Friday, January 11, 2008

It's A Conspiracy

Last weekend, the Stevieling and her mother spent at some sort of girls-only sleepover and kafeeklatch, meaning I had the house to myself from about 4 pm Saturday to the early afternoon on Sunday.

I only mention this because the Stevieling, no doubt under the encouragement of her mother, decided to "warm" a chocolate chip cookie in the microwave on Friday, and after only five minutes or so had succeeded in flooding the house with the acrid stench of burning chocolate. Said stench persisted at eye-watering levels throughout the weekend, ruining what should have been the perfect occasion for a game of Laundry Hamper Fashion Model. Even though I spent large portions of Saturday evening and the early hours of Sunday with a "Wind Machine" fan sucking huge volumes of (freezing) air into the house through the bathroom window and exhausting it from every other window, the stench was overpowering until around Monday night. Seeing no reason to run the heat while performing the detox protocol, I almost froze my nuts off. I also got little sleep.

Last night, Thursday, Mrs Stevie reminded me that the Stevieling was going to be absent at some sort of weekend Lutheran indoctrination camp, then made pea soup for dinner. It was a little watery, so she decided to "reduce" it a little. This is a technical cullinary term for boiling the living daylights out of whatever is judged in need of "reduction".

Sadly, the pea soup had been concocted with an ingredient list that, by design or by accident, caused the evolution of tear gas upon heating. The whole house was once again filled with a persistent stench that brought tears to the eyes, a tightness to the chest and, early this morning, a warrant from the EPA for search and seizure of toxic materials under the strictures of the Patriot Act. I'm lying about that last bit, but it was probably a near thing. Once again I was up until Azathoth knows when, windows wide open and my trusty indoor hurricane maker switched to Acceleration Rate 6.

Rising early in order to kiss the Stevieling goodbye (she'll be gone by the time I get home tonight) and hand out last minute emergency cash, I was greeted by the ghost of the pea soup reduction process, which whapped me in the face with its cricket bat as I stepped out of the bedroom.

Another weekend of miasmic sensory overload ahead then.

My spirits were raised when I stepped out of the house into a refreshing thundestorm. Gallons of water were sluicing off the house, car, trees and other scenic features every second or so, and didn't seem to be going anywhere drainage-wise. A nice flood in the basement will no doubt greet me tonight. If the fumes are soluble (the acridness might include a sulphur dioxide component and that is very soluble I seem to remember) the flood will remove some of the atmospheric problem within Chateaü Stevie. Of course, it will form dilute sulphuric acid as a result, which will attack all my metal tools. Every silver lining and all that.

Wading to the car I gained refuge from the deluge and drove to the station. The roads were crossed every so often by shallow fords and less-shallow rapids as the drains became blocked by the crap that accumulates as a result of the enlightened 1PBM1 street cleaning policy in play here. I swear that at the stop sign by the school I yeilded right of way to a large boat with a pair of giraffes poking their heads out of a hole in the wheelhouse roof. It was raining.

I parked the car and, during a lull in the downpour, raced for the aluminum shelter in the middle of the station platform at Wyandanch (Pearl of the East). The rain picked up again and an announcement was made of "mainline delays", which as we all know is LIRR code for "Mineola is flodded again". I wasn't too unhappy though. I was relatively dry, and I would catch a straight-through train to Flatbush Avenue which would mean I could get another hour's sleep.

Well, that was the plan, anyway.

I only had the choice of one of the "three-faces-three" bench seats in the middle of the train. These can get crowded and you have less leg room than a regular seat, but usually people sit two on one side, one on the other to give everyone lots of room so I wasn't really worried. This train isn't usually crowded. I was too tired to note that the train was short and I was in the head car rather than the car behind it, as I would be usually. The bonus of these seats is that, being in the middle of the car, you get thrown around a lot less than you do if you sit at one of the ends. Riding the newer cars on the LIRR is rather like being in an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, even after the "sway damper" refit the LIRR did the week after they bought the bloody things. I sat in the window seat and prepared to snooze.

At which point some idiot woman sat in the same "row", dumping her drenched canvas carry-all in the seat between us and soaking my leg with freezing cold water. I did something very uncharacteristic as a result. I grabbed the bag and threw it into the opposite seat and snarled "No! Your bag is soaking wet!"

"Is it?" trilled the woman, trying for the outrageous "didn't notice the rain" ploy.

I just snarled again and she got the point, but now I had a wet leg cooling nicely to contend with. We arrived in Farmingdale, and a guy got on who was indulging in an experiment to see if the rumours were true about earphones, volume and hearing loss. I clentched my teeth and ran my best relaxing sleep-inducer mantra. I was in the third stanza, and begining to zone out despite the morons around me when we ran into the approach for Bethpage, marked by a grade crossing, and I became aware that the airhorns for these new trains are mounted underneath the head car at somewhere around its midpoint2.

"Frznnl mrvzzzz snzzzzzzzzzzzz"
"Aaaaaaaarrrrghwasssaaaaat!" it went.

I managed to get my heart to resume its normal sinus rhythm after only about five minutes, which was just long enough for us to stop at Hicksville and board the Lumpen Masses, one of which wanted to sit opposite me. Au revoir legroom then. Folding myself into a tired, angry ball I attempted to get back to sleep. I might have made it into the currents of Lethe too, if not for the young child who had boarded sometime earlier into the seat directly behind mine and who chose this time to issue a number of pointed questions concerning the location of Flatbush Avenue Station and the time yet to elapse before we arrived there3 to its parents at volume number 11. Those questions deferred or answered, the little darling embarked on a five minute (or so) experiment in improvised jazz percussion using the seat back and the window we shared. I grimly clamped my eyes shut and attempted to develop prehensile earlobes so I could stuff them into my ears. I finally managed to get to sleep.

About three feet from the platform at Flatbush Avenue, my destination.

  1. Once Per Blue Moon
  2. LIRR operating rules call for much blowing of the horn at grade crossings because stupid people keep getting run over by trains at them
  3. A question now somewhat on my mind too as it happened

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