Thursday, October 29, 2009

Health Food

Insurance adjusters typically have a love hate relationship with being out of the office, and I've been out of the office quite a bit lately. In fact, between time off, computer failures and attending mediations, I've only been IN the office about 5 days for the entire Month of October. That's serious when it typically takes about 2 days to recover from every day you spend out of the office in this business. In just the past 10 business days, I've gone to mediations 6 times. Some of which were a complete surprise to me as my inbox overfloweth. Yes, I'm completely screwed.

Among mediators, as with other professions and industries, some are better than others. One thing that almost all mediators try to do is to create a comfortable environment and provide snacks and drinks to their captives...I mean clients. Mediators actually have no power to force people to do anything, but they've learned that adjusters with low blood sugar get cranky and put a serious dent in their settlement percentages.

At Tuesday's mediation, my attorney and I had just had an awesome lunch at Chuy's Tex Mex. We waddled into the mediator's office for our afternoon mediation and were greeted by the above pictured 2 foot square bowl of chocolate and sundry snacks. Now, I have been accused of having a sweet tooth, and I have a well documented love affair with chocolate. However, at that particular moment with Chuy's Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken still making a valiant effort to convince my brain that my stomach was full, I could not bear the thought of another morsel of food. Not even for chocolate. Had it been a plate full of fresh baked cookies, that'd be a different story. But, you have to draw the line somewhere.

Then my attorney said, "Hey, look. It's a salad for fat people."

After I finished laughing, my brain started arguing with my stomach.

Stomach - Salads are healthy, right?

Brain - It's chocolate, stupid.

Stomach - But, it's a salad.

Brain - No, it's not.

Stomach - I'm hungry. Can I have some salad?

Brain - No, you're not; and, no, you can't. We just ate.

Stomach - How about just a little bite?

Brain - No

Stomach - Yes

Brain - No

Stomach - No

(Mmmm [smack, lick], this is good)

Brain - Yes....hey, wait a minute.

It was some good salad.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How I Met The Queen

Some might ask why I call my bride The Queen. That’s a simple question with a deceptively simple yet subtly complicated answer.

First, the simple part of the answer. I tell young people who are thinking about getting married that, instead of worrying so much about the wedding and being prince/princess for a day, they should be more concerned with whether or not their chosen spouse will treat them like a king/queen for a lifetime.

Now, for the complicated part of the answer. My parents divorced when I was 10 years old. To be perfectly blunt, it was not a pleasant experience for a young child and didn’t get any easier as I grew older. As a result, I have very definite VIEWS about marriage. I think a major cause of the alarmingly high divorce rate in this country are people getting married for the wrong reasons: shotgun weddings, young people with no clue who are in “love”, people who really have nothing in common with the person they’re with, the whole prince/princess for a day thing, etc. Based on my experiences growing up, I told the Queen in no uncertain terms that divorce would never be an option for us. In fact, I told her not to promise “until death do we part” unless she had picked out the spot in the back yard where she was going to bury me as I would never go through nor put another human being through what I experienced as a child.

In light of that background, you might be curious as to how someone with such definite VIEWS on marriage came to find the perfect woman in the first place.

To say that I was not always the best at selecting dating partners prior to meeting the Queen is probably an understatement of such colossal proportions that metaphors or similes to adequately describe my lack of skills in that area simply fail me. I still cringe at the thought of a certain memory from high school involving me bringing a girl home to meet mom for the first time.

The Scene: Typical 1970s era galley kitchen. One painfully thin yet very tall 17 year old young man with longish hair (okay, okay…it was a mullet…don’t laugh, you know you liked them) quietly stirring the spaghetti sauce at the stove. Mom leaning against the counter, arms crossed, eyeing the young thing with intentions towards her son. One tallish, 17 year old female of the species wearing tight jeans, boots and big hair (yeah, you know you liked the big hair, too), sitting on the counter next to the sink looking mostly innocent.

Mom to girl: So, tell me a little about yourself.

Girl to mom: Well, I’m a recovering drug addict, and I go to Alcoholics Anonymous.

(5 seconds of stunned silence interrupted only by the “blop” sound of a large sauce bubble popping while my brain locks up after trying desperately to become invisible)

Mom to no one in particular: Oh, that’s nice. I think I’ll go set the table.

