Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Daniel left for the UK last Thursday, by which time, my entire household was on its way to being down with flu ranging in degrees of severity. It was impossible for me to string a sentence together because all I was doing was sneezing. I have never had such a head cold in my life. It eventually felt like I was screaming, not sneezing. On and on and then on some more, it just did not let up. Marti had a cough, the sounds of which could have scared the scariest of neighborhood dogs. She lay barking in her bedroom and found it difficult to lift her head off the pillow. Alex from her bedroom downstairs echoed these sounds. It seemed that when she would come up for air, she would cough until she ran out of it, would gasp for more and head back to her room.

We all did the best we could and everyone tried really hard not to get on anyone’s nerves … too much. There is nothing more difficult than being surrounded by sick people when you are sick!

Saturday afternoon, the snow started to fall. The snow fell and didn’t stop falling. I tried really hard to get into the poetic beauty of it all. I forced myself to enjoy the silence everyone loves when it snows, I found the snowplough up and down our street artistically inspiring, and the snow carried on falling! I went from window to window and tried my best to ooh and aah it at the wonder of it all with everyone. Give me a frigging break. What we needed was warmth, and sunshine and all the good things that generally contribute to health and vitality. Not zero visibility and the inability to go anywhere or have anyone come see you.

By Sunday afternoon the snow had stopped falling and it was time to start doing things. Ross and I decided to tackle his homework and work on his January book report. During this task, our friend and trusted fire chief made his rounds and came to check on us to see that we were all ok while my husband, his firefighter friend frolicked around Amsterdam having a fine time for the weekend. Normally I would be happy to see the local chief, but he was way too happy, cheerful and energetic for my liking on this particular day. I assured him we were all ok and he was soon on his merry way.

When I eventually sat down to watch Desperate Housewives, I was physically exhausted from the endless bouts of coughing fits I had to endure, and I felt like I just wanted to run away. I looked forward to the next day as my husband the firefighter was due back and I always feel better when he is around.

Of course it was no surprise that school had a delayed opening on Monday. You can imagine my joy when I discovered that there was no hot water and the heating wasn’t working. This is just what I needed to start my week off with.

I came down to my office and got on the phone with the oil company. The conversation went like this:

“Hi, this is Dawn someone from the oil company, how can I help you?”
“Oh, hi Dawn, this is also Dawn, of this address.”
“Mmmmm” said Dawn the Obliging.
“The light on my furnace has gone out for some reason and I have no heat. Please can you arrange for someone to come out and check what the problem is?”
“Ok” says Dawn the Obliging, “I’ll get somebody out there today.”
“Could you give me any idea of how long this is likely to take?” I ask, very politely.
“No, but it will be sometime today” promises Dawn the Obliging.

When I called her back an hour later and asked her if she could please narrow it down slightly as to when I could expect the guy to arrive, she was adamant that it would be “today!” In spite of my most polite efforts, I could not get Dawn the Obliging to understand why I found this response just a touch frustrating. I tried by illustrating to her that “today!” could mean anything between now and 7pm tonight. Perhaps it was the freezing cold feeling that was now starting to sink deep into my bones that prevented me from taking comfort in Dawn the Obliging’s promise that it “will be before 7pm”. Soon after hanging up from her, she called me back and asked if there was any way I could get someone to read the level on the oil tank. Fortunately I have a friend of my stepson’s living with us at the moment, and he was off work for the day. He trundled out in the snow around to the back of the house to discover that there was in fact no oil in the tank.

Suddenly, the problem was truly now one of service as opposed to a customer with a possibly faulty boiler. It was very satisfying listening to Dawn the Obliging become Dawn the Very Obliging. I was now assured that a manager would call me to explain why it was that I had been allowed to get to zero oil. An hour later I called back and found that Dawn the Very Obliging was out to lunch … literally! I did however get to speak with a manager who confirmed that he was a technical manager and I needed to speak to a service manager. He was not sure though if she was back from lunch. Soon enough however, the right manager had left me a voice mail to say that her guy would be there within 20 minutes and in addition to filling the oil tank, he would get the boiler going again.

This was done and by 2.15pm, the house started defrosting and we all starting coming out from under our blankets. I couldn’t help wondering why it is people who should really rather dig ditches than deal with the public, put themselves in the positions they do where they have to deal with the public all day long. When my toes are freezing off and I can’t turn my heat up, at the risk of sounding like a selfish, over-indulged spoilt brat, I get a tad pissed off when the company I pay on time, every month, puts a person with attitude on the line to take care of my needs.

Within an hour or two of the heat coming back on, Dan Dan the Fireman (nah, not Fielding) returned from his business trip. This time he had made use of the limo service the company uses. While driving from Newark to the house, it once again started snowing. It was a quick downfall and had stopped quite a while before he pulled up outside the door. He was welcomed to cheers and screeches of delight from Ross. When they had spoken on the phone on Saturday, Ross mentioned to him that he really needed to get home because we needed him to cook for us, as well as the fact that no-one in this entire house knows how to use spices like he does. This, from the person whose basic food group consists of cucumber and ketchup. Nevertheless, Dad was home and we were all thrilled. About ten minutes later, the doorbell goes and Marti goes to answer it. It is a known fact that most limo/cab drivers from both the New York and Jersey City areas are not very fluent in the lingo of the land. There stands the limo driver who mumbles something at Marti. She responds very politely and tells him that she is sorry but she didn’t understand what he wanted from her. He ironically responds with “what’s the matter, don’t you speak English?” To cut a long and unbelievable story short, said limo driver feels that as it was Daniel he brought home, it is now Daniel’s responsibility to come and shovel him out the snow where his car is stuck at the top of our road. Being civic minded, Daniel starts suiting up while I insist that at this stage I would have two words for the limo driver and they would not be “Bon Voyage”. The highlight of the limo driver story came after Daniel and stepson’s friend had now pushed the vehicle 80 ft up the road. Mr Limo Driver proceeded to tell Daniel that he should now give him the snow shovel incase he should get caught in more snow on his way back to Jersey City. The “Bon Voyage” theory was applied and Daniel returned home with our snow shovel.

There are many days when one says things like “you gotta love New Jersey”, this was not one of them!