Anhydrous Wit

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A-hunting We Will Go: Part 2

When last we left our intrepid protagonist, he was making his way through the desert, tired, thirsty, and probably in need of a bathroom. If not for the courageous fellowship of a local guide, he might have given himself up to fate and allowed the turkey vultures to feast on his carcass. He was on a quest for the elusive Adobe Abode, as famed as El Dorado, the Seven Cities of Gold, or the Fountain of Youth sought by hardy explorers before him. In the last chapter, we heard him exclaim, "This house is too small," and, "This house is too big." Alas, he was losing hope of ever exulting, "This house is just right!"

Oops. Um, I seem to have mixed up my story genres a bit. Sorry about that.

As I was trying to say, neither my realtor nor I was very optimistic, but when we saw the condo for the first time, we were on the verge of impressed. It is hidden from a busy thoroughfare by a high (about 6.5' tall) red, rock wall. In fact, I had driven by it a few times in my years in Las Cruces and never knew of its existence. The various service technicians I've had visit said the same thing. (Why, then, do I see so many vehicles pull in by mistake and immediately leave? Are they looking for someplace even less obvious?)

It is a two-story, white stucco building with rust-red roof tiles and New-Mexico-mountains-at-sunset stucco accents. If you've ever seen a NM mountain at sunset, you know what color I mean (though perhaps a little more faded and a little less watermelon). The parking lot takes up almost all of the front of the property, but there are some trees and shrubs along the side, so it is very well displayed.

Fortunately, we saw the number for my unit on the front of the building, by the stairs, so we didn't have to look far. We ascended, and Carol obtained the key from the lock box hanging from the railing near the top of the (curved) stairs. We stepped onto a veranda and saw two doors. For lack of further clues telling us which was the sought-after unit, we tried the first door, and the key worked.

We entered into the kitchen. Facing us was a huge, side-by-side refrigerator/freezer. It is taller than I am, and one could fit entire bodies in it (if one were to remove the shelves first). Wowzers! To the right was a "nook" with a table and chairs and four arched windows (almost floor to ceiling), separated from the main part of the kitchen by a peninsula. "Is that real granite on the countertops?" we wondered. (Yes, it is.) The stove, too, is huge, with six, gas burners. There was a wine rack instead of one cabinet, and wine glasses hanging underneath. (I've always wanted something like that, ever since I first saw the bar at H.A. Winston's restaurant. Now I just need to develop a taste for wine.) Inside the pantry was the owners' microwave oven -- no cluttering the counters here! The granite is gray, black, and pink. The walls between the upper and lower cabinets are covered with large, shiny, black tiles, like obsidian. The appliances (there's a dishwasher, too, in the peninsula) are stainless steel. The walls were white. The floors (depending on your location and light exposure) are whitish-grayish-pinkish wood laminate (very hard-wearing yet not as expensive as the real thing). The cabinets are pickled, so they, too, are pinkish. It was a well put-together and well-presented kitchen.

Through an archway to the left is the living room. It has two double-hung windows side-by-side in the same casement, looking out at the Organ Mountains. The walls (all white here, too) have large expanses, perfect for the previous owners' large, abstract paintings of Agave and other desert plants. Just past the living room was... "Hey, is that the second door we saw outside?" and "Wait a minute, is this all one place?"

Yes, indeedy-do, I'm starting to get excited.

Uh-oh, first problem: I banged my head on the doorway to the office/study. Well, keep in mind that this house was built in 1901, and people were much shorter then. Plus, the standard building codes probably weren't as strict as now.

If you'll excuse me interrupting my own narrative for a side story, it turns out that, in addition to being about 6'3" high (okay, exactly 6'3" high) the doorway is very off kilter. When the door is closed, it's even more obvious; one side is a full inch lower than the other. The guest bathroom even has one wall an inch shorter than the wall opposite. In fact, no wall is plumb; no floor is level; no corner is square. That's what one gets when one buys a house built in 1901: a structure with "character".

Back to the office/study, which has a window identical to the living room, as well as a single window on the adjoining wall. Here, I noticed that each room has a ceiling fan. (Now what do I do with the two I bought on sale last year?) A door off of the office/study opens to the laundry room (probably a converted walk-in closet) with stacked, front-loading washer & dryer, water heater, and built-in wire shelving.

