With my penchant for precision, I waited until exactly 1:13 p.m., when Susie was born, before calling to wish her a happy birthday. (She didn’t hear the message. Her voice mailbox has been full for quite some time, because we forgot the passcode, and her phone was on vibrate. We IMd on Gmail a few minutes later, however.)
Susie’s birth time is easy to remember. It’s 13:13, in European or military time. Mine is also simple–12:34 p.m. One two three four. My obsession with detail even revealed itself at Susie’s birth. Susie was delivered, after some 36 hours of labor, by Caesarean section, at Grant Medical Center. When she finally made her debut, I was behind the sterile screen with Steph, so I could not see the actual event. Our midwife took the single-use camera out of the breast pocket of my scrubs, and took the picture. Susie still had the umbilical cord connected to her, and the nurses had yet to clean her. I grabbed the camera back from the midwife, turned around and took a picture of the wall clock.
I was on Amazon.com last week to order Susie’s gifts. They were DVDs of the fifth and sixth seasons of House, and a copy of Chris Baty’s book No Plot? No Problem!, which is Holy Writ for anyone who participates in NaNoWriMo. (This is October, and November, the month for National Novel-Writing Month, is looming on the horizon. Susie and I “won” NaNoWriMo in 2011, and since I’m doing the empty-nest thing, I guess I cannot plead too many distractions when I undertake it this year.) I am not sure if Susie will try her hand at NaNoWriMo this year, but November is the perfect month for it. It’s so literate people can have something to do during college football season.
Right now, I am unable to write about another one of Susie’s gifts. I approach this with some reluctance because, as a former employee of the U.S. Postal Service, I am sensitive to criticism about it. On Tuesday, I sent her a parcel via Priority Mail. Included in the price is a tracking number, so your package leaves a trail beginning at the post office counter (in this case, at the Christopher Columbus station downtown, 43215) and ending up at its destination–which would be Merritt Island, Florida 32952. I set up an alert so that the site would email Steph and me with each point in the package’s journey.
On Thursday, the email notified us that the package had arrived–not at the sort facility in Orlando, but in Honolulu. I was an expediter’s assistant when I worked at the main post office in Cincinnati, so my guess is that someone in Columbus threw this package into the wrong tub, which meant it went out on the wrong flight. We were in limbo until this morning, when I opened my email and saw that the package had made it to the sort facility in Orlando. Unless someone drops the ball there, Susie should receive it tomorrow. (I won’t disclose the contents, because Susie reads this blog.)
The government shutdown continues. It brings back memories of 1995, when another shutdown occurred. At the time, I was working for the Internal Revenue Service here in Columbus as an appointment clerk, and for that entire week, the atmosphere at work felt like a prisoner on Death Row waiting for a phone call from the governor. On November 13 at midnight, Congress’ continuing resolution would expire. I was on the phone to taxpayers and their representatives, telling them that I was cancelling appointments–no auditors would be there. Our supervisor told us to report for work the next morning.
Outside the Federal Building, Mike Russell of WBNS-TV (Channel 10) interviewed me. The only quote from that interview aired was my saying, “None of us got into government service with dollar signs in our eyes.” I stand by that statement. Anyone who enters government service at any level for financial gain is a fool. Russell wanted to film more at my place on Highland St., so I came home and told Steph, “We’re having company.” “Who?” “Channel 10.” Russell and a film crew arrived, and took some reaction shots of me watching Dan Rather on The CBS Evening News–on my black and white portable. He showed me talking about living from one paycheck to the next, and how I would feel the loss of even one day’s wages. (Compare this to an elderly woman who worked at the Industrial Commission when I arrived in 2004. She had been there since World War II–hired when most men were in the service–and when she retired, supervisors found several uncashed paychecks in her desk. If my paycheck is short $50, I feel its loss!)
We also came in the next morning, although the government officially closed for business at midnight. I called a few more accountants and taxpayers and told them about the cancellations. Finally, around 10 a.m., I left to get a Coke, and when I came back, my supervisor said, “Paul, sign your furlough letter and go home,” handing me the letter and a pen. I signed it, put on my jacket, and headed for the door. The telephone on my desk rang. Just on instinct, I turned and reached for the receiver. Then, I just shrugged my shoulders and walked out, and headed home.
The shutdown ended on the 19th of November. I remember a video clip of Bob Dole (R-Kansas) saying, “If the government shuts down, his [President Clinton’s] fingerprints will be all over it.” We see how well that worked during the 1996 elections. Clinton was re-elected with 379 electoral votes, and he carried 31 states and the District of Columbia.
This weekend has not been totally boring. I did some major cleaning in my study (the living room is next, since it’s turned into an Oscar Madison-type bachelor pad, which, even in my re-bachelor state, I’m not liking) and discovered a small pocket diary that I bought on eBay earlier this year. It covers only the month of January 1887, and, because of its age and fragility, I will leave it blank. It is also the only time I have ever seen an entire appointment book that covered only one month. (I have seen five-year diaries–although I never used them–and appointment books where the whole week appears on two pages.)