Do you know what I’ve discovered? No matter how organized a day, how strategically planned a goal, or how focused a vision—shit happens. Whether it’s on a large corporate scale of having purchased a ticket on the unsinkable Titanic or the individual mundane act of getting a flat tire on the way to work on a six-lane highway—there’s always something! (Did you read about the guy in Tampa who was in his bed sleeping when a 100ft wide and 50ft deep sinkhole opened up and swallowed him whole? Apparently, Tampa is prone to sinkholes and I just vacationed there a month or so ago.) What’s up with that? Consequently, I’ve been poking holes in and around my house ever since—checking for depressions in the soil to find any clues of a potential center of the Earth slip-n-slide to China! It doesn’t matter that I don’t live anywhere near Tampa—one can never be too careful when it comes to being obliterated.
Cartoon from www.veryfunnypics.eu
I try not to let the potential threat of mayhem get to me, but sometimes I have a suspicion that even inanimate things conspire to kick my ass by engaging in guerilla warfare against me in a very short time span, as if by attacking in a 1-2-3 punch manner, “they” or “it” will take me out for good. Even as I tell this story, my left eye is twitching like a plastic pin wheel caught up in the aftermath of a tropical storm, and I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop after the debacle of this past week.
IMP. NOTE TO BLOGGING COMMUNITY: If my husband, WW, comes home from work to find me missing one day, you must let him know that I told you this story, and he’ll know where to look for my body. The murderer will be any of my home appliances, the water heater (especially the water heater—it really hates me), the 60-year-old pipes in my post-WWII house, the toilets (I swear I heard one of them gasp in horror at the size of my ass when I sat down on it the other day), and the furnace/air-conditioner. The furnace/air-conditioner will surely be in on the plot because I suspect they are the ring leaders.
Everyone knows that I retired a couple of weeks ago because I arrogantly sent out announcements with a delineation of my “artiste” schedule announcing: “I’M RETIRING TO BECOME A WRITER, PEOPLE—THIS IS SERIOUS” (yes, I bolded “serious” AND underlined it)! “In the morning the Dalai Mama will be gardening, communing with God, and running errands; after lunch I will be writing my “Memoirs of a Nobody” and will be in complete isolation so that my creative juices can flow, because that’s how we writers roll. I will not answer the phone (take your damn drama elsewhere), respond to text messages, or read emails.” (Did I ever tell you that one of my favorite lines of poetry comes from a 1785 Scottish poem by Robert Burns that Hemingway stole?
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!)
At exactly 12:01 on the third day of the writer-at-work hermitage (the first two days I spent farting around reading various books waiting for inspiration to strike, roaming the Internet, and playing Solitaire), as I cracked my inverted finger joints and typed my first profound opening line . . . the doorbell rang.
Snoopy, the Writer|A Charles Schulz Creation
INTERRUPTION #1: “Hi Mrs. Tomczyk. I’m here for your yearly termite inspection on your 60-year-old house which could be prone to these insidious invaders, given all the mature trees that surround your property and the age of your post-WWII home. I won’t take long—I hope. Did you know we’re getting another cicada invasion this year which could destroy that lovely Dwarf Japanese Cherry Tree in your front yard unless you tent it before they arrive? That’s just one of our services as your friendly neighborhood inspection company.”
I did not remember making this appointment with the termite company. I’m sure it was on my electronic calendar at my old job, but when I retired, I lost use of my company calendar. The problem is if you don’t let these service people do their job during the mutually agreed upon appointment time, they will charge you a fee anyway (what balls!), so what was I to do but let him in and follow him around (I never let strange people wander around in my house unattended—that’s a “you’ve been burgled” blog story in the making).
The termite man checked here, there, and everywhere spending most of his time in the basement shining his flashlight on every ceiling beam and corner as he checked for signs of moisture and termite tunnels. After giving my sweet old house a clean bill of health (45 minutes later), he bid me adieu and went on his way, and I went back to my writing.
At 1:00 p.m. on the same day, I was interrupted by another doorbell ring clanging to introduce the annual heating inspector.
INTERRUPTION #2: “Hi Mrs. Tomczyk. Your husband set up this appointment” (in answer to my query of why he was at my house unscheduled) “when we called him to let him know that there had been a mix-up in our data base and none of our contract customer’s furnaces had been serviced. This is the last day we can facilitate such a servicing before your contract runs out, and you’ve already paid for it. Your husband said it would be okay to drop by since you were retired and would be home, anyway.”
