30 April 2011

It's Not Just Me

My calendar has lost a couple of days. April ends on the 28th, which is a Thursday. The first of May isn't until Sunday. Aren't there supposed to be 30 days in April?

I'm so glad it's not just me.

Before I had to retire from my day job, it was hard to get too far out of sync with the rest of the world. Five days of work, two days of weekend. I might have to stop and think about whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday, or whether it was Wednesday or Thursday, but it didn't usually happen that whole days went missing.

Even when I was just tagging along with Scarecrow to Bob's Books, he worked a pretty regular Monday through Friday schedule.

His new job has a lot more potential for working at home. In fact, in his first month, there's only been one week when he went in to the office every day. Last week, he only went in one day out of five. While this is great for a lot of reasons, I find it easy to lose track of what the heck day it is.

It doesn't help when the calendar is missing two days. I looked at that darn thing for an embarrassingly long time before I realized that it wasn't just me. The calendar was wrong.

It's OK, really. I only get it for the greyhounds. I buy a Celebrating Greyhounds wall calendar every year from Greyhound Pets, Inc. They make a little money, and I get to look at nice pictures of greyhounds all year. It's a way to get my greyhound fix, since we (temporarily) don't have any retired racers hanging around the house. If I just wanted to know what day it was, I could always check my computer.


20 April 2011

A Lesson You Don't Want Me to Learn

I think it was last December that I noticed the control on my power chair was acting a little wonky. It took me a while to convince myself that it wasn't just my imagination. Mike the Wheelchair Guy first checked it out in January. He confirmed that it was, in fact, wonky. After fiddling and plugging and unplugging and much head scratching, he decided that maybe Mike the Permobile Guy better have a look at it.

So, OK. We made an appointment with Mike the Permobile Guy. He confirmed that it was, in fact, wonky. He fiddled and plugged and unplugged and scratched his head, and decided that the problem was the control unit. Unfortunately my chair, a 2007 model, uses older electronics than they're putting on newer chairs, and it might take some time to come up with a replacement.

That was in January. Now it's April.

I started sending polite e-mails requesting status updates last month. The first polite e-mail to Mike the Wheelchair Guy got an auto-reply saying he was on vacation for a week, but would contact me when he returned. Not wanting to be pushy, I waited for his reply for another week after he got back, but never got one. Hey, I've been there. Your e-mail box can get pretty full when you're out for a spell. Stuff gets buried. It happens.

So I sent another polite e-mail requesting a status update. This time Mike the Wheelchair Guy replied, saying that Mike the Permobile Guy had finally found a control with the older electronics, and he would be calling me early the following week to set up a time to try it out. Mike the Wheelchair Guy would be seeing Mike the Permobile Guy at a conference in Las Vegas the following weekend, and would "remind him of his commitment to getting this problem resolved." Yeah, right.

So it gets to be Thursday of the following week, and I haven't heard anything. I don't want to be pushy. It probably takes a couple of days to recover from a Vegas conference. But on Thursday I sent another polite e-mail, asking if there's anything I can do to get this moving along.

Mike the Wheelchair Guy replies by cc'ing me on an e-mail he sends to Mike the Permobile Guy, asking what's going on. Very helpful. I don't know if Mike the Wheelchair Guy got any response from Mike the Permobile Guy, but I sure didn't.

When I still hadn't heard anything by Tuesday of the following week (that would be yesterday), I was starting to get a little cranky. I pointed out to both Mikes that we started working on this problem in January, and now it's April, and my chair is still broke. My insurance is different now, which is going to make all this more of a pain than it would otherwise be. I'm tired of being nice. I'm ready to start rattling cages.

I got a call from Mike the Permobile Guy a couple of hours later. He made an appointment to come and try the new control box the following afternoon (that would be today). The timing is fortuitous, because Scarecrow was planning to work at home anyway, so we won't have to take time off work to get this done. Finally.

Wait wait wait… not so fast. The appointment was for 2:00. Around 2:45, he calls and says he's running late. Can we do this tomorrow?

Um, not really. We're not usually home in the middle of the day. It just happened that we could do it today. Tomorrow is not a good day.

