IT WASN'T MY INTENTION to spend another long spell on the phone this afternoon, but that's exactly what I did...all in the interest of getting things moving again!
Kartik, a friend of Rajah, surprised me by calling from India to see if I'd gotten things worked out with my brand new HP computer. Had I taken it to a computer shop? "Well, no," I told him. "Are you calling with the tech support for which there is a charge?" "No, no, I'm calling for Rajah," he said. "He asked me to call you and help you with the problem." "For free?" I asked. "Oh, yes, ma'am. For free!"
Thus began my two-hour visit with Kartik, and the exciting unclogging of my backlog of video clips. We had plenty of opportunity for chatting as we waited for his expert manipulation of my computer to ease its peculiar obstinacy. He's twenty-two, and this young Indian man is a computer genius, let me tell you! I learned a few more things about him, as well. It was mid-afternoon here when he called, but Kartik was already five hours into his eight-thirty to six a.m. shift at work, which is an hour's drive from his home. He doesn't have a lot of free time. He likes cars. And he is twenty-five days into an "eat-no-meat" challenge.
"Have you eaten your lunch?" Kartik asks me. We are waiting for some software to adhere. "What do you like to eat? Do you eat healthy food?" Clearly, food was on his mind. I had to tell him I didn't eat lunch...only a late breakfast. But yes, yes, I like to eat food that is good for me. "I eat like a hog," he said. "You should see my desk right now!" It was one-thirty in the morning by his clock. "Kartik, you eat like a hog?! Is it junk food?" "Oh, no!" he assured me. "I am not eating meat now. I used to eat lots of meat! Meat for breakfast, meat for lunch, meat for dinner. But I have a friend who said 'You should not eat so much meat.' She said, 'See how long you can go without eating meat.' " "Ah, your girlfriend?" "No, no. She is just a good friend. But she tells me it will be good for me. And my mother, too. She says 'You must eat more vegetables! Not so much meat.' So I am trying to see how long I can do this. We are at January 29 here and I began on January 4!" He sends me a photo of a plate of food...chapati, Indian-style vegetables and a hard-boiled egg.
Now he is opening my photos. I have given him control of my computer and it is odd to be looking at the screen as he flips through my files."I am sorry about some of those photos," I say, "Those photos of stains on carpet and the ugly stove top..." I try to explain my bad tenants. "But see the birthday cake? That is for my daughter. She is twenty-five." "Oh," he clicks through the photos, sees a picture of her. "She is twenty-five? She is young."
"But you are younger, Kartik." "She looks young," Kartik says.
He has finished his software patch-up now. He must test his work. Do I have a video clip? Oh, yes! There is one that I woefully could not bring to life on New Year's Day. He opens it and...
This is a triumph. But it's not an altogether adequate test. Kartik asks if I can take a video with my camera right now. I run to find it.
Let's see. What will it be? Everything is so motionless, the sofa with its little orange pillows snoozing in the crooks of its arms, the antique pie safe with its punched-tin doors folded quietly shut. Even the peace lily on the table is excessively peaceful. I know. Outdoors it is snowing! Out the door I go and do a quick little scan of the white landscape.
"Look," I say to Kartik. "We have snow!" My enthusiasm possibly sounds genuine. But he does not seem all that interested in the white stuff. "Is that your car?" he immediately wants to know. "Yes. It's a Toyota. It's old, a 2001." "But it's very nice." "Oh, yes. It's a nice car. It has lots of dings (does he know this word?) and bumps, but it is a nice car." "What is the model? Do you like the ride?" He would be happy to go on discussing cars, I'm sure. My interest and knowledge is so slight. Besides, he's completed his original task and I'm thrilled. Before he says goodbye, he gives me instructions on deleting junk files. "Do this once a week!" he advises. He types up a list of instructions and puts them in a document for me.
"Label them 'Kartik's Instructions,' " I request.
So now, once a week, for the life of this computer anyway, I'll be remembering Kartik, the computer marvel who gave back to me my moving pictures!
