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02 January 2011

So, how's your new year been so far? Ninety-five percent chance it's been better than mine....[More:]

I spent a relaxing NYE watching a movie with the cats. It was very pleasant. But, at about 10:30 that evening, got an email from my mom saying that their annual winter RV trip to Arizona had been delayed because my aunt and uncle's RV broke down outside of Odessa, and with the holiday they didn't know when someone would be able to repair it. So, they were holed up in beautiful Monahans, Texas. I felt really bad about this because a) I had predicted the breakdown (my aunt and uncle ALWAYS break down on their trips, and I was idiotic enough to say it out loud), and b) I helped my folks pack up and get ready and I knew how excited they were to be going. Ah well.

Her email also said that my cousin's 18-year-old daughter -- the pregnant one who spent Christmas with us, along with the rest of her family -- had gone into labor on New Year's Eve. The baby lived for about an hour. Wasn't due until April or May. This was the last girl you ever wanted to imagine as a teenaged single mother, but it's very sad that this is the way it ended.

After the NYE bummer, I was really excited to get up on New Year's Day. I'd been cleaning my closet and my spare bedroom for the previous few days. Yesterday was the day for the big trip to Ikea to get the new furniture for the new "guest room." I'd already been earlier in the week and had the stuff picked out.

Got all the big furniture loaded on the won't-drive-straight Ikea cart, realized I forgot the area rug, so traipsed back through the store to get it. And then re-retraced my steps, carrying the 25-pound, 8-foot-long rug back through the store to my cart. Checked out, and the 25-pound, 8-foot rug rang up for three times as much as I'd expected. That's because I should have picked up the 15-pound, 6-foot rug. So I told the checker that I'd just pack all the other stuff into the car and come back in for the rug.

I'd measured the trunk of the car earlier in the week and knew that the sofa frame would hang out by a couple feet. I even went to the Walmart next door to get supplies in preparation -- rope to tie the trunk down, trash bags to protect the cardboard from the unrelenting rain we're having, and duct tape (because you always need duct tape). Turns out, though, that I am every bit as bad at math as I've ever claimed to be, because the boxes didn't hang out by a couple feet. They were more out of the trunk than in, and I didn't think I'd be able to tie the trunk down and secure them.

My options at this point were to pay Ikea $60 to deliver the stuff, or to figure something else out. I flagged down the cart wrangler and asked if he could help me secure the trunk (knowing that it was a really, really bad idea). [I should mention here that the Ikea is a 15-20 minute drive from home. However, the only route between here and there requires a trip on the Interstate over a causeway. There simply are no alternative surface streets. Going on the highway was my only option, and once on it, there's a longish stretch with no exits, should something have gone wrong.]

The cart wrangler said he couldn't help me tie the trunk closed. I asked if he had any other suggestions.

"Well," he asked, "do you want to put the boxes on the roof of the car?"

"Can you help me with THAT?"

"Oh sure! I can help with THAT!"

Okay fine, dude. Why didn't you mention that in the first place? So he sent me inside to get those little triangular cardboard supports Ikea provides for cars without luggage racks. With those, he manages to get the boxes on top of the car. I hand him the rope I bought at Walmart. He says, "Oh no, I can't tie it on for you. Good luck!"

By this time, the rain has begun falling at a steady rate. The boxes are sitting on the roof of the car getting wetter by the minute, I have no freaking idea how to tie them on, and I know better than to test my paltry engineering skills trying to figure it out on my own. So I called my dad, who fortunately answered his cell phone (he doesn't usually) while lying on his back under an RV in Odessa, Texas, and dismantling a wheel bearing. He instructed me to wrap the rope around the boxes, run the ropes through both the front and back doors, and told me how to tie the knot so it would stay tight.

It took me 10 or 15 minutes to get the knot on the rope in back tight enough that I was confident it would stay. Meanwhile, it's raining harder, and my jeans and the cardboard boxes both were beginning to show signs of a struggle.

The rope in the front, for some reason, I could not get knotted. I don't know if it was the angle, or the fact that I was starving and my hands were beginning to shake, but I worked on that damn knot for another 20 or 25 minutes. I finally gave up, near tears from frustration and low blood sugar, and found that cart wrangler again.

