Monday, December 30, 2013

After the holidays

I always like the idea of 12 days of Christmas. It was especially helpful when we had to travel a bit to visit relatives, rather than have to try and see everyone on the 25th.

Apparently, some other people think the same way, as i received a few Christmas cards on Boxing Day. Which we don't celebrate here in the US, so it was a back-to-work day for me. I also got a late Christmas card on the 27th, and smiled as i opened it. So, when i saw an envelope on the 28th, i thought it might be a late Christmas letter and opened it eagerly.

It was a letter all right, written in delightfully clear penmanship, from a friend and former colleague's sister, C. I knew C, had spent some delightful times chatting away with her, as she and K lived together. I last spoke to K, my friend and former colleague late spring or early summer. C had moved closer to her job, which had moved from the city to a more southern location. They were thinking of taking a vacation, travelling northeast to Boston where they'd lived for a decade, and i invited them to stay with me if they wanted or i could meet them in Boston. It was all conjecture at that point. The summer came and went with no phone call, and i thought of her again in the early autumn. I meant to call, but got busy and during the holidays, i knew she often spent time with her son or siblings, so decided i’d call afterwards, in time for her birthday on 14 January.

The letter was brief. C said K had some health issues. Yes, I knew about those as K and I had discussed them a bit. And, that K had died unexpectedly in mid-October. My eyes filled with tears immediately. C wanted me to know as K was quite fond of me, and felt that I had been a good friend over the years.

I looked for her obituary on-line, still not quite able to believe the letter. The obituary was as brief as the letter, so there was no explanation other than “passing away unexpectedly.” She died on the day I was going to see Macbeth er, the Scottish Play with Kenneth Branaugh and Alex Kingston. The HD showing was cancelled due to technical difficulties and was later rescheduled. I didn’t make it to the rescheduled showing because we got a bit of snow and I was concerned about driving home in a blizzard. K always had her nose in a book and read all sorts of things, so she would have found it fitting that I was seeing something literary. And my mind dwelt on that, as often happens when one is shocked upon hearing news and frantically searches inside one’s self to make sense of it all. We first met nearly 18 years ago now, and she helped me tremendously. When I started at my current job and we needed someone else to do the same work I was doing as there was too much for one person, I called her at the old company. She no longer worked there. A former colleague at another company where many had gone (when I applied there for a job, I was known as “another refugee from that company”) had the old phone list and supplied me with her home number. I knew the phone was in her sister’s name but couldn’t remember C’s last name to save my life. K had married and divorced before I met her, and kept her married name.

And so I called to say hello and to see if she’d be interested in doing some work for us. We needed someone who could use Word very well, and I knew she could. She loved science, and this would most likely be right up her alley.

She ended up working for us and was hired on as a regular employee after several months. She stayed until she was laid off about two years ago now. Our boss at the time told me it was because of workload, or rather lack of it. There wasn’t enough to go around. But, she and K got on like oil and water, and everyone felt it was based on a personality clash, nothing more, nothing less. K had hoped to remain working until 65 to boost her retirement a bit, but at least she was 62 and could draw social security if she didn’t find another job.

What I didn’t realise that day I called her to see if she could help us was that she’d been laid off from the company where I had met her and had been unable to find another job. She had oodles of experience, but not the schooling companies wanted, and she was an older worker. She later told me she had grown quite desperate, as her benefits were running out as was her savings, and she was in a pickle.

And then I called. Did she want work? Did she ever. And then it was my turn to walk her through what we did, what we needed her to do. We had a few other contractors to help as well. Our then boss and owner of the company wanted to make one of them a permanent employee, and K got the nod. On some very bad days, I’d apologise to her for getting her in this mess. She’d smile and say she was grateful for the job. On some very bad days she had, I reminded her that she had won out over a Ph.D. for the job. She had, too.

And then I got the chance to move back to the coast and keep my job, become a telecommuter. She was glad to see that I was able to have my dream become reality. We’d chat on the phone after hours from time to time, and would discuss projects and things in general, just like always.

After her departure, I’d send jobs that she might be interested in. After about six months, she decided she’d most likely stay retired, and we chatted about that.

That was the thing. No matter how much time elapsed, we always picked up the conversation where we left off. We were both curious about all sorts of things, so after a cursory catch up of work stuff, the topics could cover anything and everything.

I’d been thinking about what I was going to tell her when I called wishing her a happy 65th birthday.

I stared again at the letter. It was real.

I let some of my former officemates know the news. Some work for other companies now, and all were saddened by the news.

She was one of those really quiet people who showed up at work to work. What a concept. She was not the chatty Kathy sort. Heads down, get work done, and when she went outside for a smoke, she’d take a book to read.

Once you got past that quiet exterior, you found someone witty, bright, articulate, thoughtful, kind, and a solid citizen. The kind who hated injustice, questioned authority, played by the rules that made sense. Who liked decorum without being stuffy.

I shall write a note to her sister. I know how hard the holidays can be when loved ones aren’t around, and I’m sure there’s been just enough time since mid-October for the shock to wear off a bit and for the painful realisation to sink in that she’s truly gone and isn’t coming back.

I should like to do something to honour my friend. Not that she’d ever expect it nor request it, but I’d like to do something all the same. I’m thinking a donation to my local library in her memory just the ticket.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The best things in life...

...aren't things.

Despite not feeling much Christmas magic this year, i am grateful that i live in a beautiful place, that our electrics have thus far stayed on through the ice storms which have left many without electricity, and that two kitties are now peacefully napping, one in front of the coal stove, and the other between my keyboard and the screen.

Two things which have especially warmed my heart this Christmas season:

Someone doing his best to achieve sobriety.

A friend's fostering a badly abused white poodle named Toby. He's been at my friend's house a few weeks, such woeful eyes, and unsure what to make of his new surroundings. He's coming out of his shell little by little, likes cuddles, and is now starting to look at his human companions in the eye from time to time. Sometime in the night last night, my friend awoke to find Toby licking her hand. He stopped and went out of the room as soon as he realised she was awake.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas is coming....

I've somehow found myself in a place where i think we have oodles of time until Christmas. It's three days away. Well, less than that, as we're hurtling towards early evening on Sunday.

Even if i don't do a lot of decorating for it, i usually feel a change within me, anticipating its arrival. Not so this year, and can't say why, really. Maybe it's because it falls on a Wednesday this year. It can't be for the lack of snow, the last two storms brought a foot or more each. We had a bit of melt, and now we're gripped in this icy mess, since the warm and cold weather fronts are fighting one another, jockeying for position. We've had rain and freezing rain start last night and fall on and off today, leaving us with a half-inch (~1.75 cm) or more of ice on top of the remaining 10 inches (~25 cm) or so of snow.

I had such inside plans for today but chose instead to watch a movie in the late morning, leaving me in a dreamy state all afternoon. I've got the heat turned up, in case we lose power, and i've only just realized i don't have a flashlight within arm's reach and shall remedy that soon enough.

The presents are wrapped under the tree, except for one gift i bought for myself, i had planned on doing baking, but that didn't occur, and i can't believe we are almost to the end of the year.

I don't like to make New Year's resolutions, i much prefer thinking about those kinds of things around my birthday, but i do think i need to immerse myself more in real life and less in the virtual one. It's so easy when one works on a computer all day to keep staring at the screen after hours to catch up on one more thing, and suddenly the whole evening's gone.

One of the things i plan on doing with some of the away-from-the-computer time in 2014 is to make some Scotch eggs. I found a recipe in an old Watkins cookbook, and as i've got some packages of ground pork from my recent purchase of half a pig, this seems like a good time to try.

I'm also thinking more regular blog-posting should be on the list. I very much enjoy reading other's blogs, don't always feel like saying anything on my own.

So, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone. Season's Greetings, Jul, solstice, however you wish to mark this time of year as we see the days increase in the northern hemisphere, i hope it's a good one.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Funny moment

Today as i was running errands, a car parked next to mine, driven by an elderly man, who looked very serious. The car sported a bumper sticker, which read,

Laugh, and the world laughs with you,
Puke, and you're on your own.

It made me laugh out loud, as the old gent didn't look the type to have that sort of humor.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Questionnaire via John's blog

The list of questions came from John's blog, Going Gently.

1. If there's one chocolate left in the box, do you have to eat it, or can you leave it sitting there?
It usually calls to me. Even if it's not a favourite, i can't just let it sit there.

2. What do you want to remember most of all, if you survive to be very old?
I should like to remember every kindness shown me. I remember many, but i know there are some i have forgotten, which are often remembered only after someone says something or blogs about something, and then i smile and remember.

3. Would you enjoy being a very rich and famous celebrity?
Yes to the rich part, but i'd rather not be famous. I'd hate to be rude, but would tell sycophants to get stuffed and heartily dislike having my photo taken. I enjoy privacy.

4. What piece of music do you personally find most emotionally moving?
Two-way tie at least between Pachelbel's Canon in D and the Hallelujah chorus. Oh, and there's also Ashogan Farewell.

5. How do you deal with depression, anxiety and bad times?
I never had the diagnosis depression, although i've had some very dark times. I find things to do, sometimes things that bring joy, and sometimes just give something a good cleaning. Setting things to rights always makes me feel better.

