A Scorpion in My Pants . . .

Verizon is apparently messing with things again. My phone says I have 1x, and not 3G. But even the 1x doesn’t work right now. Hopefully if will be up and running when it’s time to post this blog.

As far as the scorpion goes, I thought so, anyhow. Yesterday (Tuesday) I was just sitting here minding my own business (not that there’s anyone else’s to mind around here) and all of a sudden something bit me or stung me on my left calf.

YOW!

And my first thought WAS that a scorpion had gotten into my pants. So I was dancing around, swatting at my leg, and yelling. But all this seem to accomplish was to make whatever it was climb higher. Whoops! Not exactly what I had in mind.

But, as I was frantically trying to drop trow, hop on one foot, yell, and slap at my leg, I realized that I was being stung by a lot of things, not just one stinger. So that meant it had to be . . .

A NEST OF SCORPIONS !!

By this time I had my pants down around my ankles, jumping up and down, slapping at my pants, just knowing that at any minute a truck full of cute young salesgirls was going drive up. But at least my luck held as far as this went.

Then suddenly I get bit again, this time on the back of my bare leg, just above the knee. It felt like I was on the wrong side of a pin cushion. Reaching around my leg and grabbing at whatever it was (not the smartest thing, I know) I came up with a handful of large brown grasshopper/locust/katydid whateveryoucallit.

And then he bit me again. Son of a . . .  !

But now I could see he wasn’t biting me or stinging me at all. His feet apparently had very sharp little grippers on them, and so the more I danced around, the tighter he held on for dear life.

Deciding it was time for the two of us to part company, I flung him as hard as I could. He of course, just dug in his gripper thingies a little deeper and held on tight.

Realizing this wasn’t going to work, I grabbed a nearby water spray bottle and gave him a good squirt. At first he seemed like it, but after three or four more, he got the message and leaped away.

Well, at least I have another topic for my upcoming “Gate Guarding for Fun? and Profit” seminar at Nick’s next Rally,

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In the meantime Jan had her own excitement Tuesday evening when a sudden windstorm blew through our area, apparently spawned by all the thunderstorms roaming around. Although it never rained here, the wind came out of nowhere, turning over the fan, loosening some of the canopy guy ropes, and generally wreaking havoc on our gate site. Finally she went inside and rode it out there.

Nothing was really damaged, but it did take me a while to get everything set back up and stowed away when I came on at 11pm. I thought my new windshield solar screen had been blown away at first, but all that happened was that it got flipped back up and onto the roof.

Several people had ask for a photo of my outside solar screen setup, so here it is.

Solar Screen

Nothing fancy. Just a cord strung between the awning brackets on each side, and then the solar screen material is hung from the cord like clothes on a clothesline (remember those?) and fastened with binder clips.

It works great, and it was cheap. My kind of project.

Tuesday was also Chile Rellenos day at Galindo’s again so I picked up lunch for us on my way home from Pleasanton. Just as delicious as last time, and they have great chips and salsa, too. Especially the salsa. They sell it by the jar and I may get some next time.

The reason I was in Pleasanton was to get my oil changed at Wal-Mart. I just had it done in January before we left the Houston area, but it was time again. It’s amazing how many miles we put on our truck just driving around.

We bought it in late 2007 just before we got our American Eagle coach, and in that time we’ve put about 50,000 miles on the coach, and about 75,000 miles on the truck. And that 75,000 doesn’t include the 50,000. It’s in addition, since the truck odometer doesn’t register when it’s in tow mode. So that means we’ve driven about 125,000 miles in the last 5 years. Hard to imagine.

But along with my oil change, Wal-Mart also gave me 3 flat tires. Well, one flat and two almost flat. What happened was that as part of their oil change service, they check your tire pressures. And whoever did it, didn’t tighten my Tire Traker tire pressure sensors back on the valve stems, letting them slowly leak down.

So late Tuesday afternoon a passing truck driver told me I had a flat.

BUMMER! Not realized at the time what the problem was, I decided to wait until I came back on duty at 11pm to change it when it would be cooler. Well, a little cooler, anyway.

Getting the spare put on and flat tire up in the truck, I stuck my head in the cab to get something and heard my tire pressure monitor going off. Checking it, I found it showing I had two more almost flat tires, both under 20 pounds.