"Can you please, please just tie one knot for me? That's all I need -- one knot. I can't get it tight enough."

He said he was sorry, but he just couldn't. If he tied a knot for me, he'd be in trouble. He told me to ask for help from one of the other people loading up furniture.

It's a strange process to try and pick a stranger to ask for help with something like this. It makes you aware of your wrongly held assumptions. I automatically thought I should probably ask a man -- and probably a man driving a truck. But there weren't any trucks in the loading zone. And most of the sedan- and mini-van-drivers had either children in the car or harried-looking women with them, and I didn't want to ruin their days any further.

There was a man standing near me on the sidewalk smoking a cigarette. He had rough hands and an appropriately craggy face, and I decided from looking at him that this was a man who knew how to tie a knot.

I approached him and asked him if he could help me, explaining that my boxes didn't fit in the trunk and I needed to tie them to the roof but I was having a hard time getting the knots tight enough and I was afraid of them coming loose on the highway and all I needed was for someone to help me get the ropes tight and secure enough to make the 20-minute trip home.

He had very kind eyes and listened closely and with concern the entire time I was talking. When I finished my sob story, he exhaled a lungful of cigarette smoke, nodded sympathetically, and said in an Eastern European accent, "I no English. My friend! Five minutes!" And he motioned inside the store towards his friend, who apparently would still be shopping for cheap clothes hangers and tealight candles for another five minutes.

"Fucking goddammit," I said to myself. "I'm going to tie this fucking knot."

So I did, after another 10 or 15 minutes. I was soaking wet by the time I got it tight. The cardboard was very soggy. But dammit, I tied the hell out of that knot and drove the fuck away from Ikea.

And forgot the 15-pound, 6-foot rug, which really would have tied the room together.

I left the parking lot and, on Dad's advice, stopped at the gas station 1/4 mile away to make sure boxes were still secure. They hadn't moved. So I drove on towards the entrance ramp to the highway, stopping again at another gas station just for good measure. Still good, though the wet cardboard was wearing away from where the ropes were digging into it. Drove another couple miles on the highway until the last exit before the causeway; checked the boxes at another gas station. Everything looked okay. Point of no return. Got on the causeway with a bad case of cold anxiety sweat.

After cruising up the entrance ramp, I hear a THUNK, and then the roof starts squeaking. I had several miles to go before I could exit. I spent them with white knuckles, doing 45 in the slow lane, trying to ignore the passing of angry traffic, watching the ropes in the rearview mirror to see if they slackened or if the knots moved.

Once I was able to get off the highway, I pulled over and got out. By this time, I was already soaking wet, so I didn't even bother with the rain coat. Turns out one of the cardboard supports was soaked through and had no structural integrity left. It had flattened. So the boxes were now six inches higher in the front than in the back, pointing menacingly towards the ground, but still, as far as I can tell, were tied tightly to the roof.

It was all surface streets from there, so I continued on towards home. It was the slowest 5-mile drive I've ever made, but I did get the boxes home still fastened to the car.

I was sick of them by then, but I wanted to unload everything so I could head back to stupid Ikea for that stupid 6-foot rug that would tie the stupid room stupidly together. Stupidhead.

Got the Billy bookcase into the house with no trouble. The sofa frame was more difficult -- it's literally more than half my weight -- but I did manage to slide it onto a four-wheeled dolly and, with some difficulty, push it into the house.

Turning the corner into the hallway was another matter, partly because I have boxes of crap from the closet stacked in the hallway, waiting for the thrift store to reopen on the 3rd. I managed to get the sofa frame around the corner by jockeying it one way and then the other three or four times. I was home free, starting to drag the box backwards into the guest room when I stepped on dumbbell awaiting its ride to the thrift store. It rolled out from under my foot, rolled its way under my ass, and as I fell backwards to the floor, it waited. My butt cheek hit the dumbbell, my arm banged into the wall, my wrist crashed into the corner, and the 60-pound box fell on my knee.

I was a little dazed for a moment -- understandably, I think -- and then the first thought that came to me was "Well, at least I didn't hit my head!"

