Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Crash of 2010

My computer crashed circa two weeks ago. It chose quite a quitting time. I was just about to fire off a furious, pre-bedtime condemnation (of someone I can’t stand who had just pissed me off earlier that day) in my very personal journal. Midway through sentence #2, all of my system’s programs shut down, which was followed by an infernal beeping sound every time I tried to turn the machine back on. I had to finish composing my latest statement of disapproval by hand on some nearby scratch paper - which wasn’t the same.

This computer (the Dell from Hell) had always been a weakling and it started acting up with a particular vengeance a few months ago, so I figured the end was near. But I thought I had at least another six months or so. For weeks, it had suddenly been performing beautifully – better than ever. This is supposed to be the M.O. of many suicides – they tend to be on their best behavior and outwardly show signs of improvement right before they know they’re about to take their final bow.

When most people’s computers crash, there are sob/horror stories about losing files and years of work. No stranger to worst-case scenarios, I always back up my material. So the only real hardship that came with not having a home computer for a couple of weeks was dealing with Fed Ex.

I ordered a new computer soon after the crash and Fed Ex initially attempted to deliver it in the middle of a work day when I wasn’t home. I don’t have a doorman and the only reason I would ever want one is for situations like these. I called Fed Ex to schedule a later-in-the-day time frame for the next delivery attempt (and they assured me that this could easily be arranged and readily honored). Long story short, Fed Ex spent the next two days continuing to show up during business hours, culminating in the package being sent to and stored at a facility in Brooklyn.

(Please see my last posting about why I didn’t leave a note on my building’s front door, asking Fed Ex to leave the package with my Super. This guy has already lost my spare apartment key and one of my spare mailbox keys. I wasn’t taking any chances of my valuables entering into his temporary custody.)

A couple of days later, I took the subway out to the Fed Ex Ground Center in Brooklyn. It was pouring rain, as it usually is whenever I have something important to do on the outside that I can’t get out of. The person on the phone told me that this outfit was located in the Williamsburg neighborhood. But this wasn’t Williamsburg – not the Williamsburg I know. Just the subway stop was in Williamsburg. This was the kind of place that just had an address – not a neighborhood.

The person on the phone had also persuasively told me that this center wasn’t that long of a walk from the subway stop. When I exited the train station, I asked someone where the Fed Ex center was. He pointed out which direction I should head toward. “You’re going to walk?” he asked, in a tone I hadn’t been expecting. What choice did I have? I had given my limo driver the evening off and there wasn’t a cab in sight.

I’ve never trekked out to visit someone in a medium-security prison complex before, but that’s a little what the walk to Fed Ex felt like. Guarded like an inner-city high school, this was no post office, and I soon understood why there were no cabs around. After I was let in, they all looked at me as if I was the only non-Fed Ex employee to have ever entered the building.

While I waited for one of the wardens to bring me my box, I busied myself with some of the literature on their walls. My favorite poster read something like: “Fed Ex Ground Won’t Put Up with Thieves (small print: whether it’s a pair of shoes or a computer system, stealing is forbidden)”. There was an action shot of one thief who hadn’t been put up with being handcuffed and slowly led away, probably to one of the back rooms of this very facility. I liked knowing that my computer’s safety had been taken seriously wherever they were bringing it out from. They even expertly wrapped my box in a jumbo plastic bag to protect it from the rain on the walk back to Williamsburg.

My new Dell is a doll. The honeymoon period is well underway. Now the post-roving retorts can comfortably resume.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pandemics, Pigs, and Peasants

My Super — ain’t nothin’ super about him. Never mind, yes there is. There’s the super-tardiness and the super-tawdriness. The super-incompetence. The super-chicanery. And I’m long past super-outraged.

Whenever I run into this guy on the street and I unsmilingly remind him of the outstanding repairs that are waiting for him in my apartment, he’s all glibness and grins. “OK, mami — you got it,” he likes to say. And then he still won’t do it.

