Stress Level: Nuclear

The phone company’s signature characteristic was that they were allergic to appointments of any kind. They didn’t schedule. They didn’t even call ahead. What they did do was call me at work on a near daily basis to let me know they were standing outside my cow gate and needing let in, “we’re here, where are you?”. The answer to that would be: on the toilet at work because my 10 minute potty break was the only free time i had on shift to return their call to let them know that i would not be able to unlock the gate for them from a different town. 🙄 i got my weekly schedule on fridays at 12:30 pm. It was never the same so i couldn’t predict what days or hours i’d be working. They were typically pretty booked for the week by the time i called at 12:30 on friday with my availability. Finally our schedules lined up and i was able to secure an appointment slot with the phone company to set up high speed internet in the house 2 days after school started. Of course, it had to rain buckets for 2 days before they were set to come out and the day before their appointment i got a voicemail while i was at work from the independent contractor the phone company used to run telephone line from the poles to the house. They weren’t coming. He said he didn’t want to “trench up” my yard. He said the rain would just make the ground mud slush and the diesel trucks would likely get stuck and ruin the yard. I called back and left a message begging him to come. I told him the yard was wild land with unruly native grass and foliage, it wasn’t sod, and i didn’t care about “trenching it up”. I told him i had scrap wood in the shed and if the diesel trucks got stuck we could put the wood under their tires and i’d get em out. I told him i also had mulch and i could mulch the few muddy areas but most of the grassy areas looked pretty sturdy and the majority of the yard appeared to be hard packed and on the way to drying out. I called two more times but no one answered. I never got a call back. At 4:55 pm i called the phone company and cancelled my appointment, knowing there was nothing they could do with a modem/router if the contractors hadn’t come out first and run the line from the nearest customer across the street to the poles on my property and finally to the house. I was devastated. Who knew how many weeks it would take to get our schedules to line up again, between the three of us, and school had started 2 days ago. I was working 5 days a week and had no way to fit in catch-up time if i fell behind. At 8 am the next morning i stood on the porch in my pj’s and had a look around. I suddenly had a feeling that i would soon be greeting strangers in my pajamas. Following this gut feeling i called the contractor one more time and this time i didn’t get the voicemail box. The man answered and said he was on his way. My eyes widened…on his way…? Then began the mad scramble to rebook the telephone company. Apparently i had been convincing enough to sway the contractor but they had not given me a call back to let me know they’d changed their minds. After some begging and pleading i convinced the telephone company to rebook me. They said they could come over “right now”. I said that the contractor hadn’t been out yet and they would need the contractor to do their bit before they could wire anything in the house. They assured me that i was wrong and they could totally do their bit before the contractor had shown, no problem. The telephone company technician showed up, had a looked at the property, and informed me they couldn’t do anything until the contractor arrived and did their bit. I reluctantly bid the telephone company technician farewell as he went on to other jobs, begging him to return again later in the day if he could fit me in. An hour later the contractor showed up. He had a 3 man crew. They were good old country boys with boots, clothes that had seen better days, and always a cig in their hands. I liked the older one immediately. He was the one driving the operation while the younger two took orders and fumbled around. The older man made one of the guys tuck in his shirt “in the presence of the customer”. He was constantly critiquing their driving and shouting orders while they rolled their eyes, but, despite their banter, they worked well together. They threw tools to each other back and forth while one of them was in the box up near the pole or tethered to the pole in the air and the other two were on the ground. They never had to let each other know when tools were going up or down, they just pitched em and the other one caught em. It was like a silent graceful ballet of climbing and flying tools. My dogs tried to eat them the entire time they were on the property and finally i just crated them in the house because i couldn’t stand the barking and snarling anymore.

The first problem was the truck with the giant arm with the bucket on the end of it. Hitched to the back was a giant roll of telephone wire. The space the truck had to work with, in between the full-grown cedar trees and the orchard i had planted, did not allow the truck to angle enough to back the roll of telephone wire in to where it needed to be. Forward, back, forward, back…the guys tried their hardest to maneuver their truck into place. We had to pull up some of my rebar holding the wire cages over my aloe vera plants and move everything back to make way for the truck. The older man kept the younger ones from plain running my stuff over by shouting at them loudly to stop every time they were about to crush something (usually rebar but sometimes the actual plant). The chickens were terrified of the diesel engine of the bigger truck and every time it switched back and forth the chickens flew like mad crazy birds in every direction, hitting the walls and the canvas ceiling of the pen, feathers flying and chickens squawking…they laid no eggs that day. They were too stressed.

