Today the kids were off school so that they could hold parent-teacher conferences.
At the elementary school, this was easy: I just went to my kids’ classrooms at the scheduled time and spoke to their teachers. Little Boy and Little Girl were happy to show me everything at their school.
At the middle school with Boo, it was a little different. They have so many kids that they held the conferences “arena-style,” which is not a term I was familiar with.
“Arena-style” turned out to mean that all the teachers were in the gym together and the parents were supposed to go to each table and speak to teachers individually if they wanted. When Boo and I came into the building, I was met with some nice ladies at a table who asked me which grade my child was in, and then they directed me accordingly.
Although I felt slightly clueless navigating this system, I soon figured it out. Still, at least I didn’t do as badly as the dad who came in after me.
I went to Home Depot to find a part for our leaking fridge (see my last post, The Joys of Home Ownership).
I had the broken part with me, so I figured I could match it.
I walked back to the “Plumbing” section and saw a man in an orange apron standing at the end of the aisle.
“Hi!” I said. “I’m looking for a valve like this.” I held up the plastic piece.
He squinted at it. “What’s it for?” he asked.
“It’s part of the waterline for a refrigerator. It connects two pieces of quarter-inch tubing,” I answered, reciting what my husband had told me.
He stared at it some more. “Well,” he said finally. “That would probably be in plumbing, I guess.” He looked around the area vaguely.
I followed his eyes, reading the huge PLUMBING sign above his head, then looking around at the various aisle markers. I looked back at him.
“I’m Lawn and Garden,” he explained. “But it would probably be…” He looked all around again, as if searching for inspiration from above.
Then his little walkie-talkie beeped and he answered it. He started talking to someone on the other end about generators (and the fact that they are completely out of them again) and I stood awkwardly, wondering what I should do. I began an internal dialogue.
Would it be rude for me to walk off in the middle of his sentence? I asked myself. I don’t want to interrupt him.
But he interrupted himself, I answered myself. And he obviously doesn’t have any idea where the part is.
But he did try to answer, I reminded myself. He can’t help it if he doesn’t know. He’s from Lawn and Garden.
He can help standing in the middle of Plumbing with his orange apron looking as if he could help people, when he evidently can NOT, I mentally retorted.
While this little play went on inside my brain I stood there, looking like a particularly stupid deer that hasn’t decided whether or not to flee. I shifted my weight.
Finally I began inching away, glancing over at the man still chatting away on the walkie-talkie, deciding that I would give him a pantomimed version of “I’ll go find it myself” (exaggerated pointing and mouthing) if he looked up. He didn’t.
I walked around a bit and found the part myself.
When I came back out of the aisle, HE WAS STILL THERE. He was no longer on the phone; he was just standing in the middle of Plumbing, wearing his (obviously ironic) “May I help you?” orange apron.
“I found it!” I told him unnecessarily, waving the little plastic packet in my hand.
He looked unimpressed.
As I walked off, I saw someone else approaching him. I hope they had a question about Lawn and Garden….
One of the things I was really concerned about upon moving to Alaska was the idea of power outages.
Since I knew we were going to be living in a place where the weather is cold enough to be actively life-threatening the majority of the year, therefore making electricity even more essential, I asked around if the power went out very often. I was assured that it very rarely does.
(Of course I was also assured that they almost NEVER cancel school for snow in Alaska, and we see how that turned out so far. But I digress.)
But this week on Tuesday, as snow piled up all around, the electricity in my house went out in the afternoon. Then they announced school was cancelled for the next day. The power stayed out all night.
There is a generator that the previous owners left us (THANK YOU!!), and so my husband set about figuring out how to run it. He had some trouble; it kept kicking itself off and having to be restarted, so it was only working some of the time. When it was running, there was only enough power available to run the boiler and the refrigerator.
We do have a fireplace, so I was pleased that we were in no danger of freezing to death. Still, there were challenges. There was no way to cook food, of course, and the water in the house quickly ran out since it comes from a neighborhood well that is pumped through –you guessed it!– electricity.
We passed a difficult night, since I need a breathing machine to sleep. I kept waking up gasping for air, and my husband kept going out into the cold to restart the generator. I think he was relieved to go to work the next morning.
So Wednesday dawned bright and early with a whole day of kids-home-with-no-TV stretching out in front of us. (I know, first-world problems, right?)
I remained positive, though. “We can play together!” I said brightly to the children. They were not fooled.
Naturally, the day degenerated into me trying to read on the couch while the kids fought with each other and I yelled, “Go play in your rooms!”
“Why can’t we be one of those nice families who play board games by candlelight when the power goes out?” I lamented to GG, my fifteen-year-old.
She rolled her eyes. “Those people aren’t REAL, Mom.”
It was a long day, but by evening the kids had settled down some. The twins had just gone upstairs and were happily engaged in game they had made up called Animal Rescue Hospital. GG and Boo were reading in the living room with me, and my husband had gone out to check on the generator for the millionth time.
Suddenly, the power came back on! “YAY!” all the kids said. Boo and GG vanished immediately to go on the internet in their rooms, and the twins came down to turn on the TV.
I said to the twins, “You can keep playing Animal Rescue Hospital, you know. I thought you were having fun?””
They looked at me incredulously. “But now we can watch TV.”