Mike the Permobile Guy has no idea how lucky he is that Scarecrow answered the phone instead of me. (Actually, it's a pretty good bet, since I can't physically answer the phone unless it rings on my laptop, and he was calling our home number. So scarecrow always answers the phone. But still.) I'm tired of being nice. You have no idea how much of an effort that is for me. I would have used Discouraging Words. I would have let him see the real me, and friends, it would have been a conversation he would not soon forget.

I don't know the end of the story. I don't know whether Scarecrow can arrange to work from home tomorrow, or if we have to try to find another time to get the chair fixed.

I do know that the lesson I take home from this is that as long as you try to be nice, as long as you're polite, as long as you're not pushy, you'll be at the bottom of everybody's priority list. It's only when you speak up, make it clear that you're tired of waiting around for people to get their fudging thumbs out of their ears, that you expect them to get their butts in gear and get it done, that things start to happen.

Don't be so nice. That's a lesson I can learn, but trust me, it's better if I don't.

18 April 2011

Purpose in Life

I have never spent much time worrying about my Purpose in Life. I have no philosophical bent, and I'm not religious. And, I admit, it's partly because I'm shallow and intellectually lazy. But I like questions that I can answer, or at least questions that can be answered, by somebody. The Grand Imponderables are not something I'm inclined to spend a lot of time pondering. I don't know if there's a Purpose or a Reason. I'm here. I'll just go with that. It works for me.

Imagine my amazement to realize that I do have a Purpose in Life. I occupy an important place in the grand scheme of things. I play a role in the great cosmic events that determine the direction of the universe.

I allow Scarecrow to use the HOV lane.

In case you're fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with Seattle traffic, it's a mess. A lot of cars want to go the same place at the same time, and where ever you are, there's water between where you are, and where you want to be. Scarecrow's new commute takes him through the thick of it. Every day. Twice a day.

The HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane, reserved for transit vehicles or cars carrying two or more people, has so few qualified users that these fortunate few can zip past the numberless horde, as they wait more-or-less patiently in line to reach their destination. If it weren't for me, Scarecrow would be waiting in line with the rest of them.

You might think this is a job that can be done by one of those life-size inflatable dolls, but the requirements are, in fact, considerably more rigorous, as many drivers with inflatable passengers have found out. The police expect a high occupancy vehicle to be occupied by at least two people who are breathing, and have a pulse. I can do that.

I have a Purpose in Life. Who knew?

12 April 2011

Return to Jurassic Park

When Tuffy got home from class yesterday, she found a note on the door saying that our dog had been running loose in the street, and had nearly been hit by a car. Bareit, clearly the subject of the note and clearly still loose, greeted Tuffy at the front door.


If there's a way to keep this darned dog in when he wants to be out, we obviously haven't figured out how to do it. Although I admit our fence needs work, it was good enough to keep two greyhounds safely contained for three years. If Bareit wants out, he's out in about five minutes. He's been over it, under it, and, most recently, through it. Fortunately, he usually runs to the front door and waits to be let in. Sometimes he doesn't, and that's bad. It makes me queasy to think about him running in the street.

When I lived in Laingsburg, Michigan, on any crisp fall afternoon I could count on Maggie Blue to make a break for it. She was an English setter, and she lived for birds. If I wasn't going to take her out to look for them, she'd go by herself. We lived on 5 acres, surrounded by corn fields amply populated by ringnecked pheasants. There was a very entertaining pen full of quail behind house, and a bunch of fat, slow chickens. The road that went by our house got little traffic, and although there was little reason for her to go that way, I was still terrified that Maggie and a car would somehow wind up in the same place at the same time. (Never happened. She moved with me to Lansing, and later to Seattle, where she lived to a ripe old age.)

The street we live on now isn't the autobahn, but it carries a lot more traffic than a road in rural Michigan. And really, it only takes one car, coming along at the right time, to make a dog seriously flat.

Scarecrow erected a temporary barricade last night, confining the wandering whippet to the least permeable part of the yard. Seriously, if he can get out of this, I really don't know what else we can do. He won't get as much exercise, but at least he'll be alive to get fat.

The little s#!t.

10 April 2011

Sensory Deprivation

Scarecrow just took the screens off the windows in our office at home. It's still not warm enough to have them open, and you can see out a lot better without screens on. Duh.