Leaving the office/study to return to the living room, the second door (French style, opening onto the outdoor fireplace) is to the right, and a short walk to the left leads to the guest bathroom. I didn't particularly care for the cameo-pink pedestal sink, toilet, and tub, and they don't quite go with the floor-to-ceiling, aged-white tiles (some with Southwest figures on them) and rust-colored grout, but, again, it's so well done, that I left it as is. (Plus, I don't have the money to do an entire bathroom refitting.) Other than the short wall mentioned earlier, the other bit of oddness here is that the door handle is quite a bit higher than average, so if you come to visit, be sure to duck your head through the doorway while reaching up for the doorknob.

The door to the bedroom is next. Almost immediately inside it (30" max.) is another archway. Opposite you is wall-to-wall closet doors (two large closets which, if not for the chimney of the downstairs neighbor's fireplace, would connect). The floor has a border of the laminate wood encompassing an oatmeal-colored shag carpet -- not a rug; it is most definitely tacked down. Look up, and see a vaulted ceiling. Look left, and see... a third door to the veranda! Through this door, you can see the wheelchair elevator. (Yes, this place has its own elevator!) Look right, and see... the circuit panel, the only pimple on the otherwise pristine walls. I have yet to think of a way to arrange my wall hangings to cover it yet not appear awkward.

Wait a minute. Where's Carol? While I was busy imagining my furniture here, she managed to find the master bath. The entrance to it was just between the bedroom door and archway. It has very nice wooden cabinets (style matching the kitchen but with a natural finish) and granite counter, a shower stall large enough for four (or six) people, and floor to ceiling, again well-done tiles, but icky-pink. Oh, and the ceiling.... Well, it's not that the ceiling is low; it's that the floor is high. One must go up two steps to enter the bathroom: my own little slice of Fawlty Towers. (I'd like to see John Cleese try to navigate these doorways.)

I found out later from neighbors ("Is it still pink?") that the first owner, the one who renovated the place, although a hobby-gourmet chef who left me with a fabulous kitchen, had an abominable love of pink. All the walls, even the moldings, were a horrid, Pepto-Bismol pink. The second owner's wife was an interior decorator who made everything white. Although I was sick and tired of white (after five years in an all-white Las Cruces apartment, a year in an all-white Alabama apartment, and, before that, more years than I care to admit in a masking-tape-white residence hall), it was so much more purchasable than an pink condo.

The veranda, which I have mentioned several times before, runs from the arched windows on the north wall of the kitchen, along the entire east side of the condo, and the entire south side, ending at the bedroom door and elevator. Much of the south side is only about four feet wide, and it's even narrower than that on the north, but the east side (where the mountain view and the fireplace are) is about twelve feet wide. I have planters for flowers and fruits/vegetables judiciously placed along the iron railing and up against the walls.

I think I'll leave the telling of the light switches to nothing and the missing switches (hmm, my own little slice of the Winchester House, too) for another time. In fact, all the things that went wrong since I moved in deserve their own blog entry. I want this post to sound so appealing that you'll want to visit me. (Hey, I have a hide-a-bed now....)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A-hunting We Will Go: Part 1

Yesterday afternoon, my friend using my computer in the study, said, "There are two people on your balcony." This was very odd, as my parents are not in town, and my friend is the only other visitor I get. In fact, in order for people to get to my balcony, they have to come upstairs, which means they make a lot of effort at getting lost.

I opened my door and said, "Hi. May I help you?" which I find much more polite than asking why the heck they’re nosing around my private residence. One of the women said, "We just looked at all the pictures, and now we’re checking out the grounds." Grounds? Oh, I’m part of "the grounds" now? I guess I should have expected it, considering how attractive my flower pots are (even if I do say so myself). Plus, when you consider that half of the guests at the B&B/art gallery can’t read either of the signs that tells them to park over there, not in the residents’ lot, it was only a matter of time before they ventured up my stairs.

I’ve had only one other unexpected visitor since I moved in. That was a woman who was checking out the other unit that had been for sale, and at least she had the courtesy to ring my doorbell. I told her what little I knew and suggested she talk to the realtor. Speaking of realtors, I promised that I’d tell you more about my "adobe abode", and my realtor would be a good place to start.

In July of last year, I stopped by the campus PBS and NPR affiliates to ask if any of their members/supporters was a realtor. I received three references but dropped two immediately because they were well-known agencies who already had enough money. I phoned the third and set up an appointment to see her. We met and discussed what I was wanting. She told me that she was going on vacation to see her new grandson but suggested I check out listings in the free real estate publications and, more importantly, see how much money the banks would be willing to give me.

