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Archive for August, 2010

5:30 a.m. on a rainy morning in late August is a very different proposition from 5:30 a.m. on a sunny morning in early July.

On Wednesdays my sister and I meet for breakfast.  We catch up with news about each other’s families, and my sister, who is the maven of the family, brings me up to date on news of various cousins and the few remaining aunts.  We used to meet at 7:00 a.m. on her day off, which was Wednesday, but since she was elected to the office of Town Clerk in her town, my sister doesn’t have days off, and has to be into work by 8:00.  And she lives ten miles away.

So we meet at 6:00 a.m. on Wednesdays, and my Common Life takes place, on Wednesdays, according to when I wake up.  For the past several weeks, I haven’t been waking up before 5:30, which leaves me just enough time to thrown on some clothes and make it to the breakfast-and-lunch place where we meet; and I do my Common thing after breakfast.

But on Tuesday night, I slept badly.  I’m not sure why, but I was wide awake at 3:00 a.m., and by 4:00 I decided just to go ahead and start the day.  Normally the sound of falling rain is a surefire soporific, but I can’t afford soporifics on Wednesdays; so it made more sense to get up, get dressed, and get out the door.

By  5:00 a.m. I had gotten my cup of coffee at Dunkin’s, and decided to park under a street light to see if it was adequate for reading my prayer book.  It wasn’t.  I ended up saying my prayer rope for 40 minutes, which isn’t a bad way at all to pass time, with the rain pouring all around me, which was a good thing; I would have felt awkward about not getting out for a walk if it had been dry, but after the experience on August 6, there’s no way I’m getting onto the Common before sunrise, not without two or three other idiots hardy souls to keep me company.

What struck me about this experience was that even in the dark, even in the rain, there’s a Common Life.  I couldn’t believe the volume of traffic at that hour of the morning.  Due to its structure, the Common is not in any sense a secondary road; cars have to go around it to get onto even a tertiary road, one that feeds into a secondary road.  But about six cars passed by my parked car as I sat there, on my side of the Common, and I lost count of the cars going by on the other side.  The main street, too, was a steady stream of both cars and trucks, some of them 18-wheelers.

At around 5:15, the lights of the orphanage kitchen came on, and you could see the nuns and their helpers gearing up for another day.  I was reminded of the little nun I had seen on a couple of occasions, between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. at high summer, who would stroll around the grounds reading her breviary; I felt a certain kinship with her because it was so obvious that the only way she could face the day before her was to fortify herself with prayer.  I wonder what she does when it rains, or when the snows fall; is she allowed to stay in her room to say her prayers?  And come to think of it, why should she have to perform this exercise by herself?  Don’t the other nuns also have breviaries to read?  Or does she just need to get out and move while she reads, while the others are able to stand in one place for their prayers?

All part of Common life….

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An ugly reminder that not all Common Life is benign and friendly.

On Sunday, August 8, the hubster and I had to attend the wedding of a friend in a local Protestant church.  This presented problems in attending our own services, since the very local church we could normally attend is closed every other weekend (and this weekend was one of those), and the other churches we normally attend are 40 and 50 miles away from our home; so getting to church at one of these, then making it back for a 2:00 p.m. wedding, presented logistical problems.  The solution was to attend Friday services for the Feast of the Transfiguration at the church 40 miles away, and not to worry about Sunday attendance.  Piece of cake.

Except that this meant I would either have to forgo my walk around the Common, or get there literally at the crack of dawn.  I opted for the latter, and was on the Common by 5:30 a.m.  Not another soul was around.

The Common has two long sides, and two short sides.  I park my car along one of the long sides, since that’s actually the only place with parking spaces, and walk two or three laps until I can barely make another step.  On this particular day, I had just made it to the top of the Common, along the long side, when I heard sounds of an argument on the cross street.  Great, I thought, and just kept walking; it wasn’t like I could go anywhere else to get away from it.

I walked along the short leg on the south end, then headed east along the second long leg, and to my dismay, the sounds of that argument were sounding awfully close.  One of the few advantages to having grown up in New York is that you learn, early on, to ignore a lot of Very Curious Behavior, so I was able to keep walking, at rather a brisker pace than normal, the sounds of that argument clearly having spilled onto the Common, on the other side.  Where my car was parked.