The view isn't particularly spectacular. Close-up, there are the trunks of a couple of large but scraggly black cottonwoods. Since the house sits up above the street, the window looks across the street to Swamp Creek Park. As the name suggests, it's not a lawn-and-rose-bushes kind of park (although there is a patch of grass with some picnic tables further in). From here, I'm mostly looking across the street into the canopies of assorted deciduous trees, which are just beginning to think about leafing out, and a couple of red cedars. There's some seriously ugly fencing that doesn't even do a particularly good job of keeping the dogs in, not that anything seems to do a particularly good job of keeping the dogs in, but the window mostly looks across the top of it and birds sometimes stop there to check out the neighborhood.

We do get some good birds. Nothing exotic, not that I would recognize anything exotic, but close-up views of birds that like tree trunks. Downy woodpeckers, brown creepers. The occasional pileated woodpecker. Robins and juncos and towhees and Steller's jays and chickadees and Bewick's wrens and golden crowned kinglets and similar Little Brown Birds. And crows. And squirrels. I can see the weather outside, and tell whether it's day or night.

There are no windows in the bunker at Gloria's Books and Adult Day Care Center.

When last I worked at a real job in a real office, the 'windows' in my office looked out on a hallway. I called it the Burrow. For half the year, it was dark when I went in and dark when I came out. I never knew whether the sun ever came up or not. I felt like a gopher. Still, there were people and meetings and things to do and background noise and a coffee pot in the kitchen. There were pictures on the wall, and a whiteboard, and my greyhound calendar, and a bookcase, and geological layers of assorted desk detritus.

The bunker is different. It opens off of a dark interior hallway, way the heck at the other end of the warehouse from most of the office activity. One wall is cocoa brown, just a little darker than the walls of our office at home. The other three walls are that institutional not-quite-yellow color. There is nothing on any of the walls except dings and gouges, which I did not put there but which I'm sure my chair will make more of. In this big empty room, there's a little table against one wall, with my laptop on it.

Was it something I said, do you think?

Seriously. It's quiet. That's good. I can put up my greyhound calendar. I'm connected to the 'net, so I've got books and tunes and movies and blogger buddies and whatever else. Scarecrow's got a job, and I've got a place to be while he's there. This is all really good. Really good.

But I gotta tell ya, it sure makes me appreciate my window.

02 April 2011

Gloria's Books and Adult Day Care Center

Yesterday Scarecrow started his new job at Gloria's Books and Adult Day Care Center. It's exactly like his previous job at Bob's Books and Adult Day Care Center, except it's more than twice as far away, in the other direction. Bob even works at the new place. It was just like they never left. Bob even wiped out an entire database, and threw away the backup tapes. Just like a normal day at Bob's Books. (Bob is the sweetest man you could imagine, but he belongs in a home for the technologically impaired.)

Just like the bizarre arrangement we developed at Bob's Books, I went in to work with Scarecrow. He helped me with lunch and bathroom breaks, as necessary. Elsewise, I just tried to stay out of the way.

I'm embarrassed at the lengths to which Gloria has gone to find a spot for me. She had obviously given it a lot of thought, and offered me a couple of choices. Choices! I'm happy to be allowed to sit in a corner, out of the way, and you're giving me choices? After a tour of the facility, we decided I would take up residence in a big empty room waaaaaaaaaaay at the other end of the (really big) warehouse. It's a veritable crip suite, as it's right across from an accessible bathroom, with nobody much else around. I heard a couple of people talking, but didn't see anyone else all day. I certainly don't feel like I'm under foot. There are no feet to be under. Feet under which to be. Whatever. I hooked up to the wireless 'net, and we're good to go. How cool is that?

My new hangout is, as I said, a big room with no windows, a warehouse-high ceiling, and concrete warehouse floor. It's warehouse temperature, which this time of year is still pretty brisk. It feels kind of like a bunker. Gloria brought in a rug for the concrete warehouse floor. Seriously. I can't believe this.

I wish I could still use binoculars. The warehouse backs up to a wetland, and I bet there are some good birds out there.

So, that's it. Who knew there were two book distributors in the greater Seattle area that would let an employee bring a disabled partner to work? Well I guess, as an old friend of mine used to say, 'You don't ask, you don't get.' We're in.