Okay, since I have you attention...
I SAID SINCE I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION!
Okay that is better.
Okay, the day the parrot almost bit my ear off (Now if that does not get you to want to hear more, I don't know what will!).
I new it was going to be one of those days when I got up that morning. My shoelace broke as I tied my shoe, dropped my car and house keys in a snow bank and had to turn around after getting halfway to work because after trying hard to read blurry road signs, I realized I had forgotten my glasses. And to top it off it was Thursday. Let me explain about what I called the "Thursday Phenomena".
One of the things I had found to be invaluable in my line of work was one of those small, spiral bound monthly planners. I kept one in the drawer of my desk at work in order to keep track of my vacation time, overtime hours, pay dates and Saturdays I had to work or had worked. I also used it as a journal of sorts, noting the first and last snow of the year, relatives birthdays, etc. Also I would note when I had gotten chewed out by the boss for something or other, gotten sick, lost a tool or other item, etc. What I called "bad stuff". The kind of things I would look back on, mix me a stiff absinthe and try to forget.
Yes, I am a bit obsessive/compulsive. But that is what makes me good at my job at times. I sometimes find things that others have overlooked. But it also lets me sometimes notice patterns in things. When looking back from a previous year's planner while copying important dates to remember from another, I noticed all the "bad stuff" or "weird stuff" (I noted that sometimes, but not always) happened on Thursdays. I could not explain it. On At least one Thursday a month, something non routine would occur.
This was one of those Thursday's.
I got to work ten minutes late, the result of having to turn around to retrieve my second set of eyes. The Slacker, the incompetent phone call taker/file clerk who set up my work schedule (unsuccessfully) each day, informed me that he had checked the after hours voice mails from the previous night and that I had to "fit one in" between my other calls. I really hated when he did this since it could mean several things, none of which would help me achieve sainthood in my lifetime. The first could mean I would go without a lunch break and would have to gulp down the contents of my "brown bag" lunch while driving, throwing my blood sugar and digestion out of whack for the next two weeks. The second possibility would be that, it seemed, a machine so badly broken/damaged/abused that all I could do would be to take one look and notate time of death on my work order.
He then informed me who the customer was. I was not in favor with the gods of fortune this day, I thought as he told me. These people were of the type I detested most in life: lazy moochers, drains on the resources, wasters of my hard earned then stolen tax dollars. This entire family had no other income then the funds the government and state provided to them. The had no ambition to better themselves in anyway, since it would require a) physical exertion and b) an intelligence capacity above that of a chimpanzee. My opinion, I know, but like a baseball umpire, I call 'em like I see 'em. As a matter of fact, they had lived for almost a year with my dispatcher, who eventually kicked them out of his house because he could not afford to keep repairing everything they were perpetually destroying i.e. furnace, hot water heater, refrigerator just to name a few.
The husband, who was NOT the "man of the family" was a 350 lb. blob who supposedly had become injured at a previous job and could not work. Even worse, this guy went to the same high school I did, but I don't remember him graduating. All through school, he was the "weirdo" known throughout the entire school, the guy so socially inept even the "geeks" and "nerds" avoided him because he scared all the "hot" girls away just by walking into the same room. Even now, after hearing about some of rumors about his upbringing, I feel a bit sorry for him, but that is still neither her nor there. He fancied himself an "electronics engineer" and claimed he had gone to college, but my co workers and I seriously doubted he had ever had the patience, funds or mental aptitude for school. He had, at one time, disassembled the joystick to his power wheel chair in order to "fix it" and managed to ruined almost the entire electrical system.
His wife (how he ever managed to get married was the greatest mystery of all) ran the household. with a titanium fortitude and a deep seated hatred of insurance companies and state welfare agencies that was legendary among all of the home medical equipment companies and said agencies in the state. That was the great irony, you see, since it was these insurance companies and public assistant groups who were, at that time, putting food on the table and a leaky double wide roof over their heads. She had held a succession of part time jobs but her general "pissed off at the world" demeanor usually got her fired within the 90 probationary period. But when she called for service, by the Gods above and below, you will be there when she says for you to be there. One time, when I had to order parts for the daughter's manual wheel chair, she my called my office two hours after I left to see if the parts had arrived. Only two hours later! In a roundabout way, she was one of the reason my boss at the time, on a Thursday, told me I had ten minutes to pack my tools and belonging and get off the company property. But that is a story I don't like to tell and does not relate here.
