success snow storm


Richard Brautigan wrote a very short story that I’ve always liked called Complicated Banking Problems, about a guy in line at the bank and the amusing things people ahead of him are doing, things that are taking forever. The guy right ahead of him has 848 checks to deposit which cover the counter “like a success snow storm” an evocative phrase that’s always stayed with me.

The last few weeks have been full of paperwork, mostly executor stuff (I can not bring myself to say ‘executrix’ it sounds silly) and some of my own stuff. It’s mostly the good kind, bills to pay, papers to sign, communications from lawyers and tax people and money people, money moving around, papers to fax, stuff to file. I’ve finally mostly gotten things into a sustaining system where it’s not all in piles around my house, but until this point I’ve been looking around and thinking “success snow storm” in its own bizarre way. Not that someone dying in your life is in any way “winning” anything, but that a life devoted to working hard and earning money and supporting your family (as my father’s was) can be assessed to be a success if that’s what you wound up doing, met those goals, didn’t leave people a mess to deal with (as my father mostly didn’t). It sounds weird to write it all out like this, but that’s the refrain in my head lately. I encourage anyone who doesn’t have a health care proxy, a regular current will, and clear documents for your surviving family and friends to get on that. It’s important.

And since I’m a weird Yankee, I find it difficult to talk about a lot of this. My sister gently teased me for saying I was going on a spending spree because I bought two six dollar camp chairs when my old ones still worked (sort of, they are rusty) and I am sheepish when asking for advice about how to talk to the gardener at my father’s house, a house on its way to becoming mine and my sister’s. There’s a lot going on.

And this is in addition to other things you might have heard about. The flood (I am fine, immediate neighbors are mostly fine, people further out, less so), a friend visiting for a nice long visit, and a weeklong trip down to Massachusetts where I got to do the thing I’ve been missing up here in my treehouse, get to hang out with a bunch of friends at once, where there is space for everyone and things to do or not do. I love living in a small one-person place here, but it’s nice to have the option of a twelve-person sleepover when it’s appropriate. If you couldn’t make it or didn’t know about it or whatever, there will be other opportunities. For now I’m back at home, filing papers, making grilled cheese sandwiches with my new little griller ($3!) and wondering where my wool socks got to. It’s not quite Fall yes, and the Virgo Month of Leisure has some time left, but it smells like leaves and it feels like hunkering-down.

What do you think?


  1. your comment about the gardener reminded me the same debate you’re having with the plow guy – on which i have a different perspective. i know it makes sense to only want to pay him to plow when you’re coming down (while at the same time feel guilty for not doing it his way), if it makes you feel better, try thinking of it this way (which is perhaps how he thinks of it): to him, you’re signing a contract to keep the driveway passable all winter long. the amount of snow that falls on the driveway during the winter is a constant. it is also true that the driveway needs to be clear when you want to go there. so, if it snows on week one, and then again during week two, and you want to go there on weekend three, it is logical, in one sense, to have him plow right before weekend three, and not every time it snowed. but, whether he plows after each storm or just once right before you come, he’s still plowing the same amount of snow. some will surely melt, but there’s a good chance that whatever melts will turn into ice and be harder to plow right before weekend three than it would have been to plow after each storm. so maybe the real problem isn’t when or how he plows, but when and how he bills you. if he sends you one bill for “winter plowing,” that might be a better way for you to think of his service, rather than him sending you a little niggling invoice every time he hits your driveway. that way, you can both agree on a fair price for the service, and he’s free to fulfill his end of the contract however he feels best. or maybe that’s just the way i think. and maybe i think about these things way too much – don’t even get me started on the lawnmower man.

  2. The snowfall of checks reminds me of the problem I’ve seen of efficient online operations. Anything that you can do online now, you do, from bill paying to printing postage to bank paperwork. Anything complicated requires going to a retail location like a bank branch, post office, or what have you.

    On the rare times I have to get in line at a post office, everyone in front of me has something complicated or they simply don’t understand what how anything works. If it were simple or they understood it, they’d choose the more efficient path of handling it online (or at least using a self-service kiosk).