I Might As Well Just Not Even Have Doors

For the second time in as many weeks, the doors had to come off the hinges in my house.

The washer and dryer were delivered today. Yes, I’ve lived in my house for two weeks sans clothing cleaners. I made sure all my clothes were clean before I moved because I knew the appliances needed to be purchased and delivered, and I didn’t know how long it would take me to find a deal I was happy about, since the credit card statement came before the machines were purchased and, um… wow.

It took until Monday. I got them at a great price from a scratch and dent place, but as is proving the case with almost everything I put in this house, the damned doors are narrow and stuff? Is really big.

Also I wish I spoke better Spanish because I’m pretty sure the delivery people were talking about me and my narrow doors. I can’t be certain, but from the tone, it seemed like something along the lines of, “Check out this chick. Did she realize we’d actually have to get these things inside and down the steps? Does she have any brain at all?”

Note to self: find delivery people who speak French.

The first order of business, after taking the front door off the hinges, was getting the first machine up the three front steps, into the house, up two more steps and through the whole first floor without cocking up the hardwood. I feel bad when I lift nothing, but watch the floor like a hawk while low-income men labor mightily to supply me with hundreds of dollars worth of goods. So while I tracked the wheels of the handtruck with my eyes, these two guys – neither of whom were terribly big – grunted, mused, tsked and talked to each other in a language I don’t know, trying to figure out how to round the corner to the basement stairs and then get the machine down them.

Made it by centimeters.

Also made it without fulfilling my second fear (after cocking up the floors): having a man crushed to death by a washing machine in my home.

Because as hard as it is to get the machine in, it’s even harder when there’s only one guy, who now has to get the machine over the dead guy.

Then they had to take the door to the laundry room off the hinges. Now, I ask you: who builds a house in which it’s difficult to get the laundry machines into the laundry room? The front and back doors have an excuse: the house is 100 years old on the outside. But the laundry room doorway is only three years old, and I see no reason for it being so narrow. Again, made it by centimeters. With the washer askew, the one guy started hooking up the hoses to the water lines. The hot water line leaked. I offered a helpful “uh-oh.” He muttered in his native tongue – which was not Spanish – and then said in English that he had to get another hose because this was no good.

And then they brought in the dryer. Oh my sweet baby Jesus did this terrify me. Though it appeared lighter than the washer, fairly mollifying my death-by-laundry fear, the guy had previously muttered that he didn’t think it would fit – either stacked, as I intended, or side-by-side. Well, it would in fact not have fit side-by-side, because the electrical panel was in the way. Stupid electricity, always messing things up and never doing any good at all for anybody.

Have I mentioned that I measured? Because I did. So I knew the machines would fit as a stacked set. But since I have also learned that my tape measure changes its stripes at will, I ran to get it and then scored the distance between the top of the washer and the ceiling. Then I ran up the steps and measured the height of the dryer while the guys were wheeling it in.

Phew. It would fit.

Want to see how close it was?

Super-close, people.

They had to unscrew the lightbulb there in the top left. I think there are 1.5 inches between the top of the dryer and the ceiling beams. Seriously, I can barely reach the buttons.

And I bet the guys really appreciated me taking pictures of them while they suffered likely permanent bodily injury from lifting the dryer up to put it on top of the washer. In the dark.

Holy crap. Somehow I had never thought of what it would take to stack a stackable washer and dryer.

But it’s in. I need a vent tube extender (I made up that term – it might be right, I dunno) because the builder’s crew, when they were forced to re-do the venting by the inspector, just yanked the tube out farther instead of extending it, so it’s now not long enough to reach the back of the dryer.

And also? There’s no room for anything else in that room now. The machines sort of lurk at you through the doorway, all imposing, facing off against the furnace and the hot water heater. Like, I can’t even get the laundry basket between the furnace and the washer.

I know.

I really hope they work, because those things are not coming out of there. Ever.

I Will Die Such A Fascinating Death Someday

It’s two days past Thanksgiving and I’m still giving thanks. I’m thankful, for instance, for drills. And spackle. Not necessarily in that order. I’m also thankful that I didn’t flat-out kill myself while attempting what has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever tried to do.

Wait, rephrase. Not a dumb thing to try to do. Hanging curtains is not dumb. But the way I choose to attempt to hang curtains is almost definitely tremendously stooooopid.

Here’s the irony: last time I hung curtains, I didn’t have a ladder. I stood on a kitchen chair and I was totally fine. Pissed, but totally fine. This time I had a ladder, and I almost died. Go figure.

This may or may not be partly because I was also standing on my very smushy loveseat. The memory foam in the back cushions is conditioned to respond to the size of, say, a 14-year-old black cat who weighs approximately 12 times less than I do.