What the . . . 

Three flats? Getting my tire gauge out to confirm the pressure I found the tire pressure sensor very loose on the valve stem. Suddenly remembering how loose the one was on the flat tire when I took it off to move it to the spare, I checked the second almost flat tire and found it also very loose. And the sensor on the last remaining good tire was tight.

Sensing a pattern here, (hey, I didn’t fall off the turnip truck LAST night!) I got out my air compressor and aired up all three tires, and tightened down the sensors when i was done. Two hours later, all three tires were still fine.

I had just changed a tire for nothing. Darn you, Wal-Mart!

So, tomorrow (Thursday) I’m going back to the Wal-Mart and let them take my spare off and put my other tire back on. Let them fix it.

And this is the reason I wanted to wait till after midnight to change the tire. And it was still 89 degrees then.

108 Temp
This is the official temperature. Our thermometer here at the rig said 116 degrees, but I think it’s picking up a lot of heat off the side of the rig, and thru the white translucent canopy. But our water misting system really keeps us comfortable.

It’s only when we have to walk out in the sun and actually work, that it gets hot.

Jan had a Girl’s Day Out this afternoon (Wednesday), going into Pleasanton, getting her hair down, doing some shopping, etc. Then on her way home she picked up Sonic Chili Dogs for supper. Humm, humm, good.

As it stands now, it looks like we’ll be moving to a new site in the next 7 to 10 days. I’ve got the location and tomorrow (Thursday) I’m going to drive over and check it out. It’s back on the east side of I-37, about 20 miles from where our last site was, and only about 5 miles from the Gate Guard Services offices near Whitsett. So less travel to pick up our paychecks.

Lastly, Jan wanted me to pass on a cleaning tip. We have a problem with the mist from the cooling mister combining with the ever-present dust, and put a film on our glasses that makes it hard to see, and very hard to get off. We’d tried a number to cleaners and nothing worked very well.

But a tip from a passing-though truck driver did the trick.

Dawn dish soap. Leave your glasses soaking over night in a bowl of Dawn and water, and the next morning they’re spotless.

Neat!

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Thought for the Day:

Always be thoughtful. Or thoughtless. Whatever works for you.

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Bor…ring !

Believe me, the life of an oilfield gate guard is not all exciting fun and games. Sometimes it is absolutely, completely BORING!

Trucks come in, trucks come out. Then we stare at the trees across the road, and watch the bunny rabbits hop past.

Jan says “Yeah, it’s boring until the tarantulas coming out to play. And then there’s the snakes and scorpions.”

Well, maybe it’s not always boring.

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I had a number of comments and questions about my blog concerning oilfield jobs. All I could suggest was to check out the San Antonio and Corpus Christi newspapers for the job fairs the companies are holding around the state.

I know around here that there are a number of billboards advertising for CDL truck drivers, and I also hear ads on San Antonio radio stations looking for drivers too.

One thing to remember is that before you can work on an oil rig, apparently you must get a tattoo. In some cases, you must get a lot of them. At least that’s how it is with pretty much every roughneck and roustabout around here.

And you probably will need to get a divorce. Maybe several, even. At least that’s also the case with pretty much every guy. Working one week on and one week off, or even two weeks on and two off, take a toll on a marriage.

But then three guys showed up with new trucks this week. So maybe it all works out.

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Reading an article on Social Security the other day made me realize that I may have a problem with the money we’re making gate guarding. At least as far as Social Security goes.

This year a person on early Social Security can make $14,640 before the government starts taking money back. Normally my computer and Internet income stay under this level, but our gate guarding is going to put me over since the paychecks have been coming in my name only. So I called the Gate Guard Services office on Friday and had them change the paychecks to Jan’s name. This will save us money since she doesn’t have any income in her name. Wish I had thought of this earlier.

Oh well. It’s only money.

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Looks like we’re in for a few days of very hot temps, maybe as high as 107 degrees. When it was up to 105 a while back our water misting system kept things comfortable. With the mist coming off the fan, you get a little damp, or even wet. But it’s a cooling wet, and not a sweaty wet. So it’s all good.

