As many of you recall, I gave Michael Mathes my doctor’s note stating that I required more heat in my apartment. I told Michael that I would be away the following week. Indeed, my plan was to attend the Goddard College residency in Port Townsend, Washington, from February 8th until the 16th. In fact, I left town the 7th, and flew back from Seattle on the 17th.
My flight was uneventful, but my excursion to the hotel was not. Fog surrounded the entire airport, giving the entire night an eerie feel. I immediately came upon a serious accident involving two hotel courtesy vehicles in which a driver was hit. He was lying on the ground and some ambulance guys were attending to him as I drove past in my courtesy vehicle. “Rough night,” the driver said to me, “rough night. There was a motorcycle crash right outside our place.”
“Shoot,” I said. “Was the guy okay?” Stupid question.
The guy let me into my hotel room and showed me the heat control. “You just turn this knob,” he said, “for heat. Turn it this way.” He showed me.
Fine. I turned it all the way.
Three, four hours later, it was only 63 degrees in the room. I know. I had my alarm clock with me. Remember that alarm clock, the one with the thermometer on it? Yeah, that one. Sixty-three degrees. Finally, I showered (don’t know how I managed that one), put on long underwear, two shirts, three jackets, a hat, a scarf, and mittens, and took an hour and a half nap before venturing out to the bus for Port Townsend.
You have to understand West Coast mentality, in particular, Northwest Coast mentality, to know that people out there aren’t normal. They wear t-shirts in the summer when it’s 50 degrees out, and don’t heat their homes. But they do heat their homes in the winter, when it’s 48.
Fort Worden, where I was staying, was heated–sort of. The room I had was warm enough most of the time. The kitchen was freezing, very drafty. I couldn’t stand being in there for more than a couple of minutes. The thermostat–tee hee hee–was right outside my room. I manipulated it at will, much to the consternation of my roommates, particularly Dani, who is a local. Needless to say, she spent Saturday night at a hotel.
The dining hall at Fort Worden was the pits. Not only was the food–well, never mind the food–we’re talking about temperature here….There was this draft in the dining hall. If you put a napkin on the edge of your tray, the napkin would fly around like a set of wind chimes. That’s how bad the draft was. So you can picture what I looked like, wrapped in a stocking cap and scarf every meal, trying to keep my head, ears, and neck safe from the evil draft. Finally, I complained to a worker, who I noticed was wearing a winter jacket.
“I’m just wearing this ‘cuz I was in the freezer,” she said. Excuses, excuses.
While waiting for the bus ride home (Dungeness Bus Lines, formerly Olympic Bus Lines, runs a route from Port Townsend to Seattle) I waited at the Port Townsend Safeway. It was freezing in there, I mean, it must have been close to 60. I wore three jackets and my usual hat, scarf, and gloves. I was shivering. I felt like bursting into tears. I even asked an employee if there were any warmer places to sit. There were none. Eventually, my classmate, Cody, arrived.
“You would absolutely not like Japan,” he said.
“And why is that?”
“I lived and taught there for a year. They don’t heat their homes. Not even in winter.”
“Not at all?”
“Not at all. They have air conditioning, though.”
“Gee, that’s comforting.” I made a mental note to cross Japan off my travel list.
I spent the night in Seattle not at the cold hotel, but at the Skyway Inn, which, although seedy, was plenty warm enough, and I find I rather like the Skyway despite its oddities.
I flew home. The plane was warm enough. The food was warm enough. I didn’t have a stomach ache. They fed me enough. They gave me enough to drink. My luggage was safe and undamaged. I hopped in the cab. We didn’t get lost. I generously tipped the driver.
Slowly, I pulled my luggage down the hall, which seemed too bright and too dark all at once. I fumbled for my key, and, finding it, turned it in the lock.
Something seemed different. What was it?
Heat. I had heat.
Was this for real? I set down my luggage.
The thermostat read 78. I checked again. Seventy-eight. I closed the apartment door behind me, and gave a whoop. Seventy-eight! I checked the bedroom. Seventy-eight. At last. With the “two degree offset” the actual temperature in my apartment was 76, but I knew it would be higher in some areas. My worries were over. Heat. At last.
No longer would I have to huddle under the heating panels, wondering how I would stay warm. No longer would I have to wrap myself in a blanket for hours every morning. No longer would I have to wear a scarf and hat indoors, and a jacket and gloves. And even the bathroom temperature has improved.
I am much more relaxed. I worry less. I no longer get these intrusive thoughts about something bad happening to Puzzle. It is because I don’t feel the persistent stress of constant discomfort of cold. I am warm now. I am comfortable. I am truly blessed.