Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

It was two weeks ago today that fire gutted our next door neighbor's home and singed our own property as well. Since then, crews have cleaned up the debris next door, torn down the garage and are in the process of tearing off the charred remains of the roof.

Meanwhile, next door at our home, zip. The melted vinyl siding still clings precariously to the side of our garage and our outdoor shed which also partially melted stands pretty much the same as it did the morning after.

Dealing with insurance companies can be fun, can't it?

This is partly my fault as we're not exactly in a big hurry. We have a carpenter on-site already replacing our patio roof, a project that was in the works long before the fire occurred. I thought a second crew working literally just a few feet away might interfere.

But I'm also playing tag with my insurance adjustor, my insurance agent and their preferred contractor.

The morning after the fire I contacted my insurance agent who got in contact with an insurance adjustor. He was at our house the same afternoon as the fire. He gave us an estimate of repairs the next day. So far, so good.

He suggested a contractor who came out the next day. She basically agreed with the estimate, except that she thought our shrubbery next to our garage was also irreparably harmed. The adjustor hadn't included that, though he included a few hundred to restore our scorched lawn. The contractor said she would do a revised estimate that included replacing the shrubbery.

I got back with the insurance adjustor with that information. He asked if we were going to retain the services of that contractor. I said we would decide once we received her estimate. I was supposed to get that in an e-mail the next day.

But I didn't. Nor the next day or the next. She finally called, saying that she had computer problems. We waited for her estimate all last week. She finally faxed it to my wife's work fax, after my wife had left work on Friday. So we didn't see it till yesterday.

When I looked at the estimate, I discovered that she had omitted any costs of repairing our outdoor shed. *sigh* But she did remember our scorched shrubbery. In the meantime, our on-site carpenter replacing our patio roof gave us an estimate of repairing our siding too.

So I e-mailed our insurance adjustor, asking if we can go ahead and have the construction outfit already on site repair the siding too. And seeing if he can do a revised estimate of damages to include the scorched shrubbery.

And now we're back to waiting, waiting, waiting . . .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Room With A View

Tomorrow when I go to work, I will be in a different spot. Same job, same building, but just a different spot. One reason I’m kinda excited about it is it will be the first time in about a dozen years that I will have a window to the outside.

No more prairie dogging in the cube farm, at least for the time being. I can see it rain, I can see the sun shining, I can maybe even hear a bird chirping. Well the latter is doubtful since I can’t OPEN the window. But just seeing outside will be a step up.

Of course, my job and my work is priority number one. But when my eyes need a rest from staring at numbers on a computer screen, I can gaze upon natural light for a change.

Since I haven’t had that many different jobs, I can almost count the number of work spaces I’ve occupied over the years. Mmmmmmmm, I count eleven, NOT counting temporary or summer jobs. That includes a newsroom that overlooked a street in downtown Alpena, a converted coat closet where I composed letters on a Mag Card Typewriter (the forerunner to an actual word processor), and now this, an exterior-facing office that I will be sharing with one of my colleagues.

I just hope the movers don’t forget my chair. When you spent as much time sitting as I do during the day, having the right chair is just as important as the view.

Anyway, my blogging buddy Technobabe tagged me with an assignment to list seven things about me that aren’t generally known. I think I may have done this before, but it’s been a while so here goes . . .

1. There’s a concertina stored in my garage but I don’t know how to play it.
2. Don’t have a cell phone and I have no plans to get one.
3. I watched Mysterious Island with Lionel Barrymore this week, a mostly silent horror film included in the encyclopedic Horrors, from Screen To Scream by Ed Naha, published in 1975. I have watched about 290 films listed in that book and put a star next to those movies I’ve seen.
4. I once read a short story I composed about a talking Christmas tree for a junior high school holiday assembly.
5. I nearly got a D in algebra in high school. Math has never been something that comes easy to me, yet my job involves working with numbers. Go figure.
6. The founder of Wikipedia tried to track me down on the internet once at the request of a college newspaper editor after I made some controversial comments in his on-line forum. Nothing bad though.
7. I’ve made 36 contributions to TripAdvisor.com, mostly hotel ratings.