Last night I tried to put up the new solar screens on the windshield to help cut down on the heat coming into the rig. I had planned to just stick it up using Gorilla Tape to hold it to the glass. However, although the tape stuck to the glass just fine, it would not stick to the solar screen material. Bummer.

I think what I’ll try next is to run a cord from the awning bracket on one side of the rig across the top of the windshield to the bracket on the other side. Then I’ll just hang the screen from the cord and use binder clips to fasten it in place like on a clothesline. Should work just fine. But I’ll let you know.

Quick, easy, and cheap. My kind of solution.

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Thought for the Day:

If peanut butter cookies are made from peanut butter, then what are Girl Scout cookies made out of?

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If It’s Tuesday, It Must Chile Rellenos . . .

We now have a new place to eat every Tuesday.

Why, you might ask?

Because Tuesday is Chile Relleno day at Galindo’s in Charlotte.

Galindo’s is a nondescript (rundown, even) little place that I pass every time I go into Pleasanton for supplies. It’s actually the closest restaurant to our gate site.

Galindas

But one thing I’ve noticed is that there are always cars in front, and at lunch time it’s hard to even drive past the place. They don’t really have any parking to speak of, so customers just park along both sides of the street.

And today, in the window, was a sign that said “Chile Relleno”. As it turns out, Tuesday is Chile Relleno day at Galindo’s. And Jan says, boy do they make good ones.

I got her the Chile Relleno dinner with rice and beans, and I got a couple of Chorizo and Egg breakfast tacos for me. I really like the fact that they serve the breakfast stuff all day.

Jan said it was the best Chile Relleno she’s had in a long time. Filled with ground beef and cheese, and covered in a crispy coating, she said it was delicious. And she really liked the rice and beans, too. Very tasty.

Even the chips and salsa were great. Really hot salsa.

So we now know where we’ll be eating from every Tuesday.

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Things sure pop up quickly around here. One day it’s an empty pad with just BOP(Blow Out Preventer) standing in the middle of it. That’s the insect-looking thing sticking up in the center of the photo below.

BOP

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Then, two days later it looks like this after the fracking crew moves in.

Fracking Site

It’s really amazing how fast they can build up and tear down these small cites, almost overnight.

And apparently they are really hurting for oilfield workers down here. I was reading another website about all the job fairs the companies are holding. A truck driver with a CDL and six months experience starts at $29.50/hr. And this is local, home every night work.

Certified Rig Workers make between 100K and 200K a year. And a ‘year’ consists of six months for them, since they work 7 twelve hour days and are then off for 7 days. That explains why we have new guys show up working on the crew, riding with someone else, or driving a beat-up clunker, and then a month later (two work shifts) they show in a new $40 – $50,000 truck.

It seems like a lot of people don’t want to work this hard, but the companies say one of the biggest problems is finding people who can pass the drug tests. You’d think they could at least knock off the weed for the 30 days before the test.

And as far as the ‘Certified Rig Worker’ goes, those are mostly safety and EPA certifications that the oil company puts you through after you are hired.

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When we were in San Antonio last Sunday, I stopped in at Home Depot and picked up another couple of rolls of solar screen. Although I have screens on the inside of the windshield, they don’t really fit flush to the glass, letting more heat in. So I’m going to hang solar screen on the outside also, to help cut down the heat load on the AC’s.

As it stands right now, the AC’s run constantly from around 11am to about 7pm without let up. Glad we don’t have to pay for the diesel to run the generator for that.

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Jan had another Tarantula sighting the other day. But this one was closer to home. Much closer!

She looked down and there was one sitting about a foot from her foot. She said she tried to scream but nothing would come out. Despite being scared to death she didn’t want to kill it if she didn’t have to, so she picked up a small spade laying nearby and banged it on the table leg.

The first time nothing happened. The second time the spider started coming toward here. Whoops! But the third time she banged harder and the tarantula scurried away.

She now has a large mirror propped up on the ground so she can see behind her in case another one tries to sneak up on her.

I gave her a water spray bottle and told her to just squirt it a few times and that should run it off. Of course it might just make it mad.

But we won’t tell her that.

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Thought for the Day:

A fool and his money are soon partying.

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A Method to Their Madness . . .

or I’m not mad at Verizon anymore.

This just in . . . I now have 3G data service here at the Gate!