I first went to the mega-bank where I have my checking account. I thought they might give me a deal, as I am already a customer. The guy, who looked barely out of college, didn’t seem to listen to me. He was more interested in selling me a particular mortgage. I went then to a local bank, whose series of radio ads (in the style of Dragnet) had appealed to me. (I particularly liked the one that asked, "Has your bank committed merger?") Not only did the agent listen to me, he answered all my questions, and he gave me a better interest rate than the mega-bank. (The fact that this local bank sold my mortgage to a bank in Albuquerque when the ink on my signature was barely dry is neither here nor there.)

Now that I knew how much house I could afford, the next step was to find one. I selected candidates in my price range from the free publications then consulted a map to determine which ones were in decent neighborhoods. I went out after my early morning walks on weekends, so I wouldn’t have to worry about traffic while I sought house numbers on unfamiliar streets. The better looking ones, alas, were already under contract. The still-available ones tended to be in sketchy neighborhoods. (My realtor explained that, in our hot market, the good places are snatched up right away, and waiting for the ads to be published is at least a week too late.) I also checked out the link to the Multiple Listing Service on my realtor’s web site. When she returned, we made up a list of houses to visit.

Our first afternoon out, we must have stopped at four to six places, but only two stand out in my memory. The first was a "patio home" (realtor-speak for a duplex). It was in a decent neighborhood, was well kept by the elderly couple that lived there, and had a one-car garage and a yard I could do something with. However, it was like a glorified two-bedroom apartment, and I wasn’t looking for that. (Ironically, that’s exactly what I ended up with.) The other one I remember was a "fixer-upper". I figured I could replace the kitchen’s old vinyl floor with ceramic tile myself, but there were worse problems. The sun room that had been added at the back was settling at a different rate than the rest of the house, so the doors were stuck and very difficult to open. Plus, there was that water problem evident where the roof lines joined. We walked into the first bedroom, which was quite small, but it seemed to have a large closet. The realtor (let me call her Carol now, as I’ve already given you the link to her website) slid open the closet door to reveal.... the bedroom next door. Well, that was interesting. The first bathroom had "Wow that’s bright!" shocking, teal tiles. How am I supposed to decorate around that? The master bathroom had light pink tile, which was probably original to the house. It wasn't masculine, but I could distract from it by using dark towels. The main problem in this bathroom was its size. I’ve never seen a bathroom that small. The toilet was practically in the bedroom -- really. The door nearly brushed the porcelain when I closed it.

Needless to say, I didn’t hold out much hope for our second venture a couple of weeks later. One place was suspiciously affordable, but Carol told me flat-out, "You don’t want that one." We drove by, and she indeed was right. Another one was a good size, had a lot of charm, a recently renovated kitchen, and a lot of storage space. I mean a lot. Between the property lines and both sides of the house were hand-built storage areas. I could have kept all my junk, and yours, in them. The backyard was nice, but the only way to access it, because of the added-on storage, was through the house. If I ever wanted to excavate the in-ground pool that had been filled in.... Let’s just say it sounds like a lot of money. The penultimate place we visited had one room with built-in, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a large yard, with fruit trees and a decent lawn and lots of places to show off my green thumb. I probably would have been satisfied there.

"Do you want to see the condo?" Carol asked. We were both kind of tired, and it was a hot, August afternoon, but it was on the way back to her office, so, "Why not?" I replied. I am so glad I did!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Home Sweet Home: Part 2

Before leaving campus this afternoon, I stopped by the library to see if the Rio Grande Historical Collections could help me form a history of my abode. (Actually, considering its age and the thickness of the walls, I can call it an adobe abode.) The assistant said I would need to know the U.S. Reclamation Service tract number or the section, township, and range, and they could track down the first owner. He also suggested I look at the county web page to see what prior tax information they have for the property. Finally, he brought out a book of historic buildings in the county. Apparently, I live just outside the Alameda Depot Historic District, so I saw pictures of buildings just up the street, but not my own.

I searched the county web page and found a whole bunch of numbers that correspond to my property but don’t actually mean anything to me. (I’m hoping the RGHC can help me out.) I also found eight filing records from 1985 through 2002, although three of them are merely the declaration of condominium and two amendments. I have a couple of new owners’ names, though, so it wasn’t totally useless. Oh yeah, and I did get the section, township, and range numbers.

Then I searched the RGHC web site photo collections using "Alameda" as a key word. There were a couple dozen hits, most of which were not relevant. I did see two citations for Dr. Clyde Tombaugh with his telescope at Alameda Avenue. Wouldn’t you know it, those pictures aren’t available online! Oh well, that just gives me two more tidbits to throw at the RGHC and see what comes out.

