Thursday, November 18, 2004

Bouncing Off the Walls

Relating this event in my journal consumed five hours and five-thousand words. I have no intention of giving it that much time or space here. But I need to mention it because it has become so pivotal. It was the wake up call I needed and it motivated me to get serious about getting my web sites posted as one way to secure at least some of my most important files. That is just a partial solution but it is a start. The event in question had me literally bouncing off the walls in an attempt to rescue what I could of my manuscripts and library books from what I thought was a fire.

It began at 7am on Wednesday, November 17. My in-laws were spending the week at the coast and my husband had just left for work. I was getting ready to sit down at the computer. But first I wanted to take the edge off the chill in the house. It was in the low thirties outside and I had just taken the garbage out and gotten my slippered feet wet. I stood in the hall after turning up the thermostat of the gas heater talking to my two cats as I waited for the heat to start blowing through the vents. I was giving my cats some attention before having to shut the door and leave them alone for most of the day as they are not allowed free run of this house. But instead of the blower kicking on, the gas kicked off and a second or two later the fire alarm went off over my head. And then I smelled the distinctive smell of an electrical fire. The acrid smell of a lightening struck rubber tire.

I raced to the back door and then the front door to throw them open and then raced back to my cats to unhook and untangle their leashes so I could take them out and leash them to the stake in the back yard. I knew from watching such shows as What would you do?, 911 and Oprah that once you are outside you should never go back in but go to a neighbor’s to call 911. But while I was dealing with the cats, the smoke alarm had ceased clamoring and so I risked going back for my manuscripts. My papers and notebooks were spread all over the living room as I had been working with them since Sunday night without the necessity of gathering them up daily since my in-laws had left Monday morning and I had stayed on the computer all day. It had been a long time since I’d had such luxury but that made it the most inopportune time for an emergency. I was stuffing papers and notebooks willy-nilly into my soft-sided attaché case until it bulged. I brought it out to the front porch where I left it on the chair my father-in-law sits to smoke. Then I remembered there were more papers and notebooks in the bedroom. And I went after them. And while I was in there I laid eyes on my library books and the number 64 popped into my head--the number of books I have checked out as the librarian had told me on the previous Friday. At an average cost of replacement of $20 per book that gave me a liability of around $2000 bucks. I could no more bear to be bereft of my library privileges than of my manuscripts. So I began schlepping the books out as well. The first stack I took out to the front porch and put in my husband’s smoking chair. But that was the last safe surface out there. Everything else was covered with the moisture applied by the morning fog. The rest of the books I brought only as far as the front room couch where they would be easier to take the rest of the way if it became necessary.

Since fifteen minutes had now passed and there was no further peep from the alarm and only a dissipating odor to account for the potential tragicomedy (or potential farce) I was participating in--I was becoming bolder about staying inside and started gathering more items like a change of clothing, shoes and socks, jackets, grooming items, purse and personal papers. All this time I was in a panic but it was unlike any panic attack I’d ever experienced. I wasn’t paralyzed by it but highly motivated. And focused. And since I was moving much too fast to watch where I was going, in the careful way my visual impairment requires, I was bouncing off walls and door casings as a way to propel myself around corners and feel my way forward at high speed. In the moment I was living it I was aware of the ridiculousness of the whole scene. And also that I’d set myself up for it by not doing the kind of maintenance of my files that I knew was necessary. How many times did I have to learn this lesson? 1st, 2nd, 3rd

These were the thoughts I carried through the event and on into the following hours and days. And I made some new commitments in response which I will discuss in future postings here or in Joywrite Reflections .

There was much more to the events of that day but of little relevance to the theme of this posting. So suffice it to say that I learned later that day that neither the cats, my files and books, nor myself were ever in danger as when the heater’s fan motor had died the entire mechanism had kicked itself off and the circuit had blown which, I am told though I don’t really understand, prevented the fire spreading.

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