January is a month with no heart

On a cold Tuesday morning, Jan. 21, the year of perfect vision, 2020, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café in Schoharie. The café must have been expecting the OMOTM because it was the area on that side of the street the OMOTM could see was shoveled. The first cup of coffee not only tasted good but the warm cup also felt good.

So, other than the cold, the first topic of conversation was the month of January itself. Not only is it generally the coldest month of the year physically, but the month has no heart. The highest, and with most of the OFs, the most urgent, bills come due. Taxes, insurances, sometimes fuel bills, and these bills are piled on top of the regular bills that come every month.

This prompted the OFs to talk about taxes and what we get for them. One OF thought we on the Hill get darn little. We have the dump, and the roads maintained and plowed, and a dog warden, and town clerk — that is what the OFs could see.

Then someone piped up that there is much more than that. For instance, we have the town parks, and planning boards, and zoning boards, and youth groups, the senior centers — lots of things. Then this OF thought it would be a good idea that, when our tax bill came, it would come with at least a simple  pie chart letting us know where our money is going.

Talk of tires

The OFs then (at least at one end of the table) discussed tires — especially winter tires. Some OFs thought these summer-winter combination tires were useless.

“If you mean mud and snow tires that are supposed to go year ’round,” one OF said, “I agree.”

These OFs think a regular snow tire is what works. Another OF believed that what really works is studded snows.

Then another OF thought we should have two sets of wheels, one with snows, and one with summer tires on them, and then change them back and forth as the seasons change. This would be no hassle.

“Yeah,” one OF said, “the problem with that is where to store them out of the sunlight. Not everybody has this capability.”

There is always a hitch-in-the-get-along to many suggestions. Not all people can be slotted into one slot.

One OF brought up the name of snow tires from a long time ago; they were called Knobbies, and most of the OFs who were on the farm at that time generally bought them at Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Wards.

Compared to ice or snow tires, they lacked studs but contained deeper and wider grooves meant to help the tread sink into mud or gravel surfaces. One OF commented that it was easy to tell a vehicle that had them on because of the noise the car made coming down the road.

Tech frustrations

The OFs can’t quite get their heads around “machines talking to machines” and things happen. Some of the OFs thought machine-to-machine talking was unreal but when the OFs used examples (though sounding unreal when talking them through) the process was quite simple and even logical.

One OF said it is not new technology as this has been going on for years. “It is just getting more commonplace,” the OF said.

Most of the OFs said they would rather talk to a person. One OF said, when he calls his doctor’s office, he gets a machine that gives him a “menu.” The OF said a menu to him is what he gets at a restaurant, not a bunch of numbers he is supposed to punch to talk to someone.

This OF contended that not one of the selections he is given is what he wants to talk about anyway, so when he chooses the one that is the closest to what he wants to say, it generally is wrong. The OF says he gets so frustrated he wants to throw the phone out the window.

Many of the OFs could sympathize with him. He added to his little frustration release (this, incidentally, is something joining the OMOTM is good for — getting rid of some pent-up tensions) by adding, “Maybe I might give in and say machine talking to machine is a good thing. At least they can understand each other because I sure as heck can’t.”

Another OF told of scrutinizing the phone calls he makes to so many places that have menus with numbers that are supposed to take you to the person you want to talk to.

This OF says he pushes the number and he usually gets another message such as:  “I am away from my desk right now; please leave a message with your name, phone number, date of birth, you mother’s maiden name, the name of your dog and what breed it is, the purpose of your call, and the current population of China, and I will call you as soon as I return to my desk.”

The OF said that person must have a bladder problem because that bathroom call went on for two hours. “Technology,” the OF said, “You can keep it!”

Timely advice

One OMOTM (who is in a particular service business) said now is the time to bring your lawn mower and rototiller in for service to get them ready for summer, and vice-versa for your snow blowers, and plows in the summer; likewise have your furnace checked out in the summer.

He admonished, “Don’t drive me crazy with a snowstorm howling out the front door and you stand here with your snow blower and tears in your eyes.”

Good advice from the Old Men of the Mountain who were at the Country Café in Schoharie, and they were: Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Rich LaGrange, Robie Osterman, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Otis Lawyer, Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jami Dairah, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Jake Herzog, Mike Willsey, Joel Willsey, and me.