Why is this relevant? You mean I didn’t mention that Dr. Tombaugh kept a telescope in the rear building on our property, where two of the condo units are now? Ah, I see. Thus, I must return to my narrative about my special home. Stay tuned....

Monday, June 19, 2006

Home Sweat Home

So that’s what the noise my air conditioner made last Tuesday was! Of course, I didn’t find out right away. In fact, I was wondering if I’d hear the noise again, but no such luck. Thursday afternoon, the cold air stopped. Wouldn’t you know it, it happened during our second week (though not consecutive) of 100+ temperatures. I got a recommendation for a reliable repair company from the condo board pres. and phoned them. It was before five o’clock when I called, but the repairman didn’t phone me until 25 hours later, and then he said he’d call me Saturday, if he could squeeze me in. Guess who didn’t call me? I phoned him right after eight this morning, and he managed to find some time. The problem was that a piece (I can’t remember what he called it) broke off the fan, which he said he wouldn’t have been able to replace on the weekend anyway, so I guess I should count my blessings. That’s one. That I managed to get away with just $121 in charges is two.

Friday and Saturday, thankfully, weren’t too hot (only 95 degrees). In her blog, Maximum Verbosity, my friend Betty occasionally remarks about the vagaries of New Mexican weather. I have a couple to add. "You know you live in a desert when... 1) a ‘cold’ front moves through, and the high temperature is ‘only’ 95 degrees... 2) you walk into your home, note how much cooler it is than outside, and then realize that your thermometer reads 90 degrees."

I had my windows and my bedroom door open all night, with my ceiling fans on to stir the hot air (and hopefully encourage it to go outside). I managed to get some sleep, and I also learned how much the glass usually diminishes the sound of train horns. By dawn Sunday morning, I managed to drop my indoor temperature to 84 degrees.

That day’s forecast, however, was back to 105. I did nothing but lie on the living room floor under my ceiling fan, reading and watching my thermometer inch up to 90 indoors. Okay, maybe I cursed the absence of the A.C. repairman, too. Blessing #3: it wasn’t my electricity that went out, or else I wouldn’t have even had the fans.

One thing I had to get used to in New Mexico was the choice of "evaporative cooling" or "refrigerated air". Growing up in New Jersey, "refrigerated" was the only way to go. Many of the natives here call evaporative cooling "air conditioning". (First, it confuses the heck out of me. Second, it drives me nuts that they’re using an incorrect phrase.) The repairman, thankfully, had the sense to ask if I had "evaporative or refrigerated" before he came over.

For readers unfamiliar with the concept, an evaporative cooler is a relatively simple device. One part is a pump, which sprays water onto porous pads (kind of, but not really, like a sponge). The other part is a fan, which pulls outside air through the moistened pads, into the house. As the water in the pads evaporates, it takes energy (in the form of heat) from the air, thus cooling it. It sounds counterproductive, having been raised in the East, that you can cool the air while raising the humidity, but it works -- usually. One of the problems with a "swamp cooler" (a not-as-pleasant but concise nickname) is that its efficiency is compromised in humid weather, such as monsoon season. Plus, in my experience, it cools the air just about 20 degrees below the outside temperature, not too cool when it surpasses 100 degrees. (I should be grateful I don’t live in Phoenix or Needles -- blessing #4.)

My parents have air conditioning (refrigerated) now, but they had evaporative for several years. They could have the fan on high, low, or off, and the pump on or off. I naturally expected these options every place I went. Not so: my apartment had and my work has one switch, on or off. The last year I lived in the apartment, they switched to wall-mounted air conditioners. Sure I could choose a relative coolness gradient and fan speed, but, for some reason, the unit always ran, unless I shut it off completely. Haven’t they heard about energy conservation?

As soon as I moved in here, I replaced the old thermostat with a programmable one. I have it set for different temperatures at different times of day, which means that, at some points, it switches itself off. Finally, something logical!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


As I’ve already stated that I won’t discuss politics, I’ll admit that this comes close to the edge. I’ll keep my comments as neutral and generic as possible. As I am not espousing a particular position, I offer no evidence supporting any of the following statements. (Note: flames will be ignored.)

On my way to work this morning, I caught a bit of an NPR story about fuel efficiency in automobiles. Why is it, I wondered, that legislation to improve automobile fuel efficiency never seems to get passed? Surely, it’s a bill that would benefit us all.

