Thursday, October 07, 2010

Good First Effort by Hammett

Two Tuesday nights ago, I meant to go to Paul’s class at the Zen Center but instead went to Howie’s. This week, I meant to go to Howie’s but instead Tom and I took Karolina and Matthias out to dinner at a vegetarian Indian restaurant on Valencia St. near 21st St., followed by dessert at the organic ice cream place.

Karolina and Matthias are the musicians from Stockholm who became acquainted with Tom’s brother Paul through a mutual friend and joined us at Sarah’s fabulous dinner party last weekend. They are utterly lovely, extremely agreeable to be with, and we had a very pleasant evening. They said that the moment they became acquainted with Paul, he insisted on lending them phones they could use while in America. Tom’s family is extremely generous and hospitable.

My own phone saga is more or less over. After the landlord said on Monday night that it was OK to have AT&T fix it, I gave them a call and they said that it was too late to specify an appointment on Tuesday—they would only be able to say they would be there between 8 and 5—but I could schedule an appointment on Wednesday, so I arranged for them to come between 8 and 12, and asked Tom if I could use the DSL in his apartment to work from home that day.

By about 11:30, I had the visceral sense that no one was coming, so I called them and the person I spoke to said they’d be there by 7 p.m., as arranged, whereupon I got angry yet again, this time to more fruitful result, anyway, and soon enough, Charlie was in the alley picking through the wires.

(By the way, I told the phone company yesterday that I had waited at home all day last Saturday, only to have no one show up, and the person I was speaking to said, “Our records show we were there on Saturday and also yesterday.” I said, “No one was here Saturday or yesterday,” and the phone company person said, “Oh, well, I guess our repair person was lying in his report,” by which she meant that I was lying.)

(Though, as my mother pointed out, by “there,” they may have meant that they were strolling up and down in front of my building, and I can’t say they weren’t. But I can say they weren’t looking at, touching or otherwise experiencing the phone wires, because I would have had to let them into that area.)

The repairperson himself is in an enviable position. Whereas the customer may have screamed at any number of his office-bound colleagues, by the time the customer sees Charlie, it's all “Oh, boy, am I happy to see you!" Again, not so much because I needed the phone fixed at any particular moment, but because the sight of the person with the tools meant the frustrating process of trying to conjure up that sight was over.

Throughout this whole sequence of events, I’d had a faint, guilty feeling that somehow I had caused this phone problem, or, more likely, that Hammett had, but it turned out there was a short in the alley near the door to the backyard, in a box with wires dangling this way and, quite frankly, that.

(I stole that last turn of phrase directly from Jonathan Coe in The Rotters’ Club.) Pretty much the only person who ever passes through that area, on her way to the backyard, is the building manager. Maybe she bumped it with a ladder or something.

After getting extremely frustrated so many times in such a short period, certainly to the point of losing my temper once or twice, I eventually noticed that, with the storms of emotion raging hither and thither, that which does not change became easier to notice and brought some peace in its wake: awareness itself.

In sum, the phone is working again, and the DSL service I will enjoy as a brand-new customer will be activated next week. It occurred to me that, as our national discussion shifts from the great things we will do in the future to how to mitigate the self-caused disasters already well underway and how we will somehow perhaps salvage this or that from the wreckage of our civilization, maybe this is the last time the phone will break and actually be restorable to its former condition.

Maybe next time the phone breaks, the whole country will be out of wire, and improvisation with dental floss will be necessary, with commensurate declines in sound quality. Which is all the fault of Zuckerberg and his ilk. As pointed out in a recent Newsweek, those who should have been figuring out how to generate renewable energy and ensure clean water and safe food for all—a whole generation of innovators—instead brought us Facebook, Twitter, and Farmville.

Yesterday evening I heard from Hammett an unprecedented noise and discovered that, at the age of four and a half, he had coughed up his very first hairball. It was only about the size of a dime, but I made a big fuss over it, telling him it was amazing and that I was sure his next one will be even better.
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