Thursday, December 23, 2004

A Truly Stray Thought

I've been sucked into signing up for a bunch of online sweepstakes. It started very simply with one little sweepstake that ended on Nov 30th and has blossomed into a 20-minute obsession each morning. I can't wait for the holiday season to end and half of them at least to go away. Or at least that's what I tell myself. We'll have to see where I am with this in March to know for sure.

However, this obsession is not why I'm writing. It certainly isn't in keeping with the meaning behind this blog to blather on about how I can waste time with the best of them. So, while you're wonder what on Earth I'm doing and if I've been hitting the eggnog early this year, let me put your mind at ease. I had a stray thought that might prove interesting as I went through my technique.

I copy my email so I don't have to type this long string with every different sweepstake, but I realized my street address is much more cumbersome. So why don't I copy my street address instead of my email, I asked myself? I don't know if you'll agree, but I found the answer fascinating.

The email address is interpreted by a computer. If I type even one letter wrong, transpose two characters as I have a habit of doing, I am doomed. There is no way the communication will ever find me. But, if I transpose two numbers, write circle as cirlce or do some other strange twist on my address (as long as the zip code is right because it's interpreted by a computer of course), I can usually trust that my mail carrier will figure it out and the message will still arrive safely, or a helpful neighbor will chuck it back out for another try at least.

Now I'm not usually the computer phobic type. If anything, I'm the complete opposite, but this moment of clarity gave me a connection to the doomsayers who condemn computers as the coming of the end. How will I manage without knowing a human hand will gently massage my errors into something still usable? I've developed tons of coping mechanisms. Yes, I use both grammar and spell check. I copy critical information from the one instance I know is correct to avoid introducing error. I try to avoid typing in long strings of numbers if I can help it. (You should see me trying to install an OS!) And I guess that's my answer. Without humans to interpret and work around human error, those of us who aren't perfect (most, if not all of humanity) will learn to cope or will slip through the cracks, going into the oblivion of misfiled emails and accidentally deleted or moved files.

And all this from filling out sweepstakes :).

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Life as a Canary

Now, I don't usually use this blog for things of a more personal nature, but I wanted to share a little moment of realization with the lot of you.

Apparently, I'm suicidal! Umm, just kidding actually, but I did try to kill myself and my whole family the other day.

We have a gas stove because my husband swears they cook better. Anyway, before you start to wonder why this is relevant, I was cooking dinner the other night, a nice batch of spaghetti with red sauce. As I was serving, I noticed the burner was off. Frankly, dinner is often frantic so I figured I'd turned it off already and went about my business.

Some time later, I went back to the kitchen, boiled water for tea on the other front burner. Sitting down to work at my computer, my throat started tightening up and I started sneezing. My jacket had acquired the pervasive scent of gas. I ignored it for a while, but then went to investigate. Imagine my horror as the smell got stronger the closer I went to the kitchen.

I asked my husband if he could smell it, and he said no. I have a very sensitive nose, but it is tied to memory so I will actually smell things from other times and places. Smelling things that aren't there is not uncommon. However, the gas scent was really strong so I continued past my husband and to the stove.

What I discovered was terrifying. Apparently, I'd had the burner low enough under the sauce that the wind generated while I served dinner had blown the flame out. Without the flame, I'd assumed the burner was off. I'd even lit another burner right next to it.

I'd been lucky I hadn't burned down the house.

Frantic, I ran around turning on fans, ditched my jacket and took my inhalers so I could breathe.

That accomplished, I went back to normal life, had TV time with my hubby and then went to write until the wee hours of the morning. When I finally finished, I went sniffing about, acting the canary as I tried to decide whether to shut off the fans, satisfied disaster had been averted.

This was when I discovered my boys had closed their door before I'd turned the fans on. Their room reeked. I grabbed a flashlight and checked to make sure both were breathing, which they were thank goodness, and turned on their bathroom fan to draw the gas out.

Yipes. I'd almost lost both sons, not to fire but to gas inhalation. Then, I went into my bedroom and discovered the same problem. We keep our door shut as well and the gas had seeped in under the door and collected there. Well, our door swung wide, I checked my husband for signs of life, then spent the night fending off curious kitties who usually aren't allowed in our room with their sharp claws and our vulnerable waterbed.

By morning, things had settled back to normal, but I came away with a real sense of my mortality and how easy it was to risk not just myself but those I love. I also recognized the need to really listen to my body. It gave me warning long before I listened, acting the canary and telling me I couldn't breathe, this place wasn't safe for me or anyone else. My older son had also mentioned the scent to my husband with the same result. Now maybe we'll all be a little more cautious when something isn't right and I hope you all will too. It takes so little time just to check when something feels wrong and so much time to recover if it really is wrong and we ignore it.

I'm grateful that things turned out so well, and yet how easily they might not have. First the gas, then lighting a fire next to the gas leak, then having both husband and children sealed in rooms full of gas. If I didn't know it was my own life, I'd have suspected one of S.L. Viehl's novels had sideswiped me ( She says her plotting technique is to put characters in the worst possible place and then make it even nastier. Boy is it scary when life acts that way.

Epilogue: Not a week later, I tried to electrocute myself while installing a new dryer...I think life is telling me to slow down. Hah! Some other month :p.