THERE. IT'S DONE! I just hung up from a sixty-four minute phone call. It's one I had been dragging my feet on because Past Experience had been whispering in my ear..."a call to Tech Support? Ha! Feel like grabbin' a big ol' chunk of your time and throwing it down a hole? Got so much to spare you can just toss it away?!" Meanwhile, I've got this brand new laptop computer and it refuses to play my video clips.
This problem kept nudging me, giving me little pokes. " Go on!Make the call!How else are you ever going to solve this?" AndI really did want to post video clips again. There are so many moving moments that I've wished to share. So I gritted my teeth and made the call.
First there was the preliminary wait.
Then there was the conversation with the Disembodied Voice. D.V. was patient, but wanted answers. And D.V. was only going to let me give specific answers, of which "I don't know" or "well, here's the thing..." were definitely not options. Eventually, D.V. presented me with a real live human being, wonder of wonders!
Everything I told the D.V. was repeated to a soft-spoken young woman, who gave me a case number, and passed me along to another department.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Flowers blossomed on my doodling paper. Then geometric shapes. Tick. Tick. Tick. Then scribbling: okay. okay. mr hewlett packard. will it be anytime this centu--
"Hello?" I was connected once again. This time with a heavily-accented young man who spoke politely, and introduced himself as Rajah. Was I having a good day? he asked. How endearing! Did he really wish to know? Should I tell this young man on the phone how I rushed to the recycling center at noon today, only to find a closed gate--Oh, botheration, today is the fourth Saturday of the month, not the third!
Should I tell him about the call a few minutes earlier from a tenant of mine, complaining about a live bird in his attic, and, no, he couldn't wait until Monday, it needed to be removed now!?
I explained my computer problem for a third time and drummed my fingers while he put me on hold to research it. Back on the line once again, Rajah patiently explained that, unfortunately, ma'am, the Lumix camera would not work with the Vista 64 operating system of the notebook PC. There was nothing he could do for it, he said. Nothing!So sorry, ma'am! Now, if I were to call the technical support service forwhich there is a charge, they would be able to help me. Unlike this call, there would be no waiting in queue. But I would have to subscribe for a six-month term and pay fifty-nine dollars.
So...arrgh, here was the thing. I could make another call. I could spend another hour or two on the phone. I could click this and click that...could click my fingers to the bone. I could have faith in Rajah that there would be a positive result in the end. But as for this call, my fears were being realized. This call was coming to an end with nothing actually accomplished. Nothing to redeem the call.
I decided right then it was not going to happen!
This call was not going to be one more blot on my day!
"Where are you living, Rajah?" I asked.
"I am living in India" he replied.
"Really?" I responded, not in the least surprised. "Just last night I saw the movie Slumdog Millionaire. It's a terrific movie!"
He was instantly engaged. "It has already won thirteen awards!" he exclaimed.
"Yeah," I said. "I watched white the movie got all those Golden Globes! Now that I've seen it, I'm hoping it gets Best Picture at the Oscars, too. It was well-done. Quite a movie!"
"I have to tell you," he said with fervor, "everything that you see in that movie, that is the way it really is! They didn't use made-up movie sets, or change things for the movie. It's all the way things actually are."
This was great; I was having a good time talking to Rajah. I asked a lot of questions, extending the conversation. Rajah grew up in Bombay, he told me, and went to university there, too. He knew the city! It was easy to tell, as we both enthused about this movie made in India, that the whole country shares his pride in its success. He was reluctant to hang up. "What else can I help you with? Is there anything else you want to know about your computer?" he urged me to stay on the phone.
There was nothing else. I wanted help with my videos! I still want help with my videos! I had to hang up without resolution.
But in the end, you see, I redeemed that phone call. In the end, it was a bright spot in my day.--a bright little spot of human connection across continents. And who knows, possibly the same for Rajah, living somewhere in India
WHERE I LIVE, IT IS twenty degrees above zero at this hour and the expected low tonight is sixteen degrees. On this exact day a quarter century ago, it was far colder here. The night air dipped down to minus fifteen. It was record-breaking for this area, that bone-chilling cold. If you think I'm going to blather on about the frigid weather again, however, I must quickly inform you that I only mentioned the foregoing as a segue to another tale about that day twenty-five years ago. In fact, I only remember the chill of that night because of my strenuous job performance of that evening and the veryheart-warming gift I received for it. Truly a gift like no other, and presented with fine music.
