Friday, November 28, 2008

HURRICANE IKE UPDATE

Still working Beaumont Texas. Did I mention that I rented a small apartment in Lake Charles? It's the closest big town where everything works. But Beaumont, Galveston and Houston are all coming back. It's slow progress.

There are still thousands of utility workers out here restoring power, phones, etc. A steady stream of trucks runs up and down the freeway day and night. Some carrying commercial generators, others carrying food and water…insurance adjusters, FEMA, Red Cross.

I've been assigned to a rural area of Beaumont…one of those lonely, country areas where they have to pipe sunlight in. It's a long ways between appointments sometimes. There are still hundreds of electric and phone wires draped across the roads. I cringe each time I have to drive over one.

It's easy to get lost out here too. MS Streets and Trips can't find these addresses. All my friends said, "Carol, buy you one of those GPS's and you won't get lost anymore!"

So I found one on sale at Office Depot the other day and bought it. It's kind of cool! I unboxed it, read the instructions, turned it on and it began to talk to me. There are several different voices you can choose and each has a name. There are female voices, Bonnie, Rita, Clare. And there are male voices…Jeff, Robert and Ted.

I chose Ted because he had a soothing voice and my days are usually frantic from start to finish. I programmed in my first address on Sunday and waited while Ted mapped our route. Finally Ted says, "Take the next right and go straight." So I did.

He told me every turn to make warning me 800 yards ahead of time before each turn. After we had safely made it to 2 appointments, I picked up the GPS, stroked it and said, "Ted, I have a feeling me and you are gonna have a very sweet long term relationship."

Ted says, "Go 400 yards and take the next right." I love it when he talks like that to me.

We had to go out to Old Sour Lake Rd at noon. There's nothing but fields and horses out there. Why do people live in desolate places like that? Ted got us lost. He told me to turn left on N. China Rd and go straight and I did and we wound up in some guy's pasture.

I picked up the GPS device and said, "Ted, that was embarrassing. Don't let that happen again. Okay?"

So Ted says, "Go 600 yards and take the next right." So I did. And we got back on the highway.

Everything went fine until our 2 O'clock appointment, a destroyed mobile home out on Westville Lane which is not on most maps. Ted told me to turn left on Meeker Rd but I'd already been out there for other inspections so I knew we should turn right.

"Ted, I'm sorry but you're wrong on this one."

Ted says, "Turn around. Turn around."

I said, No Ted…really…you need to learn to admit when you're wrong."

But he was insistent so I just ignored him and went on out to Westville Lane and inspected the destroyed mobile home.

After that one, I programmed in my next address and we headed down the road toward Highway 90. When we got near the highway, Ted says, "Go 600 yards and turn left."

I says, "Ted, don't you mean 'right'? We go right down here."

But he was insistent. "Go 400 yards and turn left."

"Ted, really man, that's gonna take us out to Sour Lake and we don't wanna go there today."

"Go 200 yards and turn left."

I picked up the GPS device. "Ted, I can't tolerate lying. I can put up with anything but lying. So don't lie to me again or it's over between us." Then I turned right.

"Turn around. Turn around," Ted says.

"Ted, don't make me throw you in Sour Lake. Cuz I will, you know. I threw my cell phone in the Atlantic Ocean during the 2004 hurricane season and I'll dang sure throw you in Sour Lake if you keep lying to me."

Finally he got quiet and I took us on to our next appointment. The last one we did on Sunday was out on Captain Kidd Way. They gave us a wrong address to begin with and then when we got there, it was a beautiful house in the middle of nowhere. Some guy had bought some land and thought about developing a community there but quit after only one house was built.

The whole place was grown up in tall weeds with mosquitoes as big as horse flies. This woman followed me around the whole time and whined about how her ex-husband had done her wrong. Under my breath I mumbled things like, "Grow a backbone and stop putting up with his crap, lady!" and "Sheez lady! Do I honestly look like I care that much?" and finally, "Oh God! Please help me get away from this whiny woman!"

I was eaten up with mosquitoes by the time I was able to leave there. I was supposed to drive to Dayton Texas and meet Ryan. He's a sweet retired fire fighter from Rhode Island that I met and trained when we were out in San Diego last year.

He still calls me a lot and asks me things like, "Carol, if I've got 2 walls still standing, can I call a house 'destroyed'?"

I was out of 90-69's and Ryan said he had just been to the field office in Houston and gotten a bunch. So I told him that I'd buy him dinner if he'd meet me and give me a few so I wouldn't have to drive all the way to Houston.

I wanted to take highway 90 because it's closer than I-10, but Ted thought we should take I-10 so we did. "I think this is the long way around, Ted, but whatever," I told him driving down the on-ramp.

Sure enough I-10 took us a full 30 minutes out of our way. Ryan was running late too so it didn't matter but I took Hwy 90 home in spite of Ted constantly nagging me to "Turn around! Turn around!"

On Monday, I began the day by picking up the GPS device and saying, "Ted, I really like you and I enjoy your company. But you've gotta be more careful. I hate getting lost. It costs us time and money. So let's not drive to any more vacant fields, okay?"

Ted said, "Go straight and turn right in 400 yards."

I guess that's his way of apologizing. You know how men are.

We did fine until our 1 O'clock appointment. We had to go see Ethyl Walton. She lives out on Turner Road in one of those crappy mobile home parks.

Ted said, "In 600 yards, take the ramp and get on the highway."

So I said, "Ted, that's the long way around. Let's go out Hwy 105 instead. Okay?"

But he was insistent. "In 400 yards, take the ramp and get on the highway."

I wasn't giving in so easy this time. "Ted, I told you this morning that I was done putting up with crap from you. I've got rent to pay in two places this week. We can't afford to get lost today."

Apparently Ted doesn't know how high gasoline prices are nowadays. "Take the on ramp to I-10 now!" he says.

"Whatever, Ted," I replied. But in the back of my mind, I was searching for an exit that would take me down to the Gulf of Mexico so I could throw Ted's lying ass in the ocean.