Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rescue at 401 Chestnut Street

I’m beginning to see a pattern here. I just re-read my last two blogs. Two days in a row the Wall Street Journal was missing in the morning. I walked up and down the stairs twice to check on the papers, avoiding the elevator at all costs. The second run the local paper was there, but not the Wall Street Journal. Angela and I (taking the stairs) walked over to Panera and she treated me to lunch. When we got back to our building low and behold there sitting in our lobby was the Wall Street Journal. There were three, and I knew who the other two went to so I told Angela I would take them to that office. I was just grabbing the door to the stairs when Angela got to the elevator and convinced me to take it. I hopped off at our first stop and ran around the corner to deliver the papers and Angela was holding back the doors as they tried to close on her waiting for me. I slipped through the closing doors and hit the button to our floor. Okay, fine, I'll admit it. We work on the 3rd floor and I took the papers to the 2nd floor and there are only five floors in our tiny building.

Suddenly, it was like Fright Fest at Six Flags. The elevator went all the way up to the fifth floor, then back to the lobby, then back up and down. When it was moving and seemed to never stop, is when I started panicking. (I am not the person you go to in a crisis. I am the person you run from.) Angela said, “Its okay, we’ll get out.” She pressed all the floor buttons (only five). The car stopped between two floors. We know this because once it stopped and Angela had pressed the open door button and nothing happened and after she rang the emergency bell three times, she finally started prying open the doors. I was scrunched up in the far corner peering out under my hair, and saw we were indeed between two floors. I had my cell phone and tried to call the office and no luck. The maintenance guy was on vacation anyway. Angela used to work for the fire department, so she called the chief.

While Angela was talking with the fire chief I checked my teeth in the full length mirror at the back of the elevator. I didn't want lettuce blacking out a tooth when I smiled a grateful thanks to strapping handsome firemen. The chief called District 1 and they were on the way to get us, but she had to call 911 to make a report.

It was about 18 minutes of life stuck in an elevator. It was growing hot – I had on three layers. I took off my scarf, then my jacket, then my sweater. (I still had on a shirt.) I was thinking, at least I brought my cookie and chips back with me for sustenance and we had something to read. I didn’t know how long we’d be in there. I do I think I sucked up all the oxygen in that enclosed space. I laugh when I am nervous and I was giggling the whole time. We heard sounds of our rescue. One of them called through the doors, "It sounds like a party in there." (That would be me giggling.) Soon the doors opened and five firemen were staring in at us. Two held the doors back and I hopped out first. Had to hop down as we were still stuck in between floors. It was the lobby. I felt light-headed and needed to lean against a wall. Two more firemen came out of the stairwell. It felt so good to be free. I have made a vow to take the stairs from now on. (I hope I remember to do that.)

One of the cute (single) firemen followed me up three flights of stairs to my office to get a phone number for the building. Meanwhile back in the lobby, Angela was talking with one of the guys she knows. He told her they arrived with the siren screaming. (Thankfully we didn’t hear it. That’s just embarrassing.) He told her the chief told them to go to 401 Chestnut but then 911 dispatch called and sent them to the hotel next door. They went to the hotel and asked if that was the place with the stuck elevator. It figures, they’d try to go save “Edward” first. Luckily we weren’t on fire or something tragic.

I would like to thank the seven firemen from District 1 who were fearless and brave and saved us from the broken elevator at 401 Chestnut Street. Thank you!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Continued

Okay, we got the newspaper finally and on my way back up, (I know, I know I should have taken the stairs) I took the elevator and got mini stuck. I know people have their own horror stories to tell about getting stuck for hours (like Polly's story that freaked me out) but this is my blog and the 30 seconds I was stuck with the elevator going up and down and I didn't know what floor I would end up on or if I'd be in between floors and wondering at what point do I press the emergency button...I was getting seriuosly freaked. Now I am trying to regulate my breathing again. In. Out.

11 hours and 52 minutes until Monday is over. Stay tuned.

