Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Power Failure

Saturday morning at 10:30 I was applying “weekend makeup.” This means just enough so I feel like I have at least tried to not scare small children with my transparent paleness. My mind was wandering with plans of printing out pricing information for skate packages in preparation for speed skate shopping. There was a crack outside. Then the lights went out. The power lines that usually stretch through the tops of the trees behind the house were no longer visible. I called the electric company to report the problem and headed to Dunbar Cave for a walk.

An hour later, electric company vehicles were parked around the corner at an access point to the utility right of way that was, just two or three months ago, the site of the removal of an entire line of trees. Bits of branches that had grown around the power lines over the years still hung on them like random beads on a string.

After puttering around a house suddenly rendered incapable of access to the outside world via Internet and television, and useless for tending to laundry, vacuuming, or preparation of any food requiring the electric stove, toaster oven or microwave (i.e. everything on site except one stale overlooked cookie and some freezer-burnt ice cream), I decided to go out. Seriously, what was the point in remaining home? I couldn’t even eat lunch. The electric situation didn’t actually drive me out of the house, but it sure got me rolling to my destination instead of goofing off online all day. Come on, we all know about the time vampires known as Facebook, yahoo mail, online news services, online video games. Or is it just me?

By noon, it was it was a million degrees out and humid. This is an obvious exaggeration, but my recently installed heating and cooling system’s thermostat ceased displaying the outside temperature on the fateful day in February when it was subjected to the follow up “load balancing visit,” and now registers the outside temperature as either “- -“ or something more outrageous like “115” or “-31”. I’m pretty sure these are wrong. If it was really 115 or -31 degrees out, there would certainly have been a Facebook update from at least one of the several local news sources in my friends list. Heck, that’s how I got ALL my info during the recent flood.

Knowing it was hot from walking 1.9 miles, but not how hot, due to the aforementioned thermostat issue, I braved the netherworlds under the beds in search of summer clothing. While hanging summery skirts in the closet and overstuffing a drawer with short sleeved tee shirts and sleeveless shells I vowed to get rid of at least half of the stuff before finding what I was looking for – cargo capris. I was going to Asphalt Beach Skate Shop in Nashville for Roller Derby skates (yes, for real) and didn’t feel like dealing with long jeans.

By the time wardrobe excavation was completed an electric company truck had arrived in the driveway. On my way out, I chatted with the dude working in the woods at the end of the driveway and learned that the utility pole back there had rotted below ground and snapped. The utility company would need to bring in equipment through my driveway (no problem) and may need to trim some tree branches (heck, yes!). I was leaving, so the driveway would be clear for their use.

En route to Nashville, I called my sister. Upon hearing of Operation: Get Skates she exclaimed that “Roller Derby Queen” was one role in which she never, ever pictured me. Ha! My frustrating, alleged ‘career’ and lifelong string of failed relationships have filled me with sufficient reserves of resentment and hostility to propel me to certain success in it. That, and my incredible balance and catlike reflexes. She told me some of her high school classmates were starting a roller derby league back home which sounded a lot like another hint to move home.

Thankfully, in spite of the collapsed-utility-pole-induced information blackout, I had a general idea of where I was going – East Nashville, somewhere near my new favorite vintage store (The Hip Zipper). An art festival was going on and the street was closed. I parked and set out on foot through the festival, misread the street signs at the strange five way intersection and ended up trudging a few extra blocks in the wrong direction in the oppressive humidity, my antiperspirant failing, grateful to not be wearing synthetics, happy to be wearing casual walking shoes and capris.

Eventually, the skate shop emerged like a desert mirage and the front door was swung open to me in an air-conditioned greeting by Steve, professional speed skater/ skate salesman/ doorman. After understanding my quest, he measured my feet, a simple service long abandoned with the self service shoe departments and stores of today. Turns out, the size I need is a full size smaller than what I thought. The value of personal service!

Steve fitted me with some sweet (I mean fierce!) derby skates. I stood up in them, moved three inches and promptly landed on my butt. It was kind of funny. Well, except for the pain and humiliation. And the cluster of male employee witnesses not doing much at that moment. I laughed that “gravity is not always my friend.”

New friend Steve set me up with a skate package used by many of the Nashville Rollergirls, including upgraded bearings and outdoor wheels. It’ll be a return trip for pads and a helmet, now that I know where the place is. He gave me a bumper sticker (something about “skating good in the hood”) but I forgot it on the counter.

Then, in the ultimate act of customer service and chivalry, Steve walked me the several blocks to my car, schlepping my bags in the blazing heat. I told him he didn’t need to be my porter, but he said he didn’t mind because it was nice outside and slow in the shop. Heck I’ve had husbands and boyfriends who usually tried to load me like a pack mule with their shopping bags so their own hands were free to send text messages and talk on the phone. Good thing I am tougher than I look.

At home, four utility trucks filled the driveway, so I redneck-parked on the front lawn. There was functioning electricity, Internet and cable. I fired up the computer and the TV. I laced on my new skates and did laps through the house on the hardwood floors and the kitchen linoleum (or whatever it’s called nowadays – vinyl? inlay?) I got comfortable enough to lose focus for a second, and promptly landed on my butt in the kitchen, signaling the end of playtime.

Shortly afterward, there was a knock on the door, and a man on my porch who said he was picking a tick off his leg told me they were aware of the giant tire ridge along the side of my lawn and confessed they had messed up the concrete at the end of the driveway. Hmmm. He promised the cable and Internet would be fixed “as soon as possible,” which was funny, because it was on. But in no time, during a Sex in the City episode on some cable channel and in the middle of chatting online with Patti, the cable and Internet connections were lost. But I still had lights with which to admire my skates. I parked my sore butt on the couch, popped in a DVD and wrote. Sent Facebook updates with my cell. Read a book. And visualized gliding around the skating rink the next day.

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