Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
Today I decided to do a first of what I think would be a monthly type of post where I just give a bunch of little updates that are maybe too big for a tweet but too small to deserve their own entry.
New followers on Royal Road
I think I’d been stuck on 24 followers for The Bloodlet Sun on Royal Road for over a month and was getting a little down about being stalled. Now over the last couple of weeks I went up to 28 followers, and one of those include one “Favorite” bringing the total there up to 5. Not sure if it’s just the natural ebb and flow of things or whether the last couple of installments were particularly good for enticing new readers, but in any case, nice to see some growth there again.
Continued lack of success on Tapas
Things on Tapas, another website that hosts web novels, though it’s mainly a home for comics, have not been going well at all. I got two subscribers and a handful of views when I first launched there in early September, but since then, it’s been a ghost town. I haven’t even had a single view there in over a month and I’m not even sure how one is supposed to increase their exposure on that site. So this is still a bit of an experiment, though I’ll keep trying to figure it out.
Watched rejection never boils
I recently submitted to two science fiction journals which used the Moksha submission manager for their submissions, and the unique thing about this one over Submittable is that it shows your story’s position in their queue. Combine that with the quick turnaround of these journals and now I’m clicking refresh several times a day to see that number slowly go down. I don’t know why, but seeing my turn approaching in real time almost makes it feel more real and more likely for my story to get published. This however has not been the case since at the time of posting, both journals have now rejected me.
Should probably watch Squid Games
When I first heard of Squid Games I thought I would pass because I really have had my fill of grim dramas where I anticipate death or something else horrible happening at every turn (I can thank Game of Thrones for sapping me of most of that energy). Seeing though how much of a global phenomenon it is and the themes its exploring, I figure I will have to check it out at some point. With nine episodes at around an hour long it would take me like to the end of the year to finish it, and by that point, people would have moved on to something else.
Climax of Maple Vodka
I’ve recently talked about how excited I am that the first draft of my second novel is coming to an end and all of last week I was writing the build-up to the climactic scene. I feel like it’s taking me forever to get there, but I know on the page that many words would be read quite quickly. I’m just questioning whether I might be dragging it out too long because I myself don’t want to finally move beyond this point. No escaping it, though, if I had to guess, the pivotal point for the protagonist will finally be written either this week, or at the latest, the next. And after that, we’re on a train ride to the denouement and then completion.
I’m not going to lie – I’m actually appreciative right now of the fact that it’s October, though this has nothing to do with the fact that everything has exactly one flavour right now. Not that I have anything, you know, philosophically against pumpkin spice latte, I just don’t go crazy over it.
Firstly, I’m just glad that September is behind us. The problems that September has brought are still here, mind you, with our fourth wave of COVID and being faced with uncertainties about kids going back to school, but now it feels like a “new normal”, our approximately eighth new normal in the last year and a half because people, collectively, are too impatient to actually buckle up and try to solve a problem.
Secondly, we can put a nice firm lid on the atrocious and frankly scary summer that we’ve experienced here, where in a city that’s famous for its rain we’ve had both a heat dome, which was apparently the deadliest weather event we’d ever had, which would have been bigger news if we didn’t have a health officer who had no idea what they were doing, and months on end without rain, which also would have been bigger news if we weren’t so focused on the pandemic. Now it’s seasonably cool and raining and we could forget about this temporarily until we see what next summer brings.
Did I say I’m feeling better? Might have meant “bitter”.
Then there’s also my lack of running as a result of the added time pressures and stress of home schooling the kids. I swear it’s some kind of curse – I post on here for the first time about my running and immediately enter a running slump where I’ve only run like four times in all of September.
Okay, I promise this was supposed to have been a positive post.
Mostly I think I like that October started because I’m fine with using arbitrary calendar cutoffs to refocus on new beginnings.
I want to for real put all the things I talked about above behind me (with the exception of this one last cathartic blog post).
