Hard to believe, but it's here. I am downtown, at Sarah's house, not sleeping at almost 2 AM, ready for the con to begin. We've already been over to the Royal York and have signed in so as to avoid the lines tomorrow. We have our badges. They are hideous. I've already done some cosmetic surgery to make them a little less ... terrible. I now have a badge that I don't mind wearing on a string about my neck for five days. (Thank the lord for tape.)
Already met up with one fellow Clarionite, Corie. Yay!
Tomorrow: con begins early afternoon, Clarion 2001 BBQ for dinner, more con until way, way too late. Sounds like fun to me!
Today is my last day working for the Town. It's crazy how fast these past weeks have gone. This is both a happy day (no more work, Worldcon in two days!) and a sad day (I like the people I'm working with, and this is great pay for what I'm doing, and I really could use more money). Still ...
There is some craziness here today, just to make sure that my last day is interesting. Our second computer is still gone, fried apparently, which means that we only have one working switchboard at the moment. (Did I ever mention that I answer the phone with a computer?) And there was another storm last night which means that we're getting a lot of calls about (you guessed it) tree branches.
And tonight I think I can finally, finally get some writing done. Cross your fingers for me.
Today, a woman was particularly rude to me. Details are unnecessary. What is important is to know that I had already explained that no one in this office took care of the area of her concern and had given her the correct number. All very calmly and politely. At which point she snapped and yelled at me.
I understand frustration. Truly, truly I do. And yet why yell at someone who has just said that they have nothing to do with your problem? Someone who has not even met the people responsible, does not know them, not even their names. Why not simply yell out the windows? Why not scream at passing cars that you are angry, that people are jerks, that you want them all to pay? Why not open the phone book at random and yell at whatever hapless person happens to answer the phone?
It would be just as productive as yelling at me.
All day I have been thinking of that woman. Not that I’m worried or fretting or even particularly bothered; it’s just ... I want to think better of people. And some days people have other ideas.
As I sit and think and type, I realize that I want to be one of those carelessly articulate people, a girl who speaks cleverly and quickly without thought or hesitation, speaks as easily as they breathe. I have my moments, but they are few and rarely involve phones.
So, home now, or to whatever house I will call home for this evening, to rest and sleep and read and perhaps eat something lovely and not answer the phone. No, not even once.
Took more cold medication and am feeling functional again. (Hope it lasts for my two-hour drive to the cottage...) And the switchboard gods are being good to me right now, and I only have another ten minutes of work, so things are good.
In the packing-moving-homelessness thing, To Say Nothing of the Dog got sort of pushed aside, but I dug it out of its box and have been reading over my breaks. Yes, I like Connie Willis. I like that I can predict what's going to happen just often enough to feel cocky, and then she twists everything around and I am shocked and surprised and a very happy reader. I still think I like Doomsday Book best, even though it's rather dark (maybe because it's rather dark?), but this one is fun, too.
Last weekend I actually read some Romance novels, and will have to talk about that soon. Just want to be thinking clearly again, and have enough time to put down some thoughts in some sort of coherent manner. Which I am having difficulty with right now. Obviously.
There was a hell of a storm last night, switched off the power for a moment and took out my alarm clock (luckily I was still awake and reset it), and all morning I have been getting calls about trees. Downed trees, tree branches, trees that look like they might fall down sometime in the future, dead trees, trees on powerlines -- you get the picture. And nearly all of the callers sound hesitant, almost as if they're embarrassed to be calling, certainly no one else has a downed tree or here's a funny story for you or do you possibly know who would take care of this, it's just so strange how this tree...
And I am drugged up right now, and still not feeling fantastic, and am sounding funny even to myself. My voice sounds like I'm somewhere between soft-spoken and in need of medical assistance. Or maybe just terrifically apathetic, calm to an unnerving degree.
Last night my Oma and Opa came down so we could look at New, Currently Unfit for Human Habitation House (which still earns its name, to our dismay) and then got me some lovely cold medicine. This is the crazy strong kind of Sudafed that ... did I ever tell the story about how I took too much cold medicine? Not sure whether that was when I was journalling/blogging or not. Hmm. At any rate, this is the kind that I overdosed on once, and it really is fantastic so long as I don't take too much. I'm not that big a person and "Extra Strength" is a whole lot of strength for me. Still, fantastic stuff. Woudln't be at work without it.
