John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: January, 2016

Trying to Beat the Horse to Death

Often, politicians voluntarily dig themselves into deep holes when they try to force through their own pre-deposed positions regardless of how unpopular they are to the general public. This happens when this position is the kind that the politico has carried around in his heart and head long before gaining power or is forced upon him as a quid pro quo for favors rended during the campaign. In other words, some of these positions come from the demons within while others are the end product of dealing with the devil.


This is where we find Comrade Mayor Bill DeBlasio in a hole, up to his shoulders with shovel in hand preparing to dig himself deeper. The problem for the comrade mayor is his arrogance and height deprives him from seeing how deep the hole is already.


The issue is the fate of Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages that we used to wrongly call, Hansom Cabs. (Those cabs were two wheel carriages with the driver mounted on a sprung seat behind the vehicle designed by a Joseph Hansom in Leicestershire, England in 1834. These cabs gave way to more traditional four-wheel carriages years ago.)


Our comrade mayor vowed to rid New York City of these wonderful anachronisms immediately upon taking office. I cannot say with any certainty whether or not the good comrade is an animal lover or has had some long standing grudge against these teamsters,  but it is public knowledge that his primary campaign greatly benefitted from a million dollar PAC that helped to de-rail the Democratic frontrunner, City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn. The organization that produced the bulk of these funds was New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets and the driving force behind this organization are two wealthy animal activists, Steve Nislick and Wendi Neu. “You can look it up.”


Our comrade mayor expected to make short shrift of the carriage owners, teamsters and nags replacing the whole lot with electric replicas of vintage automobiles. The skids in the city council chambers were waxed by strategic donations (by you know who) to key members who introduced the desired the bill…Oops, not so fast…The fondness that most New Yorkers hold for this Gotham tradition exploded in a backlash that hit DeBlasio like stampeding horses. Already reeling from a horrible start with the NYPD, his numbers in the gutter, temporary discretion in the face of humiliation became his revised battle cry.


Still beholding to his rabid benefactors, one can only imagine the shit storm he faced via phone, fax, tweets and texts! Subsequently, Plans B, C, D, etc. were floated and to subsequently sink until early this year when the latest version was unveiled. Our good comrade mayor boldly announced that he had, “an agreement in concept” with the owners and the teamsters to reduce the number of horses to 95 from 170 by 2018 and move them all to a new stable to be built with taxpayer money inside the protected grounds of Central Park.  No mention has been made of how much the stables will cost or how much the carriage owners will pay to use it.


Jim Dwyer noted in his recent column in The New York Times, Solving a Problem That Doesn’t Exist: “The notion that a new stable – which as yet has no design and has not undergone any review by the five community boards with jurisdiction over Central Park, the Landmarks Preservation Commission or the Public Design Commission – will be built within two years belongs to an alternate universe.”


The agreement in concept has already begun to unravel. The carriage association and teamsters have hired the activist lawyer, Ron Kube, a disciple of the firebrand, William Kunstler, who seems prepared to lead his minions to the man the barricades to stop this plan. Actually, this is my hyperbole for as Dwyer also pointed out: “A thick stack of judicial opinions shows that mayors ignore precedents in this area at their peril. The Bloomberg administration tried to give parkland in Queens to the Wilpon family for a shopping mall; the Giulani administration tried to turn over land in the Bronx for a water filtration plant. Both proposals were shot down in court.”


Kube will make his case in the court house. As for the nags, they’re unanimous: NAYYY!

The Bear Is Always Waiting (Part 4)

Part 4: Conclusion of the Great Hoverboard Saga


To recap: the sources for hoverboards No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 had been solved. No. 2, 3 and 4 originated through Amazon Prime. We returned No. 2 and 3 and Amazon Prime credited the cost of No. 4 to our account leaving us to do with the unit as we pleased. We were satisfied that No. 5 was UL approved and that went to Matt Delach as his Christmas gift. We still possessed No. 1 one not knowing its origin and, of course, No. 4.


Working with the credit card company, we tracked down a telephone number for the company where board No. 1 had originated. Shockingly, a person answered the phone on my first try. She identified her company as, Hoverboards 360. I explained that I wanted to return the unit and she gave me their service department’s email address and instructions to send them photographs of the box and the unit which I sent from my IPhone.


