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Saturday, May. 31, 2003
Of all the activities that can be tied to a day in and day out existence, nothing can be more predictable than mornings with Outfoxed. This isn’t something you can set your watch by, this is something that is time by its’ very enactment.

‘Cause I do the same damn thing each and every morning and I do it so very well.

4 am. Coffee. Computer. Viva Netscape!, here we go yet again.

Since Netscape (and every other browser in the known universe) has a cute and enticing little list of bookmarks which I periodically add to, my routine is a safe and happy one. There is little need to work up a terrific sense of labor intensive searching for anything. I click, I scroll. I wade through some music discussion, the news, get bogged down in Diaryland for an hour or so. Check up on my football team. There’s a link for the local newspaper, the paper itself can be read online. The fact that by 5:15 it will land with a thunk in my driveway, may in fact be laying there while I’m reading the exact same thing online not fifty feet away is one of the more salient testaments to my own personal sloth.

I mean, who wants to paddle down the driveway in the pre-dawn to fetch a real newspaper when you can make nearly imperceptible movements with hand and mouse and do the same thing? Isn’t this what progress is all about?

The real challenge to the morning, the suspense filled moment, is the checking of the weather.

I need to know about the weather, Truly, I do. I work out of doors or have things impacting my indoor work which are affected severely by rain or hail or any of those other moisture laden things. Clouds make me uneasy. Storm surges and flood tides (remember, we’re working right on the beach at the City project) make me anxious. Weekdays with rain mean lost money and lost opportunity. Not to mention soggy boots and lots of time spent in the truck with the wipers going and listening to Stu comment, for the 15th time, “It’s just a passing cloud. Just a passing cloud.”

So I click on the link (it happens to be this one, if you’re in need of yet another useless bit of trivia) and I scroll to the radar map and hold my breath. I put the map in motion and don my pointed wizard hat and try to predict. Clouds rolling in? Are we working today or not? Should I start calling the troops now or hold off to see what develops? What about the delivery of the lumber, are they going to be delayed?

I do this every single day. I know there are a fair amount of my brethren in the construction game who do exactly the same thing.

Corporate partner Stu takes a more conventional approach. He’s planted in front of the television at 5 am, eliciting his information from the local news channel with the accompanying weather report. Stu has boundless faith in the weatherman, he apparently met him at some social function years ago and they inhaled several dozen libations and after quite a few hours they generally declared each other to be one of the most impressive individuals either of them had ever met. There’s a lot to be said about the bonhomie that can be acquired in a public urinal at midnight while singing “Luckenbach, Texas” in a bawdy and altogether off-key fashion.

It was the sort of night that led Stu to believe that Johnny the Weatherman was a true person of the people. That having come out from behind the bright lights and makeup and mingled with the regular folks and having shown his human side by the consumption of obscene amounts of adult beverages, he was the sort of fellow to be trusted and admired.

And Stu being Stu, he will stubbornly refute any attempt to sway this or any other opinion once his mind is made up. A very mule about some things, my partner is. This, of course, is where I come in.

At 5:59 am the other day, I pulled the truck up to Stu’s front door with angry looking gray clouds just beginning to be visible overhead. He jumped in with a flourish and eagerly began his recantation of the morning weather report. “Johnny the Weatherman says this is all going out to sea! Sunshine in a couple of hours! Bet on it!”

I wasn’t so sure. “Huh. I was on the internet for two hours tracking this thing. There’s helluva front coming in. I don’t know what Johnny the Weatherman was looking at but it sure looked like storm clouds to me.”

“Isolated rain, my man,” Stu grinned. “Merely scattered stuff. It’ll all blow over pretty quick.”

“Wait a second,” I said. “Didn’t Johnny the Weatherman call for scattered showers last week when it rained like a sumbitch for three days running? Is this the same Johnny the Weatherman who predicted partly sunny for Wednesday and partly cloudy for Thursday? I swear, I think your guru of the airwaves is a flake. And by the way, what the hell's the difference between isolated showers and scattered showers and occasional showers, anyway? Isn’t it all rain?”

Stu looked hurt momentarily. “I’m telling you, he said it’ll be gone in a couple of hours. Man ought to know what he’s talking about. I suppose you can predict the weather better than him? Hmmm? Come on, let’s get to the jobsite and have a nice sunny day. We’re gonna get a helluva lot done, my lad.”

I suppose it was his earnest trust that won me over, albeit reluctantly. I’m all for sunny workdays and even the slightest chance that one will actually happen is reason for hope. So we settled in for the ride with the sun rising to our right and the clouds milling restlessly to the left.

One of the features of our ride to and from the City project is the crossing of the Bay Bridge Tunnel which I’ve mentioned a few times herein. A 17 mile long trip that takes you out over the open water of the Bay. It can be very entrancing, very beautiful at sunrise. But it’s Stu’s best place to do an on the spot weather analysis since the open sky and lack of obstructions allow him to pontificate mightily about the obvious.

