People Who Choose to Serve in the Midst of Calamity

Last night I realized I was running low on gas so I stopped at a Caltex station few kilometers from home. The attendants were standing outside happily waving and directing me to a pump. When I rolled down my window I noticed that these guys are wearing masks, their uniforms obviously dusty, and the gas pumps covered with ash but still everything seemed routine, they never hesitated to serve. No complaints whatsoever. The crew who filled my tank even asked how I was doing.

This is customer service. This is business continuity. These guys could’ve just decided not to report to work anymore due to obvious reasons–there is ashfall all over and they’d be standing outside their entire shift. Yes, outside, exposed. Yet they reported and continued to work.

Hope this story would put an end to unfair biases I read recently. We should not imply that because other companies continue to remain operating despite the circumstances the bosses are heartless. That because another business allowed their staff not to work, they are already the best employers. That is just not how it works. So please, spare me the drama.

***

(Original FB post)

Didn’t expect that the original post (my personal Facebook page) will pick up and get shared. As of this writing it has reached 60 plus shares and 160 plus reactions. This beats my dance video. Hahaha.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks!!! (Almost 20 hours after I got home from an eventful return trip.)

Flying Indoors in Kansas

Kansas finally! “Try the barbecue” so far was the most common answer if you ask people around if what’s best here. Some say watch NFL but I’m not into it. I haven’t heard anyone saying something else. Maybe I was asking the wrong folks. Maybe.

Good thing there’s this sign that screams “come here!” The iFly’s Indoor Skydiving building cannot be missed as its huge letters can be seen across the freeway.

iFly’s building at night.

I’m here for a week on a busy itinerary but it helped that our boot camp activities are pretty much lined up. Thanks as well that Americans are sticklers for following schedule, most times, so on the second day I felt I could squeeze in an activity besides hitting the gym.

On Tuesday night, in my heated Aloft room, I booked the cheapest iFly package for only $49. I was going alone and nobody to capture everything for me so I also availed the video option for an extra $7+.

Wednesday afternoon, coming straight out of a bus from a visit to another call center about 30 minutes from the Sprint Campus, I hopped in directly to a Lyft ride which I timed right as I booked it while on the bus. Impressive Wi-Fi connectivity in this place. I made it on time for my 5:30 PM flight check-in.

Entrance to iFly.

As expected, there was pre-flight briefing and orientation. I was with a group of about eight flyers. I think I was the only one who has jumped out of an actual plane so our instructor had me first in line. Surprisingly, indoor skydiving was easy to pick up, at least the basic flat position, even on the first try as long as one follows the hand signals–the wind tunnel is a bit loud so we had an option to pop in ear plugs. (First video shows advanced flyers practicing routines)

Each indoor skydive lasts only 60 seconds which they say is the average free fall time if jumping out of an airplane. There are only three hand signals: chin up, straight legs, and relax. I was able to follow all so I stabilized myself and was flying unaided approx half of the time I was inside the wind tunnel.

Sixty seconds was so worth it so I availed the high flight option for an additional $16+. This add-on got me flying high with our instructor who flew right beside me as I fly up and down (see the video below) on the last 30 seconds of the second flight.

Two of flyers weren’t able to finish their flights so our instructor asked if someone wants to get back in for free. Surprisingly, I got everyone’s vote so there I was inside the tunnel for my third flight. Lucky me, I owe these guys.

Don’t get me wrong, I eventually discovered on our first day that Kansas does serve the best barbecues I’ve tried so far. But if you get to be here always ask where iFly is. You won’t regret you signed up. Blue skies.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Last day of the boot camp.)

Dancing To 2020

Last year was crazy so there’s no way to end it but in an equally crazy fashion. Blame it on wifey’s top secret, not to mention pricey, gift to Marcus in the form of a Nintendo switch. His first game was Pokemon but his next choice was surprising. A dancing game.

Another Santa, another baldy guy, made this request happen. Before we know it, Marcus now has in his possession a complete Just Dance 2020 game. And he has evil plans–me dancing with the game.

So hours before New Year struck we got sweaty at home. Sans alcohol, I was dancing to Marcus’ music choices. Been dancing to this game days prior so I felt I was getting the groove, captured one on video, and dared to post it on Facebook. It was ugly but so far it got hits and comments I didn’t expect. Maybe I will try singing next time.

My dance getting unexpected reactions.

***

Well I’m also a recipient of wifey’s good year. Composed this post using a nice Redmi 8 Pro. Yup, 2019 was indeed crazy.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Will be boarding for my trip to Kansas in few minutes. Will miss home.)

