Fifteen and a Half

“Dad, do you need to go to 7-11?”
“Dad, do you need to go to the post office?”
“Dad, do you need to go to the store?”

Guess who turned fifteen-and-a-half last week and got his learner’s permit?

(This is a staged photo. Mason will never drive the STI.)

When Mason turned fourteen he got a license to drive a motorcycle, and for roughly a year and a half he’s been riding to school and around town on two wheels. I grew up riding motorcycles, as did my dad, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch your kid leave the house on one. Having him surrounded by two tons of metal and airbags will actually be a relief.

The process of obtaining a license has changed since I originally got mine. To get a learner’s permit in Oklahoma today, you need to have completed (or be enrolled in) a driver’s education course and provide proof that you are enrolled in school, among other documents. When you turn sixteen and have had a learner’s permit for six months, teens can then apply for a intermediate license. It’s similar to a driver’s license, but with a few restrictions. With an intermediate license, teens can only drive between 4:30 a.m and 9 p.m., and can only carry one passenger that does not live in their home. To obtain that license, teens must be enrolled in school or have their GED. After another six month period, assuming the teen did not acquire any traffic convictions, they can apply for an “unrestricted class D license.” Each license sets you back about $40. (Link: DMV.org)

Even though Mason has been mobile for over a year, “four wheels” is new. His stops are abrupt, his acceleration is uneven, and his turns are inconsistent. That being said, the second trip was better than the first, and the third was better than the second. He knows the rules of the road, but being behind the wheel of a bigger and heavier vehicle takes getting used to.

Riding in the passenger seat of your own car is a bit like riding in the front car of a roller coaster at the fair, if it were being operated by someone not old enough to operate it. The pit in your stomach never fully subsides. Like the roller coaster, you tell yourself nothing bad will happen, but you give the safety equipment an extra tug, just in case.

“Dad, do you need a ride to the convenient store?”

And, we’re off!

Podcast News and Consolidation!

When I started my first podcast (You Don’t Know Flack) back in 2008, I envisioned it as a complete package. I stood up a separate webpage and WordPress installation for it (podcast.RobOHara.com). I also created a dedicated email address and Facebook page for the show as well. The late 2000s were all about branding.

Time went on, and I launched more shows. I registered more domains like SpriteCastle.com and MultipleSadness.com, and created Facebook pages, email addresses, RSS feeds, iTunes pages, and Twitter accounts for those shows, too.

This was a great idea that didn’t scale well. Each time I launched a new show I registered more domains, created new social media accounts, installed more instances of WordPress, configured RSS feeds, tweaked iTunes, and so on. I set up mail forwarding, automatic updates, and a bevy of notifications, but things continued to grow. It seemed like something was always broken either an email account stopped working here, or iTunes got clogged on a feed there. I was spending more time on all my behind-the-scenes podcast stuff than I was actually recording podcasts. Each time a WordPress update was released I had to set aside time to back up databases, upgrade WordPress, upgrade plug-ins, and fix whatever broke. No bueno.

When I began to meet and interact with other podcasters I learned that most of them were smarter than I am. Guys like Carrington Vanston, Doug McCoy, Rick Reynolds, and countless others had combined their multiple podcasts under their own respective umbrellas (MonsterFeet, McCoyCast, and RickAndViv, respectively). After years of juggling and maintaining multiple sites and accounts, I have decided to do the same.

I have spent the past week exporting, importing, and consolidating all of my podcast-related WordPress sites down into a single website and a single Facebook page.

WWW: http://podcast.RobOHara.com
Facebook: Facebook.com/Robcasts

Consolidating all of my podcasts down to a single website has advantages for both you and me. For me, things will be cheaper and easier to maintain. If I decide to start a new show, all I need to do is create a new category and start uploading. If I, for whatever reason, decide to retire a show, the old episodes won’t go away. And if you want to find out whats going on with one (or any) of my shows, now there’s just a single place for you to check.

Each of my podcasts have and will continue to have their own individual RSS feeds and iTunes pages. Using these, you can subscribe to one, some, or all of my shows. None of these should have changed during the migrations.

