The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Jeanne, Jeanne....

Another weekend, another hurricane..I guess there is a lot of shell shock going on around Florida these days. If the newsfolks start talking about another tropical storm, I will have to redecorate my safe space.

For me personally, it has only been the storm mentality, the usual anxiety, the strange wonder and awesomeness storms have always held for me. I face into the wind of most storms and almost challenge them, dare them to do what they will. It is frightening, yes - but I also actually feel the power of the storm in me, and I like to think that in standing up to it I am absorbing some of that power into myself. If you have never done it, I doubt you could understand this sort of - defiance, I guess.

But I didn't do that this time. I looked out the window first, down on the trees from my 7th floor apartment to the courtyard and out toward the parking lot, past that out to sea, where the Gulf meets Tampa Bay. The courtyard is that space in the center of this U shaped building, and the landscaping is a private joy to me. I watched the winds blow in - and out -- at the same time, swirling in circles up and down the length of the building. I stayed put with my cat, who suddenly glued herself to me.

We lost power. That hadn't happened in any of the storms before. I'd already unplugged the computer and other important stuff and set my little radio and headphones to the right station, and checked the safe place, a rather large bathroom. Liberty and I had water and munchies, pillows, and candles-in-glasses, the small box that holds important things in my life, lighters, and Liberty's string -- an accessory we couldn't be without. We were ready.

Still, I watched through my closed windows. I could see the parking lot, but not my car - there is a tree that blocks my view, but I got a reassuring glimpse of fender and didn't think twice about it. My designated spot is in the first row, across the top of the U of buildings, and it never was a problem. I looked across to Bayfront Hospital's heliport. It was lit up, but most of the building was dark. Everywhere I looked was dark. The swirling winds were fascinating, but with no power, I decided sleep was a good idea and took a nap -- woke up with the television - power was back. Not one to wake up quickly, I lallygagged around, made coffee, watched the storm and listened to the reports. And the power went out again. We get blips of outages around here all the time, but this time it stayed off for hours again. And it was dark. So I went back to sleep. Libby was all for it, and we woke up again sometime after ten, and the 24/7 coverage of the storm was off, regular television was on -- the new Law and Order I didn't want to miss. I cooked up something for dinner and ended up spending the night up on the computer, writing and editing and playing a couple of games, thought about taking a nap this morning before I had to go to work downstairs, but didn't. For all of that, I ended up being down at the main desk half an hour early to open the computer lab. A friend cruised by in his power chair and asked me if I had seen my car. Now, Doc is always asking me if I want to sell my car to him for fifty dollars, when he knows it's full of repairs and close to completely rebuilt -- so I didn't take him seriously -- but he rode along beside me, telling me that windows had been blown out of quite a few residents' cars. The nearby security guard explained that the pea gravel on the roof (?) blew off and did a number on the parking lot. So I went out into the courtyard, Doc wheeling along beside me, and my heart sank when I caught a glimpse through the trees. There was a different shade of light in the car, a lighter light through the back window.

Glass was everywhere. Chunks of it on the back seat, the back deck, in the seams where the trunk and body connected, atop the trunk, and all over the parking lot. In all, seventeen cars were damaged, and I told Doc that it couldn't have been the storm. It had to be some demented person. We wandered around, looking at the other cars, and then Doc pointed out to me a window that had shattered but was still in place. There was a small dent quite visible from which all the crazing went out to the edges of the window. I could have tapped it and caused it to fall out. It was a newer car, and all I can imagine is that the glass in older cars like my 89 Buick had been sunned so much -- and perhaps the air pressure inside was so great -- they just burst out. Even pea gravel can do that if it hits at 50 - 75 mph, which is what some of the wind gusts were clocked at less than a mile away.

And who carries comprehension insurance on an 89 Buick, which the Blue Book values at $850? I ran into the new manager here and half joked that the housing authority was responsible; it was, after all, their pea gravel. She said I and the others should make a FEMA claim. Hm. Hadn't thought of that. Here people have lost everything they own to storms for the last how many weeks, and I am going to submit a claim for a back window on my 89 Buick? You bet I am. I don't expect it to be resolved quickly, but yes - it is a disaster, at least to me, and paying for it to be replaced is a hardship I really don't need right now. So I printed out 24 pages of the FEMA How-To booklet available as a PDF file on line - but I couldn't isolate the application form, so after printing out the 24 pages, I pulled the application and made copies of that and trotted it into one of the counselor's office and dumped it on her. Pat likes me, and always wants to know what is going on, so I told her. By this time I had contacted three local mobile glass service people via e-mail, and told Pat that where space allowed, I asked the glass companies if there was a discount for volume. I figure if we can get a better rate for all being in the same parking lot, that would help. Pat said that since FEMA will cover it (according to the 24 pages of information I printed out) eventually, I didn't have to worry about getting a discount (?!) but that isn't how I feel about it, and I said so. Those that help us should never have to pay full price if a discount is possible.
My computer lab co-worker, Robert, showed up with a thick piece of tarping, and I came up here to my place to get some duct tape. (I have always had duct tape, don't know why -- but now I do!) I thought I would write this out quickly and be done with trying to explain it all - but no, not me -- I had to get mouthy about it..
Anyway, as my friend Billie would say, it could be worse -- it could be raining. And it looks like it might soon, so I am grabbing the duct tape, a garbage bag for the safety rounded shards, and going down to cover the back window. It really could have been worse. It could have happened last year, when I Iived in my car.

My life is never dull --- haven't I told you this often enough?



Ah -- I am back in the safety of my own home and I can safely band-aid my fingers (safety glass my butt!) and feel somewhat better about the car. I have no idea when during the storm the window went, but the car was still dripping wet in the back seat (where I had conveniently left a bag of books to give to a shelter's reading room -- oops. All gone -- and a sketch pad I kept in case was ruined.

Between a heavy horsehair brush and one of those dusting things on a stick I inherited from my son, I got a lot of the glass from the surfaces that will hold the tarp secure. It is a small canvas piece that used to be a flag that hung from light poles when St. Petersburg wanted to celebrate its historic district (What--? Where?) and I can't figure out where the rest of the duct tape went, but I only had about 1/4 of the tape on the roll. No time for errors here -- every sticky had to count. I think it will hold for a day or two. I imagine it was a sight to see -- now is as good a time as any to tell you that I walk with a cane, having no cartilage left in either ankle, and a pair of trick knees. And the hips are not doing too well, either. But nevertheless, there was no way t get to the center of the rear window to tape down the tarp but to climb up on the trunk of the car - which was accomodating with ridges going across its width and a spoiler across the back rear...and ittty bittty pieces of glass that were not round safety pieces. I think I got them all out. I think...


With an eye to the sky,
Smokey

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