I want to embrace the cooler weather instead of griping about it like I do every year, and look forward to everything this season brings. Already on Saturday I went for a walk with our kids and found a lane filled with chestnuts that have littered the sidewalk and lawns with the shiny brown nuts and their thorny shells. The kids had an absolute time of it, the younger one being endlessly fascinated by shells that contained two nuts, the second one always ending up tiny. It also gave me an opportunity to share with the kids an embarrassing story from when my wife and I first started dating, and I picked up a chestnut to throw at the ground and then it bounced up and hit her in the eye. I think my seven-year-old now is really getting the concept of the fact that his parents were once younger and found the story hilarious and now wants to hear every single embarrassing thing from when we were teenagers but I don’t think he’s quite ready for that.
And although Vancouver’s is not quite as spectacular as most of Canada’s, there’s the leaf fall to look forward to, and Halloween, and then my birthday right around the corner. And the fogs that roll in that always make for the best photos, and weather that might finally make me switch to pants for the next few months. Cozy nights under blankets and good excuses to make hot chocolate. Hot showers after rainy morning runs. Putting up the Christmas lights way too early.
See, told you this was going somewhere good.
And I’ve decided, so will October.
I am once again confronted by the fact that there is nothing good to be had from our ability to constantly be plugged into something.
I’m not a luddite though, by any means and scoff at the Boomer-esque finger-wagging that kids these don’t even know what a book is. And as an introvert, group chats and text messages have allowed me to keep up with people in ways I wouldn’t have bee able to before. So no, I don’t have a general aversion to technology and social media, but man do I have an issue with its ubiquity, and not only that, but the drive it sometimes creates to be plugged in lest one feel like they’re “wasting their time”.
I’ve expressed these concerns in earlier posts where I’ve postulated that one of the worst things for our mental health is the news cycle and that boredom is an essential ingredient of creativity.
As someone who apparently needs to learn the same lesson more than once, its this latter realization that struck me again recently.
By a congruence of circumstances, the details of which we don’t need to get into, I found myself on an impromptu walk with my nephew in a baby carrier, and the kid fell asleep within a minute of being put in.
I was in this rare instance where there wasn’t much for me to do – I had no older kids around to talk to, no adults, a phone whose battery was running low and AirPods that I left at home and didn’t want to fetch because I’d risk my passenger waking up too early from his nap.
So there I was, at the mercy of however long he would be dozing (if experience was any indication, it could easily be more than an hour) and no tech to help me pass the time – no news cycle to browse or I’d drain my battery, and no AirPods to tune into any podcasts or audiobooks. It was blissful rare silence.
Oh my fingers definitely itched to do something, and my brain, suddenly deprived of electronic stimuli to constantly process was worried that this was wasted time. I lamented the forgotten AirPods, thinking that this was a half hour or an hour where I could have caught up on Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, an audiobook that never seems to end. What am I doing if I’m not utilizing every second of my time to do something “useful” and not multitasking in the process?
Then once the silence became more familiar and my mind settled down about being constantly stimulated, something amazing happened – my brain did not atrophy from disuse. On the contrary, it found new things to enjoy, like the quietness of the park and the warmth of the day.
In the space created by not constantly jamming information into my head, creativity came unbidden and my mind started to wander to my writing projects, solving problems, creating plotlines, moving through dialogue.
Here’s where a continued attachment to technology continues to be useful. I didn’t have my Moleskine notebook about me, but I still had my phone with whatever amount of battery it had remaining – just enough to run the Notes app and to let me jot those thoughts down. So completely out of the blue, I got to sketch a skeletal outline of the next chapter of one my works, and got to brainstorm a few things for upcoming chapters of another work.
There is so much pleasure to find in “boredom” – if you can even call a pleasant walk around the neighbourhood “boring” – that I can’t stress it enough, for writers, or anyone else for that matter.
