Friday, May 14, 2010

A Happy Birthday and a Good Friday

I did promise a sequel didn’t I? I left you with a busted coffee maker and a broken washing machine. Pretty much how this series started out. I went to work Wednesday morning, planning on taking another afternoon off so I could meet with the repair person.

I’m blessed with a job that allows me to have fairly flexible hours. I also got a laptop computer instead of a desktop tower for my last computer upgrade. I used to be sort of an anti-laptop person. I’m a computer geek which means I look at computers the same way Tim “Tool Man” Taylor, from the TV show Home Improvement, looks at cars and tools. Bigger is better and more power is a desirable goal.

I still salivate over big and beautiful computers but have come to appreciate the mobility my new laptop gives me. It’s still got a reasonable amount of horsepower (or gigahertz if you prefer) and storage capacity for my needs, and I can take it with me when I have to be at home. This allows me do my job without actually being at the office. So at noon, I undocked the laptop and went home to meet the repair guy. He was actually running early so he beat me home and was almost done by the time I got there.

Thank goodness it was under warranty. The water pump was broken and apparently, you can’t just order the water pump by itself, you have to order a new motor with the pump, even though the motor we have was fine. Then, of course, you have the 2 hours labor which ends up costing more than the parts.

The down side was the parts had to be ordered and yet another service call scheduled for the installation. We would be out a washer for a week. Ouch! While visions of rolls of quarters danced in my head with daily commutes to a Laundromat, my wonderful in-laws came to the rescue. They graciously allowed us the use of their facilities while our washer was down for the count. So my wife accepted the job of laundry shuttle driver ferrying loads of clothes back and forth.

I decided to work from home the rest of the day. It is amazing how productive one can be when you get away from the phone constantly ringing and people barging into your office. Add the fact that my kids were in school and my beautiful wife was keeping the interruptions to a minimum. I’m not kidding, I got more work done in 3 hours than I would have done in a weeks time at the office. Employers need to look at this when they consider people for telecommuting. In certain situations, it really works.

Since I was at home and so was our dead coffee maker, I decided to give their customer support another go. Once again I was on hold for almost 30 minutes, and once again got annoyed that every 20 seconds the computer voice told me my call was about to be answered. However, again, a very pleasant English speaking American answered the phone. This woman needs to lead seminars on phone support. Other than my crazy-long wait, she got 5 stars across the board. She gave me fast, clear, easy-to-follow instructions on how to submit a warranty claim. I simply needed to chop off the plug, and mail it with a statement explaining what happened and a check for $12.99 for shipping the new coffee maker to us. I will gladly pay $12.99 for a $54.00 coffee maker any day of the week. Of course, getting to whack the power cord was an added bonus.

Lest you forgot, it was my lovely wife’s birthday. Wednesday’s are also church family nights with supper. That night it was going to be Domino’s Pizza. Deanna and I don’t really care for Domino’s and that happens to be Brianna’s (daughter) favorite meal in the known universe. Brianna also can’t stand Mexican or any of the American simulations of it. So we dropped Brianna off at church so she could eat with her youth friends and Deanna, Brian (son), and me went to enjoy a delightful supper at Paradiso with Deanna’s entree being free on account of her birthday. Things had started looking up.

The coffee maker plug, letter, and check were sent off the next morning. Thursday was uneventful and passed without incident. I alternated between moments of relief that the dreaded 3rd thing would yet come to pass, and trepidation that this was just the calm before the storm and things were setting up to really get bad. It turned out the calm before the storm was exactly that.

We woke up Good Friday morning to a howling mad blizzard, in April. Though not unheard of, the magnitude of this storm is something I hope never to see again. My wife, Deanna, and I were supposed to be in church to participate in our time slot in a prayer vigil we have every year before Good Friday. Various church members sign up for hour-long slots so there is a continuous stream of prayer. The plan was for us to leave early, go to my in-laws house, put in a load of clothes, and then head to the prayer vigil. After our hour was up, the one load would be done and we could do another.

Because of the weather and some errands I needed to run in town, Deanna was going to drive herself to her folks and would try to meet me at the church. But if the weather was too bad, she would just stay there and pray at the house. I would go to the church so I could run my errands afterwards. She left first and wasn’t on the road 5 minutes when she called back telling me under no circumstances was I to leave the house, the weather was that bad. Unfortunately, I had already left.

Horrible driving conditions. Wet, slushy, and very slippery. I don’t think I exceeded 15mph all the way to church. It’s a miracle both of us made it to our destinations. After calling Deanna to ensure she was safe and letting her know I was safe, I proceeded to pray. I really enjoy this quiet time. If you have never participated in a vigil, it can be an extremely moving and rewarding time. Praying for a whole hour seems kind of intimidating but you get used to it very quickly and usually my time is up and I'm still going strong.

I was a little disconcerted the lights kept flickering on and off in the church. At the end of my hour the power went off for good. I shoveled the entryway and dug out my car. The snow was still falling in huge amounts so I was sure the entryway would fill in 10 minutes after I left but I had to make the effort anyway. I got in my vehicle and called Deanna to tell her I was on my way to the grocery store. The driving conditions were still bad but not quite as much as they were North of town where I live. It was almost fun plowing through the slush.

