Posts Tagged ‘writing’

A Boat, Wrapped in Red Tape

August 12, 2011

Bruce and I have spent a month in the garage, just the two of us. July and August are miserable in Virginia. Humidity hangs in the air, and we’ve had two weeks straight of temperatures in the upper nineties with no relief.  I sit in a dry-docked boat, no water lapping at the sides, no ocean breeze, no cool drink. Sweat runs down my forehead and drips into my eyes. Box fans don’t cut it.  I remove my glasses again, wipe at the salty sting, and curse the day we decided to buy a boat. How could this much work be worth it?

We have less than a week before our Chincoteague trip and not only are we still without a title, we don’t even  know whether the Evinrude outboard motor will run. It sits, attached to the end of the boat, its cover off, wires, like wild hairs, stick up in all directions.

Bruce stripped the boat when we got it home. The hull was fairly sound, but everything else needed an overhaul.  I’m no mechanic, nor am I a carpenter, and I’m certainly no boat repairwoman, but I have cleaned, scraped, sanded, and patched fiberglass, measured, cut and pieced the wood flooring, laid carpet, stapled upholstery, cursed bolts into uncooperative holes, then held parts in place while Bruce cursed the same bolts. He’s in charge and I’m the fed-up helper. We’ve barked at each other, pulled ourselves up and over the side of the vessel hundreds of times, and so far, our only reward has been a dizzying high of inhaled epoxy and fabric adhesive.

My back can’t take much more. Last night, I stretched out in the bottom of the boat, looked up into the spackled sheetrock of the garage ceiling, and grieved the loss of seven hundred fifty-two dollars spent on this sixteen foot untitled, unregistered, illegitimate watercraft.

My plan had been for Bruce do the boat repairs while I handled the paperwork involved in getting the title and registration for the boat.  I found that although I’m very efficient in collecting the evidence needed, the state of New Jersey and the state of Virginia are in no hurry to help me.

I go to the mailbox each afternoon, hold my breath, reach inside and look for that Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries envelope. Our illusive title is so close. The process began June  24th, but nothing involving the government is easy or quick.  

The state of Virginia requires that a buyer without a title (that’s stupid us), make every effort to contact the previous owner of the boat to obtain the original title. This involves sending a certified letter, return receipt requested.  If the title is not available, the former owner is asked to send his own certified letter, to us, stating that the title is lost. If the previous title-holder has been searching for his boat, he must send a letter stating that he wants it returned immediately as it’s been lost or stolen. If the past owner is dead or has moved without a forwarding address, our certified letter is required to hang around the post office for fifteen days, after which time, it is stamped as undeliverable and returned to us. Our letter was mailed July 6th. We tracked its location online and waited. The letter returned to us, unopened, undeliverable and un-signed for on July 26th

The state of Virginia also requires that the unopened certified letter, along with a copy of the letter inside the sealed envelope, the New Jersey lien-holder form, a copy of the bill of sale, copy of the cancelled check, copy of the former registration/title holder information, a notarized  Affidavit for Transfer of Watercraft Registration/Title form, all be sent to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  Within thirty days, if all checks out, we receive a title in the mail.  Thirty days from July 26th is August 25th.  Our vacation falls in the middle. We’re screwed.

 Bruce punches numbers into his cell phone.  He explains what we have done so far, that the papers and the check are in the mail.  “There’s no way to float this boat until we get a title?”  he asks the person on the other end at The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

 The nice lady directs us to Walmart, where we receive our temporary boat registration. It’s good for thirty days. The form states however, in big bold letters across the top: “This form does not constitute ownership.” 

No worries. No one, not even the two of us want to own it at this point.

One Little Bite

August 6, 2011

The tiny deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). I never thought much about the insect. It was a pest, something to search for on my body after a hike in the woods or tall grass. Sometimes it was stuck tight to my skin and needed to be extracted with a pair of tweezers and some alcohol. The nuisance, pinched between my index finger and thumb was then flushed down the commode in the bathroom. Recently I discovered that the tick is actually an arachnid. I should have cringed at the significance of this information. I hate spiders. Now I hate ticks.

I’d heard of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These maladies have symptoms to look for like a bull’s eye around the bite, muscle or joint pain, fever, chills, fatigue and headache. Never in my life did I think a tick bite would lead to an allergy to one of my favorite foods.

Four years ago I was out of town at a baseball tournament with my eldest son. After one of his games, we went to a nationally known steakhouse for dinner.  Ben ordered a huge steak for himself, and his grandmother and I split a meal.  After midnight, I woke with stomach cramps, walked into the bathroom of the hotel, and fainted behind a locked door.  My mother heard me fall, banged on the door until I regained consciousness and then she coaxed me to open the door. I had severe nausea and vomiting.  We thought it might be food poisoning at first, but she was not ill. We had eaten the same foods. We then assumed I had been hit by some sort of bug. Little did I know.

