Flaming Ping Pong Balls: Tales of Awesomeness and Grossness

May 20, 2010 1 comments

 **UPDATED with new disgusting and gross pics!**

Well, my friends, the time has come once again to dig out the hiking boots and goofy hat, the maps and GPS devices, the coolers and sunscreen.  Yes, it is field season!

It's a little strange going back because stupid little memories keep coming back to me, like when other drivers wave at me when we pass each other, instead of cutting me off, honking their horn and yelling obscenities like they do here in Burque.  Or how steep things look on the map is not nearly as steep as they are in real life.  I don't have to climb up my map for three hours.  The forest doesn't actually have polygon lines for me to follow.  And in real life, I can't see over the trees.  It's a shame, really.

But I'm getting used to it again.  I'm getting used to staying at my favorite hotel in Reserve.  Having a beer at Uncle Bill's and meeting people I would never have met otherwise.  This week, I met members of several different fire crews on the forest, all from different walks of life.  Some local, some from farther away.

It's really a lovely town...

The first person I met was in town for something called PSD training.  What is PSD training, you ask?  It is where they learn how to shoot ping pong balls of fire out of a helicopter.  Yes.  Ping pong balls.  That are ON FIRE.  No lie.

Unfortunately, the fire crews didn't stay very long but I had some interesting times of my own.  Our first day out in the field, we kept coming across little white grubs buried in the soil.  They were pretty gross looking but we just shoveled them to the side and kept going.  Then, when I went to describe the pit, I stabbed my knife into a spot and ended up stabbing one of the little grubbies.  It fell to the bottom and a whole bunch of white goo was all over the place.  On my knife, the soil sample.  Disgusting.  When I looked back down at the grub, I saw that he (she? it?) had molted out of the gooey skin and was now crawling around in the pit.  So, at least it was still alive.  That's a good thing... I guess.

This is not a grub, but it is a weird gross bug

On our next pit, I used my most hated tool, the Montana Sharpshooter.  It's basically a shovel all made out of metal that has a long narrow blade used for chopping up the soil.  I drew a picture of one on a napkin for Matt on our first date.  Classy, huh?  Anyway, I hate using it mainly because it is hard work, and I am a weakling.  I also hate it because of blisters.  I got five on one hand just from digging half a pit.  And one of them opened up so it was hurty and I couldn't use the sharpshooter anymore.

Other things happened during my first field week, but I think I embarrassed myself enough already.  Suffice it to say the forest is a big place and I am just a tiny speck within its wide expanses.  (Also see above about how maps are not actual forests)  So that's it.

The Saga of the Rental Car: Phone Tag

May 9, 2010 3 comments

One day, I left work early and the next morning I returned to find a message on my answering machine.  Thinking it was someone from work, since work people are the only people who call me on my work phone, or so one would think.  It was the car rental place.  They said the insurance company had refused an extension on the payment and I owed them $360.  Ummm... what?  I just talked to the insurance guy and he said it would be extended.

So I called the insurance guy again and he said oh, no it's okay.  It's been extended through the following week.  We're just waiting on the collision center to explain why they kept your car over the weekend.  I said that's fine, but let him know that the rental place is going to close my account that evening and could he please get it taken care of before then.  He seemed to think that was ok so I hung up. 

After work I decided to call the rental place to see what had happened since I talked to the insurance guy.  The woman I talked to said nothing had been approved except for one extension that lasted through Friday of the first week, and I would be responsible for everything else.  That meant an entire week and two weekends.  Not cool.

I called the insurance guy back saying I was getting conflicting stories about the rental payments and wanted to know what was going on.  He started in with some crap about "Oh, I know it's not your fault that the collision center kept your car over the weekend but they can't explain why they did it so we can't approve it."

Ignoring the fact that this is completely stupid, I just said, well the lady at the rental place told me you wouldn't even approve the second week of repairs, so fix that first.  He said that's supposed to be approved so maybe he should just call her and explain.  OH YES!  Now THAT is an idea!  Why didn't I think of that before?  (At this point, I should probably let you know that the rental place and the insurance company had only been corresponding by email; no one actually talked to another person on the phone)

Well, apparently the guy called and worked something out because I haven't heard a thing about it since then.

The Saga of the Rental Car: I'm Not Gonna Pay...

May 6, 2010 3 comments

Part 1
Part 2

On Monday, I still hadn't heard from the collision center, so I called them around 10 am.  My car was finished.  Apparently, I was on the guy's "to call" list, he just hadn't gotten around to it yet.  Ok, whatever.  I went over to look at it after work that day and it looked good, so I headed over to the rental place to return the nissan.

Before I dropped it off, I had to get some gas.  I was worried about bringing it back not completely full but since it wasn't that way when I got it, I decided I would try it and see what happened.  Nissan tanks must be really small, or maybe I'm just used to my Saturn and the enormous Suburban tank that takes 10 years to fill.  It was almost empty so I decided to put in 5 gallons and see how much it filled.  That filled it to 3/4 of the tank.  I decided that was enough and went to the rental place.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about.  The guy looked at the mileage and stuff before we went into the office, and when we were in there, he asked me how full the tank was when I got it.  I said half full, and he said ok.  No problem.  Yay!

Then he drove me back to the car shop and I picked up my clunky Saturn and went home.

As for the payment on the rental car, I had called the insurance company earlier that day and the guy told me that the three day thing was just a formality and he had extended the rental period and gotten a bill for 100% of the cost.  I left the rental place with the assurance that "no news was good news" in terms of me having to pay for anything.

A few days later, I got news.

The Saga of the Rental Car: The Fix

May 4, 2010 2 comments

Continued from here

So on Monday, the insurance company calls me to say that they've been over to assess the damage to my car, it should be fixed in three days, and the collision center will be in contact with me. 

Three days go by.  No contact from the shop.  I figure, oh well, it's just taking them a little longer.  When I still have not heard from anyone by Friday afternoon, I start to wonder what's up but I'm still not super worried about it.

Then, on Saturday morning, I check my email and there's a message from the insurance company with a link to all my documents.  I read through the first one, which is basically an itemized receipt for work done.  It really seems to me that they did a lot more "assessment" than necessary for nothing more than an obvious scratch n' dent, and the entire bill is a pretty ridiculous amount of money for something that seems so small and easy to fix.  But I don't care, I'm not paying for it. 

I open up the next document.  It's about the rental car.  The basic gist of it is, "Oh, and by the way, we're only paying for three days of your rental."