Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thumbs down for Continental

This weekend Shanny visited Notre Dame (the university) to check out their graduate program in chemistry.

It was a good visit. When it was over, a grad student host picked her up at her hotel to take her to the South Bend airport. This was Saturday morning, yesterday, to be precise. They got a late start because the other "prospective" had been up very late partying very hard the night before, and he overslept. So through no fault of her own, Shanny got a late start.

When she checked in at the airport, the check-in people said, "Oh, so you're going to Cleveland?"

"No," she said. "I am going to Syracuse, through Cleveland."

"That's odd," they said. They looked at her ticket for awhile, and at the computer monitor. "Oh," they said, "it leaves at 3:21. That's why it isn't showing up."

Since she was late, Shanny hurried on through security and over to her gate, all the while worrying that something was not right. She was sure that she was supposed to arrive in Syracuse at 1:57. So how could her flight leave Cleveland at 3:21? There were a couple of minutes before boarding, so she pulled out her laptop and found the site where she could check her ticket. The website informed her that her original flight out of Cleveland had been canceled and that she had been re-assigned to a flight at 3:21 p.m. on Wednesday. Yes, folks, on Wednesday, four days later.

Shanny called her father in a panic, wondering whether she should get on the plane to Cleveland. He told her to go ahead and get on it, that there would be more options out of Cleveland than there were out of South Bend.

So Shanny boarded the plane and her father called Continental where a rude "customer service agent" (and I use that term very loosely) told him that Shanny never should have gotten on the first plane, because once she began to use a ticket her options became severely limited. After being rude, unhelpful and downright nasty, as well as untruthful (agent: "It was canceled due to weather." Shawn: "I have a map of the US doppler radar up on my computer right now, and there is no weather in Cleveland or Syracuse at this time.")... finally she said that she would book Shannon on a flight to Washington Dulles on Sunday morning where she could then catch a flight back to Buffalo, NY and we could go pick her up there.

Now, if Shannon were actually old enough to rent a car, the obvious thing would have been for her to rent one (at Continental's expense) and drive home from Cleveland. But she is not yet old enough to rent a car. She didn't even have any way to get to a hotel to spend the night, so she would have had to spend the entire day and night in the Cleveland airport and then fly all the way to Dulles and then all the way back to Buffalo, and we would have had to drive three hours out to get her and three hours home.

So we did the only logical thing. We got in our car and drove to Cleveland to get her. It took us five hours to get there, and seven hours to get home. Because in the end there was weather, but it did not start until four hours after Shannon's originally scheduled flight would have been finished and landed and she safely home. It did not even start before Shannon would have been safely home, had she been old enough to rent a car and drive herself. No, the bad weather started right as we were picking her up at 5:20 p.m. at the Cleveland airport, and it followed us all the way home, where we arrived, exhausted, at a quarter past midnight.

Continental did nothing for us, not one thing to try to make up for their horrendous business practices. The professor at Notre Dame told Shannon to send him receipts from our drive home, and he would see that the university reimbursed us. Continental did not so much as say they were sorry. The "customer service agent" told Shawn, "It is your daughter's responsibility to educate herself on our policies before she flies our airline."

Needless to say, this has left an exceedingly bad taste in our mouth where Continental is concerned.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Spring Day

Today I ventured out of hibernation and took the dogs for a walk apiece. Glorious day!!! My heart is filled with thanksgiving as I sit here back at home with the heat off and the windows open wide to the sounds of water dripping off roofs and running down storm sewers, wind blowing, and happy kids exalting in how good it feels to be out in the sun.

I was walking Schubert when the bus dropped off the high school kids at the corner of Choke Cherry. There are about 100 of them; they used to be in elementary school together, and then middle school, and now they are all in high school because this is a pretty single-generational neighborhood. Off they all came, hopping down the last step off the bus into the wind and sunshine and puddles, landing all around us like raindrops. And Schubert, with the wind blowing back his furry ears, looked this way and that in delighted confusion not knowing whom to pounce first.

The internet says it is only 49 degrees, but I think it must be at least 57. I went for a walk with my jacket unzipped all the way, and a strong spring wind blowing in my face, and I still worked up a slight sweat. Given those facts, I'd guess it was more like 65.

