Sometimes, it is a challenge to keep perspective. When an almighty ton of steaming poo falls from the sky and lands splat on your new expensive hairdo, dry-clean-only outfit and suede shoes, it’s sometimes hard to breathe deeply, shrug shoulders and say, “well, I’m a blessed! It could have been diarrhea!”
When my world is being bombarded by a shit storm, there’s little consolation in the fact that things could indeed be worse. Yes, there is "after-the-fact-reframe," that I can do, I've got it down; but I'm talking "in-the-moment-perspective," the nauseating Pollyanna kind, that makes you want to punch old Polly in the throat or shave off her eyebrows, that is a challenge for Eleanor. If you are like me, there are three common reactions to such a maelstorm: cry, weep, make a fuss; erect a literal or figurative umbrella and sally forth; or ball up the fistfuls of faeces and lob them at whoever is in range, like a mutant McEnroe Dung beetle. On Tuesday, dear Reader, I did all three. It was truly a shituation.
The house I write from is largely empty. I feel rather smugly Dickensian/Manhattan Minimal here, typing cross-legged on the honeyed floor boards, imagining the pieces that will create my home. I have been pouring over the thick, glossy pages of a particular furniture catalogue, cutting, pasting and sticky-noting—Martha Stewart would be proud. I have spent hours online drooling at Steampunk light switch plates, door knobs, chandeliers and granite. Anything granite. I love granite! And leather. I have been enjoying the schizophrenia of my new Interior Decorator personality, even if my bank account hasn’t! But piffle, says I, life is short, and this is my haven, my shelter, my sanctuary, my palace, my outward expression of me! I can take my time and design it exactly as I choose!
I reasoned, if I were a chef, I would have a state of the art cooker, oven and mixer thingies; if I were a photographer, I would have cameras, and lighting and those strange white hexagons; so, ergo, as a writer, I should have an amazing, welcoming, “Eleanor, come sit at me and write great works” desk. And thus it was, I splurged. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I did it up. I bought it, dear Reader! The study I had been lusting after, like the psycho at the shower curtain! The over-sized vintage steamer trunk ingeniously configured to "open Sesame" into an amazing study!
Never has this reasonable thirty-something with excitable tendencies been THIS wired to receive a package. This was more exciting than Mum finally agreeing to buy me a bra even though I had nothing to fill it; than when Dad told us at the airport that we weren’t collecting his friend we all despised, but were flying off to Disney World; greater even than collecting my first free car at the dealership; it tasted sweet, this overwhelming appetite of anticipation.
Then D- Day came. Tuesday 18th, 07:00hours.
There are six large windows in my bedroom. As I came to, drifting from unremembered dreams, I first heard the drum, then saw the rain as it lashed against the panes. It was rather like waking to find Self going through a car wash.
|"Is it raining? I hadn't noticed."|
In novels and in movies, storms usually mean imminent doom—unless Ryan Gosling/other Hollywood Chunk of Muscle is standing with his shirt off, then it indicates a torrent of delightfully satisfying, non-messy sex is about to unspool. I cast my eyes to the vacant pillow beside me, I should have realized that this meant I was in for the former, not the latter.
I must have run to my front door at least five times that morning, fancying I could hear a truck over the surround sound of the rain. I brewed a pot of coffee and tried to do adult things to balance out my childish anticipation. Finally, a truck hummed from somewhere down the street. I popped out of the door and stood on sentury, my Meerkat curiosity at full neck-extension.
“You Eleanor?” The ruddy-faced boy asked, wiping the rain, (or sweat), from his forehead.
“Yes! You must be Rob!” (The shipping man on the phone had told me to expect “Rob.”) This boy was not, in fact, Rob. He did not correct me however, so I proceeded to call him Rob for the course of the next HOUR OF HELL.
“It’s big!” He said, promisingly.
“Is it? I’m excited.” (Insert your own joke here. I’m a trying to regain some essence of maturity.)
I sprang over the puddles, gamboling down the street, running the undefeatable gauntlet of rain, to the back of the still-growling truck. There it was! My, my, it was a behemoth of a box: standing sturdily over 6 foot and weighing in at 300lb, it was a monument of might, unfathomable like the Pyramids, or Stonehenge, or Justin Bieber.
“Yeah, it’s big,” said Non-Rob.
Now, I fear I must get a little technical here. Brace yourself! The giant package of my dreams, had been transported on a wooden pallet. Non-Rob had inserted metal fork-lift forkies into the underbelly of the pallet, however, in some unfortunate, almost fatal, shift, one of the wheels of my steamer trunk had come through its cardboard protection and wedged itself between the edge of the pallet and the forks of the lifty thing. (I told you this was technical.)
