safety

KN, p. 273 “On the Road: Traveling During the Pandemic”

A family member needed lots of help after surgery and since we had a couple of weeks of Covid down time, we volunteered to pitch in. The tricky part was that she lived in western Pennsylvania, and a last minute obligation meant that we had to stay overnight on the drive out there.

 

Overnight. On the road. During the Pandemic, when some restaurants would be closed and protocols would be different from previous trips for every single public rest stop.

 

We couldn’t merely toss clothes in the suitcases and hop in the car; we had to plan for all kinds of contingencies. Normally, we carry a handy AAA travel guide for the States in which we will travel. It lists hotels and restaurants by town, so when we’re ready to stop, we call from the road to make reservations for dining or hotels. This time, we had to call before we left the house since Sheila needs a walk-in shower and a place with an elevator. No tubs or stairs for us right now, and those requirements limited our hotel choices.

 

We discovered from the phone calls that breakfast was going to be problematic at the hotels. Breakfast buffets were a no-no. We could pick up go-bags at the front desk that contained a bagel and boiled eggs which was good for some happy travelers, but not for us. We elected to eat at a Denny’s we knew to be near our chosen hotel, in order to get hot food.

 

Restaurants all along the route required masks. Once we entered, we saw that every table had more space than usual between it and the next, and sometimes, empty tables had signs that said: ‘not available.’ In one place, the manager placed empty mop buckets on the ‘forbidden’ spots. Yup, a definite deterrent. We did need to use our surface wipes on the restaurant tables in two of the places, since the waitstaff missed quite a bit. BUT, the extra space was in some ways relaxing – less noise and no crowds are a plus.

 

The take-out places had decals on the floor that marked where you could stand to give your order and pick up your food. Not everyone followed the rules, but most complied.

 

The highway rest stops were cleaner and more organized than we had ever seen them. Areas in front of map displays were cordoned off and ‘no browsing’ was enforced. We told the staff members which maps we needed and they handed them to us. The vending machine operation seemed to be the same as always.

 

The hotels had contactless check-ins and checkouts, but a surprising touch at one was the seal on some doors to the rooms. The seals meant that the room had been sanitized after the last guest. The seal was broken only by using the key to gain access. Another plus? The hotel lobbies and rooms were cleaner than we’d ever seen them before. Not a smudge, dust bunny, or stray fingerprint anywhere. The hotel pools were open, but could only be used if reserved ahead of time; one family/group at a time.

 

These were our essential travel supplies that before the Pandemic would have been unnecessary:

 

  • Handi-wipes
  • Masks
  • Medical gloves
  • Surface wipes

 

We have returned, with mission accomplished, and have been tested as Covid-free, but we didn’t take sanitation for granted anywhere.

 

For other “On-the-Road” travel tips, check out:

 

Stay safe out there and have a great time!

 

 

KN, p. 129 “Christmas Shopping and Home Safety”

 

 

‘Tis the season for shopping, shopping and more shopping! Even with Black Friday, online stores, the Pandemic, and Cyber Monday thrown into the mix, the malls are still more crowded at this time of year than at any other.

 

Elbow to elbow, crowded.

Wait 30 minutes for a cold cup of coffee in the mall, crowded.

So much noise that you can’t hear the Muzak, crowded.

 

Unfortunately with the crowds, come a few pickpockets and pocketbook snatchers and package thieves. So, what can you do to cut down on the chances of getting robbed after you’ve slaved at your job to earn the Christmas money? Here are a few easy tips.

 

  • Gals, I know this is a tough one, but if you can…leave the pocketbook at home. If that can’t be worked out, take a pocketbook that can be worn with the strap across your body. Under no circumstances should you carry a pocketbook dangling from your hand while walking through the mall. At the very least, use a shoulder bag and rest the straps on your shoulder while holding onto it securely.

 

  • Guys, don’t put your wallet in your back pocket. That’s a pickpocket’s dream.

 

  • Don’t leave the cash register until you have put your cash and/or credit cards away. People behind you in a rush? Too bad. Give ‘em a big smile and let ‘em wait until you have put the money stuff away and your pocketbook is closed.

 

  • Try to do your shopping during the day – lunch hours are good and the stores are less crowded. If you are shopping after dark, go with a pal.

 

  • If you are buying lots of gifts and need to make trips to the car to unload packages, put them in the trunk. Bags in the backseat are an open invitation for a thief.

 

  • Use the restrooms in the stores where you are shopping (and have bought something). Much safer.

 

  • Stay off the cellphone in the parking lots. You need to stay alert to people that might be following you. If someone is following you, head straight back to the closest mall entrance and report the incident.

 

  • Park as close as possible to the well-lit entrances of the stores. If it’s after dark when you leave, ask a security guard to walk you to your car. Once you’re in the car, lock it right away and leave.