RSS Feeds:

Cactus Flack’s: http://feeds.feedburner.com/CactusFlacks
Multiple Sadness: http://feeds.feedburner.com/MultipleSadness
Sprite Castle: http://feeds.feedburner.com/SpriteCastle
You Don’t Know Flack: http://feeds.feedburner.com/YDKF
All RobOHara-Podcasts: http://feeds.feedburner.com/RobOHara-Podcasts

iTunes Feeds:

Cactus Flacks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/cactus-flacks/id1097411896
Multiple Sadness: https://itunes.apple.com/nz/podcast/multiplesadness/id1018455751
Sprite Castle: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sprite-castle/id827251255
You Don’t Know Flack: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/you-dont-know-flack/id368604225
All RobOHara-Podcasts: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/robohara-podcasts/id989487448

The only podcast I record that hasn’t been migrated over is Throwback Reviews, which is hosted by my podcasting partner Sean, and still has its own website. Nothing has changed for it. Throwback Reviews still has the same RSS feed and iTunes link.

Thank you to all of my Patreons who support me over at Patreon.com/RobOHara. Whether it’s $1 or $5 per month, my Patreon supporters are the people who keep my shows going. Without them, none of this would be possible. Thank you all!

Old Skool NES Raspberry Pi Case

Last year, Nintendo released the NES Classic Edition. It was a game console that looked like a tiny version of the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) from the 80s. It had 30 built-in games and cost $59.95. Nintendo woefully underestimated demand for the console. Stores couldn’t keep them in stock, and when they did hit shelves, scalpers scooped them up and resold them online for huge profits. And then, with thousands of potential customers begging Nintendo to ramp up production, the company confusingly cancelled the product instead.

This led lots of techie people to roll their own solutions, the most common of which was to install emulators on a Raspberry Pi (which made my list of NES Classic alternatives and which I wrote installation instructions for). It’s a nifty and inexpensive solution, but physically it’s missing the nostalgia form factor.

Enter the “NES inspired” Raspberry Pi case by Old Skool Entertainment System.

Not shaped exactly like an original NES, the Old Skool Entertainment System is the perfect shape for a Raspberry Pi. The case, which was designed to hold a Pi 3, 2 and B+, splits apart at the middle and includes four screws that goes up from the bottom into the top while holding the Pi in place.

Like any good case, there are openings that line up with all the Pi’s ports, so you won’t need to remove the case to access anything on the Pi. The front flips open to provide access to the Pi’s USB ports. While I appreciate the throwback to the original NES design, this does mean that all your USB cables will be routed out the front of the case. If you have an Ethernet cable running to your Pi, the lid will always be in the up position.

The case currently sells for $20 on Amazon and is available for Prime shipping, but there’s one thing on the packaging that worries me:

The absolute worst thing you can do when making a third-party product is mention Nintendo licenses by name. Claiming that your case was merely inspired by the original NES might be enough to skate past Nintendo’s lawyers, but mentioning characters by name and including instructions on how to download emulators and install ROMs is usually enough to draw the ire of suits. Hopefully when (not if) Nintendo’s lawyers come calling, all Old Skool will have to do is change their packaging, and not pull their case completely off the market.

So yeah, I like it. It’s no custom Commodore 1541 Raspberry Pi case, but it’s close.

Getting Back to Work

Just when I thought I had run out of tears, as I watched Howard’s casket get lowered into the ground, I found more. Seeing co-workers and friends and Howard’s family all hurting brought everything to the surface. I wanted to be there and anywhere but there at the same time.

Saturday night was different. One day after visiting him at a funeral home and only a few hours after the graveside service, I (and a couple hundred of his friends) attended a “celebration of life” gathering for Howard Carey. There were tears, but not as many as before. We ate, and drank, and shared memories of Howard. I had previously met three of Howard’s five children, and Saturday night I got to meet the other two. I also got to meet Howard’s siblings — Jeff, Pat, and Beverly — whom Howard has told me many stories about.