Overdid it though, trying to kill flies and doing the mail and all, so I'm dragging right now. Looking forward to my lunch, which is -- right now, as a matter of fact. More later, I suppose.
Boring News Or, An Interesting-Sounding Title Failed to Present Itself
So, we may all assume that I am busy, that I am slightly frazzled, that I don't know where most of my belongings are, that I am tired. These things go without saying, yes? Yes. Good thing that I said them anyway.
My bad news is that I appear to be getting a cold. At first I thought it was only allergies--after all, I am staying in the basement of a house with a cat. Reactine can only do so much. A stuffy nose is to be expected, right? But last night I started going downhill and this morning I was suspicious, and now I am sure: it's a cold. Definitely a cold.
Not that I'm surprised. After all, I do seem to get sick anytime I get stressed and I think that now counts. And, of course, there is worldcon. I was sick last time I attended worldcon, so why not this time? My hope is that I will be better before then.
I can't even blame this one on Kelly Link. I always get sick when I'm around Kelly, and it is so nice to have someone to blame. So to speak.
Right now, though, I am afraid of losing my voice. Seeing as I am currently the lone switchboard operator, I really, really hope that doesn't happen. It feels like it will, though. I am trying to speak softly, and further back in my throat (if that makes any sense), both of which seem to help a little. I do so hate whispering on the phone.
In other boring news, the worm/virus keeps filling my inbox. The other day my inbox was 114% full because of the bloody thing. I am not pleased. I am, however, working. So back to that.
Homeless Or, Moonlight Sleeping on a Midnight Lake
Or, Paul Simon is Going to Kick My Ass if He Ever Meets Me
Or, Oooh, Imagine I Met Paul Simon
Ah. Some minor craziness today here at switchboard, but nothing totally unexpected. The predicted hydro worries, the people calling to ask if they really, really have to use less water, some minor failures/generator quibbles, but all in all a pretty unremarkable day. I'm pretty shocked that it's almost time for me to go home. Now keep your fingers crossed, everyone, that I drive to the right place...
I have been singing Paul Simon's "Homeless" all day (at least I think that's what it's called; I'm not an expert, just a crazy fan of Graceland). "Homeless, homeless, moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake ... Hello, Town of Caledon? Switchboard, may I help you?" That and that U2 song "One," though I know the source of that one: car radio on the drive in. I'm a big fan of that song ... just not when it's sung by U2. Am not a U2 fan, for no reason that I can readily identify. They just bother me. But "One" sounds fantastic when sung by Michael Stipe. So let's just say that that's the version that I'm singing and everyone will be happy.
Oh, and "Summer of 69" as sung by Brian Adams has made numerous appearances today, too. Must be the car radio. Damn that car radio, anyway.
You know how there's that saying "If your character needs to leave town, steal their bus money"? Something about not making things too easy for characters, upping the tension, all that lovely-good stuff. Well, in my case it's "If Karina has to move when her family's house and her apartment are not ready yet, and she has not packed all of her belongings by the day before her move, turn off all the power for two days, remove all water pressure, and have it be the hottest day of the year."
Oh fun. Such fun.
Power was out from somewhere around 4:00 Thursday to about 11:30 Friday. And because of our (former) house's location at the top of what is locally known as The North Hill, no power meant no water. We could get a trickle out of the kitchen or laundry room taps, but upstairs ... nothing. No shower, no cold water to drink. No power means no cold anything to drink. And then when we did have power, we had to unplug the fridge!
Insanity. Total insanity. Thursday night I was trying to pack by candlelight. Friday I was up and packing by 6:30 in the morning and did not stop working practically all day. Packing, moving, hauling, cleaning, trying very hard to keep breathing (have it on good advice that I must keep breathing), trying not to melt, keep working. At one point I collapsed in my empty room on the floor and just lay there for a few minutes, and realized that it was the first break I'd had after 12 solid hours.
