My Pets’ Pets

Things that were sad: we said good bye to Cherry this week, at age 15. She died peacefully at home (thanks to a veterinarian who specializes in both end-of-life pet care and house calls), surrounded by some of her people and Captain, her companion of 9 years. I will write a longer post about her soon. In the meantime, enjoy this story about pests.

What I saw: I have graduated to a walking cast, but when I was still on the knee scooter, I had trouble by the back door. Turning around was a process of bashing into walls, running over shoes, inventing new cuss words, and trying not to fall. As long as the weather stayed unseasonably warm (thank you, catastrophic global climate change), my solution was to open the door and leave it open for Captain. I have taught Captain he is not supposed to charge out an open door, and he has learned to wait, even if there are squirrels; so, he stands, sometimes trembling with anticipation, and waits for permission to go.

Things that were funny: by leaving the door open for him, Captain just stood in front of it wagging and asking to go out. He needed to be told it was ok. I was in the kitchen trying to do ordinary things, like unloading the dishwasher one cup at a time, spilling water, bashing into the cupboards, and trying to make tea that all take forever on a knee scooter, and there was Captain standing at the open door unable to go out.  I said something encouraging. Now he was whining. I finished unloading the dishwasher one plate at a time and went to see what was wrong. There was a big spotted slug in the doorway.

Captain could not pass the slug without permission from me.

What I did beforehand: I had foot surgery in mid-October. I’ve been putting it off since seeing a creepy podiatrist in Seattle in 2000, but I realized as I limped around a horse show early this summer that I’d waited long enough.

What I wore: yoga pants

Who went with me: while I’ve been recovering from foot surgery, I’ve spent long days flopped out in bed, and Schwartz has been a shitty cat, not being nearly as snuggly as he should be, and finally curling up with me but not letting me actually pat him.

Why I saw this show: because of remodeling in other parts of the house, Schwartz is mostly confined to my bedroom during the day, and he has a cardboard box we put catnip in to entertain him.  He likes his box and thrashes around in it.

One thing that was not funny: one night, Schwartz brought a mouse up from the basement and put it in the box so he could play with it and it wouldn’t get away.

Another thing that was not funny: when the mouse abruptly disappeared, leaving two drops of blood behind, I assumed Schwartz had eaten it. This is a ridiculous assumption.

Still more things that were not funny: I was wrong, of course. The next night he was at it again, batting the mouse, enticing it to squeak and run and try to jump out of the box, and Schwartz was having the finest of fine times playing with it and not killing it.

Yet another thing that was not funny: the following morning I saw the mouse running around my bedroom, and I, temporarily one-footed and historically the only person in the house willing to catch and/or dispatch an injured mouse, was not able to do a damned thing about it.

Where I stood: then Schwartz showed up and recaptured the damned mouse and started for the bed with it in his mouth, I leapt to my feet, reacting from instinct, and nearly went down. Because I couldn’t put any weight on the left foot yet.

Something I watched: that night, there was a big storm and we were watching a few episodes of season 2 of Stranger Things.  We have a generator, and an expensive service contract for it, so we weren’t even worried about the power going out.

What it is: meanwhile, the Bacon Provider updated all our water treatment stuff, but the plumbers failed to install the air-gap we requested, and before the situation could be corrected, the heavy rain caused a bunch of water to back up into our basement. As a relentless troubleshooter, the Bacon Provider went out and got a sump pump to address it.

Who should see it: when the power did go out, quite late and in the middle of the episode, the generator did not fire up as it is supposed to. I found myself sitting in the living room in silence and almost complete darkness, and not sure where I’d left my knee scooter. I crawled around groping the air. The Bacon Provider went out to see if he could start the generator manually. It sputtered like it wanted to start, but couldn’t. He checked the fuel, and the oil.  It was still raining quite heavily still and the wind was so strong as to seem threatening. And now our sump pump solution was no longer a solution.

The least funny thing of all: I scootered around in the dark house, first looking for the number of the generator service company and then looking for mobile phone reception.  After the call dropped twice I got through. The tired woman who answered started off by asking my area code. I told her I didn’t have a landline and don’t know the local area code. She was indignant. I was more indignant. “I am sitting in the dark, I can hear water coming into my basement because the sump pump is off, I had foot surgery two weeks ago so I can’t walk, and you’re telling me the expensive service contract doesn’t include you being able to look up my account some other way?”

The Bacon Provider walked in, looking, by the light of his ever-handy pocket flashlight through the gloom even more alarmed, I told him, without muting myself, that I was on the phone with Sarah Huckabee Sanders (America’s grumpiest professional liar).

Eventually, after more arguing, she took my number and said we could expect a service call. My phone was down to 9% battery life, and my backup charger, when I found it, was almost dead.

I went to bed.

