Friday, August 26, 2011

A warm house and a missing door

The last 2 weeks have been uneventful, yet eventful, in that I have switched my duties from the prairie over to the local historic society (HS). My mother-in-law (Toadputty) is the president of this organization and I began volunteering last October. As time has progressed I have unwittingly, though somewhat willingly assigned myself additional responsibilities and became enmeshed in the town's gossip and politics. A typical day may be slow business-wise, but usually the quirks of the volunteers, calls and emails from other businesses with gossip , not to mention random calls from the public with strange questions make the day interesting.

Toadputty has been on vacation for the last 2 weeks and while Historia and Survivor have filled in for her, I went in several days during her absence. I haven't done anything useful, other than catalog old newspapers and update the volunteer hours on excel. I've spent most of my time doing non-volunteer things like reading academic periodicals and crunching the numbers from my summer work. But I went in to help in any way I could, whether it be to answer the phone or assist a walk-in during the times the other volunteers (who know more of the town's history than I do) are busy and to provide them assistance with any unforeseen circumstances. And let me tell you, there were a few odd incidents over the last 2 weeks.

My first request for help came last week, even before I was to report for duty in Toadputty's absence. I texted Toadputty Monday evening to inform her I was going in to HS on Tuesday.

I received a text that said "Make sure Historia doesn't paint the attic ceiling."


The HS organization resides in a 2 story house built before the Civil War. Of course the house now has modern conveniences with the exception of the attic, which did not have air conditioning or heat. However we rectified the situation over the summer, installing a snazzy AC/Heating unit.

I learned the story behind Toadputty's odd message on my arrival Tuesday. Apparently Historia got it in her head that the ceiling needed painting. NOW. Before I go any further, let me tell you that Historia is a frail wisp of a woman in her 90s. Her body doesn't quite match up to the strength of her mind. While she hasn't experienced any falls or mishaps to date (knock on wood), she has a tendency to bite off more than she can chew. Painting the attic ceiling would require moving heavy boxes and furniture, using a step ladder and painting over one's head. Given past experience with Historia, no one doubted that she would do all of this alone, with no help. Genie managed to stall Historia, stating the fact that Toadputty, who also wanted to paint the attic ceiling, had already bought paint and enlisted the help needed for painting. Historia only conceded after she could not locate any cans of paint in the house (she doesn't know Genie found a can of paint and opened the lid to dry out the contents).

The next adventure came the following day (Wednesday) and this one involved the whereabouts of a missing 100+ year old door. One of the primary objectives of HS is saving and restoring old houses and buildings. The building to which this door belonged has gone through a recent cycle of businesses and the newest inhabitant was planning to open a coffee shop. Unfortunately this gentleman was hellbent on removing every trace of antiquity from this building, all in the name of "improvement". The common practice for people who own or rent a historic landmark is to inform or ask permission from the local government or HS to make changes to their building. Most counties want to maintain some degree of the historic landmark's heritage and impose regulations on what the occupant can do to the exterior and sometimes even the interior of the building. Well, the man claimed ignorance to this fact and already made changes to the building, one of which was removing the door. When Toadputty found out what the man had done she demanded to know the location of the door and confusion ensued. Hell was raised and the City government claimed it would bring the door to HS. This all happened the week before Toadputty was to leave for vacation.

Well, that Wednesday (last week), Genie came in and asked if the door ever came in. After searching and speculation (Genie thought the door was delivered to the museum down the street. I was convinced the door was in a dumpster) I called Toadputty on her vacation and she in turn, called the City to demand the whereabouts of this door. Of course the man who had charged his underlings with the task of bringing the door to us had no idea the object in question was not delivered. He promised Toadputty he would get to the bottom of the mystery and make sure the door was delivered ASAP. But as of last Friday, we had no antique door.

This week seemed to focus on the quirks of my fellow volunteers and reminded me how much I disliked being around other people. I went in this Tuesday to a hot house. We had a heat advisory that day and it was already close to 90 degrees at 10am. Imagine my displeasure when I went into a house that felt as warm inside as it did outside. What.The.Hell. I made a beeline for the thermostat and found it set at 78 degrees. I turned the thermostat down to 74 and went to set up my laptop in the office, which still felt warm after 30 minutes of continuous cool air. I quickly glanced around the room and found a pile of boxes on top of the register. Knowing who was responsible for the thermostat and blocking boxes, but not wanting to accuse her, I found Survivor and tactfully asked her about the boxes.

"Oh yea," She said with a grin and a wave of her hand, "I get so cold and had that cold air blowing on me so I put the boxes on top of the vent."

Outwardly I laughed, but inwardly I wanted to throttle her and stick her upstairs in the attic, where Historia had that thermostat set at a balmy 77 degrees.

About an hour later, Historia was requesting my assistance. She wanted me to carry her computer monitor down to her car. Historia, who founded the HS, is in the process of retiring and has been gradually turning all of her responsibilities and information over to Toadputty. Thinking this was just another step in that process of letting go, I said nothing and obliged her request. However, she told me she was swapping her work computer with her home computer because she planned to work from home. I was about to ask her if she wanted me to carry the computer to the car as well when she interrupted me and told me she was going to ask one of the architects (we rent a space to a small business on the main floor) to help her because the other computer was too heavy. A few minutes later I found that architect coming up the stairs with a different computer monitor. I returned to my desk and it wasn't long before I lost the internet connection on my laptop. I wandered into Historia's office and found her fiddling around the power strip. She was complaining she couldn't get her monitor to work. I didn't want to get into the whole issue that she really wasn't changing computers, but just swapping monitors because I had a very limited understanding of computers myself and I knew she had even less of an understanding and explaining would be difficult at best. Instead I turned the power strip on (she had shut it off, thinking she had turned it on) and checked her wire connections. Yes indeed something was missing. I knew it was something obvious, but I couldn't place my finger on it until I saw her throw the power cord down in disgust. I asked her for the cord and I could tell from the look on her face as she handed it to me that she didn't think the cord was going to work. Imagine her surprise when it turned everything on. Again she went for the power strip and I quickly told her I switched it on because she had switched it off, and I knew that without a doubt because I lost my internet connection and I showed her how the Wi-Fi thingie (see? I told you I had a limited understanding of computer stuff) was plugged in to the power strip.

(*Note. I found out last night that the apple Macs have their computers built into the monitors. See? I REALLY don't know much about computers)

Today was uneventful but I was somewhat annoyed at Survivor, who was in a talkative mood, or rather, a history preaching mood. Survivor has a tendency to be condescending when she preaches local history. She talks to me like I have no inkling of what history is, despite the fact that I have a college education and do quite a bit of reading on the subject. Granted, my interest lays in the history of the American West and Environmental history (yes, that is a niche now) and I have a limited knowledge of our local history, but don't talk to me like I'm a 10 year old. I don't take it too personally though. I've noticed her taking the same tone with other people when she talks history. So after lunch, I retreated upstairs to the quiet, albeit warm, recesses of the attic.

The door finally showed up today too. I was so happy to see it because I have feeling if the door hadn't shown up today we would have been canvasing the neighborhood dumpsters next week. It is a pretty door and was worth the drama.

And Toadputty is back next week. Hallelujah she's coming back. That place doesn't run quite the same without her.

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