And, of course, when it came time to empty everything out of the basement ... the power went off again.
I was up and working until about 11:30 at which time we had to temporarily abandon some belongings in the garage and drive to my grandparents' house to sleep. Oh, sweet sleep.
Still feeling mighty scattered (as you might have noticed from this entry), still mighty behind on ... well, everything, but I now officially do not live in Bolton anymore. For the first time in 20 years. It's very strange.
(Which is a kick-ass REM song, not that bloody terrible Great Big Sea song.)
I am going home now. We know that the power grid is out, and that something at a power station in NY is on fire... Other than that? I don't know, I can't say, and (again) going to be calm and rational. Yes. Good thing to do. Shutting down phones. Going out to car. Yes.
Still at work. I'm staying here because there is power, and I can go on the internet. Suddenly packing and my doctor's appointment are taking a back seat. Trying hard to be very calm, keep answering the phone, look for information. Of course, people are starting to say that it's a terrorist attack and I ... I don't know.
Well, something is going on. The power is out right now. We here in the Town are running on an emergency generator, but we are getting calls. From everywhere. The power is apparently out all across southern Ontario. Everywhere. We don't know why or how long, but it's become pretty apparent that something's happened. Either someone at Hydro One hit the wrong button (metaphorically speaking) or it's ... something else. Don't know what and don't even want to start speculating. But it's scary, actually. And I'm just blogging this in my moment of ignorance, just because.
... Just heard that the power's out all the way to the Carolinas. Don't know if it's true. I am officially scared, but I keep answering calls.
If nothing else, I am going to have to write a story about a switchboard at the end of the world.
I have just been totally overwhelmed these last few days. Working all day, packing most of the evening, falling terribly, horribly behind on email and everything else. I haven't been getting enough sleep. I'm running through some rather serious emotional highs and lows -- some great, exciting reactions to "Drowned Men" that have me really pleased, and Worldcon coming up, in combination with leaving my house and not knowing where I'm going to be or where my belongings will be or how or when I'm going to move to the apartment, never mind New House, and needing to work and get more hours in an attempt to cover my tuition, and -- yes. I'm going in about 16 directions at once.
Luckily, my boss is wonderful and gave me tomorrow off, no hassles, no questions, no problem. And so now it seems like yes, I may actually be able to pack the rest of my stuff in time, and maybe get some sleep, and then deal with everything else later. Somehow.
Today has been good, and bad, and neither. I am confused and frustrated, I am amused and silly, I am overwhelmed, I am pleased, I am disappointed and irritable and sad. I am angry and content. All at the same time.
I haven't been working switchboard for most of the day (hence the recent lack of random journal entries about people phoning me), though I will be again starting Thursday. Never fear. Instead, I have been doing things for the tax department. I spent the better part of an hour trying to track down what happened to 16 cents. I figured it out, but by the end of it I was just willing to donate 16 cents to keep my sanity and just be done with it. I was starting to mutter: "16 cents? I bet there's a bloody 16 cents out in the parking lot right now. Searching the parking lot for spare change--that would be a more productive use of my time. Ow! Stupid staples."
I also figured out how to use an adding machine, and failed to explain to others how one adds a negative number.
Home again, I am packing. Avoiding packing. Packing. There is both too much stuff in here (I'll never be done in time!) and far too little stuff. I miss my books. My room looks pale and colourless without all those lovely books. Three-quarters of my clothes are gone, and some of the contents of my desk, and part of my stereo. I remain overwhelmed.
I will only be sleeping here for three more nights. This is my home, and it won't be mine anymore. This thought, above everything else, feels like it is slowly dragging me down.
New, Currently Unfit for Human Habitation House is still just that.
All day, I have felt elated. Excited. I keep going back to Strange Horizons to make sure that yes, that really is my story, and yes, it really is published, and yes, real people--people that I don't know--are reading it. And I keep saying to myself, "Okay, yes, this is good and yay, story's published, but what the hell?" This is not my first published story, so why do I feel like dancing?
And I realized that no, it's not my first published story. It's my second.
For all the stories that I have accepted (oh yes, how staggering the numbers) this is the first one to see print since "How to Kill the Sun," which (need I remind you?) I wrote when I was 17.
