bombmaking supplies on Mondays
Monday, June 6 2005
I spent hours and hours in the basement at the resident of the Eagles Nests' house today on a cowboy electrician job, one where I'll be consolidating two breaker boxes (one of which contains fuses) into a big-ass 200 amp box. For some reason I always forget how much I hate these jobs - the hours and hours of boring wire stripping, dealing with fiberglass insulation, and the feeling one gets in one's arms when one holds them straight up for long periods at a time. Much of what I did today was actually carpentry work as Mr. Eagles Nest and I first demolished and then rebuilt a wall adjacent to a stairway where the new box will go. At one point as I was using a flat iron to pry a staple from around a live wire I must have managed to penetrate all its insulating layers and contact a hot wire, which sent a frightening jolt of current through my body. It was the first time I'd ever been shocked while doing electrical work.
At one point we made a run to Lowe's and were greeted at the front door by two folks standing there with clipboards and Homeland Security badges on their breasts. They didn't say anything but hello, but their presence was kind of creepy. Were they there because "the chatter" indicates A-rabs like to buy bombmaking supplies on Mondays? As we were leaving, though, I saw a sign promising FEMA representatives on the premises, perhaps to help with relief paperwork for people still rebuilding after the early April flood. This brings up one of the many things that's wrong with having a huge bureaucracy handling lots of disparate things and naming it something ominous and vaguely fascistic like "Department of Homeland Security." The whole outfit is tainted with an aura of jackboots, suspicion and worry, none of which have any place in an agency dedicated to the strictly practical task of disaster relief.
This afternoon I had a subcontract housecall in Poughkeepsie. I normally don't go that far, but I'd negotiated a better fee for this gig. I left the house in the middle of a thunderstorm, and Sally and Eleanor were so upset with me leaving them behind that they ran after me down the road for a couple hundred feet. They made me feel like a neglectful father.
On the way to Poughkeepsie, my truck's rusty exhaust system deteriorated further and I was left with a completely ineffective muffler. Gasses seemed to be escaping near the catalytic converter and making loud sounds whenever I accelerated. This, recurring downpours, and the unfamiliar streets of Poughkeepsie (I hadn't been there on my own before) made me unexpectedly anxious. At one point I didn't see a red light, and when I hit the brakes I hydroplaned right through the intersection.
The housecall was at the residence of an Arab family. They were all in western dress and spoke good (if accented) English, but I was still self-conscious about possibly offending Arab hospitality by doing things like directly addressing the woman of the house.
None of that seemed to bother them, though they did act unusually. For example, during the first fifteen minutes of my job (a motherboard replacement), the father and his two kids stood in a line about four feet away, silently watching me. It was the sort of thing that would have angered me had they been normal Americans. Also, for a time the baby son was walking around nearby stinking up the room with his sagging diaper full of shit and his sister kept yelling at her mother across the house, "Mom! You need to change Basil's diaper!" That was the baby's name.
But otherwise the family was very nice. The mom made me a pot of coffee and when she brought it to me she said maybe she should have made me Arab coffee instead.
When the computer came back to life, I noticed it was running the Arabic version of Microsoft Windows.
Gretchen had been working all day and when she came home she and I took the dogs for a proper walk, since they hadn't gotten one this morning. Most of the way down the Farm Road, we saw that a tree had fallen against the powerline and was making it spark and smoke. So back at the house, Gretchen called both the power company and the fire department. The great thing about calling the fire department is that only a minute or so later you can hear the station siren wailing down in Old Hurley some three miles away. If it's late at night, perhaps it will be joined by a pack of nearby coyotes.
While the firemen were slowly coming our way, Gretchen and I played an unstructured game of basketball in the part of our driveway that features a net and a backboard. As we did so, we addressed one another using the names of WNBA stars we loathe, mostly members of the Los Angeles Sparks.
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