I don’t know where I get the crazy ideas I get. I guess they’re not so much ideas as hare-brained schemes that are not at all thought-out. Hmm, I need to put up a curtain back there, behind the loveseat that I can’t really move very far because there’s not enough room and I don’t want to scratch up the hardwood floor. Any rational person would figure out a real solution. Me? I’m impatient and stubborn, all “I’m on my own, here, and I have things to do, and I’m not an old lady yet and I can’t afford to hire people to do this crap, so I’ll put the ladder back there but only open it halfway, and then when I need leverage I’ll step back onto the loveseat. And I’ll do all of this with screws in my mouth and a battery-powered drill in my hand. I’ll do it in spite of the blazing sciatica that’s plagued me for the last few weeks and was just starting to calm down. Sciatica loves a good home improvement job using awkward height-enhancers and unnatural body twisting.

“This is gonna be so great.”

Did you guys know that tape measures can change their measurements from one spot to another? True story. Because 86″ on the left side of my window turned out to be about 2″ lower than 86″ on the right side of my window. Yet, according to my trusty bubble level, the floor and the crown molding are, in fact, level. The curtain rod… less so.

Maybe the left side of my window is in another metric zone.

The point is, I’ve now scored two unsightly and unnecessary holes in my living room wall. First bit of homeowner destruction complete. Took 15 days. Ten if you only count from the day I moved in.

I can’t remember if I nearly fell off the ladder/loveseat before or after I realized the tape measure had changed its stripes. I do kind of wish someone had been standing behind me to record it and put it on YouTube, if for no other reason than so my chiropractor could see exactly what I was doing. Oh, I’m okay, don’t worry. I don’t think I did any more damage than was already there. But I think she’ll be curious anyway. It’s one thing to be stepping from a smushy couch cushion over the back of the loveseat and down onto a half-open ladder step with nothing to gain purchase or fingerhold. That move is tremendously graceful and ladylike, by which I mean it is maybe the farthest thing from graceful and ladylike that you’ve ever seen. But It’s another thing to see it in reverse and sideways. It was one of those flails wherein you totally know you look like an ass-hat, but it can’t be helped because you’re trying not to paralyze yourself so you don’t have to tell anyone the story of how you did it. I wobbled on the half-open ladder, had no way to catch myself, lurched sideways, twisted at the ankle, threw in a couple of round-and-rounds with the left arm and yelped a muffled “aaugghmmfffff!” as I tried not to swallow the screw I was holding between my lips. It was hard to catch myself as I slllooowlllyy went down to the right, because that’s what hand the drill was in and I didn’t want to drop it and mess up the floor.

My eye? Pfft. Eye schmeye. I have another one. The floor was just re-done.

I didn’t fall all the way, though. The loveseat was there to give me cushion.

Forty-five minutes from the start, the curtain (yes, singular) was up and level. If I stood halfway back in the house, I couldn’t even see the holes I’d drilled in the wrong place on the wall.

Only six more curtains to go.

And a Christmas tree. But at least that won’t involve holes in the wall.

Please Sweet Baby Jesus.

20 Non-Nauseating Things For Which I’m Truly Thankful

…Almost everything I’m wearing is clean.

…I have a hair appointment for next week, because that shit is desperately needed.

…It turns out I really did pay my final month’s rent and the law enforcement people need not pester me with summonses after all because that was a total overreaction, people, and also you can’t evict me from a place I don’t live in anymore. Get it together.

…I have three absolutely adorable nephews and 2/3 of what will undoubtedly be an absolutely adorable niece.

…My parents are still mostly able-bodied except for my mother’s selective head injury.

…When my boss told me he needed to speak with me and had me follow him into his office, it was only because he wanted me to move desks and not because he wanted me to leave the building immediately and cease drawing pay from the company. Which is sort of what I thought he was going to say, because who makes you come to their office to ask if they can move your desk? WTF, boss? Scared the crap out of me.

…No one else can smell that smell coming from my shoes. I don’t think.

…I have never felt the need to shop on Black Friday.

…I am a week into living in my house and it hasn’t done anything to scare me yet.

…I have not actually engaged in any of the violence about which I have fantasized in the last year (but that intern had better watch out because I mean seriously).

…I am almost 100% confident that there will be no food poisoning this year.

Almost all Most Some of my readers are still regularly reading and commenting.

…No one has found anything kind of weird and unidentifiable in any of my medical tests.

…I still know my name and where I live almost every time someone asks.

…I’ve never seen my own ass on that stock footage they use when they do obesity stories on the news.

…I have opposable thumbs. No, really. We take them for granted but they’re awesome.

…I’m not dating anyone so I don’t have to shave more than once a week.

…I never developed a third eye even though I lived really close to Three Mile Island when it went wonky.

…I’ve only fleetingly thought of turning to prostitution as a way to make a living, and then only when I could be really picky about the Johns.

…Justin Timberlake brought sexy back.

Happy Thanksgiving, my darling readers. What totally sincere thing are you thankful for?

The Parking Pad Is Supposed To Be A GOOD Thing

Remember how I said I have a parking pad behind my house that’s very tricky to get into and out of?

We are officially in a fight.

Saturday night/Sunday morning, depending on what you like to call 1am, there was no parking left on the street. I was just coming home from work, so I thought, Well, I’ll park behind the house.