I managed to get up and, although achy, I powered that $#@!% box into the guest room and left it there.

That's when I saw the enormous, ballooning knot on my wrist, already turning a shade of blue-green that you'd really rather not see on your own body. After five minutes, I knew I needed to have it x-rayed.

As I was looking up the number for the insurance company, my dad called. It had been probably 90 minutes since he walked me through the knot-tying. My dad thinks he's funny. "Hey," he said, "I was watching CNN and saw a report about a mile-long trail of debris on I-80."

I took the funny right out of him when I told him I was on my way to the ER to get x-rays. HA! IN YOUR FACE, DAD!

So anyway, I have a minor hairline crack in my wrist, and the area around one of the ligaments in my elbow is swollen but okay. I have an enormous bruise along my triceps that's just barely green today, but ought to turn all sorts of pretty colors by the end of the week. The doctor told me that I'd be sore, but the hairline wasn't a big deal because of where's located. "Just don't do any snowboarding or anything like that" was his best useless advice.

I realized last night that I'd also wrenched my back, and this morning I discovered a couple muscles in my stomach that must have moved in ways they weren't supposed to. My arm is very sore, and my butt bruise is making sitting a wee bit uncomfortable.

It was a shitty 24 hours that began the year. But the doctor, as I was putting my coat on, had one last thing to say: "That wrist is ugly, and you're going to be sore for a while. But you know what? You're actually the healthiest person I've seen all day. I'm sorry I can't give you a prize."

If there's any perspective to be gained from forking over a $50 ER copay in order to avoid a $60 Ikea delivery charge, I guess that's about as close as you'll get.
Wow Pupps, that sounds absolutely awful.

Well at least the year can't get any worse, right?
posted by dodgygeezer 02 January | 15:36
Wow seems to be the only proper reaction. All I can offer toward my bad start of the new year is an improperly working brake system in the car. ABS can be such a pain in the butt.
posted by Ardiril 02 January | 15:46

That's a terrible start to a year, mup. I'm gonna go ahead a point out that it's only going to get better from here? RIGHT?

Mine's been fine so far, I've been a useless layabout.
posted by richat 02 January | 15:48
Wow. I am so sorry for your woes and tribulations. Hopefully you got all of the year's bad stuff out of the way in one shot and it'll be smooth sailing from here on out.

And, I hope this doesn't come across as flippant, but I have to compliment you on how well you told the story. It's so compelling! And this: He had rough hands and an appropriately craggy face, and I decided from looking at him that this was a man who knew how to tie a knot. is a wonderful sentence, and should definitely be saved for future use as the jumping-off point of a great novel.
posted by amyms 02 January | 16:00
There's an ancient Chinese proverb that goes
"Start the year with woe in wrist; end the year with dough in fist".

Actually, I just made that up. But when you get right down to it, so did all those ancient Chinese guys.

Sorry 2011's treating you so badly. If it's any consolation, your story made for some great reading this morning.
posted by Atom Eyes 02 January | 16:02
[fifty cent voice]dammmnn homie[/fifty cent voice]
posted by Firas 02 January | 16:11
The entire time I'm reading I'm fearing that the boxes would fall on the interstate. Thank goodness they made it. Sorry about your wrist and your other injuries. I liked your story even if it was a craptacular way to start the year.

Get well soon.
posted by LoriFLA 02 January | 16:45
Oh, god, I'm so sorry for all of it, mudpuppie --- from the plain, brutal grief to the crappy mundanity. What a way to start the year.

By comparison, my side of 2011 looks practically peaceful: the worst flu I can rememver. Since Thursday, I've been throwing up or [censored], or just lying limp and sweaty or shivering in a pile of blankets.

Today, I finally started to feel a bit better, which is great timing since some friends delivered a care package (delicious goodies from the New Year's brunch I missed). That's right: a day and a half into the year, I finally ate my first meal of 2011. I'm still pretty wobbly and sick-stupid, but feeling sort of alert and hopeful. Thats a good sign, right?

I keep telling myself that the year should just get better from this point. I hope that's doubly true for you & yours, mudpuppie.
posted by Elsa 02 January | 16:58
Wow, mudpuppie, I am really sorry to hear about this. I hope you heal well and quickly.

