The Day When Everything Was Broken
True story: Monday night, 8pm - We are eating pizza in the only room of the house with gum-meshed, yellow stained carpets. Workmen downstairs pound away installing new flooring, hours after the "whole job" was supposed to be finished — as I write this now, it's still not really finished. Liz, who was stranded in Amsterdam for 25 hours because she couldn't fly without her luggage and who arrived three hours late at home because her luggage was lost, is on the phone, being told that her parents are getting a divorce.
Eight Weeks and Four Inspections Ago...
...we moved into our new place — a townhouse we're renting, to the extent that we sometimes call it "our apartment", "our house" or whatever word pops into mind at the time. Immediately, we found odd spots on the carpets upstairs — blue, chunky areas that look like bubblegum mashed into the floor. In the room we're using as our "TV room", there are large (quarter-sized) yellow ink stains. In the kitchen, downstairs, there are large swaths of grimy dirt patterns on the linoleum. At first, we assumed it's dirt from the movers, until swiping at it with a mop did little-to-nothing to clean it.
Immediately, the next day, we complain to the management. Things get routed around. A maintenance person comes, cuts the smaller chunks of bubblegum out, and tells us that he'll send his report up the chain. Weeks go by, so we call to find out "what's up". Another management person comes to inspect, apologizes profusely for the conditions, and promises to get someone out to clean it — and, if that doesn't make it better, to replace things.
Almost right away, the cleaning team calls, wanting to schedule a time to inspect. Two guys come by. They tell me they can try to clean the kitchen, they'll schedule something right away to come back out, but the carpet upstairs is just not going to come out.
Two weeks go by. Someone with management named Pat calls and wants to inspect our floors, again. I call the cleaner/inspector again, and he tells me he can't clean anything until Pat signs the Purchase Order. So, we wait for Pat.
Pat comes and takes measurements. Tells us that they can't clean the kitchen floor, but they can replace it. Except/Plus: They aren't replacing the tile floors anymore, they are replacing with laminate/wood-like floors that look really nice. And cover the whole ground floor — the living room, the entry hall, the dining area, everything. So, he'll schedule something, but we'll need to move all our furniture out (Liz said: "Gee, I guess I'm glad we waited eight weeks to unpack everything, afterall!")
He looks at the floor in the TV room and says they'll have to replace the carpet. He takes measurements and tells us he'll schedule something. There's a parenthetical aside about how they don't have this exact color anymore, so it'll look like a different color carpet in there — but, what do we care, we just want to get rid of the blue bubblegum: It's kinda gross.
A week goes by. Liz goes on her trip (see below). On Thursday, I call Pat to see "what's up". On Friday, someone calls me back and says they can be here Monday — two segments: guys in the morning to rip up the carpet, guys later to install the wood panels. I tell her Monday's not great — Liz is just getting back, I don't know if I can get help with the furniture that fast, etc. Tuesday or Wednesday would be great. Her reply: "Well, the next date they are available isn't for a few months, so... it's either Monday, or wait until then."
Monday it is.
Somewhere in Amsterdam
Liz is at a conference in Cologne, Germany. She has a planes-trains-and-automobiles adventure: Streetcar to the train, train to the airport, plane to Amsterdam, plane to Toronto. Any link in the chain might mean she misses her flight, of course.
Breakfast is rushed, the streetcar is late, but miraculously, she catches her train. Things look good, until she gets to the airport. Long lines at the counter, the flight to Amsterdam is running late. At the counter, she's told to take the flight, she's already booked on a later flight to Toronto, just in case, but everything's going to be fine.
In the air over Amsterdam, things look grim. When the plane lands, Liz hustles through the airport, racing to the gate. She runs up to the counter and is told: "We're sorry, your luggage hasn't made it off the other plane yet. We can't let you board. And who told you there was a later flight?"
Liz calls from the hotel in Amsterdam and is rather unhappy. Maybe, if you are on your honeymoon, being stuck in a strange country is exciting and cool. When you are on a business trip and want to be home already, though, it just sucks.