Heavenly music! The healthy squawking of a newborn child. That's what I was listening to at this precise moment twenty-five years ago. Shortly thereafter, I held my tiny dark-haired daughter and watched as her bright little eyes calmly studied her surroundings. "So this is where I've landed" she seemed to be pondering.
She's had twenty-five years to investigate further. I've had twenty-five years to treasure this gift. Happy Twenty-fifth Birthday, my sweet Caroline!
I FED THE CAT THIS morning and then drove to attend the 56th Presidential Inauguration! The sun was shining brightly and I looked forward to being part of the energy and excitement. I wanted to witness history! And I was fortunate...
...to end up with a really good spot and get some great photos! No heads blocking my view, no standing on my tiptoes and straining to aim a camera with an arm outstretched above my head, no mob pressing in around me! I could hear every word clearly and witness every detail. It wasn't cold. It wasn't windy. But it was exhilarating. It was exciting, even from my perch on a comfortable chair in a warm room! Thanks to a generous sister-in-law, I spent my day at the nation's capitol with fellow enthusiastic Obama fans via a front-row seat to a large-screen TV.
We spectators at this particular inaugural gathering had our own running commentary on events, our own--slightly scaled downfrom the Statuary Hall--inaugural luncheon. We toasted our good fortune in witnessing, at long last, a brand new qualified president take office. We toasted the ushering-in of a new spirit of racial equality. We took note of Dick Cheney in a wheelchair. We delighted in every contribution to the ceremony--the prayers..."mellow-yellow" and all...the swearing-in, the musical offerings...go Yo-Yo!..the poem, the inspiring address that Obama gave to not only America, but the whole world--all of it. We loved Aretha's hat. We followed the activities at the luncheon, tried to figure out exactly what made up those floral arrangements on the tables. We saw Senator Kennedy loaded into the ambulance and then later heard reassurances as to his condition. I was happy to give up most of my day to this historic event.
Returning home late in the afternoon, I stopped in at the post office. It was busy with people hurrying in and out. I stifled the urge to whistle Hail to the Chief for all to hear. Some may have noticed a happy little grin on my face, however, as I contemplated the day and its uplifting events!
When former president Geo. W. Bush came into office, I uttered these prophetic words, "America is going down." That was eight long years ago and now, unfortunately, no one can deny we are "down" in nearly every aspect (true, not unemployment). So I'm going to venture a new prediction, now that Bush is safely back in Texas, and Obama has taken the helm. I believe that hope will grow, in spite of the rough road ahead. America is going to follow this phenomenal new leader and ultimately arrive at a whole new paradigm of governing. We will pick ourselves up. And we will rise again!
I have something great to tell you about. Well, actually, it is something not just great, but great great. Your mind may leap immediately to the nation's capitol, which is all astir with the momentous happening to take place there tomorrow. And if you would label tomorrow's occasion great great, I wouldn't disagree.
However, the event to which I'm referring took place today. It was in the works for quite a while, but this, the final stage of the endeavor, began early this morning and culminated at 8:25 pm. You'll find nothing of this event mentioned in the national news, but it is certainly earth-shaking for one person and will have a profound effect on several more. Not to mention the many who are bestowed with brand new titles.
It was from my sister Shishe that I received the news--I've been bumped into another tier of ancestry. By virtue of the genetic strands that bind, Shishe's brand new "great" title translates into a "great great" one for me!
Happy Birthday to my newest relative! Welcome to the world, dear little Lillianna, great grandniece!
OKAY, I HELD OFF as long as I could. Now I've simply got to talk about the weather again. It's such doggonishwinter weather! It's been cold, as in cold-creeping-in-around-all-the-windows- and-doors cold. As in cold-freezing-Sassy's-water-in-her-bowl-before-she-can-drink-it cold.
