by Sally Miller
I used to have a friend who was an electronic genius, and whenever I had something wrong with my microwave, TV, computer, stereo, VCR, or clock, I would invite him over for dinner. Art didn't drive, so I had to pick him up and take him home, but it was worth it, especially if I'd saved up all my nonfunctioning electronics. All he had to do was walk into the house and half of the broken things mysteriously began to work. By the time he left, with a minimal amount of time on his part, everything would work! Recently I had the same kind of experience over the phone with my cable tech: just by being connected to him the cable problems cleared up spontaneously. What seems complicated to me is fixed simply by others more in tune with disks, discs, and circuits.
On the other hand, what to me seems simple becomes a near impossibility. An old computer, with sufficient fonts and lots of text and graphic files, when dead, becomes an albatross. Font installations don't come with a disc transfer, and the substitutions are never the same. Transferring these files to a new computer can give you pages and pages of computer talk which must be flushed out and erased. At the bottom of each page I find corrections I made in a document months (and sometimes YEARS) before, all clustered together at the bottom of the text -- it is up to me to find where these corrections belong in the original (who on earth ever came up with this dilly?).
Newer old computers won't take a new printer, older new printers won't fit on the new computer.
The world of electronics has gotten much more complicated, but one thing is certain, computers are excellent at keeping track of things for me when I have ideas springing out of my mind at a furious pace. I can organize them, work on them at my leisure, and nothing ever gets lost (well, hardly ever).
Another thing that is amazing is the more highly developed cell phone. Luckily few of us went through the growing pains -- we let the Scandinavians do that. But for an object that small to hold over 300 phone numbers for me (I use my cell for everything, including paying bills, transacting business, and keeping in touch with family and friends) is truly amazing. At a click I can be connected to them or to a place where I can leave a message. When I got a new phone all my numbers were instantly transferred from one phone to another. I know the moment people call me who they are and what number they're calling from.
I can have complete control of my cell usage by another click that allows me to turn it off in an instant -- like when I'm driving in traffic or taking a nap -- and yet it is so personal I carry it around with me when I work in one place or another throughout my busy day. I take it with me when I shop, or take a day trip somewhere. It keeps me connected, as well as a part of, the outside world, when admittedly I try to keep disconnected from the outside world most of the time.
I will tell you, however, that frequent cell phone use without an earphone can be dangerous. When I first started using it, after several months, I noticed one day that my wrist was hurting a bit. I thought it was perhaps from too much mouse work, so I switched to my other hand (Iíve learned how to use both hands). The pain in my wrist joint didnít subside, and I also began to hurt in my elbow. Within a few days my shoulder began to hurt. Ow! I must be doing something to injure myself. I need to take a long soaking bath, I told myself. So I poured myself a nice hot tub, and I lay in the water, turning as best I could onto my side so the affected arm would be submerged in the hot water. I began to relax, and suddenly my arm started to throb. Then it started to twitch, and shake, and convulse. My whole body began to seize, as if I were having a total body orgasm. Then just as suddenly everything was still, and all my pain had disappeared! Oh my god, I realized at that moment. it was the cell phone. I had just unplugged and released the power.
Now when I use my phone I always use an earphone, and I alternate ears just like I alternate hands on the computer mouse. I have not had a problem like that since. Turning off your computer, turning off your modem. turning off your cell phone, turning off your stereo and DVD players seems to cure many ills of electronics. One guy explained this to me: often problems get fixed just by turning an electronic product off, but when you turn things off there is still energy going through the switch, and in order for your electronics to work entirely properly, you need to unplug the electrical source -- unplug them from the wall or take out the batteries -- then put everything back and turn everything back on. Iím sure my electronics genius friend would agree, sometimes the most complicated things are the simplest!
The best time to get your roof done is in the fall, or whenever rain is most likely to come in your locality. Then you just set aside three weeks of your life to have a vacation from normality, and let the work begin. This is assuming you have successfully negotiated a contract with a reputable and honest individual or firm.
I have found that local contractors (I refer to carpenters, electricians, painters, roofers, and other specialty contractors as well as the more general repair contractors) who have been around for a while are as good a place as any to start getting cost estimates on your home building or repair needs. Where I live there is a thriving economy in home building and repairs, due to the exodus from New York after 9/11 as well as the way-above-average income which allows for this sort of thing.
Someone who has been in the business of repairing roofs for over thirty years will be able to steer you to someone more appropriate if he is too busy. An electrician who does only new installation can refer you to someone who wires swimming pools in the summer but is always looking for small jobs in the winter. The local paper will often run ads from people wanting work of various sorts. Friends and neighbors can also give you suggestions for local contractors they have used.
Often a young person just starting out will work more cheaply and more thoroughly, and will be more accommodating (unless they have a regular job and can only work evenings and weekends, though this might be okay with you). But they're messy. And taller, stronger, more vigorous, more open, more tolerant than their parents. I've used both young and mid-aged contractors. What the one has in experience, the other has in willingness to listen to your ideas.
