Sunday, November 7, 2010

'Tis the wind, and nothing more

It's that time of year again up here in the Northeast: the time of year when temperatures drop so low the numbers make my southern eyes widen in disbelief and the sun goes on some sort of sabbatical, flat-out refusing to shine more than six hours a day. 

7 a.m. weekday mornings I can be found in bed, staring in horror at the temperature app on my phone and the time on the device's clock. When I glance at the darkness outside my window which looks as if it would probably rival that of the depths of hell, it is entirely incomprehensible to me that it can be time to start my day, or to do anything for that matter that does not involve flipping my pillow over and going back to bed until some sliver of sunlight has the decency to peep through my shutters, signaling the start of a new day in the appropriate fashion.

Last year I distinctly remember a moment where I was entirely convinced that I would never be warm again. Well, I overcame that. I did eventually have an opportunity to remember what warmth was, and even experienced some of that up here this summer; however, this year has seems to come with its own set of challenges. 

I woke up in the middle of the night last week to the shrill sound of steam escaping from a tea kettle at the foot of my bed. I was perplexed, and deeply irritated. It was a horrible, loud sound entirely unwelcome in my bedroom at any time of day, especially 2 a.m. on a Tuesday.

Upon further investigation, I realized my radiator, the innocent metal fixture that had sad idly by the entire duration of my stay here in Chinatown, was emitting steam in rapid, LOUD bursts. The effect was sort of like the sound eleven-year-old boys make with their mouths in mimicking gunshots; and it was just as obnoxious, if not more so because no amount of arm-twisting or "I'm going to tell MOM!" action would shut this up.

Ok, so this is probably a necessary evil. I mean, heat in my apartment is a necessary thing, considering the arctic conditions described earlier in this post. But... really radiator engineers?? This design seemed like a good idea to you?

I called around and it was confirmed that the steam noise was "normal" and that it may or may not last the duration of winter. Not okay. I've purchased some earplugs in an effort to combat the assault on my hearing, but that solution is proving less than satisfactory. Is that what everyone up here does? Anyone have any tips, tricks for dealing with this nonsense? 'Twould be greatly appreciated.


Shifting focus for a bit:

I also wanted to make this post about a cool/nerdy exhibit I went to yesterday at The Grolier Club,  a library and art space for things book-related near Central Park. The publishing house I work for, John Wiley and Sons, has a showing there right now through November 20th of some rare and old books they've published over the years.

I'm a sucker for old books. Something about the craftsmanship that went into some of those things...and the number of hands that they must have passed through... It's also just really cool to see the way words survive in print, even (and sometimes, especially) after the person who wrote them is gone.

Wiley currently focuses on nonfiction professional trade, journals, and textbooks, but in its beginnings they published a lot of the big American fiction writers when American fiction was still struggling to become a respectable genre and British lit was seen as the highest standard.

The exhibit had first-edition books on display by James Fennimore Cooper, Washington Iriving, Charles Dickens, and, in my opinion, the coup de grace, Edgar Allan Poe.

I snapped a picture of his The Raven and other Poems on my phone for those little moments when I'm feeling blue. He can always outdo me in that department.

It's posted below for any fellow bibliophiles out there:


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Don't do drugs, kids.

A few days ago I had the misfortune of coming down with a slight head cold. It began with all of the usual symptoms: slightly sore throat, slightly achy body, and an unshakable desire for sleep. All sleep, all the time. It was the only thing I could think about for days. 

Unfortunately, I somehow managed to use up all of my sick days earlier in the year... which left me in sort of a quandary. I had to be at the office. I also had to sleep. So, I devised a sort of makeshift, get-well-soon routine. Every day I could last week, I came home from work, drank two glasses of OJ, went to bed at 5:30 p.m., woke up at 7 a.m., drank two more glasses of OJ, then left for more work where copious amounts of herbal tea and cough drops were consumed. 

My routine seemed to be working alright, or as well as could be expected under the circumstances, until yesterday. 

Thursday night I made a fatal mistake. I swung by the pharmacy and purchased Tylenol multi-symptom cough syrup. This was the first introduction of meds into my regiment. I normally eschew all forms of unnatural treatment. I figure, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger and, if I'm going to continue to live in NYC and take the subway to work every day, my body has to be able to handle a few germs--I need to build up all the antibodies I can.

But Thursday I had reached the end of my rope. I needed to feel better, if only to remember, for the four hours the cough syrup took effect, how it felt to be well again!

I took the medicine before I went to bed and woke up on Friday feeling a little light-headed, but much better. I should have stopped while ahead. Instead, I took two more tablespoons before heading to the office.

Uh oh.

I'm not sure when it first hit me. I think it could have been on the subway to work. Or perhaps it was in the middle of my 9 a.m. meeting. The memory of the realization is fuzzy at best, but, I do remember realizing, in a half-panicked haze, that I felt exhausted all of a sudden and that the cough syrup I'd purchased was almost certainly not non-drowsy, and that I was an idiot and this was going to be the longest of days.

For most of yesterday I was little better than a zombie in front of a computer. Well, perhaps I was much better than a zombie at a computer because, if I had been a zombie, I probably would have destroyed the computer seconds before devouring the brains of all of my neighboring cubicle-mates, which would have created all sorts of problems for our IT and HR departments, and been a general distraction and inconvenience to workers in the surrounding area. But, you get the point.

I sat there, desperately trying to work, and, even more desperately, trying not to fall asleep. Loopy does not even begin to describe my state of mind. The place I was in was a special mix of delirium and purple haze. 

When the day finally ended and I somehow made it back on the subway and back to my apartment, I fell asleep around 6 p.m. and only woke up this morning at 8. 

Feeling much better, might I add! Although I don't think my cough syrup had as much to do with that as the 14 hours of sleep last night.

The moral of this story is in 3 parts: 1) Don't use up all of your sick days in the beginning of the year, 2) Always read warning labels on medicine bottles, and 3) If/when encountering a zombie coworker, throw a computer at him. It will busy him the amount of time it will take you to escape, brain undevoured and intact.