Friday, December 25, 2015

Iron Suicide, Cow Migration, Death Notices

What I had initially thought was a dramatic attempt on the part of my iron to attract my long -absent attention turned out to be its final fatal gesture of defiance. It committed suicide by jumping off the top of my washing machine onto the tile laundry room floor. I heard a crash, and discovered it lying on the ground. I did not, however, determine the extent of its injuries until this evening, when I picked it up from the ironing board preparatory to doing several years' worth of postponed pressing, and found that it had split in two. I'm glad I discovered this before plugging it in or attempting to fill it with water, as either or both actions might have yielded disastrous if not deadly results.  I hate ironing. I think this unfortunate appliance sensed my distaste and decided it could no longer bear the situation.

 I drove down to Dublin and back today to fetch Grandmommy up for Christmas. I had originally been slated to drive downyesterday afternoon, but thank God I procrastinated a bit, because an horrific  thunderstorm broke an hour after my schedule departure time, and I would've found myself driving in darkness and downpour. This morning and early afternoon we experienced a blessed--if temporary--respite from the rain, and though there were puddles everywhere (and all the cows in all the fields I passed on my outbound trip were clustered in demoralized clumps in the sodden pastures), I didn't have to turn on my car windshield wipers, though I did have to turn on the air-conditioning! On the way back, just north of Bartow, Grandmommy's and my northward travel was briefly delayed by a large herd of milk cows migrating from one fenced field to another. Four and five abreast, more than a hundred sashayed across the asphalt without being forcably directed – two men on foot wearing knee-high rubber boots stopped auto traffic while the cows deliberately strolled out of one gate and over the road and through another to a field where their midday meal waited in large bins. Grandmommy was seriously impressed--she said she'd never seen such well-behaved cows. None attempted to break away from the herd, but all proceeded in a neat marching column, much like rows of trench-weary soldiers in films from World War I. The road was coated with mud kicked up by hundreds of cloven hooves. Only one cow stayed by itself in the old field – apparently it was feeling antisocial, and did not choose to join the general exodus.

 Speaking of following the herd, a peculiar trend in vehicular stickers has blossomed hereabouts in recent years: the mobile memorial. In large white letters on the tinted rear windows of minivans, SUVs, and trucks, there will be a phrase like "In memory of" or "In memoriam" followed by the name of a beloved person and their birth and death dates. My mother always makes sardonic comments every time she sees these, and remarks that it makes it look as if the person died in the car in question. I don't know if this is a fad throughout the United States or just in the American South. It does not seem to be limited to a particular ethnicity. For years there have been makeshift memorials, fitfully maintained, erected at spots on roads and highways where deadly car accidents took place. And I know a lot of people get tattoos to remember the departed. This automobile embellishment just seems to be a peculiar combination of the two practices, with unintentionally hilarious results, as Mums' deliberate misinterpretation shows.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Nasty With A Cold

3 AM. Clinging white knuckled to breath, I curled further and further up on my pillow, as if the final nautilus shape would allow me to inhale and exhale clearly, without the suffocating bands of elastic mucus winding from my sinuses through my esophagus and squeezing my sore throat closed, as they constantly threatened. I hate colds. My eyes are all gummy, with salty crusts drying in my crow's feet. I'm caught between fruitlessly snorting into wads of toilet tissue and swallowing indefinite phlegm. And with each swallow, my throat aches. Thursday, following my mother's advice (read: repeated nagging) I gargled with warm salty water until ready to vomit, so my tonsils don't hurt sharply like they did, but they aren't mended yet.

I'm not sick enough to avoid work (I have a new tutoring student starting this evening), but I can't welcome contact--at my job interview I offered a cordial elbow to the committee instead of a handshake--and when skulking around furniture shops Friday afternoon, closed-mouthed and sniffing, I was appalled at young parents exposing defenseless newborns to such silent lepers as myself.

I'm rather fond of my liver, and so I am trying not to max out on NyQuil, though waking up miserable in the wee hours isn't pleasant. I'm exhausted, but not sleepy. Meantime, I've had the dubious pleasure of catching up on the year's top music videos--if the sounding off of the ultimate Trump weren't sign of apocalypse enough, Justin Bieber at #1 certainly is--as I am too twitchy to read and too tired to get up and create. Or clean. Grandmommy's to come for Christmas and stay in my room (I'll decamp upstairs for the duration), and preparations necessarily entail the moving of mountains of (clean) laundry, vacuuming and other sprucing-up. I don't know what she'll think of the large female nude painting opposite my bed! Maybe I should put it up, as she'll already have to deal with the stained glass window of the bathing lady that is installed over the tub.

Friday, December 18, 2015

At Last!

