Thursday, February 05, 2009

Workstation Woes

This was one of the pictures I prepared for last night's post and then somehow missed it when I uploaded the dozen or so pictures. I wonder now if it might have felt slighted. Because at noon today with Mom occupied in the living room with her physical therapist, I was settling in for what I hoped would be a productive work session in the new workstation setup I had just finished putting together as my Mom was settling down to sleep last night, when a confluence of events insured that I would spend the next two hours tearing this section of my 'office' totally apart and putting it back together in a slightly new configuration--temporarily minus three books--finishing up just as my Mom was settling for her afternoon nap. Sigh.

What happened was that I was sitting on the bed with this section at my right elbow and my desk--the TV tray with my laptop on it--slid over my knees. I was listening to XM radio online with earbuds but in anticipation of a call from Ed at twelve-thirty, I had also clipped the hands free earbud for my cell phone to my collar. I had moved the mousepad you see in the picture onto the desk beside my laptop and the Discman was sitting where you see the mousepad. Where you see the Discman there? That's where I had set my coffee mug full of very hot coffee.

Do you see where this is going?

My coffee mug is a large, double-walled, wide-bottomed, lidded cup. It doesn't tip easily. So I am usually confident having it with me near my laptop and books. I am usually obsessively careful about it. This time there were too many new variables--I was still learning the new configuration of things--where to reach and how far to pick something up or set something down.

Then my sister came in to tell me that Mom's physical therapist would be bringing Mom in here to do some exercises with her. That they were on their way down the hall. She busied herself straightening out the blankets on Mom's side of the bed and as she did pushed some items of mine that had encroached back over the center line saying, You might want to move these because she'll probably be having her swing her leg to the side. And then she squealed and exclaimed: Bradley! What are doing in there. And then to me: I thought it was a wrinkle in the blanket but Bradley was under there. Bradley is their cat.

I had been reaching across my coffee cup to slide a couple pieces of cardboard into that box full of clipboards and notebooks. At the sound of my sister's squeal, I turned to look over my left shoulder and unthinkingly pulled that piece of cardboard back towards me, forgetting to lift it above the coffee mug. Oh how I wish I had kept my eyes on my right hand instead. Especially since my sister was already heading out the door by the time I had turned to look. I felt and heard the cup go over and by the time I looked back to my right it was already gushing hot coffee across that board toward the bed there to the righ of that mousepad you see in the picture. You can just see a tiny piece of the cornor of the mattress there.

I reached across with my left hand to grab the cup as I tossed that carboard into the box. I saw the lake of coffee and felt myself freeze for a second trying to think what to do. I was penned in by my desk. The only thing within reach for staunching that flow of fluid was Kleenex. There was a nearly full box on the headboard on my Mom's side. The kind that opens on the side. I grabbed a stack over an inch thick and stuffed it between my Discman and the row of books. And then I tried to push my desk away so I could stand up. But I was wearing those earbuds. I tried to take them off but they were tangled up with the hands-free earbud for my cell phone which I had--just minutes earlier thought was a bright idea to clip onto my collar in anticipation of my husband's scheduled phone call at twelve-thirty.

I unclipped the cell phone's earbud and let the tangled mess fall to the floor as I pushed my desk away from me. I was just standing up when Mom and her physical therapist were entering the room. All the while I had been and continued to sing-song: Dang, dang, dang, dang, dang, dang. I was fighting back tears and felt the old blubbery ugly cry coming on.

Fifty-one years old and about to wail like a three-year old who has just knocked over their milk. And in front of a stranger to boot.

I was grabbing up books three and four at a time and glancing at their bottoms as I dropped them on the bed to grab the next ones. Some of them slid off the bed to the floor, just missing my feet. One stack I grabbed was too big to hang onto one-handed and I dropped two of them. The tears welling up were making it even harder for me to see whether I had got the tissues in place in time. Then I spotted the first damp-edged book. It was my Rodale's Synonym Finder. And I truely don't know how I managed to hold back the wail.

That's the fat burgandy colored book to the right of the spiral ring backed book in the picture above. I have never been far from my Rodale's since I bought my copy in 1988 a year or so after I had discovered the one in the reference section of the college library. It was one of the few books from my personal library that I brought with me on the buss when we left Sunnyvale California. I'd even had it with me for those two weeks we were living on the street down there.