I offered to cut the branches of the cedars so they could maneuver the truck in better. They said no they’d just push through. It wasn’t going well so i went to the shed and got the shears. I was going to do it but they insisted they could. So they set about trying to trim the cedars with shears. They didn’t really know how to use them. I could tell they were used to chain saws. The younger man stood there and pulled the blades together kind of haphazardly, expecting the branches to just lop off. He got a few of them and then gave up. When they weren’t looking i grabbed the sheers and did the job right. You have to put some umph into it in order to get a clean cut and sever the branches. I did and they now had a clear path to their destination. They decided they were done maneuvering the truck. They unhitched the telephone wire and all 3 of them pulled it together like horses until they got it where they wanted it. They backed the truck up and then rehitched. Finally. Step 1 accomplished.

I dragged the branches we cut into the dog run for Sili and Cashew to chew on later. I knew they would view them as brand new toys. I told the crew they could cut any cedar branches they needed but asked them not to cut the oak trees. I had two 200 year old oaks and one 100 year old oak right in the spot where they were working and it was the only place on the property that i had old trees like that. I did not want my oldest oaks cut. They were the gem of the property. I tried to cook and get school work done but every time i heard a chain saw i hurried outside to make sure i knew which tree they were cutting. I was not the type of customer to wait inside the house and just get notified when it was over. I helped clear the path, provided tools, hauled branches out of the way, and offered first aid when it seemed necessary. I wanted to see what they were doing, so i would have an understanding of the setup in case problems happened down the line, so i would learn new skills in terms of maintaining the property, and so i could decide if i agreed with their assessment of what limbs were necessary to lop off.

The second lowest line is new. They screwed some metal hooks into the electric pole while standing in the bucket and then hung the telephone line on it.

The contractors finished around 2 pm. I thanked them for their work and for saving my oak trees. The older man informed me that the line was sitting on some branches from one of the 200 year old oak trees but he correctly assessed that i cared more about the branches than i did the line and was willing to take the chance that it may need repaired in the future if it meant leaving the tree untouched. See, they couldn’t get the truck with the bucket in any closer to that tree so there would be no trimming the top branches. They couldn’t do that from the ground. To take the top branches off, they would have had to chainsaw the base of two huge limbs while standing on the ground. I wasn’t going to agree to that and they correctly assumed as much. After they left i immediately got on the phone and begged the telephone company to come out one more time. An hour later there they were. I sure was glad to see them.

There was a neat little box on the back of the house and the telephone company technician began running wire from the box to a hole in the wall where they intended to have the wires enter the house to connect to the modem/router that was going to provide me with high-speed internet.

The little box was located just to the side of the bathroom window on the back of the house. i thought the hard part was over but i was wrong. Getting internet inside the house would prove more difficult than maneuvering a diesel truck through woods, scaling a pole, or running wire through tree branches and across the street.

