Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chop Wood, Carry Water

I know I promised you a blog post about mediocrity and marriage and millionaires, but I just ate too much spinach and I don't have it in me to approach that half-written post at the moment. Who ever thought a person could eat too much spinach?

Anyway, we had a weird week here at the woodland paradise of Kings. Monday a freak storm (I'm calling it a rogue cell because it sounds badass) dropped in on our little pocket of the woods and pulled out about 20 trees. Five of them landed across the driveway, two of them knocked down the whole electrical pole and ripped the wires right out of the the house, and another two came down in the back yard. The rest came down and sat on the wires throughout the woods. It was kinda crazy. Just a huge whiteout, massive wind gusts, and thunder, lightening and then POW! All the trees popped out at once. It was like a mini tornado without the path or something. Thus my new term: rogue cell. And then we were in the dark...except for the sparking wires all over the lawn.

The electric company usually services us last because we are so far out and we're just three customers on this line. The last two big storms here, we waited 8 and 6 days respectively. We're okay with that. I mean, we're kinda okay with it. What else can you do but be okay with it?

You go out with the chainsaws and cut up the trees blocking the driveway. You hook up the generator and eat dinner cooked on the grill. That's what you do.

But this time, I had wires down.
You know how when you call the electric company to report an outage and they say, "Do you need to report downed wires on or near your property?" This time, I had to say yes. Because I had wires all over the place. On my porch. On the kids' swingset. Everywhere.

I called back every few hours and kept getting really nice people on the line who would give me updates. Most were non-update updates. You know--still no dispatcher calling the line crews or tree crews. That kind of thing. Then this truck came down the driveway. The guy got out and said he was in the area and wanted to see what happened. Then, once he looked around, he said it was the worst damage he saw all day. This gave me hope.

But I still predicted they wouldn't have the power up again until Friday. It was a mess.
I completely underestimated the electric company.

On Tuesday afternoon, the tree crews came in and chopped up the two trees on the electrical pole. (later that night, they had to come back and chop the other trees in the back to get the line free there, too.) Then, that night, they brought in six trucks and damn if they didn't get that pole in by ten o'clock. The kids and Mr. King and I watched it all from the front porch. We drank beer. (Not the kids. Me and Mr. King.) It was one of the single most awesome things I've ever watched. Huge drill bit drilled the hole. Enormous trailer winched the pole vertical. Pole went in, dirt got compacted, cherry picker went up and started the installation of the transformer and the rest of the things that live on top of electrical poles.

Don't think I've gone nuts here. I've seen a lot of cool stuff. I've watched a circus set up and break down in the dark a lot of times. I've seen bovine C-sections. I've witnessed a huge factory explosion and been robbed at gunpoint. But this was just awesome. Not to mention really well-timed, considering our generator had broken the minute they got here. Seriously.

But here's why I'm writing this seemingly banal post about my dumb rogue cell while bloated on spinach.

I get asked this question a lot: What can I do to be a better writer?
I often answer:  Write more. Read more. 
If I have enough time, I add: And make sure you get out and do stuff. That's how you'll get new material, even if it's riding a bus to your favorite bakery and eating too many eclairs. 

It's true. You'll hear people talking about things. You'll see birds and trees and stuff. You might watch a garbage truck making its rounds, a businesswoman walking to lunch in a pair of sneakers, a man running his daily ten miles, a little kid flying a kite.

You will, I hope, gain respect for everyone you see because they're out there doing what they do because that's what they are doing. And if you're holed up writing all the time, you will forget that there are people out there doing what they do. Living.

A few weeks ago, my good friend Drew wrote me a letter. He told me to have fun. He told me that I was allowed to go swimming and do back dives and shit. The minute I read the letter, I went to the pool and did back dives.

Sometimes we have to do back dives.
Then we go back to the house and rather than hole up inside and wait for the power to come back, we hang out on the front porch and watch a line crew erect a new electric pole in our woods. We smile at them and offer them water or coffee.  And then at 2AM, while the kids are sound asleep in their beds, the power comes back on.

Another thunderstorm came through tonight. My 9-year-old got so scared, she started shaking. My kids have never been afraid of thunderstorms before, but this kid watched all those trees fall on Monday, and they fell inches from our house--inches from her head. And then she saw the pole come down, transformer and all, and the sparks fly.

What she experienced will stick with her. So when she started shaking during tonight's storm, I didn't know what to say at first. Then I said, "I know it's scary after what you saw on Monday, but isn't it awesome that those guys came and helped us out so quickly and we got to see them put in the new pole?" She eyed me and smiled. "Yeah, but it doesn't take away the fact that I stood there and thought those trees were going to fall on my head."

Nine-year-olds are smart.


The website for ASK THE PASSENGERS is live.

I'm going to be at the YALSA Symposium from Nov. 2-4 in St. Louis. More info on that as it comes. Something tells me I might be signing in the area while I'm there.

If you're anywhere near Ephrata, Pennsylvania, I'll be running a writing workshop for teens at the Ephrata Public Library on August 8th. Make sure you let them know you're coming. 

I got ten strikes in a row last week in Wii Bowling. Final score: 287.

CJ Bott and I had a cool article published in English Journal. 

Met-Ed has extremely pleasing hold music. I'm on hold a lot when I call places. I'm sure you're on hold a lot too. So you can appreciate the value of decent hold music. No matter when I called, whether to report stuff or check in or on Wednesday morning to thank them profusely for saving our asses, the music was solid. They played nostalgic radio classics from when I was a kid. Soothing.

So you know those other hold music situations? The static-crazed music that seems to dull when you make a noise on the other end of the phone? The constant in and out of volume, so every fifteen seconds, you think someone has come to talk to you, but then, the music comes back in again?

What's with that?

I've experienced it so often, I reckon there has to be some psychological reason behind why they choose that music. Surely they know it's like that. I doubt there is a shitty in and out static-y hold music package that's just a cheaper option. Why do you think they do this?

If you can answer this question, you win a prize.

One winner only. Best answer wins.


Eric Devine said...

Glad to hear all has worked out and that you made lemonade out of those lemons. Life, it's all material, right?

And possible answers to your question from:

The answer is the codec used for phone systems is really not ideal for anything other than voice -- and sometimes, barely that. Listen to any music that's usually at a format of for example, GSM at 8Khz (a standard rate for normal phones) and you'll hear similar.

Also, some phone systems have an audio input jack and they take a radio and use this as the source. If the radio station gets detuned, no one will notice until someone complains on the phone.

Unknown said...

as the granddaughter of an electrical engineer i can confirm that eric is 100 percent right. but i like to believe that the shitty companies hire elves to manage the music and the elves stop it for those 15 seconds to get your hopes up and have some fun to make up for crap pay

Sashi said...

I like this post. I especially like the title of this post; which is the point you were making. Write, read, live. I think they have that stupid in/out hold music to make you hopeful so you will stay on the line. Also it could possibly be some college student's psych experiment. ie How long will the foolish humanoids stay on the line if the music goes in and out?

Kristen Pelfrey said...

Live wires. Wow.
I'll tell the truth: only YOU get the shitty in and out static-y hold music. That's right. Because there are Forces you yourself have created--the Music of the Spheres-and the MoS you create generates interference with hold music. And rogue cells. Like that. Just so you know.