P.S. the newspaper and the elevator weren't the only things gone awry this morning, but I don't feel like rehashing the rest. You don't want to hear it anyway. :)


Now the Wall Street Journal is missing. Tim the Maintenance Guy always brings them up to our door. (Well...almost always.) He is on vacation this week, so I know he doesn't have them. Who do I call? (Ghostbusters? heehee)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I opened my e-mail just now to a pleasant surprise. My father sent me an e-mail. I wonder if I need his permission for a quote. Hmm...I'll take a chance.

He wrote: "I have re-read your story, and, upon reflection, I think it is really good. Much better than I thought at first."

I laughed out loud. It helps to have a blog and a father who shows an interest in reading it. My dad is a very fair man and I know that if he had re-read my story and still felt the same, he would not waver, no matter who reads this blog.

I must have learned a little something about the value of your own opinion from him (and you too, Mom!) because I did not let his opinion crush me and I pressed forward in my own strength. Thank you, Daddy! I love you!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chance Encounter

Gulp! I just saw "Edward." I was driving out of the parking garage leaving for lunch and I had to wait on a car and right there in front of me was "Edward" walking along the sidewalk at the back of the hotel, wearing shades and talking on his cell phone. I could have taken a quick snapshot with my cell phone (he wasn't looking my way, thankfully) and then you would know he really does look like Edward. But my cell phone was in my purse on the next seat and I couldn't move. I was frozen stock-still wrapped up in that old familiar blanket of mortification. Inside I was freaking out. I am scared to go next door ever again.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Everyone's A Critic

In February I asked my father, a very smart, retired English professor, if he would help me study literature so I may become a better writer. He may have been thinking of my writing a story like "Pride and Prejudice," while I was thinking more like, "Bridget Jones." He started me out on short stories. I came up short (no pun intended) on every question in the first story I read. He explained to me the art of writing short stories. The secret is in using few words, but words that describe without telling. There is more beyond the surface. I was just reading the stories, I wasn't knowing them intimately the way the author intended. Everything has a reason for existing in a short story. Every word is the glue holding it together. Which brings us to last Wednesday.

I was out on the Writer's Digest website looking for a poetry contest for my sister Kathryn to enter. (I am not a poet. I'll write a poem and post it one day and you will understand why that is not my calling.) I found a short story contest in which the deadline was this past Saturday. I thought that trying my hand at a short story in three days time, would be a challenge and a quick way to accomplish a goal. The prompt was "Boat Trip Murder: Seven people board a small boat for a tour of the islands, but when the boat returns to the dock, only six people remain on board."

I've never written about a murder before and wasn't sure how I would do it. Then a great idea hit me! I decided first to write it from the boat's perspective. I spent two days working my regular job and writing little notes, ideas that I would use in my masterpiece. I spent seven hours on Saturday writing and editing it. The story had to be 750 words or less and I wrote 921. Kathryn and I spent about an hour whittling it down to 747. Then I sent it to my father on the e-mail for his editing expertise.

He called me and said he had made changes. Not only had he seriously helped my punctuation (by the way, I am not very good at punctuation, so please forgive any errors you come across on this blog), but he said he changed some words and sentences. I thought it would be okay; I trusted him. But when I saw what he did, I balked. He, thankfully, changed some words I didn't use in the right context (by the way, I am not very good at finding the word I am looking for, so if I happen to use a word that does not define what I meant to say, please forgive me), but he also took words out I had carefully and purposely (according to my newfound short story knowledge) placed in the story.

Then...he told me it was a stupid story and no one would believe it. I just laughed and said, "I thought it was very creative. I bet no one else writes it from the boat's perspective." He said, "You're right about that!" and went on to tell me twice more that it was a stupid story. I was not insulted. He's my dad. I love him. I know him. I also know he might have been looking for Agatha Christie, not Dave Berry. I enjoyed my story so I felt no shame in submitting it for the contest.

Since then, I have received several rave reviews. "Clever." "Creative." "Original." My adoring fans want more.

Critics provide a challenge to your self esteem and to your craft. When they are your father, well, you can rest in the knowledge that he will love you no matter what.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Big Evening at the Shops

Two days ago I discovered a wonderful little story that I couldn't wait to read. (Who knows whether once you've read it if it will turn out as wonderful as you thought?) But once I couldn't find it at the used bookstore, I decided to use the 10% coupon I had for Barnes and Noble.