I’m very thankful for the circumstances that conspired that day, and for my nephew clocking out before I even got a chance to get all my ducks in a row. I hope this doesn’t remain as a lesson that I have to keep learning over and over – that I can make more space in my day to have these periods of quiet solitude where I can think and move pieces of my writing in place that just wouldn’t settle down in the face of all the hustle and bustle. So please take my advice, even if I might not.
There’s something about me that has not come out on this blog often, if at all, though I have mentioned it elsewhere on social media. It is a deep and dark part of my personality that I sometimes tend to hide from the world lest I not be judged for it unfairly. And folks, this secret that I have been sort of not keeping from anyone is that I am in fact … a runner.
I know it’s quite shocking – as a writer I’m expected to be devoting all my time to strictly cerebral pursuits. I ought to be crafting myself into a tortured soul that subsists on nothing but ramen noodles and three-day old reheated dumplings, reading obscure Lithuanian authors well into the late hours of the night, only to sleep three hours and power through the day on seven cups of coffee and a pot of green tea I should have emptied a week ago. Instead, I sometimes set my alarm for 5:40 in the morning to go for a six kilometre run so that I can feel refreshed and energized for the day.
But seriously, I feel like I don’t talk enough about my running here, considering that it forms such an important part of my routine and is an essential element of managing my mental health.
First off, I want to clear the air about my first instinct when I say that I’m a runner – and that is that I want to clarify that I’m not like a “runner” runner. Why the hell do I want to do that, and what does it even mean? It actually reminds me a lot about the label “writer” and all the baggage that comes with that. What’s a writer? Is it someone who’s so successful at writing it forms the sole source of their sizeable income? Is it someone who gets routinely paid for the writing? Someone who got published once? Someone who’s written five novels that have never seen the light of day? Someone who writes short stories and publishes them on their blog? Someone who writes the occasional poem when the mood is right and then burns the original? Who is gatekeeping this term “writer”, when a writer is someone who writes and sees themselves as a writer?
Same in my case. Why do I find trouble owning the term “runner”? Partially of course is that I don’t see myself as that serious of a runner, and partially because its other people who expect a “runner” to be something that I’m not. I’ve never run a marathon, nor do I expect that I ever will. My last two races have been the 24-hour Easter Seals charity relay I was roped into in my first week at my first legal job, and the Grade 4/5 400 metre race back in elementary school. I hardly buy myself any running gear and my primary thought any time I go for a run is not “how far and how fast can I run” but “how far and how fast can I run without messing up my knee/shin/ankle/foot?”
So in that sense, in that specific conceptualization of what it means to be a runner, I’m not a runner. But I am, in fact, a runner, because I’ve had an on and off relationship (mostly on these last few years) with this form of exercise for more than 15 years. It’s because even though to go for a run I have to haul myself out of bed around 6 am before the kids are awake, I’m disappointed when something comes up and instead I sleep in for an extra hour. It’s because I enjoy the bar graph that the Nike Run Club spits out for me to track my running distance for the year. It’s because when my wife got me a Garmin watch for Father’s Day I couldn’t stop looking at it for a week and now obsess over every metric it tracks. It’s because without it, I would have a hard time figuring out a way to stay physically active. It’s because when I run I feel good both in my body and in my mind. For all these reasons and more, I am undeniably a runner.
Yet it’s not a relationship without its difficulties. Even though I feel good after the run, I hate every second of the first ten minutes. Even though I willingly set my alarm, it’s a struggle to actually haul myself out of bed to get my running clothes on. And even though it’s good for me, there’s no joy in icing my joints and muscles every other week. I’m not doing this for accolades or personal Everests, I’m just doing this because after all the grueling work it at least gives me a chance to feel good.
So yeah, obviously a lot going on there, but in writing this entry I’ve decided that I’d share more about this hobby on this blog. I know it’s a blog meant for writing, but at the same time, my header does state that it’s an “author’s journey”. And running for me forms part of my journey in surprising ways. I would not have the mental acuity to be the writer I am without having exercise in my life. And though there is much to hate about running, it is, by definition, the most accessible form of exercise – no equipment, no set gym times, just open the door and go. And even though there’s no exercise easier to start, that is not to say running itself is easy at all, and I want to use this platform where I can offer encouragement to those that like me, may find it life-changing to incorporate running into their life, even at this kind of amateur level.
