What I did while E2 was down, and a little bit after that.
Bought a house
Actually, this had been arranged earlier, but I actually paid for the house. The bank and I paid, that is. Housing in Toronto is quite expensive, but I'm within spitting distance of the big 4-0 and mortgage rates are very low, so it seemed like now or never. I've been saving for this for a very long time, but still the bank needed to finance a hefty portion. I'm paying them handsomely for their assistance, of course!
There's nothing quite as bracing as draining every liquid asset you have into a single bank draft and then giving it to a total stranger (the lawyer, whom I had never met until then). And gosh, the fees! Land transfer tax, various kinds of registration, property tax, lawyer's fees, agent's fees, exorcism fees.... Hey, I saw Poltergeist as a teen - that clown doll haunts me still. Can't be too careful....
So, after many years of avoiding consumer debt through calculated privation I've got a sizable monthly mortgage payment. It plays hell with my cavalier "go ahead, fire me" persona at work, that's for sure. It makes me cautious about eating out at lunch.I even bought lottery tickets for two weeks, I was so wierded out, which is so not me. I hate taxes enough without voluntarily giving more. Fortunately I won $10 the second week and broke even, so my old habits from my Las Vegas casino trips came through, and I quit when I got back to even.
The whole house buying thing is crazy. I'd never buy a car without a test drive, but you get 1 or 2
half hour visits to the house and you have to decide. And you're paying at least an order of magnitude more for the house! Equity is supposed to be a good thing. We'll see. Now the only major asset I have that I own outright is my car (retirement funds notwithstanding, and after a few
years of mutual fund decline, not worth much mention, either).
Arranged to move/connect utilities
One side effect of utility deregulation is that there's no assumption that you'll automatically be doing business with "the gas company" for example - so if you don't arrange service with each one you'll be left in the darkj/cold/whatever. My wife and I split these up so that we each arranged some, and it looks like we got 'em all. The new phone number has no ones or zeros, and it actually spells something funny, so I'm pleased with it.
Painted the bedrooms in the house
The bedrooms were a sort of maroon colour. I would've gone with it but my wife thought the dark colours made the rooms look small, so we redid them in a light yellow. I'd never painted before, but we did all right. One coat of primer, two of the new colour. Didn't spill much, and it looks OK. Here's a tip though, don't leave the painter's tape on the mouldings for 4 days before you try to take it off, or you'll tear your new paint. Oops. Who knew?
Moved to the house
Next up was packing and moving. I'd culled a lot of my stuff when I got married and my wife moved into the apartment a year before. So the traditional pre-move reduction of cruft was easier in some ways (less junk) but harder in others (all those things I'd justified keeping a year ago were subject to review again). Quite a bit of my 'bachelor days' furniture was deemed surplus, and donated to an agency that helps new immigrants start over in Canada. So, that made it a bit easier -- I form attachments to stuff I've had for a long time, and some of that furniture had been my parent's stuff before me. I felt better knowing it would get a few more years of use.
Still, even with another cull, an amazing number of cardboard boxes accumulated. My wife's boxes were all labelled and colour coded meticulously. Mine tended to say "Stuff - Basement." And we weren't quite ready when the movers arrived, though we were close. It took 3 hours to load, half an hour in transit, and 2 hours to unload. Very little damage or breakage, though our pizza stone is MIA, which bugs me all out of proportion to the cost of the thing.
I got the office set up first, hooked up the cable to the cable modem, and checked E2. Still down. Just as well, there was lots of unpacking to do. Setting up the kitchen, bedroom, etc.
Cleaned the apartment
We went back the next day and cleaned the apartment, and packed up all the flotsam and jetsam of our lives. It took quite a while. After 8.5 years in the place, I'd forgotten how it looked empty. I noticed that the places where I'd had pictures up the whole time were a different colour than the rest of the wall. Someone in the building traded up from a one-bedroom, and was going to repaint the whole place in custom colours. I'd left it eggshell for 8+ years, a change was probably welcome.
Had a birthday
The next day was my birthday. It snowed (thank goodness we were already moved) and I had to work. I never work on my birthday, but we're trying to release a major upgrade of the software product that I manage, and I need to be there. Not that I really do anything per se, but I can walk around and make sad-puppy faces at the people who are on the critical path to try and motivate them.
The upshot is almost nobody remembered my birthday - even I forgot, but luckily my wife remembered and took me out to supper and the bookstore, where I got to choose my own present. (3 books including Robert Sawyer's "Humans," sequel to his Hugo award winner, "Hominids".)
Wrecked my car
So, first Saturday in the new house, time to get groceries. We leave the house just around 8:00 a.m. There's a light dusting of snow but nothing serious, the roads are wet but not snow-covered.
I'm driving and my wife is in the front passenger seat of my 1994 Saturn SL. We go up Royal York road, a quiet residential section lined with trees. A bus is stopped with four ways on, and I pull around him with no problem. Traffic is light.
Royal York goes under Dundas street (a major road) in a convoluted clover-leaf. The road widens to two lanes, and then three, each way for a short time, and is separated by a median. The interchange ramps are arranged in strange ways that require unusual turns.
As we come up to the underpass, the trees end and the houses are set back. You can choose the left lane or the right as the road widens - I choose the left in case the car before me needs to turn right to access Dundas. Then I see that the sign that warns of the median has been knocked down and is in the left lane, so I start to ease right.