After getting the needed groceries, (I was getting ingredients for a fantastic cheese ball made from cream cheese and shredded beef jerky of all things, it tastes amazing and gets better the longer you leave it in the fridge-recipe available upon request), I called Deanna again to let her know I was on my way home. The power was still out and she had a load of clothes half way through a wash cycle. She had to stay at her parents just in case the power came back on.

I made it home. It’s always interesting to watch me open a heavy garage door with no electrical power. The kids, of course, were home alone. Our daughter is 14 and our son is 11. They are, for the most part, responsible, and can be left at home for a few hours. Brian was a little freaked out the power had been out so long. He was pretty excited to see me. Brianna was rocking away with iPod plugs in her ears, not a care in the world. I expected she would change her tune when the battery ran out.

Before leaving for prayer vigil we had boiled a dozen eggs for dying purposes. I had a dozen more to go with no power in sight. I was not discouraged, however. I’ve got a propane grill and a camping cook stove. Three burners just begging to be used. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, my son likes to cook. So we loaded up with eggs and utensils and made our way to the garage now turned camp kitchen. I set Brian to work monitoring the boiling water for the eggs. You have to do this carefully or else your hard-boiled eggs get that ugly green colorization around the yolk.

I’ve also got this barely ever used camp cook set which includes a coffee pot. The old fashioned kind with no filter. You do remember I’m a coffee junkie and had been without for a few days? I also remember the hideous coffee we had on my fishing trip to Canada. (I’m sorry fishing buddies, but the coffee just wasn’t the best) I was determined to do better. I carefully read the instructions (I know, a novel idea) on how to make camp coffee. So I monitored the coffee production. My son enjoys coffee too.

The trick where we went wrong in Canada is to take the coffee pot off the burner when the water boils before adding the grounds. The grounds just need to steep and we boiled the beans out of them up North. Brian enjoyed it so much he wanted to make coffee like that all the time. We went for the whole experience and drank out of the camp cups that came with the cook set.

While waiting for water to boil, we passed the time throwing Whitewings paper airplanes around the garage. These are really cool airplane kits which involve cutting out index card pieces and gluing them together, they fly so sweetly and come in all different styles. We had a great time.

Deanna, not so much, the power never did come on and wouldn’t for several hours yet. Deanna had to go to work, not to mention getting Brianna prettied up for a Good Friday Passion performance at church. It was getting desperate for the females. Deanna gave up, left the soggy laundry in the washer at her parents and came home.

Curling irons and hair straighteners don’t work very well with no electricity. Deanna had the brilliant idea of trying my mom and stepdad’s house. They were celebrating Easter weekend in Minnesota, so I had to call a buddy who lived close to them to see if he had power, he did so off we went. Sadly, the house probably did have electricity, but the snow plow had gone by and left a ridge comparable to the Himalayas so there was no way to get in the driveway. We turned around and went to church, hoping they might have some power we could borrow.

Alas, it was not to be. Funnily enough the vigil had been cancelled. Ah well, at least I got my great hour of prayer in. The only thing left was to go back home, throw Brianna’s hair in a pony tail and call it good. There are times when a husband just needs to keep his mouth shut, and this was one of those times. I could have said all sorts of things, but none of them would have improved the situation.

One of Brianna’s school friends was also in a Passion reenactment at one of our local Catholic churches and she wanted to go to that. At that time, it was still up in the air if our own Good Friday service was going to be held, so we had to pack her clothes for that as we would have to go from one church to another. Deanna went work.

Meaning no disrespect or offense to the Catholics at this church, but it would be nice if non-Catholics wouldn’t get stared at as if they were little green men who just stepped off the mother ship and wandered into the sanctuary. It was extremely uncomfortable. We watched the service and left towards the end when everyone stood up for communion.

I called Deanna who told me our church service was cancelled. There was still no power so the service was moved to Saturday. We needed something to eat, so rather than worry about what we could manufacture at home, I called A&B Pizza, who blessedly, had power. We are not Catholic, but have a family tradition where we abstain from red meat on Good Friday, so we had a cheese pizza and a shrimp burger and french fries. We went home and to our delight, found electrical power restored. It turned out we were the fortunate ones as there were people who would be without power several weeks. The very wet ice and snow created so much weight on the power lines, huge metal towers crumpled like aluminum foil and the wooden poles snapped like toothpicks.

Since my mom and stepdad were out of town, I had mailbox and paper retrieval duty. So Saturday found me shoveling a wet slushy mountain just so I could get in their driveway. With any luck most of what was left would be melted by the time they got back.

It was an extraordinary week.


AZJim said...

You are too spoiled. I thought the coffee up North was just fine. You just had to stay away from the last cup. It is funny how when we make the best out of a bad situation good things happen. You guys did great with all that was thrown at you. Good story.

Steve at Random said...

Interesting stuff...always of interest to me how other people navigate on bad roads. As for me, I had Good Friday so I think our family pretty much stayed indoors all day...although we did make it over to Red Lobster for supper because our electricity was out. And by the time the church decided to cancel the Good Friday services, the road conditions were starting to improve. Still, I'm glad we were without power for three hours instead of three weeks like some of the farm by Elgin.