Three months later, my youngest son and I went to a local Mexican restaurant before attending a little league game. Ryan ordered a burrito while I chose the taco meal.  At eleven o’clock that same evening, I fainted in the hallway outside my bedroom.  Ryan heard the fall and came to investigate the noise. He found me, having regained consciousness, but vomiting violently. I went to the doctor the next day and he seemed to think that I had a case of food poisoning.

The third instance occurred after eating out at one of our favorite local burger joints.  I began to suspect that I was ingesting some type of spice or additive that restaurants use to season food. Each time the fainting and vomiting occurred I had eaten out. I contacted each restaurant to obtain a list of the ingredients in the recipes of the meals I’d had.

My doctor considered low blood pressure, a heart condition, and after those tests proved me to be within normal ranges, he sent me to an allergist. They took blood and did skin tests. The skin test showed a mild allergic reaction to hay, grass, dust and cat dander. The blood test gave me the answer I was looking for.

 I received the call on my cell while I was sitting in the drive through at the local McDonalds. I loved Big Mac’s.  “I’m allergic to beef?’ I asked in disbelief. “As in cow?”

The doctor confirmed it was indeed a beef allergy, and I best not eat any more of it. How could I be allergic to beef?  I’d eaten beef my whole life. It had to be something else, and furthermore, the symptoms didn’t occur every time I ate beef. I could count three other times that week that I’d had beef and didn’t faint or vomit. The instances of symptoms were coming more frequently though, and when they did happen, they were also more severe.  

I was called back to the doctor’s office and given instructions on the use of an epi-pen, a needle one can use to inject a shot of epinephrine in the event of an allergy attack.  I looked at the device and then at the doctor. I felt silly. “An allergy is just an inconvenience, right?” I asked him. “Something that makes you sneeze or swell up and itch. A little over-the-counter antihistamine takes care of it, right?”

“Your symptoms are pretty severe,” the doctor said. “When you faint, have stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting, your body is exhibiting signs of anaphylaxis. This allergy could kill you.”

It still didn’t feel life threatening to me.

Then on a Tuesday evening, after a delicious dinner at our favorite family style restaurant, I stopped breathing. I was getting ready for bed when the phone rang. I had a nice conversation with my aunt and as I went to hang up the phone, I felt a bit light headed. I remember thinking; I need to call for Bruce, my husband, because I felt really strange.  When I came to, members of the volunteer rescue squad were huddled around me as I heaved violently. My body itched from the top of my head to the bottoms of my feet. Hives covered me.  

Bruce had found me in the kitchen chair, not breathing.  Ryan called 911 while my husband followed the dispatcher’s instructions to get me breathing again. The ambulance crew arrived and administered the antidote. I spent the night in the emergency room.  I had eaten potatoes that had been fried on the same grill as beef. The juices from the beef mingled with the potatoes and four hours later, my body reacted. The allergy was no longer a silly inconvenience.

I now understood the significance of the beef allergy, but had no idea how I had developed it after years of eating beef with no problem at all.

One day I received a phone call from a friend. She had heard a story on National Public Radio about a study that was being conducted at the University of Virginia concerning people developing beef allergies from the bite of a tick.

I pulled the story up on the computer and found that I presented with every symptom listed. I had found my answer.

Doctors believe that there is a bacteria in the tick’s saliva that causes the body to react to the sugars in beef as allergens. Some people develop allergies to pork, lamb and other mammals as well as to beef.  What is unusual about this allergy is that the reaction occurs four to six hours after the ingestion of the beef, when the sugar from the beef reaches the bloodstream. Because the reaction is not immediate as with other allergies, people don’t associate the response with eating the meat.  

This allergy is becoming more prevalent in regions where deer and deer ticks are common. The study is still being conducted by the University of Virginia.  

Link to study:

Caveat Emptor

August 3, 2011

So much for my long romantic weekend of boating. I found out on the way back home, you cannot put a boat in Virginia waters without a valid title.

“I thought not having a title didn’t matter,” I accused, staring at the side of my husband’s face in the dark car.  He’d spent the day rewiring the boat trailer, repacking the wheel bearings, adjusting the motor mount on the Evinrude and swatting the biting flies and blood sucking mosquitoes of Seaside Heights, New Jersey.  It was now twenty-three hours into the trip and I was testy.

Bruce shrugged. “I didn’t think it would be a problem. I still don’t.  How hard can it be to get a boat title?”

“Well according to that man at the rest stop back there, he’s glad he’s not in your shoes. He mentioned something about to Hell and back.”

We arrived home exactly twenty-four hours and twenty minutes after we left. I was so tired I didn’t care about being mad anymore. I could be mad tomorrow.  I fell into bed and slept twelve hours straight.

