Thursday, March 8, 2012

Some days chicken . . .

. . . some days feathers, as my Mom is fond of saying. And that is how I found myself cursing both the electric company and my husband this morning.

The hardest thing I have to do each day is get up. I am not a morning person. I abhor alarm clocks. And I am not fit for conversation until at least one sip of coffee has burned my tired lips. But each morning as a single parent with a husband, I make myself get out of bed, hit the cold floor, struggle to pull my UGGS on, shuffle to the stove, turn on the flame beneath the kettle by giving it a little blow to connect the gas with the pilot light (a tiny idiosyncrasy which takes morning breath to a new level), wake up the kids, skip to the loo, and crumple up school papers and AARP bulletins to start the fire in the wood stove. By then, the kettle is screaming at me and I commence the ritual of making Tico coffee--pouring hot water in the opening of a sock stretched around a wire frame into which I have already scooped what remains of my Costa Rican coffee stash, then witnessing with delight the miracle of clear water going in the top and coffee pouring out the bottom into the waiting pot below which used to belong to my Gringo coffeemaker until it broke.

In the meantime, I heat the milk and slice bread for toast or throw a couple waffles in the toaster for the kiddies. By the time they emerge from their yurt, their breakfast is ready and I am savoring the first sip from my bowl of coffee in lieu of an IV and greet them, pretending to function, while the caffeine infuses my bloodstream. I gulp down as much as I can before we rush off to catch Isaiah’s car pool, drop Bella at school and I drive back home, slowing to admire one or two elk herds along the way, where the mudroom is now warm and the yurts are all mine. I heat up another cup of kindercoffee, stuff more wood in the stove, fire up my computer, and savor the caffeine and silence while the world wide web warms up at my fingertips. The morning is mine, usually. The afternoons are not. Nor are the evenings.

And so it was this morning. As usual, I perused my email for things that needed doing, searched the web for issues from my morning NPR fix, opened Facebook and checked my Words with Friends, scanning posts for need-to-know items like what my FB friends are making for dinner (which is always better than anything I’ve planned, like Top Ramen) opened my latest book project, and began to multi-task for the morning between all these things and more.

By 9:30 I had already looked up the author of a book like mine (except that his is published) as well as opening an email message box to him while pondering whether or not I should actually write to him and, if so, what I should say as well as checking the submission requirements of his publisher. I was in the middle of six games of Words with Friends and was actively playing with two of them on and off. I’d read the morning email trail which included a potential afternoon field trip I might want to go on today. I was in the middle of writing a press release and had my book project open and had jotted down some ideas for that. I’d noted that there was an earthquake in Alaska but no tsunami was expected. Good. And noted that there was an office depot order tracking email in my inbox for a Kelly Kittel-Roby on an order I definitely did not place under an alias I've never used for something called Premium Protection and Optimization, $77 and, of all things, Internet Security Service at an additional $12.50.

I had a row or two of documents open on the bottom of my screen, effectively in the middle of at least eight different things and just getting started on all of them, really, when the power went off. The computer screen went black. The yurt became silent except for the crackling of the wood in the stove. Just like that.

“What the *&%^?,” I said out loud.

Now, the last time I checked, the Oregon coast was not considered a part of the third world. But this was our third power outage in two months and the last one was just last Tuesday. I looked out the window even tho I already knew it was an unusually stellar day because they’d been talking about it all week like they were expecting the second coming—sunny, no wind, warming to the ‘60’s no less. After snow and temps in the 30’s the past few mornings, it was rather like a miracle. Clearly, the weather was not to be blamed. But perhaps that solar storm I'd heard about on NPR? I double-checked, but no, I had not somehow forgotten that I'd moved to Costa Rica either.

So I ran around the yurt unplugging all major power cords with fun solar storm NPR facts running thru my head like "a solar Katrina traveling at 2.7 million mph" and "interplanetary magnetic field" and, my personal favorite, "coronal mass ejection." And besides all these fun phrases, when the power came back on after the first outage in January, it came on with a vengeance that blew out two different power outlets and we don’t have many to begin with here in the "simple" life.

