Category Archives: My True Life

The Land of Broken Dreams

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I live in a harsh land, closer to nature than I ever dreamed possible when I lived in cities. All around me is evidence of people who came out here with big dreams only to abandon them. Why did they leave? I’ll never know for sure, but I can enumerate the ways the harshness of this place could discourage a homesteader. Today I’ll tell you about the conditions here and show you photos of what has been left behind.

I’m going to leave this brokedown palace on my hands and my knees…

While spring is mellow of temperature, when days warm, the wind comes. Growing up in the Deep South, winds weren’t even a concern unless they belonged to a hurricane. I thought I knew winds from my time in the Midwest, but the winds of the plains (if not those of a tornado) are nothing next to the winds of New Mexico.

Before I moved permanently to Northern New Mexico but after I had spent months here over several years, my memory of the winds had them starting in the afternoon and blowing strong and hard for a few hours, slowing down substantially by sunset. This may be a false memory, because that’s not how the wind is blowing these days. Now the wind starts at 10 or 11 in the morning and blows relentlessly until sometimes 9 or 10 at night. Last week, the wind was blowing at 8am.

A spiritual friend who lives around here once told me that the wind blows one’s aura and makes it bumpy or jagged instead of smooth She might be on to something. After hours of constant, strong blowing of the wind I feel off, not quite myself, agitated. The sound alone is enough to put me on edge; the constant rocking of the trailer destroys my mental equilibrium. There’s something about wondering if the roof will be peeled off or if the entire trailer is going to flip that harshes my mellow.

This abandoned shipping container has whimsical paintings on all four sides.

The hours of moving air (and its sound and the way it moves the trailer) would be bad enough, but with the wind comes dust. During times of strongest wind, we must leave the doors and windows closed lest the dust come in and cover everything we own. Sometimes dust devils blow across our property and slam into our trailer. Sometimes the short dust storm takes us by surprise, and we can’t get a door or window closed before it hits, leading to dust on the floor, dust on the clean dishes in the drying rack, dust on the blankets lying on the bed. I now have a small knowledge of what people in the 1930s experienced during the Dust Bowl in the United States.

The upside of the wind is that it pushes away the no-see-ums. Some folks call these insects from the Ceratopogonidae family sage gnats, some call them biting midges, but let’s just call them hell. The first three summers I spent in the area I encountered none of these bugs and no mosquitoes either. I thought I had discovered a magical land with no bugs. The Man independently arrived at the same conclusion. We were fools.

What was happening (I’m pretty sure, but I have not consulted an entomologist) is that the area was so deep in drought, no bugs were hatching. The eggs were out there, waiting for enough moisture to make life viable.

Burnt car

The drought had broken by the time The Man and I returned in 2017. Those no-see-um suckers were everywhere. We fought them for a couple of months. Spoiler alert: we found nothing to deter them, not DEET, not the $15 bottle of natural insect repellent I bought at the herb store after the lady working there told me the concoction would protect me. In the later part of June, we ran away to work in California to in order to escape the beasts.

One problem with the no-see-ums is that you don’t know when they’re biting you. They are super tiny (hence their name) and (like chiggers) their bite causes no immediate pain. Hours after being outside, one feels an itch and knows it has begun.

There are a lot of abandoned vehicles in my neighborhood.

I grew up with Southern mosquitoes. I’ve suffered countless mosquito bites in my lifetime. For me, a mosquito bite usually itches for about 20 minutes or half an hour, then the itch and the red welt is gone. The no-see-um bites itch intermittently for days. There is swelling and redness at the site of the bite, and the itching can come at any time. The no-see-um bits have more in common with chigger bites than those from mosquitoes.

Last year was a wet one. The area got a lot of snow in the winter and spring (the last snow at our place was in May), and once the snow ended, the rains came. All the moisture led to a long season of no-see-ums. Even people who’ve lived here all their lives said they’d never seen a no-see-um season quite so bad go on for quite so long.

We all fall down.

This year has been dryer, but the no-see-ums are out, and they seem worse than last year. The mesh of our screens is not fine enough to keep the little boogers out, but they weren’t coming in through the screen last year. This year we’re not so lucky, although I’m not sure why they’re coming in this way now. These days we long for the wind to blow and keep the little insects away.

The no-see-ums seem to like to bite The Man more than they like to bite me, and he has a worse reaction to the bites. It’s not unusual for his bites to itch so badly that he scratches them raw and bloody. Mine don’t itch quite so badly, but they tend to stay red and swollen for days after the attack.

The opposite of vanlife.

When you live out here, at certain times of the year you dare not go outside without suiting up. Going out in shorts and a tank top during no-see-um days is looking for trouble. I put on long pants, a long sleeved shirt, socks, and shoes before going outside. The Man does the same and adds a bug deterrent mesh over his face. Still, the bugs can fly up a sleeve or a pant leg and leave bites in places I don’t know how an insect could reach.

If a person survives the wind and the dust and the bugs, there are a few months available for tranquil productivity. I suspect most of the homesteading progress occurs in the summer when days are long, mornings are sunny, nights are cool, and an afternoon wet monsoon offers the opportunity for a siesta.

Unfortunately, summers are short around here. My first summer in the area, when I was homeless and sleeping outside, my local friends started worrying in August about how I would live during the coming winter. I’m from the South where life is just getting comfortable in October. When I lived in the Midwest, no one expected snow before Halloween. In northern New Mexico, people told me snow could fly any time after Labor Day.

I didn’t peek here either, but I could tell this fifth wheel is deserted.

This past winter, the first snow fell in October, before Halloween. That made for a long enough winter. I can’t imagine if the snow had started early in September. Old timers have told us this past winter was a mild one, although it seemed plenty cold to me. People who’ve lived here for decades talk of winters with lows of -20 degrees Fahrenheit. People tell us of snow falling and piling up through the season, only melting in spring.

The door of this mud structure is open to the elements. No one seems to live in the fifth wheel either.

This past winter, we went through multiple cycles of snow/freeze/melt which led to the dreaded mud. I’ve written about the mud out here before, but let me say again, it’s no joke. Driving anywhere off our land was an exercise in slip sliding away and the possibility of getting stuck. Almost everyone living around us got stuck in the mud at lease once, even the folks with 4x4s.

If the weather don’t get you, the hauling water will. The water table is deep here. It would cost thousands of dollars to dig a well so most people don’t. There is a community well that folks can buy into. The price per gallon is good, but the liquid still has to be hauled. People need trucks for hauling water and a big container too. We have a 50 gallon container for hauling water. A 100 or 250 gallon container would be better. Homesteaders also need a big container to put the hauled water in. All those containers are expensive, especially ones that are made from food-grade materials.

I don’t know if this trailer was vandalized or decorated.

I’ve heard that when it snowed more here, people with big cisterns could collect enough snow melt to basically get through the summer. The cisterns were topped off by the abundant water from the summer monsoon rains.When I first came here, I met an elderly woman who had been living off snow melt and rainwater for years, but she was having a hard time because of the drought. I don’t know if the weather has been wet enough lately for folks to collect water like they once did.

