Massive Delayed Reaction

In the winter of 1959-1960 the family moved.  A beloved house was sold for a few very practical reasons.  The “new” house, which was just as old as the old one, that is, built somewhere around the time of the First World War, had an entirely different style.  It was some years before it, too, became beloved.  The first did not have some features the second did, but the reverse was equally true, so it was never really determined which was the preferred house.  To this day, personal circumstances being different, either house would be okay.  The neighborhoods are debatable. 

The street address for house #1 was 318.  The street address for house # 2 was 329.  One street address before that was 515, and one street address for other relatives was 1229, either of which may have added to some confusion.  Regardless, all of the streets had very different names, which could have made it easier to keep things straight.  More important, the people in question were presumed to be caring relatives, who didn’t have more than a half-dozen street addresses of family to keep straight.  There was also very little need to contend with any frequent address changing. 

Sometime after the change of location (seems like it was a couple of years at least) one day completely surprisingly, a package arrived but it was addressed to a house across the street (328).  It was surprising because it was thought the people in question had even used the correct address for the likes of cards at Christmas.  Verbally the numbers don’t sound the same.  Well, today, after nearly fifty years, yours truly realized the numbers don’t sound the same, but written down they take on a different aspect.  Numerically 318 is close to 328 in looks.  They memorized by sight. 

It takes a while to fathom some things. 

Sitting At The Old Folks’ Home

At the old folks’ home quite often there isn’t much to do.  Life is largely simply a matter of taking care of oneself.  As already noted, a few people may have an animal that needs walking or other care.  A couple of people may baby sit while their daughter (or maybe son) is at work.  Some people do have jobs.  A few do have hobbies.  But, a substantial number just take care of themselves, which is enough to do as once a few years are added to the personal history, folks get slower and slower when in action.  The taking care of oneself can be intricate if there is a medical concern. 

At any rate, there’s less to do, which is good.  And, there’s a reluctance to get into some things, including driving anywhere.  Some residents kill time, ideally in some place designed for it.  Some places are “urban” enough that there’s little or no possibility of doing something outside of the building due to anything from lack of space to traffic.  And, there are some places which are more residential with some measure of grounds around the building equipped for some staying outdoors.  While the scenery is pretty much unchanged from day to day, some of the people do change. 

With the apartment building at hand for yours truly, there are some grounds, benches, static scenery and considerable quiet.  One can sit outside on those benches on a sunny, not-too-warm day and it seems like, to misquote and old saying, God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.  The river flows west placidly seeking the sea.  The traffic flows north or south across the bridge over it, quietly because it’s too far away to hear the noise.  And, if one thinks just a little bit, it’s not hard to remember that somewhere “over there” maybe behind the trees if not across the river, someone is getting killed. 

Reality is not too far distant. 

Power Outages, Cont’d

It used to be at one family home that during a relative strong storm the nearby transformer would go out.  The routine was simple enough.  A light went off or something indicating that there was some sort of trouble somewhere.  Then a quick look around was in order to determine that it was likely a power outage (or other).  It made sense to at least get a candle out of the cupboard, maybe look in the refrigerator to see if there was any concern, etc.  Invariably by the time that was done, one neighbor or another (quite possibly two or three) had called the electric company to report that the power was out. 

In the above situation, there was never a need to call to report a problem.  All anyone needed to do to carry on very well was to wait a short time, like fifteen minutes, then call in as if reporting.  By that time repair crews had been sent to look over things.  The person on the other end of the telephone would simply say something like, “It’ll be back on in four hours.”  And, it invariably was.  And. as often said nowadays, that was a “then.”  Today it seems as if no one knows what’s going on, although they may and simply don’t want to take time for any customers trying to figure out what to do. 

The lights sometimes flicker in the apartment of yours truly.  Things have been out building-wide a couple of times, but at least there is a generator working in that case.  It provides some light in the hallway and keeps the elevator running if the electricity is completely off.  It’s better than the last place in that respect as that went pitch dark.  If a light flickers it can, of course, just be the light bulb, which happens a lot since two lights in the apartment are on twenty-four/seven for the sake of safety in moving around at night.  There’s one other possibility, and that is that the wiring is bad…. 

Alertness to the possible is important. 

Power Outages

In this complex world of 2010 in places like most (not all) of the “western world” that millions occupy, electricity is a basic need.  Electricity was once a luxury; it was not too long ago.  Not even a century ago there was advertising that said things like, “Wire your house for electricity.”  That was a “then,” and there may be people right around the corner who dealt with life without electricity.  From the status of “luxury” it moved on the the scale of life to become a “utility” (at least legally most often).  For many people it is no longer a “utility” but a basic need right there with food, clothing and shelter. 

If a place is a big apartment building, there should be a back-up generator for it.  An office building, a private home even a small business could do with one in case there is a long-term power outage.  That is an event that is more common with each passing day.  The infrastructure put up by electric companies so long ago is falling apart in a lot of places.  It doesn’t take much to knock out power.  Meanwhile, more and more use is made of electricity in everyday living.  In the case of a small business or even a home, one might be able to to just leave.  In an office building or big apartment it’s different. 

