sheriff. I called him. I told him that I wanted him to take the $200 and put it toward getting some insurance. I said that he and I had both come very close to a tragedy that morning. I narrowly avoided getting killed, and he narrowly avoided going to jail. I let him know that I had already fixed my mailbox, and I also told him that $200 was worth a lot more to me when I was 19 years old than it is now. I said that as far as I was concerned it had never happened. He never lost control on the ice. He was never in my yard. He never hit my mailbox.

He thanked me very sincerely.

I reiterated that he needed to get insurance. He politely agreed.


IFD 695 said...

A beautiful story son!

Just another confirmation that your mother and I did something right while you were growing up. We let you watch Andy G.

I love you son.
Your Father

Jeff Skiver said...

Yes, but your insistence that we watch all of the Faces of Death movies as a family really messed me up for years....

I know you just wanted us to see what the real world was like, but I was only 12 years old, Man!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jeff Skiver said...

OK. That was a joke. I had better confirm that my parents never forced us to watch Faces of Death. (I don't want social services coming in to take away Rudy, their Chocolate Labrador Retriever.)

However, what is not a joke is how soft I am on crime.

This hearkens back to when I was Governor of Massachusetts. My liberal policy of allowing weekend furloughs for prisoners backfired when one man, Willie Horton...

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's quite a story. You are one lucky guy. Thanks for sharing.

rab said...

Yup. Grace comes slowly to us older folks. But there comes a point at which you just have to acknowledge that you were a stupid 19-year-old yourself one day not so long ago. And a stupid 20-year-old. And a stupid 21-year-old... As much as we want to teach the world a lesson, grace/forgiveness might be the best lesson a POLITE 19-year-old needs. I'd still have been tempted to haul a belligerent 19-year-old off to the clink. After I punched him in the head. (Not really. A 19-year-old in any kind of shape could kick my butt.) Great story, Jeff.

Anonymous said...

Was he wearing gloves? Everyone knows it's very dangerous to wear gloves.

This is yet another example of when you shouldn't wear gloves. When are people going to learn that people don't kill people - gloves kill people!!??

Ace HoleInOne said...


The words "weakened stream of urine from an aged elephant whose urinary tract is narrower than a stick of angel hair pasta." Brilliant!

Oh, and sorry to hear about your close call. It can all be over in a second!!!!!!! Like a bug on a windshield.


JJ said...

Call him and ask him to show you his new insurance check. As RR once said, "Trust, but verify."


Ace HoleInOne said...

I should get the spelling right MacSkiver. Remember the TV show about the clever fellow who used a paper clip to short circuit a nuclear missile to save all man (and woman) kind. His name is MacGyver.

So to the reference "MacSkiver" it's about the way you craft words in effort to save all "mankind" Alright, I'll go take my Med's…sorry.


Anonymous said...

I have to agree with JJ you need to verify that he got his insurance. If you called the sheriff he woudl certainly have it. You did the nice thing, but make sure he follows through, otherwise he may not have learned the lesson you tried to teach.