Susie, Howard’s wife, asked me before the gathering if I would be willing to get up and say a few words about Howard on behalf of his work friends. After all the stories Howard has told me over the years, it was the least I could do. I didn’t have anything written down, but had a couple of stories in mind to share when I walked up to the microphone. I was surprisingly calm. It felt good to make people laugh. If I spoke for two minutes, I made it 1:57 before my voice cracked.

Howard was a hard worker, and terribly generous with his time. He stood up for himself, and for others. These are the things I’ll remember about Howard, and things I’ll strive harder to do.

One thing Howard wouldn’t do is sit still for long. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to blogging about computers and video games and the goofy things I find at flea markets. Howard loved reading those posts and frequently mentioned them to me at work. So no more tears, not for now.

Now, as Howard would say, it’s time to get back to work.

On Twinkies and Death

As a writer, I am always thinking in transitions. I spend a lot of time on getting jokes to flow from one to the next, and making it look like I didn’t spend any time on it at all. When novel writing, I work hard to come up with hooks I can drop at the end of one chapter to ensure readers will start the next. It’s about the flow — linking words and sentences and paragraphs into bigger, cohesive movements.

Before my friend Howard passed away this past weekend, I was working on a blog post about a Twinkie the Kid Twinkie holder I just bought at a flea market for $3. How in all that is cream-filled do you segue between those two topics?

I dumped ol’ Twinkie the Kid into my draft folder. I knew there would be a time in the near future when I felt like writing again, but Monday wasn’t it.

Wednesday afternoon, Emily and I emptied out Howard’s cubicle. Digging through a friend’s personal belongings is awkward and awful and a little cathartic. We quickly formed multiple piles: one for Howard’s personal belongings, one for work-related items, one for office supplies, and a trash can for everything else. Souvenir sand dollar? Personal. Book on managing firewalls? Work-related. Tape dispenser? Office supplies. Mostly used tube of chapstick? Trash.

And then there was this.

Along with my dad and my uncle Joe, Howard was one of the biggest Three Stooges fans I knew. He loved all those old shorts, and could match me quote-for-quote when it came to reciting classic Stooge one-liners. One of Howard’s ringtones was of the Stooges smacking each other around, and he was totally jealous last year when I visited the Stoogeum in Pennsylvania last year. The other day at work I asked Howard if he had change for a five. “No, but I’ll give ya two,” he said while impersonating Moe and pointing two fingers at me as if he were going to give me a classic eye-poke.

I used to have those Stooge magnets on my home refrigerator, but when we purchased a new stainless steel (and magnet-proof) fridge, I brought them to work and stuck them on Howard’s mini-fridge. Occasionally he would move them around in different poses. We laughed about them a lot.

And when I saw them today, I thought Howard would have appreciated the humor in a Twinkie the Kid-shaped Twinkie carrier that was designed to carry a single Twinkie. What’s the point of it? He would have loved how ridiculousness it is. I would have bought a Twinkie from the Dollar General and brought it to work in Twinkie the Kid, and Howard would have called me a knucklehead.

And we would have laughed our heads off.

My Howard

Because I know a few people with the same first name, at some point over the past few years I began referring to my friend Howard Carey as “my” Howard. I never realized that until Susan pointed it out last Friday.

“I’m texting my Howard to see if he wants to meet us for lunch,” I told her.

Your Howard?” she replied.

Yeah. Howard Carey was my Howard.

I met Howard Carey when he started working as a contractor for the FAA in 1999. He worked on the help desk for a while, and did desk side support, and was the lab technician. Sometimes he changed positions because a contract would end. Other times he changed positions because someone would realize what a hard worker he was and steal him away. In 2010, Howard was working for a help desk in another building when my department had a domain administration position open up. Howard was the first person I thought of, and my co-workers Emily and Johnny all agreed that he would be a great fit. I met Howard for breakfast that day and asked him if he would be interested in “coming back home.” He immediately said yes, and within a few weeks, I had got my Howard back. For the last eight or nine years, I haven’t sat more than six feet away from him at work. Every day we were both in the office we drank coffee together and ate breakfast together and went to lunch together.

