Everything is fine here, nothing is really wrong. That doesn’t stop some things from seeming, in the short term, like emergencies. I have a problem accurately assessing urgency of situations. For example.

1. At the pool on Friday a girl cut her toe and bled all over the place. It was very dramatic and, from my perspective as the lifeguard on duty, scary. She hadn’t bled into the pool — which is a pretty obvious “everybody out!” scenario — but was cut and walking around etc. She was clearly okay, but also needed attention. I went to find the first aid kit and remember what I had been taught to do. I called upstairs to get someone to cover the pool while I dressed her wound and found that the phone didn’t work. Then I went looking for the first aid kit and I couldn’t find it [it was in the unmarked black toolbox, which maybe someone told me at one point] meanwhile there are thirty people in the pool who are sort of watching me do my thing. I put on gloves because that’s what you do with blood, but when I offered gloves to one of the moms who was helping me clean up she said “nah, I don’t need them…” and I wasn’t sure whether to insist or not. The kid wasn’t her kid, but she was the kid’s guardian. I didn’t insist. The kid got a good bandage put on her foot by the building manager who was working that day. I think I did okay, but it was startling to me to realize that the place is a little slipshod and, more to the point, when I reported all of this people said “oh yeah we’ll look into that” I hope to hell they’ve fixed the phone by the next time something happens at the pool.

2. It’s been snowing here a lot this year. This is great. I like snow. However this weekend there were a few warm melty days and the predictable ice damming happened and some water was leaking in to the back porch. I had friends over and they helped me get some of the snow off the porch roof but things really started moving when the fearless neighbor kid hopped up with me and attacked the ice/snow in earnest. We got the roof cleared, the leaking stopped and the neighbor kid’s dad, who is my age, did that thing that people around here do… He said “Yeah you really need work on the front porch too, you’ve got a lot of snow up there” When I lived in Topsham people, well men really, would regularly come through and tell me my barn was six months away from falling down or that my woodstove was a fire hazard or that they could smell propane in my house or whatever. I would get flipped out, try to rectify the situation, get another “What? Nothing is wrong with your ___________ ” comment from someone else and then be totally confused.

So Monday and yesterday I decided to deal with the snow on the front porch. I started with the stuff I could reach through the windows, which wasn’t much but it was a good start. Then, as the first flakes started to come down, I actually borrowed the neighbors’ ladder (had to call my friend up the road to help me lift it) and climbed up it and attacked the ice crust on the roof drifts with a rake. All the while I was wondering whether the snow on the roof was indeed at critical levels or whether I was just a ridiculous flatlander with a too-little-too-late approach to winter home maintenance. Like I know the true emergency steps, when someone breaks a leg or something, but the same way it can be hard to tell if an unfull moon is really full or not, I’m not good at the “is this an emergency?” assessment. Did I need to call roof shovellers? Did I need to climb on the roof at all costs at possible threat to life or limb? Did I even need to go outside yesterday at all? As it was, I got some good exercise and a tuff-looking scratch on my face from the roof rake and I felt like I made a good faith effort to clear snow off the roof. Ultimately though, the only thing that matters is the post-game wrap-up where we see if the roof collapses (so far it has not) and if it doesn’t, I still don’t know if what I did mattered at all.

What do you think?


  1. It’s things like the situations you describe in (2) that make me want to get out of the homeowner business. It *can* eat up a lot of free time.

  2. I’ve never used one, but I thought the point of a roof rake is that you don’t have to climb up on the roof. (According to this guy, using one regularly is also good exercise.)

  3. roof rakes don’t always work well if there’s any kind of icy crust or if the snow is packed hard in successive layers – the rake’s extended handle has to be made lightweight so you can manipulate it easily when it’s high up – but this also means you can’t really get much in the way of leverage or power with it

    definitely good exercise tho – especially the triceps

  4. So I have the same problem with determining whether situations demand “immediate” attention. Mostly, I have been training myself to just hang back and wait. I think working in a public library has helped curb my desire to do something, when nothing is actually better.

  5. Your roof situation reminds me of the climate change debate. If we do what they say and avert disaster, how do we know that we needed to to it at all? At least if Greenland melts and the seas rise 3 feet and all the cities are under water, we will know that one side was right.

  6. Calculating snow loads is a tricky business– there’s lots of parameters to consider– but as a rule of thumb, I wouldn’t worry about anything less than a standing foot of snow on a roof of ordinary quality.