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.
I apologize in advance for the extreme wonkiness of this post, again.
So, swimming the length of Lake Champlain didn’t quite work out, but I did pretty okay. As of June, I was ahead by about ten or fifteen miles. However I pulled my shoulder swimming a little too much and then took to my bed for about a month. Well, not exactly, but I didn’t swim in any case. September saw another few weeks out of the pool when I tried to get tricky and do that breathing-out-of-both-sides thing I hear is so popular in freestyle nowadays and pulled some muscle I didn’t know I had. In any case, by the Autumn it was clear that I was either going to have to go full-out towards completing my goal and risk further injury, or go walk around in the leaves some. I made the obvious choice. I still managed to put in 82 miles this year which is less than I’d hoped but pretty awesome in my opinion.
I swam 111 days this year for 82 miles total which is about 3/4 of a mile per swim.
I swam 130 days last year for 79 miles total (it says 80+, I don’t know why I said that, wishful thinking?) which is about 3/5 of a mile per swim.
This year I was away from home even more than last year. I’m calling this all a success. I got special swimmers’ shampoo from my sister for holidaytime and I’m on my fourth swimsuit since this all started way back in Summer 2005. I am also a lifeguard, though it doesn’t come up much. That is the year in swimming.
My friend Colin Lingle read a story at one of my open mic parties which were semi-regular occurences when I lived in Seattle. I liked it so much I asked him if I could put the story online and he said yes. The title of this post comes from it, the story is called The First Thing. I think the sentiments he expresses are very familiar.
So I’m in Dubai and it’s wonderful and pretty foreign feeling. I took a very crowded flight here which was full of mostly non-Americans and was a little too tightly packed to read all the Wikipedia articles I’d saved about the place. I still haven’t read them. I watched a lot of Doctor Who and the Simpsons movie. When I lived in Romania I remembered visiting Turkey and getting off the train in Istanbul after a long and crowded trip and being amazed that the place smelled like food and … something … instead of garbage and sewage. Dubai smells like flowers and grilled meats and heady incense and someplace else. I type backwards into the Google box. A few sites I like to visit are blocked entirely. The call to prayer wakes me vaguely at 5 am and I’m not sure why I’m awake.
Today is my big talk and the workshops I’m leading, so I’ll feel a lot more settled once they’re behind me and not looming and I’ll be sure to let you know how they are. To work off a little extra nervous energy I went swimming last night in the next door pool. I don’t think I’ve ever been swimming outdoors in a pool at night before (ponds and lakes, sure, but it’s weirdly different doing lap swimming much less wearing a hot pink bathing suit outside in a Muslim country) and, like most other experiences here — besides my morning coffee which I’m enjoying as I type this — it was familiar and yet totally different.
I’m now officially certified as a lifeguard by the Red Cross. apparently this sort of thing runs in my family. My Dad was a lifeguard and so was my grandfather (on my Mom’s side). I explain more about the story with the accompanying Flickr photo but here’s how my week went.
I had class from 4-9 pm each night Monday through Friday. Most nights we were done by 8 but some nights we weren’t. The other students in my class were three VTC students, one high school kid, one other guy from the community about my age and two lifeguards who were training to be lifeguard instructors. The instructors were two no-nonsense women sent by the Red Cross. We split the classes up between watching Red Cross videos, going over and practicing first aid, and going over and practicing drowning and rescuing. Then we’d have tests on these things culminating in an all-day testing situation on Saturday from about 9 til 1.
I do good on tests. I have an okay head for numbers and first aid mnemonics. I am a strong swimmer. What I am NOT any good at… is drowning. Part of the class involves pairing up with other students (the female instructors make sure the women in the class are teamed up with the guys because they want to make sure the guys get used to grabbing women in rescue situations where usually they’d be more like “um, excuse me”) and practicing rescuing each other. In most ways in the class I felt like I was holding my own as a (relative to the rest of the class) old lady, but I was the worst drowner of them all.
I could tell myself it’s because I have asthma and I’m not good at holding my breath or whatever but the truth is that waiting under six feet of water for some high school student to drag me to the surface when I KNOW there are better options is just not something I’m good at. I was sort of happy with myself for being able to just suck it up and do it. As I get older, there are fewer and fewer situations where I need to suck it up to do anything or accomplish anything. I’ve sort of created my life this way and overall I’m pleased with that. However it was nice to know that for a good reason, I could suck it up and just take orders in order to learn things.