So expect to see more occasional posts here about running and running related things. And who knows, hopefully I could inspire someone to be just like me and at the age of 20 to go for their first run since high school and after three minutes, standing wheezing and with a stitch in both sides thinking this was the worst idea they’ve ever had, only to not ever fully give up for the next fifteen years. Just don’t think you’ll catch me opining on things like, what the best running shoes are, because honestly outside of “get what’s comfy” I really have no clue.
Even though I’d just written about hitting important word counts on both my second novel and my upcoming fantasy web novel, The Second Magus, it appears I wasn’t’ done with my cluster of milestones. This one, on reflection, is a little bit bittersweet.
This past week, I’d reached 100K words on the fantasy story that I’ve been reading and writing for my kids for a couple of years now, and to which I simply refer to as “Cassia and Mateo”. You can read more about it here but long story short is that I’d taken two characters from a short story I’d written, and then expanded their world into a tale of treasure hunting and mysterious magical powers that I thought I could read to the kids in little chunks at bedtime.
As you can see, at one hundred thousand words it’s grown way beyond a simple bedtime tale, and seems to have also grown beyond my kids’ interest. I remember when I first started recounting it to them, they’d be asking me for “one last part” over and over again, even when I’d say that it was for real going to be the last part this time. The light that those words would shine inside me, both as a father and as a writer – I will carry that warmth with me forever. Now though, it’s been at least a month since I read them any of the story.
The “one last part” requests had slowly morphed from genuine enthusiasm into tradition, and even that was eventually dropped. I’ve prepared all my segments that I would read to them with a little encore, and now was forced to prompt that encore myself. I’ve asked them about this of course, and they told me that there weren’t enough monsters in the story anymore. Sure enough, early on in the tale there’d been flying sharks, and croco-jaguars and even bear-eels. Then the story went in its own direction and try as I might I see little room for those kinds of beasts right now.
Maybe that’s my fault. Maybe I let the story get away from me when I should have kept it more towards my kids’ interests – found ways of incorporating the elements they wanted and turning away from the vision of the story that had formed.
It’s like, you kind of expect it, but you’re never truly prepared for how much parenting is one constant struggle with second-guessing yourself. I just never would have imagined that there would be such a crossover with my writing as well. They grow up unfairly quickly. Just when you think you’re hitting a groove with them, they’re older and they’ve moved on to something else. You want to hold onto these moments so tightly but the truth is you never know when they’re about to slip through your fingers.
I’m continuing to write Cassia and Mateo because I know I will finish reading it to them one day, I’ll let them know how the story ends. But what I really want is to find that spark again. To chase that story where I can again capture their imaginations like I did before, even though their imaginations are maturing so quickly. If not with Cassia and Mateo, then with another story, perhaps this one catered entirely to them, responding to their cues and their whims. After all, I’ve got many years of writing ahead of me, but precious few years of my boys being kids.
Not going to lie, I choked up a couple of times while writing this. You’d think hitting 100K in anything is a cause for celebration and nothing but, but I’ve made it about self-reflection, it seems. Oh well. If any of you out there have kids, be sure to hug them extra tight tonight. Wherever you’re finding joys with them right now, whether in the big things or the little things, those are the only things that should matter right now, because this part is so preciously small.
