Friday, November 16, 2007

YOU KNEW HE WAS..., continued (An engineer's version of backyard slip 'n slide!)

My husband is an engineer, as are most of his friends. Although I usually try to avoid making broad generalizations about any one group of people, I will go out on a limb here and say that, in general, there are a few characteristics that engineers hold in common, based on thirty years of close observation. (You probably think I have gone off on a tangent, but bear with me and you will see how this all ties together.) The first thing that comes to mind is that they can be somewhat anal about the organization of their tools and toys. They may be a complete sloth about some things, but as a rule, their CD, DVD and record album collections (which are probably huge) will be sorted by genre, and alphabetized within each category. In their garages and workshops, there will be a place for everything, and everything in its place. The walls will be covered in peg board, the floors will be sealed, and each tool will have a properly labeled home (possibly even with crime-scene-like outlines drawn around them).

Another trait they share is a passion for gizmos. They replace computers, cameras and stereo equipment on an annual basis, because the ones they bought last year are "obsolete". To give you an example, one year my husband asked, on his Christmas list, for a set of bumpers that you place in your garage, to tell you when your cars are pulled in just far enough for the door to shut behind them. When I went to our local auto supply shop to see if they carried them, the salesman said "Sure, but look what else we have - an electronic version that hangs on the back wall, and lights up whenever you car hits just the right spot in the the garage!" At first I was in a quandary, so I weighed my options. Now, on the one hand, I had the basic bumpers, made of hard, solid rubber, that would last forever. They needed no instructions for installation, there were no parts to break, and they were fairly cheap. They had only one job to do, and would do it well, without fail, indefinitely. On the other hand, the electronic version was much more expensive, was probably unreliable, had lots that could break and go wrong, and came with a nice fat instruction book on how to install it. When I looked at the situation that way, it was perfectly clear. "I'll take the electronic one!", I told the salesman. As John opened his package on Christmas morning, I relayed this story to our relatives who were looking on. They burst out laughing, thinking I was just kidding, until they heard John mumble grumpily under his breath, "I just hate it when she's right!"

All this brings me to our good friends Tom and Teri, who came to visit this past weekend. As I always do, I sent them my "Guide to Wimberley" in advance, containing lists of all the fun things to do and good places to eat in the area, as well as detailed instructions for finding our house. We expected them to arrive by 9 or 9:30 pm, and went out on the porch to watch for their arrival. After an hour or so, when there was still no sign of them, I started to get a bit worried. I was just about to go inside to give them a call, when I saw a car pause in front of the house, but it was coming from the wrong direction. Sure enough, it was them. Teri climbed out of the car, looking somewhat bedraggled. I said "What happened? Did you have trouble following my directions?" Tom replied cheerfully, "Oh, we didn't need them. I have this new portable GPS system for my laptop, and it told us exactly how to get here! Boy, you guys are really off the map, aren't you?" Well no, not really. Before I could reply, John said "I can't believe we didn't see you turn into the neighborhood over there. We were sitting on the porch watching for you." Turning to see where John was pointing, Tom said "Oh, I don't think we came in that way." I said "But you had to have!" Teri said "No, it couldn't have been that road. We haven't been on pavement since we passed San Marcos." John and I looked at each other with matching frowns of question, then simultaneously, our eyes grew wide with shock. I turned to Teri and said, "You mean to tell me you came in the back way? On that dirt road? With the giant potholes? In the DARK?!"

The next day, when we took them for a little drive around the area, and Teri saw how close our house was to that nice highway that led straight to town, she started ranting and raving about how Tom refused to even look at the directions I sent them. All he cared about was playing with his new toy! I patted her on the arm and said "Just let it go, Teri. After all, you knew he was an engineer when you married him."

to be continued...

Thursday, November 15, 2007


There are both good and bad points about the location of our house. One of the best things is the view. Our house sits up on the side of a hill, with the porches facing east. The property slopes down and ends in the middle of a creek. Nestled at the bottom of our basin is the Church Lady's house. I call her that because her house was originally a little white country church, which she hauled in and fixed up. She will never know how indebted I am to her, because, as my brother-in-law Bud once said, the scene I look down upon from my upper porch is "straight out of a Larry McMurtry western novel." Her house backs up to the creek, and she has a great little vegetable garden out to the side, with wild pumpkin and squash vines spilling through the fence onto the road. Her place is usually the destination of my early morning walks, and occasionally, if I am lucky, she will have hauled her little antique grocer's stand out to the side of the road, filled it with her excess produce, and attached a hand-written note that says "Help Yourself!"

One plus is that it is fairly easy to tell people how to find our house. We are located just off a main road that connects Wimberley to I-35, and as you turn into the neighborhood, we are directly in front of you, up on the side of the hill. Hard to miss. Another good thing is that although we have a good-sized creek on our property, and can enjoy the sound of it spilling over its little dams, it is located at the bottom of the hill, at the front edge of our property. Because our house is located towards the top of the hill, at the back edge of our four acres, I don't think we need to worry much about the house flooding. There will be times though, when the road into the neighborhood will be impassable, due to its low-water crossings, and we will be more or less stranded until the water level goes down. A neighbor once told us that if we were really desperate, there was actually a back way out of the neighborhood, but the road was "kind of rough". As is common with our Texas country boys, that was a gross understatement. Rough doesn't begin to describe that road. John and I decided to test our escape route one day, and let me tell you, I would have to be a lot more than nervous before I would ever attempt it again - I would have to be in absolute fear for my life. The dirt road was positively riddled with potholes - some of them large enough for a small car to get lost in. When we finally made it to the main road, I realized that I had been holding my breath the entire time, and experienced the same sense of elation I get when disembarking from a theme park attraction that my family coerced me into riding against my will.

To be continued.....