I wish I had kept a list of all the projects outside of work Howard had helped me with over the past decade and a half. When Susan was secretly turning our backyard shed into an arcade for me as a surprise for my 30th birthday, Howard came over to our house several times (without my knowledge) and helped Susan move arcade games from the garage into the building. He even donated his bumper pool table to the arcade. When I was looking for a basketball goal for Mason, Howard gave me his old one. When I bought a giant wooden jungle gym for the kids for Christmas, Howard came over and assembled it. Sometimes he would accept payment for these jobs and sometimes he wouldn’t. Howard installed a shower in my dad’s house once. He wouldn’t accept any cash for the job, but finally agreed to take a bottle of Jack Daniels in trade.

In 2014, the Cleveland Cavaliers came to Oklahoma City Thunder on Mason’s birthday. Because Howard’s from Ohio and loved basketball, we bought three tickets so I could take both Mason and Howard to the game. Howard took us to Five Guys burgers before the game for Mason’s birthday, which he loved. Everything went fine until we got to the game and learned that LeBron James had decided not to play that night. I don’t know where LeBron James was that night, but wherever he was, he could probably hear Howard yelling at him.

Over the past few years, Howard has spent a bunch of time and money turning his backyard into the ultimate resort. I’m not kidding, it looks like the kind of place you would see on a vacation postcard. After he had an in-ground pool put in, he built a Tiki Hut, and then a wrap-around grill, and a shade area, and surrounded the whole thing with a giant bamboo fence. Every now and then he and his wife Susie would host pool parties in their backyard and I swear it looked like a movie set. Every time I went over there he had added something new.

On Saturday, June 3, Howard was out working in his backyard when he suddenly collapsed and died. Nobody knows why. Howard was the healthiest 62-year-old I ever met. He played racquetball three times a week, and was on a basketball league before that. There were a lot of us at work who wished we were as healthy as Howard Carey, that’s for sure.

After receiving the horrible news, Howard’s wife asked me to let Howard’s friends at the FAA know. This may have been one of the hardest things I have ever done. Each call I made started with shock and most of them ended in tears. Every single person I spoke with told me two things. After telling me what a great guy Howard was, each person shared something that Howard had done for them. I don’t think there’s a person alive who Howard hadn’t put a sink in for, or helped change out a water heater, or helped move. Howard was one of the nicest, most generous, selfless, and hardest working guys I ever met.

And after making those calls I realized that he wasn’t just my Howard.

He was everybody’s Howard.

Rest in peace, Howard Carey. We all miss you so very much. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

One Last Swim with the Frogs

Yesterday, for the second day in a row, we swam in our neighbor’s pool.

We have an agreement with the neighbors. Each time they go out of town for the weekend, we watch their dogs and swim in their pool. Mason lets the dogs out a couple of times a day and feeds and waters them. While he does that, Susan, Morgan and I swim. Occasionally, the dogs swim, too. Mason also used to swim but now he says he doesn’t like the way the pool’s salt water makes his hair feel. Don’t feel too bad for him; he’s the only one that gets paid money in this arrangement. The rest of us get paid in pool and dog-petting time.

It’s really not warm enough to swim yet, but the neighbors are moving. It’s Memorial Day weekend, and Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., new owners close on the house. The neighbors are out of town this weekend, and Morgan isn’t about to miss out on the opportunity.

Normally the pool is in immaculate condition, and from twenty feet away it still looks great, but the closer you get the more it looks like a pool that belongs to somebody who is not about to own it next week. There’s a thin layer of algae on the white plastic steps that lead down into the water. A few old leaves have settled on the bottom of the pool and a few more float across the surface along with ladybugs, little black beetles, and a dozen baby frogs.

The frogs are tiny — you could fit three of them on a single penny — and everywhere. They’re so small you might not notice them at all, but once you see one, you’ll see ten. In the pool’s water you might mistake them for a small black bug, but their long frog legs, propelling them around the pool, make them easy to spot. Morgan rescues a handful of them and places them outside the pool. Within a few minutes they have all jumped back in, except for one, who keeps rolling over onto his back and kicking his legs up in the air. I fear that one doesn’t have long for this earth. Morgan places one of the microscopic frogs on Susan’s shoulder, where it rides for a long time. Eventually, Susan takes a handful of baby frogs over to the pond and lets them go.

