19 August, 2008

Life Emulating Art

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

Back then, Dr. Ingersoll 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 believer. 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, by and large, been 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. Ingersoll. Maybe he knew his onions, after all.
First, I was thanking my lucky stars.
I had ordered hurricane shutters back in May, 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 bolt 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. Ingersoll 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.

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’s 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 for that ladder I’d used yesterday to hang the shutter panels. And I couldn't find it. I opened 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.

I came back inside and hunted around and found the ladder and, sure enough, [**whew!** FINALLY SOMETHING WENT RIGHT!] the bungee cords WERE where I thought they were! 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.

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. Ingersoll, you were right. I was wrong. Are you happy, now?
I DID rethink and reroute those bungee cords INSIDE the accordion doors. I'm far from certain they will hold the doors shut when Fay hits, of course, but I think they may stand a better chance.

And, I am not, by nature, a litigious person. But, if those doors spring open and my glass doors get shattered and all the stuff stored in my Florida room gets flooded and or ruined or blown out and damages my neighbors' homes or whatever---or the inner door gets shattered and and my house is destroyed because the installers didn't pay attention to what they were doing---they're gonna learn the definition of 'lawsuit' in a hurry. . . .

Meanwhile, I certainly hope the world doesn't continue to remind me of an adventure novel. I've had enough excitement for one month--over the last 2 days.
Postscript # 2:
After all that, Fay veered east and didn't come back. The next day I had to go outside to discover the fact that it had rained a little.

Yep, Dr. Ingersoll is totally and completely vindicated. Blast his eyes.

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