Well, the wind blowing on the wet pavement, unimpeded by trees or houses, had created a slick surface on the roadbed. We call it black ice here in the Great White North - it looks like normal wet pavement, but it offers no traction at all. The nose of the car started to swing towards the sidewalk.
You're taught to steer into the skid and not touch the brake. So, I did, and the car responded all too well. The nose swung back and into oncoming traffic. Again, I steered into the skid, and the car started to correct. One of the wheels must have gripped for a moment - suddenly the car spun around and the left rear corner of the car decided it wanted to lead, for once. This left me a bit puzzled as to my next move, as we slid back across our lanes toward the sidewalk.
At this point my wife exclaimed in alarm, and I looked out my side window to observe a stout wooden utility pole travelling toward me (as it seemed). I had time to think two things "I'm going to be hurt" and "I'd best not be looking at this pole when we hit it." So I turned my head away and thus missed the moment when we mounted the curb.
We came across right at a residential driveway, the front wheels mounted there, so the car didn't tip. My wife remembers the rear of the car bouncing up, but it came down again right away, from the looks of the skid marks on the sidewalk. (I don't remember this happening, but I was fully occupied at the time.) The car must have rotated slightly when we came up onto the sidewalk, and we hit the pole about a foot behind my seat, right at the boundary between the front and rear doors. (Pictures of car, skid, and pole on my home node, for the curious.) The driver's side window left the car and proceeded without us, in small cubes, a few yards further up the lawn.
The Saturn's plastic parts did their thing, absorbing a fair amount of impact, protecting both myself and the utility pole from serious harm. The door did press me snugly into the center console, with the arm rest bruising my hip, but I wasn't injured. My wife was bounced around a bit more - the '94 Saturn's head rests don't come up high enough for her, and she hit her head on its top.
The homeowners called 9-1-1 for us and the 'jeep' ambulance1 and fire crew arrived in minutes. The firemen were hard pressed not to fall on their asses on the slippery roadway. I had already shut off the car, so the fire crew got me to open the hood and they cut the battery wires while the paramedics checked my wife. Meanwhile the police arrived, just in time to watch a cab bounce off the ambulance and slide to a stop a few meters beyond us. "Slippery eh?" the fire crew chief asked me jovially. "So it would seem" I deadpanned in response.
A second police car arrived to write up the second accident, and a full ambulance arrived to take my wife to the hospital for x-rays. If you've never sat in the wreck of your own car while medical personnel take your loved one out on a backboard, let me tell you, it's not on the top of my list of feel-good self-esteem moments.
I climbed across the console and out the passenger side and we were off to the hospital, the details of which ordeal I shall skip. X-rays were negative and my wife has recovered fully. We got home from the hospital just in time to welcome my in-laws who were staying over at the new house. "Hi, how are you? I just almost killed your daughter...."
The car was towed away while we were en route to the hospital. The next day I visited it in the impound yard to collect my plates and personal effects. As I said above, I form attachments to things I've had for a while. I really took good care of that car. It made me very sad to see it broken beyond repair. It's since gone off to the wrecker's yard, and my insurance company has given my the princely sum of $4000 for it. (So much for the 'major asset'.)
Oh yeah, and I got charged with careless driving, which the officer told me he had to do -- nonetheless I think it's all out of proportion with the event. I was driving at the posted speed and made what I consider to be a perfectly reasonable judgment. I just had the bad luck to make the course correction at a bad spot. Could I have better managed the skid? Maybe - I'll never know. I'm waiting for the wheels of justice to grind out a court date so I can try and convince a judge that the answer is no....
It turns out our new phone number was previously the number of a gentleman's club over on nearby Kipling avenue. Culling the news archives I found out that it was repeatedly raided by the vice squad for various prostitution related offences. I guess they finally shut it down, and after some period of inactivity, we got that number. Kinda funny, we get calls meant for it, mostly from polite young women. I'm not sure what that's about, exactly.
Sometime in the midst of filing insurance claims, shipping a beta software release, buying Christmas gifts, trying to find alternate transportation for the holidays, and getting the house ready for winter, E2 came back. (Note to self: find and read dannye's node about eavestrough gutter guards2.)
I think I'm ready to get back in the groove. Of course, there's a good 1,000 kilometers of winter driving over the Christmas - New Year's period to survive first. My driving confidence is shot all to hell, especially in the snow. Perhaps the weather gods will have mercy on me - here's one year I'm only dreaming of a white Christmas in nightmares.
Well, I just now had a call from a young woman with a strong central European accent, a baby crying in the background, wondering if she could, possibly, please, dance at "my club." There's was a whole world of hurt and desperation in her voice. I explained gently that this was now a residential number, and that I think the club in question has closed. Did I have their new number, she asked. No, I'm sorry, I think they're closed, I repeated. She said something I didn't understand and hung up.
So the phone number thing is not so funny now. But the busted up car and the mortgage seem like smaller problems. I don't have to ring notoriously sleazy strip joints and beg them for work so that I can feed my baby.
Happy holidays, gentle noders. Be grateful for what you have. See you in the new year.
- In Toronto, paramedic vehicles which are not equipped for transport make the first response, and then call for a full ambulance for transport if needed. This makes for very quick response times, as the same budget buys more vehicles and crews.
- Leaf proof gutters