It’s 0:dark:30 and I’m trying to binge on Season 6 of 7th Heaven. I can get to the landing page for CBS All Access, and I can get to Season 6. But when I try to get to Episode 13, I get the eternal buffer of death.
I haven’t been online all evening. At 0:dark:33 I try getting to Gmail. (Yes, I only waited three minutes. What? The Internet is supposed to be blazing fast, it’s after midnight, and I’m jonesin’ to cruise the Information Superhighway. I can’t even get my engine to turn over!)
I can get TO my Gmail account, but I can’t get to any of my messages. And there are scant few! What happened to all my peeps, wanting to stay in touch? How can I upload this UBC post when I finish my rant? How will I ogle Remi Chassé in his 2014 blind audition on The Voice, rockin’ out on “Whole Lotta Love”? (Hey, I may be in my 60s, but I’m not dead yet, and the kid does it justice and then some. And he’s cute. Great combination.)
It’s 0:dark:35 and I’m trying to get onto Facebook. My newsfeed taunts me with UBC posts unread, cute cat videos unseen, friends’ updates on what’s happening in their lives — unshared! Can I get to any of it? No. Technology, that which makes my work-at-home life possible, is decidedly contrary tonight. If this keeps up, I’ll be robbed of income, world events, friendly contact, LIFE!
Enough! I grab the cell phone and call Spectrum. I already have a service call scheduled for tonight, because sporadic service first beleaguered me last night. But last night, I couldn’t even make a connection, so Tech Support couldn’t do anything at their end. Tonight, I can at least access wifi, even if only intermittently. Maybe they can do something now.
It’s a long way to tonight at 6 p.m., when Spectrum Support will come to fix what ails my modem.
What to do? What to do? Well, I can always fall back on posting one of my “Sal” stories, the story-poems I created in a frenzy when I forgot that I was supposed to take a kid’s book to the Library and read it as part of the Library’s “Thousand Stars” reading event.
I was working for Vision Cable at the time (which is, ironically, now Spectrum, the very company that can’t get me online!), hosting a handful of shows every week, and that evidently qualified me as a “star,” along with police, firefighters, beloved teachers, local authors …
Tom Simpson, the Assistant Library Director, had approached me three months earlier about volunteering for the event. I had one job: pick out a book and bring it to the Library and read it to the children who would hang on my every word. Ten minutes out of my life. I could manage that.
But he gave me three months’ notice. Who does that? Eighty-nine days later, at about 10 at night, I suddenly remembered my commitment, and seriously thought about getting committed. I didn’t own any children’s books. Barnes & Noble hadn’t opened a single store in the entire country yet. Where was I gonna find a kid’s book at this hour?
Ah, but I’m a writer! And a poet! I was still at work, still had access to a computer, still had a few brain cells to tap, so I sat right down and wrote myself a story-poem, “Sal’s Balloon Adventure,” drawn largely from my highly unsuccessful and painful attempts to learn to ride a bike. Sal solved my/her problem by tying an impossible number of helium filled balloons to her bike, and riding aloft all around the world. (Hey, it’s fiction. Doesn’t matter where she got the money, how she found six million balloons, or how she didn’t pass out from lack of oxygen up there. Work with me, here.)
I finished crafting this masterpiece at about 2 a.m. Punch drunk from lack of sleep, I became unsure of my result, so I called a friend and asked her to listen to me read it.
“At two in the morning?” she complained. But she listened, sulking, and told me it was “cute.”
Not a ringing endorsement, but hey. She was 30 and asleep. I took my story and myself home to … pace half the night, memorizing it and practicing my delivery. I was still up at 6 the next morning, when I realized that it wasn’t cute. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t ready for prime time. And I wasn’t going to be able to stand in front of those kids if I didn’t get some sleep.
Ninety minutes is not “sleep.” But it’s all I had, because the program was set to begin at 9.
I dragged myself to the shower, mumbling lines from my story-poem. Like Sal, I have gumption. You just can’t keep me down! (check it—it’s in there)
Amid the rushing pellets of water, inspiration struck. I could be a little late. I could hit the party supply store and buy a few dozen helium filled balloons. I could bribe the kids to like my story!
I called a cab (did I mention I was between vehicles?), grabbed the pages of my story, and headed out to get my balloons.
You ever try to hang onto 36 helium filled balloons from the back of a cab? I had balloons out the left window, balloons out the right, and it wasn’t till we got to the Library that I got the full force of the driver’s irritation. I hadn’t noticed that the balloons had been pummeling the side of his face through his open window, hadn’t considered that he couldn’t see past the balloons to change lanes while driving. Oops.
Tom was waiting for me outside the Library, a little startled to have 18 tangled strings with balloons floating overhead thrust at him. I held onto the other 18 while negotiating my way out of the cab, trying to apologize to the cabbie with an obscenely large tip for a 10-block trip.
Tom looked uncomfortable, and why not? I was supposed to be there by 8:45 and it was now 9:35. Baaad Billie!
That wasn’t it.
“Um, good morning, Billie! Thank you for coming,” he stuttered, almost, but not quite, failing to meet my eye (Douglas Adams fans? Check out “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe.”
“Mmmpf,” I responded, from the depths of my sleep-deprived psyche.
“Um. Look. You organize a lot of events, right?” Instead of waiting for my reply, he just kept going. “And you know that things don’t always go as planned, right?” Again, no pause. “Well, ha! You won’t believe this, but I overbooked! We have too many readers, and I have tocutsomeonefromtheprogramandsincewe’refriendsIknewyou’dunderstandsoIcutyou.Pleasedon’tbeupset!”
Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.
“Upset? Of course not,” I lied, my lack of sleep and the buoyancy of the balloons conspiring to pull me sideways and a little up. “I stayed up all night writing this story, but that’s okay. Here, give the balloons to the kids.” I turned to find the cabbie had left me high and dry and without transport.
“No,” said Tom. “I’ll work it out. You come in and sit down!”
I did. Tom added his “special guest star” to the end of the program, and the kids liked my story! Not just because of the balloons, either—they laughed at the funny parts. They shrieked at the image of Sal shooting off to the east after a grossly messy sneeze (they got it!). They applauded when I was done! (They liked me! They really liked me!)
Tom approached me after the program. “I can’t believe I was going to cut that out!” he effused. “We’re going to do this next year … will you come and tell the story again?”
There are days when I don’t have the sense God gave a cue ball. Without hesitation (I hadn’t slept, remember. I wasn’t responsible.), I looked Tom dead in the eye and said, “Oh, NO, Tom. I’ll write you another one!”
A promise I forgot for about 364 days and 18 hours.
I don’t learn from year to year, so there’s a series of Sal stories, now, all produced lovingly with the impetus of panic at the last minute.
Oh! And look! I have Internet for a few minutes! Time to post …
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