Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hit and Run

     Recently, work sends me out of town. After dropping Deanne off at the bus stop, I fill gas, then head for the arterial that connects to H1 Freeway. We'd left early at 5:40m, my usual time, so it is still dark.
     A red light. Trying to make a right turn. Traffic already heavy—though not bumper to bumper—and no way to safely enter the steady flow. After the briefest of pauses, oncoming cars begin making left turns onto the street I desire to enter; they must have a left-turn green arrow that gives them the right of way. A short pause, then Thunk!—my car jiggles, having been struck from behind by a vehicle—a white pick-up, a quick look in my rear-view mirror reveals. I swear and a moment later the light turns green so I ease forward while checking to see if the truck will follow so we can investigate damages and exchange information. It does. An immediate right onto the street—truck still following—and another right into a convenience store parking lot, and Zoom!—the truck whizzes off down the road. I peer out the window to catch its license plate but it's too dim and distant—just a blur blending into darkness.
     I put the car's gear into Park and get out, expecting to see a bashed-in trunk or dented in bumper. Around the back fender there's...nothing, no damages, not even a scratch. (Well there are lots of pre-existing scratches, but no new ones). Inside the trunk beneath the carpet liner, there's only virgin metal; no creases or crinkles. No muffler damage or leaking fluids outside underneath, either. Good enough. On to work.
     Upon arrival, it's well lighted. Only then do I notice upon closer inspection that the passenger side rear fender, just beneath the natural seam, is distended for half its length by a quarter inch. Above the seam is metal, below is rubberized plastic. Has the lower portion just been knocked out of place? It appears so. Gentle kicks and nudges don't drop it into place, so I leave it for later.
     After I get home, two long screw drivers inserted behind, lift the flange up and ease it back into its slot. Praise God!—as good as new! (Or, at least it's the same as before.)
     I later share with Deanne and the kids that I suspect the driver doesn't have long for this world. My car was motionless. Why did he hit me? Then, rather than do the right thing and check for damages, he digs out and in essence says, “The heck with you—catch me if you can!”
     “Did he have a license? Was that his car? Was it stolen?” I ask rhetorically. “To have such a lack of concern or respect for fellow man—what does that say about him?” Everyone's quiet and attentive. I don't think his future looks too bright.”
     Then I share with them what they should do if they ever bump into anyone: stop somewhere safe, inspect for damages, and follow the instructions on the back of the insurance card. It says, “Don't admit fault,” but if it's clearly your fault, you should apologize,” I say.
     “As things turned out, I probably would have let things go. But I would have certainly asked, 'What happened? How'd you hit me?'”
     I tell Deanne during our evening walk, “In Hilo, this would never have happened. You'd probably recognize the truck. Or someone would stop and say, 'I know that guy, he lives at so and so.' That's the thing about small towns—everyone knows everyone.”
     Honolulu is getting to be ever bigger, ever more cosmopolitan, and ever more mainland-like. There are still lots of considerate people with plenty of aloha—at the job site, in stores, and at the librarybut more and more we're seeing that every-man-for-himself attitude and behavior. It's sad and disturbing.

