Bent Words

Bent Words

October 07, 2010

Today was a bit... different.

For one thing, I had the day off. Not just an hour for lunch, not just a half day in which I would leave at 3pm in order to garner some necessities from a rush hour-filled store but the whole day. Off.

I began this luxurious day by sleeping in. At 8:10 I rose and by 9:30 I was out the door with a "split list" in hand. One half of the list for groceries and the other half for toiletries. First stop, Mexican store.

The usual check-out clerk -- a smiling 50-year-old Spanish woman about a foot shorter than me -- was attending to items around her counter as I placed my usual items on the conveyor. Rice, tortillas, cheese and this amazingly over-priced sauce in a teeny, tiny bottle called Zaashchila. Smiling, and in broken English, she asked me if I was going to make enchiladas or perhaps quesadillas. She always asks me this. I don't have the heart to tell her that I'm just planning to roll up rice in a tortilla and eat it, nearly every damn morning of the week, for breakfast. So I just tell her that I'm not quite sure yet what I'm planning to 'cook.'

Next stop, Wal-Mart. I haven't been to Wal-Mart in years. I haven't been to Wal-Mart in years because Walgreens (times 2) is right down the road from me and carries everything I would possibly need. Except Pantene Deep Conditioner in a tub. Which I now need because, number one, Pantene once again changed up their product line specifically to aggravate me and, number two, my hair is so thick and dry (without the summer's sweet humidity) that an entire handful of regular conditioner just won't suffice. So I ventured off to Wal-Mart in search of that which may or may not quench my thirsty locks.

By 10:15, I was done.

As soon as I got home, I put away my meager purchases and went directly to work at cleaning my apartment. I had a lot to do -- the place was a disaster. To begin with, I crushed cans, collapsed cardboard and emptied cat boxes into the garbage and took these items out to the dumpster/recycling bins. On my way back to the building, a gathering of two men and a high school-aged boy greeted me.

"Say, do you live here?" one of them asked.

"For tens years, yes," I replied with a smirk, ready to accept whatever judgment that usually follows such an answer.

"Oh wow. And how do you like it?"

I explained the advantages: low cost rent, roomy apartments, walking distance to downtown, decent neighbors, storage room. And the disadvantages: old building, crazy steep hill in the winter, non-existent management.

"How bad is the hill in winter, really?" asked one of the men.

Here I became animated...

"It's not too bad if they properly salt the driveway. They meaning us, the residents. And if they pay the plow truck guy to clear out our driveway. I usually call the building manager while I'm at work before attempting to drive up it though. Oh and if all else fails, you can just pull into the parking lot across the street, hit the gas and sling shot yourself up the driveway with a good, fast start. You kind of have to turn your wheels left to right as you ascend so as to get a firm grip but you'll get used to it. Now, if you have crappy tires..."

My words sort of faded out as I noticed the expression on two of their faces. They looked stunned.

"Uhhh, we're from Texas. We don't get much in the way of snow there. This is my son, Josiah. He's looking for a place to live while he goes to St. Something-or-Other College."

The other man apparently works for Mark T., the landlord of the building. His name is Tim. He was showing them an apartment.

"Ya know," said Tim, trying to salvage whatever hope was left in leasing an apartment, "snow's kind of a bonding experience here in Wisconsin. Everyone comes together to help each other in a crisis."

On that note, the man and his son departed.

Tim introduced himself. I said I was sorry. He sat down the side steps, lit a cigarette and laughed it off.

"Are ya in a hurry?" he asked.

"Not especially," I replied questioningly.

"Then tell me something. I've been working here for two months -- I've replaced all your light fixtures in the hallways, painted all your apartments and fixed a lot your cabinets and counter tops. Mark wants me to become the new building manager. How is Susan as a building manager?"

Seeing that I still had no one in my apartment to check on the suspicious 'stain' on my ceiling despite being promised to have it looked at before "the next big rain," that I still had no word regarding the new stove I ordered back in February, that no one had bothered to come up with a solution regarding the gaping cracks in the seams of my walls and that I haven't raised much of a fuss about this in over seven months, I had a lot to say on that matter.