I still, to this day, have no clue as to why this particular girl decided to withhold such vital information from me until the all important parental introduction; however, I can only assume it was a perverse test of some kind. Now, I know some people might be thinking that I had some prior knowledge of this little tidbit of information or that the girl was making it up to get a reaction, but you would be wrong on both counts. I went to a suburban high school of approximately 3500 to 4000 students. It’s not like everyone knew each other from birth. I had only known her a short time when this event took place, and at no time during our brief acquaintance prior to that moment did the subject of her adventures in recreational pharmaceutical use or self medication come up. Perhaps she just assumed that I knew these things since her best friend’s locker was next to mine. Perhaps the mullet gave her the false presumption of shared habits. I will never know. To Mom’s credit, all she said to me after dinner was “be careful.” Oh, yeah. You think?

So, the story of how I met the Queen should come as no surprise to anyone. The fact that she turned out to be a genuinely decent person who later, for reasons that still escape me, agreed to marry me is nothing short of a miracle.

It was a gloriously sunny but not unbearably hot day in early June 1997. I decided it was a perfect day to go rollerblading at the park. Some friends of mine had just recently introduced me to rollerblading as a form of exercise, and I was probably out there trying to get some exercise and improve my rollerblading skills. That, or I was “sightseeing”. I mean I was a hot blooded, American male with a pulse after all.

As I’m rolling along, I happen to overtake a breathtaking red head rollerblading with, shall we say, a woman with more life experience. Courtesy demands that a person overtaking and passing another give them a warning. I said, “Passing on the left.” The red head immediately responded with, “Well, passing on the right.” Passees don’t normally respond to passers. At least, not in my experience. So, naturally, the future Queen made an immediate impression beyond her obvious physical attributes.

Well, I continued on my merry, solo way until I ran into a friend at the parking area. He and I chatted about nothing in particular for a bit until, lo and behold, the red head and her partner turned up as well. I’ll be honest; I was rude to my friend as my attention was immediately drawn to the conversation between the red head and her partner as they were parked within earshot of where we were standing.

By shamelessly eavesdropping, I determined the following:

1) The woman of experience with the red head was, in fact, the red head’s mother.
2) The red head was teaching her mother how to rollerblade.
3) The red head’s mother was tired and had decided to go home.
4) The red head was going to stay at the park and continue rollerblading.

Now, some might say I’m a bit shy. Others might say that there are wallpaper patterns more outgoing than I am. Perhaps. I prefer to think of myself as reserved and selective. I mean, really, how do you maintain the aura of the tall, dark, mysterious stranger if everyone knows you? At any rate, I heard myself asking the red head if she wanted some company. Who said that? No, it couldn’t have been me. Well, yes. Yes, actually, it was me. Maybe it was the fact that we had actually already exchanged a few words. Maybe it was God pulling the strings for a lark.

Regardless, I heard the red head utter the now infamous words, “If you can keep up.” Then she was off like a shot. I can’t recall for sure whether or not I said goodbye to my friend, but I think he got the picture. It took me about 50 yards to catch her again, but I did. I may be quiet and reserved, but I have a competitive streak a mile long. There’s also the fact that I’m about a foot taller than the Queen, and my stride gives me an edge on the rollerblades. She didn’t have a chance.

We spent the next couple of hours rolling around the park. We chatted and joked and had a great time. Or, at least, so I thought. At this point in the story, she usually claims that I asked for her phone number. While there is a distinct possibility that this occurred, I have no firm memory of doing so. So, of course, I deny it. I do recall giving her my business card with my numbers. Which she didn’t bother to use. And here I thought I had made an impression.

What’s a smitten man of means and intelligence to do? Turn stalker, of course. I started hanging out at the park a little more frequently hoping to catch sight of her again. I did manage to catch up with her briefly one more time in June when she was at the park with her best friend. That event was memorable as she slipped at the water fountain and imprinted the back of her white t-shirt with a muddy full moon. Kodak moment missed except in my mind’s eye. I wish I could print that memory.

Still no calls, though. Time for drastic measures. Even though she had never revealed her last name to me, the future queen had made the mistake of letting it slip where she worked. She claims she didn’t know she had told me where she worked. I think it was her way of testing me to see how persistent I would be. I finally worked up the nerve and looked up the phone number to her place of employment in the phone book. I called and asked for the future Queen by her first name and was greeted with the response “Which one” in reply. I asked for the red headed one and was transferred by the receptionist. Apparently, there were two red heads at this company with the same first name as the lady I was connected with had no idea who I was and said something like, “Oh, you must be looking for the other one.”

