Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Proper Tools Make a Difference

Now that the husband has finished his PhD, we have more steady income to kick around. What have we been buying? Electronics? Fabulous vacations? Villas in the Alps?

No, no,

We've been replacing various worn-out necessities. First came the new vacuum, a few days after I realized that our old vacuum (purchased in '96 for $60) was spewing dust and pet dander into the air, like a small Mount Vesuvius. It was not trapping a single particle. After a bit of research, we settled on an upright vacuum with a HEPA filter. We did not go to the super-expensive models, but stayed on the end of economy and quality. We placed our order online and waited.

One day I came home from work to find a tall, vacuum-sized package leaning against our unit's door. It was like Christmas in October. What a difference the new vacuum makes. Once we uncovered the carpet from mounds of fur and dust, we rediscovered that it is not, in fact, a dull, grayed brown, but rather a pleasant, light beige. Our carpet feels springy and soft under our feet. The condo smells better.

Next, it was time to replace my poor, ancient car, the Super Tomato. She was a red '96 Geo Prizm. I purchased her in 2001, when I began needing a car to commute. She was a salvage--a reconstruction from a big accident--and she had 67,000 miles. When I retired the Super Tomato in October, she had a grand total of 155,300 miles. Her paint was unevenly faded. Her tires had long lost their hubcaps. She required frequent brake and alignment work and more new tires than a car should; as her damaged frame aged, it began to tilt and sag, no longer keeping its reconstructed shape. "Metal fatigue," my mom called it. Letting go was hard, though, as we'd spend a good 88,300 miles together. If we averaged 50 miles/hour, that's 1,766 hours, or solid 73.58 days.

The new car is a 2008 Kia Spectra. This car had been repossessed from the previous owner with a mere 800 miles on it. What with These Economic Times, and what with Kia's reputation not catching up to its improved quality, I got a good deal. The new car has an iPod jack, a remote starter, hubcaps, and a uniform, deep red coat of paint. She likes to drive over 50 mph, a speed which made the Super Tomato shudder and protest. I arrive at places faster than I should, because 80 mph feels in this car like what 40 mph felt like in the old car.

Finally, to the kitchen. After some reading about GERMS and HYGIENE, I replaced the sponges with dish cloths (which my husband declines to use, but whatever). Then, frustrated with my inability to find replacement sponges for our ancient mop, I bought a new mop. Bringing the old mop to the garbage, I discovered that the metal sheet between the sponge and the handle was completely filled with rust. I mopped with our handy-dandy new mop, and found that the kitchen floor is not, in fact, a dull, grayed brown, but rather off-white with subtle faux marbling.

What is the takeaway message? I suppose that the proper tools make a huge difference. And what of the people who can never afford to replace that mop, car, or vacuum? Maybe their lives are just a little more frustrating. No amount of effort can compensate for a vacuum that just doesn't work or a mop filled with rust.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Oh hello

How are all y'all? I don't work at a computer anymore. There are no little breaks to jot a few sentences for the blog. Now I must take breaks the old-fashioned way, gazing out the window in a little world of my imagining.

Changing my career has created small, unforeseen changes such as this one, little ripples of different patterns in my days. There is no vending machine to contend with at work anymore, but now lurks the temptation of government-subsidized cookies in the cafeteria. My workdays are shorter, but without a moment of downtime or solitude. I have already caught--and survived--a terrible sinus infection and an even worse stomach bug. I find myself explaining things that seem obvious to my short charges whose forebrains are not fully developed: Why it's a bad idea to throw sharp pencils down a stairwell, why the teachers get to aggravated when you never bring your bilingual dictionary to class and constantly ask them to explain unfamiliar words.

The scenery of my week is completely different, as I commute to a town 31 miles away down a fast highway. It's a pretty little suburb, a newer town imitating the quaint, New England look of the authentic older towns. My boss is irritating in a whole new way I have not experienced before, despite the varied idiosyncracies and evils of past supervisors. It's amazing how many ways exist to mismanage. But it's okay, I don't see her often, only at the meetings she reschedules on a whim, never sticking to the planned biweekly schedule.

I should drive 25 miles the other direction to class now. The driving is wearying, but at least I have a new car in which to do it. I feel safer, and I get places faster.