When I first moved in, I showed him about 3 sets of urgent repairs he needed to make. With gaping eyes and melodramatic sighs, he said he’d come back the next morning. I thought he meant he was going to come back to physically make the repairs. But the next morning he showed up with a representative from the Bronx-based landlord’s office. I have every reason to believe that he described me to her as a demanding little bully and solicited her escort services with the expectation that she would fiercely put me in my place. Let’s just say his plan backfired.

This Super isn’t used to me or my kind. About half the people in the building have lived there for at least a decade and have some kind of rent-stabilized arrangement. By and large, they’re the agreeable, non-confrontational types who are grateful for whatever they have and go through life with the attitude that the world owes them nothing. Whereas I’m nothing like that. Superman picked up on this very early on in my tenancy. I make him work and he resents it. Which is too bad (for him)— I spend way too much of my hard-earned money to live in my mediocre building and, as far as he’s concerned, I don’t want to hear it.

I like the Super’s son who once lived with him. He was a pleasant and hard-working young man/old boy who could have been anywhere between 16 and 35 years old. I never heard him say anything bright, interesting, or 100% coherent — but he always struck me as an undiscovered working-class poet. He oozes soul. But he recently moved to Texas and he took his soul with him. So now it’s just me and his awesome dad.

The other day, I had another repair (involving my bathroom sink) that needed to be made. The landlord’s office told me the Super would come by between 7 and 8 o’clock that night. I rushed home from work so I wouldn’t miss him. By 7:40, I was hit with an unshakable feeling that I was en route to being stood up. I continued to semi-patiently wait, flipping through the Spring 2010 issue of World Ark magazine (“the magazine of Heifer International”) that had just arrived in the mail, the cover of which featured a full-page photo of a self-assured-seeming middle-aged woman clutching a live goat to her bosom. A few years ago, I became a card-carrying member of a national feminist organization. As a result, I’ve been unwittingly placed on the mailing lists of about a dozen obscure left-wing organizations. I didn’t mind this Heifer publication. Especially after having a few drinks. One of the articles I skimmed was entitled: “Pandemics, Pigs, and Peasants.” There are worse ways I could have killed my time.

At 8:01, there was a knock at my door. I jumped up, raring to go. Much to my amazement, it wasn’t at all who I thought it was going to be. It was a young woman carrying a clipboard. She was from NYC Communities for Change and was going door to door in support of several NYC public schools that Governor Paterson was trying to shut down. I consider David Paterson to be right on par with my Super. Eager to go on record as denouncing him, I signed her petition and gave her $5 for the cause. While I was signing, I casually told her that I had thought she was going to be my Super. “Is your Super black?” she asked. I told her he wasn’t. “Oh,” she said, “because I just saw a black guy on this floor and he looked like he could have been a Super.” Still can’t believe she said that. Particularly since she herself was black. And a member of an organization that called itself NYC Communities for Change.

At 8:15, it became clear that my non-black Super wasn’t going to come up on his own. So I went down to go get him. He answered the door wearing his trademark wife-beater shirt and talking on a cordless phone. “Hi mami,” he said. “Give me 5 minutes.” Fifteen minutes later, he arrived and lackadaisically surveyed my faucet situation. He went back down to his miniature urban workshop to retrieve another piece or a tool he needed. He didn’t end up actually getting down to business until after 9 p.m. I don’t like having strange men in my home at this hour of the night — and he was as strange as they come. His prompt and humble son would never ever have pulled a stunt like this.

(Rumor has it that the Super who came before this guy wasn’t that much better. In fact, he got himself fired after the landlord’s office learned that he had been organizing regular cock fights in the building’s basement.)

This isn’t the first shady, shitty Super I’ve ever had in this city. And many of my friends who have lived in NYC have had similar experiences. What’s the hiring process for non-swanky NYC residential building Supers? It’s gotta be something like the first person who walks through the door (and has a working knowledge of how to use a screwdriver) gets the big gig. Perhaps the good people of Heifer International would be interested in this gripping human-interest story. I’ve got a few heart-wrenching tales of pandemics, pigs, and peasants of my own (in addition to secondhand accounts of some scrappy indoor roosters).