All I want for Xmas is … a Cargo Van? – December 23, 2020

Hello, again.

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last blog post, and, though nothing really earth-shattering has happened since, I thought I should post an update. I’m trying to get back into the habit of posting at least semi-regularly.

It’s been a quiet couple of weeks, which is strange given the time of year. Usually I’d be gearing up for my annual Panicked X-mas Shopping Frenzy, since I tend to leave my gift-buying to the last minute. I’ve been surprisingly on top of things this year though, getting it all done before my area went into the “Grey-Zone”, or “Modified Lock-down.”

Our local case-numbers for COVID have crept up, so the “Powers-that-be” have shut down all non-essential businesses except for curbside service, etc. Extended shopping trips to the mall or other stores and shops aren’t feasible right now. Lucky for me, I avoided my usual shopping lethargy and got it over with early. I’d hate to have to try doing any type of non-essential shopping right now.

I feel terrible for the small retailers in the area. This is the season when they make most of their sales which they depend on to keep them afloat the rest of the year. I did my best to shop locally before everything shut down. I hope they can hang on until all of this pandemic mess is over, but I know some won’t be able to, and that is a tragedy.

Otherwise, things have been rather quiet. I’ve had no major drama these past couple of weeks, which has been nice. It’s kind of fitting that this will be a quiet, quarantine X-mas, as I’m still not talking to my mom, and I do still owe my brother a good beat down. But we’ll have to put a pin in both of those situations and hold those firework’s displays at a later time.

While I do have a bit of guilt over not talking to my mom, I feel I am right in taking a stand against her trying to find any reason to place the blame for my brother’s behaviour on me.

But, I’ve already bitched about that situation enough in previous posts, so I’ll let that alone.

We’re obviously planning a quiet X-mas here at the house, with just our kids, our daughter’s boyfriend who lives with us, and our pets. That doesn’t mean there won’t be lots of gift exchanging and festive spirit, just that we will probably remain in our X-mas pajamas throughout it all.

I think I did a good job with my share of the gifts this year. I’m usually pretty good at finding unique and “cool” gifts for the people I buy for, picking things that I know they’ll love but wouldn’t buy for themselves. I’d love to tell you what some of those are, but I can’t guarantee that the recipients won’t read this post, so that reveal will have to wait until after the holidays.

Work has been going ok, other than the pandemic weirdness we all have to deal with. I still get surprised when I see someone at work with their mask temporarily lowered, to eat or drink, etc. They often look nothing like I’ve imagined. I’ve met many new people since I moved off of the midnight shift, and I’m not sure I’d recognize many of them if we stopped wearing masks tomorrow.

As our area’s case numbers continue to climb higher, the stress level at my work is creeping up right along with it. My plant has around 3,500 people working on two shifts, so you can come into contact with a lot of people throughout your day. Recently, we’ve had a few reports of people in the plant being sent home to isolate because they may have come in contact with someone who tested positive. Of course, by the time the story filters through several hundred people, it’s become a panicked game of “Telephone”, and the rumors get out of control.

It’s as if we’re back in the early days of the pandemic, when we knew a lot less and were much more fearful. The closer we get to the supposed “end” of this crisis, when a vaccine is readily available to all, the worse the situation gets. It feels like we’re living in an old episode of The Twilight Zone – we all go about our lives as if nothing is wrong, but we all know that some dread evil lurks in the background, ready to kill us or “wish us away to the cornfield” at any random moment.

Right now, I’m writing this at work, and about thirty minutes ago, the assembly line stopped without warning. A few minutes later, we noticed that two lines over there were people dressed in yellow has-mat suits – full face masks, gloves, respirators, the whole nine – spraying something on and around all the job stations in that area.

We got no word from either management or the Union as to what was happening. When they were done, the line started right back up again and we all went back to work. It was surreal.

Before you label us all as mindless automatons, though, quite a few of us did question our Union Reps and our area Management. We were told that everything was in compliance with the Ministry of Labour’s protocols, and the spraying was being done out of an over-abundance of caution. Our workplace, despite appearances to the contrary, was deemed “Safe.” So take that for what it’s worth. The Ministry wouldn’t back any work refusals on our part due to the spraying, so we had little recourse but to return to work. If we had walked off the job, we could be subject to disciplinary action by the company, or we would have had to claim that we felt unsafe due to COVID, and would then be required to isolate at home for two weeks, which few people were willing to do, as that might effect our holiday pay.

Strange days, indeed.

So, switching gears.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m still obsessed with the idea of buying a cargo van and turning it into a “Traveler’s Wagon”, (“Traveler” being the more acceptable term, I’m told). I’ve gotten hyper-focused on the idea, and nearly get whip-lash whenever I’m driving around town early in the day and I see dozens of work vans on the road. I judge each van for how much work it would require to fix it up for my purposes, and I scour Marketplace, Kijiji, and the Auto-trader for deals on older vans. I know more about vans now than anyone should ever really want to.

