Yo Austin – Give Them a Brake

Yo #Austin – Quit complaining about road construction on Mopac, 183 and on I-35.

Quit it. Right now.

Long time ago, Appa worked in a car company.
The company had imported German machines to do some modelling work to reduce the drag for the car hood.
Appa’s supervisor had picked him and one of his other buddies to be the only 2 chosen ones for that special work.

The German machines had to be confined within an air-conditined room.
Now, picture this. It is super hot in Chennai where the car company was located.
There was no air-conditining on company premises in those days.
If you are one of the chosen ones to do your work in an air-conditined room, can you imagine what an enviable spot you are in?

Not just that.
To optimize the usage of the machine, Appa’s supervisor decided to keep it running at all times with short breaks every 12 hours for the machine to cool down.
This meant, that Appa and his colleague had to take turns working day and night-shifts.

I clearly remember Appa eating dinner in the night and helping us get to bed.
He would don his muffler and work clothes and leave for the night shift.
He would come back in the morning and help Amma get us ready for school.

When I came back home, I would ask Amma if he got enough rest during the day time.

Of course, not. At the max, he would have gotten a 1 hour power nap.
He would have helped her. He would have helped out at the temple. He would have helped run some fundraiser. He would have run around all day.

Because, of his irregular work schedule, he got Mondays off.
So, guess what he did on those Mondays?
He would bring my sister and I lunch that was freshly cooked at home.
Some fresh made sambar, beans and potato.
Not just that. He would not take a bus.
He would bike about 7.5 miles to get to our school in 100F.
He would bring the food.
He would stay with us for lunch.
Then, he would wipe our mouth clean with a little towel.
He would say goodbye and then would ride the bike back again another 7.5 miles back home.

Let us fast forward now.

Yesterday night, I was driving back across Mopac Expressway from downtown.
I was rushing the kids back home to get them to bed.
Suddenly, the traffic comes to a screeching halt.
I was one of the fore-runners who saw how many police cars was trying to keep the construction workers safe.
I was one of the fortunate few who saw how the construction workers were using their cranes to lay down blocks and do construction to extend a lane on Mopac.

Y’all know how much of an impatient jerk I can be when kept waiting.
But, not yesterday evening.
I was very patient.
I drove cautiously to ensure the safety of the construction workers.
I wanted to role down my windows and say “Y’all are my heroes”.
But, I didn’t.
The only reason was I didn’t want to get another ticket from the cops for distracted driving and land in trouble with our very own Kumar who bails me out on every occasion.

These construction workers and cops are like Appa.
They are spending their nights away from their loved ones.
They are doing night shifts to enable humanity in their very own way.
They are putting our tax dollars to work.

So, please don’t complain about construction in and around Austin.

When you see them next time, on my behalf, blow them a kiss or give them a thumbs up and be thankful.

Togetherness in the Face of Adversity – Break due to the Brake

We made the mandatory annual summer trip to Yosemite.

Togetherness in the Face of Adversity - Break due to the Brake - 2 - Ambal Balakrishnan

 

It was extra special because the boys’ aunt Rema  (Kumar’s cousin) joined us. It was also the very first Yosemite trip for Rainbow and the very first time Ari hiked up to Vernal. The day was gorgeous. We had loads of fun.

Togetherness in the Face of Adversity - Break due to the Brake - 1 - Ambal Balakrishnan

On the way back from Yosemite, we drove back through a two lane highway that brings us down rapidly from 5000 feet to 0 feet. A car had fallen off one of the cliffs and the highway patrol started redirecting traffic to a lesser used and much  steeper detour path. We started taking the detour path and came down to a T-intersection.

Many people started waving at us. I yelled to Kumar to stop the van. We got out of the van and realized that our break pads were burning and letting out smoke (smelled yuck!). Same thing had happened to many other cars. We stopped and waited for the break pads to cool down.

Meanwhile, I went around and chatted with folks from El Salvador, Chicago, New York, Sacramento, Korea, China and of course the Bay Area.

And, guess what?! Everybody even humored me with some fun group pictures. Can you hear us yelling “brakes” in the pictures?

After 45 minutes or so, we tested our brakes and it worked. Unfortunately, some of my new found buddies brakes failed and they had to call a towing company. The family and I waved good bye, said a few of our favorite prayers and started driving again.

Can you spot the guy in the glasses and the orange color t-shirt? I thanked him and his family. He is the reason that I am alive to tell this story.

Please use low gear when driving on steep roads.