Want to grow food? Good luck! The soil is basically pure clay out here. The soil will have to be enriched if anything is going to grow. Raised beds or container gardening would probably be a better idea. Most of the water needed for irrigation will have to be hauled. Finally, the growing season is short around here with last frost in May and first frost in September.

All this is not to complain but to say it can be a hard life out here, especially for folks without piles of money. Some people make it and some people give up. Of course, some people get old or sick and leave because they can’t live such a rough life anymore. Some people are carried away by death.

I walk through this land of broken dreams and wonder where the people went. When they left, did they think they’d be back in a week or a month, in the spring, next year? When they left, did they know they’d never be back? Why didn’t they sell or give away the trailer, the propane tanks, the land? Why leave it all behind to rust and rot?

I wonder what my dreams will look like when I’m gone. Will they seem broken too, or will what I leave behind look like success?

I took the photos in this post. If you want to see more of my photography, follow me on Instagram @rubbertrampartist.

Communication Breakdown

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The customer seemed quite confused when he approached the kiosk at the supermarket fuel center.

It was during the early days of my brief career as a clerk at the fuel center (aka gas station). I was stationed inside a kiosk and communicated with customers through a poorly functioning intercom system.

The customer was an older man with a long white beard and a big straw hat over his white hair. He was dressed like a city cowboy or maybe a vacationer at a dude ranch, but when he spoke, he had an accent that was maybe from Australia or maybe from New Zealand. I never can tell the difference between the accents, but I remember from my days working in tourist traps in New Orleans that New Zealanders and Australians can get testy when they’re confused for one another.

I asked the fellow how I could help him today, and he told me the communication screen at the pump had instructed him to see the cashier. I asked him if he was using the credit card we didn’t accept, and he was. I assured him the use of that particular credit card was the problem.

He rummaged through his wallet. He found another credit card to use. He decided that since he was already standing in front of me, he would pay me instead of trying to pay at the pump.

I asked what pump he was on, and he said he was on pump 2. I asked how much he wanted to put on pump 2.

He started rambling out loud, doing some elaborate calculations involving how much fuel was already in the tank, the number of gallons the tank held, how far he was going, how far he had already gone, the distance we were from the equator, and the alignment of the stars. (Okay, yes, I made up those last two factors.) Finally he said he would take eleven on pump 2.

I assumed he wanted to spend $11 on fuel on pump 2. (I know, Dad, when I assume, I make an ass of u and me.) All day long, people told me they wanted twenty on 2 or ten on 6 or fifteen on 8. Most people never even said the word dollars.

So the guy put his credit card in the drawer, and I pulled the drawer into the kiosk with me. I authorized pump 2 to give the customer $11 worth of fuel, then ran the credit card for $11. When the transaction was complete, I put the customer’s card and receipt in the drawer and slid it back out to him. He took the card and receipt and walked to pump 2.

It wasn’t long before the fellow was back at my window.

Oh goodness. What now?  I thought.

How can I help you? I asked and forced a smile.

He told me pump 2 had quit pumping. I looked over at the POS (point-of-sale) system that showed me the activity on all pumps. Yep, pump 2 had quit pumping because this guy had pumped his $11 worth of fuel.

Yes, sir, I said through the intercom. I authorized the pump for $11 and you pumped $11 worth of fuel.

Eleven dollars? he asked as if I were an idiot. I wanted 11 gallons!

I wanted to ask him how I was supposed to know he meant 11 gallons. I wanted to ask him if I looked like a mind reader. I wanted to point out that he’d never said the word “gallons.” Alas, I knew I’d never said the word “dollars.” He could have asked me how he was supposed to know I meant 11 dollars. He could have asked me if he looked like a mind reader. (No, not particularly, I would have had to reply.) We were at an impasse because we’d both failed in our communication.

Because of customer service and all of that, I said wearily, I’m so sorry about that sir. My mistake. Would you like me to run your card for another amount?

He chose another amount and sent his credit card in to me. I authorized the pump, ran the card, then sent it back out to him. He was a little miffed, but not excessively angry. I was ready to move on to the next transaction, hoping the next customer and I would not experience a communication breakdown.

What You Can Do to Help the Rubber Tramp Artist

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I have always gotten by with a little (or a lot) of help from my friends, and I sure do appreciate it. I try to keep these pleas for help from my readers to a minimum, but every now and then, I do like to let you know I could really use your support. Here are some ways you can help me get seen, heard, and read, and most of them don’t cost a dime.

#1 Tell your friends. Have you read a Rubber Tramp Artist post you think a friend or family member would find useful or inspiring? Share the link! Do you have friends who enjoy high quality writing and beautiful photographs? Invite them to check out this blog! I would love to have more readers with whom I can share my stories, rants, and observations.

#2 If you’re on Facebook, like and follow the Rubber Tramp Artist Facebook page. (You can also like and follow my Blaize Sun and Blaizin’ Sun Creations Facebook pages.) Next, find the reviews section of any (or all!) of those pages and leave reviews of my writing, my art, my book, or my jewelry. Also, you can invite your friends to like any or all of those Facebook pages. Finally, like my Facebook posts, comment on them, and share them with your friends. If you want to do those things but can’t quite figure out how, let me know, and I’ll help you.

#3 If you’re on Instagram, follow me there @rubbertrampartist. Like my posts and comment on them too. Turn on notifications so you’ll see when something new goes up on my feed. If you see a post of mine you think your friends would enjoy, tag those friends in the comments. Share my posts in your stories. Read my stories. Comment on my stories so I’ll know what you think.

#4 Comment on my blog posts. Your comments mean so much to me. They let me know you’re reading, that you’re here with me. Sometimes your comments help other readers. I love it when that happens. I really do want to know what you think.

#5 Write a guest post for my blog. If you’re a writer, consider writing a guest post so I can take a day off or concentrate on writing a a long, research intensive post. If you’re a reader of my blog, other readers and I probably want to know what you have to say. If this idea intrigues you, read my Guidelines for Guest Posts.

#6 If you’ve read my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods, review it. Post a review on Amazon. (You can post a review on Amazon even if you didn’t buy the book from them.) Post a review on GoodReads. Post a review on your blog. Send your review to me, and I’ll post it on my blog.

#7 If you haven’t read my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods, buy it now and read it. Once you’re read it, please consider reviewing it. (See #5 above.)

#8 Buy copies of my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods for your friends and family members. It’s rated PG (I removed all the cursing), and has been read by at least one elementary school aged kid. It’s a particularly good gift for anyone who is, has been, or hopes to be a camp host.

#9 Put in a request for your local public library to buy a copy of Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods so everyone in your community can read it for free.

#10 Buy the arts and crafts and the Rubber Tramp Artist loot I have for sale. I have handmade collages for sale, postcards featuring my photography for sale, and Rubber Tramp Artist stickers and buttons for sale. I also make hemp jewelry and warm winter hats. (I’m going to try to get photos those items up on the blog soon.) I do custom work, so let me know if there’s something particular you have in mind.

