Monday, July 5, 2010

Fourth of July, Shmorth of Fuly

Yesterday was not a good day.

It started off promisingly enough, except for one detail- I woke up with a torcicolo, known in English as a 'stiff neck', an unpleasant and not entirely uncommon occurrence for me. It was supposed to be a good day because for one thing, the rain that has fallen continuously and in great abundance over the last week had finally stopped, or at least slacked off, and for another my wife and son were out of the house.

This is a terrible thing to say but I absolutely cherish the days that the family splits and leaves me at the house. I love it because like pretty much everyone in my family I am essentially a loner and have long lists of projects that I want to accomplish, that I can only get to when I don't have a five year old boy dogging my heels all of his waking hours. Currently the most important of my lists is the work related one, which has been getting longer as I have found it nearly impossible to get any work done at home, which unfortunately is now my only option. No bringing the laptop to Starbucks here in Brazil!

I had another item on my agenda for this weekend: shift my sleeping schedule by about three hours to the left. My response to the dilemma of the five year old (who I adore and would much rather spend time with than do something tedious like earn money) has been to do the bulk of my work after he goes to bed. Since he has no bedtime, and goes to school in the afternoon, this has meant that he goes to sleep later and later until now he is usually awake past midnight. This has meant that I have been up until four and five in the morning working, which was fine when I was single and lived in New York, but it's not cutting it anymore so I have to make a change.

In spite of my nearly immobilized neck, my morning and early afternoon went well and I took advantage of the lack of rain to take a bunch of pictures for my website. I was busy running around, taking care of business, when at three o'clock disaster struck.

I didn't realize disaster had struck at first. What happened was the power went out. This happens with relative frequency, about as often as I get the torcicolos (maybe every six months?) Usually it's off for a couple hours and then it comes back on and no big deal. I figured that was what had happened so I didn't worry too much about it; my laptop was fully charged, so I continued with what I was working on and waited for the power to come back on.

When it started to get dark at around six o'clock and the lights still hadn't come on I decided I'd better figure out what was going on. I went out (something I almost never do on the days I have to myself) and much to my dismay I discovered that I was the only one on the street without power. Which meant the electric company had not been notified. Which meant I'd been waiting three hours in vain, and now my laptop battery was dead, and it was dark, and I was screwed.

I called the electric company and was subjected to what was possibly the most obnoxious loop of promotional garbage I have ever listened to while I was on hold. This went on for about fifteen minutes, at which time my call was attended- sort of. I heard a woman talking to a coworker in the background before the line went dead. Well, at least I wasn't on hold anymore. Only problem? I'd been dropped from the queue and had to call back and do it all over again.

When I finally spoke to a representative, I was informed that a team would arrive to fix my lights within three hours. Hmm- nine o'clock. I can handle that. The question now becomes whether I will continue with my plan to go to bed earlier, or catch up on my work and work late into the night as has been my habit- the habit I'm trying to change. As it turns out it wasn't an issue.

Nine o'clock rolled around and still no lights. I called back, this time armed with my iPod to counteract the obnoxious loop of PR as I waited on hold. Thank goodness I'd charged the iPod the day before, it ended up being one of the only bright spots in an otherwise miserable day. This time I was informed that the repair crew was on its way- hooray! So much for the three hour time limit, but at least I'd be rescued soon.

I should mention that I already knew what the problem was. When the lights went out, they flickered a few times as they tried to come back on, and when I went to check the circuit breaker that lives in the metal box on the front of the house along with the meter, I got a shock. This happened to us once before when there was a bad connection: wire comes loose, no ground, human becomes ground, shock. This meant that in all probability it was simply a problem between my house and the pole out front.

By ten o'clock nobody had shown up. On a Sunday in Salvador, unless it is raining very very heavily, there is no point in the city that cannot be reached in an hour of driving from any other, so I called back. This time the news was worse. The team was no longer on its way and they had no idea when it might arrive. No more three hour time limit. No other information, other than that the teams 'work 24 hours a day' and they were aware of the problem and have a nice night with your candles in the dark.

I did the typical futile charade of pitching a fit on the phone. I pay a lot of money for my electricity, unlike a large percentage of this city who steal it. I didn't believe I was going to be helped any longer. 24 hour service? Bullshit. Only if I was rich or connected. These guys were in all probability having a beer somewhere and blowing me off, and the electric company couldn't inform me of this for obvious reasons.

Resigned to the fact that I would get nothing done work-wise I resorted to an improvised backup plan which was to go through some piles of papers that have been propagating in the house in a valiant effort to reduce or eliminate them. I've been working on a site for a guy who goes by the moniker VirgoMan, a professional organizer who has even written a book on the subject. I've picked up some tidbits of his method working on the site and I decided to apply them. I'm not totally disorganized but I do have some packrat-like tendencies which from time to time I beat back much to my wife's pleasant surprise. I sorted through old receipts by candlelight, and then I attacked the huge stack of Lucas' school artwork.

Lucas comes home every Friday with a stapled booklet of his work for the week. I have never been able to throw these booklets away. Our fridge is non-magnetic on the front, so unfortunately I can't post them there. His artwork has been getting more interesting in the last year or so and has even been featured on this blog. However, the stuff from when he was two is, let's face it, just scribbles. And little squares of colored foam glued to paper. There is no reason for me to save these, at least not more than a tiny sample of them. They mean no more to me now than they will in ten or twenty years so why hold on to them? I still have watercolor paintings from my own year in Kindergarten when I attended a Waldorf school, a book of mysterious colored stains on paper. I should throw those away too.

I ended up going to bed earlier than I would have with the lights on, but still later than I'd intended to. I was just drifting off to sleep when at 2:30 AM I heard the distinctive sound of the microwave beep downstairs, so I sat up and the standby lights were on on both the TV and DVD player. It was raining again. I went to the window to see if there were guys with ladders and tools hard at work in front of my house but of course there weren't. The rain or the wind had closed the connection once again.

As I write this, I have just received a call from the repair man, a full seventeen hours after I made my initial complaint. He asked if the problem had resolved itself, and I admitted it had (fool that I am), but also that I was convinced it would come back and I told him why. I told him that the lights had gone out for just a second this morning- which was actually true. He claims he's on his way.


(time passes)


Now it's almost one in the morning and the lights are still on, although they did threaten to fail a couple times... good thing I'm not waiting for the repair dude because he never showed up. Here's a picture I took of the wires where they enter my house. Can anyone say 'up to code?' Can someone else please say 'a disaster waiting to happen?'


Fabio Bossard said...

I like to have the house to myself too. I feel like Macauly Culkin in Home Alone when he finds out he was forgotten at home. Jumping up and down on the bed eating popcorn or like Tom Cruise in Risky Business dancing in the living room in underwear.
I am bit of a loner too.

markuza said...

Fabio- you sure you are Brazilian? :) My wife says the worst fate she can think of is to grow old by herself- then again, she's more of a loner than most Brazilians I know. Maybe that's my effect on her. In the Candomblé loners are generally devotees of Oxossi, as he is the hunter off by himself in the forest. I like that.