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Monday, December 27, 2010

"poignant omissions"

The recent snowstorm buried my roof-top extension urban garden in blankets of snow, as seen in the photograph at the top of this post. The composition isn't so great, but it is a good indicator of how much snow fell last night if you compare it with the photograph in yesterday's post. The heavy snowfall was accompanied by thunder and heavy winds, so I have not ventured into Central Park to see if there are snow sculptures. Central Park is quite close to where I live, and it is lovely when quiet from the snow. The stillness and quiet brought by such a heavy snowfall normally fills me with peace, but I confess I did not feel much peace today on this third day of Christmas.

I have a question for those who observe Kwanzaa: Did you feel peace on its second day of celebration, in the midst of the snowstorm's aftermath?

As for me in the snowstorm's aftermath, I was up early to make a payment arrangement on my phone bill to stop a disconnection from happening later in the day and had also planned to make a small deposit to my checking account, where my bank had charged me $34 for going $3.21 over my available funds with a debit purchase I'd made.

In terms of making a payment arrangement with Verizon, I was disconnected five times by Verizon's customer service, and with every call I made to them I had to go through their automated voice system and repeat my information, which I find frustrating even on a good day.

Once I reached Verizon and made my arrangement, I ventured out to Citi Bank to make a deposit. It was early morning, and the sidewalk leading to the street had only partially been shoveled, making walking treacherous. Once I rounded the corner, I realized that I could not get to a sidewalk across the street because plows had dumped tons and tons of snow blocking the sidewalks, leaving pedestrians with no option but to walk on the street amongst cars and taxis that were slipping and sliding. When I finally made it to the bank, I noticed there were several homeless people sleeping there amidst litter and trash. It was as always very sad and humbling to see such a sight. As it turns out, they were the only people there. The branch was closed, apparently due to inclement weather, although there was no sign posting any information.

Upon returning home I once again made a series of phone calls, this time in an attempt to recoup the $34 I was charged on my $3.21 error. "Didn't I understand that the branch people could not make it for work given the storm?" "Well, yes I understand that, but don't they understand one can make a small math error and reverse my fees?, " I ventured. "Well, the computers won't let us reverse it," was (and is always) Citi Bank's standard answer).  After much ado, I was able to get my $34 returned and could not help thinking that George Orwell was eerily "right on" in his novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Not big on the scale of world problems and not big on a scale of personal problems, I admit; and the snow caused far more inconvenience to others than me which in some instances led to fatalities; but the point of this post is not to win a contest over the worst case scenario in a given instant — rather it's to acknowledge how certain inconveniences can cause one to temporarily forget successes or happy memories.

Instead of responding to others by saying, "it's not the end of the world," as our New York City Mayor Bloomberg did when he responded to the concerns and fears of  very inconvenienced folks, I'd like to offer this post as an acknowledgment of what inconveniences can do, in order for my readers to know that in most situations they are not alone in their frustrations.

I will do so by sharing what Joan Didion (a writer I've spoken about in a previous post), stated in her essay, After Henry, regarding consequences of attempts to retrieve funds or make payment arrangements.

"In the summer of 1966, I was living in a borrowed house in Brentwood, and had a new baby. I had published one book, three years before. My husband was writing his first. Our day-book for those months shows no income for April, $305.06 for May, none for June, and for July, $5.29, a dividend on our single capital asset, fifty shares of Transamerica stock left to me by my grandmother. This 1966 day-book shows laundry lists and appointments with pediatricians. It shows sixty christening presents received and sixty thank you notes written, shows the summer sale at Saks and the attempt to retrieve a fifteen-dollar deposit but it does not show the date in June on which we first met Henry Robbins.

This seems to me now a peculiar and poignant omission, and one that suggests the particular fractures that new babies and borrowed houses can cause in the moods of those who live largely by their wits. Henry Robbins was until that night in 1966 an abstract to us, another New York editor, a stranger at Farrar, Strauss & Giroux who had called or written and said that he was coming to California to see some writers. I thought so little of myself as a writer that summer that I was obscurely ashamed to go to dinner with still another editor and discuss this "work" I was not doing, but in the end I did go . . . . and listened to voices that transcended lost laundry and babysitters and prospects of $5.29."

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