Generally, I am not much for demolition phases. When our bathrooms were remodeled, the first day when they tore out all the old stuff was by far the most traumatic for me. I do, however, take great joy in the demolition of winter. There is little more satisfying than the sight of a snowbank shrinking, decomposing and trickling down a drain. As the banks thin and take on that crystalline look where you can see the particles of sand suspended in snow, translucent now instead of solid, foreboding white, you just have this feeling of triumph, and you know it won't be long before the daffodils arise.

We had a blizzard on Groundhog Day this year. My heart has this crazy, cock-eyed hope that we really will have an early spring. Anyway, we are having an undeniably beautiful spring day today, and for that my heart rejoices.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A tough morning (a bawdy tale of toilets)

Is there a theme developing here?

So last night was not as bad as the night before. I only had to get up once to let Piper go out and sprinkle the night with diarrhea, at 1:30 a.m., and it was not snowing, so that is practically miraculous.

However, my morning...

Let me preface this by saying that the contractors took the toilet out of the kids' bathroom yesterday. So the one bathroom that has a working shower has no toilet, sort of like the European salle de bain. That is the kids' bathroom. Our bathroom (Shawn's and mine) has a working toilet and a wet saw for cutting tile and a bunch of tools, tiles and sponges. And by "a bunch" I mean you really have to watch out when you try to turn around in there.

Laura's room, because she has the honor of being away at college, is filled wall-to-wall and floor to ceiling with tools... tools on carts, tools in boxes, tools in cases... etc. After the first day of work, I told Shannon that they'd cut a hole in her closet to get to the plumbing in the kids' bathroom. She said, "I guess I'll move into Laura's room until this is over."

I said, "I do not think you will want to do that."

"What?" she asked, "Do you really think Laura would care that much? All I'm going to do is sleep in her bed."

"I don't think you will be able to do that," I informed her. Then she and David went upstairs, and they immediately began taking pictures on their phones and sending them to Laura. In the end, I received a forlorn text from Lu stating, "Please stop sending me pictures of my room like that. It makes me sad."

But yesterday, when the guys took out the toilet, they set it in a rubber bin in David's room. I texted a picture of that sight to Laura and it cheered her up considerably.

Anyway, all this verbiage is just to show that there is a certain discombobulation in the bathroom situation over here. Last night Shannon and DJ got home from college at about 10:45 p.m, only to find the toilet rearrangement. The powder room on the main floor has been getting a lot of use lately. A lot.

So... when I was up with Piper at 1:30 a.m. I decided to use that powder room on the main floor while I was waiting for him, and I noticed it was not flushing properly. I went back to bed.

In the morning (Jon had school, so it was a 6:30ish kind of morning), I needed to use the bathroom while Jon was eating his breakfast, but I remembered that the toilet down here had not been working. I tried an experimental flush which did not go so very well. So I headed upstairs to our bathroom to get the plunger. Since Shawn was not up yet, I tried to tread quietly. And since our bathroom opens into our bedroom, I was also trying not to turn on lights.

Dawn was starting to glimmer with signs of sunrise, so I thought, "If I can just get the window shade up, I'll be able to see well enough to find the plunger in the closet next to the toilet." I took hold of the shade and tried to give it a gentle tug to send it upward, but something went wrong and it flew out of my hand and loudly snapped upwards with a THWACK. I jumped, very startled, and tried to catch my breath. My right hand came down to steady my tired, unbalanced body... and felt something softer and warmer than a wet saw, something which I suddenly discerned, in the gray glow of dawn, was a man on the toilet. I began to scream in abject terror, even as I recognized my own husband, the very one I was trying so hard not to disturb. We stared into one another's wide eyes and I screamed the primordial scream of death.

It was an epic fail in the "do not disturb" book.

When I finally got myself under control, although I was still shaking and my heart was pounding, I heard him ask, "What are you doing, anyway?"

"I am getting the plunger to fix the downstairs toilet," I replied, but the dignity I tried to muster utterly forsook me.