Several days later they emailed a form to me. It advised me to return this form together with the unit but it didn’t give a mailing address. I filled out the form and put in the comments section: “Please send me a return label,” and emailed the form back to the service department. Several days later, I followed up with a second email. Then I began to call the original number I used but, now, when I called, a recording periodically advised me “how important my call was” and “that it would be answered shortly” for about the first ten minutes of the call. Then it somehow flipped and I heard this message: “The mailbox you called is full. Try your call again later.”  At the end of the message my call was disconnected.


Not a good sign especially as we are without an advocate like Amazon and the same sequence occurred every time I called that number.


Christmas was now closing in. Mary Ann and I talked over the status of the Board No. 4, the grateful AM unit with Beth and Tom and we agreed to bring it up to our place in New Hampshire on Christmas morning where their family was celebrating.


They had explained to Marlowe and Cace that we couldn’t receive hoverboards as they were illegal in Brooklyn where they lived. Our idea was No. 4 would live in NH and we’d store in a separate shed located a decent distance from the house.


When we arrived Christmas morning, Tom brought it into the living room. He casually mentioned that the box in a plastic bag was a gift for me. When the opening was about finished I asked the kids to open that big box as I didn’t want to get up. Once Marlowe removed the wrapping paper, she looked up at me with a puzzled look and asked, “You got a hoverboard?”


“A hoverboard; what in God’s name would I do with a hoverboard? If I got on it I’d break my good hip for sure. No thank you. Hey, would you kids want it?”


You know that millisecond of complete silence as the realization creped into their heads. And then all hell broke loose as reality hit home. Fortunately, the weather was warm and we have a flat paved area used for basketball, badminton and other games making it ideal for mastering elementary maneuvers on the board. Ultimately the time came for the Briggs family to go home and not unsurprisingly, the board accompanied them back to Brooklyn.


As for the Hoverboard 360 unit, it now lives in a rain and snow proof plastic container on our back patio, a spare for when one of the other two breaks (unless 16-year-old drew liberates it.) I will continue trying to get satisfaction from the distributor but I’m not holding my breath waiting. My last attempt on Monday, January 18, 2016 duplicated my other experiences.


Soon after Christmas ended Mary Ann sent everyone the following text: “To all, I just heard on the radio that 12 children were admitted to Valley Hospital in New Jersey on Christmas Day having suffered wrist injuries form hoverboard falls. Please make sure your kids wear wrist pads in addition to wearing helmets. I also heard Police Commissioner Bratten say, ‘It doesn’t matter whether or not hoverboards are legal in NYC, any parent or grandparent who buys one is a moron.”


I penned this addendum: “Don’t charge them at night and make sure an adult is close by and so is a chemical extinguisher.”


I think next year we may consider drones…NOT!



The Bear and Us (Part 3)

Part 3: The Great Hoverboard Saga (Continued.)


We gathered all five cartons in the kitchen and proceeded to cut each open to reveal their contents. The first thing to strike us was that each board came from a different source and while identical in outward appearance except for color, each inner box identified the unit by a different product name. We were in possession of a Smart Drifting Scooter, a Smart Balance Wheel, an Airboard Scooter, a Drifting Board and a Smart Self Balancing Scooter. I kid you not!


(An attorney friend later explained that they were probably manufactured by one firm but under “small batch” LLC offshoot companies in an attempt to limit liability and, perhaps, pattern infringement.)


We were searching for “UL” labels on the boxes that would confirm that each unit had been approved by Underwriters Laboratories. As an insurance man, I explained to Mary Ann, “We can’t believe that any unit is safe unless it’s approved by UL who test electrical products. They either have the UL symbol or they must go back. I wouldn’t even buy a string of Christmas tree lights unless it was UL approved.”


The first unit we inspected came from Modell’s and it bore the UL symbol. Since Matt was the prime mover to have this contraption, we both agreed this was his.


The other four did not deserve a home. None of them had the UL symbol we sort. So began the difficult task of determining which units corresponded to which orders and arranging for them to be returned. Nothing matched any paperwork or labeling and we re-boxed them using whatever seemed to make some sense.


We also wrote email messages of explanation to the parents. They agreed and Mary Ann referenced UL in her messages asking what it meant. Michael replied, “U lose.”


We first tackled the three boards ordered through Amazon, (two three and four). Mary Ann quickly located three items on her account and following the prompts on Amazon’s web site she instructed Amazon that we wanted to return three units. Amazon advised that they would contact the manufactures and we should receive return labels by email within two days.