First, automobiles would use less fuel. That would both extend the potential lifespan of petroleum reserves and save drivers’ money. Second, technology already exists to create new fuel mixes, to improve engines, and to make cars lighter, all means implemented in the past to improve fuel efficiency. Third, pollution probably would decrease. Automobile drivers and voters would embrace this bill; why won’t enough legislators support it?

Let’s look at who might be against it. Auto manufacturers have claimed that it would cost too much and drive up the prices of automobiles. They made the same claims for seat belts, catalytic converters, and air bags. Plus, inflation consistently raises prices, but people haven’t stopped buying cars. Maybe I’m simplifying the issue, but wouldn’t marketing cars, pickup trucks, and SUV’s as more fuel efficient make them more attractive to potential buyers?

Who else: oil/gas suppliers? Sure, less of their product would be consumed per capita per day, but wouldn’t that ensure the supply lasts longer, thus keeping them in business, making money, for more years?

In the interest of fair play, let me offer up that extreme environmentalists might be against it. After all, wouldn’t alternative fuels or carpooling be less appealing if traditional petroleum became cleaner and more efficient? That would take the spotlight away from those causes. There might even be a plot to make the oil and auto industries such large sources of controversy that they go bankrupt and disappear almost overnight, thus allowing the greens to come to the fore and save the day. Unlikely, yes, but possible.

Somebody, then, is hiring lobbyists to argue against a cause that seems logical and worthwhile. What could make a Representative or Senator vote against something good for their constituents? What could a lobbyist offer that sways a person away from something that, at least the way I have presented it, makes sense? (I certainly hope I’m not implying that legislators are greedy, don’t care about their populace, nor suddenly turn stupid once elected.) How about another extreme possibility: the lobbyists themselves are stirring up controversy? As long as they can argue one side against the other, they have jobs.

As I said, I am not promoting a position about this topic. I just wonder why this issue never gets settled.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Good Housekeeping

It’s great to be able to title these posts again. After a little exploring, I figured out that Blogger "lets" me choose to have a title bar in my composition window. (Of course, I’d rather that be a standard, but I guess enough of their users don’t avail themselves of it, so they might as well make it optional.) That solves that, but the better question would be why I was able to do it for my first posting, and then it disappeared.

With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, I’ll discuss the upkeep of my condo. ("Nice blend, Fozzie. Thank you, Fozzie.")

Before I hosted my housewarming back in October, I decided to wash my windows. There was so much desert dirt and dairy dust, it seemed as if the previous owners had never done it (and they probably hadn’t). Of course, it’s naturally dusty here, so I can’t fault them completely. I used a blend of vinegar and water (all-natural, and less expensive than store-bought chemical brands) and newspaper. I washed the windows again in May, before I had my first houseguest, and it seemed as if I hadn’t washed them just seven months previously (but there was less dirt than the previous owners had left me, so there!).

Speaking of the previous owners, they had a cat. The obvious way I found out was that the office chair they left behind was black fabric covered in white cat hairs. I had to go over it twice with duct tape, and there are still hairs stuck to it. The second way was the B&B owners telling me about the cat. The third way, and the most creative, was when I dusted my ceiling fans. I figured that they had never been dusted, since 1) most people forget about them and 2) most people can’t reach like I can and figure dragging out the ladder or stepstool is too much of a hassle. The fans were surprisingly clean -- except for the one in the study (where the office chair was, too). That fan was loaded with cat hair. I’m guessing the cat liked to hang out in that room particularly (or they confined it in there).

The floors are easy to clean. They are a laminate wood product, so all they require is periodic sweeping and occasional mopping. Among the several items the previous owners left for me was a case of the specialized mopping spritz. (Thank heavens they left that for me, instead of the cat!) All I do is spray the floor then swab it with a flat, terrycloth-like pad and let it dry. The pad attaches to the pole with velcro, so I can detach it, wash it out, and reuse it when it’s dry. Nifty.

I put down a rug in my study. It’s the rug from my bedroom back in N.J. More recently, it was in my parents’ basement in Albuquerque. I’m glad to have it, and it shows me that my study is just about the same size as my childhood bedroom. It takes an occasional vacuuming, which is much easier than sweeping, spritzing, mopping, then rinsing the mop pad. (I’m still looking for a rug suitable for my living room.)

