Monday, January 4, 2010


Our long, national nightmare is finally over: my shower is fixed. The second contractor and his crew appear to have done a competent job, and they were in and out in only a few days. The only problem was that they weren't able to match the tile, so the bottom row doesn't match the rest of the wall. It's not the sort of thing that bothers me; besides, I like the new tile on the floor much better than the old tile. The shower was actually finished on New Year's Eve, but the older Chinese couple (I'm guessing they're a couple) who worked for the contractor had to come back the next day to finish off some ancillary matters and to do some additional plumbing fixes I wanted taken care of, and they left their tools (neatly) piled in front of the shower, so I decided to wait an additional day, even though the contractor said the grout, etc. didn't need any additional drying time. So I got to use it the first time on January 1.

The Chinese couple (or not) talked to each other in very loud voices, but every once in a while, they'd start to murmur, as if they didn't want me to hear them. I suppose you should never take it for granted that someone doesn't speak your language, but I would have thought that our earlier difficulties communicating would have made it clear that Chinese is not one of my languages. Still, caution is usually a good thing.

Because of said difficulties in communicating, I was presented with a somewhat awkward situation. On December 31, the plumber/subcontractor told me "Home Depot" and I said, "Back tomorrow?" and he said, "No, today." That was around noon. Home Depot is about five minutes, if traffic is bad, from my house, and when he wasn't back by 2, I figured they were gone for the day, which comported with what the main contractor had told me, so I extended an invitation to a potential friend, and at about 4:15, when said potential friend and I were horizontal and comfortable, I heard a noise downstairs. Fortunately, we were pretty much done with our socializing, so by the time the contractors came upstairs, we were both vertical. And dressed.

I think my potential friend, with whom I had much in common, was somewhat put off by the intrusion, given that he didn't answer my subsequent email. Then again, it's more likely that he was put off by the deplorable state of the house. I really must get unpacked and organized. There are still boxes and piles everywhere, and there is nothing on the walls. The print that I picked the wall color to match (I hope) is still leaning against the wall in b&c's bedroom.

But I've been busy with other projects. This past Saturday, for example, I spent an hour or so fixing my bed. When the movers put it back together, the side rails somehow ended up slanted so that the bottoms of them were farther apart than the top, with the result that the slats holding up the mattress did not fit snugly on their supports, and if the bed moved, as it is wont to do from time to time, some of the slats would eventually fall off their support, causing a loud bang and the bed to sag in the middle. If there happened to be someone other than me in the bed at the time (which may or may not have contributed to the movement: who can say?), he would generally be significantly disconcerted by these events, and by being shooed off the bed while I lifted the mattress and pads, rested them on my back, and replaced the slats. It seemed like a less than ideal situation.

So on Saturday morning, I pulled everything off the bed to examine it more clearly during a period when my attention was not otherwise occupied. The driver side foot corner seemed particularly loose, and when tightening the bolt produced no effect, I decided to try removing the bolt entirely, whereupon I learned that the connecting bolt and the barrel nut had different thread sizes and had thus never been engaged. This, too, seemed less than ideal. I headed off to Home Depot and spent twenty minutes in the hardware aisle trying to find an appropriate combination of nuts and bolts. I eventually succeeded, returning home with a pack of four nuts and two packs of four bolts (I wasn't sure about the length). Further inspection revealed that three of the eight bolt/nut combinations holding the bed together were not really attached. It's a wonder the bed didn't fall apart even more entirely than it did. Eventually, though, I had a repaired bed with snug slats. As you might expect, I felt the need to test the bed, strictly for quality control purposes, you understand. I can report that it held up well under a variety of conditions. Also -- albeit at the risk of extrapolating from a limited sample size -- I can report that button-fly jeans appear to be experiencing something of a comeback. If, indeed, they ever left.

My other weekend project involved trying to get EFU home from Mexico. She had gone there to do some field research for her thesis, and she had originally scheduled almost three weeks to get her questionnaires filled out. But I got an email from her Friday night saying that she had finished her data collection and requesting help rescheduling her trip home. So at about 1:30 Saturday morning, I spent forty-five minutes on the phone with Delta, during which time I learned that:
1. There was a $200 rebooking charge associated with her ticket.
2. She had gotten a very good fare, and the fare differential would be an additional $200 to $400.
3. To get the total amount under $400, she'd have to wait to fly until at least Wednesday.
4. Because the first leg of her flight was controlled by AeroMexico, I couldn't handle the rebooking over the phone: she would have to go to the airport.
5. Even though she was in Mexico City, and even though her return flight was routed through Mexico City, because the original flight originated in Guadalajara, she would have to return to Guadalajara and rebook the flight at GDL.

When I explained all of this, via email and then a gmail chat session, to EFU, she wasn't happy. I told her that between the money she'd gotten from her grandparents for Christmas, the money I'd get from returning the camera she hadn't needed, and the additional money I was willing to kick in, she had about $320 available without going into her own savings. She looked around, found bus tickets from Mexico City to various Texas locations for about $100 and asked me to call my sister and see whether she could pick her up. And then she asked me to find a plane ticket from Texas. My sister (who lives near Fort Hood) said she could pick EFU up from Houston but that the easiest and cheapest place to fly out of would be Austin. I found EFU a ticket for about $160 on Tuesday on Southwest, and EFU purchased a fare on Autobuses Americanos.

Everything seemed fine until I got a call yesterday midday from EFU who was near the border (after, I suppose, about fifteen hours on the bus). She said that there were thirty buses ahead of them, and the driver reckoned on a seven-hour wait before they cleared the border. This made a 4pm arrival in Houston seem very unlikely. I figured she must be right near the border, and I knew that she had to transfer buses in Laredo, so I told her to find out if the bus station was near the border and see whether crossing on foot was an option. I was beginning to get very nervous.

Twenty minutes later, EFU called to tell me that the driver had said it was only a two-hour walk (only!) from where they were to the bus station in Laredo and that she was on her way and that someone had told her she was headed in the right direction for the border. I was, um, anxious.


But I did my best not to let my growing anxiety show. After all, EFU had told me that she had been feeling inexplicably anxious a couple of days before (I think it's impending-graduation-in-a-weak-economy anxiety.), and I thought it best to appear calm. Besides, it's not like anyone can tell her what to do. Fortunately, it only took her about ninety minutes to cross the border and reach the bus terminal, whereupon she called me to let me know she had made it. I wasn't totally relieved until I called my sister at 9:30, and she told me that EFU was in the car with her. I would have been a little put out with her for not having called me as soon as she picked EFU up, but she did spend all day traveling back and forth to Houston to retrieve my child, so I couldn't legitimately complain.

I'm convinced that parents die because it's the only way they can stop worrying about their children. I don't know why the childless die. Lack of adversity, I suppose.


  1. "If their happened to be someone other than me in the bed at the time"

    Not thrown in your face by any means, but I was struck by a rare lapse in your consistently correct and frequently elegant use of the English language.

  2. Oh, the humanity.

    Seriously, though, how does that error happen? I see people use "there" when they should have used "their" all the time, but I rarely see it the other way around. I have fixed it.