Friday, March 18, 2011

The Silence of The Flamingos

One of the challenges in my line of work is maintaining some measure of quiet while setting out a display. Waking the neighbors, the recipient, or worse, the recipient's dog complicates things and can spoil the surprise.  Not to mention the toll it takes on my heart when a voice booms out in the dark demanding to know "What's going on out here!"

Last night it seemed like we were making enough noise to rouse the whole block. The birds were all piled up at the front of the loading area and persuading them to slide closer to the tail gate created an awful lot of clatter. Getting them to let loose of each other involved even more clanking and banging.

Thanks to the insulated windows and the inclement weather we got it done without the two dogs inside sounding the alarm. Another clean get-away.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Chillin' in the Barnyard

It's been cold here in the Bay Area. I know those of you who get snow and sleet and blizzards and all that kind of weather probably think we're a bunch of wimps, and you're right. When the thermometer drops into the 30's I think we should all stay home, bundled up in down comforters, heater cranked up to "inferno" and a hot toddy at hand. Not that my heater has an "inferno" setting, but all the rest is good.

However, like the mail, the flockings must be go through.

Walking out onto the lawn to set up these critters, the grass crunched under foot like we were walking on broken glass. Lucky for us, the ground doesn't freeze. There are stories from other parts of the country of people carrying thermos's of boiling water to thaw the earth enough to get a flamingo rod in. Or of using a cordless drill to make a hole. Another in the long list of reasons why I live in California - none of these are necessary.

Back to whining about the cold.

When we returned the next night to pick up the display everything had been rearranged. The cows were lined up nose to tail headed from the sign to the street. Pigs were shoulder to shoulder with the cows and the roosters marched along side. I was kicking myself for not bringing the camera. My cell phone camera was of no use. Resigning myself to not getting a photo of the parade, I crunched my way to the end of the line and grabbed the first cow - which was encased in ice. As was every critter on the lawn. I wasn't wearing gloves. I don't even own gloves. My fingers were blue by the time I got back into the flamingomobile, where I found my camera. Of course.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mountaineering in the City

This photo doesn't begin to do justice to the slope of the street we conquered this morning. There are some mighty hills in San Francisco but we don't encounter them very often. That's because there are very few yards in San Francisco - or at least few front yards.

We stay out of backyards due to the chance of getting shot, eaten by guard dogs or arrested for trespassing. All things detrimental to my happiness and general well being. If there is anything I'm protective of, it's my happiness and general well being. That, and keeping my hide in one piece.

But I digress. Since yards can be in short supply in beautiful downtown SF, it's always wise to ask the sender of a surprise if they know for sure that there is a place to plant the critters. This is a lesson learned the hard way (is there any other way?) If the sender is from out of town, their answer is then checked by looking at the satellite pictures and street view pictures on Google Maps. Another lesson learned the hard way.

Even using all the cool computer tools, this one was going to be a mystery until we arrived. Both the overhead and street views showed a barrier of bushes. Obviously there was some dirt there somewhere, but would we be able to get through and plant the birds so they could be seen? I considered taking along a machete, but I don't own a machete. That seems to make a difference. Plus I would have to charge extra for the landscaping which might not have pleased the sender. A yard make over wasn't the gift they had in mind.

What a relief to arrive and find the actual house was next door to the wildly overgrown yard. A very nice little planting area on both sides of the walkway was perfect for the birds. All I needed to do was scale a near vertical, wet sidewalk to get to the yard from where we managed to establish a base camp for the flamingomobile. Hey - I'm old(ish), and I have bad knees. It was a challenge. And I get to do it again tonight.

But the results are worth it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dinosaur Dirt

The dinos were out for Mike's 50th birthday. It was a rainy night which pleases the Flamingess. Not because I am particularly crazy about getting wet at 3am, but because being in the rain is about the only way any of the critters get cleaned. Rain and sprinklers, the Flamingo Surprise answer to animal hygiene.