So forgive me my excitement and foolishness; ignore me as I giggle to myself over here in my corner. I may act jaded at times, and try to pretend that I'm an old pro, but truth is I'm just some Canadian newbie and this is my beginning.
Today, I started packing. Seriously packing. And I, like so many others before me, was shocked at the sheer quantity of books that I own. There seem to be so many more when one is trying to put them into boxes.
And yet ... the books were the easy part. Books stack nicely. You can arrange them by size, try to use the odd-sized ones to fill odd spaces in boxes, you can pack them in so many ways. But the rest of my belongings? How is one to properly pack paintings and shoes and small decorative items? How is one to pack crochet hooks and deodorant, binders and hangers and videotapes and pictures? My belongings are becoming a swampland, and I am sinking.
At least I am finding things that I thought I had lost forever, and finding things that I didn't know I had. My earrings are all pairs again. I have a book on types of cats, a little pocket-sized one with a bent cover from falling behind the bookshelf. I found where I had lost my garage door opener (behind some books). And I found two cheese graters in my bedroom. Why did I need one cheese grater in my room, never mind two? I must have been meaning to take them to York, else it just totally makes no sense. I don't even eat cheese.
I'm sitting here listening to Paul Simon's "The Obvious Child." I think that this is my third time through in a row. What a fantastic song. Some cool lyrics, coupled with the hands-down coolest drumming I've heard in a long while. Plus, you know, it's Paul Simon. C'mon. Paul Simon. How can you go wrong?
So we had a garage sale here today. It went well, especially considering that we didn’t have much of note to sell. And for the most part, we didn’t have your typical garage sale items, either; no knickknacks, no children's toys, no wonky furniture, no old shoes. What we did have were lots of building supplies, computer games, some bikes and animal cages and flowerpots, and a whole hell of a lot of books. I had books spread out on two long, flat lawn chairs, three rows of books standing on their edges on a makeshift table made from plywood and two sawhorses, and about five half-full boxes of books on the ground.
You could tell who were book people and who were not. There were those that sort of half-scanned this massive selection, not really touching anything, not really daring to get close unless something caught their eye, and then wandering away to the rest of the fantastic items that we were offering for sale. Some didn't even glance. And some went straight for the books, dove in and did not surface for a very, very long time.
I priced these books to sell. 25 cents for a paperback, 50 cents for a hardcover. Trade paper counted as paper. Buy books, people! Read and be happy!
One man told me that at a garage sale a little further down the street, they were selling their paperbacks for a dollar apiece, two or three or four dollars for a hardcover.
"That's crazy!" I told him.
"That's what I said," he replied, laughing, and went back to digging among the piles.
My favourite, though, was a woman who arrived early in the afternoon. Most of these books were not originally mine, but given to me by a friend who needed to clear out much of the collection upon moving. I kept a good number, my mother kept some more, and we gave some away. The rest were an odd collection of SF and Romance, self-help and new age and non fiction. This woman was so enthusiastic when she saw this collection that she could barely contain herself.
When her arms were almost full to overflowing, I found her a box. Soon, the box was overflowing and I had to find her a second.
She could not believe that she had found this amazing treasure trove of books, and it made me so happy to be able to sell them to her. In another situation, I would have given them all to her for free, just because they made her so happy.
As it is, even with my brother and I splitting the proceeds from the sale, I made a nice bit of change. I danced around in the front hallway with the dogs, singing "Worldcon money, worldcon money!" (Which is more fun to sing than, "Tuition money! Just another drop in the hole!")
Then I packed up the rest of the books and took them to a nearby used book store (a new one! I'd never been there before). And maybe I'll make a few more dollars there (the guy's still sorting through the boxes and will let me know when he's found what he'd like to buy and what he'd trade for and what--though he doesn't know it yet--I'll just donate to him to do with whatever he likes), and maybe I'll just get a few more books. Always more books.