In big apartments not only is there the matter of making one’s way down ten or more floors of dark staircase if all of the power is out, it also means things like an HVAC heating and cooling system is not going to work and all the appliances like the stove and refrigerator are dead.  Some things will run on battery and a few candles around can give some light, but there’s not going to be any cooking for the duration.  If it’s winter or excessively hot, if the power is out for a couple of days, people may very well need to find other shelter.  It has happened.  It will likely happen again. 

Modern living has problems. 

Mechanical Garbage Disposal

Among life’s nifty little mysteries is the question of, why does the United States federal government require garbage disposals in apartments?  It does.  It may not require them in all apartments.  The previous apartment yours truly had did not have a garbage disposal.  It didn’t even have much of a trash disposal deal in that each floor had a sort of broom closet (with sink) with a big plastic barrel in it.  There was a big plastic bag in the barrel; but, the nine apartments almost invariably filled it to overflowing.  And, if anyone didn’t bother wrapping up their garbage, it was strewn around. 

In some cases the government appears to be rather firm about the matter. or at least the management thinks so.  It’s one of the things an inspection checks for working order.  If they’re not used, they rust to a dead stop.  And, tenants don’t use them to the point where they do rust, so there have been directives about running the garbage disposal once a week, keeping it smelling good, etc.  Managements do not like to put out money to buy anything, maintenance does not like to replace them and, as already noted, residents don’t use them.  But, they’re required. 

Possibly that previous apartment building simply forever delayed installing any.  (That’s not beyond belief.)  On the whole, however, dealing with the matter of a garbage disposal is a part of apartment living.  And, what does it do?  It makes soup that’s washed down the drain out of leftovers.  Even in a big complex, it’s not an overwhelming amount.  Given city trash collection and a half-way decent trash system, “garbage” isn’t going to draw any rats or other roaming animals.  In any place that doesn’t have trash pick up, admittedly there might be some problem; but, it seems like laws should better. 

Life is ordered mysteriously. 

Window Blinds

Windows in a place let in the light.  They also let in a little more cold or heat (as per the season) than more substantial walls.  Most times they are also a trifle loose so that they can be opened.  The looseness can allow in some rain water and small insects if nothing else.  The point at present, however, is neither bugs nor rain water nor even the looseness, although admittedly some windows take a weight lifter to open them and some apartment managements think concerns about it are negligible,  That’s a worthy subject if it’s the alternative entry/exit to a place as is the case with most if not all apartments. 

The topic at hand is “window coverings,” which an interior decorator might call “window treatment.”  Windows are “treated.”  Minimally there are three things that can be hung on a window:  drapes, curtains and blinds.  Very often in nice places there’s a combination.  Drapes that are heavy enough keep out cold and heat.  Of course, closed they also keep out light, in which case there’s less need for a window.  The advantage of drapes is that they can be most easily taken down and washed.  Curtains can be washed, too; but the most likely thing in an apartment house may be window blinds. 

There are window blinds and window blinds, and yours truly having had drapes in one place really likes those best.  Straight out Venetian blinds. even the more expensive kind, do not give a sense of a warm homey atmosphere.  In addition, they are sheer misery to clean, which is really a necessity in some cases, such as if someone in the place is a smoker.  Drapes and curtains can be hung with the slatted blinds, but they do go best on the mini ones.  And. if the manager  is doing the providing, one takes what’s there.  At times it seems like it is best to look for a place that has nothing. 

Odd things can be problems.     

Location, Location

Grandma’s house was on a corner lot.  If it had not been for grandma’s house, yours truly might never have learned to appreciate the appeal of a corner lot.  There is certainly a disadvantage in that a house that doesn’t sit on the corner is protected from the weather on two sides, while one that is can receive more wind, sun, rain and snow.  But, the advantages include free space toward the street side.  There’s room for the spirit to expand.  If there’s little traffic on the street, it’s also likely to be more quiet.  Space for parking cars is important with some houses. 

So, okay….  There’s a lot more snow to shovel in the winter.  And, if it’s a frame house with the open side to the south or west, there’s likely to be a deal more need of paint it.  As with anything there are advantages and disadvantages, if one considers all the factors. The apartment house sits on a sort of knob on the side of a hill.  There’s a confining retaining wall to the back side and toward the south the side of the hill is in clear evidence; but, just a little distance from the building the other two sides are a sheer drop of considerable amount.  There is an openness, but it’s not quite the same. 

Grandma’s house was set on flat land.  One walked peaceably to the door from any direction.  Even a small terrace of three or four steps requires climbing and can be a serious hazard in inclement weather, especially if the place has some additional porch steps.  Grandma’s house was a good place for older people.  At grandma’s age, the hill is okay, even kind of nice insofar as the near openness creating the view goes, but, it’s only okay if someone doesn’t go anywhere or is willing to pay out humungous taxi fare costs.  There’s little likelihood of climbing the hill. 

Predicaments are the unforeseen.