First there was the startling BANG! and then the lights went out, along with the computer here at the Observatory Annex. We were left staring at our quizzical visage staring back at us from the dark computer screen.
The Observer has experienced this before, this failure of the transformer up there on the utility pole. Yes, we know it's not actually a transformer. The electric company calls it something else, but we can't think of the word.
We walked out our back door and peered up at the transformer. Sure enough, if we squinted tightly, we could see the electrified tip of a squirrel's tail. One false move by a squirrel and we all suffer. Little wisps of smoke rose into the sky, tracing the squirrel's soul path to Squirrel Heaven.
We headed back indoors to call the electric company. The Observer's upstairs neighbor, let's call her “Stella,” stepped out on her balcony and asked why her lights were cut off.
We explained about the poor squirrel. We also said we were going to call the electric company.
Stella was worried. “You tell them they better get my lights on before ‘Young and the Restless' comes on.”
Yes, ma'am. We would do that.
With the pessimism acquired from experience, we dialed the number to the electric company, the number for “electric outages.” We prepped ourselves for the inevitable torment of dealing with a monopoly. Fresh cup of coffee, crossword puzzle, pen.
After the second ring, a woman answered. A woman with a Southern accent. A Southern American accent, not Southern Indian. What? Huh? We were momentarily thrown off our stride.
We explained about the squirrel and the woman said, “Awwww” in a sincere way. The Observer was falling in love. She said they would get it fixed. We asked how long it would take. The answer: “As soon as possible.”
“That sounds good,” we said, “but our upstairs neighbor said she needs to watch ‘Young and the Restless' and it's coming on in a few minutes.”
A pause and silence on the other end of the phone. Had we pressed our luck? “I understand,” the woman said. “We'll get someone out there as soon as we can.”
The Observer thanked the woman. We sat for a few minutes with our coffee and then stepped to the back door to take in some sunshine. A period of about 15 minutes had passed when we noticed the electric company man walking up the driveway carrying a long stick. He flicked a switch on the transformer and, bingo, everything was working. We didn't get the name of the woman at the electric company, but she completely understood the power of the “Young and the Restless.” She has empathy. We would nominate her for the Supreme Court.
The squirrel's little toasted corpse is still up there on the transformer.
Another squirrel died that The Observer might find romance. It was early on a weekday in 1998 when the boom outside meant no coffee inside. The Observer went out to the street and a neighbor leaned out and said he had coffee already made. He admitted The Observer to his apartment, where we saw that the window sill above his sink was lined with small, interesting objects. Pine cones, rocks, etc. So was the windowsill above the sink in our apartment. Hmmm, we thought.
Next thing we knew, we were married. Well, not quite the next thing. But the squirrel definitely, er, started our sparking.
Even though we pretty much seal ourselves up in the house with duct tape and plastic sheeting as soon as the temperature hits 90 degrees, The Observer has somehow managed to come down with a patch of poison ivy rash. We blame Spouse, who was doing some weed-eating along the fencerow at Chez Observer. Probably tracked a molecule or two of the Devil Vine into the house.
Yes, we're sure that's what it is. A big part of the reason for our aversion to Mother Nature is our horrendous allergy to the Leaves of Three. Given that, we avoid poison oak and ivy like year-old yogurt. Even so, it seems that if we even look at the stuff, we'll soon find ourselves miserably clawing away at some steadily reddening patch of hide. Short of trying some kind of experimental vaccine in Paraguay or sealing ourselves in a giant hamster ball all summer, there ain't much we can do except stay on the sidewalk. Scratch. Scratch-scratch. Brother, can you spare some calamine?