The bedroom has an oatmeal-colored, shag-like carpet in the center of the room and a perimeter of the wood laminate. I’d never before seen carpet that wasn’t wall-to-wall, but its edges are affixed beneath the laminate, so it can’t be called a rug. (With just two, small areas to do, that vacuum cleaner bag is going to last me nigh on forever.)

The two bathrooms are tiled (floor and walls, all the way to the ceiling, and even the ceiling above the shower in the master bath). I have to clean the hard water stains off the shower tiles frequently, but that’s what happens when you live in N.M. My gripe in this room is that the drain plug in the sink can’t be removed. The sink in my apartment was the same way. How am I supposed to keep the drain free of my increasingly falling (or jumping) hair, if I can’t pull out the plug? None of our sinks back in N.J. was like this. When did sink manufacturers decide that being user-friendly was a bad thing? Does anyone know how I can remedy this?

I keep my kitchen counters clean with more vinegar and water. The refrigerator/freezer, stove/oven, and dishwasher panels occasionally receive an application of the aerosol, stainless steel cleaner (lemon scented!) I found under the sink.

Speaking of sinks (thanks again, Fozzie), they’re easy to clean with baking soda sprinkled on when damp and then sponged off -- another all-natural, inexpensive cleaner. (Yes, I recycle, too.) It’s even cheaper if you wait until after it has completed its tour of duty in your refrigerator or freezer. Plus, you have the good feeling of using it twice, instead of just throwing it away.

The veranda and stairs are surfaced in Mexican-style clay tiles which are easy to sweep off. Our infrequent rains seemed to be enough to keep them clean for the first six months. Then, I discovered that my neighbor’s Mulberry tree was a fruiting type, so I was on my knees with a scrub brush to get the tiles clean. Now, I have salt deposits (from the water) and tannins (from my potting media) on the tiles and grout. Let’s see if rain can clean those off. Come on, rain! (Oops, not monsoon season for another two months.)

I don’t care to dust, so please don’t look too closely at surfaces if you visit!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Home Sweet Home: Part 1

I figured I’d write today about my condo. Then, two things happened that told me I made the right decision.

First, I was alerted about one of the residents becoming upset again about the wall which is to go up between our property and the next. This wall was approved by a majority of the condo owners at our annual meeting in January, and the resident’s displeasure was noted, discussed at length, and recorded as a nay vote. Today, when the contractor came to mark the wall’s location (I was told), the resident noticed him there and expressed her displeasure again. It appears that this issue will not rest, and, without going into detail, I’m guessing that we won’t be such a happy little community as when I moved in.

Second, I was watering the plants on my veranda, and a police car parked in the driveway, blocking access between the street and our parking lot. The officer got out and walked slowly into our parking lot. Then, he was joined by an officer who had parked at the business next door. They both walked to the back of our complex. Both saw me on my veranda, but neither one spoke to me (not like I had seen or heard anything anyway). As I finished up and coiled my hose, they left.

This brings to mind one of the things a neighbor told me the day I met her, shortly after I moved in. "This is a nice, quiet neighborhood." That night, I heard police sirens three separate times. The way I figure it, we do live in a quiet neighborhood. It’s just that the ones around us are noisy.

My condominium association is small, just eight units. Only three are occupied full-time. One is occupied part-time. Two are available for rent, and two are owned by people with primary residences in other states. That means I know quite easily who is home and who is not. I’m no Gladys Kravitz, but I can’t help it, seeing as how my unit faces the parking lot.

Six of the units used to be part of a bed and breakfast, still located next door. Two are in a small building out back. In 2000, our units were turned into condos and sold. The main building (including my unit) dates back to 1901, when it was a farmhouse. I’m not sure what the building was used for in between the farm residence and the B&B. I intend to visit the Rio Grande Historical Collections at the university and see if I can piece together a history of the building. I thought it would be nice if I could hand out the story of our home to the other condo owners at our next annual meeting. (Plus, it will give me an outlet; I’ve been itching to write something lately.)

I plan to write more about my home in future postings. Finding this place, the plumbing, the electricity, the paint colors, and even trying to get the newspaper carrier to deliver are all sure to be included. Plus, I’ll probably think of a lot more things to say as I type.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Chamran Knebt

All the things I could have written about today (my parents’ visit, my birthday dinner, taking two days off of work in addition to the weekend), and then life jumped in and said, "Here’s a topic." I stood in line at the bank for at least half an hour today! All sorts of things contributed to it.

Wait, before I start griping, I promised a friend the other day that I’d try to be more positive, rather than thinking negatively most of the time. Well, it didn’t take all afternoon. Whew, I feel better! Now then....