6. What do you love doing that bores everyone else stiff?
I actually enjoy looking at most holiday snaps. I also love puttering around the house.

7. Did you ever encounter an inanimate object that seemed to have a will of its own?
Often, and many seem to mock me.

8. What is your very favourite hotel or restaurant?
We stayed overnight at a small hotel in Ireland, not too far from Shannon Airport. It wasn't the biggest or brightest, but the woman who ran the place was cheerful, and she had a large, red dog that slept across the doorway. He had a great deal of faith in our abilities not to drop our luggage on him (see my answer to Q7 about why i found this surprising). Any place that has a big dog with a wagging tail to welcome you is a lovely place to be.

Favorite restaurant--there are many. Locally, there's a seafood shack open only in summer that makes the best fried haddock i've ever tasted. There's also a lovely, expensive place open year 'round with a largely French menu, run by a hockey teammate and her chef husband. Were i to have the sort of money in Q3, i'd eat there a lot more often than i do now.

9. Do you think prisoners who have committed particularly vile crimes should be segregated in jail for their own safety?
No. And if the crime is particularly vile, i'm fine with the death penalty.

10. What do you wish you had known when you were 18?
I wish i could have loved myself better; i was very hard on myself in those days.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pretty woman...once upon a time

I was never the pretty one. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t entirely unfortunate looking (to paraphrase a line from the movie Legally Blonde) but I was never the type to walk into a place and have heads turn because of my beauty. In that respect, I guess I’m like most people.

I never gave it much thought, not being blond and blue-eyed, which seemed to be favoured over my features, brunette and hazel-eyed, but I do think I sold myself short now and again.

Time marched on, and here I am, firmly in middle age. I don’t get carded anymore when I buy booze and see some younger people deducting points from my IQ because I look older. Well, if they saw me trying to turn on my i-Phone, I shouldn't wonder at all about that; fortunately, I had that embarrassing moment in the privacy of my own home.

I recently came to appreciate that I wasn't one of the pretty ones when I saw an acquaintance really struggling with this. I've only known her for the past five years or so, and while she’s not unfortunate looking, I don’t know that I’d say she was really all that pretty. Tall, thin, and thanks to a trip to her stylist, blond or blond highlights to meld with the grey in her hair. Her face is lined a little bit, with the lines that come from worry or stress. If I were a guy, I think I’d think of her as someone pretty high maintenance. And I wondered how she ended up where she did, why she made some decisions that were based on such faulty reasoning, and it took me a bit to work out that she must have been exceedingly pretty in her youth. The kind of beauty that makes both men and women stop and stare when she enters a room. The kind where people rush up to help her, wanting to do anything to be next to her. So, she didn't have to spend a lot of time developing other parts of herself, really. She could sit on her pretty pedestal and call the shots.

And somewhere along the way, the physical beauty faded. She still has a statuesque build, but her holding forth on some subjects comes across as pedantic or with the expectation that everyone still awaits to hear what she has to say. News flash—they don’t. I find now when I speak to her, I usually find a topic we both like, and when she's truly engaged in the conversation, she shows a very different side of herself, and one that I like very much.

We shall never be close friends as our interests are vastly different, and we rarely see each other. At first, I found her quite annoying. Over time, I've mellowed and now find myself feeling sorry for her and being grateful that I wasn't one of the pretty ones. I had to develop other parts of myself and never relied on my physical appearance to have people do my bidding. Indeed, I never really counted on people to do my bidding—I most often learned to do things by myself or find like-minded people and enjoyed their companionship as we worked together. But it was the common interest that drew us to the task at hand rather than the “She’s pretty, I want to get to know her better (or in her pants) so I’ll make my move” scenario that this once stunning woman undoubtedly encountered often.

I never really thought about beauty being a burden. I’m rather glad it’s one I never really carried.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Brave, New World (requires snacks and a cuppa, as it's a long read)

I work from home these days, and telecommuting has its plusses and minuses, like any work situation. On the whole, i find it suits me very well. Everyone in my department who lives in North America telecommutes, and at one time or another, we've all had technological issues.

When i first became a telecommuter, the company required me to have a standalone phone line for business (check) and a high-speed Internet connection (check). I don't do any business travel, so a plain old phone line and internet connection worked very well for me. I could have wireless capabilities, but i always chose to plug my laptop in, as it's a tad safer from hackers and faster. Since i work with large, confidential documents, this seemed a prudent thing to establish and do.

I've been telecommuting a bit over four years now, which in the world of technology, means light years. We've had a buyout, merger, and two name changes in that space of time, and current thinking is that everyone in the US who telecommutes needs to have a cell phone (mobile) and a mi-fi, which is a portable wireless router. I'm sure the person who decided this was a brilliant idea was thinking of the number of telecommuters who travel much of the time and did not always have access to wi-fi, and i'm also convinced they were thinking of those same travelling employees who were needing to check email and perhaps send a couple documents, and how a three-inch phone screen doesn't really cut it if you need to read a document. Someone also swung a deal with several of the largest wireless providers, so the bean counters were undoubtedly dancing a joyful little jig.

The new policy was rolled out with alacrity, and if you wanted to be an exception, you had to jump through a number of hoops. So, clearly, they wanted all of us to embrace this.

Our department, in our weekly meeting, brought up several concerns we had about this new policy. We routinely work with huge files, would that affect our data plan limits? What about slower upload and download speeds? That might be a chance for corrupted documents? (And here i shuddered as i said it, remembering all too well having to do a bunch of extra work when a telecommuter refused to plug in so every file she touched was corrupted; since i was in the office then, i was the lucky sod who had to fix everything). What if we were in a dead zone? And here, nearly everyone thought i lived in a dead zone. Um, yes and no. I can usually get a signal at my house, but occasionally, when i fire up my now considered ancient cell phone, i get the message that i am roaming because for some reason, the tower that's giving me a signal for the moment, is a tower in Canada. No, i don't know why that is, either, but that's how it is sometimes. Only it doesn't matter to me if i'm roaming with my ancient cell phone, because i hardly ever use it. It allows me to make a phone call, receive a phone call, create and send a text, or receive a text. Fin. Since i spend most of my working day at my computer, in my office, in my home, the designated land line is the best way to get ahold of me, or send me an email to my corporate email address.

My boss takes our list of concerns to her management meeting where they discuss all things managerial, and her boss tells her, in essence, that we are to follow the new policy. Alrighty then.

We have to go with the wireless group contracted by my company, and i fill out the form. I have questions so i call to speak to one of their reps. It's clear that we live on different planets, she on Planet Hip, Young, Cool, and me, Planet of the Fuddy Duddy. She cannot understand that i don't have a company cell phone and have never had one. I have a land line. L-a-n-d-l-i-n-e. If i want to keep the same phone number, which yes, please, i do, i'm unsure how to complete the online form because it's asking for what my current cell phone number is. The answer is, i don't have one, but want to know if my current landline, l-a-n-d-l-i-n-e, number is portable. She assures me it is, and then proceeds to tell me how to fill out the online form. I can hear her eyes rolling and know she's thinking, "Moron," as i point out that it won't let me advance to the next screen if i do as she says. Because my current work number is not a cell phone. But a landline. L-a-n...

And here she interrupts to tell me what i need to do, speaking at 100 words per minute (wpm). Yes, i remember when wpm meant "words per minute" and it was in the days of typewriters when the apostrophe was over the number 8, and to make an exclamation point, one needed to shift and press 8 then backspace and add a period. Such a bitch when i got that typewriter on the day of timed assignments in typing class when we had exclamation points in the copy we needed to type. The number 1 key either had just the 1 on it, or was missing altogether, but it didn't matter, because you could just type a lower case l, and it looked like a number one. See? 1...l....1....l. Who was the wiser? Who indeed, until years later, when i was in banking and a colleague a few years older than myself had all sorts of trouble because she typed the lower case l in a number field. She couldn't understand why things were going all pear-shaped, and looking at the CRT, it looked right. It was only when i saw her try again, and i noticed that she was typing a lowercase l did i see where the problem lay. It didn't look any different from the number 1, but the computer knew the difference somehow, and poor Lillian had to spend a bit of time trying to remember that she needed to find the bloody 1 and then lose her place on the keyboard. I suggested that she learn to use the number pad, which was to the right and different from the adding machine, which had 1 at the top left. The number pad had 1 on the bottom left and 7 on the top left, but that would be an easier mistake for her eye to see and correct than lower case l subbing for the number 1.

I realized that the young woman from Planet Hip, Young, Cool had finished speaking. I didn't understand what she had said, and after my third try, i just nodded and stammered okay and hung up. The hell with it, i'd get a new bloody cell phone number. I selected what i needed. New bloody phone, recommended provider (at least i could grasp that much of the conversation), and upon receiving the email from the wireless folks, i had to forward it to my manager who had to approve it, then send it back to the wireless folks, so we could get that ball rolling.