Monday, September 19, 2016

More Travails

     Braden has shown some real improvements of late. After finally earning his first Boy Scout merit badge (Citizenship in the Community—see my prior Braden essay, regarding), which I had to exert tremendous force of will, persuasion, and persistence to get him to do for his own good, he's now well on his way, through mainly his own exertions, to earning his second (Citizenship in the Nation) merit badge. Good for him! He wrote a letter to a congressman, is reading a daily on-line newspaper front page, and just visited our state capitol, which covers all the hands-on requirements, praise God.
     Also the other day, Deanne called me at work to say the water main servicing Jaren's school broke, so she would be picking him up. When I got home and prepared for my workout run, she fretted, “What if Braden and Pene panic when they see the empty school?”
     “They won't panic!” I said. But I ran by the school to make sure Pene wasn't waiting there alone for Braden, which would be less than safe. She wasn't there, and just as I got home, she arrived and said, “Braden went to get Jaren. He told me to go home first.” It was pouring that day so it was thoughtful of him to let Pene come home first, since she still suffered a sore throat from the day before. Not long after, Braden appeared and said, “Hi, Dad.”
     You came straight home when you saw the empty school?” I asked.
     “Good,” I said, and explained about Mom picking up Jaren due to the water main break (they would all have seen the blocked off road, Department of Water Supply service trucks and workers, and gushing water along the street). “Good job letting Pene come home first,” I added.
     But toward the end of dinner that night, he asked about joining a technology-related JROTC workshop/class to be held twice a week from 5:00 – 8:00 Tuesdays and Thursdays and I immediately said No, you need to focus on academics. He started breathing fast and heavy, stiff in his seat, ready to explode.
     I don't tolerate blow-outs at the dinner table (food and eating should be pleasant and not associated with angry shouting) so I dismissed him to another room.
     Yet while doing the dishes minutes later, he barked and groused at Deanne, snapped at Jaren, then later bitched at me, so I said, “Get your umbrella and walk up and down the street. Don't come back in until after eight,” meaning after his walk, he could sit in the garage, similar to past disciplines.
     He went to his room for who knows what?, barked more at Deanne, then left the house in a huff.
     After my bath, Deanne, exasperated, said, “What about his homework?”
     I said, “Whatever! I don't care...”, then, after reconsidering, said, “Tell him to do it in the garage if you like...”
     She disappeared for awhile, came back, and said, “He's not on the street; he took his bus pass with him.”
     “I don't care,” I said.
     “How can you say that?”
     “Because I don't.” An hour and a half passed while I read to Jaren and Pene. I knew Braden was too chicken or timid to do anything scary-ass foolish and I wasn't about to let Deanne go drive around looking for him. The worst he'd do, I reasoned, was get on a circle-island bus route and come back late. Or go to the police and grouse to them about us. “He'll learn,” I figured and prayed that God would convict him.
     Deanne, still upset, suggested we give him more leeway with activities.
     I explained, “This is another of his dumb, sounds-like-fun activities that has no bearing on anything, just like rifle squad and Rangers—it's not his thing. What he needs is friends to hang out with on weekends. I'd let him stay out to ten at night or later.” (I'd reviewed a parental advice book after reading to the kids and it said by age thirteen, the author's son was allowed to stay out that late on weekends with friends, which sounded reasonable for sixteen-year-old Braden to me.) “Or if he showed me a course syllabus that stated, '80% of graduates of this class enter the military at a higher level classification...' Or said, 'There's this girl I like; I want to spend more time with her...' Or, 'My buddies are going, can I hang out with them?; I want to invite one over to the house...' I'd be more inclined to reconsider, but as things stand, no, he's got to man-up to his responsibilities and learn to take disappointment like a man, not a six-year old. His reaction was way disproportionate. In two years, I want him out of here if he continues this way. I'm preparing him for that day. That's my goal. And he's running out of time fast.”
     “But don't you think-.”
     “No! I'm not going to argue with you about it—that's not going to help. Pray for God's peace. That's all we can do right now.” And I told her as I prepared for bed at 8:00 not to shout at him when he got home.
     The knocks on the door came at 8:30. I opened the door and he looked calm and restored.
     “Where were you?” I asked.
     “Walking up and down the street.”
     “No,” mumbled Deanne from the living room.
     “Which street?”
     He named streets nearby, but not ours.
     “Okay,” I said in rising pitch to signal disgust, and let him in.
     I later told Deanne I was going to give him a pass on this one and next morning told him, “Next time I tell you walk up and down the street I mean our street. If you want to go anywhere else, you have to tell us. We have to know your whereabouts at all times.”
     “Yes, Dad,” he said.
     I realize that occasional fits from teens are normal and healthy. Mostly I thank God for keeping me fairly calm through the whole ordeal even as a part of me was edging toward panic, which would have been dumb and unproductive.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Date with Penelope

     A pastor once remarked that Dad has the important job of making his teen daughter feel attractive, loved, and special, which can help prevent promiscuity. Penelope, now age thirteen, has shown zero signs of boy interest, nonetheless, I do believe that my relationship with her will bear greatly on her future romances, and I do want her to know that I find her beautiful (she is, breathtakingly so), and that I love and cherish her. She's good company (when she tries, otherwise she can be quiet and withdrawn—just her personality), and has been a fine, cooperative, obedient, self-motivated, and helpful child (without being told), so when I felt called to take her out on a dinner date, just her and me, it was with eager, unclouded joy.
     I had her choose the restaurant (“Something you want, not what you think I want”) and she chose Korean food, so we went to Manoa Marketplace where two quiet, comfortable, and affordable places are available, the fancier one of which turned out to be closed.
     I told her after we ordered, "Mom and I see and appreciate your good behavior and helpfulness and this is our thank you for that. We notice, too, how when we ask you to do something, you does it without complaint. We appreciate that a lot.
     She laughed and nodded.
     “Why are you laughing?” I asked, smiling.
     “No reason,” she said.
     “I know there's a reason. I think we both know why...”
     We both laughed deep, which got our date off to a fine start. (FYI: The boys had been at it again that afternoon, for the umpteenth time, bickering, grumping, and disobeying over the simplest “Go outside and get some exercise” request, while she hadn't.)
     Even minutes before our dinner date departure, I was struggling with a health trial so I prayed for God to heal me well enough to go, if that was his will. He did. Yet I wasn't sure how my health would hold out, even as we sat waiting for the food, but half-way through the meal I felt fine. “I'm glad we came,” I said.
     She nodded. “Me, too.”
     She ordered a meat jun (regular size with four side dishes selected from an array of choices) and I ordered the barbecue chicken/kal bi combo, and upon receiving our meals we divvied up the contents—entrees and sides—so we each got a bit of everything. “Mom and I always do this,” I told her.