Two hours later they were still on the phone with “the office” trouble shooting from the computer where the lady could tell them what was green and what was red. They kept running up the street in the truck to “check the box” again. They never did tell me how they finally got it working. They got the internet up and running 4 minutes before my first video call class for school. I thanked them and they left. I didn’t have time to check their work outside. I had to get logged in for that video call. I managed to attend the video call but a thought crept into my head and i wondered about it through the whole class. we had taken some heavy duty screws out of the wall in back of the house and there were a number of holes that went all the way through and some just in the top layer of wood. I had asked them if they had something to seal it so water didn’t get in to the house. One of the guys said he had silicone in the back of his truck and he’d take care of it for me before he left. I hadn’t thought to remind him. When the first video call ended i went out to the back of the house in the dark with a flash light and sure enough, there were all these gaping holes in the back wall of my house, with no sealant in them. I sighed. It was a 35 minute drive to town. My second video class for school started in exactly an hour. I didn’t have time to run to town for sealant. I no longer had the budget to stock the shed with extra and so i had none on the property as i would have last year. The only store in our town was the dollar general. I had glue for the chicken coop but that was not what i needed for this job and a shoddy job would just equal leaks during rains down the road. I was losing my grip. I was falling behind in school. I couldnt do my assignments because i was constantly working. I had to wake up at 12:30 am to open at the store the following morning. My last video call didn’t end until 9:00 pm, and now i was going to have to drive to town at 9 to go to the walmart or the hardware store and get sealant to plug up and water proof the house. I was so so frustrated. I still hadn’t cooked anything to eat for dinner or lunch the following day. When was i going to do that? Finally, i knew it was a long shot but 8 minutes before my second virtual class started i texted a neighbor up the road and asked if she and her husband had a tube of caulk. I told her if i could borrow it tonight i’d bring them a dozen of my chicken eggs and a replacement tube from the hardware store in town after work the following day. It was set to storm at 2 am and i needed this caulk now if it was going to dry by then. She said she’d ask her husband and in the next minute she replied that they had the caulk but no gun. I told her i had a caulk gun and would be right over. I drove 60 mph on winding 40 mph back roads full of deer in the dark. It was the worst idea ever and i hated doing it. I just couldn’t see how i was going to get enough sleep to show up at work to open, attend the class on time, and also keep the house insulation from becoming damp and the particle board from molding. I had to seal it up before it rained or i’d just be trapping the moisture in there. The answer was that i couldn’t. I couldn’t do all 3 things. Something had to give. Something would have to suffer or go unfinished or be half-assed. I made it to her house, thanked her profusely, she threw the caulk in the window onto the passenger seat, and i set out at 60 mph once more. What i was thinking while i was driving in the dark at top speed around those curves and praying no deer became spooked was that i never wanted to be in this position again, that i couldn’t do this long term, that safety went out the window and i started making poor decisions when backed into a corner and so i needed to make sure that in the future i wasn’t spread quite so thin. I had always been a straight a student. School had always been something i did “all the way”, and yet, i logged on to that video call 10 minutes late. I drove straight in the gate which i had left wide open, parked the car, jumped out, ran up the steps, dumped everything on the floor, opened the laptop, and logged on. I’m still unsure whether i got the ten points for attendance. I missed all the class introductions. I was devastated for a second time that day, and very thankful to God for keeping the deer out of the road during my ill advised behavior on the road.

I tried to sit still like the rest of them, but, 12:30 was getting closer by the minute and i knew every task i wasn’t doing was one i would have to do after the video call. I already had to get the insanely heavy ladder out of the mice infested shed and drag it to the house to plug up the holes (covered in mouse urine in case you’re wondering why i mentioned that detail). I began cooking. I pulled the laptop with me and put a pot of quinoa on low with extra water on the stove. I put some zucchini on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and set it in the oven at 350 degrees. When i checked the oven it wasn’t quite done. I meant to leave it in for just a while longer but the video call was interactive and we were supposed to be following along and occasionally unmuting ourselves and adding our input. I forgot about the zucchini. I was in tears when i pulled the cookie sheet out after the call and realized i’d just done all that slicing, seasoning, and arranging on the parchment paper to make tiny pieces of charcoal that were absolutely inedible. I wasted the food and i wasted my effort. I cried and cried. I could not find a balance for full-time work, 2/3 full-time school, and running a homestead while cooking from scratch (cheaper on a budget). It was the first time in a long time that i had burned food, and probably the only time in my life that i had burned it so thoroughly no part of it was salvageable.

After the second video class i took the lantern to the shed and dragged my heavy-duty ladder to the back of the house where i set it up. Carrying it, i got mouse urine all over my hand and my clothes where it had rested against my hip and torso. I didn’t care at this point. I was a woman on a mission. Some of the tube had dried up so i used my box cutter to take off a good portion of the tip of the tube. I stuck an old nail down in it and dug out the solid part until i had goop. Then i loaded the caulk gun and climbed up the precariously placed ladder on the uneven trenched up ground where the contractors had been working hours earlier.

