Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A fire is very, very annoying

I’m trying to discipline myself to write every single day and that is one of the reasons I started this blog.  I hope it’s not annoying you because it doesn’t annoy me.  That’s not saying much because it’s pretty hard to annoy me.   Most things really don’t bother me except for the fact that I’m fat and I wish I weren’t and my son’s wedding is coming up and I really don’t want to be fat for that. But I’m not doing anything about it after, around noon.  (Before  noon and sometimes up to around 8 o’clock I’m doing something about that and then I’m not).
That’s partly why this fire thing is so annoying. It would seem you have to be disciplined about it and you have to be disciplined in a very annoying way because you have to do  everything 5 times.  Annoying  seems a funny way to describe a fire but it’s more annoying than most things you could imagine. 
 There are things that are sad, there are things that are debilitating, there’s loss, sorrow, lots of things.  Most things that are annoying are short-lived. A fire and its aftermath go on, and on and on.  Every single day there’s some new  thing, or the thing that was annoying yesterday that will undoubtedly consume time today.
 It's not like some thing you did to yourself.  You know, the kinds of thing you notice over and over again.  And, I’m the one here that does things over and over again. ( That is why, for example, I try to buy toothpaste with the little hinged top although sometimes I forget that it is 100% sure that if the toothpaste tube’s top isn’t hinged, the cap will be gone before the bottom’s rolled up and also I will squeeze it in the middle.)  
A fire annoys in a different all-consuming way.  There are all kinds of things you’re going to have to do that involve pushing buttons on the phone and holding on.  I once had so much time holding on the phone that I googled: "customer service bypass buttons" or some term like that.  There are all these free and pay for  secret customer service phone codes available for virtually every company.  The ads say that you can have three  secret codes for free and for only $4.99, plus shipping and handling, they'll sell you a book with everybody's secret codes and you will never ever have to hold on any phone anywhere ever again and you will always get through to a through to a human being. For an extra $19.95 you can buy the bypass codes for all radio call in shows and they will upgrade your subscription free, for one full year, when the codes are changed.  Three things about this: (a) the free codes don't work, (b)human beings aren’t actually any more helpful than machines and also they’ll disconnect you if they feel like it and (c) I think it explains why I once heard my mother on the Lynn Samuels show and also the radio call in demographic.
Everybody’s been through phone holding on, but usually only once a month or so.  With a fire it’s an all-day/every day and I keep taking breaks and going for walks. This would be a good thing to do if I could actually motivate myself to stay on task, at least in our time zone, when I'm finished walking. I know that it's no use doing anything before 9 or after 5:30.   Those places that say they’ve 24 hour customer service…that’s an absolute lie. They only service if you’ve memorized every single digit in an account you may or may not use.  Also, the account’s password -protected and it’s some goofy password that’s really long that they gave you, and it’s your own damn fault that you didn’t change it when they said you could.  Also, your answer to the secret question that you answered in case you needed it (presumably for something like a fire) doesn’t match and then, well, you know; see (b) paragraph above. 
Anyway, today I was going to write about the burn unit, but then I decided that I would post the you tube video and also some pictures.  But, I couldn’t do that. I can’t figure it out.  I keep being told to “refresh” which sounds like some feminine hygiene commerciaL and is vaguely insulting.  Not as omnious though as the little box that pops up and tells me I’m infected or the other little box that tells me that I committed a fatal error.
And I say, “ha”…I survived a fire.  I’m going to write about you in  a blog and tomorrow, first thing, after I begin my daily diet, I’m getting on the phone with customer service and I'm telling on you, and I’ll annoy them, at least until they hang up on me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Riding in an ambulance is not as much fun as one would think