     “On a date, you wipe your mouth like this,” I said, demonstrating with my napkin.
     She did so, then licked some remaining dipping sauce she'd missed.
     “Don't lick your lips on a date,” I said. “The guy will get the wrong idea.”
     She laughed. “Yes Dad.”
     At the end of the meal as we prepared to leave, I said, “Let's rest a little before going. After all, we're paying for the atmosphere, too.”
     She nodded.
About now,” I said after a breather, “I'd take off my shoes, put my feet in Mom's lap, and she'd give me a foot massage. Want to try?”
     She smiled. “I don't know.”
     “I'm just kidding, we don't do that. I can dream, too, right?” I'd asked her to tell me a dream.
     “Literal or figurative?” she asked.
     She said she'd like to move to the Mainland for college, buy a house, and raise some sheep. And it would be somewhere that snowed.
     “Sheep may have to be brought indoors in snow. Do you know?”
     “No,” she said.
     “Would you want your place to get snow? Or be in a state that gets snow in the mountains but not in the suburbs?”
     “I hadn't thought of it.”
     After we got home, she thanked me for taking her out to dinner, then headed in. I got my shoes off, opened the door, and went in and said, “Pene, on a date, you're not supposed to dig out and leave the guy behind like dirty laundry. You're supposed to wait and walk together. What's going to happen if you do that on a date?”
     “He'll feel hurt?” She was giggling.
     “Yeah. And don't expect him to call you again.”
     We exchanged hugs and next day I left her a note thanking her for her fine company, wondering if it was a bit overboard. But no, I felt the Lord's hand in it all.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Serving God Willingly—Finally!

     I love serving God when it's doing stuff I enjoy—attending church, visiting relatives or friends at care homes, spending time with family, mailing thoughtful gifts or letters to loved ones, etc.
     But I've hated serving God in a way that I didn't even realize was serving him: by confronting and/or convicting (in a heart-felt sense) unscrupulous auto mechanics.
     Unpleasant experiences with unscrupulous auto mechanics have happened too many times for me to want to recall—it really stresses me out. Why would anyone want to do that? They should just quit if they feel ripping off customers is the only way they can make a reasonable profit. (Same's true for any profession.) Twice this occurred at the hands of fellow Christians from the same church, too! Talk about disappointing. No wonder the profession is in such low repute among the public.
     But the thing God showed me in the midst of another botched simple repair (worn brake pads) is that by confronting a mechanic and insisting on a proper repair, I am effectively serving God, for not everyone is knowledgeable enough about cars to recognize a botched repair. And not everyone who recognizes “something's wrong” has the strength to confront a perpetrator. Poor repair service or out-and-out sabotage—it happens, I saw one mechanic loosen the bolts on my car's valve cover that caused oil to leak out—this for a simple oil change; another knocked out my car's wheel alignment, causing the car to drift leftward; another shaved the insulation off sections of spark plug wires (causing sparks to arc to the engine block), covered them with plastic tape and locking plastic ties, and blamed it on rats; another added bubbles in the brake lines causing highly deficient braking even as the brake pedal traveled flush to the floor—could cause expensive damages or even injury or death in an accident. And if I don't speak up about such things, the perpetrator will have no incentive to change and thus other innocent victims who can ill afford it will suffer or perhaps even worse.
     Speaking up about wrong doing or confronting a wrong doer is never easy. I can be like Moses or Job when it comes to that—a very reluctant servant. But if I don't speak up who will? I've only newly discovered that God knows that I have the strength to confront or convict (in the Godly sense) such individuals and that he places me in such positions for his good purposes. And that I should be joyful about it. Which I only recently tried.
     This last time was with an older mechanic in his 60's. After he corrected the deficiency, he thrice apologized and everything about the car seemed to function well. Perhaps more significantly, when I first brought my car in, it was the only one at the shop—a slow day. I picked it up late that day (still the only car), noticed the deficiency immediately, brought it back, told the mechanic about it, showed him the problem during a test drive, and left the car for him to correct overnight. He called early the next morning and said it was done. When I picked it up late that afternoon, the shop had multiple cars and customers—a busy day. God may have blessed him for having done right (in the end) by me. I choose to believe so.
     And I was able to handle the whole unpleasant episode with a lot less heart-thumping stress than in the past, knowing I was doing the right thing and serving God and others, perhaps the mechanic most of all.
     Historically, I never went back to unscrupulous mechanics—best to avoid further trouble. And by avoiding, I felt I was convicting them that I knew what they'd done. (They returned to me a clearly botched repair, I went elsewhere to have it fixed.)
     But this last one? Perhaps I'll give him another chance. We'll see how God leads...