My boss had some questions for me. I wanted over 2000 minutes a month. Yes, i told her, my teleconferences at the moment were using at least 240 minutes a week. Our weekly department meeting ran between 30 and 60 minutes a week. She had a 1-on-1 with me each week, where we chatted for a half hour but sometimes an hour, as we do like each other and sometimes we just need a little breather. Another project i'm on just started its bimonthly teleconferences between 30 and 60 minutes depending on the agenda. A group of projects has an overall meeting where we discuss the Big Project at large as well as each individual project within it, and that's another hour a week. So, in a week where all those hit, that was 480 minutes. In a four-week month, that'd be over 1600 minutes. Then there were the phone calls that took place with other team members when working on some projects. These were hit and miss, though lately, lots of hits.

She mentioned that the teleconferences all had toll-free numbers. Yes, i explained, but cell phones don't care about toll-free minutes. They only care about minutes, and a toll-free minute still counts. My boss is a year or two older than i am, so i'm sure she remembers a time where the lower case l could stand in for the number 1. She certainly remembers when calling toll-free meant that you could stay on for as long as you like, and it doesn't matter. "Oh, dear, i need to change the number of minutes on MY request form," she said glumly.

Then there was this Canadian check box i ticked. Yes, sometimes i roam in Canada, i remind her. The girl on Planet Hip, Young, Cool said that wouldn't be a worry. Ditto with ticking the "talk in Canada" check box. I then remind Boss that one of our North American colleagues in our department lives in the Great White North, above the 49th parallel. And, i had had a chat with four other Canadian colleagues earlier in the week about two of the sister projects. No, it didn't cost me anything extra to speak to them with the plan i have now. The plan i have now on my land line (no spelling required as Boss is familiar with the term "land line") has a flat talk rate for all of North America. I can call anyone at any time and talk for as long as i bloody well like. Or talk to no one. The rate is the same. I do get charged when i call anywhere else in the world, though. Which i've done on a few occasions, as we're a worldwide company.

And that brings her to the next question, about ticking the international calling box. I tell her that in our latest Major Divisional Meeting when they talked about our new name and changing around the way we did some things, that we were going to be on the phone much more often with our international colleagues. There was going to be more mingling. I was one of the front runners having to work with the other half of our department in India, and yes, we've had several calls on projects. Based on what we've been told, that looks like it'll happen more often rather than less. If i say No to international calling, i can never call them. There is no "only sometimes" button, it's a bloody analogue selection: International calling,  Yes or No. If she'd rather i select No, then okay, although what is Plan B when we need to speak to our Indian colleagues?

She wanted to have a couple days to research this. I was sure she was going to bring up the situation at her managers' meeting, and next day, i felt my ears burning. The day after that, she responded with yes, my request was approved. On the phone, she told me that the company was not saving any money having me go to this plan. I told her i wasn't surprised in the least by that, but as a department, we did voice our concerns, which were effectively pooh-poohed. As someone who almost never takes the easier, softer way, i knew all too well that sometimes the best course of action is to allow the pieces to fall where they may. Where. They. May. Oh, and that i never saw the cost of any of the options i selected. I'm sure the user screens were designed like that on purpose. I assured Boss that i wanted to use my work cell phone for work only. And unlike the business land line i now had, i would switch off my cell phone when i was done work for the day. I was not trying to be truculent here, only letting Boss know that i wasn't going to be attached to the hip with this cell phone. If my business land line rings now, i answer it pretty much whatever time of day it is. Boss rarely calls me late, but should she need to from here on out, she should call my home land line. I always answer that, because the only calls i get on that are people i want to talk to. Imagine that. Oh, and the occasional wrong number.

Three or so days later, i'm out over lunchtime running errands. I come home to find a small box on my back step, left by a delivery company. I'm sure it's my new cell phone and mi-fi. I'm surprised that i wasn't required to sign for it and am glad as that would have added some delay to this whole thing. The box seems very light for a cell phone and mi-fi unit. I open it to find just the cell phone. Well, perhaps the mi-fi is coming under separate cover, one of my colleagues mentioned that she got her phone one day and the mi-fi a couple days later. Another colleague had her order lost altogether and needed to restart the process.

I stare at the phone. The paperwork is a couple sheets, two with billing info, a prepaid return label if i have problems, a red bifold brochure titled "Getting Started," and a smallish shiny piece of paper telling me to turn on the phone and follow the screen prompts. The inside of the bifold tells me to look at the activation guide. It takes me some time to work out that the smallish, shiny piece of paper IS the activation guide. I press the button. Nothing. I press and hold it down for a few seconds. Still nothing. Oh, of course, dimwit, i think to myself, you need to plug it in and charge it up before you can do anything else. And for the next two days i press the button and nothing. Now i'm starting to panic a little. I was a little late getting my phone and now the bloody thing won't work. I've pressed the stupid button and NOTHING HAPPENS.

I take a deep breath and look again at the unit. There's nothing else that remotely resembles a button. No point in contacting someone at Planet Hip, Young, Cool. I'm sure they're in a different universe altogether by now.

I go to my computer, to google. I know google, and i type in, "How to turn on an i-phone." I can feel a dunce cap most firmly placed on my head as i type. I see an i-phone for dummies link. I open that in a new tab. I see something else telling me to turn on the phone. Okay, say it with me. IF I KNEW HOW TO TURN ON THE BLOODY PHONE I WOULDN'T BE GOOGLING "HOW TO TURN ON AN I-PHONE" NOW WOULD I???? And then i think about the double entendre of "turning on," but sex is the farthest thing from my mind at that moment. And four or so listings down, i see it, "My i-phone doesn't turn on, where's the button?" Bingo. I'm confident this is another long-lost sister of the type lower case l if you want the number 1 club. And i'm sure the person who answered her question is her loving 8-year-old grandson. He doesn't sound sneering at all that she doesn't know the on/off button. No, it's not the round one on the bottom, its the shiny one at the top. A rectangle.

I stare in disbelief. There's a shiny rectangle at the top i push? Oh, yes, wise-8-year-old grandson, if i make sure the apple is right side up and touching my hand as i cradle the phone, i can see the slimmest rectangular bump on the top right. Since when have buttons come to mean rectangular, shiny things? On Planet of the Fuddy Duddy, "button" is a round thing. Let me put this in language you'll understand. Round is the default shape on Planet Fuddy Duddy. If the button be something different from the default shape, more explanation is needed, e.g., "shiny rectangular button," "shiny button," "rectangular button at the top edge of the phone."

I then see other links that talk of how Apple has the battery charged at least a little bit so you can set up your phone right away. Yes. IF YOU KNOW HOW TO TURN IT ON. Which, thanks to wise-8-year-old grandson, i do.

Like magic it switches on, and i can set up and be in business. Only, it needs to know about my internet. Well, my mi-fi still hasn't appeared and...and...and...
omg, what if i can never get back to this screen? You know like Robert Frost's Stopping by a Wood on a Snowy Evening poem where way leads on to way and one never wends his way back? I have no breadcrumbs, and if i crawl out of this electronic rabbit hole, how the hell do i find my way back?

I call Planet Hip, Young, Cool. I'm talking to Amy who sounds about 14, and she checks to see why i haven't gotten my mi-fi yet. She assures me that i can set up my internet connection later. I tell her i'm unsure i can find my way back, and she laughs. Oh, she says, you never ordered a mi-fi. I tell her i did, i selected both it and the phone. After a game of nearly 20 questions, i deduce that in order for me to have ordered the mi-fi successfully, i had to submit a second order. One for the phone, one for the mi-fi. But, they were together on the page, and i selected both. Nope, only one.

I think back to what seems like a light year when i ordered the phone. I didn't remember the Select buttons lighting  up or showing me that only one was selected. Well, i'm not going to argue about design, and yes, i guess i should have looked at the screen more closely.....

She gives me instructions and tells me i need to press the rectangular button at the bottom of the screen when i do my mi-fi order.

Rectangular button. Bless you, Amy of the Planet Hip, Young, Cool. When you were laughing and i told you i'm just so 20th century, you understood what i meant, that buttons in my world are circular...

I thank her for her help, and go to the screen to order the mi-fi unit. I'm befuddled after i press on the rectangular button because it's saying i want a new mobile number and mi-fi...

NOOOOO! i tell the screen. I HAVE MY NEW PHONE WITH MY NEW PHONE NUMBER. I *LIKE* my new phone number. It's an easy one to remember. I need just the mi-fi. I try several more times and can't get the screen to understand what i want. I call Planet Hip, Young, Cool once again and am speaking to Danielle. She's got a throaty, soft, black voice. It's the kind of voice that soothes, even if it's delivering bad news. I decide i'm not going to pull any punches with Danielle, she's speaking to a 20th century retard who apparently overthinks everything. I tell her the name of my company, how all telecommuters need to get cell phones and mi-fis, how i didn't know i had to order the mi-fi unit separately when i ordered my i-phone, and now that i'm asking for the mi-fi, it wants to give me new mobile number. But, i don't want a new number. I already have my new i-phone with its new number, and it's an easy number for me.

I hear a smile in her voice as she tells me my new i-phone phone number will stay the same. The mi-fi needs its own phone number.

It does?? i ask incredulously. Because this is miles away from anything i know. I'm just so 20th century, Danielle, i tell her. I didn't know that.

I wouldn't know that if i didn't work here, so don't feel bad.

Oh, Danielle, with that soothing, throaty voice explaining things, i could never feel bad.

And i don't work there, but now that you told me, i know, too. Thanks so much for your help, Danielle. And i mean it. And i know she knows i mean it.