Then in the summer of 2004 one of my waterbottles got tipped over and my Rodale's was one of two victims. The bottle and tipped over either as I had been moving my stuff out to the living room to begin my graveyard shift session on my in-law's PC or it had been tipped over by one of the cats after I left the room. At any rate, it had soaked the carpet near the spot my Rodale's sat. By the time I found it hours later the bottom half of the book had swelled to tripple it's normal size.

The following afternoon I put it on the bottom of my backpack and stacked these heavy bricks on top of it and then set the backpack outside in the sun. I checked on it frequently the first couple of days but it was obvious it was going to take it awhile to dry so I stopped obsessively checking on it. Then one day I opened up the backpack and saw that the book was growing a fur coat of many colors. Mold and mildew!!! Of which I am seriously allergic. When I showed Ed, he first said, You might as well toss it. We were out on the porch at the time and I was standing there holding it at arms length. The outdoor garbage can was steps away. As I pictured myself dropping it in I felt my chin wobble. Ed took pity and said, Put it back in the bag and I'll see what I can do later. We had a houseful of company at the time.

Later he scraped of the colorful fur with his pocket knife and then sprayed the book with Lysol. Then I put a sock on my hand, sprayed it with the Lysol and proceeded to wipe down every one of the 1360 some pages to insure that the mold would not regrow. Many of the pages toward the back--T through Z-- had been stained by the black mold and were hard for me to read. But it was better than doing without.

Well the Rodale's you see in the picture above was brand new in 2006, a Christmas gift from my then 13 year old niece who had several times in the previous year helped me look up words and read the list of choice off to me. So seeing the big stain across the bottom of it this afternoon was about the final straw. I changed my chant from Dang to Not again! My sister had followed Mom and the therapist in by then and I held it up and said, You remember the story about this one don't you! She nodded and reached across the bed and took it from me. She thumbed the pages and then left the room with it. Meanwhile I continued checking the books and mopping up the coffee.

I found two more damaged books. Diane Hacker's Rules for Writers--the spiral-backed one next to the Rodale's. And the one to the other side of it--Volume I of the Great Books Syntopicon. I found Rules for Writers first and thought it was the last of the books to check so had taken it in to the kitchen where my sister was busily stacking Encyclopedia books ontop of the Rodale's in front of the fridge where it vents warm air nearly constantly.

She took the book from me and I returned to the bedroom where I realized the second Syntopicon book was unaccounted for. I found it on the floor a few moments later and my heart sank to see it too had a great stain across the bottom that also went up the side a half inch or so. The damage did not go as deep in as with the other two books since this one had a hardback cover that had lifted the book off the board an eighth of an inch or so. But the pages are nearly tissue thin and fragile.

I took it in to my sister but she was still busy trying to figure out how to wieght down Rules for Writers. She couldn't just stack books on it with that fat spiral back. She eventually took one of the offending pieces of cardboard that I had been trying to put away when this started and folded it around the book and applied a clamp to it and set it in front of the fridge. Then set the Syntopicon there with a couple of Encycolpedia on top of it.

Later I took the Encylopedia off the Rodale's to check on it. I didn't think it or the Syntopicon had enough weight on them. So I lay the Syntopion atop of the Rodale and then combined the two stacks of Encyclopedia on top of that and topped it off with a set of sand-filled ankle weights that felt to my hands like about five pounds each. Thus they still sit. I just checked on them all again. I couldn't get a good look at the one with the clamp on it so I can't see how it is doing. The other two are looking remarkable well. Tho the stains are ugly it appears that the warping of the pages may be minimal. It could have been so much worse.

The most remarkable thing of all is that, unlike many times in the past with such aggravating events, I did not allow myself to be completely set off course by it. I went on to have several productive work sessions. The first while my mom napped. The second after an hour long session on the tramp. The third after dinner. The fourth after my sister went to bed--this one. Tho there were a few miscelany tasks the primary thing I worked on today was continuing the organization of the topics in my novel Spring Fever's WhizFolder file. More about that in tomorrow's Friday Forays in Fiction post.

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