Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Finding the Funny in the Fumes*

You know, I only have myself to blame. I didn't follow-up. I didn't return the voice message. I took the landlord's word for it. I made the cardinal mistake of remembering that the story you've been told is never the whole story - if you even get to hear the story at all.

Let me back up.

This week has been kicking my butt.

I've felt icky since the weekend, so took two, highly uncharacteristic sick days. I guess the fever chills, sweats, queasiness, headache, lethargy, and nap were symptomatic of something, but I don't know what - except maybe an end-of-summer cold, not eating right, stress or something. So two days off should have been fine.

Day Two of the sick days, I tried to work from home. Again, I should have known. If I say I'm taking a sick day, I shouldn't try to work ... but NO! I spent all day arguing with my computer connections. I rebooted numerous times. I hit refresh. I unplugged the "modem" and the cables over and over. I managed to get to the regular Internet, but despite hours and hours of hitting buttons, the work intranet website and my VPN didn't come up -- until -- of course -- 5:15 p.m. Whatever. So I logged on and caught up on e-mail and did a few database things.

Day Two was also the day I prepared my bathroom for what my landlord has said was "reglazing of the tub." I've only been peeling the glaze off my post-war tenement bathroom tub for 3 years and two building owners -- so, you know -- it was a bit ghetto looking. I should have taken a photo, but it shouldn't have been documented. It was gross, even clean. I pulled everything out of the room, cleaned all the surfaces (as much as you can in a 50 something year old bathroom where it's being held together by the dust, grit, and who knows what else), and prepared to be disrupted for about a day. Everything is all over the kitchenette. It's a small studio. It's not good to have stuff all over the place. It junks it up fast.

The plan was to head to work on Wednesday/today. I had to vacate the apartment anyway for the reglazing, and three days out of the office - especially when the bosses are on vacation - is not such a good idea for work flow or accountability. I should have known the day was going to go to crap, when I woke up to the first of the alarms, burst into tears and very maturely started to whine: "I don't wanna go to work." (Yes, I'm a 40-year-old-woman. Yes, I was crying. Not a good sign.)

I regrouped. Did my apartment straightening. Got ready. Got everything in the bathroom clean again. Took the computer apart and hid it. Had my bags packed and was actually early! Plenty of time to leave the keys with the super.... but ... Strike 2 of the day. No one answering the super's bell. No one answering the phone. WHAT TO DO!? So, I waited in the lobby. Missed my train. Started to run late. I knocked again. No answer. Decided to call 1 more time, and then to figure out what to do with keys/calling into office about being out AGAIN. Call 2: Apparently I had woken the super's wife (sorry Sylvia) who was enjoying the last few days of summer vacation with her kids. Many apologies on both sides. Left the keys. Caught slowpoke local train. ONLY 1/2 hour late - YAY but grrrr.

The rest of the main part of the day mostly had it's moments of meeeeeegh. I enjoyed having the office to myself, so I could sit in the dimly lit room, ALONE, and power through a bunch of projects with a headache and still some chills. However, the rumor mills started to churn, especially as we arrived and noticed all the NYPD barricades. We knew that POTUS (The President of the United States) was going to be in town for fund-raisers, what we didn't realize was that he was going to be right next door giving speeches and that all of our normal exits would be blocked, the subway would be closed, and that just walking across the street would be impeded. Fine, I thought. I'll just work late and he'll have moved on to the next engagement.


Day goes by. Some people desert at 4:00, others linger, like me. Office finally clears out of everyone else at 6:30. I do a few more things, hit a good pausing point, and I notice it's 7 p.m. Hey, maybe I should go home! I figure: It's a beautiful night, I'll just walk to Grand Central again, and avoid all the areas with closures due to POTUS, except...


SERIOUSLY. We couldn't even get near an exit. The frozen zone extended all the way up to, and past our main entrance, on the 1st floor - of the building NEXT to the building that he wasn't even going to be near.



The NYPD (through no fault of theirs I am sure) had to freeze us in the building for another 20 minutes. Good grief. I'm all for safety of the head of state, but ... ENOUGH WITH THE NYC FUNDRAISERS. YOU ARE ALIENATING A MAJOR PORTION OF YOUR POSSIBLE VOTING BASE BY FREEZING THE UPPER WEST SIDE, MR. POTUS.

I had a moment of: Do I go back to my desk and work or do I bang on locked doors screaming "Attica Attica" 'til the NYPD or Secret Service free me from the Big Grey Box that is my office building?

I wisely decided that getting arrested was not a good idea and spent few minutes huddling with a colleague in her office, since we were both stuck and we needed to discuss a few things anyway. (Pretty sad that we finally have time to have a meeting after 7 on a work day, just because we can't leave the building - but that's how it is.)