The water is so cold that when I got in my body involuntarily jerked and tried to get back out. I’m instantly reminded of the Titanic museum we visited, where visitors were encouraged to stick their hand in a bucket of cold water to see how cold the ocean felt that night to passengers. Now I feel like I’ve lived it. Each time I move, the cold water hits a new part of my body.

The frogs don’t seem to mind the temperature of the water, and neither does Morgan. My teeth chatter as Morgan passes me, doing the backstroke. “Are you ready to get out yet?” I ask, but I know the answer. She won’t be ready to get out for half an hour, because this is our last weekend to swim in the pool, and even if the pool contained a thousand frogs and piles of ice cubes, she would be in there.

Normally there are basketballs and plastic diving rings to play with, and patio furniture to sit on when we get out of the pool, but everything has been packed up. Today it’s just us and the frogs, having one last swim.

A Trip to the Chinatown Supermarket

I like sushi, and ramen, and colorful packaging, so I’m not sure why I hadn’t visited any of Oklahoma City’s several authentic Asian grocery stores before. Yesterday, in search of ingredients for Susan’s sushi night for her Girl Scouts, she and I did. It was awesome.

Much like the Thai place I visit in Kansas city named “Thai Place,” this supermarket in Chinatown (OKC’s Asian district) was named “Chinatown Supermarket.” I like businesses with names that get to the point, and this certainly does.

On the way in, an older Asian man stopped me in the parking lot. “Lovely weather today,” he said, waving at the sky. This wasn’t about the weather. The man was saying, “You are welcome here.”

I smiled back.

To the right of the entrance stood a freezer full of Mochi ice cream bars, Jackfruit treats, and lots of things with no English words on them. The bright colors on the packaging spoke the international language of “delicious,” but I wasn’t entirely sure what everything was. This feeling was repeated on every aisle of the supermarket.

It’s a good thing the Chinatown Supermarket leads with the fruit and popsicles because after that I found myself in the raw meat department, which leads to the recently killed fish department, and the large water tubs filled with swimming turtles. When you can stand in the middle of an aisle and touch a dead squid with one hand and a container of pork blood with the other, you can be damn sure you’re not in Homeland. Hopefully.

The most jarring thing was the smell which, with my perpetually stopped-up sinuses, wasn’t as strong for me as it was for Susan (and, one presumes, the fish).

Fortunately, the rest of the store was much happier.

Pocky! Pocky Pocky Pocky! These things are great! They’re little “biscuit sticks” covered in icing. These packs contained 9 smaller packs and cost $1.99 here. There’s a store not to far from me that sells each of those individual packages for $1.99 each. This was a great bargain!

Next up were all the beverages. There were tiny little cans of coffee. I bought a couple cans of Mr. Brown coffee. I won’t lie, I picked that brand because the name made me think of poop. I am truly a man-child.

There were lots and lots of bottles of colored drinks. Some had English written on them and some did not.

I’m still not sure what this one was. The picture did not sell me.

Around the corner, I suddenly found myself standing in noodle heaven. There were more brands and flavors of ramen noodles than I knew existed. I picked four at random. Spicy chicken! Seafood prawn! I will be eating good this week!

As Susan tried to locate the rest of her sushi ingredients, I snuck over to the hot sauce aisle and picked up a bottle of Extra Hot Chili Sauce. I put some on my dinner last night. There’s a reason the brand name is YEO!

The last thing I bought was this bag of Striking Popping Candy, which came with 20 individual packets of Pop Rock-like candy. Mostly I bought it for the packaging. Does that guy look like he’s enjoying his Striking Popping Candy or what?