Later that morning, while trying to get a gallon of milk out of the refrigerator, I sent a whole pumpkin pie tumbling to the floor. The pie had been balancing precariously on top of four gallons of milk, and I had even posted a note on the refrigerator for people to watch out for it. But I forgot (or maybe someone moved my note?), and I pulled out the milk, and the pie came tumbling down. Piper ate quite a bit of it, which probably does not bode well for my sleep schedule yet again tonight. Also, I screamed for the second time of the day (and it was only about 7:30 a.m.), but honestly, it wasn't much compared to the fright I'd had earlier. It's funny how things can attain perspective in light of one another.

When Shannon came down to breakfast she smiled and said, "Hey Mom. Tough morning?"

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A tough night

I am even more tired today than I was yesterday. This is because my night went something like this...

11:00 p.m. -- Went to bed having taken aspirin and rubbed down my knees with arnica gel. Was really hoping to get some good sleep.

12:45 a.m. -- Phone on my nightstand jolts me out of slumber. A recording of a harsh man’s voice tells me that some building at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL has undergone a power outage and crews are working around the clock to attempt to rectify this horrible situation which is a virtually impossible job because of several factors which I was too exhausted to absorb or comprehend.

2:15 a.m. -- Northwestern University's automated emergency response system calls again, to give me an update on the building with the power outage. I hang up without listening through the recording.

3:30 a.m. -- Shawn gets up to go to the bathroom and discovers that Piper has had diarrhea on the tile in the bathroom. The good news is that (1) it was not on a carpet or a rug, and (2) Shawn did not step in it. Shawn cleaned it up himself, without me. He turned on the lights so he could see what he was doing and used toilet paper which he flushed repeatedly down the toilet. After much light, water and toilet paper had been expended, Shawn sprayed the floor thoroughly with Lysol which spread its strong disinfectant fumes into the adjoining bedroom (in other words, up my nose). Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining about Shawn. I am thankful that I did not have to get up and do all this. I am just explaining that I was thoroughly awake and not enjoying the experience much, for all how thankful I was that Shawn took the brunt of it. When he finished, he put Piper into his crate.

5:00 a.m. -- Piper awakened and whined to go outdoors. Knowing that he had diarrhea, I got up quickly and took him downstairs, where I opened the deck door to The Storm of The Century. All right, it wasn’t really the storm of the century; it was supposed to be, but it wasn’t. Not quite. However, there was deep snow stacked up so that when Piper hopped over the threshold, he found himself up to his chest in new-fallen snow which was still coming down in sharp spicules from the sky. Afraid that he would have diarrhea in the house again, I closed the door on him and left him out there while I hurried to put on Shawn’s boots and jacket over my pajamas and grab a hat and some gloves.

When I returned to shovel, Pipe had waded to the edge of the deck where he stood trying to ascertain exactly where the stairs had gone. I waded through the snow towards him, and a lot of it came over the tops of Shawn’s boots onto my bare ankles and feet inside. I needed to clear the deck steps first, and make a small area for Piper on the ground. That accomplished, I began to backtrack, shoveling out a path back to the door. It was messy, but I did it. Not well, but I guess well enough.

Back inside, I tried to wipe Piper off with a towel, but it was futile. He was encrusted with snow all through his fluffy white fur. So I tucked him under my arm and carried him back upstairs where I deposited him into his crate and Shawn turned on the TV to check for snow cancellations. Jonny got a snow day. Shannon and DJ did not.

After that, I snoozed until 7:20 when I dragged, literally dragged myself out of bed and made a kefir smoothie for DJ and tried to finish my shower before the contractors arrived at 8 a.m. I got out of the shower, looked out the window in Shannon's bedroom, and saw Shawn and the head contractor clearing out our driveway so the contractor could get his truck in.

Thus my morning began. Whether I was ready or not. Remember how we used to play hide-and-seek and the “it” person would yell, “Ready or not, here I come!” Well, that’s what morning did to me today.

I am afraid that I am ready for this remodeling to be done. Yes we have one working shower, and yes, I am grateful for it. But we don’t have any towel bars. Nor are there wastebaskets or washcloths in places where I can find them. Also, my space heater has disappeared. I am ready for a night when I can sleep from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. and then get up and have nobody but immediate family in the house, and I can make coffee and tea and eggs and toast at my leisure and take a shower after I have eaten. Yes, that would be really nice.

These bathrooms are going to be great when they are done. I can already see that. I will try to find a way to take an inconspicuous nap with contractors in my house, and then I will feel better.