***Commence spacial negotiation***

I almost had it. I mean I was almost there. Inches from home. But then my back tire clipped the sewer line cleanout at exactly the wrong angle, and whooooossssssssshhhhhhh. The sound of air rushing out of rubber.

Much like the sound of money rushing out of my bank account.

I had ripped the sidewall of the tire. I opened the door and just watched it go flat.

Well… I was parked.

The next morning, I knocked on the door of the only neighbor I’ve met who I figured might be able to change a tire, unless old Miss Carmella down the street is hiding some serious strength. (And I’ve learned she barely knows what day it is most of the time, so I’m thinking no. But you never know. She could secretly be a ninja. It’s hard to tell with little old ladies.) Anyway, Pedro has his own hydraulic jack and his own tire wrench. I had picked the right guy for the job.

Please note: I know how to change a tire. I am simply physically unable to do so.

Alas, Pedro’s considerable effort was thwarted by irony, also known as wheel locks. I had the four thingies for the four lug nuts, but I could not for the life of me find the key to the lock. Pedro couldn’t get the wheel off.

“Only one ting joo can doo,” he told me in his heavily accented English. “Drive like dees for one block. Go to de tire shop on de righ, jes before de gas station. Dey fix.”

“Are they open?” I asked, worried for the last eight hours about it being Sunday.

“Jes,” he said confidently. “I teeeenk,” he continued. “I go check.”

And, God love him, Pedro got in his truck and drove up to the tire shop to make sure they were open. He came back and gave me the green light. And I rolled out all hooptie-like on the rim, cruisin’ at 10 miles an hour with my hazard flashers on, rolling down my window to wave people around me as they approached from behind, and pulled in like 10 minutes later at the shop a block away.

***Commence serious language barrier.***

I speak French. So everything I was trying to say was going from English to French in my head and coming out in a screwy Franco-Spanish hybrid like I’m some Basque separatist. Basically all I could do was point to the tire and go, “No bueno. Neuevo, por favor?”

There was a lot of nodding and shaking of heads, pointing, facemaking, and eventually, a used off-brand tire on my car.

Whatever. I’ll replace it soon. Sometime between getting a washer and dryer, cleaning my old apartment, taking down the curtains, turning in the keys, having Thanksgiving and getting an MRI on my lower back. The whole tire thing cost $40, which was $35 less than what AAA would have charged just to come out and put the spare on for me.

And the parking pad? In and out unscathed in the latest attempt.

I win.

Change of Address

In the last few days, I have learned many things: Fingernails, when overlayed with varying colors of Valspar wall paint and Revlon’s Red Tote, can look like Jackson Pollack masterpieces. You can only think your home is clean until you take all the furniture out of it and then look again. You will never, ever be able to pack everything before you actually have to move. If you think you don’t need to move the dropcloth, you are woefully incorrect and will have Rich Mahogany paint blotches on your neutral carpet. Praying, apparently, does help fit a couch through a door, but not quite as much as taking the door off the hinges and the feet off the couch. (Made it by centimeters.)

Et cetera.

I moved into my house on Thursday, but I had spent the first part of Monday and Tuesday, and all day Wednesday, at the house getting ready. When I had to quit working on the house Monday in order to go to my paying job, I changed out of my painting jeans into dress pants. I found this and thought I had somehow, finally, shat myself. On the knee.

Not poo.

I had not shat. This is the Rich Mahogany. Told you I made a mess.

And yes, that is really my knee, though it looks misshapen. In real life I have a normal knee. And I think I should tell you that what you’re seeing around my knee is a pair of black dress pants hiked up, and the murky shadows under my desk, under the glow of fluorescent lights, all of which tend to make my pasty complexion look… um… dead.

I nearly actually shat trying to get out of the parking pad behind my house. The alley is narrow and my parking pad is bordered on one side by a concrete brick wall and on the other by a chain-link fence. Behind it is a big, immoveable, severe-edged concrete block left over from God knows what, and a wood fence. On the side with the chain-link is my sewer clean-out, which protrudes from the ground. After about 37 attempts to reverse the hell out of there and the somewhat serious consideration of smothering my car in Vaseline, my dad came out to help direct me. He was laughing. The car was hurting. The new bumper is now crumpled from a very, very low-speed encounter with the concrete block.

My father actually thought getting out of this spot might be impossible.

“Sorry,” I mock-called my boss. “I can’t come in. I’m stuck in a parking spot. Forever, apparently.”

Or for 15 minutes and countless infinitesimal position adjustments and complete do-overs.

Tuesday was better for me and my car. Wednesday, thank God, my bosses let me take the day off because there is just no way in the known and possibly unknown universe that I would have been ready to move otherwise. I painted rooms. I taped other rooms. I hauled boxes from the apartment. I packed more. (Always more.) I dropped the cat off at Ali’s for a few days. My dad painted. My mom unpacked my kitchen and told me where she was putting every single blessed thing that came out of a box whether I could see what she was talking about or not.