Down to the basement we headed as I folded clothes, keeping one eye on the heater man and another on the taped insanity of a thrice-married Steve Harvey giving bullshit marital tidbits to vulnerable audience members (all women) worshipping at his feet and actually taking his lame-ass advice like he was the next black pope (America—are we really that gullible?). As I clicked off the TV in total disgust, I heard the beginning of a colossal rain storm and shouted to the repairman in the next room:
“I didn’t know it was going to rain today. Was it raining when you came in?”
HEATER MAN: “What you talking about, lady. It’s not raining. I’m standing by your basement window across from the furnace, and the sun is streaming in like nobody’s business—it’s a glorious day.”
As I gingerly moved toward a windowed bedroom in the opposite corner of the basement where the sound was most prominent, I looked up as an avalanche of water poured out of a ceiling vent onto my head as if it were an upside down Vesuvius celebrating its right to explode and applauding its timing on having obviously bestowed upon me a little grace by waiting until the termite man had made his exit.
The heater man came running to my screeched exclamation of “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS!”—I’m supposed to be writing”—while we both grabbed buckets and towels and tried to collect the explosive aqua as I shut off the water and frantically dialed the plumber.
HEATER MAN: “This is probably not a good time to tell you this, but although your furnace is in great shape, I checked out your water heater just as a courtesy, and it is about to blow any minute due to its age and sediment encrustation (shelf life for a WH is 10 years; you’ve had yours for 15), and no amount of insurance money will put this basement back to the level of quality that you’ve built after the destruction of a WH blow. The water pouring through your ceiling is bad enough but the gallons of water that will flow from an exploded water tank (probably when you’re on vacation, as is usually the case) will be beyond repair!”
Three days later of non-stop people in and out of my house, two major holes in the wall hacked into by the plumber looking for the source of the leak (took three hours to find), one new water heater at the tune of $1400 dollars (“and you get a 20% discount for being such a loyal customer!”), one dry-waller and painter, my Dolly Parton acrylic nails bitten down to the core, and a stack of repair bills that came close to giving me a heart attack, all I could do was stare at my blank memoir page which was the culmination of my first week as a retired writer, and the only thing I could hear were the parting words of the Heater Man:
“You and your hubby better save your pennies, because as a courtesy, I checked out your air-conditioner, and its got about 6 – 12 months before it conks out on you. That will cost you a cool $5,000. What can I tell you, Lady:
I am discovering that no one gets a pass on mayhem in life—daily or otherwise. Oh, we get respites if we’re lucky, but not only does “shit happen” but “shit always returns.” Which makes me wonder how do people get through life with their sanity intact without belief in a higher power? Who do they go to when they need peace in the midst of chaos and disappointment? But then again, it is amazing how in some of the circles of religious friends where I used to frequent, if the outcome of your personal “mayhemic attack” (an Eleanor term, for sure) was good or landed in your favor, then it was God’s answer to prayer, and “Jesus saved your behind,” but if the mayhemic attack happened to your enemy (one of those nasty liberals, of course) than it too was God’s will and his judgment on their sorry-asses. (This is one of the reasons poor God gets such a bad rap.)
Fortunately, I‘ve disassociated myself from such a self-centered misguided viewpoint and see my own “mayhemic” nightmares as well as everyone else’s as the result of having been born in what JR Ward calls the “Survivor’s Club,” whether we want to have membership in it or not. I just finished reading the book and watching the movie of an ultimate survivor’s tale, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel (the coming-of-age story about an Indian boy who overcomes all the mayhem thrown at him while lost at sea for seven months in the company of an adult Bengal tiger who turns to God, tames the tiger, and survives the sea with all its rage and destructive forces). The older I get, the less I know, but I am coming to understand that as surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, “poo-pooh” occurs in every life from the most insignificant, irritating mishaps to the most cataclysmic events, and we either survive them or we don’t, we either learn from them or we won’t, and we either rise up to find God in the face of the tiger sharing our life’s vessel or we shut our eyes and close our ears to the better people that God beckons us to become by learning from our suffering and having our “best laid plans” interrupted.
NOTE TO SELF: Chill out! You have your plans, but God has his. Next week make your “to do” lists but expect the unexpected. In that space you just might see the face of God and thus your creative, humorous impetus needed to write a good story.
Cartoon by Jems
“Or, God, maybe this was just life. For everyone on the planet. Maybe the Survivor’s Club wasn’t something you ‘earned,’ but simply what you were born into when you came out of your mother’s womb. Your heartbeat put you on the roster and then the rest of it was just a question of vocabulary: the nouns and verbs used to describe the events that rocked your foundation and sent you flailing were not always the same as other people’s, but the random cruelties of disease and accident, and the malicious focus of evil men and nasty deeds, and the heartbreak of loss with all its stinging whips and rattling chains… At the core, it was all the same.”― J.R. Ward, Lover Mine
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