While we're on the phone, her dad calls. He sounds tense to me, and asks me to have Liz call him on his cell phone when she gets back. Back with Liz, I suggest she should maybe call her dad — she's bummed about the flight, and it might help to talk to her folks. "He said everything was fine, but he sounded a little funny. He said to call his cell phone, maybe he's just driving."
So, I unpack the living room. Dismantle the bookcases, take apart the stereo, take the legs off the table, wrap stuff up in mover's wrap, park the cars around the corner, and move the stuff I can lift myself into the garage. Liz's aunt helps arrange for some of the Strong Men who helped us move in to help me move the heavier furniture into the garage.
And I wait.
At 8am, one of the maintenance guys shows up to destroy the carpets. At 9am, a new guy shows up. He says to show him what room to put the carpet in. "Wha? Hunh?" Nobody told me, but apparently, they scheduled both operations on the same day. All the furniture (a couch, a chair, a bookcase, TV and entertainment center - and miscellaneous books and papers) are still in the room upstairs.
"There's no way. I can't move all this stuff. Tell him we'll reschedule."
The destruction ends at 10. Raw wood floor stares up at me everywhere, the stove and fridge float in the living room. Dust is everywhere. "When are the, um, Floor Guys going to be here?"
"Oh, I don't know. Probably not, you know, late. It doesn't take long, though. They'll totally be here before this afternoon."
There's a testy conversation with management about whether or not I "have to" stay home all day, when the Floor Guys will get here, etc. I need not bother you with the full, gory details, save these: I have to leave between 2-3 pm to pick Liz up at the airport. I don't know how to tell her to take a taxi, she'll be waiting at the airport for me. After some talk, they agree to send someone over with a key to watch for the Floor Guys.
I leave for the airport at 2:45. The carpet-destroying maintenance guy from before is out front, having a cigarette in his van. I wave.
Her flight is supposed to arrive at 4pm — 16:00. On the Web site, before I leave, KLM's status page said "Early: 15:58". At the airport, the status monitors say the exact same thing. Even at 16:08, they still say, "Early: 15:58". At 16:17, they finally switch to "Arrived: 16:15". Stupid airport.
An hour later, Liz calls my cell phone — we still haven't been able to get Canadian cell phones yet (a story for another time), so that's an international call for her, at $4 Canadian dollars a minute at a payphone, and $1 US a minute "international roaming" for me. Anyway, her luggage is lost. The luggage that she couldn't fly home yesterday without, somehow didn't make it onto the plane today. Stupid airline.
At 6 something pm, we're finally leaving the airport. Since I have no idea what condition the house is in, and we're both starving hungry, we pick up a pizza for dinner. None too surprising, there are workmen banging on the floors downstairs. "The Floor Guys got here late, what can I do?" the maintenance guy tells me. "Oh, we've still got to install the quarter-run" — at least, I think that's what he said, I have no idea about this stuff — "we'll do that tomorrow." The fridge and stove are still floating in the living room.
Tuesday morning, I call Pat to find out what happened with the carpet upstairs. He mostly complains about how unreliable the Floor Guys aren't usualy, but says they can reschedule the carpet thing, No Problem. Probably not for a month, though, so go have a good Thanksgiving, and don't sweat it.
At 3pm, no one has come to do anything with the "quarter-run", or whatever it is. Liz is taking a much-deserved nap, and I wish I could be, too. (Heck, I could've taken a nap this morning, if I knew they were going to come that late!) I call. Stupid management "can't tell me anything". "If they don't come this afternoon, give me a call."
"Seriously? It's 3:15. It's already this afternoon. How much later am I supposed to wait?"
"Well, if they aren't there by 5, call back."
"Why? What are you going to be magically able to do then that you can't do now? I don't have a stove, I don't have a fridge, and I'm stuck here waiting for your guys to show up. And you can't tell me they're going to be here?" (I said I needed a nap.)
Someone shows up at 4pm. Pounding begins. Liz and I walk across the street to get some salad-bar food for dinner. At 5pm, the guy says, "Well, I've got to come back tomorrow for sealing it up and putting the metal on the door frame, and..." Whatever. He puts the fridge and stove back, but the stove wobbles a lot now. Worry about spilling soup later, I guess...