The check out process was interesting. It mostly consisted of our cashier yelling at the other cashier while she talked on her phone. I don’t know what all the yelling was about, but there was a lot of it. Fortunately nobody yelled at us when we checked out, and the cashier instantly pegged us as “woman attempting to make sushi” and “man who likes children’s candy.” Good eye, those cashiers.

There were many other aisles I enjoyed, like the one with all those soup spoons I see at the buffet and another one full of statues that I recognized from every Chinese restaurant in town.

After we got home I doled out the candy and hung on to my pile of Thai Tea, Extra Hot Chili Sauce, and Mr. Brown’s coffee because… snicker… “Mr. Brown.”

I am already looking forward to checking out some of the other supermarkets in OKC’s Asian district and trying new things! Yeo!

Feeling Outshined

One of my favorite Soundgarden lyrics came from one of their most popular songs. I never heard Chris Cornell explain what he meant by “I’m looking California, but feeling Minnesota,” but nobody my age needed him to. I was eighteen when Soundgarden’s “Outshined” hit MTV and radio airwaves, and all of my friends and I had just made the transition from high school students to adults in the real world. No matter how California we looked on the outside, inside, we all felt a little Minnesota.

The irony of the lyric is that nobody involved in grunge — not performers, not fans — looked particularly “California.” For most of the 1980s rock had been represented by guys with lipstick, eyeliner, and giant hair. In the fall of 1991, there was a hostile takeover. Overnight, the uniform changed from denim jackets and leather pants to flannel shirts, cargo shorts, and combat boots. Teased hair was out; dirty hair was in. Grunge had arrived.

Pearl Jam’s Ten, Nirvana’s Nevermind, and Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger were all released one month apart in the fall of 1991. Along with Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots, these bands became the national face of grunge. Of course there were bands before them like Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone that started the movement, and several others that carried the torch, but this wasn’t meant to be a history lesson.

It’s a memory of a moment in time.

A movement.

My senior year the cool place to cruise was 12th street in Moore, a two-mile section or road that by the time I discovered it was attracting thousands of teenagers each weekend. So many people cruised 12th street on Friday and Saturday nights that the city literally had to pass an ordinance to shut it down. It was where teens went to see, and be seen. Nobody wanted to see guys like us, of course, but that didn’t stop us from going. Compared to all the expensive hot rods and tricked out cars, my friends and I looked like the guys from Wayne’s World.

I distinctly remember the night we pulled up to a stop light on 12th street in my friend’s Chevy Citation. As was fairly common at the time, the Citation had a stereo that well exceeded the value of the car itself. Next to us at the light was a jeep full of dudes and dudettes. They had perfect hair and bodies and teeth. We had Soundgarden.

Our stereo was louder than theirs. With no doors to keep us out, the jeep’s passengers were helpless to defend themselves against our aural assault. The four or five of us, sweaty from sitting inside that Chevy Citation for hours, banged our heads along the music. In that moment, it felt like we were the ones on stage. Every note played on our pretend air instruments until the light turned green mattered.

Nobody, not even a jeep full of beautiful people, were going to outshine us that night.

The entertainment business is overrun with lemmings, artists and production companies quick to jump on the backs of trends and squeeze every last drop out of them. There was a period in time when grunge “meant” something. A few years later, when the local mall was filled with pre-ripped jeans and faded flannel shirts, that moment had passed.

The pain embedded in grunge music was not artificial. While the hair metal bands of the 80s were busy snorting cocaine off of the backsides of strippers, half of Seattle’s grunge scene could be found scoring heroin under bridges.

Of the original big five, the front men for four of them — Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, and as of yesterday, Soundgarden — have now passed.

The prevailing theme that ran throughout grunge music was that the people on stage weren’t any different than the people watching them perform. From their clothes to their feelings, they were like us. They were us. When Kurt Cobain mumbled “I’m worst at what I do best,” or Layne Stayley wondered if it was going going to rain when he died, we all felt it. Man, did I feel it.

Chris Cornell seemed to have escaped that dark cloud that hung over his contemporaries, at least for a while. When Soundgarden broke up, Cornell formed Audioslave with three members of Rage Against the Machine. When Audioslave broke up, he began performing solo. This acoustic performance of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” showed that Cornell was more than just a guy with a loud guitar.