As I’ve mentioned before, our Verizon cell phone/data service comes from a tower a little over 19 miles away located along the I-37 corridor near Campbellton. Of course to get a signal this far I have to use a Wilson DB Pro 65 Antenna/Amplifier set up I brought on Amazon. The problem with this tower is that although I get 4-5 bars of cell service, I only got 1X data speeds.

Bummer!

At first I thought it might be a problem with my amplifier setup, but when I later drove down the Interstate near the tower, I found that the signal was indeed 1X only. There is a 3G tower in Pleasanton that’s actually about a mile closer, but because of some hills in between, I can’t get a signal from it. I might could if I went up another 10 feet on the directional antenna, but I’m already at 20 feet as it is, and really didn’t want to buy more antenna mast sections to have to haul around.

Besides being slow, the other thing that bugged me about the 1X speed is that it kept going away for hours at a time late at night before it would suddenly come back on. My cell phone signal was OK, just the data service kept going away. I do this blog around 2am, and several times I wasn’t able to post it until the next day because I had no data service.

In the back of my mind (Boy, it sure is dusty back here . . . and what’s that big black slimy thing in the corner . . . ah, never mind.), I was hoping that maybe they were upgrading the tower. But this off and on thing has been going on for the entire month we’ve been at this site, and I’d about given up hope. But right before I started this blog tonight, I checked the AccuWeather app on my cell phone and noticed something looked different.

Wait . . . there’s a big colorful 3G at the top of my phone screen, and not the pale dinky 1X that I usually see, and the cell signal is now a rock steady 5 bars. And even better the AccuWeather information just popped right in.

Checking with Speedtest.net I got 1.25 Mbps download and 700 Kbps upload, much better than the 200 Kbps / 150 Kbps I was getting with 1X.

Way to go Verizon. Now get to work on 4G. No resting on your laurels.

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Several people asked for Jan’s Crockpot King Ranch Chicken recipe so here it is straight from Jan.

Here’s how I do my crockpot King Ranch: 

First I put a crock pot plastic liner in the pot (what a timesaver later), then I tear up 4 or 5 corn tortillas and place them in the bottom of the pot.

Add a can of black beans (I drain just a bit of the liquid that’s at the top),

1 chicken breast (one that has already been cooked and I cut it up into bite size pieces)

Grated cheese

1 can of Rotel tomatoes (I use the hotter Habanero kind) mixed with a can of diced tomatoes. 

I mix those together and add Cumin and Penzy spices plus Arizona Spice that has chipotle and other southwest spices in it.

Another layer of torn corn tortillas, another can of black beans, the rest of the tomato/Rotel spiced mix, then another chicken breast.  Oh, and grated cheese (the cheddar Mexican cheese mix) then top it all with single corn tortillas.  I cooked this for 7 hours on high in the crock pot

There you have it, and boy, is it good. Give it a try.

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As I mentioned in the last blog, yesterday (Sunday) was our day off. We found a lady to work our gate from 1pm to 11pm while we spent the afternoon/evening San Antonio.

I think the best part was just being together, since although we eat our meals together, when one of us is on the gate, the other one is usually sleeping.

Anyway, we did some shopping and then just drove around for a while. Then about 4:30 we headed over to have dinner at the Magic Time Machine where we ate back in April before we got our first gate.

All the waiters and waitress dress up like cartoon, movie, or book characters. Last time our waitress was Wonder Woman, this time it was the Mad Hatter(ess). Jan had a New York Strip and I had my usual Ribeye, both very good and big enough to have leftovers to take home.

After a nice, leisurely meal we drove around some more, before ending up at Starbucks for an after-dinner coffee. Then it was time to head over to the movie theater where we saw The Avengers, the latest in the Marvel comic book series.

We both really enjoyed the movie, and of course we use RunPee to tell us when was a good time to take a bathroom break (especially needed since this movie was 2 hours and 22 minutes long) What was funny was that at the Run Pee time recommended as the best one, several people got up besides Jan. First time we’ve seen this happen. Guess it’s getting more popular. RunPee also tells you what’s going on while you’re gone, but even better, they tell you if there are any extra scenes after the credits. And in this case there were two.

The first one, which pops up about two minutes into the credits, sets up the next Avengers movie, and the last one, at the very end of the credits, is a hilarious take on what superheroes do after a hard day of fighting evil.