Cold as in worrying-that-there-may-inadvertantly-be-an-unheated-vacant-apartment-where-the-pipes-are-freezing-even-as-I-lie-there-imagining-it-in-the-middle-of-the-night cold. It's creaking-and-cracking cold, don't-neglect-to-cover-your-head-and-neck-and-every-limb-and digit cold. Yeah, it's cold.
But then my sister-in-law comes to visit from Ohio and she says that it's really cold there. She says the day she left to come here it was seventeen degrees below zero...and that was the high temperature of the day! I'm not quite sure that I can believe such a whopping cold.
I check the thermometer and it is a balmy fifteen degrees above zero here. Ahhhh.
THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS--the day upon which someone's lover once gave them a partridge and a whole boatload of other gifts-- is the somewhat haphazard deadline I set for myself to have finished the dismantling of Christmas decorations. I like to remove them before either they have become tired-looking or I have become tired of looking at them.
Of course, it's only random--the deadline. And that means I can go busily on my way through January, procrastinating willy-nilly. (After all, why should I impose this arbitrary deadline upon myself when I've already got far too many others about which I have no choice? ) Until suddenly, wouldn't you know...I am tired of looking at Christmas decorations!It's difficult to dream of spring with an aging evergreen and pictures of holiday snow scenes reminding me that winter is still young!
Hence, two days ago I removed all of the merry little doodads from the tree, even though it's still green and has wept few needles. Today I tore off the strings of lights. Amazingly, the tree gave off a faint scent of fir, which melted my resolve ever so slightly. It was pleading for a stay of deportation!
O, woe is me...I actually went and gave it a drink of water! Tomorrow, however...definitely and positivelytomorrow, I am going to pack up all those baubles and strings of lights. I'm going to bundle up all the lovely cards wishing us peace and joy and happy holidays and gifts of the season and a new year of happiness. It won't be easy to put away the holiday card I received two days ago...(dear fellow procrastinator!), but I'm going to give it the old post-holiday try. And then the tree will have to receive its banishment. I'm certain it will. It will. At least I'm quite sure. Maybe it will. It should, anyway. And it's somewhat likely.
I HAVE TWO NIECES WHO are soon to have birthdays. Very soon. Today they are 8 and 11. By tomorrow, they will be aged 9 and 11. By Monday, they will be aged 9 and 12. By Tuesday, with any luck, they will be receiving the gifts I sent them. It's one of the most enjoyable things I've done in the past several days---wrapping the gifts, doing my own brand of artwork on the box.
Toting my package into the post office, I don't see Wanda, who's often at the counter doing her duties as mistress of the Post.Today it's Dale, who's the master.
"You got the stamps?" He knows they'll be no bland meter strip for my package. Besides, it's only additionalstamps he's talking about. There are nine on the package already. He holds the box at arm's length. "Ya know, this is really somethin', I like to see this stuff you bring in." He says. Then, eyeing the stamps, "So how much you got on here?"
This time I thought I'd let the figuring up to him. I just hoped I hadn't gone over.
"Let's see, ya got three..one two three four...no, four forty-ones. That's a dollar sixty-four. Then ya got, uh, two thirty-niners. That's seventy-eight. Now...hmm...I'm gonna need paper." He fishes around for a scrap and scratches down his calculations. "Here's a thirty-four. And a thirty-seven...a thirty-three."
Finally he's totaled it up. He tells me the bottom line and I go away to the table to mull over my additions. Will it be more of the lovely flower stamps--with fourvarieties of pink? Or how about the thirty-seven-cent District of Columbia, so timely, and with great blending colors. I snitch a certified receipt label from the well-stocked cubbyhole in the table and do my own calculations. I'm still lacking fifteen cents' worth when I whisk my box back to the counter for stamps from Dale's drawer.
"Now you make certain they match my color scheme!" I tell him. But of course. He's pleased to be a consultant to my philatelic works. "I'd go with the teapot" he advises, after we've considered the Tiffany lamp and nixed the Navajo necklace for it's blueness. I buy three. Promising me he won't plaster on any labels, he carefully handstamps the whole thing. "They're sure to have it by Tuesday," he assures me as he pitches my masterpiece into the outgoing bin.
I leave with the thought that I've certainly gotten my postage worth from the USPS today!