As I approached the north leg, something told me to get off the Common altogether — it’s fenced in — and onto the main street, and I did this, continuing my walk and reviewing my options:  Keep walking to Dunkin’ Donuts?  Walk past Dunkin’s to the police station?  With that, out of the corner of my eye I saw somebody a lot bigger than I am sprinting across the Common towards the gazebo — which wasn’t too far away from me.

I walked towards the police station.  I was almost there when a cruiser came down the street.  I flagged him down, explained what had happened, and thus got my First Ride in a Police Cruiser Ever — in the front seat.  That was when I learned that cruisers have hard plastic back seats.  I can’t imagine being handcuffed and trying to maintain your balance on a hard plastic seat as it zips around corners.

The cop pointed out that I should take my walks later in the day, and I was obliged to note that I had to be 40 miles distant by 8:30 a.m.   But, I added, I had no intention of showing up on the Common too much before sunrise, in future, and he agreed that that was probably a Good Plan.

It’s an ugly world out there.  And a shame that it has to be made even uglier.

But the looks on the faces of my fellow Common Walkers, when they  saw the cruiser pull up and woolly little me alight, made the experience almost worthwhile.

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I have met the enemy, and he is the phone company.

Ever since Far Point Fair Point took over local telephone service, I have been an unhappy camper.  There was something so reassuring about names like New England Telephone and NYNEX (New York/New England Xchange).  I wasn’t overly thrilled with “Verizon” — a silly name if ever I heard one — but we shook down fairly well together until Verizon sold us down the river to this crowd that proceeded to lose the e-mail accounts of 2/3 of its customers — that’s when I started using G-mail — and billing us in the neighborhood of $25 a month for next to nothing.

At the same time, we’ve had our long-distance service, for a very long time now, with AT&T.  We remember when AT&T was the only game in town, and we always liked their service.  You got one bill, it was reasonable (provided you hadn’t been calling your Great-Aunt Mabel, who’s deaf as a post, out in San Francisco every single day ), and if you needed line service, all you had to do was call, and someone was there inside of eight hours.  Great company.

So there we were, paying in the neighborhood of $45 a month for long distance and $25 a month for local, and knowing that AT&T had local service to our area…  We decided to switch local service providers.   We made the appropriate phone call, and were assured that our service would be transferred smoothly on July 30.  We could even keep our same telephone number, the one we’ve had for 24 years.

Yeeeeaaaaaah.  On August 2, the hubster picked up the phone to place a call, and — nothing.  No dial tone.  I actually have made the concession to the modern era of having a cell phone, so I got on that, and after 45 minutes on hold (with the cell phone overheating in my hand), got a perky little number who wanted to know how she could make me a Very Satisfied Customer today.  “You can connect my service,” I said, and told her the whole tale.  Half an hour later, by which time my ear was also on fire, she assured me that I would be contacted by a Customer Service representative in “24 to 48 hours.”  What happens if we need the phone in the meantime??  Oh well.

By today, four hours short of the 48-hour deadline, I called AT&T again to find out what happened to my service.  Far Point, it seems, hasn’t released our telephone number for AT&T to pick up.  It’s going to take *another* 24 to 48 hours to get it all straightened out.  “Just cancel the service,” I said, and called Far Point.  (Star Trek fans will recognize the reference, presumably.)   When Far Point went to look up our account number — they didn’t show any such number in their records.  We explained what had happened, saying only that we had wanted to “consolidate our bills” (making no reference to their crummy service), and they told us that they would contact AT&T about the problem.  “Slight problem with that,” I said, and explained that we had already cancelled the service — whereupon the Customer Service rep for Far Point blew up.

Now, we have a cable company in town that has been advertising a cable-phone-internet package.  We already have our cable and internet with them, and decided to investigate their phone service.  For an addition $20 a month, we get unlimited local and long-distance dialling, and free caller ID and call waiting.  Great, we said, let’s do it.

But they can’t access our old phone number.  So we need a new phone number, and it will take seven days for the service to start up.

And people wonder why I hate phones?!?!?!

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