I would like to make the Friday Five a COVID-19-free zone, but it looks like that’s not going to work.

No. 1

No worries about your state retirement check. There will be no delays or disruptions of checks for state retirees, including retired teachers.

N.C. State Treasurer Dale Folwell stopped by the office Thursday. He was headed to Charlotte and dropped by. Our office is closed to the public, but I happened by the front door and saw him getting ready to slip a note through the door.

State officials, in anticipation of COVID-19 issues, made arrangements for the checks to be prepared ahead of time, Folwell said.

We didn’t shake hands and maintained a good 6-foot social distance. I could tell it was hard for him and for me — politicians usually want to shake hands, and I try to get close enough so I can hear what is being said.

Both of us were sneezing and coughing. He made sure to tell me it was hay fever and pollen. I sure know the feeling. It also might be the disinfectants that we’ve showered our office with.

I walked into my office and started sneezing first thing Thursday morning. I am sure it was from all the spraying we’ve done the last several days.

No. 2

My heart aches for our seniors. This cuts several ways. I know this is a trying time for our senior citizens who are secluded and probably some who are a bit scared of COVID-19. It sucks to be stuck in the house.

My heart also aches for seniors in high school and college. Proms are off. I’ve got to believe graduation ceremonies are certainly in doubt. I don’t really think we’ll be having mass gatherings anytime soon.

My niece, Cassie, is a senior. Her softball season is on hold after getting off to a great start. She hit a grand slam in a scrimmage right before the abbreviated start to the season. She had decided on her college choice but now is in a holding pattern because everything is up in the air. She’s in Buncombe County.

Our students here in Cabarrus County are very much in the same situation. When will they get to go back to school? When will their seasons resume?

I’m sorry you guys have to go through this.

On a plus side (grasping for silver linings), the Davidson Wildcats’ final baseball game was a 7-6 win over then-10th-ranked Duke. Senior first baseman Brett Centracchio smashed a walk-off, two-run homer at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte. The ’Cats finished the COVID-19-shortened season 13-3.

No. 3

Online learning, Internet access — expect lots of problems. A lot of people are stuck at home. A lot of people are trying to use the Internet. Everybody made fun of the late Sen. Ted Stevens from Alaska when he made his infamous statement about the Internet being “a series of tubes.”

Stevens, back in 2006 when he said that, may have been more accurate than some of us would like to think. Here’s part of what he said about putting a lot of information on the Internet:

“They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled, and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.”

Well that’s what’s happening now: streaming Netflix, Hulu (corrected for you guys on-line, spellcheck gave our print audience Hula, dang technology) and Disney Plus, along with telecommuters, teachers trying to prepare for the forced implementation of online classes and just regular Internet traffic.

The tubes are filling up, and the browsers are timing out and giving error messages.

Anybody else experiencing this? We sure are at my house. We have Spectrum; it’s supposed to be fast service, I think like 300 Mbps. That ain’t happening.

The newer computers we have will barely, if at all, connect to the Internet. My phone won’t work at all on the Wi-Fi.

I got the bright idea that I would talk to Windstream and see what their service might be like. Maybe I could add a second service and we might be able to split up what we were doing. I went to their website and started the process. Step by step, I went through the process, and the cost started climbing. It became too expensive to add a second service.

No. 4

Communicating with a communications company is always hard. (Anybody try to call us? Sorry in advance.) Well, apparently Windstream has my phone number now, and they keep calling. That’s fine. I can ask them questions and see if it might help.

The guy on the phone was like, sure we can find credits to get your cost down. That’s good, but that wasn’t the real question that was stopping me from signing up.

The real question was: Is that fiber-optic “tube” on the pole outside my house the same tube that I am dumping my information through the Spectrum tube from my router/modem/whatever-the-heckthis-thing-is currently?

“Great, Mr. Plemmons, let me connect you to our technical support,” the Windstream fellow said. I would tell you that the fellow had a real thick accent, but the younger folks would say I am being racist.

“Ring, ring, ring …”

Automated voice: “Please enter your phone number and Windstream account number.”

Well, that was a dead end — I don’t have a Windstream account.

I still can’t get an answer. Windstream keeps calling, almost as much as that robocaller whose first words are “Don’t hang up …” I’m not sure what he says after that. If you tell me not to hang up, by golly, I’m hanging up.

I am fairly tech-savvy and I can’t get things to work, so I can tell you this — going to online classes for schools en masse, the way that’s fixing to happen, is going to be Trouble with a capital T, and this ain’t River City.

Can anybody with Windstream answer my question? Is your fiber-optic tube on Dylan Place different from Spectrum’s tube? My question is not how many millions of dollars you have spent on upgrades.

No. 5

The litter is worse than I told you last week. The litter was bad over by QT, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it is farther up Cloverleaf Parkway. The worst spot is right beside Comfort Inn.

Readers sent us photos of the area. It is a disgrace.

I wish there was some way of punishing the people who pull this crap. How hard is it to keep your trash in your car until you get to the next stop? There are lots of trash cans.

And who is dumping shopping carts? There are three carts beside Comfort Inn and a fourth beside all the tractor-trailers parked over between Oyo Hotel and the Flaming Grill Buffet.

Cloverleaf Parkway trash

The trash and litter is worse beside the hotels than it was down at QT. It's worse than outside the landfill. Submitted photo

Some of the folks who sent the pictures to us think the trash is from the tractor-trailer people, but I think it is just jerks driving past. Come on, people, you can do better than that.

If you’ve got a Friday Five, story idea or something I can rant about (or if you know how I can get the Internet to work at a reasonable speed), email mplemmons@independenttribune.com.

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