You know, most of the time I'm content with my life, but then it comes to having to do something that really needs two people, one of them bigger and stronger than me, and I'm screwed. I just don't have anyone to do that big stuff for me, and it really sucks.
posted by Senyar 02 January | 17:31
God, pup, that's pretty bad all around. So sorry to hear about all this. I'm glad the outcome of the whole IKEA clusterfuck wasn't even worse - there was the potential. Hope you have minimal pain and heal fast. That's quite a story - and well told, especially with a wrist that probably doesn't want to type.

My new year is running about 50% so far -- LT got me a big Fiestaware shopping spree for Christmas, and we went and got it today, which was good. But then we came home and called in the claim to the auto insurance company for the big crunch the car got when a moving van backed into it the day before New Year's. That was less good. Everything else is meh. I can't tell if I have seasonal depression, holiday stress, or am really going through a serious change of perspective in life, but something's bothering me.
posted by Miko 02 January | 18:57
Wow. I really, really hope the rest of the year goes better for you.
posted by JoanArkham 02 January | 19:13

Things can only improve from here!
posted by gomichild 02 January | 19:43
I saw your comment on MetaTalk, mudpuppie, and hoped you would come here and tell us what happened. And you did with a bang-up (sorry) story! I am sorry about the wrist, etc. (be glad you didn't break your butt, my mum did that by falling) but I am so glad you're such a good writer.

Well at least the year can't get any worse, right?

Dodgy, dodgy, dodgy - don't say things like that! *throws salt over shoulder, spits three times*

My NY has been fine so far. Just lots of naps, food, movies and playing WoW. Going to get a Siamese Fighting Fish tomorrow. So excited!
posted by deborah 02 January | 20:22
Dear god, so sorry, mudpuppie. What a mess. The only way is up, indeed...!
posted by mykescipark 02 January | 20:36
Wow, mudpuppie, you make my garden-variety super hangover seem perfectly droll.
posted by Doohickie 02 January | 22:01
Oh no! Sending you lots of healing wishes.

I've been in a crappy crappy mood for the past few days, but it's not due to anything particularly going wrong, just residual emotional hang-over from dealing with my father over Christmas. Which is annoying; I wish I'd just get over it already.
posted by occhiblu 02 January | 23:30
Speedy healing, mudpuck. All those delicious pickles you left at our house entitle you to a huge amount of good karma; I suggest you put a claim in on it post-haste.
posted by ikkyu2 02 January | 23:34
Ouch. Heal well.
posted by TheophileEscargot 03 January | 04:16
I have always maintained that Ikea is evil. This proves it.
posted by JanetLand 03 January | 06:31
Yeah, heal well. Sorry for such a stressful and wrist-breakingly bad start to the year.
posted by Stewriffic 03 January | 06:33
eeeesh, pups. What a start to the year. Heal quickly.
posted by gaspode 03 January | 11:01
Dear Puppie,

You deserve some high-quality junk food. And a hug. And a blankie. And some bad TV. And another hug.

And if you're open to a suggestion for next time (from my own not-anywhere-near-as-bad-but-still-kinda-crappy experience): next time you have to pick up something ginormous, check out a minivan taxi (or "maxi taxi"), especially if they have stowable seats that give you a lot of space. Most taxi places will only charge one-way and might not even require your presence there; just pay for everything, and they'll pick it up and deliver as if it were a regular package.

And if now is not the time for a suggestion, please feel free to kick me. You could probably stand to do that, too.
posted by Madamina 03 January | 11:27

I have a very bad cold. On the upside, I got it in London last week and it's what absolutely everyone there has right now. I feel very fashionable.
posted by halonine 03 January | 11:56
Some day this will seem funny.

OK maybe far into the future.
posted by danf 03 January | 13:30
Damn, mudpuppie, that sucks. Hope you heal well and fast, and get on to the good part (hopefully the rest) of the year right quick. Take care of yourself, especially that elbow!
posted by Hugh Janus 04 January | 00:16
Alphabet Autofill! || Chuck Berry collapsed in concert last night