Today right after I left work, I decided to head over to the mall straight-a-way and look for the book I wanted. But I got distracted at a department store. I needed a new white blouse, as I had tossed my old new one in the dryer one too many times. (Either that or I am gaining weight again.) I found several items I had to have. The socks sort of jumped into my line of view on my way to the cashier. I needed some new socks. Well, it wasn't a desparate need, but ever since airline security stole two pairs of my blacks socks (that I had specifically asked for for Christmas two years ago) on my way back to Denver, I have an obsession with getting black socks. So I got some. I cheerfully chatted with the girl at the register. She rang everything up, $43 and some odd cents. Wow, that was a great deal for all I got. Then she said, "Oh I didn't ring up the socks." Cha-ching! $58 and some odd cents, plus the medical bill I'd be paying later for the paramedics coming to gather me up off the floor from hyperventilating and passing out. I tried to collect myself and slumped out of the glass doors back to my car. I still had to go buy my book.

I dragged over to the bookstore next door, but of course they didn't have the book I wanted. So I had to drive across the busy six lane street to the other shopping center and try again at Books-A-Million. While in there, I remembered that when I first moved to this town, my sister told me to never go to that store. Well, I went last summer and it was wonderful. I couldn't understand her reasoning. So I told her, its fine, what's the problem? She said the customer service was less than desirable. They were great every time I had been in there, so I thought it must just be her. Funny how I thought that thought as I was scanning titles tonight. Famous last words.

I couldn't find my book, so I had to order it and I asked about another book, which was in stock, so the employee led me over to the shelf and we found it. I hurried to the register to pay in hopes of hurrying home. I waited in line and the woman in front of me signed up for the membership so it was taking longer. Another employee saw me and offered to help me. I had discovered the Reese's pumpkins at the first register and grabbed two. On the way around to the next register, I tripped and one of pumpkins flew out of my hand and landed upside down on the floor. I picked it up and noticed it cost .99 cents. Holy buckets! I told the woman, "I didn't know these cost .99 cents. I can't afford to get them." I placed them on the counter.

She rang up my items and tried to convince me to sign up for the membership. I hemmed and hawed. I tried to say no thanks, like all the other times I had been in there. I point blank asked her, "How much will it cost me tonight for all of this (an $8 book and a $3 item) if I get the membership, too?" She said, "Oh it will only be $18!" Well, I guessed $18 wasn't so bad, so I said, "Well, I guess I'll do it." She signed me up for the coveted membership and said, "That will be $31 please!" Holy cow! How did $18 suddenly turn into $31? I looked around for a nurse or paramedics nearby- I was going to need them soon.

I left the store, steam rising from my ears. She was probably speed dialing her manger at that very moment, "Hey, Harve, I just got another one!...Yeah, isn't it great? I have a real knack for this. I can smell suckers like a dog can smell fear....Yeah, aren't you glad you fired that poor nice girl Mary.... Why, thank you, I could use a raise; I just bought some new socks at the department store across the street..."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Great Newspaper War of 401 Chestnut Street

Last summer I called the local paper's delivery line at the prompting of my manager. "Call them and tell them we did not get our papers." This was a new job and my first innocent phone call to the paper. I did it and we were given a credit. Hmm...not too bad, I thought, and carried on with my happy new life.

The next day I received an angry call from the newspaper delivery guy. "Call me if you don't receive your papers. Do not call the office. They take away my bonus if I miss three deliveries." I assured him that I was convinced (only through rumors at our office) that it was the work of a thief and not that he didn't deliver them. It didn't matter. He gave me his cell number and a couple weeks later I was dialing it. "Is this Bob?" (I have changed his name for protection--mine) He replied, "No. Who is this?" I identified myself. The he breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh okay, yeah this is Bob." What? Was he on the run from the police? From creditors? From an angry mob of newspaper thieves?

He came by later that day and delivered our papers. We had a nifty little system going there for awhile until, Bob's cell phone had a message, "This number has been disconnected." I had no choice but the to call the newspaper. Big mistake.