I have a job. I HAVE A JOB! Gosh, I have been waiting two years to be able to type that. I'm more than a little unsure of the reality, not just because I am still dizzy from a continuing head cold, but also because being called in to interview came right out of the blue, last Thursday. This morning, during the interview itself, I felt befuddled, and the casual, "we like you, you're hired" at the end seemed so inconsequential a conclusion to the blood, toil, tears, and sweat of the preceding 24 months that I still feel like I'm flapping featherless arms on the edge of a precipice. I really am happy, I am just off-kilter.

The work starts January 4, whereupon I will be in training and on probation for about a month before being considered a regular part of the team. Of the many who have wished me well and sent me congratulations via social media, most have asked what I will be doing. I will be working as an editor for an academic publisher in Columbia, SC. I plan to commute from Augusta for the time being, as there may be some opportunities for telework once I am indoctrinated to the routine, and it doesn't make sense to pull up stakes and move unless and until I am assured that the company and I are mutually suited. Even when I did live in Columbia as a grad student, I still would come back here on the weekends, and while I don't relish two hours' daily drive, there are worse treks for employment.

My sweet estate sale boss was one of the first I called to share the bad good news that I wouldn't be returning to DC for the foreseeable future. And Jenny, who found herself a purposeful part of the providential plan that led me to the job opportunity, I messaged immediately--if she hadn't invited me, crutches and all, to the USC campaign banquet, or encouraged me to follow up so quickly on the contacts I made there, this would never have happened. I'm grateful to God, and I certainly pray that I will do a good job.

Social networks are peculiar things, both in how coincidentally close we find ourselves to those who inspire or help us, and how frustratingly far from those individuals we are removed by that tenuous connection. For example, this last weekend, I discovered that my boss's husband had known Martin Luther King, Jr! They both worked on their doctorates at Boston University in the early 1950s under the same professorial advisor. And this same sweet man who has regularly fed me shepherds pies from Wagshal's also spent time in India working with Mother Teresa in her famous hospice, and told me how that short fierce nun impressed him. Sheesh. I had no idea. Though these twentieth century luminaries "be dead and yet speak", they aren't exactly networkable (even the latter's rapid advancement toward Roman sainthood doesn't mean as a miracle worker she can be a reference on a resume), and while one doesn't want to think of--nor ever treat--one's friends as business assets, it does make me wonder how many extant connections with living mortal movers and shakers of the temporal world I have unwittingly overlooked?

Thursday, December 17, 2015


The good news is that neither my mother nor I are displaying signs of senility (at least, not more than usual). The bad news is that no human being had re-set my refrigerator's temperature to 73 in the frozen section and 64 in the cool section--it had done this on its own. Toasty.

I got in at 2:45 AM Wednesday morning from my latest trip to DC, and the house smelled fine when I shuffled inside. Not until I opened the refrigerator to curdled milk, warm vegetables, leaking ice cream cartons and assorted other delectables that I realized all was not right. The mechanism was still humming, but clearly not doing its job. I had to throw away almost everything. The contents weren't rotten to the point of stinking--it'd clearly not been failed for the duration of my absence--but they were rapidly progressing in that direction, all being warmer than room temperature.

Thank God, my mother had bought an extended warranty on the fridge when she moved into the house a little less than five years ago, and it was still good (under the wire with three months to spare). I itemized the things that had died and was told by Lowes that I'd be refunded for the same. The repairman came out this afternoon and was able to find the right part, so my icebox is back online. Not that I've made it as far as the kitchen more than a handful of times since my return--I'm not just tired, I'm sick with a sore throat, and too dizzy to be far from bed.

I posted my experience on Facebook; "You know you're ill when you catch yourself rinsing your hair brush under the tap prior to brushing your teeth with it. Though I suppose if I were more under the weather, I wouldn't have noticed until I'd put toothpaste on the bristles and couldn't get it shoved into my mouth." Somehow, before being confined to my room for the duration, I managed to port all the perished goods over to my mother's garbage bin (I produce so little waste, I don't have home trash service), visit all the consignment shops where I have items, get checks from each, and put up and decorate my newly-acquired artificial Christmas tree. I put off proofing a friend's school application essay until this evening, however, as I knew I wasn't that coherent.

If the United States were a Christmas tree, right now it would be overwhelmed with ribbons of red and white lights. Traffic during the "holiday season" is absolutely horrible. I only managed to crawl 50 miles in the first two hours I was on the road home the other day. Coming down with a cold made the slow trek worse, but not to the point where I was lambasting other drivers like my Serbian coworker, who, as we made our way up to Bowie, MD, on the Beltway this past week, ranted at her fellow immigrants: "You haven't gotten off your goddamn donkey, and here you are getting in a car and becoming a weapon. This is a melting pot of fools!"