August 19, 2008

Life Emulating Art

In the mid-1970’s when I was in my late 20’s, I took several creative writing classes while attending the university.

Back then, Dr. Ingersol stressed again and again, the importance of creating tension either between characters or between the circumstances and the characters. I went along with the program—I wanted the grade, after all—but I wasn’t a true convert. After all, weren’t there plenty of times when tension wasn’t present in peoples’ lives?
Well, ok, I was aware that my life had been, by and large, pretty angst-filled—but, surely, that wasn’t the norm, was it? Well? WAS IT?

During the months I've endured over the past few days, I’ve been thinking more and more about Dr. Ingersol. Maybe he knew his onions, after all.
At first, I was thanking my lucky stars.
I had ordered hurricane shutters back in April, or so. The company kind of dragged its feet until I phoned em and started LEANING on them to get with the program here! Hurricane season was well underway [in late June] and I WANTED MY SHUTTERS, GOLDANG IT!

OK, they got here with the shutters—and the windows had been measured wrong by the sales agent. So, the installers hauled about half of em back to the factory and recut/redrilled new ones. They came back and got em installed quickly, once they actually, you know, FIT the windows they’d been custom-cut for.

Hurdle # 1 cleared.
When I’d ordered em, most of them were set to be cut and hung vertically. There were 2 exceptions because I wanted fire-access. So, 2 windows-worth were hung horizontally so the bottom halves of those windows could be left open for easy [well, EASIER, anyway] exit in case of fire.
Most of the shutters are left up permanently—so, Sunday afternoon saw me out hanging those bottom halves. A simple enough job, you’d think. Drag out the ladder, hang the shutters on the bolts installed around the windows, tighten the thumb-screws, dust off your hands and you’re done, right?


It turns out, the installers hadn’t drilled the holes on one of the panels. They had, oh so thoughtfully, marked which window it was supposed to fit. They’d even marked where the holes were SUPPOSED to be. Of course, I hadn’t noticed the absence of the actual holes till it’s twin was already installed. So, just to be certain, I took down the panel I had hung, fit it to it’s twin and yes, the holes and the dots lined up. So, I went in search of my drill bits—and didn’t find one big enough to fit the bolts that had to go through the holes I would be drilling.

While drilling, repositioning the drill and drilling another hole, then repositioning AGAIN and drilling a hole between the 2 and kind of sawing the drill-bit in a circular motion, I thought about Dr. Ingersol again.

Finally, the holes were large enough and with much grunting and tugging and slapping the panel into position, it was where it was supposed to be. NOW, I could thread the nuts onto the bolts and put away the ladder.

Oh, and of course, all this was happening when the weather here on the coast where humidity is generally low and there is ALWAYS a breeze which makes the weather SO much more pleasant than it was back in Missouri in August was feeling downright midwestern. Yesterday saw temps and humidity both hovering in the century range. And those shore breezes were but a pleasant memory as the storm closed in. I guess Fay was hogging all winds for herself and leaving nothing for the rest of us.

Still, Hurdle # 2 cleared.
Then, this morning, I pulled out my hurricane kit and took stock of my supplies. First aid kit: check. No-cook food: check. Flashlights: check. Batteries: check. Radio that doesn’t need AC current: ruh-roh.

I THOUGHT I had a useful radio—I really did. But, when I unpacked it I quickly discovered that, in order to listen to it I have to crank it continuously. And the crank is noisy.

Just try to listen to the radio and actually get some useful information in that situation. I noticed that my bedside clock radio had a battery compartment. So, it was off to Target this afternoon. I picked up several 9 volt batteries, brought em home and installed one. I unplugged the radio and tried to listen to it. Nope. It turns out, the only thing the battery is good for is keeping track of the time so that, AFTER POWER IS RESTORED, it knows what time it is and you don’t have to reset the clock. But as for either listening to the radio or being able to tell the time while the power is out, forget it.
And as for buying a radio I can listen to when the power goes, well—that's not going to happen on the day a storm is due to hit.

I phoned a friend across the street. SHE has been here for years and years and has several battery-powered radios and a battery-powered tv. So, she lent me one of her radios. Once more, saved by the skin of my teeth. And, again, I thought about Dr. Ingersol.
Then, finally [so far], I heard that sometime tonight, the rains are due to begin. So, I went out to close the accordion shutters over my glass doors. And discovered that they had been installed BACKWARD.
One half of my glass door opens and the other half is immobile. And the two sections of the accordion don’t meet in the middle. They meet in the middle of one side where, theoretically, the homeowner can shut them and easily reach the locking mechanism. Only, the installers installed em so that the closure is positioned over the IMMOVABLE side of the door.
I can look through the glass at it and it's the prettiest little lock you ever did see. It looks very efficient and I'm sure it would do a bang-up job of securing the two sections of doors. Only, I can’t actually, you know, REACH the lock over there beyond the pane of glass that can’t be moved.

After struggling with it in vain and finally just giving up, I came in and placed a very nasty phone call to the company that sold me these perfectly good shutters [except for the fact that I had to drill the holes in one of em myself and now, I couldn’t lock the section that is positioned over my MOST VULNERABLE window of all—the one that is 7 feet tall by 8 feet wide. Gee, thanks, Shutter Co.]
Of course, it was now after 10 PM—so the most I could do was leave the company a nasty message which won’t be received till after the storm has passed.
[After all, the company's employees live in Florida, too. They're going to be securing their homes or hunkered down listening to THEIR radios tomorrow--not in the office listening to messages from irate customers.]

