Monday, January 01, 2007

Good Grief, Good Neighbours, On New Years Day 

My friends left around 3.30am last night - Gill, Martin and a sleeping Caelan. My dishes were done and I had a little potato salad in the fridge.

At 5.20-ish am, I woke to hear a ghastly bubbling noise. My bedside lamp was having a melt down. I opened my eyes to see the touch lamp light once on its own and die. And the smell...

I hopped up but I couldn't prioritise - turn off the power at the outlet - go find something plastic to do it? - open up my doors - uh, find more clothes to wear.

In my panic, I wondered if I could find anything that didn't need ironing in my washing basket. Semi-nakedness okay - creases not okay. I grabbed a light t-shirt Mum's sent over recently and stood outside my front door. Then I went back in with the t-shirt lifted over my mouth to save me breathing more of the burnt plastic.

I used a plastic egg slice to turn off the power point, although my alarm clock - attached to the same adapter - still gave the time. I took the smelly lamp out the glass door of my bedroom and sat it on the concrete slabs. It reeked of the sickly smell and I hoped it was the only source. I couldn't concentrate because I didn't want to breathe too deep.

I wandered about in the car park, up onto the main road to find the source of sprinkler noise, wandered back to my other front door, and came in to find my flat hot and perhaps a little hazy. Panic!

My neighbour sleeps with her door open and Radio National tuned in but I couldn't rouse her. I ran to the caretaker's flat, and decided if it wasn't an emergency, I'd be embarrassed - and if it was, then I should probably wake my other neighbour first.

I wondered at what stage you start hauling your belongings outside. I couldn't think of anything I should be sure to take - my teddy bear of 34 years popped into my head, easily accessible, and the shimmery mauve-with-blue-straps top I bought Friday at a bargain price and which I haven't felt publicly special in yet. That's all.

Am I this disconnected, I thought, that in a potential emergency I don't know my own stuff? Or is it just that in an emergency my number one priority is me.

J next door sleeps with his door open too and he came straight out, in colourful boxer shorts, and exclaimed that he's usually hard to wake. He investigated as I apologised and as I noticed that I was shaking and hadn't pulled my doona over. My sheets looked very purple.

J talked about fluctuations in the electricity supply, the old outlets near my bed, the old-style fuses that take a while before they burn out, the power boards I should get from Tandy or Dick Smith, and the need to protect my computer. My computer's plugged into an industrial RCD. I'm clueless about how this might protect my computer but perhaps it'll protect me if I drill a hole into a power lead with the monitor.

When he spotted my smoke detector on a book case, I had to admit that the battery sat next to it, not in it, waiting for when I buy double-sided tape and stick it somewhere appropriate. The instructions indicate there isn't anywhere appropriate in my flat and my property agent doesn't want it fixed to the walls or ceilings. J offered a few suggestions. Placement of my smoke detector is now officially out of the 'too hard' basket.

All I could think about was getting away from the smell. I couldn't wrap my head around J's talk of safety fuses. I thanked him and said not to worry about the safety fuse thingos unless he thought about it after more sleep. Before I had time to move from my door he returned with his spares and fitted them.

I packed my backpack (mobile, sun screen, hat, book) and at 6.30am I left to give my flat and I a chance to air. My plan involved walking, eating, chilling out and not falling asleep in a park. The thought of HJs for breakfast on the first day of the New Year made me think for a moment that 2007 wouldn't be off to a good start.

Then I thought that if starting the New Year with breakfast and a place to live isn't a good start then I'm stupider than someone who buys a smoke detector and doesn't insert the battery. I thought about people who lose everything in fires, and people forced from their homes because their homes are no longer safe places to be. I thought about people who's year starts without someone they loved, someone they'd loved and lost.

As I walked, I exchanged smiles and nods with people out cycling or walking. On New Year's Morning I was mistaken for someone who belongs to the elite group of early risers who look after themselves all year round.

Everywhere stank. Lemon-scented plants I couldn't identify, ozone from the buzzing overhead powerlines, early morning smells I don't know about. I heard a radio inside a supermarket and the buzz of a worker trimming a public garden. People waited at the station as if a train was on its way. The machine told me they'd be waiting '51' minutes. HJs wasn't open and a guy stood while a woman sat at the bus stop for a 103 due in an hour.

An hour after I left I arrived home to less smell.

I rolled my bed over to the open, security-screened door. I heard birds, listened to the trees moving and felt the breeze. I thought I could almost imagine myself someplace else, like a rainforest or a farm down south, in an idyllic future - with birds and trees and breezes.

Yes, and then it occurred to me - why can't that somewhere be here, and now.

So it is.

Happy New Year!

Comments:
Great post, lovely sentiments, Dee! I'm glad all turned out well and the only damage was to your lamp and the atmosphere in your home (temporarily).
 
Oh, and I should've said: Happy New Year! May 2007 be a wonderful year for you :)
 
Hi CW,

Thanks, I'm glad too! Also good to start 2007 off blogging. :-) Have a good one!
 
Deanne! How horrible is that!!!
My worst fears are those! I have a smoke detector and on Wednesday, when I come home, I insert the batteries again - for sure!
I remember one evening the darn thing started eeking. I got so scared!! It was just telling me the batteries are low. But I got really so scared and really did hate to live alone! Argh. Horrible.

Good thing you have a neighbour like that!!

Good that you know your priorities, even in an emergency!

How come people sleep with their doors open???
(I would have more "Aussie"/native-english-questions, but later then)

Happy New Year, btw! :-)
 
Beautiful story Dee (glad it all worked out) - very you :)

Happy New Year.

Col
 
Hi Iris,

People sleep with their security screens locked but their doors open to keep cool. Not all of the flats here have air conditioning (including mine) but it's not so much of a problem because we get the sea breeze. I'd rather a breeze than air con. I guess people feel safe - although I shut my main doors before I go to bed.

I do like living alone except for days like these, and when I hear a cockroach. Ewww. Somehow my guess is that even if I didn't live alone, I'd still need to deal with that!

Heya Col,

Hope you had a fun New Years and I'm glad you liked the story. Lucky I have a blog - gives me some place to stick all the 'little stories.' :-)
 
Oh wow, what an adventure again, not a very fun one this time, but I guess all adventures do bring us great stories and things to think about!
 
Hi Simone,

Yeah, little adventures like this are quite enough for me!
 
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