#11 Consider making a donation. There’s a yellow donation button to the right, not far below the search bar. Click there to give me some dollars, if you feel so inclined.

The content on this blog is free, but I put a lot of time and effort into each post I share with you. It is not unusual for me to spend 8+ hours pulling together a single post. I spend a lot of time writing, revising, taking photos, editing photos, choosing photos, researching, etc. If any of my posts have proven helpful to you, please consider donating money or a gift card in the amount you think the posts are worth. I know many of readers are on a limited income, but even a couple bucks would mean a great deal to me.

#12 Consider becoming my patron on Patreon. You get lots of extra goodies when you support me on the Patreon platform. Goodies range from exclusive updates available only to Patreon supporters to a monthly email update to handwritten cards sent through the mail and custom bracelets and one-of-a-kind collages. Each support tier offers different benefits; they’re all explained on my Patreon page linked above or click on the button to the right just under the search bar.

Anything you an do to help me keep this blog going would certainly be appreciated. As always,thank you for reading.

I took all the photos in this post. The Rubber Tramp Artist logo was created by the talented Samantha Adelle before her untimely, tragic passing.

This I Miss (COVID-19 Edition)

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I live in the boonies.

My physical distancing experience has been very different from the experiences of many of you who live in big cities, the suburbs, or even small-to-medium size towns. I live in the boonies. I live 20-ish miles form the nearest small-to-medium size town. Also, there’s no home delivery of mail way out here. My mail is delivered to a box in town. All of this means we receive no mail, no packages, no groceries, and no restaurant food delivered to our door. If we want anything, The Man and I (usually together) get in the truck, drive 20-ish miles to town, get what we need, then drive the 20-ish miles back home.

Also, due to a preexisting health condition, we are very careful about what we do when we go to town. When we need groceries, we arrive at the supermarket as soon as the store opens so I can be one of the first shoppers inside. We do the same when we check the mail or fill our propane tanks. We don’t typically eat in restaurants even during “normal” times, but we’re not getting takeout or going through drive-thrus at all. How do we know the people preparing or handing over our food aren’t sick?

How do we know anyone we encounter isn’t sick? What if they’re contagious but not yest showing symptoms? What if we encounter a super-spreader? I know I sound paranoid and a little hysterical, but that’s my reality right now. To stay safe, we have to stay vigilant.

I know we’re all supposed to wear masks in public right now to protect each other, but can I trust my fellow humans to do the right thing? Masks can be really annoying, and humans don’t have the best track record for doing the right thing even when pieces of cloth over their faces aren’t making it more difficult to breathe and fogging up their eyeglasses.

I swear I’m not trying to dump a bunch of spoiled lady complaints on you. In so many ways, The Man and I are very lucky. Neither one of us has gotten sick with COVID-19. We haven’t lost any loved ones to COVID-19. We live in a county with a very low rate of COVID-19 infection (although the number of COVID-19 infected people in our county jumped quit a bit between the time I wrote the first draft of this post and the time it went live.) We have plenty of food and water and a nice little trailer on a nice little piece of land where we’ve been able to hunker down. We live with a cute, sweet dog, and we have each other too.

Yes, I have a lot for which to be grateful, but I’m human. Life has changed in the last couple months. Some of these changes may be forever. I miss certain ways of living my life. Today I’d like to share those things I miss with you.

#1 I never thought I’d say this, but I miss loading up all the laundry, dragging it into a laundromat and getting all the clothes washed, dried, and folded in a couple of hours.

I wish I could wash my clothes here.

Yes, as an essential business, laundromats are still open in my state. Yes, I could take my laundry to the laundromat and wash, dry, fold. But what if someone contagious is doing their laundry at the same time as I am? There are so many hands to touch so many surfaces at a washteria, so many places for a virus to linger. We’re not going!

Shout out to pioneer ladies who did all the washing by hand! Hand washing laundry is hard work! Have you ever tried to rinse the suds from your clothes in a five gallon bucket? Have you ever tried to wring the water out of a pair of jeans? We’ve been washing a minimal amount of clothing by hand for the last two months, and I don’t like it one bit. (Because I have more clothes than The Man does, he’s had to wash garments way more often than I have. To his credit, he doesn’t even complain.)

I wouldn’t mind hanging clothes out dry, but the strong spring winds (still blowing as I wrote this post!) means near daily dust storms. What’s the point of washing clothes if they’re going to be inundated with dirt while hanging on the line?

So many dryers at the laundromat.

If you have a washer in your home, I encourage you to get on your knees right now and give thanks to God, Saint Hunna (the patron saint of laundry workers and washerwomen), the Universe, or the deity of your choice. Please give extra thanks if you have a dryer or a nondusty clothesline at your disposal too.

#2 I miss eating the occasional fast food. While the Man and I don’t eat at restaurants much (mostly because we can’t afford to), it was nice to be able to slide into Taco Bell and pick up a vegetarian option from the dollar menu when we were running errands in town. I miss the ease, low cost, and deliciousness of the Fiesta Potato Breakfast Burrito and the Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito.

A while back, the Sonic app offered me half price Sonic Blasts for one day only. I sadly showed the offer to The Man.

Do you want to go? he asked me. I want to do something nice for you.

I shook my head. Forty miles is a long way to drive for ice cream and beside, how can we know restaurant workers aren’t breathing COVID germs directly onto our food? Are we paranoid or safely cautious?

Our mail is not delivered to a box in a row on the main road.

#3 I miss receiving mail regularly. As I’ve said before, there’s no home delivery of mail out here. I can’t just walk out to my porch or the end of my driveway to pick up my mail. There’s no group of mailboxes for me and my neighbors on the main road. If we want to receive letters, we have to pay for mailbox in town. And if we want to get our hands on the contents of our mailbox, we have to drive all the way to town to do so.

Our mailbox is inside a privately owned shipping business. While the business is still open, the hours of operation have been cut again and again. The woman who owns the place is not messing around with safety. She was enforcing six feet of distance between her customers when no one else in town seemed to be taking the recommendation seriously. No one walks into the place without a mask over their nose and mouth. The business is housed in a small enclosed space, and germs could linger. I appreciate the business owner for the precautions she’s taking to keep herself and her customers safe.

We have checked our mail three times since mid March. I used to check the mail a couple times a week. I miss receiving cards and letters from my friends on a regular basis. My friends are still sending the cards and letters (and I’m so glad for that), but I receive them less often.

I also miss ordering things online and knowing I’ll have my items in a few days. Nobody is delivering out where I live. I never see FedEx or UPS trucks way out here. We see commercials on television saying CVS pharmacy and Ace Hardware and Pizza Hut will deliver. Not to us they won’t. To be fair, I don’t actually miss this kind of delivery because we’ve never had it out here. However, in these times, I might take of advantage of having things dropped off at my house if the service were available to us.

