Mid-Life Crisis Trip

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Entry 16: A Quiet Week at Bitter Lake

Sat, Jul 22, 2006

It's been a quiet week here at Bitter Lake, and no, that's not an allegory of any type. There really is a Bitter Lake in North Seattle and we can see it from our living room. It's maybe a tenth of a mile across and is bordered by houses, a senior apartment complex and the Bitter Lake Community Center (and park).

Way back when Laura was a small rascal, Bitter Lake featured an amusement park called Playland (complete with ferris wheel). It burned down in the 50s and now exists only as a memory.

The lake itself hosts any number of watercraft (no motor boats), but swimming isn't allowed because there's some kind of swimmer-grabbing vegetation that reaches out and pulls you under and drowns you and then they have to fill out all kinds of paperwork about how you died, and nobody really wants to do that.

So, it's been a quiet week.

We did such a good job of packing last week (getting rid of the things that we don't really use daily) that we're sort of stymied this week. By definition, anything that we pack is something that we use daily, so we're down to performing triage on our stuff.

"Can I do without this until next week?" If the answer is "yes," then into a box it goes. If not, then it gets a reprieve for a while.

We're getting down to things that we not only use daily, but several times daily ("Don't pack the toilet paper, you moron!"). Robert is forced to pick only five Aloha shirts to wear until next week ("But I love all my children! How can I pick just one?").

As Laura says, "Every day there's fewer things around that we need. Eventually we'll reach a point where everything we need is packed and then we'll have to move."

Robert's been spending his time dealing with various bureaucracies as he closes down all our various accounts here (cable, newspaper, TiVo) and opens new ones in Salem. Mostly, he's learned to speak slowly and clearly because there's not a lot of high-wattage folks in customer service.

Take, for instance, the saga of the cable internet service. To avoid incriminating anybody, we'll call the outfit BomBast (not its real name). And actually, it looks like we may have been dealing with three different organizations.

Ten days ago, Robert set up the new account. Even though we use BomBast cable here, in Oregon it's (apparently) an entirely different organization and they can't just "transfer" our account. Nope, we have to close it here and re-open it there.

This is actually to our advantage as we're now "new" customers and we qualify for the half-price rate for six months (plus a FREE cable modem!).

After setting up the account, we find out we have to call back in 24 hours to a different number to schedule the installation. To make sure they have enough time to get their paperwork straight, Robert spaces on it for a couple of days (plus we were moving half our stuff to Salem, so it's not entirely surprising he forgot).

After he remembers, he calls to schedule the install. "Sorry, your apartment doesn't exist."

It doesn't? What are we paying rent for?

"I show that your complex only goes up to apartment 12. There's no apartment 17."

Couldn't we just splice a cable from apartment 12 to our apartment?

"No, it has to be in my database. But all you have to do is call this BomBast office over here and they'll do a 'site survey'—they just drive by and make sure there's an apartment."

Couldn't we pretend they already drove by and that our apartment is "real" estate?

"No, it has to be in our database."

So, we get the number for the local BomBast office and start calling them. The only problem is that they don't answer their phone during business hours and they don't return the messages we leave.

Robert calls the cable installation people back and says, "So, you guys really want us to get DSL? Because at least the telephone company answers their damn phone."

This time he gets a lady who "really knows the system" (her words, and not really words you want to hear from a customer support person, because it implies that there are some Timmies working for them, and the kind of service you get depends on who answers the phone).

She finds our apartment in the database and schedules our installation for next Thursday.

Robert mulls over removing their payment address from our database, but decides that they have better lawyers.

This does mean, though, that we'll be without regular internet access for several days (we'll probably go off-line Sunday and come back on-line Friday). So if you e-mail us during that time, we're not ignoring you. We're just driving over to the Best Western to try and get on their free wireless network...

Laura, meanwhile, after a day of recovery from train-lag, wraps up large parts of her volunteer services here. Monday, she led the final executive briefing for the applicant she evaluated for the Washington State Quality award. Wednesday, she schlepped all the Cursillo files and computer hardware to the new office manager, and on all the other days she packed stuff or stared bemusedly at stuff she will have to pack real soon.

Or took naps. Moving is hard work, you know!

This next week promises to make up for the quiet of this week. There's the big birthday party for Laura's Dad's 80th birthday, the Leo Kottke and Leon Redbone concert at the zoo, shoving the cats into the carrier, and driving them (along with the rest of our stuff) down to Salem (but at least this time we'll have the coffee stuff unpacked and waiting). Then Laura leaves Robert surrounded by packed boxes while she cavorts with her musical friends on the Oregon coast at the 2006 Willamette Valley Autoharp Gathering.

You know, quiet's not so bad when you think about it...

Robert & Laura
Mid-Life Crisis Trip