Monday, July 20, 2009

Eventful Weekend

This weekend was full of stuff to talk about. First, Walter Cronkite's death. We didn't watch CBS news, so I didn't see his coverage of even the major events I was alive for. I mostly recognized him from those "You are there!" films we saw in history class. But the way I knew him was as a teacher. After he retired from CBS, he was on the University of Texas faculty as an adjunct lecturer (or something like that). My guess is that they were playing off the fact that he went to journalism school there and it looked good to have him listed among the faculty. What that meant was that every so often he'd give a lecture or teach a short seminar, and I was fortunate enough that one of those times came while I was in journalism school. I was in a cross-disciplinary communications honors program that required a symposium class. We had guest lecturers, book discussions, and that sort of thing. And for a week, we had Walter Cronkite as our guest teacher. I honestly don't even remember what he talked about because my brain was stuck on "Wow! Walter Cronkite is teaching my class!" I do remember that I argued a point with him (because I am Hermione Granger), but I don't remember the details. He was exactly the way he was on TV. I have his autograph on the cover of the reading packet for his class, since I ended up in the elevator with him after class.

Then we had some real excitement in my little corner of the neighborhood on Saturday morning. I came down the stairs from my office, and since my stairs end right behind my front door, I heard a noise from outside. I opened the door, and there was a beeping sound coming from the house in front of me. I don't live directly on a street. My house opens onto a kind of yard/courtyard, so that there's a short grassy area, then a sidewalk, and then the house in front of me is just on the other side of that sidewalk, so it's really close. It was the smoke detector in that house going off, and there was smoke visible through the windows. There was also a smell of smoke and a little smoke escaping. The person who lives in the townhouse adjoining that house came by and said she'd called the fire department because there was no answer when she knocked on the door and rang the bell, and the smoke was starting to come into her house. More of the neighbors in our little area gathered to see what was going on and to discuss how we didn't really know the guy who lives in the smoky house, since he's never home (I'm not entirely sure he actually "lives" there).

Very soon, we heard the sirens coming, and since all of us other than the guy from the smoky house are single women, we discussed briefly whether we should run do something with our hair and put on makeup before the firemen got there, but I said that while our firemen are very good at their jobs, they're not exactly calendar material. Then the fire trucks arrived and the firemen looked in all the windows, banged on the door, rang the bell -- and then they kicked the front door in! It wasn't at all like on TV cop shows, where one swift kick sends the door flying. It took this guy about six good kicks, which the neighbors all found reassuring, as it's not that easy to break into our houses. When the door did open, clouds of dark smoke came billowing outside, and it smelled awful. All the firemen rushed into the house. A few minutes later, one of the firemen came outside, still wearing his full gear, carrying a Dutch oven cooking pot.

Apparently, a pot of beans had been left on the stove, had boiled dry, and was scorching, creating all the smoke. The fireman said he was pretty sure that's what was causing the smoke because he'd seen the pot when he looked in the window, but they'd forced entry because they needed to be sure that no one had been asleep inside and then passed out from smoke inhalation (since people generally don't leave the house with stuff cooking on the stove). They then opened all the windows and set up fans inside to blow the smoke out. Then the police showed up because the firemen kicking the door in made the burglar alarm go off, and the police officer was deemed to be kind of cute by the neighbors gathered to watch the show. During all this time, the guy who lives in the house still didn't come home, which really makes you wonder if he realized he left the stove on. It wasn't just a quick dash somewhere. He must have come home eventually because the blinds the firemen opened were shut later in the day.

I think that was more socializing than I've done with my neighbors in the whole time I've lived here. It was practically a block party. I probably should have made a pitcher of iced tea. We were even talking about how maybe we should have a party so we could get to know each other without the fire department being involved, and so we'd know who to call or what to do if something else like this happened.

And then on Sunday I managed to twist my ankle while sitting down. I'd thought it was an achievement that I messed up a knee badly enough to require surgery while just walking (though the surgeon said it was an accumulation of old injuries and structural problems that made that knee a time bomb that was bound to go off at some time), but I think that injuring an ankle while sitting is possibly even crazier. I was looking for something in a lower cabinet and sitting cross-legged (what we called in less politically correct times "Indian style"). I leaned to get something, and I guess that put weight on the ankle in a bad position because I felt a pop, and then another pop as it went back into place. It hurt when it happened, but it hasn't been that painful since then. It's not swollen or sore to the touch. It just feels different, like I'm intensely aware that I have an ankle, when normally I don't put much thought into my ankles. It's a good thing I don't have ballet this week. I'm trying to stay off it and not put it into any more odd angles. But, yeah, I can hurt myself even sitting down.

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