At this point in the story, I would like to report that I was greeted with an “Oh, hi, it’s nice to hear from you. I was just thinking about you.” Didn’t happen. Unfortunately, the truth is that the future Queen answered the phone in a surprised and incredulous tone with a “How did you find me?” Score one for the stalkers. To her eternal credit, the future Queen regained her civility and composure quickly and informed me that it was her last day at that particular place of employment. Score two for the stalkers. When I asked the Queen to be if she would be interested in going out on a date, she actually accepted my offer since I had shown such persistence and resourcefulness. Score three points and the hat trick for the stalkers.

Not one to let an opportunity to make a better impression go wasted; I made reservations at an awesome restaurant. Reata in downtown Fort Worth. At the time, this restaurant was situated on the top floor of the Bank One building 30 something stories above the streets of downtown (on a side note, they had to move after a tornado struck downtown a couple of years later and caused major structural damage to the building). The view was spectacular at least as far as billiard table topography allows, and the food is phenomenal. It didn't hurt that a business associate had given me a gift certificate which helped cover the check. Don't roll your eyes at me. At least it wasn't a BOGO coupon at Whataburger.

Apparently, I made a good enough impression to warrant further dating. The Queen to be and I dated for 6 and a half years before I proposed to her after dinner in the rooftop dome at Reata’s new location a few streets over from the old location. From the moment she said “Yes”, we planned and held the wedding in under 4 weeks. Mainly because we didn’t spend a lot of time sweating details and delegated a lot of things. We knew each other, and we knew that the wedding was going to be just one day in a lifetime together. We wanted to have fun and did things very spur of the moment. Wedding cake? How about a baker’s dozen of hand decorated cup cakes? The wedding recessional? How about the fanfare from the throne room scene where Hans and Luke get their medals at the end of the original Star Wars movie? I can tell you it was a hoot to walk back down the aisle hearing people laughing and saying, “Hey, that’s from Star Wars isn’t it?”

Yes, yes it was.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The News is all Happy and Gay

Even though it’s usually depressing, I try to keep abreast of the news so that I have at least a vague idea of what’s going on in the world around me. I still remember going to a retreat up in the mountains of Washington state which was so far removed from any contact with civilization that there was no phones, no radio, no TV and no internet access. You’d only see a newspaper if someone brought one with them when they arrived. However, after spending a week on the side of that mountain with no contact with the outside world or modern conveniences like cars, I was stunned to find out how alien everything in our modern society felt. It was absolutely wonderful, and I’ve been meaning to go back there for years.

On the other side of the coin, I was also stunned to learn that people wondered what planet I had come from when I said I had no idea Princess Diana had died in a car wreck while I was busy communing with nature. Why couldn’t I have been there when Michael Jackson died instead?

Now, the other day, I read a news article that President Obama has nominated a policewoman from Minnesota to be the first openly gay U.S. Marshal. My first reaction was: Why is this news? Did she cheat on her taxes, too? Apparently not. The brief news story makes mention of the president’s rocky relationship with the gay community and specifically his pledge to end the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the US military despite his lack of concrete efforts to do so. It reminds me of an Bloom County cartoon from the 1980s in which Milo is calling NASA about shuttle launches back when NASA was making a big push to get the first [fill in the minority/ethnic/special interest group here] into space. Milo asks if NASA had launched a blind, Indian contortionist or some such and the NASA spokesman said “Yep, he went up this morning.”

I’ve never thought of myself as homophobic. I just plain don’t understand why a man or a woman would look at another person of the same sex with lust in their heart to borrow a phrase from Jimmy Carter (and to think that man won the Nobel Peace Prize), and let’s not talk about lopitoffamy or addalittletomy surgical “interventions”. That just makes my skin crawl to think of looking at an original, standard equipment item attached to your own body that’s functioning properly and not cancerous and decide you can’t stand the thought of living with it another day so badly that you pay good money to have it removed. Uh, uh. No thank you, sir. Step away from me with those sharp objects.

So, this news story, to me at least, is a thinly veiled article about progress the administration is making towards ending discrimination against homosexuals. Despite the fact that I am a committed, life-long heterosexual, I have always wondered what sexual orientation has to do with what a person does for a living. As far as I’m concerned, the only criteria beyond education and prior work experience is whether or not a person is physically capable of performing the duties and responsibilities of a particular occupation. For instance, I’d love to be able to earn a living as an airshow pilot; however, I am not sure that I’m physically capable of keeping myself from puking through a 10 minute aerobatics routine. Does that mean I’m being discriminated against?