#4 I miss leisurely shopping. Oh, how I miss the days of going from store to store to buy what I needed (and wanted) and to look around for bargains. At one time, a day in town might mean shopping at multiple supermarkets, checking the mail, seeing what Dollar Tree had to offer, shopping at WalMart, filling propane tanks, browsing at the thrift store, and having a look at free boxes and Little Free Libraries. No more! Now grocery shopping feels like I’m competing on Supermarket Sweep. There is no more casual grocery shopping because every trip to the supermarket is a survival mission.

I haven’t been to a thrift store since the middle of March. The thrift store in town hasn’t been open for a while, but I think it was open last Wednesday morning when I drove by. Even if it’s back to business as usual right now, I won’t be shopping there this month.

At least we’re stocked up on the minced garlic.

#5 I miss feeling confident the supermarket is going to have in stock anything I want to buy. I haven’t seen tofu in months. Months! I used to be able to buy a pound of tofu for between $1.49 and $1.79. Now the stores where I’ve shopped in the last two months don’t even offer it .

In the past two months, I’ve had trouble finding dried beans, brown rice, and powdered milk. Last week when I was at the big supermarket in town, I found all of those things, plus toilet paper. Score! But who knows what will be on the shelves in a month or two when I shop again, especially if we have another spike in COVID-19 cases.

Before we did last week’s big grocery shopping trip, The Man wanted eggs for breakfast. We’ve been a five-day-a-week oatmeal family since March so we could conserve eggs for baking, but he said he really wanted eggs that morning.

We’re going to the store on Wednesday, he reasoned. We’ll get more eggs then.

I tried to explain to him that I might not find eggs at the supermarket. I tried to explain that’ I’ve seen on Facebook groups that sometimes people go to the store and there are no eggs (or beef or dried beans or tofu or flour or baking powder or yeast). We were fortunate this trip; I found eggs and everything on the list with the exception of disposable gloves, rubbing alcohol, and tofu. However, there’s no way to know what the next shopping trip in a month or more will bring.

#6 I miss moving through the world without worrying that everything is contaminated. The Man and I wear dish-washing gloves when we go into any place of business. When we get back to the truck, the one of us who didn’t go inside squirts the gloves with disinfectant. When we pick up or mail, it sits in the hot truck for weeks of decontamination. Every time we buy groceries, we debate the need to squirt each item with disinfectant. After the last two times I’ve shopped, we wiped down each package with bleach water before bringing them into the house. I don’t buy fresh produce (except for onions, which we wouldn’t want to eat without, and we justify by remembering we’re going to peel off the top couple of layers anyway and cook the rest before eating). Still, we wonder if we’ve doing enough to protect ourselves or if we’re doing comically too much.

I want to see a tourist attraction like the red hubcap camel in Quartzsite, Arizona

#7 I miss going on road trips. Geez, I want to explore a place I’ve never been and see some new things. I want to hit the open road. I want to visit a small town museum. I want to see a tourist attraction. I want to take some photos. However, I know it’s not quite safe for The Man and me to go out exploring just yet. I’m trying to stay patient, despite my itchy feet.

#8 I miss selling jewelry and shiny rocks. Some vending opportunities are opening up, but again is it safe to sell in our current situation? I don’t necessarily trust people to protect me by wearing a mask or staying away if they’re sick. So many times people don’t even know they’re sick until after they’ve infected others. Also, if I sold things I’d have to accept cash money. Oh cash, germy, germy cash!

Memorial Day has come and gone, now we’re into June, and I’ve sold nothing to nobody. I feel I should be out there somewhere selling, but I know I really should stay at home right now.

Will life ever get back to “normal”? Is the way we’re currently living what normal will be from now on? Will COVID-19 ever disappear or at least decrease? Will there be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year or in 18 months or will the vaccine never happen? Will The Man and I be able to sell Christmas trees in November? Will I ever be able to get a job again? So many questions! I don’t have any answers. Living in the midst of the unknown is difficult, but I guess we’re all doing it. I guess we’ll all take the unknown one day at a time.

What do you miss about but your old life, your “normal” life, your life before COVID-19? I would love to know! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

I took the photos in this post.

We Really Dodged a Bullet That Time

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Jerico does not like gunshots or other loud noises.

Content warning: guns, gunshots, bullet, danger, gun danger, potential for death.

I heard the gunshots, but I didn’t pay much attention to them until Jerico the dog tried to hide from them. He’s scared of gunshots (and most other loud noises) and he tried to get away from these in the corner where wires connect solar components. I didn’t want him damaging the wires, so I coaxed Jerico out of the corner and into the bed with me. I told him everything would be fine.

Gunshots are not unheard of where we live, but they are certainly not a daily occurrence. Occasionally we hear someone pop off a few rounds, but we chalk it up to target practice and go on with our lives. We live in the Wild West. Tumbleweeds roll down the dirt roads (for real) and sometimes guns are shot.

On this particular day, the shots went on and on. They were coming fast, but we could tell they weren’t close, so we went on with our lives that Friday afternoon.

I was lying in bed, messing around on my phone. We’d gone a little hike earlier in the day, and the heat and the sun had worn me out. I’d been lying in bed, messing around on my phone since about 3:30. I’d told myself I’d get out of bed at 4 o’clock and start dinner. Four o’clock came and went, and I was still lying in bed, messing around on my phone.

(Have you ever read the Dear Prudence advice column by Danny M. Lavery on Slate? I thoroughly enjoy reading that column; it’s what I was reading that Friday afternoon instead of cooking dinner.)

The Man was lying in bed too, watching television. He got out of bed and went into the kitchen. He stood at the sink facing the long window that runs across most of the width of our little trailer. I’m not sure what he was doing there in front of the window. Maybe he washed his hands. Maybe he prepared and ate a peanut butter sandwich. When he completed his task, he walked back to the bedroom in the back of the trailer and flopped down onto the bed. I’d heard shots the entire time he stood in front of the window, but I didn’t think the shots were close enough to worry about.

I’ll get up in a few minutes, I told myself. I’ll just finish reading the most recent column, I told myself, then I’ll get out of the bed and cook dinner.

Suddenly I heard a loud thunk! Something had hit the trailer!

Get on the floor! The Man yelled. Get on the floor!

I jumped off the bed and crouched between the exterior wall and the platform that lifts our mattress a few feet off the floor and provides under-bed storage for our three solar batteries. Jerico followed me out of the bed, and I held onto him so he wouldn’t leave the bedroom to meet The Man where he was lying on the floor between the bathroom and the hallway cupboard.

The Man grabbed the first phone he saw (mine) and dialed 911.

Some manic is shooting at my house! I heard him say to the emergency dispatcher who took his call. My window is busted out!

This is our kitchen window after the bullet went through it. Shattered. Busted. Scary.

When I’m lying in bed, my view of the kitchen and the kitchen window is mostly blocked by the wall between the bedroom and bathroom. While I’d heard the thunk of the bullet hitting the front window, I couldn’t see that the glass had been shattered from the impact. From The Man’s side of the bed, he had a clear view of the window and the sink below it. He’d seen the shattered glass before he jumped out of bed and threw himself onto the floor.

I heard The Man tell the 911 dispatcher that the police would never be able to find our place. He said we would meet the officer on the main road.