Wednesday night, I went to a mattress store. I had decided to put my current bed in the basement suite, and get a new mattress for myself. This place did next-day delivery and that made sense to me, so that there would be no mattress wrestling from one floor to another. (Well… not this particular kind.) Once I lay down on the first, splendiferous mattress, I knew I might never get up. Ohhhhhhhhhh, it felt good. I told the lone salesman what I needed and he pointed out three mattresses: the one I was on and the two next to it. I was comfortable on all of them, but frankly, at that point, I could have been on a bed of nails. I still would have moaned that it was awesome.

That was right around the time that I realized I was wearing a dark blue bra under a white shirt, and that my jeans were ripped and covered in three colors of paint. And that I hadn’t showered that day. I basically looked like a homeless person, trolling for a warm place to sleep. A disheveled and smelly Goldilocks, hair darkened by 24 hours of grease. “This one’s juuuuust right.”

Of course, the mattress I liked best was the most expensive. The one I liked least was the one in my budget. But the sainted sales guy, being all alone, and being of a mind that he gets away with things, gave me the most expensive mattress for the same price as the one in my budget. A $400 discount. Yes, please.

That bed? Might be my favorite thing about buying the house.

The movers, amazingly, arrived on time. They were nice, friendly, and gave me free boxes and packing tape to throw in the last remnants of stuff lying around because I’d lost my ability to distinguish between boxes and non-boxes. They only laughed at me once for labeling a box “I don’t even know. Also shampoo and conditioner.” They made quick work of the job and even pulled off a miracle (with intervention from my dad) to get that couch into the house – after taking it out of my second-floor apartment by hoisting it over the balcony railing while I watched through my fingers.

My dad and I are of similar tendencies: when there’s a lot to be done, we’ll go all day. We can’t stop, or we’ll drop. But at 4pm when we were all moving slower and he said, “Well, here. Let’s do this…” I put my hands up. All the stress and strain on my brain and body for the last two weeks had pushed me to a breaking point. I had handled everything just fine – no snapping, no crying, none of that. But I know when I’ve reached the high-water mark.

“I’m done,” I said firmly. “I need to be done. I’ve hit my limit.”

My parents didn’t argue, because they had both told me I looked pale and exhausted, and probably also because they were both exhausted.

We had dinner at 5pm like a trio of octogenarians. Pot roast from the Crock Pot. Good.

They left. I took a shower, completely spent and knowing I was fighting the devilish respiratory thing that’s been going around. I put on my robe, went into my bag-and-box-strewn bedroom, turned around in circles and fought the feeling of wanting to go “home.” A flood of half-thoughts rushed into my head and I had one teeny, tiny, mini-freak-out, marked by the sudden eruption of tears and the terror of a torrent of what-ifs. But it was only for a minute.

Since I was feeling feverish and figured my wet head was sure to catapult me straight to pneumonia, I fruitlessly and somewhat manically searched for my hair dryer. Honestly, finding it would have kicked the anxiety down several notches, because anxiety is senseless that way. Alas, no dice. I did score the small victory of getting the DVD player to work on the TV in the basement (not yet cabled-up). I lay down on the bed there and watched four episodes of “The West Wing,” alternating stretches and the ice pack on my back.  I was in bed (upstairs) by 11pm. I didn’t sleep soundly… first time in the bed, first time in the house… what’s that noise?… Is that in my house or the neighbors’? What’s that noise? But I slept.

Yesterday I walked across the park to get coffee at my new favorite coffee shop (four words: peanut butter cup latte). Today I started seeing real progress in the house. It’s starting to look like home. Ali came over and brought the cat, who was totally “What the hell is going on? Where am I? This is our stuff but where the hell am I?!” Ali and I had champagne and toasted new homes and old friends to warm them. I have met several neighbors, all of them very friendly.

I even met a gay-bor. His name is Steve. (Obviously.) I don’t know if he has track lighting. But he promised to introduce me to other people on the block.

It’s official. This is my neighborhood.

Building

The first thing I did in my house was cup my hands under a running faucet and slurp two mouthfuls of cold water.

In a day that felt like a week, I had gotten up early and met with HMcH and the seller at the house to go over what the seller did and did not want to do after Sandy rained her rain into my… not yet my… house. He would do almost everything I wanted, the seller. He had, already. He and… I don’t know, someone… had gotten up on the roof, found the source of the leak in the flashing around the old chimney erected five generations before I had set foot inside the door. The whole chimney had been re-tarred (suddenly, in my mind, the quick image of Dick VanDyke, sooty and techincolored, cheerful and singing above London). The wall was not ripped out like I wanted out of an abundance of caution. The seller (also the builder) had a perfectly reasonable explanation for why not, and I understood his point.

I debated the virtue of better-than-good-enough versus the ideal of perfection. Weighed it against the value of the deal.

Without question, he added a 12-month builder’s warranty. Top-to-bottom, everything including structural, roof, plumbing, systems and all problems short of fire, violence and volcanic eruption.