I spoke up.
“Rob,” I said, “I really think maybe you should wheel the box back in the truck and deliver it another day. One without rain. When you can have someone who won’t be squashed like a small, wet mammal under its hefty tonnage.”
“Can’t do that. It’s stuck. I can’t get it back in the truck. We have to get it off or just wait in the rain all day.”
“Well… let’s phone for help! Surely someone at Unmentionable-Shipping-Firm-Who-Proved-to-be-UTTERLY-Useless might be able to assist?”
So we called. As Non-Rob stood, readjusting his sneaker grip on the slick tail-gate, holding the box on the edge, I called his boss. I explained the shituation. Did I mention the firm was UTTERLY USELESS? Uh huh, I was told that, no, he couldn’t send anyone else out to help. The company was located 5 minutes from my house, but no one was available.
I am 115lbs soaking wet. Non-Rob lowered the tail-lift once again and the 300lb box teatered above me. I braced all my weight against it to keep it upright.
“Okay, let’s switch.” He said, and he slipped down from the back of the truck, to exchange places with me. “Press that down button just a bit.” (Question: when you are getting something delivered, does one usually become a temporary, non-paid, potentially-endangered member of the moving team? No, I thought not. Carry on.)
|Oh yes. Non-Rob sent me his x-rays.|
It lowered jerkily, but Non-Rob managed to keep the box steady, until it hit the tarmac and the wheels, it's weight and gravity unleashed the human-bulldozer from the pallet. I squealed. Non-Rob gasped and caught it. In hind sight, I believe this was the point he broke his thumb.
You might think, the mission had been accomplished, dear Reader. Oh no. Now we had to wheel the box uphill. The wet cardboard offered no grip, so Non-Rob unsheathed the trunk, exposing it’s plastic saran wrapped inner layer of protection. When he did this, I noticed there was a gaping hole in the back of the packing. A hole that had gone through the cardboard, and the plastic, and—LORD NO!—the cigar brown leather, ripping it apart like a knife through flesh. My eyes grew larger with tears, but I bit my lip, this was neither the time nor the place to blub; I forced up my emotional umbrella and forged on, ploughing ever further into the turd tornado that was about to hit.
|My trunk, stabbed in the back.|
Non-Rob inserted the beaten up dolly under the trunk, and heaved as he pulled it up the steep gradient. I weaved around, guarding the trunk like a parent with newly-bike-riding child. At my front doorstep, the friendly Mortgage Insurance Agent who had made an appointment to meet me, had arrived. Oh, it was like some awful reality TV set up. I seriously wondered if there were hidden cameras and some MTV-typee in long shorts to jump in my face and yell, "You've been punked!"
“Hi!” I wailed from somewhere underneath the box, ushering its progress up the hill, “I’m Eleanor. You must be Tom. The delivery has taken a bit longer than we thought.”
“Can I help you?” Thank God, I thought.
I wafted around ineffectively placing cardboard on the steps to protect the trunk; I brought out towels to dry the leather and aid their grip. But, as Non-Rob and Real-Tom heaved the trunk up the stone steps to my front door, the mighty immovable weight falling to further right-angle Non-Rob’s thumb, the soft brown leather grated against the edge of each step. I urgently indicated the need for care, but the weight of the load in the slipping handholds was clearly all that registered on their red-faces. There was nothing I could say. I winced as, tripping, they kicked the cardboard away, the unprotective saran wrap was ripped asunder and the leather was carved up by unforgiving stone. I screamed silently as the object of my desire was mutilated.
They unscrewed the screen door to squeeze the trunk through, pushing and grinding, grunting and sighing. With the trunk at an angle through the door, Non-Rob unshouldered it and it bounced to my hardwood floors with a stomach-stabbing thunder.
I carefully undressed the trunk, removing the ghostly wisps of remaining wrap, like bandages around a burn victim. I assessed the damage: gouges, scars, open wounds. My eyes refilled, I breathed deeply and sucked them back, still having two strangers standing around.
It wasn’t until I was alone, that I touched the slashed leather and the rage that I had so carefully, Britishly back-burnered, boiled. I called the shipping company and let rip with my inner McEnroe.
My telephonic tantrum was not satisfying. At the end of the tsunami, my one-of-a-kind piece was still damaged. You can offer to patch it up all you like, but it is still scarred.
I wish I could end telling you that I found the strength of character to laugh it off and be grateful for something, like that fact I wasn’t dead, but I didn't actually want perspective. I wanted my moment of thrashing and hurling like a toddler (and, perhaps for some adored Chunk of Muscle to wrap his arms around me, as Hollywood rain dictates). So thanks for reading and letting me fling some shit. I feel better now, dear Reader.