So, i successfully order the mi-fi unit, forward the email to Boss who approves it immediately (we'd talked earlier when i explained i thought i ordered it, i was going to follow up to see what was up).

I  now decide i need to learn how to use this i-phone. I call a colleague in my department. I get her voice mail and leave a message. I add her as a contact into my phone. I add Boss's work and home numbers into my phone. I then decide to call my new cell phone so i know what the ringtone sounds like, and to see if i can figure out how to answer it. The ringtone is bland and not very loud. I most likely won't hear it if i'm in the loo. After an age, i find the ringtones and change it so it sounds like an old phone ringing. Yes, that's better. I then have to call Boss about something and use the new phone. After one ring, it stops and there's nothing. What the???? I pull the phone away and look. The call has ended. Dropped call? And then i realize, no, my cheek was too close and pressed the End button. Good Lord. Was this a harbinger of things to come? I call again, taking care to keep my cheek well away from the bottom of the phone. Boss said she wondered who hung up on the first ring just a moment ago. I confess and tell her i'm going to call several colleagues to get the hang of the phone. So, if i cut someone off accidentally, it would be embarrassing perhaps, but not the way it would be with a client. We both laugh and agree.

I call back my other colleague, and we chat about our new phones. She can hear me all right, although i sound a little muffled. I try holding the phone a little differently. Nope, no difference. Yes, i can hear her just fine, she is loud and clear. We both discover that neither of us has ever used a headset, we just cradle the phone when we're on a teleconference if we need to talk and type. Boss has ordered headsets for us, so we'll have to try those on for size, as we won't be able to cradle an i-phone, and here i tell her about cheek-ending the call.

I spend the rest of the day doing what i'd call "real work," and before i'm done, i remember that i'm taking my truck for its annual inspection the next day. The dealership where i bought my truck offers free inspection on Fridays. I also need an oil change, which they'll be glad to do. Can they check stuff, as it's still under warranty? Yes, they'll do that. No, no appointment necessary, just drop in between 7:30 and 3:30. The dealership is nearly an hour's drive from home. I decide that now that i have my work cell phone, i can take the truck early. If there's a long wait, no worries, i can dial in for my 10:00 a.m. conference call. I'll simply take my laptop with me and oh, i can use the reminder feature on my phone. I'll type in the telecon phone number and conference ID i need. I don't see a way to create a hard return so can make it more like a list, but that's okay, it's one long line of info that has all i need.

So, this morning, the alarm goes off, and i'm in the middle of a dream. I can't recall the dream now, but it took some time for me to awake fully. By the time i get out of bed, feed the cats, and do my usual morning stuff, i need to get going to the dealership if i want to be on time for my teleconference.

There are two roundabouts between me and the dealership, and at the second one, i select the wrong turn off. I realize it nearly immediately, but it takes a few minutes of driving the wrong direction for me to find a place where i can turn around.

I make the turnaround, get to the dealership with about a minute before i have to get on the phone for the conference call. Oh, Megan, could you please pull out your registration for us? the truck guy is asking. I ruffle through papers and of course can't see it immediately in front of my face. I tell the guy i need to be on a teleconference, and he looks at the papers. It's right on top. Um, okay, thanks.

I'm so proud of myself for having the phone number on the reminder thingy on my phone, it'll be easy enough for me to see the number...


only it can't show the whole reminder, just the first so many characters and then the dreaded ellipsis. What the?? i try touching the screen, please be bigger, maybe if i turn it sideways i can see all of it, and i walk into the Customer Lounge. It's very full, and you can hear a pin drop. This teleconference may require me to say some confidential info. Shit.

I go back outside, walk around to the side of the building where it's quiet, and, still not able to get the ellipsis to go away and give me the rest of the phone number i need. I fire up my laptop. Now, i'm annoyingly late to the call. But it's not my fault! i want to say. Yes, it is, you 20th century retard, i chide myself. What made you think you could shave us so much margin without getting caught out on it?

And here my laptop is finally booted up, i have to play with the touch mouse, which i loathe, but i get the phone number. Hallelujah, thank you, Jesus. I'm kneeling on a grassy slope, furiously dialling the number, actually furiously pressing buttons, yes ROUND buttons, thankful for all those years of 10-key adding machines and number pads at the bank, when i see something land on my laptop keyboard. It's snowing.
I dial the conference code, and i'm in the call. A woman's voice is on the line. It sounds brittle and disapproving. I now close my laptop, being careful not to drop my phone, nor to cradle it because i'll cheek-end the call, and i don't want the snow to melt inside the laptop keyboard, when did i become so poor at multitasking...

"Well, there's no point in wasting everyone's time as we can't discuss anything..." the Female Voice of Disapproval is saying. Oh, dear, i think, best just to dive in and apologise...

"Hello, it's Megan, sorry I'm so late, I've got my new phone, activated yesterday, and i had some, um... technological difficulties." There's a slight pause, but i sense camaraderie, the kind that says, "I feel your pain." Encouraged, i continue, "So, it sounds as if i haven't missed anything? Did anyone have questions for me?"

"No," Female Voice of Disapproval says. Her voice isn't one i recognize. "The client hasn't shown up...AGAIN."

"Oh, dear, that's not very good," i say. Sadly, this isn't the first time this has occurred. I hear others agreeing with me, yes it makes it difficult to do the work, as we have questions about things they need to answer and the answers are not forthcoming.

Another beep is heard on the line. Someone from the client's company has joined the call. But, she's just filling in for The Person We Really Need to Speak to, as said Person is on holiday all this week and next. This is news to all of us. Stand-in apologises for arriving so late, she got stuck on another call that ran late. So, the others who are completely disgusted and prompt tell the stand-in the things they needed to discuss. They're not sure if Stand-in can help, however. Stand-in admits she's not so sure she can, either, but she'd be glad to try. After a few minutes, where they've succinctly laid out their questions, Stand-in says she's not able to help. No one appears surprised. I then ask Stand-in some questions i have that need to be answered, unsure if she'll be able to help me, either, but mine concern the project itself as opposed to a process question that the others have asked. No, Stand-in doesn't have the answers i need, although she can take those back to The Person We Really Need to Speak to, as they're good questions and ones that most clearly need to be answered. She sounds relieved that they are project questions, and i, not wanting my other colleagues who were prompt to take what she said the wrong way (as i could feel her relief in my asking normal project things as opposed to arcane process matters) say that i'd appreciate if she could convey all of our questions and concerns so that we can do all we can to keep the project moving along. And here, my prompt colleagues chime in and say yes, that would be very helpful. Stand-in then realizes how what she said could have been taken the wrong way, and insists that yes, she'll pass along everything.

I take a moment to look around. I'm kneeling on frozen ground, it's snowing more heavily now, my coat is still unzipped, my hand holding my phone is cold, and i look up at the grey sky. Somehow, i don't think this is the image of the 21st century worker. I stand up slowly, as we all wish one another a happy thanksgiving. Well, for those of us in the US. For everyone else, have a good end-of-the week next week, it'll undoubtedly be more quiet with everyone in the US off for two days, eating turkey and what have you. There are laughs all around, although i don't join in.

The call is ended, and i make my way around the building to go back to the Customer Lounge. An older man, who watched me walk out with my phone in hand and now sees me returning from my call stares hard at me. I don't think he's an employee of the dealership, perhaps he finds the Customer Lounge a bit claustrophobic with so many people in that little room, and it's very warm in there.

After my truck is ready, i ask the cashier where a particular Chinese restaurant is. When i first moved here, i had to take my car into a sister dealership for a part replacement that was under warranty, and when i mentioned i was hungry for lunch, could they recommend some place, the shuttle driver told me about an excellent Chinese take-out place. I could call and by the time he was done his paperwork, he'd take me there. Okay, so i called, and he was right. The food was excellent. I had programmed the number into my ancient cell phone, which wasn't ancient then. I had never deleted the number but never tried finding the place on my own.

The cashier didn't know, but looked in the phone book. It was on B*** avenue. That was on the other side of the city, but she couldn't give me anymore direction than that. Oh, well, then never mind, i said, and thanked her. I wondered why she didn't just call it up on her computer, and then smiled. She's another sister from the lower case l standing in for number 1 club.

I got into my truck and took a moment to collect myself. I was going to make use of the free car wash, and that's the second time it's snowed when i've used the car wash, i thought, when i looked again at my phone. Not my ancient cell phone that had the Chinese take-out number, but my work i-phone. I had said yes to the maps feature. I had forgotten my atlas in the car and meant to buy a second one for the truck but hadn't gotten round to it.

Several minutes later, after fat fingers typed in B*** avenue that was 12 states over from where i lived, i managed to get the right B*** avenue in the correct state. Emboldened by this success, i went the whole hog and typed in the name of the Chinese take-out restaurant. Yes, it showed me right where it was. It wasn't that far away, just 2 miles from the interstate, and yes i was very near the interstate.

I was thankful to that Grade 4 teacher who'd taught our class how to read maps. As i sat in the car wash, i could already taste the yummy chicken and broccoli. After exiting the car wash, and reattaching the truck's antenna, i turned right at the stop light and in two miles, i'd be looking for the route sign i needed so i could make the turn and find the place...