My 47th Christmas

Is there a way to push Christmas back? This has been a question most, if not all, wish would have an affirmative reply. It’s a repetitive thought that even the modern day science still doesn’t have any answer until now. Boo Back To The Future fantasies.

Is it Christmas already?

Eleven months ago we all wished it would be December again but here we are all of a sudden almost caught off guard. It the midst of our hectic schedules Christmas was creeping in. Kids like it, we adults not so much.

Personally, this year was busiest I’ve ever had. It was as if everything was overwhelming. This year was the complete opposite of last year. For several months of the first half of the year I stayed longer hours at work. I was in and out of the house like a sleepy cuckoo clock. Thankfully, this last quarters I somehow picked up the rhythm. Then the unexpected changes our client made at work plus the new schedule were blessings in disguise. My team and I are no longer night owls.

In perspective, this is my 47th Christmas and it seems I still don’t know how to handle it as an adult, as a parent. I wish I’m back to being a young kid clueless who really Santa is. Well who doesn’t? I don’t know if I’m doing Christmas right, if I’m playing Santa well. My wife has her answer to that I’m sure.

I don’t want to sound cliche but I just wish that this Christmas will be more meaningful. That behind all the Lazada and balikbayan boxes would be the real spirit of giving and sharing. I still have several days to discover if I’m capable of pure yuletide spirit.

Merry Christmas everyone. Just me stopping by to catch up on my blogging duty.

***

Grinch grins. I got a Dremel from wifey and Marcus.

The Lazada delivery has been more frequent lately and I feel like our house is now its warehouse.

In an effort to save on Christmas packaging, wifey asked me to keep the Lazada boxes so she can use it to repack her gifts.

“If I don’t get any hint that none of those boxes are for me then these empty boxes go to the trash tomorrow,” I said in a jest. She took it seriously though and true enough, few minutes later I received a gift wrapped hurriedly in plain white paper. Thus the Dremel. Thank you female Santa.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Hard to be minimalist this Christmas.)

Short Solo Trip

We had an unusual vacation set up last December. For the first time we didn’t stay at home and we’d just drop by our parents’ home coming from our Airbnb. Every now and then I’d also pass by during my morning runs but I find it wasn’t enough to spend time to chitchat especially with my father who now has difficulty hearing.

Since then I planned to be back before another December and this just happened, thanks to my ever supportive wifey who took time to look for a cheaper Philippine Airlines flight for me. Relatively cheaper than the normal fare or P4,499 to be exact. All of a sudden I miss Cebu Pacific’s piso fare deal.

It was my first solo trip after a long while. It had been either me and Marcus or wifey with us. I never flew alone until now. It felt like freedom but on the other hand it felt selfish.

Just the three of us.

But I accomplished my mission. I went to Bacolod with only a few people knowing it. My parents were not made aware. I didn’t want my mother to get busy preparing the house. None of my Bacolod friends knew about it either. I just want to be home and spend time with my father. To talk to him over loud television and of course with his favorite cheap rhum–Tanduay 5 Years.

Now I’m back at the airport waiting for my flight to Manila. In a few hours I’ll see Marcus and likely start shooting enemies in Call of Duty as if this short solo trip was just a dream.

I manage to shake off some calories next day of my arrival.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks (Lazy day at the departure area.)

Xbox for a Cause

Marcus still surprises us every now and then. Wifey and I were talking about how my work was while on our way to the mall last weekend when Marcus heard the part that I ended the workweek creating a Christmas box with my direct reports.

Curious what the box is for, Marcus asked, “What’s going inside the box?” I told him that my manager plans to sponsor a foundation for kids with cancer this coming December. Then he probed once more, “What’s cancer? Is it infectious?” I struggled to find a simple definition but I got past it. Marcus seems to have digested my explanation. “Daddy, you can donate the Xbox,” he soon replied.

I wasn’t expecting such response. He was referring to the Xbox 360 that we just pulled out and put up for sale online days ago. He was planning to save funds for something–I know he is aiming for a Nintendo Switch console so I was taken aback by what he just said.

The Xbox 360 meant a lot to us. We spent countless hours playing games together. We’ve built Minecraft worlds, we’ve slain aliens in Halo, we’ve teamed up as soldiers in Call of Duty, we’ve rocked the house with Guitar Hero and so many more. For Marcus to just let go of it after hearing about kids with cancer struck me and wifey big time.

We tagged the basic Xbox kit at Php6000 ($120) on Carousell or formerly known as OLX. At this price we’d just be saving Php15K more to get the Nintendo gaming console. So I made a compromise with Marcus. When the Xbox gets sold, half goes to him and the other goes to the foundation. He accepted the deal. It’d be win-win.