I tried to hold the lantern with one hand and operate the caulk gun with the other. It would have been more accurate with two hands but i smoothed it over with my finger afterwards.

Covered in mouse urine and caulk i climbed down, satisfied that i had plugged all the holes before the forecasted storm would arrive at 2 am. I then folded the ladder, hauled it back to the shed, put the caulk gun back on my tool shelf, took the remainder of the tube of caulk inside where i twist tied a paper towel over the tip in a weak attempt to preserve it for further use if necessary.

In the daylight of the following afternoon i would be able to get a closer look at some of my handiwork on the back and side of the house.

This was a rather large hole to be left unsealed where the wires were fed into the house to the modem/router. A moth or a june bug could have fit right through, and definitely rain.

I managed 27 minutes of sleep. I knew i couldn’t have any caffeine because of my arthritis. I was riddled with it and caffeine made it 10 times worse. So, i sucked it up and drove to work on 27 minutes of sleep with no alertness aids. That day they needed to cut 20 hours from the schedule. They were overbooked. After 2 hours they started asking people to go home early. I happened to be the first one they asked. Normally the one that fought tooth and nail to keep my hours, i agreed to go home. Truthfully, i was relieved. I was having trouble thinking on 27 minutes of sleep and my job requires thinking. It also requires great customer service and all i was mustering were “yes” “no” and “i dont know, let me find out” answers. I was not peppy or social. I was a zombie and i felt like another second without my eyes closed would cause me to puke. I felt physically ill, i was so tired. I agreed to go, secretly happily, but i wanted to ask the head of the department a question about scheduling before i did. I met with her in the office and i explained that i had gone back to school and i underestimated the amount of time it would take to learn mapping software. I told her i was looking for a good balance between school and work right now and i felt 4 days of work and 3 days of school would be the perfect balance. I asked her if i could move to a 4 day a week availability schedule. She said that would be fine and of course i could do that, i would just have to put in a formal request in the computer program to make it official. I tried to do so but it wasn’t allowing me to just write “any 4 days weekly”. It was making me specify which four days i was available. I told my supervisor i was available any four days weekly but she said that the software would make me specify which days and if i wanted to work 4 days a week, i’d have to pick 4 days and make 3 days of the week consistently off limits in terms of availability. I asked which days were the busiest and then made myself available for those days. I chose 3 consecutive days that i would be unavailable to work and submitted the availability change request form. I was extremely disappointed in myself that i couldn’t work full time and juggle school and run the homestead. I felt that i was letting people down and copping out but any way i looked at it, i was not going to pass those school courses on 2 days a week, mostly because one of those days would always be taken up by cooking, home maintenance, bible study, laundry, dishes, and a trip to town for supplies like toilet paper, ginger, or tea tree oil. I couldn’t do it and i was ashamed, so so ashamed. But, having only worked two hours that morning, i stopped at the hardware store in town and picked up a tube of caulk for my neighbor. I got a carton of eggs ready for them and ran it over when they returned from work in the evening. Their little son was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the eggs at the screen door. When i got home i laid down for an hour long nap. I turned off the alarm and slept 7 hours. I was surprised to wake up at 4 pm. I got up and did a boat load of school work. I downloaded all the software necessary, learned the computer programs, created my first map, took a quiz, did a lot of reading, posted a video, made videos commenting on other students’ videos and participated in collaborative virtual discussion for a grade. Working 4 days a week would give me the time to make a go of this school thing. As ashamed as i was that i couldn’t hack it with a full time job on the side, i knew this was the only way i could stay employed, pass my school courses, and keep the homestead. There had to be a balance. I’d be lying if i said i’d made peace with this failure but i’m trying to just focus on the fact that i’m caught up on the course work now. If i can make a go of this in two or three years this failure won’t hurt so much. I’ll just be happy that i made a decision that allowed me to absorb my course work and pass the classes needed to obtain the degree. In 2 or 3 years things will be better. 2 or 3 years.

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2 Comments

  1. Hope you get some sleep – and some breaks. It’s never easy dealing with any cable company but your story takes the cake! Please stay as healthy as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

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