(To be clear: volcanic eruption was really listed in the things not covered by the warranty. And no. There are no volcanoes here.)

At 10:00am, HMcH told me that if we closed at 3pm, we would avoid the need to extend the mortgage contract.

Sitting in my car, I knew that the only reason to hold off was my own fear. Fear of the rain. So I called my dad, because all girls need their dads, even at 35. And I called my friend Mickey, who rehabs houses and has been an invaluable resource. Both of them heard the details of the meeting. Both gave the deal the green light.

I went to the chiropractor.

I called HMcH.

“Let’s go,” I said.

Then I went to the therapist. Coincidentally, but not unnecessarily.

To the bank after that, to re-draw the cashier’s check for $200 less than two days before, a difference in pro-rating with fees and closing costs. It got cheaper for me to buy a house. At the teller’s window, I got a text from Joey. “At bank, drawing ridiculously large check,” I replied. “On way to close on house. Will talk to you later,” I said.

The phone beeped “Yay!!”

After, somehow, fewer signatures than I expected, fewer initials and far less tedium and tension… after a lifetime of thinking, years of saving… after months of looking and months of anxiety… after weeks of packing and days of worrying… I bought a house.

My first house.

It’s not a lot. But it’s brickfront and soffit, marble stoop and hardwood floor, granite counters and glowing light.

And it’s mine.

Just mine.

With all the pride, and all the fears, and all the hope, and all the potential.

Packed full with my life, even though there’s not a single thing in it yet.

My house.

And may peace be upon it.

I Don’t Have Multiple Personalities And Neither Do I

I think I scared Hottie McHousehunter.

This morning I had a face-to-face with him about the absolute shenanigans (I learned how to spell it since last time) going on with the house. Alright, not necessarily absolute. In reality, the seller has been very obliging to my requests. But as I pointed out to HMcH, I see a pattern. The compressor was missing from the property even at the point that I made an offer on the house, which he didn’t disclose. The furnace was a disaster and the heat didn’t work at inspection. The house wasn’t even ready for inspection, in fact. And the roof certification wasn’t done, eight days past the original closing date.

Last night, after a lot of thinking, and then some deliberate not-thinking, and some bouncing of ideas off some other people, some whiny self-pity and also some wine, I figured out what had to happen in order for me to be comfortable with the deal going through in light of the water damage brought on by Sandy and the fact that I have trust issues (example: Crap, what if the problem isn’t actually with the roof? What if a roofing cert does absolutely no good because the water is getting in somewhere else and then I’m completely screwed? What if this guy just gets his buddy to sign off on the roof with some sort of deal under the table? WHAT IF EUROPE COLLAPSES?).

You see what I’m saying.

Then I texted (yes, this is how we do business now) Hottie McHousehunter and asked him for a meeting.

I think he knew what was coming as we walked to a table outside a deli, but it was time for me to put on my I’m Not F*&!king Around face. He did not see that coming. He tried to get words in edgewise to sort of diminish the likely surprising amount of intensity I was showing, but I told him to let me finish. Ha. He was smart enough to do so.

“I want that wall ripped out and redone. I want the electrical certified. I want the leak found and fixed – permanently. I want the roof re-certified. I want a 12-month home warranty. I want the seller to pay for all the expenses associated with extending the contract, including any further appraisals or inspections that happen because of the repair, and including the charge got from the appraiser for going back out a second time when the work wasn’t done on the house the first time. If he doesn’t agree to all of that, I’m out.”

Hottie seemed to think all this was reasonable and doable. And possibly that I didn’t need to be quite so forceful about it. “Well, let’s not start saying he’s shady or anything, because he’s been really good about doing what you asked for.”

“I’m not accusing him of being shady,” I said. “I’m just saying I see a pattern.”

“…Okay.”

And that’s when I got to this part:

“Now, there’s one more thing we need to talk about, because it’s really bothering me.”

“…Okay…” (This guy must have felt like he was being blindsided by an upset girlfriend, all, “Um, we need to talk.”)

“Last week you told me that the house was fine after the storm, no problems. Yesterday you said you saw a piece of drywall had fallen and you told them to fix it. Why didn’t you tell me about that last week?”

He took the hint. It was a crack, and he thought he’d missed it before. He didn’t know it was related to the storm – the lights weren’t on and he wasn’t seeing any water damage. Now, of course, he knows it was probably water-related, but at the time he thought it was cosmetic.

“I would absolutely never lie to a client or try to cover something up. Ever.”

Good.

Good, because all this I’m Not F*&!ing Around business is making me cry a little, which is embarrassing and also undercuts my intentions, which is why I’m wearing sunglasses.

Note to self: talk with Ali Velshi about why being firm with a housebuying deal makes me cry. Possible explanation: Hottie McHousehunter is hot > I want him to like me > I am pathetic/sad.

Actually there’s probably a good dose of I don’t like being forceful because it makes me the “aggressive, assertive, sometimes bitchy” person other people assume forceful women to be, and I don’t want to be seen that way, because it’s not entirely true, and people like that are not loved. Even though society is all “Rah rah! You go girl!” Because that’s crap at least half the time, and what they actually think is, “You are a total high-maintenance bitch.”