Ironically, the pain those guys shared made the rest of us feel a little better. By listening to their music, a whole bunch of Gen X’ers realized that even when we were depressed, we weren’t alone. I wish those guys had felt the same way.

Operation Empty: How to Waste 28 Gallons of Gas in 96 Hours

scam (n): a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation

Last month my truck was involved in a minor fender bender. After a month-long investigation, Geico determined that I (the guy who was stopped at a red light) was not at fault, and agreed to pay for the damages.

I took my truck to Service King in Oklahoma City. I like Service King for three reasons. First, they do good work. Second, they text me updates instead of calling me. And third, both Geico and Enterprise have representatives co-located there. It’s a one-stop shop; you drop off your vehicle and before you know it, a Service King employee is examining your car while Geico handles the paperwork and the guy from Enterprise hands you the keys to a rental car.

Scams, by their very definition, are designed to trick people into paying or doing things they wouldn’t normally do. When the guy from Enterprise sold me on the idea of letting them fill the car (a Toyota Camry) up with gas, he mentioned that Enterprise only charges $1.69/gallon for gas. What he didn’t mention (until I had signed the agreement) was that they would charge me for an entire tank of gas, regardless of how much I used.

Everybody I mentioned this to said, “oh, that’s how it works.” So, lesson learned. Also, when someone charges me for an entire tank of gas, I will use every drop of it and return your car on fumes. Because “that’s how I work.”

Saturday morning I received a call that my truck was ready to be picked up. Sorry fellas, I had plans. Operation Empty had begun.

Saturday began with lunch at Panda Express. I could have gone inside to eat, but instead I ordered my food to go and ate in the rental car with the engine running and the air conditioner on full blast. Brr!

Unfortunately, Panda Express is only about five miles away from my house, and the Toyota Camry doesn’t use much gasoline while idling. With most of my large lemonade remaining, I drove over to Lake Overholser to enjoy the view while finishing it.

Lake Overholser is a nice place to go if you want to sit inside a rental car with the engine running and enjoy the view. But after a few minutes I thought to myself, “You know what’s missing here? Boats!” That’s when I decided to drive back north and park at Lake Hefner instead. If you know Oklahoma City at all you might be wondering, “why would Rob drive 7 miles south from the Panda Express on NW Expressway and drink half of his drink, only to turn around and drive 15 miles back north to drink the second half?” If you’re wondering that, you’ve missed the point.

And you’re right, that’s not exactly what I did; because while I was at Lake Overholser, I thought it would be nice if I had a squeeze bottle for some water. The first place I thought of was Big Lots, and there’s one pretty close to there in Yukon. So instead I drove to the one off of NW 63rd and May and bought a 99 cent squeeze bottle. Again, let me assure you that if you’re not familiar with the city, this makes absolutely no sense.

THEN, I went to Lake Hefner.

I made a few other trips that afternoon. When it came time for dinner I asked everyone, “Who wants to go to Pops?” Not because the food is great, but because it’s 30 miles away!

Mmm mmm mmm! You know what goes well with bottles of soda pop? The smell of gasoline, baby.

Sunday morning was Mother’s Day. I drove the Camry to pick up breakfast, and later we took it to go visit my mom.

That afternoon, we drove it to go have lunch. That evening, we drove it to the movies. Monday, I drove it to Edmond.

Monday afternoon, I received a call. “This is Geico. We are calling to inform you that this is the last day we are paying for the rental car.”

Sorry, I can’t hear you, Enterprise.

I won’t lie. We discussed putting the car on jack stands and letting it run, or siphoning the gas out into an army of gas cans. You charge me for a full tank of gas, I don’t screw around.

With an embarrassing “79 miles until empty” message mocking me on the Camry’s digital dashboard, I returned the car Monday afternoon, letting the engine run the entire time I was inside signing the final paperwork. If only it hadn’t been Mother’s Day weekend, I could have returned that thing on fumes.

I think the takeaway from this story is that Toyota Camrys get really good gas mileage.