Strong Guy shows up at 5:30 and we move the furniture back into the living room. I say not to bother putting it against the wall, since they're coming back for more tomorrow. I just don't want the stuff in the garage another night.
The Other Stupid Thing
On Saturday, my old Web site expired. I spent much of the weekend shopping around for new hosting, but nobody processes orders on the weekend, apparently, so much was in limbo until Monday. In the morning, while guys ripped up my carpets, I worked out the last of the details, but things weren't really settled until Tuesday morning, when Tech Support guys straightened out a misconfigured email account (which was my fault, or my misunderstanding, anyway.) Altogether, I probably lost two days' email, but I don't get that much right now anyway. And the new host is nice. But, you understand, it added some significant stress to an already stressful day.
The First of a Dozen Bad Phone Calls
Liz had been home about an hour when her dad called. We ate all the pizza, things were just digesting. At first, she just seemed stunned. It took time for things to set in.
Liz's parents had always seemed like they come out of an old movie or sitcom. They bantered, but they stayed together. They were the kind of couple who made you think it could work. And they stayed together.
Nobody wants other people to be unhappy. I don't think anybody is selfish enough to want someone else to be miserable on their account. But Liz was better — not okay, certainly, that word's hard to apply here, but better — when she thought the divorce "made sense". Make people happier. Got it in one. Liz's dad made it sound amicable. As much as it could be, anyway. "It just wasn't working. Life's too short to be unhappy. We both decided..."
And here we enter the "He-Said/She-Said" portion of the main event. The dialogue is down-right boring; the script is the same one you imagine in your head. Life imitates After School Special. Liz and I were up late Monday night. Lots of tissues have been consumed. Lots of hugs. But lots of gnashing and analyzing. "If he would... Why can't they... It doesn't make sense that..." I'd say we got about four hours of sleep that night.
The Family Transforms
Liz's brother got married in July, moved to Columbus a month ago — lives closer to home now than he has in 10 years. Liz and her brother worked out a complicated "sharing system", to make sure that Parent-Holiday rotations didn't separate the siblings. Everybody is supposed to be in Columbus for Christmas this year, it was a happy thing when we arranged it, but it seems treacherous now. Liz's parents were supposed to come up to Toronto this weekend, to stay with us, and have Canadian Thanksgiving with Aunt Susie.
There's a whole thing involving some computer products I ordered a week ago and had shipped to their house, so they could bring them when they came to Toronto — the company wouldn't ship to Canada, so it seemed like a perfect work-around. Now, my stupid packages are the source of new conflicts and tension — I arbitrarily addressed them to Liz's dad, but he's not at home anymore. He's not coming to Toronto, but Mom still is coming. She doesn't want to open his mail, but now there's an ambiguity. So, we're relaying back-and-forth, trying to negotiate who will open what when, and whether or not that's "okay".
The strangest thing seems to be the inevitable split between biology and family. Liz's cousin has known Liz's dad as "Uncle" for her whole life, he's been at several significant events in her life, like confirmation, graduation... Now, all of a sudden, because of one decision, he's... nothing to her. Just some guy. An "Ex-Uncle", maybe? I don't know. To me, though, he's still going to be Liz's dad — biologically, that's what he is. Family and Biology aren't the same thing, anymore. It's weird.
The Situation, for Now
As it stands now, the carpet upstairs isn't being done for a month. The guy isn't back yet, the ground floor is still only mostly finished. The furniture sits around at random, waiting for the job to be finished, but the fridge and stove are back in place (though one has a new wobble). There are several scrapes on the walls - damage done while destroying the carpets - that will need touch-up paint.
Yesterday (Tuesday), Liz seemed kind of stunned. We watched movies almost all day, ate "comfort food" and tried to pretend nothing weird was happening. Today, she seems drained, but better.
Liz's luggage just arrived, delivered by a surly courier who complained that we didn't answer his calls last night.
Liz's dad is out, living with his mom, Liz's grandmother. Mom and Liz's brother are coming up this weekend, otherwise, Thanksgiving plans go on as normal. We don't know what happens after that.