When I woke, Bruce was gone.

I dragged myself into the kitchen and poured cold coffee into my mug. I looked out the window into the backyard. There was my husband. He had pulled the boat trailer into the grass and was stripping the inside, tossing parts and pieces into the yard.  Boat seats, strips of carpet, plywood flooring, vinyl covered bumpers, a fire extinguisher, three bright orange life preservers and a long handled fishing net littered the ground.  Bruce’s shirt was off. He was embroiled in serious business.

I turned away from the window, poured myself a bowl of cereal, and sat at the table, drowning my disappointment in the sweetness of Cap’n Crunch. Fatigue, hours spent in a car, not in a boat, and the realization that not having a title might mean we’d be sailing no further than the yard or driveway, put me in a rare funk.  I’m not touching that boat until I’m sure we’ll be able to use it, I thought.

Bruce came in a little while later. “You want to ride with me to Ace Marine in Stuarts Draft?” He asked. “I need to look about a new bilge pump, and some other things.”

On the way over the mountain to the boat dealership, Bruce talked non-stop about flooring, fiberglass, repair and patch kits, marine grade vinyl and indoor/outdoor carpeting.  The boat needed two new car batteries, the bilge pump, some half inch pressure treated plywood, a few two by fours, and new stringers.  I recognized some items, but was clueless about others.  I remembered his comment about this being the only boat he’d ever owned.  He sure seemed to know a whole lot more about the Larson Shark than I did.  It seemed he’d given up online auctions for boating websites now.  

We browsed the aisles and shelves of the boating store. The salespeople were outside showing brand new vessels, so we were able to pick up items, compare prices and talk without interruption. As we looked at various types of anchors, a miniature dachshund came wagging his tail in our direction. His toenails clipped along the floor and he walked right up to Bruce for a head pat.  “Well aren’t you the cutest one,” Bruce said, reaching down to rub the little brown dog.

“Charlie, where are you?” A woman’s voice called from the back room. She stuck her head out the door and whistled.  The little dog left us, running in the direction of his master.  She picked him up and noticed us alone in the showroom.

“Hi, didn’t realize anyone was in here. Anything I can help you folks with?”

“You don’t happen to know anything about titling a boat in the state of Virginia do you?” Bruce asked.

She laughed. “Do it all the time here. That’s my job. I complete the paperwork for the boat sales,  get the registrations, titles, all that stuff.”

“We bought a boat in New Jersey in an online auction,” Bruce said. “How hard is it to get a title in Virginia?”

“Not hard at all. You just take the New Jersey title to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and have it transferred to your name.”

“We didn’t get a title with it,” I said.

The woman frowned. “No title, huh?  Well that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.  If it was in Virginia, I’d know what to do, but since it’s from New Jersey, I’m not sure.  Tell you what, if you can give me a few minutes, I can make a phone call for you and find out.”

Bruce thanked her as she walked back to her office, then he turned to me and grinned, as if to say, “See, no big deal, she’s gonna fix everything for us.”

I rolled my eyes.

“You got the hull number with you?” She called from the other room.

Bruce pulled the information from his pocket and took it to her. We stood just outside the door, petting Charlie, who’d come back out to visit us.

I listened as the woman began the quest on our behalf. She was transferred from one person to the next, then to someone else and again to someone else. She was put on hold and transferred again, and again. She was more patient than I would have been. If it was me, I’d have handed the phone to Bruce so he was the one pushing buttons, and repeating information over and over again.

After a good ten minutes, she hung up the phone and handed us a piece of paper.  “You have to go on the New Jersey DMV website and get the D-21 form, print it off, fill it out, attach the information you have and send it to them with fifteen dollars.  They will check to see if there’s a lien on the boat. If you’re lucky and there isn’t one, you get to go on to the next step. The website explains it all.”

“Wow,” Bruce said. “I never thought about liens.”

“All I can say is good luck. Glad I’m not in your shoes,” she said. “You may get the boat in the water by next summer.  Sorry it’s not better news. Sounds like a lot of red tape.”

I thanked her for her time and for the information. She was the second person in two days who was glad not to be in my husband’s shoes.  Bruce put down the anchor he’d picked out and we walked back to the car empty handed. “Damn,” he said.

I patted his back. “Let’s go home, look up this website and print off the form. It’s not like we stole the boat.  We’ll just take this mess one step at a time.”

Bruce dropped his head. If he had been a little boy, he would have kicked the dirt with the toe of his boot. “I wanted to get her into the water on our next trip to Chincoteague,” he grumbled.

“We’ll get it straight,” I reassured him. “I’ll take care of the forms and you can concentrate of fixing up the boat. Just think, the extra time will give us a chance to do it up nice.  She’ll be the prettiest ’71 Larson Shark out there when we get her into the water.”

“If we get her in the water,” he muttered.