I’ve almost taken the leap and bought one several times now, but I stopped myself for one reason – I don’t have anywhere I can work on it through the winter. It would just sit in my driveway until it warmed up enough that I could start fixing it up. So, I’ve managed to convince myself to wait until I find the closest to perfect deal before I take the leap and buy one.

There is one that’s really tempting me, though. It’s a late-model GMC Savana in the lot at my mechanic’s. The body looks to be in good shape and he told me it would take about $1600 to get it back into prime condition, which isn’t too bad. I haven’t asked him how much he’d want for it beyond that, but I figure since it’s only sitting there, without plates, he can’t want that much for it. Next time I’m there, I may just ask and if it’s not too much, who knows.

If I can get a van I’m satisfied with before winter’s end, then I think I’m going to start planning some early spring camping getaways that I can go on while I build out the interior. I want to have an idea of how to layout the inside before I commit to anything too permanent. I don’t want a big, fancy build if I can be comfortable with something more minimalist. I’m not planning on living in the van full time, so there’s a lot that I’ll be able to get by without.

Yes, I’m crazy. But soon, I’ll be a crazy guy with a van. So, I’ll have that going for me.

As I said before, the reason I want to make a camper van is so I can travel a bit more and see the country I call my home, as well as get away alone in what will amount to my own personal writing cabin. It sounds stupid, I know, but it would be a great way to remove myself from all of the distractions I have at home. I won’t feel as guilty taking time to write instead of doing things around the house. Maybe I’m fooling myself, and maybe this is just an excuse to start on a new project that I might find fun for a little while. For whatever reason, I can’t seem to shake this obsession. Either it will work it’s way out of my system soon, or I’ll end up actually buying a van. I don’t think either option is the end of the world.

I’ve been feeling a bit guilty lately about not continuing with the D&D game I had been running for a while. The players in that game are all good friends, and I miss them, but it’s been very hard to find the time necessary to run a game. Also, lately my life has been so filled with personal issues that I wouldn’t want bleeding into my game-time. I miss seeing my friends, even if only virtually, but I don’t want to short change them with a less than stellar game because I had (and still do have to a degree) so much else I’m dealing with. It was fun, I do miss it, and I hope I can get back to it again someday, but maybe for now it’s best if I just leave off it for a little longer.

As far as my writing, that hasn’t been going as well as I’d hoped. I’ve only written a few thousand more words in my current novel since the end of November. I can’t seem to get motivated lately. I’m sure part of that is a bit of burn out from NaNo, wanting a break from cranking out 1700 words a day. But a bit of it is also extreme pandemic fatigue, which I’m sure everyone else is also dealing with.

As things continue to get worse, and the emergency response continues to tighten in my area, I seem to have less and less motivation to get much done. It’s depressing enough that we’ve had to do without so many of the luxuries we didn’t give much thought to before, like the ability to travel, or go see a movie or concert, but now we’re also going to have to severely limit our Holiday plans.

Today I had one of those Facebook memories pop up on my screen as I was scrolling through my phone. It was from a year ago, and it was a picture the family and I took when we were in Havana on our Xmas Cuba trip. We were having mojitos in a hotel that was once frequented by Ernest Hemingway. Seeing that picture was so bittersweet, as it both brought back good memories, but was also a gut-punch of a reminder of how we’re unable to travel or even really socialize right now. That may be why I’m a bit extra melancholy today, but it’s been a pervasive feeling for most of December.

Health-wise there is also nothing new to report. My gym has closed again, due to the pandemic, so I’m back to working out at home. I’ve been sticking to my five days a week workout routine, which I’m proud of, and it’s starting to pay off, I think, despite how my meds tend to keep me skinny. I have gained back a little weight, though, and a bit of muscle, so I’m happy for small victories.

Beyond that, my blood sugar has been relatively good, I’ve been taking my meds daily and on time, and I’ve gone just about eleven months now without smoking. I’m trying to be really thankful for all of that, despite the struggles I’ve had getting to this point. I know that many people have it much worse health-wise than I do, and I’m trying to be appreciative of my good fortune.

I have an extra week off over the holidays, so I think I’m going to try and plan a few hikes. There’s really no where around my area with relatively long, interesting hikes (our area is REALLY flat, and farmed out) so I may take a few day trips to some hiking trails listed on an app I’ve downloaded. I don’t want to do anything too difficult to start out, just a few hours in some nicely forested area, somewhere that might offer a bit of different scenery. I haven’t been on any nature hikes since I stopped being a Cub Scout leader five or six years ago (seven?). Hopefully that will help to get me through the next several weeks of lockdown, and keep any seasonal and situational depression at bay.

So, that’s it from me for this post. It’s only a few days before Xmas now, so I’ll wish you all a Happy Holidays, however you choose, or are able, to spend it. I hope that it’s the best it can be in these strange times. Next year, I hope to raise a glass of holiday cheer with you in person, and maybe meet a few of you under the mistletoe 😉

Be well,

-Rob

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