Monthly Archives: March 2015

Street Life.

I apologise for posting so soon, but as I have four already lined up, I’d rather just get on with it.

Like most people, I inhabit two  worlds : that of home and that of work. We all change hats several times a day between parent, partner, co worker, friend etc, over the course of the day, but I have a very distinct split between the two physical spaces I inhabit on a daily basis. I live in a pretty small town and to say that they roll up the sidewalks at seven pm would not be too much of an exaggeration. My morning 15 minute walk to the boat is along  a gravel path and then the main drag. The only other people I encounter are fellow commuters and the occasional delivery guy dropping off supplies at any one of the numerous “Downtown” stores. It’s a quiet walk along a well maintained and clean pavement  with uninhabited doorways all the way down. On the boat, my fellow passengers are decked out in durable outerwear and The North Face, Arcteryx and REI labels abound. They sit chatting or reading, often from screens whilst sipping ( I assume  shade grown, fair trade organic) coffee from travel mugs or from Thermos flasks that resemble nothing so much as post – modern artillery shells and eat whatever they have brought for breakfast.

Upon reaching the other side, one is faced with two options: One can either be assailed by the stench of stale urine, or by taking a different route, a host of Somali town car drivers touting for business. The choice is yours. I go for the urine free route as it is not only quicker but also less upsetting. This doesn’t last for long however as the first sight that greets me upon leaving the terminal is that of someone sleeping underneath the eaves of the Subway outlet wrapped in the sort of felt blanket used by movers to protect furniture. It gets worse. after crossing the road the first thing I see is a small dome tent set up underneath the viaduct, the guy ropes held in place by concrete blocks and a wheelchair parked outside. Just dwell on that for a moment. This tent along with a couple of others nearby seem to be permanent fixtures, and I can’t even begin to imagine what life must be like for their residents. Nor do I really want to, if I am being honest.

The rest of the walk is fairly uneventful as the residents stir from their doorways and collect in small huddles in the park or near the day center front doors, waiting for them to open. There are a couple of exceptions: namely the scrawny individual in heels, fishnets and leather mini skirt who was several yards ahead of me one morning. Lets’ face it, most people aren’t dressed like that at 7 AM and my first reaction of “That’s a dude” proved disturbingly accurate. The other is the man camped in the corner doorway at the last light before my office who on at least two occasions last week greeted the new day by hurling abuse at someone only he could see.

The evening walk is sometimes offers more more interesting sights, including the old guy, naked from the waist up throwing various items of clothing into his open suitcase which was lying in the road to the obvious amusement and bemusement of the onlooking police officer waiting for his backup to arrive. Or perhaps the woman who seemed to be engaged in a mixture of interpretive dance and traffic direction despite the lack of either music or traffic. Other locals are in full vigour and never seem to miss a chance to hit someone up for money. I will admit that they are always polite, and begin with “Sir, sir!” before introducing themselves and inquiring about your general well being before asking for enough cash (often $10) to pay for a bed at a certain local hostel. Now, I realise that Christians can be a pretty uncharitable group at times, but I find it very difficult to believe that even they would charge a homeless person $10 for a bed. Needless to say I avoid such encounters as much as I can, as not only do I not carry much cash, (due largely to not having much anyway) but I’m not as green as I’m cabbage looking, and earphones and a brisk walking pace also help one avoid most interactions.

I realise this all sounds a bit harsh, but what am I supposed to do? Any money I give will no doubt be used to buy either a hit or a 40 ouncer, and I’m just not going to support that. Within 45 minutes of leaving work I am back home, in my slippers and ready to enjoy dinner. I know my commute sounds a bit like a case of “Cheap holidays in other people’s misery” but how many of us are absolutely sure that we are not just one financial disaster away from standing on a street corner with  a message on a piece of cardboard in one hand and a used soda cup in the other? I’m damn sure I’m not.

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Food Glorious Food.

As most of you are aware, I like my food, and it shows. I have always appreciated a well stocked larder, especially now as I live in an active earthquake zone. The old house had a huge Sub Zero brand refrigerator which pretty much set the standard for fresh food storage. My current place came with a Hotpoint of indifferent appearance and lacking even an ice maker though I managed somehow. Initially I was having a heck of a problem with ice buildup in the freezer compartment, though this problem was solved by the maintenance guy plugging the hole in the rear of the unit which provides access for the water pipe to the non existent ice maker. Problem solved, or so I thought.

Not only did ice continue to build up, this time around the door rather than the rear, but the fridge compartment was not cold enough to even stop the butter from softening. Once again I put in a maintenance request and after the usual game of phone tag spoke with the coordinator we agreed that as I am now out of the house 12 hours a day ( see “Career Opportunities”) I would empty the fridge, putting the perishables in coolers on the kitchen counter and that he and his team would replace them once the work was completed. This seemed fair as the job would involve removing the old fridge and bringing in a loaner while repairs were undertaken, especially as they would have to lug loaner up the stairs.

Having removed the bookshelves and shoe rack from hallway the previous evening, I dutifully packed the coolers and left them on the counter before heading off to work. Little did I know that the coordinators’ words would be so prescient: when making the arrangements, he said “Everything will be back in the fridge, just not in the right place” Ooooh, how half right he was.

I returned 36 hours later, having spent the previous evening with my sweetie and barely had time to drop off my bags before heading out to pick up the kids for dinner when my eyes were greeted by guess what? The full coolers sitting on the counter where I had left them a day and a half previously! Let me repeat that. The entire contents of my fridge had been      left  un-refrigerated  for 36 hours.  As you can imagine, this made me very unhappy as I now had absolutely nothing to give the kids for dinner. At least the trip to and from their house gave me a chance to calm down a bit. I called the guy in charge and was greeted by his voice mail. I didn’t swear, largely because the kids were in the room, but I made  clear in no uncertain terms my anger and outrage at the situation. I also made it patently clear that the management company would be paying not only for the full replacement cost of the contents, but also any meals I had to buy as a consequence.  I believe the phrase “Epic fail” was used several times in my message, but I was so angry I can’t give an accurate count.

After we returned from the diner, “Moe” (not his real name) called, apologised and admitted full culpability, which assuaged me somewhat, as did his promise to “Take care of things”.  I took the opportunity to email him and his boss regarding what I expected, and was met with no resistance at all. I think it fair to say that I was abrupt, direct and forthright in my email, but at least I managed to avoid obscenity or the use of outright threats, which is quite an achievement, considering the circumstances.

It took me about a week and a half and several trips to replace the contents, made easier by the fact that I’d made sure to document every spoiled item before making trips to the dumpster  and email the list to the interested parties. Leaving aside the time, mileage, wear and tear and general mental anguish, the total came to $480. I know this sounds like a lot, and it is, but as I was buying new to replace used, as it were, it all added up. I can’t really walk into the store, buy a quart of milk and then ask the checkout guy to pour out 2 1/2 pints, can I? Of course, I kept all my receipts both for shopping and meals so that I could back up my claim. I expected a quick resolution, but it took a little over three weeks for the cheque to arrive, and only then after I’d dropped all attempts at humour and understanding and threw a bit of snippiness into my third email on the subject.

Needless to say, I could have done without all the grief involved in all this, but at least I ended up with a fridge full of brand new food and in rather more quantity that prior to the “Great melt” of ’15.  I suppose I should be grateful that I lost only the contents of my fridge and not the contents of my drinks cabinet. Had the latter occurred, not only would I have been considerably angrier, but the replacement cost would have run well into four figures, something for which I’m sure the property managers are extremely grateful.

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