Com on, come on, The Man said to me once he hung up with the emergency dispatcher. We have to get out of here, he said as we fumbled around for our shoes. I managed to slip my feet into my grey Crocs; The Man ended up in his bedroom slippers.

We hopped into the truck, not knowing if another bullet was headed our way. The Man drove us to the main road, expecting to see a police officer at any moment.

Immediately after fastening my seat belt, I texted our nearest neighbor.

Someone shot out our front window, the text said. I sent the message at exactly 4:30pm.

The next event of note was the call from the deputy sheriff who had been dispatched to handle our emergency. He called to say he wouldn’t be able to respond to our situation for some time. He said we should give him directions to our house, then go home and wait for him there. It was as if he didn’t realize that someone had shot a bullet through our window and into our home. Maybe gunshots and bullets weren’t a big deal to him, but they certainly were important to us that afternoon.

While sitting in the passenger seat of our moving truck, I tried to wrap my head around what had just happened. I had many questions and no answers. Who had shot the gun? Where had the shooter been standing when the shot was fired? Was there a sniper on the loose? Had someone just killed his whole family and the bullet through our window was a byproduct of a massacre? Had the shot that sent a bullet through our window been made on purpose or by accident? Had a gun been fired at our window because the shooter thought our trailer was abandoned?

After calling the 911 dispatcher twice more and making known his displeasure with the runaround the deputy sheriff was giving us, The Man pulled the truck off the road. Neither of us knew what to do.

After a few minutes of sitting on the side of the road, we saw a sheriff’s department truck heading in our direction. The Man laid on the horn and the truck pulled over. The Man whipped our truck around and pulled up behind the deputy, but left quite a bit of distance between the two vehicles.

I really don’t want to see you get shot, I told The Man, so he got out of the truck with his hands high in the air. I kept my hands where the deputy could see them too.

The deputy was a woman, but she looked more like a girl. She probably wasn’t older than 25, but she looked about 15 years old. The Man talked to her outside, so I couldn’t hear their conversation.

Another sheriff’s department truck pulled up behind our vehicle. A short man walked over to where The Man and the female deputy were talking. I couldn’t hear what the new arrival said either, but The Man was back in the driver’s seat shortly. The deputies were going to follow us home.

We drove down the long dirt road with the deputy sheriffs behind us.

When we arrived at our property, we showed the deputies the shattered glass of the kitchen widow at the front of our trailer. When The Man and the male officer looked for the bullet on the floor inside, they found a small hole in the platform supporting our mattress. They then went outside and found the exit hole in the back wall of the trailer.

I think it was the female deputy who found the bullet. It was lodged in a wooden block supporting a small propane tank. Usually we had a bigger, taller propane tank sitting right there providing fuel for our refrigerator and stove and furnace and water heater, but when the large tank was empty, The Man put the small tank in its place. If the large tank had been sitting there, the bullet would have struck it instead of a block of wood. We imaged there would have been a large explosion and a fire.

The bullet that went through our trailer lodged in this block of wood. You can see the small propane tank sitting on top of the wooden block.

(We are probably wrong about the explosion and fire of our imaginations. According to the Propane 101 website,

…it would be hard to say that a propane tank will explode if it were hit by an airplane or bullet.

Yes, you can watch YouTube videos of people shooting propane tanks and ending up with fireballs, but the ones I’ve seen have involved a source of flame like a garden torch or road flares. In retrospect, without some additional fire source, I don’t think a propane tank would typically burst into flames upon being shot.)

After taking photos of our shattered window and getting our names, driver license numbers, etc, the cops took the bullet and set off to do some further investigation.

About that time, I received a text from our neighbor They had been out on a hike and only received my text about the shooting when they returned home. She said her husband JayJay was on his way over to our place.

Our neighbors are good people. They’re in our age group, funny and pleasant to talk with. Whenever they visit, they leave while I’m wishing they’d stay longer. They’ve come over for dinner, and JayJay has helped The Man with several repairs on our truck. Sometimes when we’re out for a walk, The Man and I stop in at their place, and sometimes they stop at our place to say hello. Of course, COVID-19 and the required physical distancing precautions have put a damper on our in-person friendship. However, a bullet through our window seemed to take precedence over the virus, and JayJay came right over.

Based on where the bullet entered our trailer, it seemed like there were only a few places from which it could have been shot. The most likely location, in JayJay’s opinion, was a place that seemed impossibly far to me. It was about half a mile away, but JayJay said the direction of the wind and the size of the gun (a .308) made it entirely possible for the bullet to travel that far.

JayJay asked The Man if he wanted to go talk to the people at the house where he thought the bullet had come from. I understood if The Man was a little hesitant. Those people had guns and (obviously) bullets. JayJay said he’d go with The Man, and The Man agreed. I stayed home with Jerico.

The Man and JayJay found the place from which the bullet that went through our window had been fired. The deputies had been there earlier. The cops asked the young men at the house if they’d been shooting. The young men told the cops they’d been shooting a .22; of course, the bullet that struck our trailer was from a .308, so the cops left without arresting anyone.

When The Man told the young men that a bullet from a .308 had shattered our window and traveled through our entire trailer, they all grew contrite. The fellow whose property they were on began weeping and embraced The Man.

Most of the young men at the house worked on a crew together. They somehow knew our neighbor and had come out to his place for a Friday night of fun. They had been partying for a while, and their party consisted of drinking whisky, eating barbecue, and shooting guns, among other things. The property owner told the visitors they could shoot the .22 but to leave the .308 alone. Of course, as soon as he walked away from the party, the visitors fired the .308. They told The Man and JayJay they’d heard the bullet ricochet, but the hadn’t been aiming at our trailer and they certainly hadn’t meant to hit anything.

The property owner offered to pay for our window. I don’t know it that’s actually going to happen, but I do appreciate the sentiment and the $20 bill he insisted The Man take. It’s difficult for me to stay mad at someone who is truly sorry for making a mistake. Of course, if The Man or I or (Heaven forbid!) Jerico had been injured or killed, forgiveness might have been a little more difficult for them to come by.

The next morning, I moved in front of the shattered kitchen window and calculated where I might have been standing had I been cooking dinner when the bullet came in. Had I been stirring vegetables cooking on the stove, I would have been ok, even with a bullet moving through the house. Had I been doing something in front of the left sink, my right arm would have probably been hit, grazed at best. If I had been standing at the right sink, I would have been hit between my breasts and my belly button. If I had been standing in front of the right sink, I might not be telling you this story today.

The Man measured the bullet’s path. If it had come straight through the trailer with no downward movement, it would have hit him where he was lying in the bed.

This is what our shattered window looked like from the outside.

Luckily that bullet had neither of our names on it. Luckily, neither of us was hurt. Luckily, no one’s life was ruined because some young men allowed alcohol to ruin their judgement.