Two miles had me in a different town. This place didn't look familiar at all, and at a long red light, i looked down at my i-phone. Oh, there was a green pulsing light. Why, that was me! But wait, if that be my truck, then, then, then...i'm going the wrong way. Yes, i can read maps, but the whole orient one's self first eludes me at times. sigh. I turn around, and in the turnaround spot, i check again. Yes most definitely the wrong way. I see my mistake immediately and then study the map for a few minutes.

I come to the roundabout that gave me trouble before and apparently, it's happened again. But, the trusty i-phone map shows me where i am, and i see easily how i can just go up two blocks and turn right. Like magic, i'm at the other roundabout, and i'm clear about which way i need to go. I arrive at the Chinese take-out place. Not quite a work-related use of my work cell phone. But, hell, a gal's gotta eat.

I celebrate with chicken and broccoli served with pork fried rice.

It's a brave, new world.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

For Cro

As soon as i saw this on my facebook feed, i instantly thought of Cro's blog post about shampoo ads. This might not be quite what you had in mind, Cro, but it's a start, eh?

Updated, as the joke fell flat: In the US, L'Oreal is best known for hair colouring products, and one of their more famous slogan's is "Because you're worth it," as L'Oreal products are usually a tad pricier than others.

Chris Hemsworth is an Australian actor who plays the part of Thor, so "Thoreal" is a pun on "L'Oreal" and the "Because Hemsworth it" is a pun on the "Because you're worth it" slogan.

Wikipedia provides more info:

Friday, November 8, 2013

Paper, not plastic

Our house is an old one, at least by US standards. The bulk of the house was built 1830. A sun room was added in 1998, and a wing containing an oversized bedroom with small kitchen space (cupboards, sink, and fridge) with its own bath, shower, and walk-in closet plus a room above this overlarge bedroom was added in 2001. In order to connect the new wing, a small hallway was constructed at that time with a half bath (toilet and sink only) and a large closet where the washer and dryer are stacked. The old part of the house needed a new roof, and after contacting five businesses and receiving three bids (the other two couldn't be bothered for some reason), i selected Company H. I'd been saving my pennies, knowing that we'd need a new roof at some point, and was glad that i had enough in the bank. It would be but a simple matter to transfer the funds and write the check. Done.

I signed the paperwork 01 July and gave then a check for the deposit. I didn't realize until later, the person on behalf of the company, who signed the same time i did, dated his signature as "08/01," which reads As August 1st in the US. Whoever does the scheduling saw the 08/01 and didn't schedule my job for August, which i'd been told would happen, but in September. Well, as long as it was before first snow, it'd be all right.

They did arrive just before mid-September and finished the job in two-and-a-half days. They were quiet, efficient, and careful to clean up as much debris as possible. There was one change order as two soffit boards needed to be replaced. Not surprising, and i signed off on the change order. It was about $250 more. I had called to explain that i'd be sailing for a week immediately after the job was done, so if they sent the bill as soon as the job was done, i might not be home to receive it.

After sailing, SFB was going to help Himself and i take our boat out for the season, but something else happened instead, as i noted here.

I was back into work mode, checked my emails, both business and personal, and deleted oodles of junk emails in my junk folder. I do tend to scan them, just in case one or two are misfiled. By month's end, when things were starting to get back to normal, i double checked the paper mail. No bill from the roofing company. Strange. But, maybe they bill a month out from the job. A month out, still no bill, so i call and talk to the same man i talked to initially, who had done the estimate for me. He explained that they had emailed me a bill. I checked my email, didn't see it, and told him so. He thought it may have gone into my spam or junk folder. Nope, nothing there, but i did have those hundreds when i finally got back on-line...yes, maybe i had deleted it. Well, if they could send another, that would be great.

And i check my email both the inbox and junk folder. Daily. Nothing. About 10 days later, i decide i'm going to call again and ask for a paper invoice. I'd been expecting a paper invoice all along, really, but hadn't gotten one, so yes, a call is best to see what's going on. I couldn't do it right then as i was on a teleconference for work. I have one project that seems to breed these telecons like rabbits. I don't mind when they contain agenda items that are really useful for me, but this one decidedly didn't, and my mind had gotten to wandering. We were to be done with the telecon at noon, so after that, actually after i went to the loo, i'd call the Company H.

Coming out of the loo at 12:04, my home phone rang. I answered. It was Kelly from Company H calling, wondering if i'd be paying my bill? I told her yes, i would be glad to pay it as soon as i received one. I must have inadvertently deleted the email they sent, had asked for another to be sent, and was still waiting. If it were easier to send a paper invoice, would they do that, please? Yes, yes they could. Excellent.

Company H is less than six miles from my house, so it wouldn't take more than a day to send something snail-mail. And i get the mail promptly. I deal with it immediately, recycling junk mail, after i have assiduously removed any trace of my name and address. I have a spot for the bills that need to be paid, and a spot for things to peruse. If the peruse spot gets overfull, then i dump all the contents after removing name and address info. Still, i check to make sure i haven't somehow misplaced the bill. I check each piece of mail Mail Lady Stephanie delivers. Nada from Company H.

I am somewhat bemused by this. Don't they want their money? I would. The work is done, has been done for six weeks. And so, this week, when it gets to be about seven weeks out, and i have errands to run, i decide i'm going to pay a visit to Company H. I had planned on transferring over the money from savings to checking once i had a final total, but not before. Long ago i decided i'd never write a check if the money wasn't in the account, or if i did, i wouldn't mail it until after i made the deposit. Were i to be hit by a bus, i didn't want bad checks to add to whoever was going to be sorting my affairs. It's a habit i've rarely broken.

From my banking days, i knew that businesses paid a fee to accept credit, and later debit cards. They paid by the transaction, and it's typically a percentage of the transaction. Most use 3%, some use 4%, and some can go higher depending upon the set-up. Along with the "i never write checks unless the money is there, or if i do, i don't mail them until the money's there" rule is the practice of nearly always writing a check or paying cash when i'm dealing with a local business, so they don't have to pay the 3% for me to use plastic. Yes, anachronistic, i suppose, although nearly each time i ask if i can pay by check because i don't want to stick them with the 3% plastic fee, i get a grateful smile, a nod, and "Of course you can pay by check."

On my way to Company H, i had my checkbook, but hadn't transferred the money from savings to checking. I had credit cards with me and decided i was going to pay the balance with plastic. Because my bemusement slid to miffed. I walked in, and talked to Stacy who remembered me. She noted that yes, they had sent me an email a few days after the job had been completed. I explain it must've gone into the junk folder, and go on to explain the follow-up calls. Yet i still don't have an invoice. Stacy says she can fix that, and she presses the print button. I look around Company H. It's a small space, small enough that the other two people i spoke to could have very easily called out to Stacy as they were on the phone with me to generate another invoice.

I see that the change order adds $257 to the bill. I pull out my credit card and am in the midst of handing it to Stacy when she says,

"We don't take credit cards."

I stop for a moment. I can understand not taking cards for small transactions, but a new roof is not a small transaction, although seeing so many of their signs at some huge places, i realize my roof job was a small one for them.

"We've been busier this summer than any of us can remember," Stacy is saying. I murmur how that's good for their business no doubt. Then i explain that i didn't transfer the money yet from savings to checking, if i give them the check....

"I won't be getting to the bank for a couple days, so that's fine, " Stacy nods.

As i write out the check, i tell her how happy i am with the roof, that with this last wind and rain storm we had, everything was great. She thanks me for letting her know, always nice to hear things are working as they should. She thanks me for the check as i neatly fold up the invoice and put it in my purse, to be file in the house file upon my return home.

On my way to the bank, where i feel so very reckless for coloring so far outside the lines by giving a check i know to be no good until i get to the bank, i figure what the hell. I stop at the quickie mart for a lottery ticket.

I do not get struck by lightning nor hit by a bus. I get to the bank quite easily make the transfer, and breathe a sigh of relief once i get back in my car.

It had been my plan all along to pay by check, so it's no skin off my nose that Company H doesn't take plastic, but i wonder how often people just assume they do, and when it's time for payment, they find themselves unable to pay?

Company H isn't a one-man operation, which if it were, i wouldn't be surprised that there's no plastic option. It's not a huge company, either, but it's large enough that i just assumed plastic would be a part of their world.

We'll see what changes in two or three years when the later additions to our house will need new roofs. In the meantime we'll be saving our pennies.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tea and Sympathy

This week we are fully in autumn. The wind stays cold no matter how brilliant the sunshine, heavy frost blankets the grass, taking longer to leave, and the grey of the approaching storm clouds covering a wan sun take on winter's hue. The next season is not far behind.

I felt a bit gloomy about this and that, reflecting the weather it seemed, when i heard a car door slam outside. I am very near the corner and people have often used my driveway as a turnaround, or they park opposite the house and get out of their cars to check something--trailers pulling boats or motorcycles, or they get something from the trunk/boot. I looked outside to see a deliveryman in a white van. I've seen him before in my driveway. Only i hadn't ordered anything.

I hadn't. But a dear friend in the UK had, and i opened a box from Fortnum & Mason, which held about a half dozen varieties of tea, some which i have tasted and loved, and a few i had wanted to try but hadn't yet ordered. In fancy tins.