Every night after Monday I came home sore and every day I’d take ibuprofen and drag my ass back to the pool and do more practice rescues and swimming and tests. It’s not like 30+ hours of class is all that grueling, but I think they normally break it up over a few weeks. By Saturday morning I was feeling feverish and just out of it, but I made it through the tests okay — as did everyone, I think the goal is for everyone to finish up cerified (certifiable?) — and I came home afterwards, popped in to a friend’s house to say hello and then went home and slept for almost twelve hours. I woke up today feeling much better — even went for a little hike — and didn’t even think about going to the pool. Normal swimming will resume on Tuesday.
It’s tough when it’s school vacation. This is not because there are more teenagers on the street or because the library isn’t open as much. It’s tough when it’s school vacation because the pool schedule gets erratic becaue most lifeguards are on vacation. When I’m having an otherwise good day that goes south, I can’t work it off in the pool. Or, I may show up all ful of piss and vinegar expecting to swim and then can’t. In this case only vegetable soup will save me, apparently. I’m up to 35 miles for the year.
In any case, these are the milestones from this week, both up and down.
- Ola is getting relocated to Botswana. I got a series of confusing emails from her where it looked like she was leaving Kiribati because of safety/transportation issues (not hers personally as I understand it, but the country’s generally) and might be back soon. I went through about 24 hours of “Oh my god, I just got this place working like a finely oiled machine” Then she emailed and said she’d be going to Botswana instead. She’s getting back to California on Monday and heading out to Africa in mid-April. I will likely not see her, but I’ll probably talk to her on the phone. She seems okay with the change, but she’ll have done more plane travel than me without all the fun vacation part of the trip. I’ll keep you posted on her whereabouts.
- I had a Kafkaesque run-in with the health insurance company. They bill on the 15th of the month. If you haven’t paid by the first day of the next month they cancel your health insurance, effective immediately. Now, I’ll jump through a lot of hoops for low cost health care, but I sent a check and… something happened to it. I was jetlagged, who knows where I sent it, or maybe it arrived and slipped through a crack. By the time I figured it all out, it was Tuesday and I spoke to many nice people who claimed that the ONLY way, the only way to pay my health insurance bill was via check, via the mail. No person could take my money, no phone representative would take my credit card, no state worker would confirm my check had been delivered, no one would take my eleven dollars. Their back up plan was to give me an address to Fedex a check to when I asked where I could drop one off. I was very nice and, in my most pleasant phone manner asked if they were really going to cancel my health insurance because their system was so antiquated they did not have a post-1950’s system for taking my money. Eventually I got through to someone whose job title included the word “grievance” and was given an address, in Waterbury, where just this once, I could drop a check off. It felt like a somewhat hollow victory but at least I don’t have to worry about getting his by a bus.
- I went to see a fancy ear doctor about the ringing in my ears that’s been going on for the past few months. She says my hearing is fine, but the ringing may not go away. It was nicer the way she said it than the “suck it up” way my doctor said it. I’m not being driven crazy by it, but that’s partly because I’ve been doing my best to ignore it — been working okay so far. Don’t expect to hear anything else from me on the subject, it’s one of those weird topics where endless talking about it actually makes it seem worse than it is.
- I got an article published in Library Media Connection magazine (yay!) and they screwed it up (boo!). One of the hardest things for me about writing is that I dislike being edited, a lot. I’ve found a few editors I work really well with, but maybe it’s the profession or maybe me being a perfectionist but I swear I’ve had more errors injected into my articles via editing than taken out of them. In this case a perfectly good screenshot that I’d supplied was replaced with a different screenshot, of a completely different part of the website, that didn’t illustrate what the caption said it did. My first inkling that this had happened was seeing it in print. I got a very nice apology from the editor but also a “gee I don’t do layout” admission so it’s still a mystery what exactly happened.
Good things that happened included my Excel class that has been going gangbusters and my hilarious (to me) sample spreadsheet that I whipped up for Seven Dwarves LLC for everyone to work on. I also got a copy of my friend Meredith’s book Social Software in Libraries in which I am one of the two back-cover blurbers. I went to Maine last weekend for a MetaFilter meetup and to see some friends and it was a great excuse for a day away. You can see some dorky pictures here. I also went to Small Dog and finally bought a dongle for my newish laptop so that I can use it with a video projector. I then came home and showed it off to Forrest and Kelly who already had one that they never used. It never occurred to me to ask “hey before I drive off the Burlington, do you guys have a spare dongle?” I made another little semi-boring movie. The house next door is for sale again if anyone would like to be my neighbor. The property value has been decreased by one birdhouse which I stole because squirrel piss destroyed one of mine. Won’t you be my neighbor?