There was no pie for me. I think that the cleaning woman put the pie and any other uneaten/untaken free food back into the cafeteria fridge, behind locked doors. Now we are on good, chatty terms, but I didn't want to go interrupting when she's in the middle of cleaning the bathrooms to say, "Hey, um, is there any more of that pie, and maybe can you go get it for me? My only sugary dessert-food today has been some cake and a cookie, so I really need that pie, you know?"
Course, it just occurred to me that the pie could have been in the non-locked, very ordinary cafeteria fridge, waiting for me in chilled darkness.
Oh pie, why did I have to leave you behind??
(This has gone so far downhill it's unbelievable.)
Cake and Pie? Or, Karina Obsesses About Food While Waiting to Go Home
I appear to have been forgotten. How could they have forgotten me, the Switchboard Goddess, Queen of Calls, Manager of Directing Incoming Communications? (I just made myself a signature line that says that. I am easily amused.) I am ready to speak to them--anyone in the whole building!--whenever they dial 0. And yet do they remember to bring me cake? No-oo. Okay, well one woman did, and I like her muchly; she brought me the aforementioned mocha cake, which was lovely in oh so many ways. But that was my only cake today. And today was supposed to be cake day!
Yes, I am actually complaining about getting only one piece of cake today for free.
However, I did get a lovely free cookie from the cafeteria and last time I was there there were two gigantic pieces of blueberry pie waiting for a home. (And we need more blueberries, right M'ris?) Now having eaten one piece of cake and one cookie, on top of my normal lunch, I am not exactly starving. I do not need a gigantic piece of blueberry pie. But let me tell you, if at 5:00 when I'm leaving there is any pie there, I am so taking it home with me.
I'm reading a fantastic conversation right now in the comments section of one of Mike Jasper's recent journal entries all about trying to live as a full time writer vs. the the balance of day job and free time writing. Some good info, there, and is sure entertaining me in these quiet switchboard moments.
In other news, it's cake day here at the Town! (Course, sometimes it seems like every day at the Town is cake day at the Town ... not that I'm complaining!) There's a birthday in one department, and a going away party in another. Right now I'm nibbling on some lovely mocha birthday cake (being careful--damn hard to answer the phone with one's mouth full without sounding rude or idiotic) and trying to guess what the going-away cake will be. I'm hoping for chocolate.
I am moving in eight days. Yes, count them. They are few. Eight.
I have packed ... nothing. Absolutely nothing. On one level, I have just totally not accepted the moving thing. I am comfortable here. My stuff is comfortable here. Why mess with it? To change this would be ridiculous, illogical. Therefore, it is not happening.
And on the accepting-level of myself, I am ignoring it. Good plan.
Course, part of the panic is coming from the fact that this move is going to take something like a month to complete. I am moving not once, but twice at the same time: to New House (which will never really be my house, it's true) and to the very cool apartment that Carly and I will be sharing this year. And since New House is currently New, Totally Unfinished and Unfit for Human Habitation House, and the family belongings will be staying locked away inside a moving truck for lord-only-knows-how-long, anything that I will need for school, for the new apartment and for Torcon must be packed now and packed separately. This task is too big. I work all day. How can I think about this task, never mind complete it?
And because of my work and need for tuition money, I cannot move to my cottage for a few weeks like the rest of my family is planning to do. And new apartment will not be ready until the end of August, which means that I have to find somewhere else close to live for a few weeks.
For some unexplained reason I can't get this blog to publish right now. Which is irritating. So what do I do? Type more. Of course. In short sentences. Many, many short sentences. Most of them fragments.
Someone just phoned me and asked for info about the Fiddle Fest. Hehe, Fiddle Fest. Somehow this amuses me. Not just the fiddles, see, but that someone is turning to me as the source of info about a fiddle fest. I am now Karina, Fiddle Expert. I am your direct source for all fiddle-related queries.
I am becoming silly, all alone again on switchboard.
My new directory sheet does not contain the letter H. This is a problem, especially if I'm trying to find an extension for Hilary or Heather or Hans.
