Of the duplexes and houses I have rented and owned, my current home is definitely my favorite. I like the location, the layout, the appearance – in short, everything about my house.
When I moved here a decade ago, I was determined to pay off the mortgage before retirement – a goal I proudly accomplished. I walked out of my last classroom secure in the knowledge that my house belonged totally to me.
For so many years, I left for school under cover of darkness and usually returned well after nightfall. Being at home all day every day has been a revealing experience. Bright morning sunlight illuminates a spider’s handiwork that might otherwise escape notice – and windows that need a good wash. I enjoy sitting on my deck in the fresh air, while making mental note of tree branches grown long enough to need trimming.
And, true to an undeniable law of the universe, I often hear noises I cannot re-summon when a male relative or service person arrives to help. I have learned simply to attribute floor creaks to the settling of the house and deep-in-the-night computer beeps and pings to automatic updates. A grinding sound sometimes emanating from my furnace or water heater remains unexplained; a solitary screw lying in a corner becomes a random discovery; a library book unearthed under the couch long after its due date finally ends an all-out search.
However, events of the past two weeks have clearly demonstrated that I am just a boarder in this house I love: there are forces afoot seeking to prove they are in charge. Let me begin in the kitchen.
The stove I inherited when I purchased my house was in good condition, and I was excited to have my first dishwasher. The refrigerator, complete with automatic icemaker, was the nicest I had ever had.
Sometime last week I recognized telltale crashing sounds from the refrigerator alerting me to the newest crop of incoming ice. For an entire week, the icemaker – which seems to have a mind of its own but no “off” button – spewed its icy specialty all over my frozen foods several times a day. Cubes avalanched to the floor whenever I opened the freezer door, and I kept filling the sink with excess ice. The contraption has thankfully fallen silent, but I know it will churn out even more ice when I least expect it. You see, I just live here.
In this modern age, clock resetting during the time change occurs through automation. The computer, the television, the phone all update themselves without fanfare. Both wall clocks are atomic; their hour hands zoom around their faces before settling in at the new time.
One of those clocks, however, has difficulty transitioning to the new hour it is required to display. Oh, it changes; but it also frequently resets itself, apparently trying out various time zones before accepting that Daylight Savings Time has actually arrived here in the East. This timepiece obviously has issues and a life of its own. Me? I just live here.
My sister maintains that I live in a technological Bermuda Triangle. Numerous incidents with my television, telephone, and computer do not occur in her home, a mere eight minutes away.
For example, I recently lost my internet connection. An automated customer service voice listed three steps to follow plus instructions to call back should those steps fail. The resulting flurry of unplugging and replugging accomplished nothing, so I ended up talking to Melody with her accented English and unfailing politeness. We finally brought the internet back to life, although it was totally unnerving that Melody, wherever she was located, was able to “see” more about my computer than I will ever be able to know.
The next day the television screen went blank, and the internet connection failed again. This time I revived the internet with the three steps, and the automated voice sent an impulse to my TV. Do not ask for further explanation – I just live here.
The exterior of my house is also currently under assault – by a bird whose breed I have yet to identify. Repeating behavior by his cousin birds from past years, this winged creature sits in the backyard cedar tree waiting to fling himself against the living room windows dozens of times each day. For a change of scenery, he periodically flies to the front of the house to crash against the kitchen window.
A Google search suggests various causes and remedies. Perhaps he is marking his territory, or he may be mistaking his reflection for bird competitors. I should probably draw my curtains or place hawk decals on the windows. I know from experience, however, his avian conduct will continue until he decides to stop – or drops dead on the front porch as a robin did eight years ago. I am powerless against whatever force of nature has precipitated this behavior because I just live here.
My obvious role in this house is a narrowly-defined one of financial responsibility and general upkeep. I am, however, fully cognizant that the other beings in residence here toil tirelessly in sinister invisibility to keep me in my place by controlling the technology, the appliances – actually, every square inch of my house inside and out. I have no choice but to accept their crystal-clear message: I just live here.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.