Before we got caught in a fire in our home, I had never been in an ambulance.  I don’t know if I ever thought about what it’d be like to be in one but I must have sometime because everything about being in one wasn’t like I thought it’d be.
I was asked a couple of questions and the EMT introduced himself.  He was very cordial and when he asked, I gave my name and address, age, contact numbers and some other things. I wasn’t asked for my social security number so that was good.  I was asked my weight and I said, “oh, come on” and the EMT guy said it was okay if I didn’t give it and chatted a little bit about how he was going to put a blood pressure cuff on me and I explained that I was naked under my coat and he gave me a blanket and he did stuff.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear an ambulance, mostly I think that someone’s fooling around with the siren so that they don’t have to be in traffic and I think I might do that sometimes too if I had a siren and an ambulance.  But I make sure that I’m out of the way and I do that on the chance that there’s someone who needs help and I always hope everyone’s okay.    Also, I always think that the person’s lying down on a stretcher gasping for breath and waiting to exit.  But, it wasn’t like that at all.
First of all, it wasn’t luxurious.  And it’s not like one expects luxury but it was a stripped down van decked out with an impressive array of scary looking equipment in easy reach.  It was a pretty bumpy ride and disappointedly I couldn’t hear the siren and I wasn’t aware that we were going through red lights and I would have liked to have been. I did think though that better shock absorbers were needed but that’s probably because I tend to take care of the cars in the family and I’ve been sold them many times.
Then the guy and I talked.  He told me he was going to give me an iv and that was okay.  Then he asked me what I did and I said that I was a dilettante and also I had found out that I was highly unskilled.  He told me that he had been unemployed for a long time and that he was really glad to get this gig and we talked a bit about how hard it was to find a job and I told him I was glad that he found one and he said he was too.
Then he told me that we were going to Weil Cornell and he asked me if I had ever been there before. An I told him that I had my son there and was sort of holding a grudge against them because when that happened the nurses were going on strike and the Shah of Iran was there for cancer treatments and there were all these armed guys all over the place and there were all these demonstrators.  I said that I knew that I wasn’t being fair about that and also my son is 30 so it was a really long grudge for a really long time.  But it probably didn’t matter as I haven’t had much hospital business to pass to them anyway.
Then he said that he knew for sure that there weren’t any demonstrations or armed guards at the hospital and I said that I was happy to know that even though I already did.
I told him that my husband wouldn't be able to hear questions if people were asking him things so he took down information about Terry too.  First he didn't want to but when I told him that I was married to the guy for more than 35 years he was good about it.
I really wanted a drink of water but the EMT guy said he didn’t have any and also he wasn’t allowed to give me any and I asked him why and he said that he didn’t know.  And when I found out why they don’t let you have any water I pretty much figured that he lied to me and that turned out to be a good thing which I’ll tell you about when I post again.

The night we didn't die and also the night someone I don't know gave me underpants

A lot of stuff happened the night our home caught fire.  I don’t want to call a fire an adventure but it is a little bit that. What happened was,  late at night when Terry and I were asleep I woke him up because I heard bottles breaking.  I thought someone was in the apartment.  He jumped up, investigated, shook me, said, “Fire, get down, follow me.”  But I didn’t.
I wrapped a sheet around me and walked out.  I lost that sheet and grabbed a fur coat from our closet, although I would have grabbed anything because I wasn’t so scared that I wanted to be bolicky bare-assed in my hallway. And I’m making this sound like there are many fur coats in our closet, which is not the case at all.  There was one which I tend to think of as “the” fur coat but that doesn’t sound right, and “a” doesn’t sound right either, hence, this explanation.
 It was scary when Terry wasn’t in the hall.  And, it was really scary because the door locked behind me and I didn’t have keys to open it and Terry’s partially deaf and I had the idea that he was lost and he wouldn’t be able to hear noise that would direct him to the door that I was banging on.
It turned out okay because one of the maintenance guys was there and ran a credit card against the lock and the door opened and Terry tumbled out and I keep trying to find out who this was and everyone says it wasn’t them so I still don’t know even though I’m pretty sure it was the compactor guy who works here. 
It took a long time for me to understand why this hero didn’t come forward for credit but I understood when I told someone that this happened and she said that the guy was probably a burglar.   I said that it was more likely that he developed his door-opening skills because so many people here lock themselves out and she said that she liked the burglar explanation better and I said that she thought like that because she lived on the lower east side for a long time and longevity here tends to warp you.
When Terry tumbled out of the doorway, most of the men on our floor and the one below us were in the hallway.    Everyone was saying, “Is everyone all right?” and bunches of people were banging on doors and yelling, “Fire”.  Terry stood in front of the elevator banks and said, “No elevator”, everyone has to take the stairs; there’s help.   And, mostly everyone walked down 18flights…but, then, the firemen came up the elevator and said that it was okay to use it. But I think everyone was going down the stairwell by then.
I wasn’t too worried about this because there was a lot of help and Terry is the kind of guy who people tend to listen to because he has the kind of presence that demands this and he had it even with a sunburned face, singed hair and a sooty bathrobe.  So, that worked out and 18 floors later we met each other in the lobby with bunches of neighbors.
Bunches of official looking people talked to me and I said that the fire was in my home, that it was in the back bedroom and I could give information for Terry who didn’t have his hearing aids on but if they needed to talk to him they should face him and speak slowly and loudly.
I gave my and Terry’s dates of birth and full names to bunches of people and I also gave lots of people both mine and Terry’s social security numbers and it was later that I found out that official fire guys  don’t ask for that so if this ever happens to you, don’t do that.  I think that’s going to be okay though.
When we were in the lobby we were sort of the center of attention and I think people were listening to our responses to questions.  I really hope this is so because some EMT’s were trying to take my blood pressure and they couldn’t get an accurate reading for me because I had on a fur coat and I explained that I couldn’t remove my arm because I was naked and so, forget that.  And that is what I tell myself because soon after that a little old lady pressed a pair of laundered underpants in my hand and it is better to think that she heard this conversation and came to my rescue than to think that I had publicly flashed private parts.  I think the former happened because if I did the flashing thing probably I would have heard about this.  And it doesn’t count when Terry implies that this happened because he knows that I worry about that so he says things to crack himself up and, mostly, me too.
Then, we were off in separate ambulances.  I’ll tell you about that soon.  I’ll tell you how a cell phone was pressed into our hands, how friends met us in the emergency room with clothes and shoes and more underpants and about how generous and caring our community is.  And that is why we’re going to be fine.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Fire on the Lower East Side

