Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Day in the Life…

My apologies – I’ve been down with a nasty flu that left me capable only of wending my way through Jeri Westerson’s highly enjoyable Crispin Guest Medieval noir mystery series. Jeri will soon be interviewed here. Then, just as I returned to functioning, my computer crashed. I’m going to tell the tale of the day I spent getting it fixed.

First thing in my workday, which begins about noon since I’m very nocturnal: I turn on computer – no arrow, no functioning. I call my local Apple Store (fifty miles away) and they can see it right away (that is, an hour of quick driving from now.) Since I’ll be in the neighborhood, I change my photo appointment for the new picture I need for the new press release that’s going out for my book.

All is arranged. But Peter's scowling. There’s to be an ice storm this afternoon. I won’t be able to get home. So I call my friends Bob and Jim who live not far from the photographer and I arrange to spend the night with them. Off I go, and fall flat on the ice in my driveway. (Computer is okay; Peter is holding it and now is even more set against my leaving.) But I take off anyway, a trifle shaken up.

Let it be understood, there are no policemen where I live in rural Pennsylvania. Once, when I was home alone and there was a prowler, I called the police and was told there were only two on duty for the whole huge county at night, but they would send an officer up to see me in the morning. The officer I was talking to asked if I had a gun. I said we did. He said, “If he comes in the house, use it.” So I sat with a Colt revolver in my lap while the intruder rummaged in the cellar. Then (thank heavens) my human target went away.

So it was with the greatest surprise that, as I breezed through the nearby village of Thompson, I saw a police car behind me, blazing like a demented Christmas tree. I pulled over, and an irate officer came to my window announcing I had been going FORTY MILES AN HOUR and didn’t have my lights on. It was drizzling, and the only speed sign anywhere near Thompson states a 35 MPH speed limit.

I told the officer I was rather shaken up from a fall in my driveway and may indeed not have been behaving as I should. He offered to take me to a hospital. I told him I didn’t need a hospital. He insisted upon calling an ambulance. I told him I would not go anywhere in an ambulance. He repeated himself, and so did I.

At about this point in our increasingly emphatic discussion, a truck driver pulled up to give the officer assistance. The officer went to talk to the truck driver for a while, then the trucker went on his way and the officer returned to my window. "Did he mean to defend you from me?" I asked. He replied, unamused,“How did you hurt yourself?” “My elbow hit the ground, causing my shoulder to hit my jaw and ear. I don’t think that could cause a concussion.” The officer contemplated that, and went to his car. I admired the delicate green of a pair of his six flashing lights for a while, then got bored and took out my Kindle to read.

Eventually my tormentor returned. “I’m not giving you a ticket, but I’m giving you a warning.” He handed me a slip of paper to sign. “Oh, thank you, Officer. Actually, I’m so glad to know there are policemen here,” and I told him my experience with the intruder. He seemed impressed, especially when I added, “I don’t think I could shoot a man, but would rather have been shot instead.” 

It was at this point I noticed his name tag. “My heavens, I wrote a play about your ancestor!" Well, I had written a play about a man with the same name. And now I had a happy audience as I told the officer the whole story of my play. We parted best of friends, with him promising to look up my books on Amazon and buy all of them. I always tell Peter that he should leave dealing with policemen to me (he’s gotten a ticket twice in the thirty-two years of our marriage.)

Now there was no time for me to get to the computer repair before my appointment with the photographer. Being meticulous about the speed limits, I still managed reach to the photo studio with one minute to spare. Then it was on to the computer repair. I had been considering buying an iPad, so this was a good opportunity. But, for this, I found I had to buy the newest operating system for my computer so it could communicate with the iPad – and incidentally, it would save me the repair charge since it would take care of whatever was ailing my computer. I agreed. And bought an iPad. (by now, I was figuring this excursion was putting the better part of $1000 on my credit card, but hey, I didn't have to pay a speeding ticket.)

The installation of the new program would take three hours – and the ice storm was coming. So I arranged to retrieve my computer the next day, and I rushed back to the photographer to pick up the photo prints. I’m hard to photograph; I either look cross or I look like a jack-o-lantern, but this photographer had, after many tries, gotten a shot I actually liked. I’m mostly my knitted hat.

Photos in hand, I drove over to Bob and Jim’s, with the road starting to freeze beneath me. Jim had just gotten home from New York City and said the highways were treacherous. So, while the world around us froze (I called Peter to let him know I was safe and richer by an iPad), I had a civilized evening of dinner and conversation about the publishing business and the misdemeanors of Amazon, Jim’s particular adversary. While this might sound dry, it’s a topic that never tires me since I’m deep in the grip of this swirling maelstrom of change in the book business. But then came the high moment of the day. Jim had gotten a new fur coat, (he’s a whizz at e-bay) and insisted upon giving me his last fur coat achievement, which, amazingly, fit me perfectly and did not fit him.

So I came home the next day, not only with a speeding warning, new photos, a new operating program in my computer (which would take me three days to master) and a new iPad, but swathed up to my knitted hat in fluff that transforms me into an apparent (hatted) Ghost Bear of the Pacific Northwest.

(No, it's not that rare creature, it's not bear at all. It's coyote, and since coyotes have eaten numbers of my geese and chickens and nearly got my sheep -- we reached a point where no animal could be allowed outside the barn -- I might look on this coat as a repayment of sorts.)

Katherine Ashe is the author of the  four volume Montfort novelized series