Yep. All that because of water damage in a bedroom wall.

Welcome to my head.

In a personal victory, though, I did manage to hold back the vestiges of my maternal grandmother, and refrain from any kind of Germanic pointing during my whole I Can Do Homebuying All By Myself… thing.

But my fingers were twitching on the table.

Hottie and I are meeting with the seller at the house tomorrow morning to go over everything. I’m hoping the seller is amenable. I really do think the demands are reasonable… even though they’re… well… demands. But I need a plan for if he says no to something that shouldn’t really be a dealbreaker.

What do we think of pointing and crying?

 

A Post Having Zero To Do With Politics. You’re Welcome.

I am sitting in my fort made of boxes, with my scarf and coat on, like a seven-year-old on a miserable weather day, all by herself, waiting for something. For the ninth day in a row, I am not closing on my house. This time, after getting home at 2am from a mind-melting twelve hours at work and a few cobbled-together hours of something like sleep, I found during the (allegedly) final walk-through that the back bedroom’s wall had suddenly grown stripes. Either the house was painting itself in decorator fashion, or there was water damage.

Sandy. Sandy and the roof, or a joint, or a chimney or some other such insidious flaw.

I am so, so tired. Work, work stress, house stress, this godforsaken obstacle course of an apartment that can’t be cleaned for all the piles of boxes, the mental gymnastics of scheduling between an unforgiving job and blessedly flexible movers and helpers I feel guilty for putting out… a hurricane, a nor’easter (meaning more work)… oh, and did you know there was an earthquake in New Jersey the other day? Really? That wasn’t just a tad over the line?

*Whistle blown*  *Flag thrown*  Unnecessary roughness – Offense. Penalty: um… I’ll work on that.

And so I flopped on my couch in my coat and scarf. Might as well keep it on. It’s a little chilly and now I’ve got to go to work in an hour.

Yes, yes, I’m glad the wall grew stripes before I owned the house. But I would much prefer it not having grown them at all. Now I’m not at all sure I trust the guy who’s selling me the house to get the problem fixed correctly, and the lock on the loan is up Friday, which means if we don’t close Friday, I’m at the theoretical mercy of new interest rates and the paperwork has to be redrawn, stuff has to go back to the underwriter, blah… blah…

…blah.

I have trust issues. Did we not go over this?

I already had to have a fight with the loan processor yesterday because I found $720 in three separate appraisal fees to be a tad… um… what’s the word?… completely unacceptable. Turns out the second and third charges were levied because the work wasn’t done on the house when the appraiser was there the first time (um, seller’s problem, not mine) and because they went back after the storm (the appraiser, mind you… not the inspector… at the bank’s demand, not in an area required for a re-check, and definitely not worth the charge). Talk about assessing value. Tip: rain does not shrink a house. It’s not made out of wool. And if I charged $175 every time I walked through a house all blase’-blase’ I’d be a damned millionaire.

I won the fight, by the way. Neener neener neener. And Hottie McHousehunter may be nice to look at, but I am covering my own ass in this purchase and I will cut a bitch if I have to.

And I think you should know that it’s getting very Lord of the Flies in my apartment these days. I mean I wouldn’t be shocked to discover a boy with a bayonet and facepaint jump out from behind a pile of boxes any minute now and spear the cat because there’s no food in this place. I wouldn’t be shocked if the cat jumped out wielding a bayonet and facepaint, for that matter.

Oh, and… AND… take a wild guess who decided to poke me with a stick in the cyber-universe.

Thaaat’s right. Jack.

I had posted my usual stirring and rousing-in-the-chestal-region words about election day on the Zuckerberg page, written with cadence and rhythm of which Sam Seaborn would be proud, casting the shadow of history in favor of taking responsibility and being grateful for opportunity, urging my friends to go vote. Right? And who cares if people like it or comment or don’t. But Jack, with whom there is a stark and tense silence on all levels of communication, real or electronic, decides to comment that an uninformed or coerced vote is worse than no vote at all and yadda yadda yadda.

People. You’ve been reading my political stuff for ages. Do I go in for uninformed or coerced votes?

I think I heard a “no.”

And Jack knows that. But Jack uses “I’m not informed enough” as an excuse not to vote, despite the fact that he is very, very well disposed to information that he simply refuses to consume. In the ten years before the most recent shananigans, it was, believe it or not, the only thing we have ever argued about. And now he’s going to say it under my patriotically chest-stirring words of inspiration and profundity? To irk me, under the guise of reasoned discourse?

The man’s fear of commitment, unbelievably, extends even to political races, and his cowardice in conversation, to the internet.

Amazing.

Being strong and smart is so damned exhausting. I know that sounds gross, but it’s true. I’m tired. Someone carry me? Please?