In the morning, I found out that the Bacon Provider had called the generator service company himself, after me, and got a call back. He was offered a technician at $480/hr with a two hour minimum in the middle of the night, or the normal day rate of $145/hour in the morning. He opted for the latter and went to bed. When they called in the morning to confirm, they told me that our service plan had lapsed two years ago. I begged to differ. They checked again, and found nothing. I insisted. On the third try they found my contract, up to date, under my correctly spelled name, at my address on my street, misspelled, and my town also misspelled.

I can’t wait until they call me in March about renewing!

What they saw when they showed up: the technician finally arrived mid-morning, and found that there was a big, spotted slug on an air vent of the generator, preventing it from starting.

North Dreadful

The next day

Thursday afternoon we went for a dog walk, and while we were out it got even hotter and more humid. When we arrived home, we jumped in the pool. I put my iPhone well away from the water because we all know that iPhones are easily ruined and had to get out of the pool to answer my phone when it rang.
There is a certain style of customer service which is employed for especially valuable customers, either to handle a high profile person or to remedy a past problem. I received the call and immediately heard the urgency in her voice and went inside to take notes.
In her eagerness to help me, “Deb” kept accidentally calling me by my first name, then hurriedly correcting herself and calling me “Mrs….” As it turns out, we are just high profile enough, and had just enough of a problem to fall into both categories, so “Deb” was giving it her all and going to fix everything.
At the same time I started getting texts from my husband, the Medium Cheese (he is why we warrant the special treatment). I had to juggle the phone, continuing with “Deb” and letting the Medium Cheese know that he was making my iPhone buzz in my ear during my phone call. My texts to him say, “Getting smothered right now…like a Persian cat rubbing your legs right after you slathered them in lotion.”
By the time our conversation was finished, I was shivering and took a hot shower. We even had plans to go out to dinner. I got out of the shower to find the house was fully engulfed in a violent storm, with thunder, high winds and driving rain. In the midst of texting the Medium Cheese (who was on his way home on a Metro North Train) about the storm, the power went out.
I next wrote, “The long conversation with the Persian cat means my phone is almost dead.”
The Medium Cheese’s train then stopped. “We will have to sit in Chappaqua ’for a few minutes,’” he wrote. “Which means they don’t know.”
The source of the delay was a tree on the tracks, and I was advised to fetch the Medium Cheese from the train station in Chappaqua.
Turning right out of our driveway we encountered the first downed tree across the road almost immediately, at the top of our next-door neighbor’s driveway. Reversing, we discovered another mess of downed trees tangled in power lines about a quarter mile in the other direction. There was another way out, and we took it, but our way was blocked by another large tree which had pulled down the power lines. We reversed again, and made our way on the last possible route. This final attempt ended when we found the road blocked by a very large tree, about two miles from the red barn where we live. The Medium Cheese had to find his own way back. We were trapped.
The only way back was to re-trace our route, and when we got there we got busy lighting candles and deciding what we would eat, given that the dinner plan had been to eat out so we had nothing on deck. We ate the potstickers from the freezer and as much ice cream as we could. 
The Medium Cheese never made it home. His train was over an hour late, but he couldn’t get past the downed trees from the other direction, either. He went and found a hotel.
I checked the NYSEG web site before bed (having mostly recharged my phone in the car), and saw their estimate that the power on my road would be restored by 3:00 pm the next day. This gave our minor emergency an ending, in the near future, and made the situation seem like a non-event.
We woke to a stuffy, quiet house. I was quite awake before six, and walked a dog, and checked on the status of the fallen trees. Overnight road crews had removed the obstacles and our daily newspaper had been delivered. We cooked up all the bacon and fried some eggs, hard-boiling the rest of the dozen. I checked the NYSEG web site and it had changed the status of our repair to the next day, in the afternoon. The non-event felt like a minor emergency again.
In the afternoon I drove to the airport to pick up our oldest son and he had more friends with him than I had anticipated, so we drove home to our hot, dark house with an over-full car. I gave the houseguests a lesson in flushing toilets with a bucket of water from the swimming pool, and we all had a specific disappointment: there would be no hot showers despite a many-hour plane ride from Europe. Not long after this disappointment, I checked the NYSEG web site and found that the status of our road’s power outage repair had changed from the next day to a blank. I called NYSEG at this point, and spent 25 minutes on hold. I was told that the time was not posted because they no longer knew when power would be restored. We ate out.
That night, I woke at 1:57 am, very hot. I thrashed around for quite a bit, and then my phone rang at 2:25 am. I made motions to answer it, but saw it was a “425” number and decided it was a wrong number. I have had this number for almost two years, but I still get wrong number calls for the old owner of it. I imagine that someday each of us will have one number for our whole lives, but for now, I will still get calls for “Brian.”
I checked the NYSEG site then, and it was still blank.
I managed to get back to sleep.
For breakfast there was coffee (using a French press and bottled water and lighting the gas stove with a match to boil water) and cereal with less-than-ice-cold milk from the cooler. After a few hours of lying around we rallied and went to the grocery store.
On the way we had to detour around the first work crew, addressing the downed trees and power lines closest to our house. A NYSEG crew had commenced work despite the lack of a planned time of completion. We met the second NYSEG crew at work on the other mess of trees and power lines, and we were told by the only guy who didn’t look busy (the grumpily scowling guy standing in the road with no gear, no uniform, no helmet and no sign), “Road closed. You gotta go the other way.” 
I told them to hurry.