Then, today, I see another news article about the administration’s efforts on behalf of the gay community ( This article makes no bones about the fact that the administration is working to end workplace discrimination against the gay community. Okay, fine. More power to you; but, really, how far do we need to go with this?

I mean, seriously, do we need to be adding more groups to the list of protected classes? I think we have more than enough of those already. I think the fact that we even have to have a list of protected groups is a sad commentary on us as human beings. Think about it for a minute. Companies are in business to make money. Non-profit groups exist to effectively achieve a certain goal or provide a certain service while wasting the least amount of resources necessary. They should WANT the best, most productive person for the job regardless of what the look like, which god they worship or who they pick up in bars; and, yet, here we are still dealing with discrimination in the 21ST freaking century since Jesus came down from on high to show us the way.

Does that mean we have to force people under penalty of law to do what’s in their best interests? Have any of the government’s affirmative action efforts to coerce people into being “diverse” changed anyone’s attitude about anything? I doubt it. I still hear racist jokes and religious jokes, hear stories of sexual harassment and glass ceilings, and more. We’re still seeing a culture of thin skinned victimization reported in the media, and you can’t disagree with President Obama without people looking throw your dresser drawers for a Klan robe. The only thing I’ve seen discrimination laws do is keep lawyers busy like they needed any help with that.

I tend towards a healthy dose of common sense in my opinions. I think an employer should be entitled to seek out workers who fit within the culture and demographic of their business to more effectively work within an industry or market. Does it make sense to force a fundamentalist Christian organization to hire an openly gay or transgender person as a lead spokesperson? Probably not. Does it make sense to hire a person who barely has a command of the English language and speaks with a heavy accent that no native born Texan can understand to sit in a customer service or help desk call center? No, it doesn’t AT&T. Neither of those scenarios make sense.

My feeling is this: If a business person is too stupid or small minded to over look their own prejudices so that they can hire the best person for the job and pay that person according to the value they bring to the company, that company deserves to lose money. Their competitors won’t always make the same mistake. Unfortunately, a distressing number of them do.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Until We Meet Again, My Friend

***Warning. The following post may be a bit of a downer compared to my usual cynically humorous outlook. If you're already depressed, go read old Calvin & Hobbes cartoons or something.***

My week got off to a very inauspicious start. I was on "vacation" last week taking care of the Queen while the inlaws went to the annual church festival without us, and I took Monday of this week "off" even though I was secretly trying to work in an effort to get caught up on the 168 emails, 91 edocs and 27 voicemail that had accumulated in my absence. I say trying to work because my DSL connection has been plotting a suicide attempt for several weeks now. Due to the DSL trying to convince me to shot it by crashing every few minutes, I was unable to get any real work done. Tuesday and Wednesday were not much better.

One of the few emails that I was able to read on Monday was from a friend and former co-worker, Barbi, informing me that another friend and former co-worker of mine, Mike, had been in a serious car accident on Friday. The email said he was in the hospital critical care unit. Mike was not quite 2 months older than me. So, I bad could it be? Right?

Then my Facebook account exploded. Not literally, of course, but relatively speaking. My Facebook activity has stabilized to the point where new requests, notes, messages, etc. are the exception rather than the norm. Barbi sent me a friend request on FB as well, and I got another friend request from another former co-worker. 2 friend requests in one day from the same day. Red flag. Then the urgent messages started showing up. Things aren't looking good.

How bad can it be? When I finally spoke to Barbi, I found out. Try "Mike hit an eighteen wheeler suffering severe head injuries and now on a ventilator" bad.

I spent the next few hours debating on whether or not I should go to the hospital to visit. Not necessarily for Mike, since he was out of it in a coma, but mostly to be there for friends and his family. And so that, later, I wouldn't hate myself for not going.

Despite my cynicism, I tend towards being more emotional than the average male of our species. So, it wasn't an easy decision. I cried. I prayed. I cried some more. In the end, I decided to go.

I got to the hospital shortly after the late visiting hours started. Barbi was there with her husband. Mike's wife Erica was there (on a side note, Erica was the one who printed the invitations for the Queen's and my wedding), and I had just missed seeing Mike's daughter.

Even though we weren't family, we were allowed to go back into CCU and see Mike. From what I understand, the hospital bent the rules at Erica's request given the situation. I was able to see Mike and spend some time with him. He was recognizable in a distorted kind of way due to the swelling from his injuries.