And the daughter. She was about 14 at the time and a miniature version of her mother. Demanding, loud mouthed and wanted everything NOW. According to what my dispatcher had told me, she did not have to be wheel chair bound. Her condition was such, at the time it had been diagnosed, if she had gone through some minor physical therapy, she would have been fairly able bodied. But she liked the attention and the sympathy but was generally as lazy as the rest of the clan. I forgot how many times I had to drop what I was doing and go to her school to fix her chair because of some minor problem. She would call her mother on her cell phone from school and the mother would call my office and it would snow ball from there.
The daughter just ground this poor chair into dust. To say she was hard on it was like saying Al Queda is only a little extreme. She had broken the wheel locks, arm rests, front caster mountings and wore out the rear wheel in less then six months. This chair was had modular frame design and
I ended up replacing every major part of the frame at different times within a year.
Also, she had an air filled seat cushion. These are a very cool device, since it is composed of individual air filled cells that are inter connected. Push on one and two or three others fill up. This allows for a very comfortable seat and basically custom molds itself to the rear end of the user. It does have to be filled with air from time to time and a hand pump comes with the cushion. I have always wanted one of this brand of cushion for my hunting chair, but with a price tag of $600.00, no way would I ever have one for that purpose. Of course, this girl kept popping holes into the cushion. The leak came from two sources: Cigarettes and the unkept claws of the various family pets.
Yes, the 14 year old girl was sneaking cigarettes from her parents or getting them from friends at school. At least that is my guess. But she was dropping hot ashes, once a lit butt, it appeared, onto the cushion and burning holes through the rubber. The other source was even more appearant. This family had a gaggle of small, yapping, jumping, barking, crotch and ass sniffing dogs that were a constant menace to anyone around the family, including the family. They were always jumping onto the girl's chair when she was not on it and fighting for the position, or jumping into her lap while she was in it, their ungroomed claws tearing through the nylon cover and puncturing the air cells inside.
And the rest of the pets, all kept inside a worn down house trailer. The list included, if I remember, two ferrets, 3 small terrier type dogs, a cat I never saw (I did see cans of cat food and a litter box, on the kitchen counter, in the home) and one parrot. A small zoo, living in a trailer with 5 people. Everytime I went there, there were at least two to three other people I had never seen. Weather they were relatives or not, I am not sure. But the place had that "animal" stench to it. That slightly ammonia, part rot and just plain rank odor of too many beasts kept in one place without proper attention. And if you have ever been in a house with a large bird as a pet, you can tell. Those things just stink unless you are right on top of things, if you know what I mean. They tried to keep the place clean but after five or ten minutes of cleaning, a general malaise would set in and they would stop, it seemed.
So I have to go fix the daughter's chair. Again. For the nth time. And it's cold outside, bitter cold on this day, a typical mid January morning in the Big Mitten. Mom wants me there yesterday and I better have parts or she will feed me to the little demonic mutts, ferrets and Polly the Pooping Parrot. Mom says she has the cash for the service call today and today only so chop! chop! get a move on, my co worker says. You have to make them your first stop.
I knew better. Theses people never got up before noon because they stayed up all night watching cable TV, smoking cheap cancer sticks and eating off brand high sodium and cholesterol snacks. That is why they always called five minuted before closing time, having just got up and discovered a problem 20 minutes before. Having to work around other peoples schedules can be a bitch at times and these people sure did not make life easy in that regard. Okay, I say, I'll take care of them. I am sure he had image in his mind of me fixing a broken wheel chair when I said this, while I had an image of, well, it's much too violent for small children to see, so I will leave it at that. I grab my stuff and beat it out of there.
My first call was not too far from the low lifes, but, when I got there, the lady that needed service had been taken to the hospital the night before with the flu. Okay, no choice but to go roust some folks out of their nice warm beds at 10 am. If I had to wake up early, by the Gods, everyone else should be up and about as well, damn it all! Life is not fair but I like to do what I can to equalizing the flow of things. I get in the van and point it toward another one of the county's best kept secrets.
And this place should have stayed that way. Some mobile home parks in my county are hidden away from the rest of the world. I think this is by design, the developers not wanting to bring down the values property values of those homes and business' nearby. I have spent many hours looking for some of these places and have gotten lucky, in one sense, to have found them. They are the type of places that if you did not know what was there, you would have never found it in the first place. I think we like to hide away what we don't like to think about and these run down gathering places are a prime example.