Update: After I wrote this entry and before it went live, I had a brief chat with my kids about the future of the story. Not surprisingly, they did say they didn’t really have much interest in seeing it to its end (poor things, they looked so guilty even though they don’t owe me anything). I said I figured as much but wanted to know why and was it the lack of monsters. They agreed, and then I asked them if there were monsters closer to the end, but it would take a little while to meet them, would they be okay sitting through the parts leading up to that. They both agreed that this was a good plan. My eldest also rushed to tell me that he’s still interested in The Second Magus even though it’s got no monsters. I told him yes, there won’t really be any monsters in that one and he said that’s fine, he still likes it. So there you go, lessons learned for me about how to approach writing that I intend to cater towards my kids, a reminder that it’s vitally important to talk to your kids., and further confirmation that I’m raising a couple of absolute sweethearts.
I’ve recently decided to incorporate riding my bike into my morning commute, once that becomes part of my life again, and so far, it has been a grueling failed experiment.
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before on here, my office at the university has been exclusively work-from-home since the pandemic started, save for the one or two people who want to come to campus as a preference. I’ve been quite satisfied working from home since cutting out my commute essentially puts two hours back inn my day and being able to split that between commitments to work and personal life have really improved my situation overall.
Of course, despite the recent rise in cases, the hope is that the pandemic is tapering out here as our vaccination rates are quite high, so we’re talking a return to the office around November. Things won’t be back to what they were before the pandemic but also there won’t be an opportunity to continue that exclusive work-from-home arrangement, so it looks like at least twice a week my commute will be back on the menu.
Let’s just say after going almost a year-and-a-half without a single cold I’m not too keen on hopping onto public transit again. Something about being with fifty strangers in a cramped space during the wet and cold Vancouver winter months, stewing in everyone’s sniffles, just doesn’t sound terribly appealing anymore. It’s bad enough that I’ve got two kids going back to school in September and will likely bring back all sorts of goodies from the germs marketplace. So it’s safe to say you’ll never catch me on a bus again without a mask, and the less commuting I do on public transit, the better I’ll feel.
That said, I’m not about to replace that commute with a car either. Between gas, parking, the environmental impact and tying up our car for the whole day with my wife not being able to use it, this doesn’t sound like a great option either.
So I thought maybe I should join the ranks of the thousands of bike commuters in the city and kill two birds with one stone – avoid taking public transit, and getting some of my morning exercise out of the way.
I took my dinky commuter bike that I’ve owned for fifteen years and slapped more safety gear on top of it than my bike is worth. Then there was the addition of a fetching safety vest from Costco and a reflective water-resistant cover for my helmet, and any car will light me up like a magnificent biking Christmas tree.
What’s also opened up this possibility for me is the addition and discovery of some biking routes to work. My wife and I are both pretty risk averse people (I’m sure more than once we’ve been accused of being ‘lame’), so I wanted to avoid biking along the busy street-side routes, especially that one stretch of semi-highway where the speed limit is 90kph (60mph for my metrically-challenged readers). Now with the relatively new greenway that can take me a third of the way there, and the discovery of the awesomeness that is Pacific Spirit Park, which would bypass the highway stretch, I thought this was going to be a piece of cake.
Turns out baking is hard.
It’s not like I haven’t done a 14-kilometer (9-mile) bike ride before – my end-to-end greenway trips are slightly more than that, but it’s one thing to bike down a paved even greenway – and another thing entirely to do the rough terrain in Pacific Spirit. The first time I did a test run of this ride I entered the park with cheery optimism, and was ready to die two minutes later.
Pacific Spirit isn’t exactly a rough hiking trail, but it is dirt paths, sometimes with embedded roots and rocks that take you through about as wild an urban park as you can get. The gradient can be fairly steep since it follows the terrain (and not like the greenway which was built atop an old rail line, which had its own inclines but never sharper than what a freight train could handle), and my poor little bike that’s hardly worth the spare parts was no help at all, no matter what gear I switched it to. I don’t even think I made it past the first uphill before my legs up and I was left to shamefully walk my bike to the crest of the hill. I’m not an athletic person by any means, but it’s been a long time since something defeated me so thoroughly. And it didn’t defeat me just once, but again and again, to the point where I started contemplating how I might be able to take public transit home.