Mike was always a very fashionable guy, and he would have been mortified to receive visitors in a hospital gown not to mention all the tubes and wires. Then there was the fact that they had to shave part of his head. Fortunately, he didn't suffer any really grotesque injuries like some of the things you see with severe burn victims or amputees. He was whole, but he just looked like he had been in a bad fight.

By this time, Erica had already made the decision with the doctors to have the ventilator removed the next day and "let nature take its course". Apparently, Mike was not showing any brain activity and was not expected to improve. But, for reasons I didn't think about at the time, I stopped short of saying goodbye. The last thing I said to Mike was that he was a good friend and always would be.

I spent some time with Erica after I visited with Mike. She's holding up remarkably well under the circumstances even though she describes her current emotional state as "Craptacular" to any who ask. She talked about how difficult it was to get a hold of anyone at Mike's work. In this day of direct dial extensions, she only had Mike's direct number which wasn't much help. Mike's cell phone was not among his personal possessions when he was brought to the hospital. It surfaced a day or two later. Fortunately, people from his work got in touch with her and started the ball rolling on the workers compensation claim, insurance, etc. The president of Mike's company even flew in from Connecticut to visit.

It still chokes me up to think about Mike and what happened to him and his family. I sit here writing this with tears trying to fill my eyes. I still won't be saying goodbye to Mike here even though he died on Wednesday shortly after the ventilator was removed. Mike was not much on religion. But it doesn't matter. God believes in us whether we believe in him or not. I believe, and I know I will see him again.

Mike, I will remember your smug, knowing laugh. I will remember your sense of humor and your love of Hondas and Acuras. I will remember that you were a fan of The Cure. I will remember that the most prominent thing in your office was a picture of you holding your daughter on the day she was born. I will remember you until we meet again. Rest in peace and worry no more.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The View From My Office Chair

The Queen and I are animal lovers. We often tell people that we have 2 cats and 2 1/2 dogs which frequently puzzles them. I work from home, and I took a moment to look away from the computer. This is the view that greated my eyes. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is a photo of the 1/2 dog. The reason we say we have 2 1/2 dogs is that custody/ownership of this mutt, sprawled in all his glorious wonder, is more or less shared between the Queen and I and her parents.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Queen's New Drawers

The Great and Glorious Queen of the Erickson household has one personality trait that makes me, as her husband and loyal subject, the envy of every married man alive. She hates to shop for clothes. She hates it at least as much as I do, and I only go clothes shopping when I start looking like something which no self respecting homeless person would want to associate with. Working from home has only seen my wardrobe stagnate even more than usual since I only have to look presentable once a week or so. I’m just not ready to show up for church in my bathrobe and slippers.

So, anyway, a little over a week ago, The Queen informs me that she is in desperate need of new underwear. Under normal circumstances, this would not be a news item to which I would be privy. Unfortunately, The Queen and I have not been living under normal circumstances for about three and a half years now.

Three and a half years ago, The Queen began having health issues. We’re not talking about a touch of the flu or a garden variety case of pollen allergies. We’re not even talking about something scary yet identifiable like cancer. No, The Queen has to be unique and enigmatic. She has to come down with a chronic mystery illness that’s left my formerly energetic, athletic and independent Queen in a very dependent, constantly fatigued and decidedly unsporting state.

After three and a half years and thousands of dollars worth of medical treatment later, you’d think that The Queen’s condition would be a little less mysterious. While the exact nature of her condition remains somewhat illusive, we have learned quite a bit about what her condition is NOT. It’s not HIV. It’s not cancer. It’s most definitely not all in her head. Seriously. Why can’t doctors just admit they’re stumped when they don’t have a clue instead of more or less accusing their patients of making everything up? Some doctors need a little more practice than others, I guess.

And, now, back to our impending adventure in lingerie shopping.

Due to her distressing lack of energy and stamina, The Queen has must confine herself to a wheelchair when making public appearances. I’m sure you see where this is going. Me pushing The Queen into Victoria’s Secret.

Please, no. Not that. Anything but that.

First, let me say that sending a guy to go shopping for women’s underwear is a little like sending a bull on a tour of a slaughter house. The bull is pretty sure he shouldn’t be in there in the first place, and it’s an even money bet that he’ll be too scared to ask any questions.

This is due to the fact that men keep underwear simple. Men’s underwear comes in two basic styles and a variety of colors. The entire men’s underwear industry can be displayed in the same amount of area occupied by a walk in closet in a modest sized house. Most men can shop for underwear in less than 5 seconds. Men generally have their style choice made by the age of five and, for the most part, see no need to fix something that’s not broken. With some exceptions, men don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the color of their underwear. That leaves locating the correct size as the most time consuming task in the shopping experience. Size is based on your waist measurement. If you know the size of the pants you’re wearing, all you have to do is make sure the numbers match. Done.