"But she's a great gal otherwise!" I finished.

Tim jumped to his feet, mumbled something about how I had been living here for ten years and then bounded up the stairs to my apartment door. Without a pause, he barged through door, spooked my cat Mac into a tremendous, table-high leap and began fiddling with my stove. He took out his cell phone and took pictures of the top where it was cracked and broken. He tried to turn on the burners and I explained that you had to have a match to light them.

"Otherwise you have to have the gas on all the time, which is not an option because the top gets so hot you can't even touch it," I explained.

"I can smell the gas. This is terrible," he said.

I nodded.

"Watch this," he said.

He proceeded to call a company in Milwaukee which sells stoves. He gave them my name, number and address and asked to have it delivered next Thursday.

"Make sure it's a self-cleaning unit," he said to the man on the other end of the line. I didn't even have time to react -- Tim started making hurried rounds in my (not so very clean) apartment. While he walked into my living room (with his shoes on!) to inspect the suspicious stain on my ceiling, I followed him picking up various bits of untidiness. A sock I had used earlier to smash a gigantic bug, a bra I had left drying on my shower rod, an eruption of bills I had only begun to sort out for filing...

It was not pretty.

Then Tim moved my child-gate-turned-cat-gate aside and marched right into my bedroom (!). He looked at the cracks in my walls, laid down on my unmade bed to garner better photos (!!!!) and than sprang back up and marched right back out again. Still with his shoes on! Without asking me to follow, he strode out of my apartment. I was about to close the door when I heard him call me from the hallway. I followed him, timidly, into another apartment.

"Look! Here's what you should have! This is a real stove. Watch! Look!"

He demonstrated the functionality of each burner. He opened the oven door and showed me how well the light worked. He even handed me the owners manual as though I were to read it right there, on the spot.

"And it's brand new. None of this 'gently used, like new' bullshit. You'll cook with this thing! Can you cook? Oh, yes, baking bread sounds good. I know Mark will hate me for making this decision without his consent but that thing you have in there is not safe. And look! It's self cleaning. I don't know what that means -- there doesn't appear to be a setting for that -- but it'll be clean!"

Before I could even thank him, he marched right on back to my apartment and crashed through the door. Pumpkin hissed at him.

He grabbed my arm and pulled me over to one of the giant, floor to ceiling cracks in my wall.

"Look! I won't get to this right away but what we could so is put up some nice paneling. We'll cover it first, of course, but then we'll put in some nice corner shelving -- won't that look good? Not white -- too tacky -- but stained wood. Right? Stained wood. And little shelves."

I was overwhelmed.

"Ya know I have a lot of painting I have to do in that number 22. Lost my job a few months ago. Wanna buy a boat?"

Then his phone rang and as quickly as he appeared, he was gone again.


I stood in my kitchen, in front of my door, for a good five minutes before I shook my head and got back to cleaning my place. I managed to mop my floors, vacuum my carpet, dust and clean every surface, wash the dishes, clean the counter tops and file away my bills before I heard a knock at the door. I opened the door and in burst Tim.

"Thursday then! They'll call you the day before to arrange a delivery window. Or Saturday! How's Saturday? No? You're working? Okay, Thursday then. Next week. Say, what kind of candy is that?"

I had a bowl of candy on my kitchen table that I haven't touched in months. Apparently it was all completely melted together from the previous month's humidity. I turned bright red. Still, Tim managed to break off a few pieces which literally dripped onto my floor, mumbled something about not having had lunch yet, and then reached down to pet Pumpkin as 'animals just love him.'

Pumpkin hissed again before swatting him with her paw.

"Loud noises and abruptness scare her," I explained.

And with that, Tim was gone again.

So I guess I'm getting a new stove.

And while I love the occasional brownie baking session that manager Susan offers, nothing compares to that new, non-fire hazardous stove smell!

Here's to you, Tim.

You crazy bastard.

Written at 7:47 p.m.