Bob's wife came up to our office and blessed me out. Yikes. I got a new cell number to call Bob on. Until, there was never any answer. I had no choice. I had to call the paper. I cringed as I dialed the numbers and spoke those fateful words, "We did not receive our papers today." Then adding almost pleadingly, "I'm sure Bob delivered them, but someone is stealing them." (Although why a theif would choose to steal the newspaper? Unless he was clipping articles of his past thefts.) It didn't matter. I imagined Bob's bonus being withheld and Bob coming after me with scads of rubber band weapons.

I don't know what happened to Bob the last time I called (which was only a few weeks ago.) I still do not have a new cell phone number for him.

Then yesterday there came a break-through in the war. I had just returned from the front door retrieving our local papers. The Wall Street Journal had already been delivered to our office (but usually it sits outside on the Chestnut Street sidewalk until I come get ours out of the four papers delivered to various VP's in the building.) Our building manager visited me, out of breath from exertion. He asked, "Did you get your papers today?" (He knows all about the newspaper war.) "Why, yes," I cheerfully replied.

"Because I had an episode out there this morning." My goodness what could have happened?
"I came in early," he continued, "and was turning the corner and I saw this guy (in slacks and a business shirt, with an ID badge looped around his neck) grab a paper and start walking on down the sidewalk. I pulled my truck over and jumped out leaving the door open and the engine running and took off after him. I chased him down the street. He took off running! I told him, 'Buddy, that's the last paper you steal from us!'"

Aha! We have a spy on our side and a thief who has been identified. I wanted to share the good news with Bob and his wife, but I did not have his phone number. My God, I wonder if he still has a job there?

Monday, October 5, 2009

And Then There Was Today...

Well, it all started when I woke up and drove into work. I found out I had accidentally signed myself up for a one month (every day, and you know how hard that is for me) committment to writing. Every day. November is National Novel Writing Month. I just signed into Nanowrimo because I thought that was the only way I could see all the rules involved in signing on to this program. Wrong. I got an e-mail that said, "Congratualations! You have just committed to one month of writing every day." (or something like that) This program helps you set a goal to write 50,000 words of a novel to help you complete a novel, but more importantly help you complete a goal. So I ran out to my car to get a head start and write in privacy. I wrote five pages (granted they were 6" x9", but whose measuring?) I was so excited I ran back in to tell a friend, slamming the door behind me. Halfway to the door I realized my fate. I had just locked my keys in the car.

Hmmm...how to get out of that one...

Angela came to my rescue. She said she locked her keys in her car often enough to know how to jimmy the lock. We made a plan to ask Michael, the dry cleaner, when he came by in the afternoon if we could get a hanger from him. He laughed and handed over a hanger (after removing the white paper glued to it) and wished me luck.

Angela and I began to work the hanger into the car by wedging open the door frame a tad with the wooden door-stop from the ladies room. A cute guy came over to investigate and asked if we needed help. I said, "Yes, please!" He said, "Well, I can't really help. I don't know how to get them out, only how to lock them in." Great. He watched us struggle for a minute then left at the sound of his ring tone. I glanced over a couple minutes later and saw him talking to a cute girl who wasn't chained to her car. Lovely.

Then another strong handsome man drove up in his white truck (can that be compared with a white horse?) He said, "I have a SlimJim in my truck, if you want help." Yes please! So he left his truck running and jumped out to our rescue. He and Angela worked together. An older man came out out of the building to hop in his truck and head home. Only he couldn't. Knight in shining armor #2's truck was blocking the way. (Knight #2 was married. His wife called him and asked where was he.) The older man stayed to chat and check the progression of the descent of the hanger to the lock from the other side of my car. His wife called him looking for him. Great I was keeping everyone from dinner. I felt I need to take them all out. But would we ever get the car door open?

Two of my co-workers came out to see what the trouble was. One managed to get his car unblocked and was free to drive home. The other just hung out to lend moral support. I tried a lame attempt at helping wedge a pen in the door to help hold it open- it broke. That's two days in a row.

They finally got the hook of the hanger looped through the door handle inside my car and pulled hard. The door burst open. A Hallelujah chorus rang out. Everyone split and went to go home and eat dinner. Their good deeds having been done.