There was also a tin of biscuits and not just any old tin, but one that has a music box on the bottom, and not just only old biscuits but yummy dark chocolate dipped orange digestive ones,

and a card which read simply,

Tea and Sympathy and much love from across the Pond

All dismal feelings vanished, and i gave thanks for such a loving, dear friend.

I am glad love is not aware of long distances when it crosses from one heart to another and was once again struck by how it warms the heart on the gloomiest of days.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Three Weeks Out

It's been three weeks tomorrow since Jim was last in the house, and the girls have settled into a comfortable routine with alacrity.

Phoebe is glad to have the upstairs all to herself without an orange dynamo creeping around, sniffing, playing with her catnip mouse. She hasn't hissed very much, really i don't think at all since Jim left. She did take an orange sparkle ball that he unearthed from somewhere and wanted to play with it, having me throw it to her whilst she was near the top of the staircase and i at the bottom. We haven't played that game for years.

JoJo has taken several very long naps where she's comfortably stretched out, secure in the knowledge that no orange blur will jump on her. She has only hissed once in these last three weeks, and that's when she fell asleep on my lap, and i pet her, disrupting her. She also gave me a quick look and did a double-take. It was only then i realized i touched her where Jim would often touch her when he crept up from behind whilst she was sleeping. So, she may have hissed more from habit than anything. She's very glad to have the back yard all to herself again, jumps up on the well, and has run around a bit wanting me to chase her and play.

It's the playfulness of both that surprises me, and they're getting along better than they ever have.

I suppose the only girl in the house with a broken heart is me. It is mending, as i figured it would, but the sadness comes at odd moments, such as when i hung wash on the line, and there was no orange shadow biting the clothes pins or jumping into the washbasket wanting a ride.

Last night, as i was working late, Jo quietly jumped up in the chair beside my work chair. Grace always sat there when i was working late, and after she left, Jo would jump up and keep my company. Jim took over when he was here, and i suppose Jo's taking back the task last night is just another sign that we continue where we left off when given a chance.

The house is much quieter, and i suppose it was this quiet before Jim came. Funny how one little furfriend can create so much difference, both by his presence and his absence.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


I am off to see The Scottish Play as some call it. Then there's the rest of us who call it Macbeth.

It's the rebroadcast of the National Theatre's production.

UPDATE: Well, i got there in time, but a notice was on the door saying that due to technical difficulties, the showing will be rescheduled to some time in mid-December. That will give me time to reread the play, but i was looking foward to seeing it last night. So, culture postponed for a bit.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

RIP, Jim

A nearby neighbour i don't know called when he saw my missing cat sign. He saw kitty by the side of the road. An orange one. Hoped it wasn't mine but....

It was dark when he called, and dark when i drove past. I couldn't see anything.

I got up this morning, walked to the end of my street (i'm the first house on the left, so the end of the street is close by), turned left, and directly across Mr and Mrs H's driveway, but on my side of the road, i saw a familiar shade of orange. It was Jim.

Thankfully, whoever hit him either had done so at the edge of the road or had kindly moved him.

Himself is away, and while i've got the hole dug, i can't bring myself to go collect Jim's body. I've a call into my kind neighbour up the street, who has helped me dispatch moles, voles, and chipmunks the cats have brought me. I've gotten a lot better about dispatching those myself, but i think i need help with this. He and his wife are out and about someplace, but i've left a phone message asking them to call me back.

Helluva way to meet a neighbour.

I am grateful for the closure.
I am grateful that this was a mercifully quick way to go.
I am grateful i made up the signs and that someone took the time to call me.

In some respects, it does not make the heartbreak easier, as it's always sad to say good-bye to a furfriend, but when i hear awful stories of unspeakable things, i am so very grateful Jim was spared that.

I'll never know why he ventured near that busy, busy road, as i yelled at him the two times i saw him venturing out on our much quieter street, and he'd run from the front yard into the back if a loud car or truck went past. I could drive myself crazy with maybes, but why bother? It's moot.

Thank you, Jim, for your sense of fun, forgiving and loving nature, and light.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013



Have you seen me?? I am an orange tabby, 1½ years old.

My name is Jim.

Please call if you have seen me. My humans last saw me Friday night
04 October 2013, and are worried about me.

Thank you.

I know Kipling wrote about giving dogs your heart to tear. Cats can do this, too, when they decide they need to go off on an adventure. sigh.

I know there's good hunting out there, and i know he can go nearly a half mile before he comes to a roadway if he sticks to all back yards. In my unkempt back yard alone, there's easily a hundred different places for him to hide. Now that the signs are up (they look like everything above the ***** and have my phone number on them) and i've talked to a few neighbours about him, i'll be glad to look foolish as he saunters in, completely oblivious to any worry. It sure beats heartbreak.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tempus fugit

I can scarcely believe it's been nearly a month since my last blog post. I've been busy. Burned out. And every post sounded so crabby i didn't finish any of them and abandoned them in the draft folder.

Summers here are glorious but fleeting. Himself wanted to help with taking the boat out of the water at the end of the sailing season, which, because of his work schedule would mean mid-September. I had wanted to keep Retrouvé in the water until early October, as September sailing here is usually quite spectacular. SFB would also be on hand to help, and he's a fount of sailing knowledge, so i reluctantly agreed to pulling her out on 22 September.

I sailed on my friend's schooner for that week and had a good time. The trip was a bit emotionally charged, as we had Joe's ashes aboard, and on the last day, after our
6-day trip was done, we sailed out with his widow, other members of his family, and friends to commit the rest of his ashes to the sea. During the 6-day trip, we took turns sleeping with Joe (which he would have loved, and made his widow laugh when we told her we were going to do that), and on a two occasions, we released some of his ashes, one at the lobster bake we had on an uninhabited island where we shot a bit of him from a rocket launcher, and on the morning of the last day, i played "Fiddler's Green" on my fife while one of our sailing friends dumped a cup o' Joe overboard. I know it sounds disrespectful, but if you knew Joe, you'd know he would have loved it. None of us could say anything, and i had planned on playing "Fiddler's Green" through three times. The first time to gather everyone, the second so Mike could dump the cup o'Joe, and the third time, to provide a segué between the solemnity of the moment, and to return to the task at hand. But by the last few measures second time through, my tears started flowing in earnest, and i knew i wouldn't be able to get through the third time. So i stopped after the second time round, and all of us cried.

Ruth was also very much missed on that trip, but she hadn't wanted any part of her brought aboard or buried at sea. She had decided to donate her body to science, hoping it might help them discover something to help someone else down the road.

Himself decided to stay home and work on a few house projects that needed doing, although he did sail with us for Joe's official sendoff to the sea. He got a lot done and had that air of satisfaction one gets when one is able to cross off an item from the to-do list that's been there too long.

SFB's wife also came aboard the boat for the service, after the sail, there was a reception in the dock house. Joe's sister, who was slated to take his sailing hat, had worn it from the time she arrived at the shipyard until after the sail. The hat had been tied to the box containing his ashes and had also made the 6-day trip with us. She was living on the West Coast and had sailed in her younger days. She regaled me with some of her sailing stories and asked me about Retrouvé. We could see her tied up at her mooring from the dockhouse so i pointed to her, and we talked sailing for a bit.

As i circled around talking to various small groups of people, i had come full circle and talked to Cappy. She had Joe's hat hanging between her shoulder blades, and i wondered why. She saw me look at it and explained that Joe's sister said that Joe had always sailed on the East Coast. Taking his hat to the West Coast with her was wrong. His hat belonged here, and she gave it to Cappy for as long as she wants to keep it.

SFB would come home with Himself and me and stay the night at our house, since he'd help us with Retrouvé next day. SFB's wife would drive home the hour or so to their house, and had plans with their granddaughter on Sunday. Before we ate supper, SFB and i gathered the few things i hadn't yet put in the truck: extra rope to tie down the stays to the mast on the way home, an extra pfd for SFB, the cross-tree that would serve as a rest for the mast, the tie-downs we'd use around the boat.

A documentary had recently come out about a boat that had been built nearby, and the boat created a bit of a stir as it was unconventional. I wanted to see the documentary as i had moved here full-time during one of the more heated chapters and was curious to see how the filmmakers would tell the story. For the most part, i'd say they did an even-handed job. At any rate, i was able to procure a copy of the documentary, and SFB wanted to see it, so the three of us watched it.

The day had been a long one, up early for sailing (SFB and me) or house stuff (Himself), the service for Joe had been emotionally draining, and we all found ourselves pretty tired by documentary's end. I had nodded off for a part of it, but i'd seen it before, and as i own a copy, i could see it again.

Our plan was simple. We'd get up next day, maybe needing to wait a little for the last of the rain to blow through, then take Retrouvé out of the water. High tide was at 1 p.m., so getting to the boat by 11 a.m. would allow us to take advantage of the tide.

SFB was settling down in the guest room, DH and i were upstairs in our bedroom, and i fell asleep quickly. At some point, i heard SFB say, "emergency room," and Himself say to me, "I need to take SFB to the hospital." I said, "Okay," and stretched a bit. I could see Himself and SFB travelling a dark road.