Also the next day

How cold and bright and startling is the American supermarket after a few days of no electricity! We replenished the drinking water supply and planned to barbecue. It had come time to buy plastic forks and paper plates as well, since we had run through the dish supply.
I think it was at this point, after the grocery store run but before the power came back that I dropped my iPhone in the toilet. Back when I was teaching at my last teaching job, I used to hear the sounds that high school girls make when they drop their mobile phones in the toilet. My classroom was across the hall from a bathroom, and while they were never supposed to take out their phones except during lunch, they often took advantage of the privacy of a closed bathroom stall. As for me, I did not scream.
As we re-stocked the food shelves and re-organized the coolers, a scheme was devised whereby the overflowing sink full of dishes would be washed by hand using pool water. All of the big pots were filled and set on the stove to boil. The sink was about half full of hot water when the light in the kitchen changed. The hood above the range had come on, for power had finally been restored.
My husband, the Medium Cheese, is also a Relentless Troubleshooter, and by the time we got down to making that dinner, my calls had been forwarded to another phone, and my profile fully installed. It feels almost like magic when technology works, and your pictures and contacts and apps are all there in the new handset. It reminds me that the iPhone is, for me, a nearly perfect device, with exactly three flaws: the battery life is too short, it is not waterproof, and it is made by workers who work under conditions so dire they must be prevented by nets from throwing themselves from their dormitory windows.

Storm victim found in road


A Story from the Weekend Before Last

We had turkey chili for dinner. We finished dinner. We were sitting around the table talking. The youngest kid got bored with us and went to his room. He heard a “pop.” We didn’t hear a “pop,” because we were still talking. The lights went out.
We have had three power outages since we moved here. The first power outage was a result of Tropical Storm Irene, and began before we even moved in.  We were delayed in our being able to move in, so that we had to stay in a hotel the first few days of school. It was a terrible way to start the school year. The school year has been rough, too, with nasty Spanish teachers and confrontational attendance ladies who sometimes require a note just because they are clueless.  It’s all part of the long bad vacation.
Last time the power went out, it was because of a freakish snow storm in late October. This time, it was predicted to get down to about 7F overnight, as if in solidarity with the earlier, unusually cold weekend in October. Because we had heard the “pop,” the Relentless Troubleshooter called NYSEG  to report the outage. They were confused. As it was, we turned out to be only one of two houses affected, the other being our landlords, in the garage apartment next door.
A crew was dispatched, and it was determined that someone in a car had smashed into the utility pole that serves our two houses. Man Landlord (who is eccentric) insisted that we contact the police. The Relentless Troubleshooter called the local police to inform them that someone had hit our utility pole and driven away.  He was asked several tired and irritated questions like “Did the pole hit the house?” and “Did you see it?” before the crowning achievement of questions: “What do you want us to do about it?”
We were told that a North Salem policeofficer would come and have a look, but we never saw him.
Overnight, it was very, very cold, and the Relentless Troubleshooter kept the fires going in all three woodstoves. We put the food that needed to stay frozen outside. By morning the power was restored and a new pole had been installed at the top of the driveway. As of this writing, a little over two weeks later, the old pole had not been removed yet.  The Relentless Troubleshooter and other interested parties went up to make an inspection, and concluded that a small, red car with bald tires had done it (based on tracks in the mud, paint on the pole, and broken bits on the ground). That a small car could drive away after breaking a utility pole surprises me. The Man Landlord (who is eccentric) believes that the addition of a new house nearby has changed how the road looks on the curve, and while he hates the look of a big yellow arrow sign, he believes a big yellow arrow sign might be in order. 
When I was in elementary school, my father, who hated speeders who drove too fast through Davis Place, got elected to the board of neighborhood trustees.  He pushed the effort for speed bumps to be installed, in addition to having the gates to the minor streets of the subdivision closed on alternate weeks. One speed bump was added right in front of our house.
I think the reason he wanted people to slow down on Davis Drive was that he liked to play catch with my brother.  Dad would stand on the island in front of our house and my brother would stand in our yard.  People came barreling down the street between them. What he did not realize until the speed bump was added was that now there was the sound of braking, followed by the ker-thump, ker-thump of the car going over the speed bump, and then the acceleration away. Now it was much noisier, cars lingered longer, and it was not an improvement.
Today, there do not seem to be speed bumps in Davis Place anymore. At least, there were none the last time I was there.