DID YOU LOSE FAITH, Dear Reader? ... after only a week?! This is to let you know I'm still present. Still right here. Only there's been so much gritty in the nitty, not enough humming in the drumming...too much helter in my skelter. I hadn't the time to tell you about it.
And now it's far too late in the day to be jump-starting my blog. In my newly coined words ofOverlappinglish--(a fabulous new language)-- it's too late in the evening to be createasing my brain. I'm going to clobberate myself tomorrow for my lack ofnightimeliness.
Please pardon my hasty departure as I set sail upon the currents that will lead me to the Sea of Somnolence.
IT WAS FOURTH GRADE recess time and, oh thank heavens, there wasn't going to be a softball game today; no need to cringe and wish for my puny body to disappear so as not to be added by default to one unlucky team! No,today the mad scramble by all was to obtain ajumping board. Goody gumdrops, here was my moment to shine!
Jumping boards were all the rage at the small parochial school where I received my first
six years of schooling-- the "Little School" as it's affectionately been known by its alumni. I have my doubts jumping boards were a universal pastime on other school playgrounds, but they were certainly a regular sporting event in our grassy schoolyard! Equipment was the simplest sort--a long limber board, maybe a foot wide and ten or twelve feet long (standard lumber-size, I'm sure), laid atop a cinder block (or two for the very daring). We were discriminating in our quest for the mostflexible board, and we studiously adjusted the fulcrum for maximum results.
Basically, it was a see-saw for jumping. And jump we did! When it was my turn, everyone clamored for Johnny on the other end of the board. Oh yes, he was the largest kid in the class. I was the smallest. When he took a flying leap onto his end, I would be propelled into the stratosphere. Up, up I sailed above the heads of the tiny boys and girls below, who cheered at the heights I could achieve. It was magnificent! I was in the clouds! (Or at least it's for certain I reached Cloud Nine).
Clutching my skirts about me, the feminine burden of modesty prevailed as I plummeted back to earth. (Fineif anyone saw London or France, they weren't going to see my underpants!) I knew one had to keep one's wits about oneself to descend to the proper spot on the board, not falling off, not twisting an ankle or breaking a leg! I would aim for a landing, my heart thumping with exhilaration and derring-do.
As I hit the board, Johnny would get a slight bump skyward. It was sufficient. Down he'd come with a blow that launched me into another wow-producing flight. Then down again. And up again. And down. I could have jumped all day. I could have juuumped all day! And still have begged for more. I could have spread my wings, I could have....but of course my turn lasted only as long as those awaiting their own were content to be spectators. Or I landed awkwardly off the board--whichever came first.
It was okay.As I awaited another turn, I could secretly revel in the fact that it was only I--jointly jumping with Johnny--who truly touched the sky!
I HAVE A PERSONAL New Year's Day tradition that finishes off my year with a great big luxurious sigh, as in "ahhhh...that was just OTW!" Since it takes place twenty or so hours into the beginning of a year, the timing is perfect for a procrastinator like me.
It's a concert brought to me annually by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. It's delightful, marvelous, glorious even!
This concert has been performed in Austria on New Year's Day for over sixty years and I've kept my tradition of watching it on television for over a decade.
I anticipate it even as I'm carrying on the fine tradition of partying with friends...helping thewomen tobeat the men at dominoes on New Year's Eve, and eatingfantabulous pork and saurkraut with numerous aunts and uncles and siblings and cousins of my husband at noon on New Year's Day.
Preparations to carry out my tradition are simple...a fire must be built in the fireplace, and then I bring out all the leftover holiday chocolate and invite whomsoever willto join me...often my husband, always his Aunt Ann from the house next door.
I settle in with great expectation, and from the first strains of the Blue Danube, or whatever Strauss composition comes first, I go soaring. If you're a fellow huge fan of the Strauss relatives...Johann, Johann Jr. and Josef... you'd be soaring too!
The whole program is a feast for me and when they start into the Radetzky March and roll the credits, I wipe away a tear or two. Oh, I'm only kidding; I just wish they'd let meoverindulge with another hour or two...
as I'm saying "auf Wiedersehen" to the year that is growing cold. ...