Jan and I couldn’t believe how many people left without seeing these scenes. We did tell a few people around us and they stayed, but Jan wouldn’t let me shout it out to the entire theater when we saw everyone leaving. Spoilsport.

And now a shameless plug.

For these of you who are going to be in Celina, OH for Nick Russell’s Gypsy Journal Rally early in September, and want to find out how you too can have an exciting career in the field of Oilrig Gate Guarding, Jan and I will be doing a seminar on the subject at Nick’s rally.

And one last tip before wrapping this post up. I’ve never had much trouble with allergies, but about three weeks ago, I started getting this tickle in the back of my throat that make me want to cough. No runny nose, no congestion, no cold or flu symptoms.

Just the tickle and the cough. And the cough got so bad sometimes it sounded like I had whooping cough. In fact I was coughing so hard it was hard to sleep and my chest muscles started to ache. So at Jan’s suggestion I decided to try Zyrtec

And boy did it work. By the next day the cough, and the tickle, were just gone. Being cheap, after I finished the 14 day supply of the name brand Zyrtec, I switched to the Wal-Mart house brand, which for a 90 supply was cheaper than my original 14 day supply. And the Wal-Mart brand seems to work just as well.

Check it out.

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Thought for the Day:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.

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Snap, Crackle, Pop . . .

or Why is Jan all giddy?

Snap, Crackle, Pop, and a small puff of wet smoke is what happened this past Thursday when a strong, swirling gust of wind not only almost blew the fan off the table, but was so strong that it made the fan blades try to turn backwards, and then, last, but not least, blew water from the misters back through and underneath the motor. At which point, after the aforesaid snap, crackle, pop, etc, the fan screeched to a halt and died.

R.I.P. Fan.

I quickly brought our smaller fan out of the coach to tide us over until I could pick up another one.

The wind here is really strange. Sometimes it seems to blow from all directions at once. This causes the dust devils we regularly see on the roads around us. The other strange thing is that while it blows pretty steady all through the day and evening, sometime between 1 and 3am, it just stops. One minute it’s windy and then the next it’s not. Like someone flipped a switch.

Weird. And it won’t pick back up until later in the morning.

Now, as to why Jan is giddy. Well, besides being married to me for almost 45 years, (I’m going to pay for that, believe me.) she’s giddy because we’re getting an afternoon/evening off. We found a lady who’s going to come in and work our gate this Sunday from 1pm to 11pm. Ten whole hours of freedom.

Of course we were off a couple of weeks ago for our granddaughter Piper’s graduation, but we were so on the go, we never really got any time to just relax. So it looks like dinner, some shopping, and a movie are in our near future.

We also got a new generator trailer on Thursday. Our old one had started leaking oil. Turns out to have been a cracked oil pan. Terry, the maintenance guy at the Whitsett yard brought the new one over, and to speed things up, I pulled the old one out of the way with my my truck and he just backed the new one in its place. This minimized the time the coach AC’s were offline. On hot days, once they get behind, they sometimes can’t catch back up.

Also on Thursday, Jan whipped up a big batch of her crockpot King Ranch Chicken. Boy, did the coach smell good all day. Shredded chicken breast, Rotel Habanero Tomatoes, tortilla strips, and a lot of other good stuff, really hits the spot.

Really spicy, and really good.

Yesterday (Friday) I made a run over to the Gate Guard Services office to pick up some packages that had come in for us, and came back through Pleasanton for a Wal-Mart run, which of course included a new fan. Also stopped off at McDonald’s to bring us back lunch, which included an Iced Hazelnut Latte for me. I don’t care for their coffee very much, but I do like their lattes.

Today, Saturday the 16th, marks the beginning of our 2nd month here, and we probably have another 2-3 weeks here, maybe more if they have problems. This is kind of unusual for a drill site, but they’re doing a lot of extra testing and sampling here for some reason. It would be nice if it kept going until we leave here for Celina around the 20th of August. Then we wouldn’t have to move again.

But the odds are, it won’t.

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Thought for the Day:

If swimming is good for your shape, then why do the whales look the way they do?

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But it’s a Dry Heat . . .

or, It’s Summer in South Texas!