Most contractors have a different kind of value concerning honesty than certainly I do. To them, the answer to your question is what they think you want to hear, or what they think will make you happy, without regard to reality (which is that you would be happy to plan your life around them for a week or two if they would just communicate to you their plan of action, time line, or schedule). For instance, they will say, "Someone will be down tomorrow to fix that up," when they actually mean, "I'm not going to fix that up so get someone else," or "I'm not going to fix that up until I get finished with the job," or some other honest response. That would be too much like giving in to Mother.
They can't work on Saturday or Sunday or in the rain, but they also can't work past 3 pm on a sunny day (4 if you negotiate it). In my perfect world they'd work every day the sun shines, from morn to dark (like making hay).
Contractors are not the best communicators, either. They say they'll let you know by the end of the day, putting the answering service on to listen to you reiterate your question at 4:25 pm when you call because you haven't heard from them. The boss promises you one thing; the subcontractor on the job tells you another. The office staff doesn't fax the graphic of your complicated driveway and turn around to the slate supplier, who drives across your front lawn and doesn't speak much English to boot.
Instead of telling you in the beginning that it will probably be 3 weeks of chaos in your life, they say, "oh, that will only take 4 or 5 days," forgetting to tell you that not only do they not work in the rain, but they also take a day off here and there to start a new job for someone else who is calling their office wanting to know when their leaky roof or faucet is going to get fixed.
The reason you schedule your roof replacement work during rainy season is that during rainy days (plus the day after a rain if the roof is too wet to work on) you get to take a long bath or a nap, do your usual morning exercise, eat normally, sleep later than the preferred 7 am starting time, and in general get yourself rebalanced from all the stress.
So when the work force returns, you'll be able to deal with the hole in the asphalt in the driveway by your front door, the ruts in the long driveway worn down with all the truck traffic, the large broken branch on the fire thorn bush, and the black mold on the kitchen ceiling ó all without losing your cool or falling apart. Or getting angry.
The front negotiator in a family run business is often a wife, a mother, or a sister of the boss, and she is often the one who has the largest part of your contact with a contractor for your house. Whether she is family or hired gun, if she is good at her job, she will manage the delicate balance between boss, boss's wife, subcontractors, office staff, suppliers, workers, and you.
I believe every good office manager (usually a woman) should get at least a $500 bonus after a difficult job like my recent one was. Our total contact was over a 7-month period of time, and we had not only an unusual job to do, but it also involved a reluctant landlord and his wife. The one time I began to sound a bit hostile to her out of my own frustration, she dished it right back to me, which shut me up quickly. The time I felt like committing suicide she was able to coax me back to a comfortable reality. My hats off to Rita!
I hope the contractors who read this will take heed, joining me and other Dr. Phil watchers (try taping it, it's on CBS at 3 pm in the East) in trying to look at ourselves and our behavior in order to become better people. For this my experience will have all been worth it. Plus I have a toasty warm roof that makes me feel like nesting in my wonderful house all over again.
November 23, 2002
I saw two living dead people recently who shouldn't have been. They appeared emaciated and extremely withdrawn from reality. Both were ancient by today's standards, perhaps in their late nineties. Their wheelchairs were being pushed by two attendants who helped the old couple with their breathing tubes, hearing aids, and feeding ó to say nothing of personal care like toileting, bathing, and grooming.
How many years should a person live?
Were these living dead people still on earth because of God's plans? Or by their own choice, real choice? Were they still breathing because they had been too afraid of death to make a logical choice about their own dying process?
Had their families decided to keep them alive? If so, why?
Or had they allowed a hospital, medical personnel, governmental insurance, and the pharmaceutical megacomplex, which they were financially supporting (as well as those two attendants), dictate their dying?
Should our taxes go toward supporting these people? Or should we squander our human resources? Can't our society find something better for those attendants to do?
I don't really mean to sound Hitler-like: I don't really want to be the one to decide for others when they should die, just for myself. I know I don't want to be pushed around by some stranger who works at a nursing home and doesn't really care.
Conscious dying is certainly better than living in la-la land for years and years, even happy as a lark like my mother was most of the time. When life began to get difficult for her, she was incapable of making any decisions about her own care. Conscious dying is certainly better than living in a physical limbo where you're little more than an injured dog to be carted around and cared for by humans. At least an old or sick dog gets put down with an injection, and they shoot horses, don't they? Aren't people entitled to the same humane treatment?
We should fashion our deaths like the "Real People," the Australian aborigines that Marlo Morgan of Missouri lived with, observed, and wrote about in Mutant Message. When it was time for the Real People to die, according to Marlo, they:
Sounds good to me, but I haven't quite figured out how they do it. I have learned how to control my breathing, heartbeat, and temperature. I know how to poison myself with toxic food and toxic air. I could withdraw all my herbal supplements, which provide me with much mental and physical support.
I feel peaceful with death.
But is it I who decides? Why not? Who better to decide when I will go back to forever?
July 11, 2003