This is a story about a fire on the lower east side.  You may have seen the video about it.  It showed a fireball coming out of an 18th storey window along with smoke and an air conditioner.   Someone's screaming, “get the fuck out” and it is pretty scary.  I know all about this because that fire was my home.   My husband and I were home asleep when this fire started and we got out.  And we got out before the fireball thing so it wasn’t as scary as the video even though it was very scary.
Lots of people have seen the video and when they ask how we are I tell them that we are fine and they tell me that they saw the video and when I say, “ we got out” ,   they cry on me.  They say, “I’m glad you’re alive” and I say, “me too”  and I cry on them.
We live in Seward Park Cooperative which is a pretty big place and lots of us know each other by face.  We’re around 5,000 people (I think) so it’s not such a large place that you wouldn’t recognize lots of neighbors but it’s not such a small place that you would know their names.
It’s kind of a funny thing because lots of times when something happens around here you hear about it and lots of times you’re told who was involved.   Mostly, you probably don’t know the person's name so people describe who it is they’re talking about.  And then you know.
The kinds of things that happen here happen in most places and mostly it’s regular stuff.  A lot of it's nice stuff or stuff you’d like to know about, like who had a new baby, or a birthday, or who died, or whose dog died.  And everyone talks about all of the famous people or creative people who live here so you get to hear, “yeah, you know her,  she’s that really pretty woman with the little girls, the red-headed one and the little blonde,”  did you see her on television?  And you hear about who wrote a book, who’s dancing in a ballet, whose album made the charts and this stuff makes you feel good because you always hoped that you would know people like this and now you do.
People get described in other ways too.  People say, “it’s that guy with the big red dog who stands on Grand Street, right by the 14A stop.  People say lots of things and because it’s the Lower East Side sometimes people get right to the point and say, “you see her all of the time, she’s that lady with the really dirty coat who smells awful,” and then they tell about how they once got in an elevator with her and about how she’s a real sad case and about how you shouldn’t get in an elevator with her or anything because you’ll surely throw up.
So, when people who you sorta know come up to you, ask you if you’re who they think you are and you tell them yes and then they throw their arms around you and cry on you ,  well, you know for sure that someone described you and you have to wonder what they said.     And you could probably find out but it’s probably better if you don’t.
A couple of years ago, I broke my toes and the only thing I could wear on my foot was this water shoe that said: “ I heart Jamaica” on it and the heart was a big red graphic and no one ever said anything about it until I met a suburban friend and when she saw that, she said, “what the fuck do you have on your foot?” So I sort of know that that’s one way people might be telling other people who I am but  people are probably saying that I’m a little bit fat and probably other stuff that I don’t actually want to know.  At the moment,  I’m happy that I’m not crying anymore because I don’t want to be that person who’s described as that lady who cries on everyone and I hope that doesn’t happen.  Mostly, because it could.  And the randomness of what could happen here is what makes this place so very wonderful and so very awful.  Sometimes, there’s a brutal honesty here where you get to know things about yourself that you never thought about because people say things to you about you that are obvious to everyone but yourself.
All that is sorta okay.    I mean, it’s the Lower East Side after all, so, you have to expect people to have a shorthand about who you are…and if I found out what that shorthand was about me, I probably wouldn’t be too bothered about it but because I might be I haven’t checked out my own description.
I didn’t used to think about stuff like this.  It began a couple of years ago when I was walking west on Grand Street and I saw a woman whose name I knew.  I said, “hi Eleanor”, and she asked me how I knew her name and she seemed real angry that I knew her name and I had to tell her that I didn’t know how I knew her name.   And that was really uncomfortable and I rattled my brain until I remembered that I had gone to a “Meet the Candidates Night” for shareholders to meet and talk to those running for a director position.  And this woman gave a speech, introduced herself and solicited support for an upcoming election.  When I remembered that I turned around and told her how I knew and then it was comfortable.
People down here are touchy about things you wouldn’t think they’d be so you have to be a little bit careful about things.  It takes a while to know that stuff and sometimes they’re just going to be touchy in ways you’re never going to understand, so, it is what it is.
There’s a lot to tell about the fire and its aftermath and when I started writing this that was what this was going to be about but when I think about it it’s actually more about the lower east side.   And this blog is going to be about that or my take on it anyway.
I want people to know about wonderful neighbors, how hard it is to try to keep a kosher kitchen, how riding in an ambulance isn't as much fun as you might think it would be, about what $5,000 worth of dry cleaning looks like and this and that.    And, if I can figure out how to do it, I'll show pictures of destruction and construction but so far that part isn't looking too good.