Empowerment ahead. Somewhere. No, really, I’m sure of it. I might even take my coat off when I get there.
******
Say, I’m on Twitter now. Follow over yonder on the right. The bird button. Do it. I’m lonely.

american flag

A Note Before You Vote

You didn’t think you were going to get to Tuesday without another political post from me, did you?

Just a few things to think about before you head to the polls… provided you didn’t vote early.

Who Do You Really Dislike?
Not as in hate. As in, if you have a problem in the political sense, with whom does that problem truly sit? Here’s why I ask: we do a great job making a big deal out of the presidential election. And we should. It’s hugely important. But it’s not the only important thing. There’s also Congress.

Food for thought: Since January 2009 when President Obama was inaugurated, his lowest approval rating was 41% (March 2012). His highest was 57% (May 2011 – right after Osama bin Laden was killed).

Since January 2009, Congress’s lowest approval rating was 10% (August 2012). Its highest was 39% (March 2009).

That means that President Obama’s very lowest approval rating was better than Congress’s very highest. And when the nation was least happy with him, he had still satisfied four times as many people as Congress had.

My point is, a shocking number of people don’t know who represents them in Congress. Given that, they can’t possibly know what that person stands for, how they vote, what positions they take in politically touchy situations, from whom they take money, to whom they’re beholden. So why are we all so angry when they don’t do what we think they should?

The country’s problems are not all about its presidents, and we should pay much more attention to our representatives and senators. If you want to see who your congressperson is, go to www.house.gov/representatives/find/  and you can plug in your zip code to find out. If you want to know how they’ve voted on issues and bills, go to www.opencongress.org. Do it before Tuesday, because they’re all up for re-election. Congressional representatives are elected every two years. If you discover too late that you don’t like what you see, you have two years to keep track of them and get it right next time.

What’s Really A Distraction?
One of the most common refrains this campaign season has been that insert Issue That’s Hurting Party A — here – is a “distraction” put up by Party B. But not everyone finds the same things distracting. In fact, some of us find some of those so-called “distractions” pretty important. There is more than one issue facing this country. It’s not just about the economy. It’s not just about jobs. It’s not just about regulation or deregulation. Or taxes. Or education. Or immigration. Or women’s health. Or abortion. Or federal funding for programs. It’s about all of those things, and to say otherwise is insulting. Don’t dismiss an issue out-of-hand simply because you didn’t feel like listening to the discussion. And don’t allow your leaders to do it, either.

And Speaking Of Self-Interest…
One of the things that disappoints me most about people in general and about American politics specifically is that everything happens because of money. I don’t just mean campaign fundraising or Congressional budgets. Money pushes policy we would otherwise think objectionable on more than one level. I think it’s compromising our (dare I say) moral standard as a union. This is particularly true of political decisions that hurt the communities they affect, rather than helping them. For example: the casino built on the west side of Columbus, Ohio. The west side is poor. The casino is there because the people were powerless to stop it, unlike residents in other parts of the city. And the area around it has only declined. Similar example: Atlantic City. Been there? It’s a hole. The flash of the lights keeps your attention away from the crumbling infrastructure and dilapidated homes. (No jokes about Sandy, please – I have a deep connection to the Jersey Shore, despite my opinion of AC.)

And more and more, we as individuals seem to think only of ourselves. It’s natural to vote one’s interests, but there seems to be a growing insistence that one’s own interests be the only interests one must consider. “Give me everything, or give me death.” Sometimes I find myself wondering whatever happened to the inspiration that came from President Kennedy’s simple call: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Let’s not forget that this is a nation forged in the interest of the greater good, and for everyone’s rights equally. Not just yours.

Yes, Your Vote Does Count
It’s easy to get discouraged when your political leanings are opposite those of your fellow state residents. It’s easy to feel like no one will miss your opinion at the polls. But in a population of 1,000, twenty such opinions can change a race entirely. Yep, just two percent. In 2004, President George W. Bush only got 3,000,176 more votes than John Kerry. Two percent.

But about 21,000,000 registered voters stayed home.

So this is it. I’ve smacked you around with political posts for more than 16 months. I’ve gotten myself worked up. I’ve chased my tail and shaken my head. I’ve done my best (through absolutely no mandate at all from any of you) to share what I hoped were informative and at least mildly entertaining breakdowns. And now we have arrived at the doorstep of yet another moment in American history.

Be part of it.

Vote.

Early Voting: My First Experience

I suppose the second cup of coffee was ill-advised.

I still haven’t closed on the house. To recap: it was set for Tuesday. Then the Atlantic Ocean got all pissed off and the lending banks were like, “Whoa.” Then it was going to be Wednesday. Then it was going to be Thursday. Then it was “looking like” Friday. Then  they said, “it’ll almost definitely be Monday.” Now I’ve just gotten a call saying it’ll probably be Wednesday, because the appraiser insisted on a second look after the storm. Which doesn’t make sense, because shouldn’t that be the inspector?

Fine. Whatever. I just need to lie down.