1) There were only two tellers for all of us "regular" customers, and one teller for "commercial" customers. The least number of customers in my line was ten. (Remember, that’s the least.) The most the commercial teller ever had in line was two. This was on a Friday afternoon, when loads of people go to the bank to cash their paychecks. The bank should have prepared better for this.

2) One man had a transaction that, apparently, could have been simpler if he had gone to the bank across the street. (I overheard one teller ask the other why the man couldn’t do that.) Then, the teller handed over two, large stacks of cash, so much that it made me nervous just to look at him holding that much in his hands, let alone imagine carrying it somewhere without being robbed on the way. I don’t know what other bills were in the two stacks he received, but Ben Franklin was on the top.

3) Two people in line ahead of me had oodles of loose coins in large bags. Whatever happened to the day when the teller would shove some paper wrappers across the counter and say, "Have fun!"? No, instead of helping those of us who have our business prepared before we got in line, they took all the coins, went to a different room, and poured them into a machine which sorted them. All right, the machine is a pretty nifty and useful device, but it didn’t help any of the rest of us get done more quickly.

4) One of the tellers was a trainee. This means two things: one, she is equal to only half of a regular teller, and two, she had another teller with her at all times, which comes out to two employees doing half the work of one. Isn’t that something like only 25% efficiency? (By the way, guess which teller served me?)

5) Sorry, that was a trick question. The line (up to 15 people at this point) heaved a collective sigh of relief when we saw not one but two tellers enter the bank and walk behind the counter. The man behind me questioned the wisdom of allowing both to go to lunch at the same time on a Friday. It turns out that one of the returning tellers was a trainee also; here’s another 25% duo! Then, as soon as the solitary teller finished with her customer, she was out the door for her own lunch break, leaving us poor souls no hope but to be "helped" by the trainees, and still with just two stations open to serve the increasing line of customers. Gotcha!

6) At one point, the man behind me remarked, "That’s the sixth person to give up and walk out since I got in line." I had stopped counting at four.

7) The woman behind the man after me in line pointed out her companion from Mexico who was sitting in the lobby for us to get through the line. She wondered if her companion understood. "Oh, I think she understands waiting in line," I observed. I also pointed out it was a good thing her friend didn’t wait in the car. (At 100 degrees outside, the car’s interior had to be at least 140.)

8) When it was my turn to be served by the first trainee teller (not the one recently refreshed by lunch), I became one of the problem customers that I had previously griped about. Remember: it wasn’t my fault; I had a trainee! The check I had to deposit went fine.* Then, she didn’t know what to do with the 30-year old U.S. savings bond I was redeeming. She ran it through the machine twice, but it didn’t recognize it. Why not? "Oh, this is an E-series, not a double-E!" she realized. (I shudder to wonder if she was even born when E-series bonds were still issued.) Her helper pointed out a number or code or something on the bond, which she entered, and then the helper took over. It didn’t get any better. She saw my address on the bond and asked, "Oh, you’re from New Jersey?" I told her I was born there. "My boyfriend’s from Clifton." Well, I’m happy for him, but I’m rather cranky after watching you two putz around with your previous two customers for half an hour, so I’m not in the mood for small talk about some guy I’ve never met and couldn’t possibly care about. Anyway, it appears that my address didn’t match up. (Naturally. Why should anything else go right at this point?) She asked if I could voice verify it. I assumed (luckily correctly) she didn’t mean my old, N.J. address. However, "Do you mean the address on my driver’s license," which I had given her for identification, "or the one where I currently live?"** She meant the one they have on my customer record. "Oh, the one in Albuquerque?"*** (she nodded) which I recited for her. Oops: the Social Security number on the bond didn’t match the one on the computer****; do I have any other form of I.D.? Hmm, just my blood donor card. No, I don’t carry my S.S. card nor a credit card in my wallet. Why should I, if I don’t need to use them? (Note: logic doesn’t work on drones.) Off went the helper (you remember, the one who was doing the training, the one who, presumably, should know what to do and how to do it?) to the manager (a bit closer to my age, but not much). I could hear her clearly from the other end of the counter (she was the one helping the commercial customers), "Is he a customer? Well, just ask him what his number is." (I had to imagine the "Duh!" following it, but you know it was implied.) Finally, the transaction was completed, and I had my receipts. "Is there anything else?" the helper asked. You mean besides giving me back my driver’s license, dummy? How about, "Don’t I need to sign the bond?" "No, because you deposited it; we didn’t give you cash." Hmm, I didn’t want to point out that the previous years when I redeemed bonds and deposited them, I did have to sign them. No, just get me the heck out of the bank.