Angela said, "See I told you we'd get it open for you." I was so grateful to all of them.

I'm home! And I have found my spare key to call Kat to come rescue me in the future. Hopefully it never happens again though.

Thank you to all who gave up a half hour of their time, after a long day at work to help me get in my car.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Long Time No Read

I'm back! I have not been able to carve in time during my days to write a blog. I also have not had much to say. But today I finally got to catch up on cleaning my room (like changing my sheets for the first time in five weeks--oh gross! Hope I will have time to keep up with important things like that in the future.) So I spent most of the day doing laundry and picking up my room, while watching "Twilight." My DVD has skips in it, I can't figure out why. (ha ha)

At 4:00pm I left to go to a writing group. A co-worker of mine invited me to a group that her mother attends. I was a little nervous. I have been around writers and they are very protective of their writing groups; the number is limited to a small amount of members and they won't let just anyone come along. So I was hoping it would be okay with the woman whose home it was if someone she doesn't know joins the group. I planned on testing the waters today and going from there as to whether I would join the group. The woman's house is located off Main Street downtown. It took me a little over a half hour to get there. There was a line of cars down the street and I had to park around the corner. I thought, wow I guess I was wrong about writers groups limiting the number of members. It started at 4:30pm and I was about ten minutes late. I was nervous still as I walked up to the old two story brick house, wondering how many people were there. Would I fit in? I rang the doorbell, thinking why did I do that, I hate when people ring the doorbell at my work.

The door opened and a petite, salt and peppered haired woman with a bewildered look stood in the doorway. I smiled brightly (bravely) and said "Hi! I'm Victoria. Polly's friend." She looked at me. I continued, "Is there a writing group going on here?" Recognition hit her eyes and she said, "There can be. You're the first one to arrive. Come on in." I burst out, "Oh no! I am so embarrassed!" I was the only one there.

I followed her inside her beautiful home to a cherry wood dining table with stool chairs, where I set down my purse and notebook. I realized I should put my unopened, drizzled on umbrella on the floor. She told me that Polly's mom had called and said she couldn't make it because Polly's brother was in town, visiting from New York. So I figured that meant my friend Polly wasn't going to be there either. I gulped. The woman was clearing the table, she had been working on something and it was spread out over half the table. I asked her how many were in the group. She said, "Three." She was not expecting a writing group tonight. I felt strange talking to her in her dining room, starting an impromptu writing session and I didn't even know her name. I asked, "What's your name?" She told me, "Diane." She smiled a warm and welcoming smile. I felt a little better then.

She put in some classical music, offered me water, and brought out crayons and construction paper. We each drew a mandala for ten minutes. It was an exercise to loosen up our creative mind. Then she handed me Natalie Goldberg's book Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir, and asked me to open to any page and we would do the exercise it suggested. I opened to a bunch of introductory writing and then skipped to the back where exercises were more likely to be housed. "Apples." Okay. So we set the timer for ten minutes and began rapid flowing writing - any and every thought that came to mind, on apples, plums, tangerines and the past two summers.

Next Diane opened the book to "Cannot." Things that never should be said. We had to write down either things we should never say, or our thoughts on things we never should say. I wrote, "Things that should never be said." Tick. Tick. Tick. Went the timer. Click, click, click (my pen). WRITE SOMETHING! I was at unease within myself. If I write it then I will have SAID it. So I wrote down that thought and didn't stop writing, I just let the thoughts flow forth from my pen. Until suddenly, it spontaneously combusted and sprang across the table in three pieces. Diane looked up startled, as I was trying quietly and desperately to retrieve the pieces and put it back together. Diane said, "That is some hard writing going on over there." I laughed in embarrassment. I finally pieced it back to semi working order and wrote one last profound thought "All is well when Truth is spoken," when the timer rang out ending our unease with honesty.

So therein ended my first writing experience with a stranger. She was the perfect partner for today's writing exercises and a very gracious host to a lone girl standing on her porch, in the rain looking for someone with whom to write.

Thank you, Diane. I will see you in two weeks.