When someone talks about the summer temperature in Yuma or Tucson, they always end by saying “But it’s a dry heat”. At which time I always say “So’s the inside of an oven”.

But the humidity does make a difference, believe me.

This was the temp here yesterday (Sunday). I actually saw 105 degrees for a few minutes but it was gone before I could capture it.

SC20120610-172900
But note the humidity is 24%, not the 95 to 100% you’d see in Houston. And because of this low humidity, our misting system works to really cool things down. If you tried to use a mister in Houston you’d just end up hot AND dripping wet.

Sometime in the next few days I may try adding two more mister nozzles to my system for a total of four and see how that does. It did make a difference when I went from one to two nozzles.

And of course no blog is really complete without a Landon pic.

Landon at th Park

Although we just saw him less than two weeks ago, we already really miss the little guy. It’s amazing how fast he’s growing up.

I’ve been trying to get more info on our next drill site location. I know the lease name, and supposedly those leases are back on the east side of I-37, somewhere between Karnes City, where we were last time, and the Gate Guard Services office at the Whitsett exit. Hopefully this will mean we’ll have 3G cell service again.

Jan got in a baking mood yesterday and whipped up a big batch of her Oatmeal Walnut Chocolate Chip cookies.  Hmmm, Hmmm, Good.

And then this morning when the Company Man, Juan, and the Company Safety Man, Ryan, made a run to Tita’s Taco Stand, they brought us back 4 of Tita’s delicious breakfast tacos.

Tita's Taco Stand

Life is Good. Thanks again guys.

That’s about it for now. Things have been kind of slow for the last few days. We only had about 30 vehicles a day through the gate for the last several days.

Good for reading and napping, especially for napping.

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Thought for the Day:

‘The Only Defense Against Evil, Violent People is Good People Who Are More Skilled at Violence.’

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The Big Three . . .

or Snakes and Scorpions and Tarantulas, Oh My!

After first seeing a 4 foot long black snake (but no rattlesnakes, yet), and a two inch scorpion,

Scorpion

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Jan now has the Trifecta of gate guard animal sightings.

A big black tarantula!

Tarantula 2

Tarantula 1

She saw it a little after 8pm last night (Saturday) coming from around the front of the RV and heading out across the road. Said it was about the size of her hand and scurrying pretty quickly. Once it got to the rocks along the roadside, it stopped to groom itself before heading off into the woods.

Jan was so proud of herself. She said she didn’t scream once.

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Under the heading of Why won’t Chase Bank take my Money?

You know that Chase Bank commercial where the guy gets all dressed up to go make a bank deposit, then holds his check up in the air and takes a picture of it with his cellphone, and he’s done.

Well, it doesn’t work quite like that. First off, you can’t just hold the check up like that. It has to be on a flat surface, and it usually takes me 2 or 3 tries before I get one that the app likes.

But it usually works pretty well and it’s very useful while we’re gate guarding, since the nearest Chase Bank is about 60 miles away, and unfortunately Gate Guard Services doesn’t do direct deposit. But up until now I’ve been able to pick up my check at the office and then upload it right there before heading home.

But not this past Friday. I tried it three times and each time it told me my deposit was too large. Huh? The check was for the same amount as always, and in one case it was larger.

So what gives? Heading back home I called Chase, and after being told by two different people that there was no limit on QuickDeposit deposits, finally one person went away for about 10 minutes and came back to say there is no limit on individual deposits, but that there is a limit on how much money you can deposit in any one 30 day period. Again, huh?

Apparently you can deposit no more than $5000 in any 30 day period. I then pointed out that despite what she said, there is a limit on individual deposits, since I assume the system would not let me deposit $5001 all at one time, even if I had never deposited anything before.

She hesitated, and then said “Yes, that’s true, but there’s still no limit on individual deposits, just a limit on deposits in a 30 day period.

Whatever!

She then noted that I could make another deposit on the 15th of June and that would solve my problem, but she was stumped when I reminded her that a week later I would have another check that I couldn’t deposit.

And it looks like the way the 30 period rolls though the calendar, at one point I could end up with as many as 3 pay checks that I can’t deposit.

Bummer!

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Thought for the Day:

I was always taught to respect my elders, but unfortunately it keeps getting harder to find any.

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