I won't give details of where this places is located, since federal privacy laws forbid it. I can say it is near a man made water source and has not been well maintained since it was built. The asphalt was crumbling and ice covered, having not been plowed at all since the very first snow of that year. The speed limit sign said 15 mph, but 7-8 was as fast as one could go due to the lake sized pot holes. We sometimes talk about what the PAW would look like on this site but after driving through this place I have a pretty good idea. I could smell wood smoke and a haze of it hung low in the yards and alley's between the hovels and shacks that these people lived in. It was like looking at pictures of an African refugee camp but with snow and rusting cars parked in front. One place even had three raccoon hides nailed to the outside wall, curing or drying for later use. It was indeed a strange glimpse into the lives of a cross section of the population.
I find the place easily, having been there a multitude of times. I exit the van and pull out my tool box. I think I can repair this problem, I tell myself and hope it is minor. I go up to the porch and find it is very treacherous, like tryng to walk a lard covered escalator. The ramp, supposedly built to make exiting and entering with wheel chairs easy, does not conform to ramp length to height codes and is too steep. They have not even attempted to remove the snow or ice, the two models of wheel chairs having compressed the snow in three inch wide ruts of sheer ice. I grab the railing to keep from falling but find it is only held on by two screws, the rest having rusted away. The bags of garbage and plastic trash cans full of empty soda bottles make for interesting obstacles yet they become my saving grace. One of the trash cans has frozen solid to the top landing of the ramp and I lunge for it, pulling myself up to the door.
I bang on the door five times as hard as I can. I don't hear the TV, which is usually on and the volume turned to "nauseate" levels. This is not a good sign, since it means they are not yet awake and it is 10:22 a.m. After a couple more minutes of freezingly trying to maintain my balance, I pound again, contemplating using a hammer to pound on the door if they don't answer soon. Trying to call them is useless. I was informed before I left that the Mom's pre pay cell was destroyed by one of the dogs a few days previously and she had been using a pay phone to make all of her calls. I wait and soon, I hear a voice yell for me to come in.
I find the door unlocked and have to give it a half hearted "hockey check" to pop it open, since snow dragged in from the wheel chairs wheels had frozen over night and had jammed the door tight. I push it open and find it swings to the left rather then the other way, like most doors do. The door looks news but has been installed backwards. I walk in and find the Mom. half awake and half dressed sitting on the couch to my right. Also to my right is an ornamental wall, solid for about 3 three from the floor with a small shelf. On this shelf is a large fake potted plant of some kind, that goes up to the ceiling. It is through this that I can see the mom and next to her the empty chair. I start to go forward when I feel and hear something.
A slight rush of air hits my right ear. Like someone was trying to blow smoke from a cigarette or cigar into my ear. A strange sound, like someone hitting two small hollow blocks of wood together, startles me. I know it's close and my instinctively hand goes to the Kershaw Black Out assisted opening knife I am carrying at the time. I turn and look up and find it is all I can do to repress my anger.
The parrot is perched on one of the upper branches of the fake plant. His dark, cold eyes are but two inches from mine. He is looking at me side ways as he pulls back his head and makes a strange growl, a near perfect imitation of an angry dog (no guessing where he learned it). Then it hits me: The damn thing nearly got me! The sound I heard was it's wickedly hooked beak snapping closed, nearly bisecting my ear like a piece of warm cheese! I can picture myself slipping the razor sharp black blade of the Kershaw right through the left eye of this stinking, parasite infested winged messenger from hell, but, oh, damn the consequences! I need my job and I am sure I cannot afford the price of a parrot, even a dirty mean one a pet store would be happy to get rid of.
"Be careful of him", the mom says while yawning. "He bites."
Well no bleeping shit, lady, I think to myself! How is it you and your kin still have your eyes in your head with this garishly colored yammering demon in your house? I am incensed, not at the bird but at the woman's general lack of concern, comman courtesy and overall respect. At least put the accursed thing in it's cage before some looses a nose or finger! I am telling myself if this thing comes at me again I will cut off it's head and take my medicine like a man. I could live with getting fired over killing a parrot with a knife, perhaps earning bit of respect from my friends for doing so. But to loose a finger or eye to a damn bird was simply beyond the pale. I make a wide arc of the feathered nasty and go in.
The chair did indeed need some work. As a matter of fact, it required about $1000 in parts which the insurance company later refused to pay, stating too many repairs had been done already. The family ended up paying us monthly installments for the bill. The Bird had made it's was over to the back of the couch to the Mom, who fed her evil familiar bits of her toast as it watched me work.
I think that was the last time I went to the house. After that, they brought the chair to the shop for repairs. Which was just about as bad, since they would bring at least two of the hell hounds with them, bringing them inside on leashes where they barked and snarled and growled at every customer and employee the whole time they were there.