About 15 minutes after that, i awoke and listened. Himself was not beside me. I was the only one in the house. It dawned that it hadn't been a dream. I really did hear SFB say, "emergency room," and Himself really did tell me he was taking SFB to the hospital. I waited for Himself to return.

SFB felt a huge pressure in his chest, and it worsened when he lay down. He has heart trouble, and he decided this seemed a bit serious as he couldn't lie down at all without feeling loads of pressure and could hardly breathe when he was supine. After telling me they were leaving, Himself had sped like a madman and got stopped by the police. Headlight and taillight out, and oh, he was speeding. Himself explained he was taking his friend to the hospital. The cop took one look at SFB and told Himself to get along, only not to drive so fast. He didn't accompany them, just turned around and walked away as Himself took off.

SFB wears contact lenses most of the time, but changes to glasses a little bit before bedtime. I hadn't recalled seeing him with his glasses on and wasn't sure exactly what time it was the last time i saw him and what time Himself had driven him to the ER. "Was SFB wearing his glasses?" i asked Himself. No, he hadn't been. Well, then, we'd need to take his contact lens stuff and glasses over. I'd drive this time as my headlights and taillights were functioning correctly. And, i didn't need to speed.

We arrived to find SFB still in the ER waiting for a room. He was reading his Kindle and wearing his glasses. We visited a while with him, and the nurse came in to talk with him. She didn't ask us to leave, and he didn't ask us to leave, so we stayed and heard her explain that they thought he was having congestive heart failure. Now SFB is not a complainer and i've never seen him afraid of anything, but i saw abject fear spread over his face. Only for an instant, and he said in a controlled voice, "My mother died from that." True, his mother died at 95 from CHF, and yes, SFB had heart trouble, but not CHF, and i could see him trying to come to grips with that. I also knew we couldn't leave him alone until he got a bit more settled. Or until his wife arrived.

Himself was nodding off and said he really needed to get home and go to bed. I was wide awake and said i'd take him home, which i did. I then returned. I remembered how frightened i'd been when i was in the hospital with my broken leg, and the blizzard made travel very difficult. The governer closed all the roads for everyone except for emergency vehicles, so i sat there alone, wondering how long my recovery would take, and if it would be a complete recovery. I didn't think i'd die, though, and while i didn't think SFB was going to die, and i couldn't do anything helpful, i could just wait with him. At least until he got a room. Or until his wife came.

The nurse came back into the ER cubicle where we were. She asked questions in a very low, soft voice. SFB has hearing loss, so i told her she'd need to speak up so he could hear. I was glad i could let her know that, because she wore a look on her face that indicated she thought he was not quite with it as his face hadn't registered any of her questions. Well, of course he didn't, you silly cow, i thought. He didn't hear you.

"So, you took Sleepyhead home?" she smiled to me, and nodded to the empty chair where Himself had been. I nodded. She left to go do something, and SFB asked what the beeping noise was. The monitor was beeping because a few of the ECG parameters were high. I could tell it bothered him, and i was explaining that a few were just over normal on the high side when Nurse returned. She saw his panicked look, went over to the monitor, and silenced the alarms. His blood pressure stats were updated every 15 minutes and he wanted me to tell him what the latest readings were.

He said that his wife might stop in. Since this wasn't the first time he'd had heart issues, she had a routine. If she could get some sleep, she'd do that for a few hours, then come in and stay all day. If she couldn't sleep, then she'd be on her way. Either way, i figured i wasn't leaving until i knew he settled down a bit and got a regular room or if she came. I just couldn't bear to leave him all alone.

Finally, they had a room ready. I carried his personal effects and once we got to the room, the new nurse who helped the first one who spoke with the low, soft voice asked me to wait in the family waiting room. He kindly got me a cup of tea, and i realized he thought i was SFB's wife. He told me things he'd tell a spouse not a friend, and i only got a word in when he went to take a breath. I explained i was simply a friend, that he was staying the night at our house to help us with taking our boat out of the water next day. That his wife lived an hour away, yes, he lived there with her, but rather than drive all the way home and back, it made more sense to stay the night with us.

And now, this.

I went into the room. SFB looked a bit better, his colouring had returned to more normal, and his breathing was a bit easier. He was a bit calmer, too, and we both relaxed. He asked what time it was. I looked at my pocket watch. It was nearly 4 a.m. He told me i ought to get home and get a few hours sleep. I felt a wave of fatigue wash over me. He was right. He also looked tired, and i said he ought to do the same. I gave him a peck on the cheek and hug, tucked in his blankets a bit, and left.

Himself was sound asleep as i crawled in next to him. I felt i had been asleep for about five minutes when i opened my eyes. It was quarter to nine. I got up, ate breakfast, and looked at the rain. The last hurrah of rain the weathermen predicted was a bit more steady than a hurrah. It looked positively gloomy outside. Well, they thought things would clear off by noon. That'd put us an hour behind the time we wanted to start, but we'd still be all right.

I thought about SFB. Snippets of the hospital conversation came back. Low voice Nurse saying that he was going to be there all day Sunday and most likely Monday, too for an echocardiogram. We had taken his toiletries and meds, the latter of which the nurse did not want us to leave there, as they would dispense all his meds. He had asked for his chargers for his phone and Kindle and told me right where to find them. I heartily dislike rifling through people's things, i always feel like an invader. As i got the chargers, i realized SFB had no clothes with him. I didn't find a pair of clean underpants but i didn't look through every single thing in his bag. I did discover a small bag of dirty underwear and socks that he had worn on the sailing trip. God, had that really ended only the day before? It felt like weeks. I could wash everything in the small bag, and his jeans. I also saw two shirts he had worn on the sailing trip and washed those, too. I rarely use a dryer, always opting for a sunny day to hang things on the line, but was glad i had the dryer option available, as the rain droned on outside. By the time the dryer was finished, Himself and i had a plan. We'd pull Retrouvé ourselves. SFB had walked us through before, and we were pretty sure we knew all the steps. I was most worried about backing up the trailer down the ramp and getting the boat on board that. Himself was most worried about lowering the mast. He assured me he'd be fine with the trailer; i assured him i knew we'd be fine with lowering the mast. So, we'd do it ourselves.

I stopped by the hospital to drop off some clean underthings for SFB. His wife was there, and she had brought some clean clothes. Of course she did. And her hospital bag. As she explained, she had all too much experience with SFB, her own parents, and SFB's mom. She thanked us for getting him to the hospital so quickly and for staying with him. That she'd be glad to help us with the boat, only not today. And of course, SFB would not be able to help. Of course he wouldn't. They had brought lunch for the both of them. We discussed the plan regarding SFB's car and who would be picking it up, what to do if by the time they came for the car, we were at the boat. And i suddenly felt very much out of place. I told her if she wanted to stay at our place, she was welcome to do so. She thanked me, said she preferred her own bed, it wasn't super far away, but thanks all the same.

As i drove back home from the hospital, i notice the rain had stopped. The grey glare made me squint, and Himself had gathered a few more pieces of rope to add to the collection for tying the stays to the mast for the trip home.

We said a prayer before leaving with the trailer. Himself had guided me back to it, attached it to the truck, and checked to make sure the lights were working. He reminded me not to take corners too closely (i tend to since i'm used to driving small cars with tight turning radii) and followed me to the public landing. I had driven over one curb and wondered if i had. It was a tight left turn from one small road onto another. No harm done, as the trailer was empty, but would have been a bit nervewracking with boat on it. I got in to Himself's car--while i was dropping off clean underthings to SFB he had gone to get a new taillight and headlight--and we drove to the shipyard where we'd get in Twig, the dinghy and row out to Retrouvé. I told Himself that as i drove over the one curb, it might be best if he drove the truck and trailer home, and i'd drive his car. I know he wanted to drive it because i've only driven with a trailer once before and need more practice. But, he didn't want to belabour the point, and we've been together long enough that there are times we each know it's better to say nothing and let our spouse come to the right conclusion. Saves a lot of argument or ruffled feathers. He thought we should perhaps drive home with the boat first, unhitch the trailer, and then drive back to the shipyard and pick up his car.

It took us a bit longer than it would have with SFB because a few times, we needed to think through the sequence of what needed to come next before we acted, and it felt as if the teacher had done what he could to teach us. It was now up to his students to use the knowledge he shared from his vast stores of wisdom and find our way. But, we were able to do everything we needed to do. We did it cautiously, carefully, and without disagreement or argument. Himself needed to readjust the trailer on the ramp one time. Retrouvé balked a little the first time but the second time, she slid onto the trailer easily. When it came time to drop the mast, i told Himself how i thought we should do it. He made a brillant suggestion that was a small tweak to my plan, which i immediately sensed was the perfect thing to do. We got the mast down easily. As he was securing the cross-tree to the stern, he wanted to tie some of the rope from the cross-tree to a forward stanchion, but the rope was too short. He had two pieces that toegether would be enough. He asked if i could tie some sort of knot that wouldn't come undone. I could, and tied a carrick bend. Those mornings sitting with The Marlinspike Sailor as i ate my breakfast and played with two pieces of rope hadn't been in vain.