A quick aside about our experience with rain. It seems that even if we drive to a victim's home in a downpour that threatens to wash the flamingomobile off the road, it lets up long enough for us to get the yard set up. The deluge may start again the moment we slam the van doors closed, but we are usually just barely damp. Your grandmother kept her ironing damper than we get. Apparently the weather gods like lawn greetings.

Since Mike's dinosaurs were in a neighborhood close to home, and the Flamingess had to practically pass the place on her way to a morning meeting, an executive decision was made to leave them for an extra 12 hours. Hey - who am I to turn down the chance to actually go to bed at night?

Of course, by morning I'd lost track of my plan to stop on the way to my meeting. That failure of memory was aided by oversleeping and thereby reducing the usual 2 hours it takes me to become fully conscious to a scant 1-hour 15-minutes. I managed to get breakfast, get dressed, put on some kind of face, tame the hair and in to the car sort of on time, and figured the dinos could wait until I passed on my way home from the meeting.

As I neared the dino'd neighborhood I checked the clock. Quick calculation: 15 minutes before meeting starts, 4 minutes travel time from destination. I'll pick them up as originally planned. 7 minutes later I was pulling away from the now naked yard with this in my car.

Which is how I ended up arriving at my meeting with my hands caked with dinosaur dirt. Not many people can say that.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Just Bats About It

Sometimes there is a delightful crossover between my businesses. Yes, the Flamingess does stuff other than tip toeing around strangers' lawns in the middle of the night.

In my other life, I am creating signs for a new shop in Palo Alto, Halo ... a blow dry bar. She's getting rave reviews so if you're in the neighborhood drop in and give yourself a treat.

The owner's son apparently loves Halloween and does it up in a big way each year. Right now, his front yard is a pirate haunted house (how cool is that?) As a part of his month long celebration of all things trick-or-treat, he holds a charity event supporting the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Standford.

Flamingo Surprise is donating a flock of bats to add the spooky decor for the event. Not sure how bats and pirates go together for Halloween but it doesn't really matter. It's all fun and for a good cause. Come on by to visit the bats, get a good scare in the haunted house and support a very important organization.
Jeffrey's Haunted House
Saturday October 16, 2010
2155 Ward Way
Woodside CA, 94062

Monday, September 13, 2010

Will Pigs Fly?

Not just pigs, but cows and roosters too?

When we pulled out of the warehouse lot this morning at around 2am it was clear and still and pleasant. Just 31 miles away, in Pittsburg, it was chilly and blowing a gale! Serious wind! Right around 40-45 mph.

You'll notice in the picture that the sign is laid way back and all the critters are aligned the same way. This is to keep them from lifting off and heading for Antioch.

Never before have we experienced the possibility of having display items blown out of our hands. Visions of the sign flapping down the road like a huge plywood vulture were not pretty. For just a few moments I thought it might do just that and take me with it.

Did I mention is was windy? I wonder what we'll find when we return tonight.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Early Birds

After months of neglect I spent some time this morning reading old posts here. Although, while writing them, I frequently felt like I was being redundant that didn't come through in the reading. I am surprised - pleasantly so. Maybe that will be inspiring enough to get me to come back and do some more.

It's not like the work has stopped. We still often spend several nights a week out messing with people's yards. Not for the past two nights though. That's because the Flamingess messed up an order and installed it a day early. The birthday was Saturday but the flock arrived on Friday.

One danger in scheduling our work is getting the day wrong. Customers want to help by telling us the night we should deliver. What we really want to know is the day they want the display to be on the lawn. So a Friday night delivery is really a Saturday display.

This time I failed to clarify the days and interpreted the discussion about a Friday delivery to mean a Friday display. So Stoney gets to enjoy his 60th birthday flock for 3 days instead of 2. And the Flamingess and DBFA get to enjoy 2 nights off instead of 1. Sometimes, not often, these little errors work out to everyone's advantage. The misunderstanding may have been encouraged by the fact that we had a flock to pickup Thursday night on the same side of the Bay so it was easy to just drive a few miles further south and replant the birds.

At least we were only one day early. Last time I messed up the delivery date we showed up a whole week early. Twice in 14 years - not too bad, but there's no need to do it again.