Facebook post.

On Wednesday I realized I could also sell the item on Facebook. I was right as the result was overwhelming. The post which I made public was shared by a couple of my friends and the comments were encouraging. I felt it became viral even if my past sarcastic posts got more reactions.

Buyer will be busy in the next few days.

The Xbox 360 was sold barely 24 hours after the Facebook posts. The lucky buyer who is an acquaintance at work got our entire 360 stuff–at least most of it as I kept some games as keepsakes. Marcus is now 3,000 pesos richer and I hope the other 3K goes a long way for the kids with cancer. Next on queue, Marcus’ red wheelchair.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Back on minimalism track. Somehow.)

Weight a minute

Day 30. Or 35. Whatever. Anyhow, it’s been a long while since I ran past the 10K mark not until yesterday. Thanks but no thanks to our screaming bathroom scale. What I find funny is I bought my AfterShokz for the very reason I wanted something to pump me up in my attempt to do another 21K and farther. It hasn’t happened since then until plus seven pounds later. Procrastination sucks, right?

I still do regular 5Ks, however, and I think I’m improving the form and pace is getting steady and at times a bit better. Like last weekend I did another at my favorite uphill route which was when I achieved another fastest mile. It was going downhill when I hit the new record but a win is a win.

Marcus having his first sushi.

Then there’s also Marcus being a factor. He’s just getting heavier. Still relatively slim but trust me he’s got mass–his skinny body is deceiving. Thus my plan to shift from endurance training to more on strength is becoming more compelling. I need more muscles to help Marcus’ lack of muscles.

This is why I’m getting anxious whenever I step on the bathroom scale. Half of me wants to maintain a leaner form while another half wants to bulk up and be more muscular. Like today I checked and I’m 141 lbs yet thankfully my shirts and pants still fit. Must be growing muscles then, not fats. I’d like to believe so.

***

So how does it feel to gain seven pounds? To remind myself that I shouldn’t go any heavier I’m looking at weight gains in different perspective.

Gaining about three pounds is like buying frozen whole chicken and carrying it the whole day. Not much though an extra weight nevertheless.

Ten pounds on the other hand would feel like a having a grocery bag filled with five kilos of brown rice bag. This will slow one down significantly. I’d start to get worried here.

Then twenty pounds would be tougher. This is equivalent of going daily to the airport with a hand carry bag stuffed to its limit. This is the number to be avoided really.

***

Months overdue, we finally returned to the doctor to have Marcus checked with only his 2D echo test results available after giving up on him being able to successfully do the spirometry test back in January. The findings were relatively better. Marcus still has good grip, which I did not doubt as he can still hold the Xbox controllers the whole day. While he can’t stand, same amount of leg control is still present although leg extension have lessened from 60 degrees to 70. The doctor said Marcus’ arms strength is what weakened but said exercise, no weights and no resistance, may still benefit.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Having foot spa while waiting for Marcus to finish his therapy.)

Never Meant to Be

About a month ago I remember Marcus stepping out of his room. It was morning, he just woke up. His smile was all over his face despite still obviously sleepy. He walked right out of his door, hair unruly. He was ready to face the day.

The other day we found the opportunity to grab a bike. Each his own. We had friends though everyone I barely knew. But that didn’t stop us from racing one another. That afternoon was fun even if I almost fell into a muddy patch when I tried to beat Marcus by cutting off the street curb. Boy he pedalled fast, very fast.

Each day I am looking forward to all this. I know these will happen once more, I wish it’d be more often than before. At least in my dreams again.

These scenes have been very vivid lately. Everything was life-like, so real I can feel Marcus’ energy. It was the closest I can get to see Marcus without his Xbox controller, away from his spot in our old sofa. Away from his crippling DMD.

With his twist car and Duplo gun.

***

Mood: 5/10 Honks! (Been spending more time with him playing Call of Duty.)

Cars and the Rain

I had this small talk at work with someone while waiting for her to sign all the papers–dreaded documents–I’ve been submitting almost regularly lately. Looking at the pale pink dawn sky outside their office window I said, “Nice to see the sun again.” She replied, “I’m a rainy day fan so I really don’t like the sun even back when I don’t have a car.” Well, I had the same sentiments. Had.

It’s been raining for almost two weeks already and it’s effect has become more of a nuisance than a benefit to me. I like driving in the rain but the heavy downpour has taken its toll on the roads where I drive daily. It has exposed once more the substandard asphalt that our dear public contractors have tried to pass as acceptable. Happens every rainy season and this time the potholes are bigger and deeper. Corruption was never gone. Shame.