So, after I vented my spleen at the Shutter Company’s answering machine I stopped and thought the problem through. And, I had an idea.
That's a dangerous practice, I know. But, I'm used to working without a net.

I went hunting around the house for that ladder I’d used yesterday to hang the shutter panels. And I couldn't find it. I went out to the shed, couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, came inside and couldn’t find the flashlight I wanted. I located another one, went back outside, shined the flashlight around inside the shed and—the ladder wasn’t there, either.

I came back inside and hunted around some more, finally found the ladder and, sure enough, [**whew!** FINALLY SOMETHING WENT RIGHT!] The bungee cords WERE where I thought they were: wrapped around two tubes of the ladder. So, I went outside and rigged two bungee cords across the accordion doors to, hopefully, hold them closed.

BUT, the fact remains, they ARE outside and Fay IS coming. How long will it take her to TWANGGGGG those cords and send them flying, throw open the accordion doors and slam part of my neighbors' roof against my door and take it out? Probably a lot less time than it would take me to sue that company for installing the doors backward and allowing all that damage to occur.

I think I’d better go think up a better way to seal that door. And here it is, coming up on 2:00 AM. Fay has made landfall and is headed my way. I think I’d better get busy.
Meanwhile, I just heard that Fay is starting to get 'more organized’—which means this Tropical Storm could, yet, turn into a hurricane.
It’s starting to spawn tornadoes [and Florida doesn’t know the meaning of the word, ‘basement.’ An oversight I’m sure it has regretted in the past—and will again.]
Now the latest forecast is suggesting it’s starting to zig-zag. So, it could head back west again—toward Clearwater.

OK, Dr. Ingersol, you were right. I was wrong. Are you happy, now?


Two addenda, actually—one a surprise, the other business as usual.


First, one started out as a surprise but quickly devolved to just what you’d expect:

Amazingly, I got a call-back from the shutter company this morning. Who knew?

The operator put the guy who installed the shutters on the phone.

First, he tried to blame me—because he hadn’t noticed the fact that only 1 side of the door can be opened.

I’m willing to accept blame for the fact that I hadn’t checked the installers’ work. Though I did expect them to know what they were doing [silly me].

What I won’t do is accept responsibility for their lack of attentiveness to the situation on-site.

And, second, he tried to convince me that the doors aren’t actually installed backward. I interrupted him to explain that I’m not interested in arguing or parsing words with him while my doors are being held together by BUNGEE CORDS, FERGOSHSAKES!

He said he’ll be here this afternoon to swap out the doors.

Uh, he and his crew will be installing my doors DURING a hurricane? I kind of doubt it.


Second, Tampa has lived up to it’s reputation. It is well-known as a sweet-spot when it comes to heavy weather.

Right on cue, Fay has swung east and IS NOT currently heading for the Tampa area.

Sorry, east coasters, you’re going to get socked by the storm that is veering to miss Tampa. **whew!!!**

That’s not to say we won’t be hit with massive thunder storms, possibly even some fairly mild [as such things go] tornadoes and lose power in the process. But, we’re likely to miss the worst of it. Again.

Some folks attribute our sweet spot to an ancient Indian burial ground in the vicinity. I believe that the people in this region noticed the tendency of storms to skirt the area and figured that their ancestors would feel safe—so they buried them here.

Whatever the reason, Fay curved east and looks like she’ll swerve out over the Atlantic then swing back to hit the US a THIRD TIME without ever hitting Tampa dead-on.

Meanwhile, all my outdoor furniture is indoors and my house is a wreck. But, my baptism by fire may be over. I got to assess my system without it being tested by a full-fledged hurricane.



And, the installation crew is here—BEFORE the storm hit.

I will not let them leave before shutting and locking those doors, this time.


an average patriot said...

Damn two crows
I am sorry you had to find out the hard way you absolutely 100% of the time check everything you have done for you . Your peace of mind and security is at stake and top priority.
You can not trust anyone! I am sorry you had top deal with that but glad you are not stupid or a push over. I am glad your Baptism was easy on you. Are you still glad you moved there? Thank God for neighbors huh?

two crows said...

hi, Jim--
oh, yes, I _ALWAYS_ do that!
don't know how I let it get by me this time.

and, thank goodness, Fay was a fizzle here in Tampa, at least. so sorry the east coast is being hit even as I type this. =(

an average patriot said...

Naughty girl! You were thinking of other things nervous and not thinking!

two crows said...

I wish I could blame my overlooking the matter on an impending storm, Jim-- but, I can't.
the shutters were, in fact, installed about 2 or 3 weeks before anyone ever heard of Fay. :(
I'm just lucky she never actually became a hurricane and that she veered east of here.
meanwhile, I'm still hunkering down. she's headed back west again and, last I heard, she's supposed to pass just north of the Tampa area.

my house sits on high pilings, so I've invited several neighbors, whose homes are lower than mine, over for a flood-party if Fay decides to just sit on top of us dumping rain.

this is SUCH a strange storm. not a hurricane, exactly. but more than your usual storm, too. and so s-l-o-w!
and, so far, THREE landfalls on the US -- and she could hit us FOUR times before she's done with us.