Feeling somewhat better today. Still thankful for the existence and effectiveness of painkillers, but definitely better. I'm actually at work right now, and typing because the phones have slowed down. Everything was crazy this morning, the phones ringing constantly, but now there is a lull. I imagine people sitting around eating their sandwiches and microwave lunches, scratching the Town's number on their brown paper lunch bags, saying "I will call soon. Soon I will complain about my neighbours, and ask for road maps, and speak to the Mayor, and yell at Karina about how the Building Department never picks up their phones--but now, now I will eat my roast beef sandwich and drink this can of Diet Coke."
Or something to that effect.
Some have expressed disbelief over the calls recorded in my earlier entry, N Calls. (Foolish disbelievers!) No, actually, that was accurate, and not a particularly busy time here on switchboard. If it was all silence and spare time, I'd write more journal entries at work, that's for sure. Still, even in this dead-silent time, I've answered the phone 17 times since starting this entry. And though I'm not breaking any records with my typing, I'm not exactly a glacial typist, either.
What else? Started Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog today at break, which is starting for me as all Connie Willis stories do, which is to say not particularly quickly or in a particularly interesting fashion, and yet I don’t care because I have come to trust Connie Willis. I am never blown away by the opening chapter, and yet by the end of the novel I am absorbed, lost in the book and oblivious to the world, happy with Connie Willis.
This is the book I got at Bakka over the weekend, for which I was almost not given the author's discount. I'd never tried to get the author's discount before, but Sarah had said such nice things and I’m not one to balk at saving money, and so I tried. And was allowed to get away with it, even though I was told that I wasn’t quite cool enough for this discount, that I might not get away with it in the future, that my paltry publication credits would be rebuffed at the checkout counter some time in the near future. Which was, I admit, not the greatest moment for me, especially standing with two other author-friends who had received said discount without pause or argument. Damn me and my small press credits, anyway. Who do I think I am? LCRW, indeed.
My call tally has crept up to 39. Wow, 39 is not a small number. I wonder how many calls I answer on a busy day. I have trouble answering the phone at home now, wanting to greet callers with "Good afternoon, Town of Caledon." I struggle to remember the word "hello." ("Ack, the phone is ringing. What do I say? WHAT DO I SAY??") And since beginning this paragraph, the tally has risen to 44.
This was supposed to be my fun weekend post, and it was supposed to be written yesterday. Oops. Being sick does mess with one's schedule.
Still, recent headaches, stomachaches and feelings of general wrongness aside, it was a fun weekend. Thomas and I had a great time, first visiting with Sarah, then visiting with Genevieve, then just hanging around and chatting and watching Donnie Darko (yet again) and laughing and being silly. We are smarter than we were at Clarion, and funnier, and better writers; we were entertained by the sheer force of our own coolness. Course, the weather was pretty bad all three days of this lovely-fun long weekend--rain first, then more rain, then some fog, then briefly sun, and then rain, rain, rain. There was no CN Tower trip, that's for sure; no baseball game.
There was lots of talking about writing, though, and publishing, and reviews and publications and workshops, and though I actually had a few very low writing-related moments over the weekend (no fault of Thomas', I must add) I ended up feeling like I have to sit my lazy self down and do more writing. Hanging around with writer-friends usually does that to me.
Course, now I'm writing this in bits and pieces, spending the rest of the time lying restlessly in bed, and writing is not very easy. I should work on that short story I've been thinking about. I should work on the project-in-progress. I should have a nap.
This weekend I am a Hostess. (I want to say "I am Hostess" but this seems wrong, makes me out to be some sort of packaged snack cake.) This is odd. By chance and circumstance, I almost always find myself being the guest; to have someone visit me, well, it's nearly unheard of! Vast distances and national borders are apparenty something of a hinderance to weekend getaways. I am, admittedly, feeling a bit of stress. I have no food. I should have gone shopping--but when? I look at the food I have to offer: tomatoes, half a ham, a box of triscuit. It seems somehow inadequate. Plus, I plan on acting like a bad hostess: I'm going to sleep in. A lot. This long weekend is my only chance to catch up on sleep, and I fully intend to take advantage of that. How rude.
And there is always stress when one's guest is late. I do not mind the lateness; only my mental visions of crashed, anonymous vehicles, visions of unending traffic jams and irate border guards who decided, on a whim, to detain anyone who might be foolish enough to visit me.