Then there’s this annoying leak in our car. And it’s now in two places. It used to be only in the driver’s foot well but it’s now also in the trunk. Best excuse to keep me considering a mortgaged brand new compact sedan. Snap, snap. While my trunk now looks like nothing happened to it after a bad rear-ender months back, I realized Servex’s workmanship wasn’t as good as they promised. Servex is Kia Sto. Tomas delearship’s multi-brand shop. No thanks, not returning it for a back job.

Now I’m waiting for clear skies before I go back checking where these leaks are coming from. I was able to find cracks in the trunk and have sealed it but I think I missed a couple more. For now, I’m not wearing flip-flops while driving, else soggy feet.

On a different perspective, all this inconvenience seem trivial. Would I rather take public transportation again than drive a car that has obviously seen better days? And put myself under the mercy of reckless jeepney drivers? Ok, leaky car, I’m still yours, you’re still mine.

Come to think of it, it’s all in the mind. It’s also about influence of the environment. Few months ago Marcus, who by the way is a big fan of fast cars, and I watched on Netflix Paul Hollywood’s Big Continental Road Trip. It’s rated 13+ although there are mature humor in some scenes. The show features cars and culture of different countries and it was the France episode that struck me the most. Despite stature, those who live in castles and play golf on weekends, these French people do not drive luxurious cars. They don’t mind a simple fender bender and nudging a car to get a parallel parking space seems very common. I think I should live in France.

Still on cars, I’ve been trying to get back on writing so I read lengthy posts of James Deakin on Facebook and other pages that talk about cars. I’m a frustrated car magazine writer and almost landed as contributor of a car forum several years ago but the topic they assigned as test piece wasn’t my forte so I didn’t pursue it. This week I read two articles of this automotive Facebook page and it made me wonder if they have an editor because the articles ended abruptly, definitely were half-baked, rushed pieces just to hit the required number of words. I miss writing all of a sudden. Should I start about cars again then? Well, as soon as I’m done writing these papers at work.

***

Here’s a video showing my close encounter with what Marcus identified to be a Mercedes-Benz AMG GTR which he said he owned before in his XBox Forza game. Google shows that this car is 2018 model worth $167,000 or Php8M. I’m sure this car doesn’t leak.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Was able to hit 5K despite gloomy skies.)

Run with the beat

Seldom that I set goals, financials especially. Don’t take this against me but I was never a guy who would plan. I’m not lazy but it’s just that I live one day at a time. I’m a self-declared minimalist, I’m contented. If I can avoid planning, I won’t do it. This year, however, was among the few exceptions. I had a simple goal in mind.

I passed up on running events no matter how tempting to prove myself. At an average, registration would set anyone back by Php 700. That’s for participating, finishing within the time limit and getting a medal just because you finished. You can sense my sour graping here by now but hear me. I was saving for something.

AfterShokz Titanium black

Instead of getting medals to show off that I crossed the line, I set my sight on getting an AfterShokz Titanium. The benefit of listening to music while running and at the same time still being able to hear the surrounding got my attention the first I read about bone conduction headphones. I didn’t have any doubts that bone conduction is possible as I read an article that explains why most people hate the sound of their voice when they listen to it from a recording.

It didn’t take too long before she swiped her card in this Hong Kong airport gadget shop.

Most of us are not aware that sound does not travel through our ear canals alone. In fact, the sensation of sound is also conducted or vibrated through our bones which is why there’s better experience when we both hear sound and feel it as well. Think deep base, think Atmos technology in cinemas.

And this is what AfterShokz headphones are all about. Instead of plugging the ears to feed sound directly into the opening, AfterShokz uses bone conduction technology to allow the ears to stay open thus letting runners enjoy stereo music and at the same time stay aware of sounds coming from cars or pedestrians that could be potential running hazards if unnoticed.

Here’s my run this morning with the AfterShokz.

AfterShokz Titanium costs close to Php6000 here in the country but it was cheaper by Php500 in Hong Kong. I’m aware that I haven’t skipped that much running events but the deal and the urge to get something at the airport shops was overwhelming. There goes minimalism. Oopss.

I have done two runs using this Bluetooth bone conduction headphones and it does deliver clear music even when in motion. The headphone isn’t annoying unlike when running with a wired earpiece that dangles back and effort. It is of course water resistant so I never worried if I had to pour water on my bald head while running. The manual shows the battery lasts 6 hours on full charge so I guess it will keep playing during a full marathon which by the way is probably my goal for next year.

***

Mood: 4/10 Honks! (Feeling lethargic after that chocolate muffin for breakfast.)