In the end, it didn’t have to come to that. I struggled through all of the hard stretches, walking my bike more than once, and making it home just fine, and after a quick shower I passed out on the couch for one of the best naps of my life before the kids woke up.
I’m not intending to abandon the idea, but I realized I have a whole lot of training left before me if I’m to make this a regular part of my commute. Honestly, the challenge is kind of fun, though I’m thinking maybe finally it’s time for that new bike.
It appears that I may have accidentally burned myself out when it comes to my writing.
The foundation for these unfortunate circumstances was laid last month, when I was preparing to go on my first vacation since the pandemic started (didn’t go anywhere, just a good two weeks where I could unplug from the emails and spend more time with my family). When I’m on vacation and therefore tend to be away from my computer, I usually put in less time for my writing. So in anticipation of this productivity dip, I thought it would be a good idea to build up a buffer.
One flaw in this plan was that my daily goals already account for vacations and stat holidays, so I’m already building up a natural buffer. Seems like riding the high from having my most productive writing year clouded my judgement a bit.
To meet these goals, I really did try to fit any spare minute of my day with either writing, or thinking about writing. And to my credit, I met my buffer goals, and was in a position where if I wrote moderately over my vacation weeks and then jumped back into the same pace once my vacation was done, I wouldn’t have skipped a beat and would have been well on my ridiculous 1,000 words per day rate.
About two days into my vacation I realized that I had overdone it.
The moderate pace that I expected from myself turned into a trickle – sometimes putting in only 50-100 words just so I can maintain my write-every-day streak. Where my mind would normally be racing through scenes while I was doing the evening cleanup, I couldn’t even force it to focus anywhere. Silently washing the dishes for twenty minutes thinking of random junk seemed to be preferable.
I assumed that this was because the entirety of my brain preferred to head on vacation, including my creative side. I also remembered about the built-in daily goal buffer, and decided I wouldn’t stress too much about it – I could pick it all up again when I’m hanging out with my computer the entire day.
That didn’t happen either.
I found my mind in an unusual spot where I couldn’t even force it to think about writing. And that wasn’t specific to any particular project but across the board – there was nothing I wanted to pick up any more, even at the end of the day where there were no particular priorities.
I tried to blame it on the heat wave, or the transition to work back from being freely available for my kids. In the end though, as I finished up my second week of this strange lull, I figured out that I simply overdid it. Which I guess is surprising, since there is a certain expectation that if it’s something you’re enjoying or it’s not particularly laborious then what is there to burn out over? However, there’s a possibility of overdoing everything, and I’m an expert at overdoing (just ask my multiple running injuries even though I’m a casual runner).
So this will be a lesson learned – don’t push yourself to be so productive that you end up losing productivity over the long run. Worse yet, don’t make something you enjoy a chore.
The plan is not to beat myself up over it and not allow any stray thoughts questioning my worth as a writer from intruding. What I need to do is gently ease myself back into my previous groove, perhaps focusing on those projects that are going through an easier time of being written in order to build my confidence up.
Such an odd thing to have to do after taking a vacation – one would expect that you come back feeling refreshed, but it appears that in this case it just allowed my mind to process and to reject my previous pace. Just need to be smarter about all this, is all.
I can’t get over how much I love weddings. Wish I knew more people just for the purposes of attending them, so I cherish them any time they come around (thank goodness for my wife’s large family – the happy source of most of the weddings we attend).
This weekend though we had the privilege of being invited to the wedding of a colleague of mine from the university, at a beautiful country club about 50km out of town.
The wedding aside, which I will come back to, the experience was a sensory overload. I’ve talked about before how we took the pandemic pretty seriously, and haven’t gone out much at all over the last sixteen months. This was not only our first real social gathering after COVID hit, but also our first evening out after baby number three was born last September (special shout-out to my sister-in-law and her husband who watched all three of our boys and also their two kids for the whole day). So not only was there an odd sense of liberty there, but it was also being surrounded by more than one hundred people in an indoor space, which I never thought would feel weird, but here we are.