Further Adventures Following the Snow Storm

The snow was exciting and our house was warm once we made it in. Not long after, the power went out and we were plunged into darkness.  Snow makes things very quiet, and all we could hear was the sound of trees collapsing under the weight of wet,heavy snow.  It sounded like distant gun-fire.   
My husband, a computer scientist and electrical engineer by training, is a relentless trouble-shooter, and able to build fires in  less than optimal situations. It was necessary to liberate many armloads of firewood from our landlord’s supply, next door, but it was an emergency and only October after all.  Who is ready for winter weather in October?  We were short on batteries, candles, and drinking water, too. But the relentless trouble-shooter kept the fires stoked, and went out for candles and drinking water, and we had a day and a half of comfortable in-house camping.
Monday was when there was no longer enough water in the toilets to flush them, and the relentless trouble-shooter took the train in to the city for work.  School was cancelled for lack of power. Our schedule was full of appointments in the city on Tuesday and Thursday, and NYSE&G was showing on its web site that our power would be restored Friday.  At this point, we decided that a hotel in the city with flushing toilets, hot showers, central heat, and room service was better than a cold house.  The dogs were dropped at the doggy-day-care center where they spent regular times during the summer, and they trotted in as if they’d been there just last week.  The cat, I am sad to admit, was left with three heaping bowls of food, four bowls of water, and our best wishes.  We drove to the city and handed off the car to valet parking.  
Our first order of business was getting a haircut for the son of the relentless trouble-shooter, and mid-town has a barber on almost every block. A decent haircut was obtained, along with several whispered compliments on the handsomeness of the son of the relentless trouble-shooter.  This was embarrassing. Worse, there were people in costumes on the sidewalks of Manhattan, because, of course, it was actually Halloween. 
By Wednesday, NYSE&G had restored power to half of the town, including the school, and students were expected back. I stopped by the house to check on the cat, and while he was a little chilly, he was in good spirits and did not seem distressed. Outdoors, I could hear the drone of the neighbors’ generators.  Our power returned Thursday, although our internet service was not restored until late Friday. 
I have spoken to the landlord about stealing their firewood, and placed an order for our own supply. 

An Account of our Adventure in the Snow Storm, 29 October 2011

We left the barn about 12:30, stopping for lunch and gas. I remarked that the gas station was full at every pump, but it seemed like a Saturday-thing, not a storm-thing. I suggested we stop at a grocery store on the way home since they are few and far between out here. Later, I would catch a lot of grief for making this stop. When we emerged from the store it was snowing hard, and we drove home on unplowed highways. 
There were three different jack-knifed big-rigs on I-84, and a number of slow-downs for these obstacles and an equal number of rolled-over passenger cars. Many people were able to drive skillfully in the snow, but there were notable exceptions. A woman in a rear-wheel-drive Lexus sedan was all over the road, passing cars and aggressively maneuvering for a better position until she hit a snowy uphill patch. As we passed her, she had begun fruitlessly spinning her tires and sliding backwards. It was not going to be ending well for her. Another car I remember passing as it was losing control was one of those tiny Honda mini-SUVs; this driver had obviously chosen the “no-traction package.” 
Everywhere I have ever lived people complain about the local drivers. In St. Louis, there is a peculiar rolling stop drivers employ at stop-signs. In Vermont, there were the Mad-Max style jacked up pick-ups you steered clear of. In Utah, there were unnaturally slow drivers, and a courtesy left turn that drivers would wave you permission to take at the beginning of the light's rotation. In California, there were those who would speed up as soon as you signaled, preventing you from moving into their lane. In Seattle, everyone complains that “people can’t drive in the rain” or “people can’t drive in snow.” I have lived in New York almost four months, but in that time I have driven over nine thousand miles. Drivers in the city are aggressive, but I find them largely competent and fairly predictable. Outside of the city, there seems to be a general disregard for staying in one’s lane or obeying the posted speed limit. Overall, I would say that people are not so bad at driving. No one is quite as good as they think they are, and other people are not as bad as others complain. 
Once off the freeway we had more real excitement to negotiate. Trees were losing their snow-laden limbs in the direction of least resistance, typically onto the road. In some places the limbs had not even fallen yet, but were bowed nearly to the ground under the weight of the wet heavy snow. There were downed power lines, and the most dramatic accident: a car, nose down in a road-side ditch, with a right rear wheel two and a half feet above the pavement.
Finally home, we found our unplowed gravel driveway was impassable due to the grove of bamboo planted at the top. It was pressed to the ground under the weight of the snow.