When we were finally sprung from the Big House, we still couldn't quite get to our subway so we wandered down and around and through the side streets and back alleys of NYC until we got to Columbus Circle where upon I decided to skip the walk and take mass transit home. Spent the ride and lots of time at Times Square Shuttle area continuing "discussion" (aka thinly veiled snarkfest) with colleague about work until I realized I really needed to go home ASAP! Her too. To be continued. RUN to shuttles for the trains.

P.S. When did the sun start going down before 8:00 p.m.? Because that wasn't fun to see when the train pulled out of the Park Avenue tunnel. The days are getting too short, especially when you are at work for 10 hours.

And, now we hit the real high point of the day. (And I use HIGH on purpose.)

I arrive to my apartment to find a note on the exterior door reading:

Please if you can don't use the bathtub till Friday evening. So it can dry off completely.

Thanks Super.

Excuse me?

No one said ANYTHING about NOT having shower access for 2 more mornings?!

So I open the door to my apartment, about get knocked out by fumes like I haven't inhaled in years
(accidentally, while painting, or doing automotive work or working in fast food with industrial cleaners), and saw this:


This is not a usable bathroom in anyway shape or form!

I ran back downstairs to the super's, got my keys from poor Ms. Sylvia, and she assured me that I could use the sink and the toilet, but ... no go on the shower until Friday - which means Saturday really. No other units in the building are free so I could sneak in and use their showers, because the ones that aren't occupied are in the same situation as this. And, I'm sorry. I am not going to use the super's bathroom, no matter how sweet his wife is, because she has two kids home from summer break and it's not her fault the landlord didn't tell either of us that THIS was going to be the situation. I would have stayed in the dorm, with a friend, or gotten a hotel room or something. I'm going to be going old-school with a sink shower in the a.m. (It's good to be reminded that at least I have the option of a sink shower - not everyone does. Yes, these are all First World Problems and my ancestors are up there laughing their angel wings off at me.)

Even with a window open, the air conditioning on, and a fan blowing on the tub in the bathroom, the fumes are .... a tad ...... WHEEEEEEEE. I'm not intentionally huffing, but I can't help it. There's no choice.

Imagine fumes from old fashioned paint + wallpaper adhesive + linoleum + magic markers = Still not as strong as glazing fumes here right now.

However, I am remembering why I actually LIKE paint fumes. They are an appetite suppressant. If keep inhaling glazing fumes, will I lose weight? Because I am losing brain cells. Pretty sure that's what the headache is from.

Who says living in/near NYC is glamorous? 'Cause it ain't.
Old apartments are ever so delightful.
You never know when the City is going to grind to a stop because of some out-of-towner.
And the best laid plans of mice and men? Often go astray.

I want a do over for this week.

Though, I only have myself to blame.

P.S. Also, even though you think 10:30 p.m. may be too late for your super to visit to check in on you, and you may have decided to get into some of your p.j.s and "liberate the girls," it's probably a good idea not to leave your unmentionables drying on the fan by the bathroom. You just never know. It's hard to whisk somethings away discretely without embarrassing yourself and the super. I think I need to leave a bigger Christmas tip this year. Poor guy.




Later updates:

The week got a little more interesting after this was posted on the Wednesday it happened. Thursday night around 11 p.m. I returned a call from dear friend Wendy - who was out West with Ms. Emily visiting her father, dropping her eldest off at the MTC, and seeing my parents. She and Emily were due to fly back to NYC and see me on Friday for dinner, but her transport plans hit a snafu and she was wondering if ... they could stay over with me! WHAT?!

UM, sure Wendy? As long as you don't mind sleeping on the floor in a crowded studio apartment with no access to the shower because even though the super said that the shower should be okay by Friday night, they called and said to let it cure for another night -- Saturday by this point? Oh, and I need to be back in NYC at the train station by around 8:30 a.m. because I already have plans?! Come on over! The more the merrier and it's almost like those times at Girl Camp, except we do have an indoor toilet and air conditioning and take-out, and cable t.v. and a computer! However, the 13 year old is sleeping on the floor and you get the air mattress.

So that happened. No shower for a few days. Horrid fumes that gave me the fume-fugue for two days of dopiness. Last minute house guests. Three people in a tiny studio.

And then...

When I FINALLY got to take a shower on Saturday night around 9:30 p.m. when I got home and had unwrapped the bathroom, and cleaned it up, and scrubbed my self down, and then washed my hair twice and conditioned, and groomed, did I have to deal with the fact that I was standing in calf-deep water because ...


At 10p.m. I had to bail it out, 1 cup at a time, clean it all over again, and then spend 2 days dumping Liquid Plumber and hot water down it to get it drain correctly!

I REALLY WANT A DO OVER FOR THAT WHOLE WEEK! So I could have gotten a hotel room or something. I feel horrible about being a bad hostess with no shower for weary travelers!

*A couple of friends told me later that this should have been subtitled: The Huffington Post !

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