Two suppliers sent shipping labels and Mary Ann returned these units (boards numbered two and three) via FedEx at a cost to us of $40 each. The remaining supplier (board number four) remained silent until Mary Ann followed up with Amazon. Amazon must have poked them but instead of a label this company, “Grateful AM,” sent a series of messages that escalated their position as the days went on:


We would like to tell you. Our products has quality assurance. You won’t worry the safety problem. Please continue to use it. We already spent expensive shipping fee from Hong Kong to your address.


This was followed by: If you return it to us, we only can give you the refund of value of product not including the shipping cost.


And finally: You have received our product for a long time. You must have used it already. Our company doesn’t accept the products are used already by customer, unless it is still in new type.


Enough already! After a lengthy but satisfying conversation with an Amazon representative, she agreed to credit Mary Ann’s account with $60 toward the shipping cost for the two returned units and the full purchase price for the one from Grateful AM. Great job, Mary Ann, great job Amazon Prime!


Mary Ann asked this woman, “What should we do with that board?”


“Anything you like.”


Several days later Mary Ann received a half-baked apology from Grateful AM. offering us a $100 credit if we did not return the unit.. Apparently, Amazon gave them religion. We chose to ignore their offer.


In summary, we returned two boards. We received a credit for about 80% of the price from one from the supplier and Amazon advised that the second supplier would credit our account with the full purchase price of that board. Board number four was ours do deal with as we saw fit and, number five, the one from Modell’s, was going to Matthew. That left the first board, ordered directly over the internet, ours to contend with if we could locate the supplier…(to be continued.)





The Bear Got Us (Part 2)

The Great Hoverboard Saga


Hoverboard: A levitating board used for personal transportation in the films “Back to the Future Part 11 and Part 111.”


2015 version: An electronic skateboard powered by lithium batteries.


Sunday, September 20, 2015, 1 PM: The New York Football Giants home opener versus the Atlanta Falcons. A huge event for the male members of our family, joining me for the start of my 53rd season – my son Mike; (this being his 31st season,) my son-in-law, Tom, and their boys, Drew, (15), Matt, (13), and Cace, (9).


A warm, sunny opening day swelled our already happy, busy, crowded tailgate beyond two dozen or so fellow tailgaters. Food offerings exceeded calculation guarantying famine would be absent. Among those attending, Ehab, a regular, and his son Chase. Chase introduced the lot of us to this new phenomenon, the hoverboard, that he rode around the parking lot with ease simply shifting his weight and stance to turn, go forward, stand-still and go backwards. My three grandsons were mesmerized and all successfully took turns on this contraption.


Shortly after that Sunday, Matt texted his grandmother begging for a hoverboard Christmas. He promised to renounce Satan, never get a tattoo or piercing or ask for any other gifts from Santa or his January birthday in return. Faced with such a plea, Mary Ann quickly caved and the order went out for Hoverboard No. 1.


Cace soon climbed on the bandwagon followed by our two granddaughters, Marlowe and Sami as the news of Matty’s score leaked. And so it came to pass that three additional orders were placed by Dame Mary Ann, this time using her membership in Amazon Prime. The only one still missing was: Grandson No.1, Drew, who about to turn 16-years old, was more interested in obtaining his learning permit and the vague possibility of a Jeep Wrangler in his future. That being almost out of the question Mary Ann chose to order a fifth and final unit for him, also through Amazon.


Unit No. 1 arrived first. Then three of the four through Amazon arrived. I stacked these heavy boxes in our garage as we awaited the arrivals to be completed. In mid-November when Mary Ann received discouraging news from Amazon that their remaining supplier could not guarantee a timely delivery for the Drew unit, Amazon canceled that order. Mary Ann found a replacement from Modells, a Metropolitan sporting goods store, that quickly shipped Unit No. 5.


Five in hand! We congratulated each other as to how we had seamlessly and efficiently completed our grand children’s Christmas shopping. Little did we know how wrong we were, we had no idea that all s*** was about to hit the fan!


Stories of hoverboard problems began to appear in print, on the radio and TV. The lithium batteries in some units had a propensity to overheat and catch fire while the units were in use or, worse, while being charged. These stories grew in number and we began to receive rumblings of concern from the parents. In addition, we discovered that the units were illegal in New York City where Marlowe and Cace lived. They were considered unregistered motor vehicles. It was a crime to use them on streets, sidewalks or in parks and the word was fines could be as high as $ 200 to $500.


We decided to open the units to see what God had wrought and that’s when it really hit the fan… (To be continued.)