“Look, see how the clouds are blowing east now? And see that blue sky behind it? Johnny the Weatherman was right! It’s gonna be a nice day!”

“Uh huh. I sure hope so.”

And for a while, it looked like he was. We fell into the day with a blue sky and warming temperatures and the City was alive with dump trucks and saws and all the sounds of progress that we like to hear. Stu was jubilant, a blur of activity in the element of his craft, flinging lumber and nails and puffing luxuriously on his omnipresent stogie. We were on a roll.

Somewhere around noon, we stopped for our traditional sitting of asses in the truck. Stu fiddled with the radio and managed to find none other than Johnny the Weatherman himself on a midday report. And Johnny sounded positively enraptured. “Hello folks, looks like we’ve turned the corner on this recent spell of rainy weather, doesn’t it? Y’all can look for clear skies and warm temperatures today, so get out and enjoy it! Water on the Bay should remain calm for the duration . . .” and he went into a 15 second spiel that Stu listened to with mounting joy. “See? We’re in the clear now, sport!”

I happened to catch some movement out of the corner of my eye and saw one of the lads from the dump truck crew in frantic activity around a manhole cover. “Check this out, Stu. What’s that dude doing over there?”

By the time we ambled over to find out, the dump driver was halfway down the manhole and looking a little panicked. “You guys better find some cover quick! This might be the safest place around here right now!”

Stu looked at him with a raised brow, the look that suggested he was dealing with imminent insanity. “What on earth are you talking about, man?”

The driver squirmed a little further in the hole. “My wife! She called me! She saw it on the internet! There’s a tornado coming down the Bay and it’s gonna hit any second!”

Stu chuckled, a near silent shaking of shoulders. “The internet, eh? Why, I was just listening to Johnny the Weatherman on the radio, and he said . . .”

And in one of those unstaged moments that happen sometimes, a gust of wind blew through that felt like it came straight from the North Pole. I turned to look at the Bay and one heck of a black cloud came into view, the kind that you can literally see rain falling out of, even though you’re miles away.

“Uhhh, Stu?”

“. . . we were due for beautiful weather all week. Just the ticket if you ask me. Nice guy, that Johnny. Met him at a bar one night and let me tell you, did we ever knock the bottom out of that keg of Coors Lite . . .”

Being on a beach, there’s a significant quantity of sand spread around. One of the things that’s instantly noticeable about sand and high wind speed is the effect it has on human skin when the two form up together to make a worthy sandblasting machine. And the City was, all of a sudden, under a 40 knot wind that had blown up from nowhere.

“Stu? You might want to take a look over here?”

“. . . and then I told him the story about the Pharaoh and the traveling salesman and I thought he was gonna shoot beer out his nose. . . “

There’s times when you have to take matters into your own hands so I waved the crew over and without a lot of prompting we packed the tools up and made a hasty effort to secure the loose lumber piles and I waved them off to their trucks with an urgency that had yet to sink into my partner, who was still in the middle of his conversation with the dump driver in the hole.

“. . . yessir, when Johnny the Weatherman tells the tale you can take it to the bank, my friend. . . “

“Stu.”

“Eh?” He turned and slowly pulled the smoldering cigar from his lips.

“Stu, we’ve got to go. There’s a big one blowing up the Bay.”

“Aw, hell. That little thing?” He regarded the purplish cloud with disdain. “That’s just a passing cloud pal.”

“I’ll buy you a beer at the Watering Hole. But we need to go.”

If there’s an incentive that I’ve learned over the years, the Hole might be just the sort of thing that would get Stu moving in this situation, and he brightened at the suggestion and grinned. “The Hole? Well shoot, why not? Let’s go!”

The Hole being on the opposite side of the Bay Bridge, we still had the usual hours worth of driving in front of us. But I was trying my best to cut the time in half with a rather heavy application of foot to pedal as the truck flew down the road. Trouble is, the purple cloud was making better time than we were, and it was going in the same direction.

By the time we hit the edge of the Bridge, the sky was as dark as it had been at 5 am.

“Just a passing cloud, I tell you,” Stu murmured.

Ever hit one of those rain bursts that make you jam the wipers from zero to high in one motion? And wish you had one more speed on the wipers so that you could actually see something?

Stu was silent through the initial blast. He barely grunted when the truck in front of us kicked up a rooster tail of water 15 feet high. Or the suddenly empty highway as cars pulled over in droves and cowered in whatever shelter they could make for themselves. But somewhere between the guy who spun sideways in front of us and the hail which started pelting the truck, he started into a quiet mantra.

“That Johnny is a lieing sack of shit. I don’t know why he’s even allowed on the air anymore, the drunk bastard.”

It did, however, lead to a slew of colorful stories by the time we hit the Watering Hole.

Which of course, is what we live for anyway. Whether we want to or not.

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