Then I plugged in the old-fashioned dial phone we got after the January outage when we went with no phone or power for three days.

Then I found my colorful cheater glasses and looked up the power company number in one of our 50 phone books which are all slightly different but with equally tiny text and arrive weekly in our mailbox like some kind of collusion between the phone company(-ies) and postal service to justify their outdated existence in a changing world. "See? You still need both of us to deliver these weekly updated phone books!"

Then I proceeded to call the wrong company (because here in the third world we have three electric power providers for this great service, don't ask me why), calling and pressing one three times as well as entering my phone number and whatever else the recorded voices asked with no success, possibly because I was calling Central Lincoln PUD and later I found out our provider is Consumers Power. Who knew? (More on that later.) So, I called the local number and left a scathing message asking the likes of why on earth on a sunny day I had no service and had I forgotten to pay my bill or was it the solar storm and this was the third time this year and on and on until I ran out of breath and hung up.

Then I did what I should have done in the first place. I called Andy. Except that I didn’t call him first because I knew if I did he’d ask if I’d called the power company to report the outage and I knew this because that was what he'd said last Tuesday when I called him first and had to admit that, “no,” I had not, conditioned as I was to living in the tropics with regular outages and simply waiting it out. This time I could reply, “why, yes." In fact, of course I had. (Later I would receive a nice message from Terri at Central Lincoln PUD saying that I must have dialed the wrong number. Andy, of course, as usual, being the guy "who knew.")

“Good morning, honey,” he said unsuspectingly.

Do you know why we don’t have any power? Again?” I asked. (I might have said "hi," first, I forget.)

“Oh, ah, yeah, they scheduled an outage for this morning from 9 to 11, they called last night and left a message on my cell phone and I got it this morning,” he said.

Do I really need to describe to you my reaction upon hearing this “news” from my husband of 23 years who asked me 8 years ago why I couldn’t read his mind yet and who was happily going about his power-filled day three hours away in Portland? What did he think I did all morning anyway? What if I wanted a piece of toast?

“Yeah, well,” I began, “why on earth didn’t you call and tell me? This is the third time the computer has had a hard shut-down,” I began, the lecture I’d received from our computer guy about the perils of a “hard shut-down” beginning to scroll through my head.

“Oh, the computer . . .,” he said, after which I began to unleash the torrent of my fury on him and he said, “I have to go,” and hung up.

That was helpful. I hoped he could read my mind right about then.

And so that is also how I came to be sitting in my car at the Waldport Laundromat wasting my sunny day waiting for our clothes to wash while listening to NPR who was finished with solar storms apparently and had moved on, informing me that today is International Women’s Day which is celebrated in a variety of lovely ways around the world and that, for example, in Italy, right then, men were giving the women they love bouquets of flowers. And I was sitting there eating a maple bar. Which I could barely taste because I have the second of what will hopefully be only two colds in succession but I was eating it anyway because I could recall how it tasted and because I am just plain sick of soup. Plus I wanted to chew on something sweet to pair with my salty frustration.

The only thing that might have made me feel even less celebrated (besides having selected the bavarian creme-filled maple bar) would have been if I’d glanced down at my lap and realized, not for the first time, that I was still wearing my Grinch pajama bottoms. As it was, I sat there licking maple frosting from my fingers in what was rapidly becoming way-too-warm black fleece pants and an equally unflattering thermal shirt while picturing the signoras of Italy flouncing about in lovely floral print designer dresses and equally colorful shoes, happily receiving matching spring bouquets, Grazie!, while lunching at outdoor cafes overlooking ancient fountains, sipping chilled wine and sharing forkfuls of fresh pasta and arugula with their adoring lovers. Who may or may not have been their husbands. Probably not, I thought, crumpling up my donut bag.


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