Sunday, February 1, 2015
So Long, January, Nobody's Going To Miss You
I don’t think of myself as a complainer by nature, and using a blog for personal whining is disgusting. Nonetheless, I’m relieved that January has finally come to an end. It’s been a cold, dark, bleak month. We knew it was going to be lousy on the day that Ohio State blew out Oregon to win the National College Football championship. Since we live in Ohio, you might think that we’d be thrilled. Not true. Katja and I went to grad school at Michigan, and we learned after only a few weeks in Ann Arbor that Ohio State is our hated mortal enemy. A half century has gone by, but, if anything, our hostility is more deeply ingrained. Things got only worse sports-wise when the Bengals lost pitifully to the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs. And we contemplated suicide when our beloved Packers, leading by 9 points with 4 minutes to go, were defeated by the Seattle Seahawks in what some commentators describe as the worst loss in the history of professional football.
It’s not just sports. January has been very cold in Cincinnati, dipping down to five degrees early in the month. Though we set our upstairs thermostat at 70, the temperature rarely exceeded 65. I offered my opinion to Katja that we have an old brick house, and, when temperatures get down to single digits, our furnace can’t keep up with it. She thought that was ridiculous and called the furnace company to have a repairman come. He arrived that very day, checked out the system, and explained that we have an old brick house and that our furnace can’t keep up with the very cold temperatures. I didn’t say anything, though I was glad to get some expert confirmation. This past week our thermostat got stuck at 65 again, and Katja said she was calling the furnace company. I explained that we have an old brick house and when the…oh well, you get the idea.
Two days after the furnace repairman’s visit I went outdoors and the spigot on the south wall of our house was spraying water all over the porch and the side of our SUV. Sort of like a fire hydrant that had been opened up. The water was freezing immediately in the ten-degree temperature, resulting in huge, impressive icicles (more like stalactites) on our car and house. We called the plumber, but it was late Friday and he was quitting for the day. He told me to close the shut-off valve in the basement. I couldn’t budge the valve manually, but I finally found a plumber’s wrench and was able to shut off about 90% of the water flow. Because our driveway and sidewalk had turned into a lake of glassy ice, I bought a bag of salt at the hardware store and sprinkled it around every few hours, hoping to avoid pedestrian fatalities. The plumber came on Monday morning, installed a new pipe, and will return in May to finish the job for umpteen thousand dollars.
Katja had been in a traffic accident in the autumn, and we were shocked when we received a registered letter indicating that we were being sued. The insurance company hired a lawyer for us, and he came to the house in mid-January to get information for our case. While he didn’t use the exact words, I got the impression that the opposition lawyer bringing the suit against us was a sleazy ambulance-chaser, and he had never had a client with any kind of credibility. They only wanted fifty thousand dollars from us. Our lawyer told us not to worry, that worrying for us was his job responsibility. We have worried nonetheless. Our lawsuit should be resolved by May. I just hope there’s some money left to pay the plumbing bill.
Then I was walking on Ludlow Avenue after dark when I tripped on a sidewalk crack and fractured two ribs. The nurse-practitioner recommended that I buy an Incentive Spirometer in order to help restore my breathing capacity and fend off pneumonia. I bought it online, and it arrived after a week. It’s given me a new lease on life. I was instructed to try to get my breathing capacity up to 1500 milliliters on the zero to 4000 gauge, but I got it up to 2500 pretty quickly and now am hovering around 3000. Maybe the novelty will wear off, but my most exciting moments these days occur when I’m breathing into my spirometer.
If we didn’t have enough chaos in our lives already, construction crews are laying huge black sewer pipes on Ludlow Avenue, and they’ve been working right outside the front of our house for the last two days. They’re digging up Ludlow, covering the long trenches with huge iron plates which make horrendous clanking noises all night long when vehicles drive over them. Still worse, the bulldozer-like machine which is breaking up the concrete pavement creates vibrations that make our house tremble. We’re convinced that the ceilings are about to fall in, though I think we’ve now survived the worst of it.
The pinnacle of January weirdness occurred last week when I was driving on Guerley Road on the west side of town. The traffic came to a complete standstill on my side of the two-lane road. It was puzzling because there were no driveways or side streets on the long barren stretch. As it turned out, a driver had stopped his blue pickup truck, gotten out, walked thirty feet up the hillside, and proceeded to relieve himself in the bushes. The he zipped himself up and walked back to his truck. I can certainly empathize with peeing in the woods when you have to go, but it’s hard to imagine doing it in front of a crowd of irritated fellow motorists.
So now it's finally February. I think it will be a better month. The days will be a little longer, the temperatures a few degrees milder. Today's the Super Bowl; tomorrow's Groundhog Day. Valentine's Day is Feb. 14, Presidents Day is Feb. 16, Mardi Gras is on the 17th. Then my sister's birthday is on Feb. 24. You don’t often find a better lineup than that. Maybe we've gotten through most of the bad stuff for the entire rest of the year.