Also, I haven’t seen any of my coworkers really since our office was shut down last March, so it was like a reunion as well. In short, it was a perfect milestone to celebrate the brightening at the end of this pandemic tunnel.
And then there’s the wedding part, which I’m reminded of every time I go that I’m a total sucker for. Even when I’m in a room full of strangers, being enveloped in that atmosphere of hope and celebration is a feeling that never fails to bring me up. And not to mention the happy couple themselves, who may be surrounded by all their friends and loved ones but who really just exist in their own world – their day of making the ultimate promises and telling the world that this is who they will be for the rest of time.
One of my favourite parts is actually the slideshow, so I’m always appreciative when one is prepared, because at first it follows these two kids and teenagers, living their completely separate lives, never suspecting that they’re on this journey to meet the one person that will complete them. And then the pictures of the couple show up and you can see that for both there was this tectonic shift – the division of their life into the “before” and the “after” and oh God there’s someone cutting onions here again.
I also have to admit, because writers are going to write, that these events fill me with so much inspiration sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t include much romance in my writing, not that I’m opposed to it or anything, and every time I’m at a wedding my mind goes into overdrive and I sit there contemplating whether or not becoming a romance writer will just be more fun instead. The next day sees a more sober mind take control, and I brush away any delusions of grandeur. However, who knows how all those plotlines can weave their way into my other stories. Love is love and it is everywhere and sorry to those who sanitize their books of it just because they don’t think it’s cool.
Now, I know neither the bride or the groom reads this blog, but on the off-chance they encounter it, I want to thank them again for including us in their special day. It was nice to get away, to see people, to immerse ourselves in such a happy occasion. Wishing them all the best on this exciting new leg of their journey together.
And if anyone wants to throw another invite our way? Well, we’d be hard-pressed to say ‘no’.
We here are not built for the heat. Unfortunately for us, no one had told the heat. The Pacific Northwest is currently going through some record temperatures, and while objectively north of the border we’re not climbing quite as high as our neighbours to the south, subjectively we’re roasting just as badly.
For anyone out there not in the know, as I’m writing this, we’re preparing for temperatures to reach around 37-38 Celsius today, which for my Fahrenheit-dependent readers is around 100 degrees. Now, let’s not make this into a heat-measuring contest. I’ve experienced just as bad and sometimes worse in other places around the world. The difference is those places were often built for heat, while for our poor city these are historic highs. Almost no one here has air conditioning, ourselves included.
It’s like when everyone living in wintry places laughs when it snows half an inch somewhere and the whole city shuts down. Personally, I’m not sure what’s funny about a municipality not overspending on infrastructure they hardly ever need, but that’s just the realist in me. For the same reason, few here have invested in an AC unit, and without doing any research I would venture to guess one is currently impossible to find. So we do what we can, trying to harness whatever non-existent breeze there is through all our open windows and doors, and trying to head to bed early knowing that sleep will be hard to come by during the sweltering nights. Also trying to keep a constant vigilant eye on three kids who need to stay hydrated, including a baby.
For myself, the hottest day of this ordeal, which should be today, is also coinciding with a return to work from a two-week vacation. Let’s just say catching up on a quarter of a thousand emails while my brain is trying to melt out of my head is really not a vibe I was going for. Thank goodness for working from home, I guess. Our office has very little by way of a circulating air system and facing this heat in proper pants in front of my sunny window sounds like the last thing I want to do.
So, whatever happens today and tomorrow, just have to remember that for us it should all be mostly over by Wednesday (though the interior regions of our Province will likely not be so lucky), with the return of a far more seasonable heat, and maybe full brain function that would allow me to not only work properly, but to write as well.