No, I’m not scared to live where I do. A stray bullet could go through a window in Dallas or Detroit, Phoenix or Fargo, New Orleans or Nashville. For real, it could happen anywhere. Surely, a bullet through our window is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

On Saturday morning, we removed all the shattered glass from the kitchen window and covered the big window hole with cardboard. Now we’ll add “kitchen window” to the list of all the things we’ll eventually need to buy. Still, a kitchen window is a small price to pay. That bullet could have taken a life instead of a bit of glass.

I’m glad to have lived to see another day. I guess you could say Dear Prudence and procrastination saved may life.

Valentine’s Day Hitchhiker

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It was late afternoon on Valentine’s Day, and I was driving home from work.

Up ahead, I saw someone standing on the corner where the dirt road met the pavement. This was the spot where people stood to bum a ride deeper into the Wild West of dirt roads that was my neighborhood. I figured the person was hitchhiking.

As I got closer, I saw that the hitchhiker seemed to be a man. His clothes were drab from long wear and infrequent washes. He shoulder length hair was peppered with grey and probably hadn’t been shampooed in a while. He had a big puppy with him and a medium-size backpack on the ground at his feet. Because he wasn’t hauling a large pack, I sized him up as a guy who lived in my neck of the woods and was trying to get home after an excursion to town.

Before I got to the dirt road, a small, red, shiny clean car turned from the pavement onto the dirt road. That car would have to roll past the person standing next to the road.

My truck was muddy.

I was surprised to see the shiny clean car leave the pavement. The car didn’t look like one that had been rolling on a dirt road recently. There was not a clod of mud on it, no film of dust. My truck, on the other hand, looked like I’d taken it out for some recreational muddin’. Of course, I’d only been to work and back, but my truck was dirty, just like every other vehicle in the state that had been traversing the muddy roads of February.

Another problem that little car would have traveling up and down the roads where I lived was the low clearance. The embedded rocks and potholes drivers on those roads encountered daily would eat that little car for lunch (and breakfast and supper too).

These factors made me think the driver of the shiny clean car did not live anywhere that dirt road would take them. I wondered why the car had turned onto the dirt road in the first place.

The shiny clean car stopped next to the fellow standing on the corner. I figured he’d get into the shiny clean car and be whisked away.

As the fellow approached the passenger side of the shiny clean car, I turned onto the dirt road. The shiny clean car was stopped just about in the middle of the narrow dirt road, so I didn’t try to get around it. I stayed behind the shiny clean car and waited patiently for it to move.

I was expecting the fellow to open the passenger door and fold himself into the small car, but he never did. Instead he was handed something through the window. Then he walked away from the shiny clean car and back to the side of the road. The shiny clean car started rolling away. I could see the fellow was now holding three brightly colored heart-shaped boxes.

When the shiny clean car started rolling, I took my foot off the brake and started slowly rolling too. I looked to my right and the hitchhiker had his thumb out and was grinning in my direction. Of course I stopped for him.

In the meantime, the shiny clean red car had pulled up enough to turn around in the middle of the road. I realized it wasn’t going the hitchhiker’s way after all.

As the shiny clean car headed in my direction, I could see the driver was a blond woman wearing big sunglasses. She looked as shiny and clean as her car.

The fellow and his pup climbed up in my truck. As I drove us down the bumpy, muddy, slippery road, I asked about the women in the shiny clean car. The hitchhiker said he didn’t know her. She stopped, so he walked over, thinking she was offering him a ride. Instead, when he approached, she rolled down the window and asked him if he needed some Valentine’s candy. He’d said Sure! and she’d handed him the three heart-shaped boxes. Apparently she’d turned onto the dirt road for the sole purpose of giving candy to the hitchhiker.

When I stopped the truck at the end of the hitchhiker’s road, he proceeded to unload his backpack and his dog. After he thanked me for the ride, he asked me if I needed some Valentine’s candy. After a moment’s hesitation, I said Sure! It took me just a split second to decide there was not reason not to take the offered candy.

Once the fellow was out of my truck, I continued on my way home. I was excited to have a bite of chocolate once I parked.

The hitchhiker handed me this heart-shaped box complete with “chocolate flavored candy.”

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed when I read the words “chocolate flavored candy” on the box. I was hoping for real chocolate. I was hoping for gen-u-ine chocolate. I was hoping for dark chocolate with almonds, but hell, beggars (or in my case, the recipient of a gift gifted to a hitchhiker) can’t be choosers. I unwrapped the red foil wrapper from around a piece of the chocolate flavored candy and popped it into my mouth. I decided chocolate flavored candy is better than no candy at all.

I took the photos in this post.

Left Behind

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People left weird things in the fuel center where I worked for a couple of months in the summer of 2019. While I never found a baby in a trashcan, I did find a big box of candy and a bag of prescription drugs.

Pile of Gummy Fruit Candies

I found the candy first.

It was a busy Sunday afternoon, overcast all day with a drizzle in the afternoon. If you think a Sunday afternoon was a tranquil time at the fuel center, think again. All the tourists who’d spent the weekend in town were fueling up before leaving for home. All the locals preparing for the workweek ahead were getting their fuel before their Monday rush. The only fuel center day busier than Sunday was Friday, when people were getting ready for weekend adventures.

About half an hour before my replacement was scheduled to arrive, I looked across the fuel center and saw a large cardboard box on top of an empty merchandiser. My first thought was that someone wanted to dump an empty box, but hadn’t taken the time to break it down and put it in a trashcan. I sighed and headed outside to dispose of the box.

Thankfully I looked in it before I tried to snatch it off the merchandiser

Assorted Candy Lot

because the box was full (and I mean full) of candy. There were half a dozen boxes of Cracker Jacks, lollipops. Smarties, and several other varieties of yummies. It was a jackpot for someone with a sweet tooth like mine.

Alas, the candy did not belong to me.

It was quite a dilemma for a trash picking, ground scoring scavenger like me. I was pretty sure the box had been deserted, not forgotten–pretty sure but not certain. If I had been simply a customer, I might have justified loading the box into my vehicle. After all, there was no one near the box. On the other hand, I was on the clock, and I was confident the company I worked for would frown upon an employee scavenging on company property during work hours.

Purple Liquid Poison on Brown Wooden Surface

My next thought was, What if it’s poisoned?

Let me say, I’ve eaten food from the trash many, many times. I once lived in a college town where dumpster diving at the end of each semester was my favorite sport. During the same period, my friends and I regularly scavenged from the dumpster of a local grocery store. I never limited my food acquisitions to sealed packages, and I never worried about being poisoned. But a box full of candy? It was too good to be true! What better way to terrorize a small town than to leave poisoned candy in a busy place where ti was sure to be found and eaten? Did I really want to be done in by the deadly sin of gluttony?

I hauled the box into the kiosk and called the CSM (Customer Service Manager) on duty.

I found a big box of candy outside, I explained. It wasn’t in the trash. I might have been forgotten.

The CSM told me to bring the candy into the supermarket. She was clearly over me and my fuel center problems.

She looked a bit surprised when she saw the size of the box, but she quickly handed responsibility over to one of the assistant store managers who was bagging groceries for a customer. The assistant manager looked perplexed, but after finding the name of a local day camp written on the side of the box, she said she’d get the candy back to the organization it seemed to belong to. I was glad I no longer had to think about the abandoned treats.

