Thursday, September 15, 2005

Don't Bug Me

I have been angry this week. Angry at people, furious at time, enraged at songs on the radio. Nights were frustratingly sleepless and sometimes tearfully dark. My theory as to why involves a chemical imbalance having to do with the changing seasons, missed pills, or maybe a bachelorette diet of sugar-free ice cream and ceviché. I don’t really have any legitimate reasons to be upset. Well, maybe one, but it’s complicated. And ridiculous.

I spent quite a few work hours this week happily ensconced in the specialized trailer of the three-man dive team that came to inspect our storage reservoirs. Watching the live feed from their helmet-mounted cameras was like discovering the Titanic all over again: twisted, corroding forms emerging from murky depths in the harsh artificial light. Five of the City’s seven concrete tanks hold 1,000,000 gallons of treated water each, and the other two hold 250,000 and 750,000 gallons, for a total of six million gallons. They were all built at different times in the last sixty years, and are in different stages of disintegration. The original roofing on two of our main reservoirs up at the plant was iron. New roofing was installed over the old and the iron, which is extremely corroded, is crumbling into the stored water in rusty chunks. Wearing dry suits and lead-weighted vests, Jerry, Dave and Ivan used custom-built PVC vacuums to suck up the accumulated sediment, piles of powdery rust, and the odd scrap of paper or bit of bottle glass. They were very professional and extremely personable, but Dave drove his big GMC Duramax diesel dually with the fifth-wheel trailer like a maniac. There were times I had to look away, like when he flipped a U on Front Street in the middle of lunchtime traffic.

This morning Barry and Dave came up with a truck-mounted pump to drain the manhole that houses the isolation valve for a tank that needs flushed. Barry and Dave are little boys in tall men’s clothing; a pair of lanky pranksters so hilariously in tune you’d think they were clones. When I worked at City Hall they made daily pilgrimages to raid the kitchen, demolish Rick’s office (they once Scotch-taped every pen and pencil they could get their hands on to his computer monitor), harass Jo (who practically raised Barry), and do their best imitation of punch-drunk Rocky, hollering his petite wife’s name from the boxing ring, one on either side of my desk. They would gesture at my brass nameplate for emphasis, as if I could ever forget that my mother named me Adriane. (The story goes that Dad only approved of the names Mom picked for my sister and I because he thought that both Adrienne Barbeau and Morgan Fairchild were hot. That’s not where she came up with the names, though.) Despite their juvenile humor, Barry and Dave are capable and willing, and rather nice to have around when there’s work to do, if you can get them to focus.

Also this morning, Martin came up to see why Bud’s computer wouldn’t print. Martin is the community IT guy, a friendly, smiling fellow with a bushy mustache and a voice that belongs in animated film, low and loud and gritty from smoking, his speech gently slanted by his southern upbringing. And in that remarkable voice he speaks a technological dialect nobody else in town can understand, even though we pretend we do, and nod and smile. I like just being in the room when he works. I feel like I’m in the presence of a higher power as his fingers fly over the keys and huge catastrophes are averted. The comical voice disguises a quick and analytical mind. The man is extremely intelligent, and just plain pleasant to be around.

After this busy morning, Bud and I sat scouring drawings of the reservoir system, trying to find a way to isolate tank number three without cutting off water to half the town. It’s a badly engineered system. We were also comparing lifetime injuries. Bud’s count? Twenty-two broken bones. Thirteen simultaneously, on one occasion. He’s had two pins in his ankle for forty years. His tally obviously won. I’ve never broken anything (knock on wood). No stitches, no stings. I even have very few scars. Just that pale, swirly place on my neck where a tree branch once attempted to dislocate my voice box (you try climbing a slippery cottonwoood sometime and see how you fare), some cat scratches, a whittling accident or two, and the streak of graphite in my palm from the wound of a sharpened pencil. Everybody’s got pencil lead. Mom’s is in the tip of her nose. Where’s yours?

I rent half the basement of an old, old house. My flatmates are two cats and many, many species of insects, most of which are pretty uninvasive. Ugly little black water beetles, tiny powdery millers, sluggish daddy-long-legs, and other less amusing spiders. Too many bugs for the two cats to eat, unfortunately. You can see why I habitually do a brief reconnaissance of the shower stall before I step in, looking for eight-legged voyeurs. Tuesday I did not, and that was a mistake. As soon as I wet my hair, I spotted the big, hairy hobo spider trying to cling to the slick tile. I loathe hobos. Google them and you’ll find droves of sites about the bodily harm this nasty, poisonous European import can do. I forced him out of the V of the wall with a blast of shaving cream and, in my rage and panic and desire to see him dead, put the massive Tresemmé conditioner bottle right through the wall. Did I mention I also have termites?


Blogger Shepcat said...

I must have gotten the lead out. I remember swatting at someone in the school cafeteria when I was in junior high and breaking off the sharpened point of their Dixon Ticonderoga in my palm or forearm, but upon close inspection two decades hence, I can't find any traces of graphite. Either I managed to remove it or I've long since absorbed it into my bloodstream.

September 17, 2005 at 1:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was 15 when I got my first broken bone. This is surprising considering that I did not lead a sheltered life. When I was 4 or 5 my friend Lee and I got his tricycle up to about 30Km/h down their driveway. Anyway my first broken bone I got while playing ball tag on a balcony. I went to jump off and my foot got caught in the railings and I fell head first. Broke my radius and for good measure dislocated my ulma at the same time.

My second break was a motorcycle crash when I was 25 where I broke my wrist.

As for pencil lead? Most of mine when in my stomach. I had a habit of eating anything made of wood when i was younger. Pencils, cardboard, paper, you name it I ate it. That never stopped until I left school in 1993 although every so often I eat the odd bit of cardboard or paper.

And no the pencils weren't made of lead. ;-)

September 21, 2005 at 3:45 PM  

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