Of course, what I also can’t help but remember is that while this particular heat wave will be over soon, the situation that is causing it will not go away as quickly or as easily, that this is a pattern of events taking grip across the planet – a grip that’s only getting tighter. Time to remember too, that there are ways out of it, with all the combined ingenuity of humankind, it doesn’t have to be the status quo, or worse. However, there are those out there who would sooner put “shareholder value” or “political donations” on a higher pedestal than human suffering.
Hopefully, and I apologize for ending so crassly, once they start suffering too, their priorities will shift.
I’d be the first to admit that I’m not the handiest guy around. This isn’t a point of pride, by any means; and I’m generally not a fan of having pride in one’s ignorance. The fact that you don’t cook, don’t read, or can’t change a tire isn’t a personality trait, so no need to hang any part of your identity on it. For me, it’s just a hole in my knowledge that developed without any effort. My dad wasn’t terribly handy either and I’ve been privileged to get by with other people being able to do this work. That said, I can hang a picture straight, and where the situation calls, can turn to Google if necessary.
The situation called loud and clear on Saturday night when the cold-water handle of the kitchen faucet popped right off as I was washing the dishes just before midnight.
Let’s just say containing a gushing geyser with my bare hands while my wife tries to keep the baby asleep in the other room isn’t my preferred way of spending a Saturday evening, but we don’t always get what we want.
Fortunately, she was able to step away and come to the rescue, grabbing a thick towel which allowed me to cover and contain the flow long enough to switch off the tap underneath the sink.
But now what? It was too late to call the handyperson and with the water flow contained, it was no longer an emergency. What I also had to keep in mind is that during the pandemic we’ve been pretty hunkered down, and not letting people into our house when we have the choice was a key part of our COVID mitigation strategy. So now we have to organize the plumber to come in just as we’re almost out of the worst of it (fingers crossed). Seemed like such a waste.
So I rolled up my sleeves and made a second attempt at getting to the bottom of this faucet handle – a faucet handle that was now at the bottom of my sink. I’d tried once before, when it first started leaking, but couldn’t get past the “remove the handle” stage. The instructions said either undo the screw or pop the handle off. I couldn’t find a screw and the handles wouldn’t pop off, so that dead-end made me feel less than clever, to put it mildly.
Having the handle now in my hand allowed for a closer look, and found a sneaky hex-socket screw (the typical IKEA Allen wrench screw) that got out with some serious wiggling. One of the two never got back in, but I’ll just focus on the victories for now.
Having the inner workings of the handle now available, the diagrams on the internet made that much more sense. Turns out, I had a busted o-ring in my cold-water handle, which didn’t create the right seal. Not only that, but the fact that my handle managed to pop off with the water pressure meant that the main screw that held it in place was also loose for a while. The “how” of “how it happened” though was far less important than the “how” of “how to fix it”.
I dismantled the hot water handle to compare the two and to switch o-rings and then put the faucets back exactly as they were, turned on the water pressure … and found both the hot water and the cold water were now flowing through into the faucet itself without me having to turn the handles.
Somehow I’ve managed to eff it up even worse.
What followed was a long trial and error process that uncovered that I had loose rubber seats that were supposed to stem the water flow from the pipe to the handle, which I then put back in. This solved the problem for all of a minute, returning the moment I turned the handle, which then led to discovering that the cold tap was missing a little spring that was supposed to hold the rubber seat in place. The spring from the cold water tap lay loose in the sink o the verge of falling down the drain.
After about three in the morning, everything was in place except for a broken o-ring now on the hot water handle, but otherwise the sink was perfectly usable until I could get my hands on the spare parts to take care of that last remaining leak.
The feeling of satisfaction I experienced though was quite surprising – this was something that had sadly been completely outside of my wheelhouse, but that I was able to puzzle through. For many, it probably seems like a simple task and they’d chuckle at the amount of grief it gave me. But for me, it was a new problem I managed to solve all thanks to one of the indisputable advantages of the internet – the accumulation of nearly all of human knowledge at my fingertips.
Hopefully trying to install that new o-ring won’t leave me botching the whole thing entirely, but I guess we’ll wait and see.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.