Since I know that most of my blogging buddies here have done similar lists, I won’t bother tagging anybody else. But go for it if you want to.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

When Serious Intrudes

I’ve been operating on adrenaline all day, ever since about 1 a.m. this morning. That’s when I woke up to a strange popping noise. It was like hearing popping corn from inside the popping container. As I rolled over in bed to look out the window, I imagined I might see a very violent hail storm, with pellets hitting our house at high velocity.

But I saw only some evidence of rain on our family room roof below our bedroom window. Then I saw that the back yard next door was lit up. “Why do they have all their backyard lights on at this time of the early morning?” I thought to myself. As I leaned closer to the window, I saw it wasn’t floodlights at all. It was fire. Flames were engulfing the sun room next door.

I woke Wendy and told her to call 9-1-1. As she did that, I threw on a jacket and ran downstairs and outside. Fortunately, I sleep nearly dressed with sweatpants, t-shirt and socks (I get cold at night). Afterwards, I wished I would have at least thrown on a pair of slippers too.

Outside, the street was dark and deserted at just before 1 a.m. No sign of our next door neighbors who live inside the home, flames from which were now shooting over the roof into the towering maple tree in back. Our neighbor from across the street came out of her house at nearly the same time I did and asked if our neighbors had gotten out.

“I don’t know,” I said.

She told me I should try and knock on the door. That was a bit scary as I could feel the intense heat and smell the smoke as I approached the front entrance. Rang the bell and knocked, but all seemed dark and quiet inside. So I went to one of the bedroom windows just in case they were still asleep (hard to believe with all the racket, but you never know). I knocked and kept knocking as hard as I could on the window. Then I saw the front door open.

Shortly, thereafter the family emerged, mother, father, teen-aged daughter, daughter-in-law and baby. They escaped with the clothes on their backs and that was about it. Well, they were wearing better footwear than my thin dress socks. THEN the police arrived, with the firefighters right on their heels.

What a relief! I know my next door neighbor takes great pride in his home and has made many updates himself over the years, building the sun room addition himself. But homes can be replaced. Lives cannot.

One of the firemen asked me to check on the neighbor on the opposite side. So I banged on his door too, but he was already up. “They’re going to need more fire trucks. Probably four or five,” he said, pulling on a shirt. I can’t remember whether I told him I would pass his advice along to the fire chief.

He stayed near his home, making sure the flames didn’t reach his garage. I guess I should have done the same as the intense heat melted the vinyl siding on our attached garage. It’s funny the things you think about and the things you don’t when you’re faced with such a dire situation. And how adrenaline takes over. It was a while before I realized that I had quite a bloody knuckle from knocking.

Later, one of the regional news websites said the family was roused by smoke alarms. Hmmm, never heard those. I supposed it’s possible. Later, I saw another article on a separate local news website. It included this:

"A neighbor was awoken by the sound of the flames and saw the roof burning on the home next door. He ran outside while his wife called 9-1-1 and began banging on the door. When no one answered, he began frantically banging on the windows and screamed.”

I don’t remember screaming but I could have. Either way, it sounds pretty close to what I remember. And Wendy was happy that she, as “his wife”, got some credit too.

I posted some pictures below. The refuse containers are mine and were stored next to the garage.

By the way, I had a rather humorous blog planned for this week, almost all set to go. Then real life intruded in a rather serious way. I just hope it doesn’t happen anytime soon.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Colors Of The Season

I thought in lieu of my usual rambling, I’d post some pictures, especially since you can take some pretty pictures this time of year with Easter and all. And even though our boys are both adults, I still like to color eggs. So some of the pictures here bare the fruits of my efforts. Of course, I had lots of help. My nephews Mike and Billy are much better artists than I.

Also took a picture of part of our Easter feast. That’s a biscuit bunny with dip in his tummy. We took it easy on the candy. Originally, I had told my wife Wendy that I wanted an Easter basket with all the trimmings—chocolate, jelly beans, peeps, etc. Then I realized that my weight maintenance adviser would be calling later this week. I need to eat more like Rocky when he’s in training. At least this week.

When we arrived home from the in-laws, I looked out the kitchen window and my bird feeder was not hanging from its usual branch. The allegedly squirrel-proof feeder was somehow wrestled to the ground. I got a picture of the likely culprit. The scoundrel! A reward for his arrest and conviction.

I can just hear his story now: “Hea, it wasn’t me. I was, ya know, just walking down the sidewalk when I sees this here feeder on the ground. So I was just like going over to check it out, and that’s when he sees me and takes my picture.”