It was about a week later that I found the drugs.

Pile of White Pink and Brown Oblong and Round Medication Tablet

When I started my shift, I saw a white paper bag with the logo of the pharmacy owned by the company I worked for. The bag was on the ground near pump 3, and I figured it was empty and left behind by someone who had no qualms about littering. Once I got signed in on the POS (point-of-sale) system and updated by the coworker I was replacing, I went outside to condition the merchandise and pick up trash. I made a beeline for the pharmacy bag.

When I grabbed the bag, I was shocked to find it was heavy and rattled when it moved. I looked inside and saw four prescription bottles, each full of pills. Whoa! What was I going to do with this!

I brought the bag into the kiosk immediately so I could examine the bottles. While the bag had the logo of the company I worked for on it, the bottles were clearly from the corporate pharmacy down the street. The bottles also showed the name of the man to whom the drugs had been prescribed. Each bottle had a name of a drug on the label, but I didn’t recognize any of them.

Bunch of White Oval Medication Tablets and White Medication Capsules

I wondered what was going on here. Had the drugs been forgotten? Had they been dumped? if they’d been forgotten, why had they been taken out of a car and put on the ground? If they’d been dumped, why had they been left on the ground and not deposited in one of the trash cans?

I called the CSM on duty, a different one than the one I’d alerted about the box of candy. After I explained the situation, the CSM consulted with the same assistant manager who again happened to be standing right there.

The assistant manager asked if the prescriptions had been filled by our pharmacy.

I said no, the bag was from our pharmacy, but the bottles had lables from our competitor.

Throw them in the trash, she instructed.

It seemed so wrong to me. The patient had probably paid a lot of money for that medicine, and the guy was obviously sick if he needed four bottles of pills. Wasn’t there something we could do?

I knew the assistant manager had made up her mind, so I didn’t argue. I put the bag of drugs on top of the trash can in the kiosk. I figured the owner of the bag would come by in the next five hours while I was working and ask about it. When he identified himself, I could grab the bag from the top of the trash and hand it over.

I waited in vain. No one asked about a forgotten bag of prescription medication. No one skulked around the fuel center looking for a lost item. The drugs stayed in my trash can until I brought the day’s load of garbage into the store and over to the baler in the stockroom.

I hate an unsolved mystery. I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering about

Question Mark Illustration

those candies and drugs. Where did they come from? Who left them? Were they left on purpose or accidentally? If leaving the items was an accident, what did the person who’d left them think when the loss was discovered? How did the guy do without his medication? If the items were left on purpose, why weren’t they put in the trash can?

Like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/pile-of-gummy-fruit-candies-1050300/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-candy-lot-1656600/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/purple-liquid-poison-on-brown-wooden-surface-159296/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/colors-colours-health-medicine-143654/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/bunch-of-white-oval-medication-tablets-and-white-medication-capsules-159211/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/ask-blackboard-chalk-board-chalkboard-356079/.

Early April Thankful Thursday

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Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash

First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone who commented on my post “Update, COVID-19 Edition.” I appreciate all of your concern and input and will respond to each comment soon. I love it when my readers comment, so please keep it up.

Secondly, big thanks go out to my friends and readers Sarah and Russ for their financial contribution this month. Your support really warms my heart and helps make ends meet.

Sometimes I’m grumpy because I’m stuck at home with no mail and a lack of yummy snacks, but really, I have so much for which to be thankful. Here are some of the things for which I am grateful on this early April day:

  • My good health, The Man’s good health, Jericos’s good health, and the good health of all of my friends and family members. No one close to me is currently dealing personally with a case of COVID-19.
  • Our tiny piece of land and our tiny trailer where we can hunker down safely away from other people. I’m so glad that we’re not on the road right now.
  • Our lack of mortgage payment, car note, and rent. It’s a blessing to live simply without huge bills hanging over our heads.
  • A pantry stocked with (at least) seven pounds of oatmeal; fifteen pounds of beans (pinto, Lima, black, red, kidney, garbanzo, and lentils); thirteen pounds of potatoes; several onions; seven pounds of rice; two pounds of texturized vegetable protein; five pounds of cornmeal; a couple of pounds of flour (white and whole wheat); five pounds of sugar (granulated, brown, and powdered); two dozen eggs; three packages of pasta; a head of cabbage; a loaf of bread; 3/4 of a jar of peanut butter; three bags of tortilla chips; assorted canned goods (corn, peas, spinach, pasta sauce, tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and pumpkin); a pound and a half of butter; a jar of popcorn; spices; condiments; baking supplies; a little bit of powdered milk; and other odds and ends. We might have some…interesting…meals before it’s all said and done, but we won’t starve. (We opened a 35 pound bag of dog food for Jerico last week, so he’s got food for a month, maybe six weeks.)
  • The Man just kicked the tobacco habit!!!
  • My phone which allows me to stay connected to my family, my friends, and the world and provides a hot spot so I can access the internet on my laptop too.
  • Noise cancelling headphones and Relaxation Radio on Google Play.
  • Plenty of books to read.
  • The end of winter, warm spring weather, and plenty of sunshine.

Thank you for reading, today and every day that you join me here. Thank you for your support and encouragement. Let’s continue to get through these tough times together.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Update, COVID-19 Edition

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Photo by CDC on Unsplash

I don’t feel like writing.

I don’t feel like doing much of anything.

Don’t worry. I’m not sick. As far as I know, I’m totally healthy. I don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19 and no risk factors other than going to town (The Hot Zone, The Man calls it) last Tuesday to pick up Jerico’s dog food and drop some postcards into the mail slot.

The Man is fine too, as is Jerico. We’re all in good health.

I quit my job a week ago. The hand washing facilities where I worked were inadequate. In the three months I worked there, I never once saw the woman I assisted wash her hands. Another frustrating problem was that she did not believe COVID-19 was a big deal. If they’d quit calling it a pandemic, people wouldn’t be so frantic, she said on more than one occasion. She certainly was not practicing social distancing, so I was exposed–directly or indirectly–to everyone who came over to visit her, everyone she hugged, everyone who touched something in her house. I was also expected to take her to a friend’s home to shower once a week, so I was exposed to her friend, her friend’s husband, the hired hand, and anyone else who happened to be there on a Friday afternoon.

This is from the frequently asked questions from my state’s unemployment website.

The state I work in won’t pay unemployment to anyone who quits a job due to “a medical concern.” In the eyes of the state, I was supposed to keep working until either I got sick or my client did. Hell, I might have been expected to continue to care for my client had she gotten sick even though I had no protective gear or even a place to wash my hands other than a sink that drained into a bucket that I had to dump outside when full.

While I received emails from my credit union, the gas station and supermarket to whose rewards clubs I belong, and every fast food restaurant and craft store with whom I’ve ever shared my email address explaining how each business was working to keep both customers and employees safe in the time of COVID-19 and telling me how to keep myself safe, the company I worked for didn’t so much as text me to remind me to wash my hands. I heard nothing from my employer. Nothing. Not a peep. The silence did not instill confidence in me. In fact, the silence underscored the reality that my employer did not give a damn about me.

