Planning For the Future, The Hard Way
a ponder, there is no more dangerous place in the whole world
than a really big Trade Show, especially if it happens early
in the season.
aflame with seething, unresolved and inchoate yearnings toward
the Perfect Pond, we slaves to the hobby (or PondZombies,
as a slightly saner friend of mine once called me) stagger
through the portals of a Show, fingers twitching with the
need to grasp that new net, salivating over koi foods, lusting
after the newest and sexiest pumps and filter arrays, weeping
in frustration because our spouses, in their wisdom, have
snitched our wallets and checkbooks and printed on each of
our sweating foreheads in indelible marker:"DO NOT SELL
ANYTHING TO THIS PERSON. AFTER WHAT HAPPENED HERE LAST YEAR,
HE/SHE IS SOOOO GROUNDED!"
Just because that new MikeWhitewater SuperDynamic UV Projector
and Ultimate Bugzapper seriously damaged a 747 on approach
to O'Hare. The Homeland Security guys were okay about it after
a few beers. Right?
fully prepared for the experience by our senseis with The
CatShow Mantra ("Ommmmmmmmnotgonnabuyakittennotgonnabuyakitten")
and a set of horse blinkers, we can, in fact, still be backdoored
by a particularly seductive gadget. I know. It happened to
me. Oddly enough, it worked out rather ridiculously well.
scene is set. Spring 2005 MPKS Trade Show. Our pond had been
brought up to peak efficiency by the addition of a more powerful
pump set and a boosted-flow bioreactor the year before. Two
bead bioconverters, a Turbo-Vortex, the Illudium Q-238 Pond
Modulator and a flux capacitor completed the array and filled
every inch of the filter bay. Any more pumpage would shoot
the waterfall into the bedroom window, and Anne had put her
foot down. I got patted down before the show and my cards,
wallet and checkbook were confiscated. Only then was I, a
confirmed techno-junkie, allowed to wander into the show.
pond heater that Koi by Keirin was displaying was tempting,
but we'd been through that the year before. There was no way
we could set it up in the garage and run it off of the gas
supply that wouldn't have cost twice what the heater itself
cost. Our fish were doing well with the setup we had and that
was pretty much that. A filter pad here, some koi food there,
an in-line dechlorinator over at Mike White's; it hardly seemed
I saw it. Tan. Boxy. Above all, big. Well sorta big. Bigger
than a breadbox at least. What was neater than all of that
was that there was what looked like a Harley engine inside.
All shiny and clean, it looked like you could drop it onto
two wheels and ride off on it.
the smiling sandy-haired guy showing the thing explained that
with a few simple modifications it could, in the event of
a power failure, use our natural gas supply to generate enough
electricity to run the pond, the isolation vats, and a few
other less-important things around the house like the freezers,
the furnace, the computers, the kitchen and my CPAP machine.
If you think about it, that's how you unequivocally identify
a true ponder. A normal homeowner in a community beset by
frequent power failures will buy a generator to protect his
whole house air conditioner first, his entertainment center
and home theater next, maybe the food storage and the kitchen
as an afterthought. Anybody with a koi pond will invariably
supply his pumps and filters first, with everything else in
his life coming in a distant second.
usual impediment to this plan was the fact that in order for
this gadget to be useful, you had to be there to turn it on
and feed it. This gadget had all the horns and whistles. Automatic
start, automatic switch, automatic off, automatic fuel, and
the guy would even install it and service it! And it only
uh oh. Oh Anne
followed was not pretty. You have not seen true groveling
in its rawest state until you have watched a confirmed techno-geek
attempting to convince his skeptical and fiscally conservative
spouse that this was the one ultimate toy that will solve
everything. It took all weekend and multiple drawings and
much convincing, but at the end of it, I had my toy.
was great fun for me, but probably drove poor Steve the Handyman
quietly nuts. I admit it now, but I would not leave him alone
to do his job. Despite my help and endless questions, he finished
on schedule and under budget, and even managed to wrestle
my village government to a standstill. We were ready. Lightning
strike, tornado, wind, rain, line squall, charging rhinos.
Didn't matter. Bring it on.
Ma Nature countered with a summer of endless dry, sunny and
quiet days. The generator sat and sulked, the power stayed
on, and I became nervous. Murphy's Law states: "If anything
can go wrong, it will." and in this instance ol'Murph
was batting a thousand simply by not letting anything go wrong.
Understand that our block in our neighborhood is the one that
loses power when John Stroger sneezes. Everyone on all sides
chunters along happily while we languish in the dark. It had
happened again and again, but not the summer of '05. Arrrrgh.
Not to say that there wasn't the odd moment of fun. The generator
has a self-maintenance cycle that turns itself on and runs
the engine for ten minutes or so once a week. Startled the
neighbors the first time it kicked in. Happily, they all ran
over to make sure nothing was wrong. We got nice neighbors.
came at a time when the pond's demands were at their lowest.
Christmas Eve night, with the house full of overnight guests,
the refrigerator and freezers full of holiday food prep. Picturesque
heavy snow falling and everybody just dropping off to sleep.
Sure enough, Ma Nature and Murphy together again. Paf! And
out go the lights. Just on our block. Again.
Vroooooooom! A loud "Clonk" from the switch,
and everything important (including the pond's air pumps!)
comes up on line. There we sat, happily glowing in the dark
while the rest of our block sat and froze or melted (depending
on whether they were folks or food) for eight endless hours
while ComEd tried to find a crew to fix anything on Christmas
feel better now. No, I feel smug.
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