 

You’re done shopping and you’re home. What should you do to reduce the chances of getting burglarized?

 

  • Don’t put your Christmas tree in the front window for all to see. At least turn off the Christmas lights and close the curtains when you’re not home. Burglars case the neighborhoods this time of year for likely targets.

 

  • If you’re going skiing or to a beach for the holiday, cancel the paper and the mail. Either one of those piling up is a clear signal that nobody is home.

 

  • Contact the police department and let them know you’ll be away on vacation. Many towns have a neighborhood watch program and a patrol officer might check on the house while you’re gone.

 

  • Don’t hide spare keys under rocks, in flowerpots, or above door ledges.

 

  • Don’t post information about your trip on Facebook or Twitter or any other Social Media site until after you return. We’d love to see your photos of the trip, not the photos of the missing new TV and the burglarized house.

 

Above all, use common sense, stay safe, and enjoy the holidays!

 

*Photo by Patti Phillips

 

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KN, p. 178 “Is the builder dead yet?”

 

“What? Is somebody trying to kill the builder?” you ask.

They’ might be thinking about it. As in, more than one person is annoyed.

EmptyLotTreesDSC_1481

Here’s what is happening. When we moved in, the neighborhood was full of wooded lots. Even the properties with houses already there, had plenty of trees at the edges, along the fences, or next to the houses. Some were mature trees that had been left on the otherwise cleared lots before construction had begun. Property owners added flowering trees as time passed. Wildlife flourishes in this residential neighborhood of 1/4 and 1/3 acre lots. We’re not out in the country, but these are not zero-lot homes either.

 

Phases 1 and 2 of the larger housing development have long been completed. Phase 3 was finished three years ago, the original trees are beautiful, and the owners are adding new fruit/flowering trees each year.

 

Enter Phase 4. The original developer had a few lots left and found a builder to buy them. That builder wanted the lots cleared before finalizing the deal. That’s when we, the neighbors, discovered that some of the grassy/lightly-wooded areas between existing homes were actually unsold lots.

 

EmptyLotBulldozerDSC_1474

ALL of the trees from those lots are being cleared, lots of red dirt remains, and now mudslides into neighboring backyards are expected with the next heavy rain.

 

The developer in charge of the work told me on the phone that the lots are not wide enough to have left the trees in place. The one in the photos is 60 feet wide. Years ago, I lived in a house surrounded by maples and evergreens. That lot was 50×100. IMO, this guy simply did not want to take the time to leave a couple of trees to shade the house and protect the wildlife on the lot.

 

The neighbors to the left and right of the bulldozer photo were concerned enough to have the City Inspector come out to assess the situation. Note the dirt to the left appears to be in a pile that crosses the property line and would be the most likely to slide into the neighbor’s yard in the rain.

 

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The builder’s solution was to place sand barrier ‘fencing’ on the property line. The bulldozer operator moved the dirt up against it.

 

Other lots have similar problems with soil grading and tree removal.

 

Heated conversations have been held. The neighborhood grapevine is operating at peak efficiency. Town council meetings are scheduled on the topic.

 

In case you doubt that neighbors and builders would actually get angry over something like this, read on.

 

Existing homeowners in Colorado were upset with new builders in the neighborhood who appeared to be putting in homes that did not conform to the look of the development, thereby lowering everyone’s property values. Building was delayed while plans were reviewed. Board members who were in charge of approving the designs (but didn’t) were removed from their positions and new people replaced them.

 

http://www.reporterherald.com/ci_20492538/homeowners-builder-bank-at-odds-lovelands-taft-farms

 

When developers with big money at stake and disgruntled homeowners with possible deflated property values are at odds, tempers can flare, injunctions can occur, and nothing good happens. If the builder complies with city ordinances, there is little recourse for the neighbors who don’t care for the look of the newer houses, or how the new homes will affect them.

 

City codes exist for a reason. Check yours out. You might be surprised at what is NOT included in some communities, such as: building setbacks, curbing pets, rules about garbage, home swimming pool regulations, livestock allowed in the city limits, etc.

 

We haven’t seen any bodies in the remaining woods yet, but it is still early in the process. Kidding. Tempers are high, but so far, everybody is at the yelling stage. Let’s hope that reason prevails and the builder corrects the problems he has created, and doesn’t produce any new ones.

 

2020 Update:

The two houses built on the properties in the photos have flooding issues. One has a perpetual pond in the backyard from the water cascading down the slope, requiring special drains to keep the water away from the house. The builder was within city code requirements and took no responsibility for the flooding caused by his bulldozing method. Buyer beware.

 

*Photos by Patti Phillips

 

 

 

 

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