Not so with The Queen’s underwear. So many dangers to marital bliss. So little time.

Let’s start with styles? The Queen shops for her dainties at Victoria’s Secret which has more styles than there are people on the planet. They have everything from “granny panties” to “What do you think I am? Some kind of cheap slut?” to “Why, yes, I am; but, no, you can’t afford me.” And don’t get me started on the displays. This is supposed to be a family blog.

Then there is size. Ladies, never ever ask a guy what size underwear you should buy. You might as well ask us to do jumping jacks in a mine field. You might be saying “Should I get this size or that size?” and really want to know which one will look better on you. All we men hear is “Honey, how big is my butt?” There are no correct answers to that question. So, don’t ask. Our brains will lock up. You can spot us in the store easily. We’re the ones frozen in position with a nervous tick. Besides, it annoys the sales staff.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Adventures in Car Repair

I’ve always had a powerful desire to work with my hands even though I’ve never been properly trained in any particular trade. I love to tinker with things, build things, make things, take things apart…occasionally put them back together properly.

My mother loves to tell a story about when I was 3 years old. I had one of those little red fire engine pedal cars; and, apparently, I was under the impression that it needed to be “repaired”. Frequently. My “repairs” allegedly took the form of the wheels and steering wheel being removed and put back on. This is the point in the story where Mom starts laughing uncontrollably as she tries to tell people of how I would be pedaling madly down the sidewalk only to have all fours wheels fall off simultaneously leaving me holding a steering wheel no longer connected to anything but my very inept hands.

Since then, I have worked on every car I’ve ever owned to one degree or another. Some of my efforts have been more extensive than others. Some of my efforts have been more successful than others.

For the last several days, the latest victim of my mechanical talents has been our 2002 Ford Windstar. The AC compressor on the Windstar chose August in Texas to take an eternal dirt nap. I’ve never attempted an AC repair before; but, after the shop said they wanted $1300 in parts and labor to fix, I figured I should give it a whirl.

After tinkering with cars for most of my life, I’ve noticed a couple of things that others might find amusing.

First, automotive engineers are a sadistic lot. There’s an old joke about the difference between a masochist and a sadist: The masochist says “Hurt me. Hurt me.” While the sadist says “No.” I’m convinced that car company engineers spend millions of dollars and hundreds of man hours thinking up devious and perverse ways to thwart countless masochistic shade tree mechanics such as myself. It’s their way of saying “No”.

Second, I am convinced that the folks who write car repair manuals have never, in fact, seen a car much less attempted to repair one.

For instance, the manual on the Windstar says that you should be able to remove the AC compressor from the engine compartment after removing the four mounting bolts. That might be possible in a pig’s left nostril. Maybe. Not, however, on a Windstar.

The bright eyed sadists at Ford buried the AC compressor on the front left side of the engine. Hiding out below the compressor is a frame rail, a radiator hose and part of the exhaust manifold leaving absolutely not nearly enough room to remove the large, heavy rectangular peg from the much smaller triangular hole. The top side is not much better. To the left is a huge chunk of engine compartment wall. To the right is more radiator plumbing and the battery. Above the compressor, Ford found a great place for the alternator and its mounting bracket creating another peg/hole combination from Hell.

Now, I’m enough of an arm chair engineer to grudgingly admit that you have to make compromises which sometimes sacrifice ease of repair. That, however, does not relieve repair manual writers from their obligation to accurately report the steps necessary to successfully undertake a particular procedure. Is it too much ask the manual companies to have some junior grade tech writer actually present when the repair is done? I mean, you might actually pick up little time saving hints like you need to remove the alternator and its mounting bracket to get the compressor out of its little hiding spot.

I spent the better part of several hours alone in the workshop trying to noodle that one out. The rats living in the shop’s insulation were no help. Ungrateful freeloading squatters. I give them free room and all the junk they could ever hope to hide in. The least they could do is give a guy a constructive suggestion once in a while.

All’s well that end’s well, though. I succeeded in getting the old compressor out and the new one in without having parts left over. It even started on the first try with no sparks, smoke or flames. A system flush and some R-134a later, the Windstar has cold AC again.

I can hear the Ford engineers back at their CAD programs cursing under their breath. Go on you turkeys. Take your best shot. Hurt me if you can.