I had a therapy session with Ali Velshi today, appropriately. I have realized in the last two visits with him that one of the tells of my anxious highs is that I talk a freaking mile a minute. I already talk fast, but whew. My previous therapist (Ali Velshi is my second) used to point it out to me when I was “zooming.” Ali Velshi hasn’t really taken that tack yet, though I did catch him eyeing my foot as I twirled it around and around and around while I talked to him. Unfortunately, what I do for a living and the people I work for are very unforgiving, and that is actually the greater part of the stress. Everyone gets stressed buying a house, and plenty of people have had far worse setbacks than I have. Hell, I could have closed on a house at the Jersey Shore on Friday. It’s work that compounds the problem for me.

Yesterday, after I ran out of boxes and bubble wrap, I turned around in circles in my living room a couple of times before I told myself aloud that I could go vote. And so I did.

What an entertaining hour that was.

It bears noting that this is my first time voting in my particular area, where I’ve only lived for two years. Sadly, this means I have nothing with which to compare the amusement of yesterday’s outing. Usually, I walk in on election day around 9am and it takes all of 15 minutes. Early voting isn’t really my thing – I prefer the patriotic, Sorkinesque rush of the shared First Tuesday In November experience to the wah-wah that it becomes after people have already done their civic duty days or weeks in advance. But alas, since the bank, work, Mother Nature and the universe are conspiring to kill me on or before November 6th, off I went.

If the signage can’t properly direct me to the where I should park for early voting, we’re off to a bad start. Just sayin’.

Eventually, though, I found the appropriate lot, and entered what used to be a school building and is now used for police and fire training to find an environment not unlike what I imagine Soviet Russia to be. Which, you have to grant, is ironic.

Don’t get me wrong. It actually went very smoothly. But first, we were corralled into a former gymnasium full of rows of chairs. Everything was painted cinderblock. Colors were drab. The chairs were Machiavellian. (I’m mixing metaphors. Deal with it.) We all had to sit next to each other – no empty chairs between voters, for the sake of the republic. And I’m fine with that, but not everyone else was. The election officials kept asking, “Is this an empty seat?” as if it were some sort of outrage.

Every so often, they’d take the first row of congregants. The rest of us didn’t know where those people went. It was kind of scary. But when they’d take the first row, then everybody had to get up and move exactly one row up from their previous seated position.

Can I tell you something? It’s troubling that not everyone can handle this kind of “upset.”

The woman next to me was one of those people.

“What?! Oh, hell naw. No. Why it have to be like this?” she wanted to know.

Lady, just effing move up one seat. This is not hard. Do it.

While a small child wailed behind me and her mother continued a conversation on her cell phone, we played the musical chairs game. Sans music. I will admit that my eyes were directed almost entirely upon my phone during this wait, but only because I forgot to bring a book. Then I heard someone saying, “Take care, now,” while the click-clack of her heels reverberated through the room. I looked up.

It was the mayor.

Meh. Back to my phone. Interestingly, though she’s popular and has done a very good job (and is not up for re-election this year), no one jumped up to talk to her or shake her hand. She just walked on through.

She looks good, though. Lost a lot of weight. G’ahead, girl.

Some couple who might have come from an Eastern Bloc country kept trying to jump the line. This nearly caused bedlam. I don’t know if they genuinely didn’t understand the process or what, but I found myself mildly irritated with the people who were unhappy about it. We still all get to vote. Who the hell cares if they vote before you? 

It’s interesting to see the passions ignited at a polling place. Apparently, not only is it essential that we are given our right to vote; it is also essential that we are given our right to vote in the precise order of which we entered the building.

Settle down, y’all. Russia ain’t near closed yet.

Eventually, I was in the front row. When it was time to move me and my compatriots, we went to another holding cell, where a few people got upset about the order in which we were lined up and I remembered that I should probably just sit quietly and not try to fix anything. This is the part where random people started trying to tell the election officials how to do their jobs.

Hold up. You couldn’t handle moving up ah row. You think you can tell an election official how to keep an orderly line? You still get to vote. Even though I’m pretty sure at this point that you probably shouldn’t.

After another waiting period, we got to move into the actual voting area. There: more line issues. Apparently it’s difficult to form a line. This is the part where I started worrying about the entire voting process and wondering if dictatorship wasn’t really the best way to go. But the election official easily found me in the list of city residents and handed me my electronic card. Then I joined another line (all lines were marked by – of course- gray tape) and waited for a Trapper-Keepered voting machine to become available.

If you’re a regular reader, you know I’ve done my homework, so actually voting didn’t take long. There were no glitches with technology. All went well. I handed in my electronic card and left the building.

Some people in the parking lot tried to drive out the wrong way. I briefly pondered whether the police directing traffic should find out their names, go back inside, find their voting cards and pull them due to a total lack of intelligence.

But no. That’s not how this country works. Never has. It does not matter whether you are smart or not. Frankly, not everyone is blessed with the same degree of sense, common or otherwise. But everyone is granted the right to vote.

God bless America.

And I mean that.

******
PS. Know what I did while I waited to vote? Joined Twitter. Grudgingly. Follow me over on the right where you see the little birdie.