9) Oh yes, as I was dealing with this mess, the guy behind me in line, who had finished his business rapidly, said, "Good luck," to me on his way to the door. A little too late for that, but thanks, mister.

I could tear into a tangent of how awful customer service is in this town, but I’m tired of typing, and I should probably save it for another day, when I’m more prepared to think positively again before starting.

* When I registered the time printed on the receipt, my jaw dropped. I couldn’t possibly have been in the bank for half an hour already, could I? (When I got home, my mother, who was waiting for me, was relieved. She thought I might have been hit by a car on the short walk to or from the bank, because I didn't return right away.)

** After I moved last year, I went to the DMV and asked to change the address on my license, which I had just renewed four months before, for a period of eight years. They wanted to charge me a full fee for an entirely new license. The heck with that. If I ever get pulled over (next to impossible, considering my spotless record), I’ll just tell the officer my correct address. I’ll change it eight years from now, thanks.

*** Simple reason: when I started college, my dad cosigned my checking account. We listed our home address, since we assumed my residence hall address would be temporary (but that’s a story in-and-of-itself). We haven’t bothered to change it since then, that’s all.

**** From looking at it, I guessed it was one of my parents’ numbers (since I was a minor when given the bond) or my grandmother’s (who purchased the bond).

Thursday, June 08, 2006

In the beginning...

Welcome to Anhydrous Wit. The name of my blog comes from the mystery novel Good News Bad News by David Wolstencroft. For years, I have been told (or accused) that I have a dry sense of humor. Thanks to this author, I now can tell people, "No, I have an anhydrous wit."

This blog will demonstrate my eclectic "ponderings", as I like to call them. Some people don't understand dr... anhydrous humor. Sometimes, maybe I'm just not as funny as I think I am. I hope you'll stick with me, though, through the good and not-so-good. I'll talk about my condo, my job, my experiences, places I have been, some of the people I know, some that I don't, and stupid people -- boy, will I go off on stupid people. Naturally, the names will be concealed to protect the innocent (or naive). In life, I make it a rule not to discuss politics, religion, or sex, with exceptions limited to very few, close friends. I'll stick with that rule online, as well, although some exasperation towards politicians might creep in.

My technological expertise is, well, limited, to say the least. As such, this blog might appear austere compared to others, but we'll see if I can improve over time. Plus, I use a dial-up ISP with an "old" computer, so I'll definitely avoid all the cutesy, moving, noisy, or otherwise complex features that confuse my poor machine into shutting itself down. Hey, if I can't multitask, why do I need a computer that does it?

I'm starting my blog on quite an appropriate day: my birthday. My parents and close friends already know this. For those of you who have forgotten, and if you feel intensely sorrowful about being remiss, gift cards from Barnes & Noble are not unwelcome. (Alternatively, you might come and fix the leak in my laundry room.) Since it's my "natal day" (as the late, Philadelphia radio personality Ken Garland deemed it), my first topic will be my physical well-being.

I've just signed up for my third year at a gym. At the start of each year, I request a fitness check, which records my weight, body mass index, body part measurements (no snickering now!), and how much weight I can lift during select exercises. Overall, the news was pretty good. My weight dropped four pounds -- not a great deal, and probably not statistically significant, but a positive sign nonetheless. My biceps increased 1.5" in diameter (okay, maybe not a big deal for some people, but after many years of toothpick arms, I actually have something to show off), and 2" for my thighs. My waist was unchanged, which means I'm getting denser. (Oh boy, did I just invite comments with that one!) My strength increased for the second year in a row, and, hypothetically speaking, I should be able to lift my body weight (another great accomplishment for someone who has never been able to do a pull-up or chin-up). In fact, I might even head down to the pull-up bars by the campus track and try it!

Oh, you noticed I didn't mention my body mass index? The reason I didn't is because it warrants its own commentary. My exercise specialist showed me a chart with age vs. percent body fat. Apparently, I just hit a milestone. Yesterday, I was in the age cohort listing my fat level as medium to high. Today, I am suddenly in low to medium. Amazing how much difference a single day can make, no? "What a difference a day makes, twenty-four little hours."

I guess I'll wrap it up here. After all, I need to post this so all you good people can see it, and then I need to e-mail everyone I know (at least the ones for whom I have e-mail addresses) how to find it. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it enough to come back for more.