We checked everything. Himself is more right brained than i am, so he could get the self-feed part of the tiedowns to work perfectly, but he couldn't remember exactly how we had used them in the spring. I remembered, and we had Retrouvé ready to go. We drove a little way, then Himself got out and as SFB had done, shook the boat back and forth to make sure nothing rattled too much. Nothing had.

My job was the same as it had been in the spring. I was to look behind and alert the driver if anything looked as if it were working loose. Nothing did.

We got home, unhitched the trailer, and went to fetch Himself's car. I had told him i was supposed to go out to supper with a knitting friend who was taking the next trip on my friend's schooner. We had agreed to the dinner plans several weeks before, that felt like years before. Himself could come, and he'd never met Hope, so this would be fun. The first mate was also going to be joining us, and as all four of us could fit in the truck, we headed to a very nice Italian restaurant on the other side of town to find it...closed. We went to another eatery next town over, one that Himself and i like very much. Hope and the first mate had never been. We sat in a booth, toasted to a fine sailing season and success with retrieving Retrouvé ourselves. Our conversation wandered all over the place, and we ended up telling Hope and the first mate about SFB. They both knew him, Hope had sailed with him several times, and the first mate had only just met SFB on our 6-day trip, but had heard about him from others so knew a bit about him before he had chance to meet him. He asked when visiting hours were over. I said i thought 8:30 p.m. We had finished our meal and paid the check. It was now about 8:10. He thought we should stop by on our way back, as we went right by the hospital.

And so we did. I knew where the room was even without breadcrumbs, and SFB brightened when he saw my face. He was alone, as all family had left about an hour or so before. He suspected Himself was with me, but was surprised to see two others besides troop in as well and was quite touched to see us all.

He wanted to know how it went with Retrouvé. We told him all was well with that. He asked about the schooner, and the first mate mentioned a small job he took care of that SFB knew needed doing. Hope talked a bit about the upcoming trip and how the next time she sailed, she wanted SFB to be there, too. We stayed about 15 minutes and after hugs all around, we left, dropping off Hope and the first mate wishing them fair winds. Himself got into his car, and we both drove home.

The day felt 77 hours long. The cats greeted us warmly, and we made an early night of it.

Life. Death. Lighting Chinese lanterns one night after anchoring and calling the one i released Ruth. Spreading a cup of Joe on the sea. Doing house repairs. Taking what we learned from one more experienced and doing it ourselves. I thought of the Little Prince. How he had to leave his body behind because he was so full of knowledge and his body was simply too heavy. I thought of how comforting it would be to get back to my usual daily routine. Predictable. Boring. Not blog worthy in the least. But, oh, so very welcome.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bra shopping, an update

Readers may remember an earlier blog post where i mentioned just how insufferable it is to find a bra that fits properly. Well, on Monday, i must have inadvertently slipped through a wormhole into a parallel universe, because on a whim, i stopped in a department store i rarely frequent, and went to the ladies undergarment section. I picked two bras that looked like they might work for me.

The first one fit perfectly, the second, not as well.

Shocked, i went back out and picked up two more like the first, but in different colours, and two more that were by the same manufacturer but not an underwire style.

They all fit. Well.

I didn't need them all, but i did select three and put the rest back.

I'm quite certain that now i found some that fit so well, i'll either lose or gain tremendous amounts of weight, so that they'll be ill-fitting in no time.

Still, that foray through the wormhole was nice.

I may just write the manufacturer a thank you note.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Too. damn. early. And yet...

I ran errands over my lunch break yesterday. I stopped at a local department store, which resembles a throwback to earlier department stores, as it has clothing, shoes, housewares, toys, and some foodstuffs for sale. I picked up some food items, and on my way towards the back corner of the store to the foodstuffs section, i saw an endcap display with Christmas cards. I groaned.

And, completely surprising myself, picked up a box.

At checkout, i remarked about how it seemed way too early.

Both the cashier and bagger nodded in agreement.

"Yet, here i am buying them all the same, so what does that say about me?"

They both smiled and said nothing.

Too. damn. early. Just hope i can find the @#($#( box when i'm ready to fill out and send the cards.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tea for the tillerman--actually a tiller for this tea gal

I do look at things on Craig's List* from time to time, just to see what's out there. Most of it is either out of my price range or drek.

But, occasionally, something really grabs my attention, and i follow up either with an email or a phone call. Many times, the initial phone call or email is met with, "Sorry, that item sold." Occasionally, however, i get lucky. It's how i met my down-the-street, around-the-corner neighbour, as he was selling his boat and had listed a lot of the boat paraphanalia on Craig's List. I got a few small fenders that have come in handy for my dinghy and a wonderful portable chart table that i've yet to use "for real" on the water, but i can see that time coming soon.

And so it was a few weeks back, when SFB and i went for a sail, that he noticed my tiller needs replacing. I realized at the beginning of the sailing season that i should most likely sand off all the old varnish and start again, rather than just slap on a few more coats and call it good, and vowed i'd do that as a winter project. But, it's beyond not only another coat slap, but also the sand the varnish off as well. SFB pressed into the knob end of the tiller, and the wood is soft. Soft enough that he made a hole, showing rot quite clearly. He suggested using the tiller from the midpoint back, and it should be okay for the last bit of this sailing season.

I decided to take a look and see if i could find a replacement. The shop that made the original one closed up earlier this year after its owner died. Remaining stock was scooped up by several marine outfitters, some charging a bit more than the original owner, and some charging an arm and a leg more. I thought of asking our neighbour up the street, the one who loves woodworking and car projects, if he'd consider making me a new tiller from the huge branch that fell off the old maple tree out front. There's still the fattest part of the branch that we didn't cut up, and that might do. It would be neat to have a new tiller from an old stalwart. Himself had the same idea, about asking Mr Woodworker up the street, but he hadn't thought of using the branch. He liked that idea.

Mr Woodworker is one of those nice chaps who'll say yes, even if he doesn't really want to do something, if he sees you clearly need the help. And, i don't want him to have to feel he must say yes, so i'm mulling over how to ask. I want him to say yes because he'd like to do it, but because he feels compelled. Or is that impelled? Well, you get my drift.

I looked at Craig's List last evening, just to see if anybody had a tiller that might do the trick. Turns out, one looked a bit promising. I called, the man kindly measured it for me, and the length sounded about right. A little long, which was fine by me, as we could always cut off an inch or two. He advertised the price of one dollar and said in the description to make an offer.

I'd seen other such listings where i guess they have to put some price, so they put in a really small one. If this one were actually not rotten, i could see where it could get him a few bucks. I checked ebay. Used tillers between $50 and $150. Some of the new ones i saw online were in the $120 range. I decided in my mind that my top offer would be $25.

He gave me his address, asked if i knew where it was, as it was about an hour away from me. I didn't, although i knew the main street in the town, and i could use mapquest to get directions. We agreed to meet at 5 pm today. I printed out the directions.

I ended up having some last minute work things to do, so i was late in getting underway. I called, apologized for the tardy start and said that i'd be there closer to 5:30, would that be all right? Turns out it was and worked out better for them, he said, as they had a to run an errand.

I arrived just before 5:30. I saw a "For Sale by Owner" sign, and in the garage were a number of items that had either been in a yard (boot) sale or were being prepared for one. As the garage door was up, i walked in and knocked on the door leading to inside the house. Most people i know use their front doors only as emergency exits. An older man answered, i introduced myself, and he bade me to go around to the front door. There on the shady porch was the rudder and tiller. I had thought to bring my measuring tape. Yep, a few inches longer, and a skinnier than the tiller on Retrouvé, but it'd work all right. The hardware attaching it to the rudder was in good shape, although i have no use for it. Definitely worth the $25, i thought.

I told the man i thought it'd meet my needs. He asked my offer and i said, "Twenty-five dollars."

"Oh, no," he said, and i braced myself for him to say he wanted fifty. "That's too much money."

I'm sure i did a double-take. "Um, okay. Fifteen?"

"No, still too high. How about ten?"

"Ten? Ten's fine by me," i said, and i gladly handed him a ten dollar bill.

"After all, you came all this way," he said and smiled.

It's all relative, i suppose. I told him i had a friend who lived about halfway between us, and i'd stop for a quick visit on the way back home. So, worth the trip.

He smiled and handed me a new book he wanted me to read about real hope. How if i were interested at all in religion, i'd be glad to read this book. I thanked him and accepted the book. I said how we could all use some real hope. I have my own ideas about religion, will discuss it when asked, but i find that i can say more about my religion by the example i set than by any words i can say.

I drove back, and the friend i visited on the way back was SFB. He and his wife both looked at the new-to-me tiller. SFB mentioned how the hardware was nice and could easily fetch what i paid at the marine consignment store. His wife and i discussed our recent Scrabble games on Facebook. The last game we played against one another, she was almost assured a victory, but in my last move, i bingoed (used all 7 letters) and used a triple word score, to add 92 points to my score, pull ahead, and win.

Work is going at a frenetic pace, and i was having a bit of a frazzled day, but the drive on a late summer's day was a nice one, the tiller will be a durable stand-in for quite some time, and i was able to have a nice visit with friends.

Well, my tea is finished, it's late in my corner of the world, and i'm glad to be ending this blue moon day on such a happy note.

*Craig's List is an online bulletin board of sorts where people more or less local to you are selling or wishing to trade all kinds of stuff.