At first I was excited about the prospect of not going to work.

I’ll get some writing done, I thought. I’ll work on my blog. I’ll let people know about the postcards I have for sale. I’ll get so much done!

Instead, I’ve been dragging my ass for a week.

The Man and I decided to stay home and take social distancing and flattening the curve seriously. The Man is talking about totally staying home for two months, maybe three. Is he overreacting or saving our lives? I guess we’ll never really know.

The Man and I have enough food for for a month, maybe six weeks, if we eat two conservative meals a day. We started out with about 15 pounds of dried pinto beans, along with a few more pounds of dried black beans, lentils, white beans and Lima beans. We’ve been eating oatmeal for breakfast so we can save the eggs for baking. I’ve been working hard to vary our dinners so we don’t burn out on beans early on. There may come a day when we’re eating all pintos all the time, but I want to delay that day for as long as possible.

Jerico is set with food for now. Last Tuesday we picked up a 35 pound sack of food we’d had shipped from Chewy.com. That much food will last him at least a month, probably six weeks. He’ll be out of medication too, sometime in the next couple of months. We order that online too.

Unlike most people in the United States, we don’t get home delivery of mail. No one in this part of the state does. Folks either get a box at a post office or at a private company like the UPS Store. So while most of you can order online and have groceries or dog food or medicine or craft supplies delivered to your home, we don’t enjoy that convenience. Our mailbox is 20 miles away, in The Hot Zone.

The nearest outgoing mailbox is at least 12 miles from our home, and The Man really doesn’t want me driving there to mail letters and postcards. He fears the virus is going to be concentrated anywhere that people live. He fears I might breathe in the virus and bring it home. Again, is he over cautious or just cautious enough?

What did I decide to do after considering my prospects of neither incoming nor outgoing mail for a month or more? I decided to make postcards, of course. Something about cutting paper and gluing it down in new ways is comforting to me in times of stress. The actions give me a feeling of control, I suppose.

These are some of the 38 postcards I made. I took this photo too.

Two days and 38 postcards later, I ran out of the decoupage glue I like to use for all my collage work. I won’t be getting any more of it any time soon, so I guess my postcard creating is on hiatus.

This past Saturday, I tried to file my taxes online. It turned into a fiasco because I don’t know last year’s Adjusted Gross Income. I had to give up after a couple of hours of struggle until my sibling (whose mail is delivered to the front porch) receives some documentation and calls me with the information.

After I was unable to achieve my big goal for the day, I fell into despair. It was tool cold and windy to go for the walk The Man suggested. I didn’t feel like writing. I didn’t feel like talking or watching a movie. After I cooked dinner and washed the dishes, the rest of my life stretched before me, long and boring.

The Man and I ended up watching some King of the Hill on Hulu. (Thank goodness for free trials from streaming services.) That cheered me up a little, but all I really wanted to do was play the matching game I put on my phone. I don’t have to think too hard about it, so it doesn’t tax my brain, but I have to pay close enough attention to it that unwanted thoughts are kept away. It’s an unproductive activity, but after hours of reading news sources and thinking about COVID-19 and people refusing to isolate and the lack of ventilators and all the horribleness that’s coming down the pike, my brain enjoys being blank.

I don’t know what to do with this blog right now. Should I carry on as if nothing is amiss and our whole world isn’t crumbling? Should I go all COVID-19 all the time? To be honest with you, I don’t have it in me to go all COVID-19 all the time. But if no one cares anymore about a free camping spot in Colorado or stories from my past or photos of my first Little Free Food Pantry, I’m not going to bother. However, if my blog helps you feel a little more normal, I’m all for continuing with it.

Please, let me know what you think. If you’re reading these words, please, please leave a comment (as short or as long as you like) letting me know what you want to see here in the coming days. Your input will help me make some decisions.

In the meantime, please keep yourself safe. Stay home as much as possible. Work from home if you can. Stay away from people outside your immediate family. Wash your hands. Be kind. Above all, please be kind.

Contrary

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Perhaps the most frustrating customers I encountered during my two months working at the supermarket fuel center were the ones who needed help but got pissy when I tried to remedy their situations.

The intercom that was supposed to allow me to communicate with the world on the other side of the bulletproof glass was a piece of crap. The sound cut in and out; sometimes there was no sound at all. The fuel center definitely needed new communication equipment.

One morning I pushed the button on the intercom and began speaking to a man on the other side of the window.

I can’t hear you, he smirked.

I put my mouth right next to the part of the intercom box that picked up sound. I kept my voice low, but since it was right next to the amplifier, it must have been loud outside.

What pump are you on?  I asked the fellow.

You don’t have to yell, he chastised me.

I guess there was just no pleasing him.

Customers often had trouble getting the pay-at-the-pump feature to work. Strange, because 98% of the time when I went outside to help, I could get the pump to accept the troublesome debit and credit cards. Maybe I had the magic touch, or maybe I have the attention span, patience, and mental capacity to follow the step-by-step directions given on the pump’s computer screen. Customers often acted as if our pumps were the cause of their hardships, but if the pumps were at fault, I don’t think my success rate would have been so outstanding.

People are funny. I thought folks would be happy when I got the pump to accept their credit/debit cards so they could get their fuel. However, over the course of two months, more than one person (more than twenty people) seemed to get angrier when I got the pump going. Of course, these people couldn’t very well complain when they were able to pump their fuel, but I could tell when people got angrier after I’d gotten the pump to accept their card. I think those people wanted to be upset and they’d decided (subconsciously, probably) to be upset whether they got what they wanted or not. 

Of course, some people were so invested in their anger, they didn’t even want me to try to help.

I do this all the time, customers said to dismiss me on more than one occasion after I’d gone outside and was trying to talk them through the steps necessary to get the pump to give up fuel. I knew the customers were having trouble because they’d come up to the kiosk and told me so, but when I went outside to help, I obviously wasn’t wanted.

I do this all the time, I was told, and I wanted to say, So what usually happens? Do you always fuck it up and have to ask for help, or can you usually muddle through?

Of course I kept those thoughts to myself. I also refrained from demanding to know why someone came up to the kiosk and reported a problem if they didn’t want my help. Do you just want to complain, or do you actually want to put gas in your car? I often wondered.

Sometimes when I was outside trying to help, the customer decided they’d had enough of my chipper personality. (Really, I was chipper when I went outside to offer assistance. I dare say I was friendly too, and pleasant.)

I’ve got it now, customers sometimes said pointedly, trying to get rid of me.

Uh, no, I’d say in my head while politely refusing to leave. I wasn’t going to walk back to the kiosk, unlock the door, and go inside only to have the same person up at the window again, complaining through the intercom that something was wrong with the pump. We were in this together now, and we’d see it through to the end, side-by-side, until the nozzle was in the gas tank and fuel flowed freely.