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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Try Not to Get Backed Over By My Father-in-Law

In case you didn't know, Sunday is Father's Day.

Last night, my wife left the house to go tutor her student. A couple minutes after she left, she called me.

"Hi, buddy," she said, "what are you planning on doing tonight?"

"Well, I'd like to practice banjo," I replied.

"Oh. Would you like a p-word?" (This means "project." A "project" is usually defined as some haphazard, fucked up errand usually having to do with her family.)

"Um, not particularly." Pause. "What is it?"

"Well, I just listened to a voicemail from my mother-- it was about a Father's Day gift for my father."


"Would you please go to Amazon and order him a copy of "My Father's Paradise" by Ariel Sabar?"

I was relieved. Finally, an easy request, and a normal present to boot.

"Sure," I said.


"And, could you also research audible backup warning alarms?"



You know what we're talking about here, right? Throw a truck in reverse and hear a BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! loud enough to wake up your Facebook Zombie. These reverse warning alarms are typically found on, oh, I don't know-- big rigs... U-Hauls. Mail trucks. They're not necessarily items you would expect to find on a 2003 silver Honda Accord.

Now, my wife's father is a strange duck, as are lots of our fathers, but this particular gift desire took even me by surprise. As I was researching the various audible backup warning alarms on Froogle and Ebaymotors, I couldn't help laughing hysterically and pounding the desk in front of me. This man is my father-in-law and he deserves to be respected, but, come the fuck on already. What could a psychiartist in his mid-sixties want with an audible backup warning alarm?

Has he run somebody over?

Does he routinely drive in reverse on the grounds of a local school for the deaf during recess?

Does he harbor some secret wish to feel like a UPS man? Will he eventually carry out the fantasy by brush-painting his car brown and ordering large quantities of chocolate-hued uniform shorts?

I think it's probably less about the actual device and more about the gadgetry. He's all about techno-baubles. His car looks like the inside of a police cruiser. He has a custom-built laptop table which he made himself out of spare pieces of wood from the basement. There are more fucking wires and shit draped all over the interior of that car than there are vines in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. There's the auxiliary thermometer, and the compass, and the GPS unit and Christ knows what else-- probably a homing device or a mini-satellite dish. I guess this is the one final piece of auxiliary technology he hadn't gotten around to installing on the car. Besides the fare meter.

It's not about the beeping when he reverses. It's about the technology and the nerdery. He's a total nerd. As I was researching the alarms, I saw the specifications and I said to myself, "Aha, this is what he really loves:"

Voltage: 12V±3V
Temperature: -40ºF~+185ºF
Beep volume: 70~90dB
Input: <4W Range (Rear): 1.0~8.4 ft

All that shit that is essentially Mandarin to me. He loves it. And he'll totally get off on installing it, too, all by himself, in the driveway. It will take him all Sunday long, but he'll be in heaven. He will be out there, all 101 pounds of him, in his button-down, short-sleeve, threadbare blue Oxford dress shirt and torn trousers, crumpled tissues hanging out of his pocket, his salt-and-pepper hair awry whistling Mozart bassoon solos and airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore and mumbling calculations and machinations to himself that the rest of the world would never understand as he blissfully tinkers and putters the day away.

And, shit, if that's the Father's Day he wants, let him have it.

My only fear is that he won't install the alarm exactly correctly, because that's his M.O. I worry that he'll install it connected just a hair wrong so that it will beep incessantly whenever the car is put into Park, say, or-- worse-- Drive. These things tend to happen, you know.

But, still, I love him, and I wish him a Happy Father's Day. Beeps and all.


  1. I'll bet he doesn't have the '4pc Wireless UFO Advanced 3 Million Color USB Underbody Underglow Kit' available from Amazon.

    Now that would ensure the safety of those deaf students ;)

  2. Holy shit-- that thing is BAD-ASS!

    Of course, he also doesn't have hydraulics or a Dukes of Hazzard airhorn either, but that's cool.

    I couldn't find any product reviews on Amazon for the UFO Advanced 3 Million Color USB Underbody Underglow Kit. Do you think that's because none of the people who purchased one speak English?

  3. lol. Es posible. No se.

    I'm sure they'd appreciate a review in Hebrew or Aramaic though.

  4. Oh, man, I wish I could find a way to reflect my father's quirks in a warm and humorous light just like you did.

    But...I hate him. So no go.

  5. Hmpf... nothing wrong with being a nerd...!

    But really, 100lbs? Y'all need to eat some more!

  6. Unless his audible backup warning system comes with one of these:

    those deaf kids are still gonna be SOL when he's around.


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