The story of Why I Moved continues…
The water company is still at it. I’m up on the second floor, so I have a really good view of the spectacle from here. As before, they’ve blocked off one of the major intersections and they’re turning perfectly good asphalt into rubble as fast as they can to get at the rottenOne assumes. water pipes underneath. They’ll tear up the whole street, blocking off traffic and making noise and confusion for days. A one-way-street passes right in front of the elementary school, then in front of our house, and then into the waiting arms of the water company’s obstructionist demolition team. This – coupled with the triangular street pattern in this corner of town – creates a really bad case of “you can’t get there from here”. Especially when the school buses show up. It's madness.
I go downstairs to check the mail. I have to walk down the precarious wooden steps and all the way around the house to do this, which makes up 90% of the exercise I’ll get today. If the postal service ever went on strike I’d probably gain 50 pounds.
I’m thumbing through the junk mail and the stuff that’s STILL showing up for the previous resident when I glance up and see a cat looking at me out of Fred’s window. Nice kitty. I’m about to head back home again when I stop in my tracks. Hang on. Did I just see a cat inside the house? I look back. Yup. It's perched on the window still, staring right at me. I wonder how long it’s been living here. Fred's girlfriend – who we'll call Wilma – moved in recently, and I’ll bet the cat came with her.
Hm. Fred is an in-law of the landlady. Does the strict “NO PETS” rule apply to him? Did she even bother telling him about my condition? Does she even remember herself? I've never shared a building with a pet like this. How much animal dander can travel from Fred's apartment to ours?
I guess we’ll find out.
I sigh as I step into the piddly little stream of water in the shower. I guess the water company has turned down the pressure? I lean my head against the wall and think, which to me is the real reason to shower. The hygiene stuff is just a bonus side-effect.
The odd thing is that I don’t remember the specific point when the water pressure dropped. It used to be really good, and now it’s a pathetic dribble. It seems like a sudden change like that would have caught my attention. Have they been gradually reducing the water pressure? Why would they do that?
And hang on: Now that I think of it, the bathroom sink seems to work as well as it always has. It’s just the shower and the kitchen sink that seem to drool more than spray.
I get dressed and find some tools. I feel all manly, using a wrench like this. I half expect to suddenly grow a voluminous lumberjack beard during the attempt. I manage to figure it all out and I pull the shower head free. Sadly, no beard is forthcoming.
I turn the shower-head over in my hands, pouring water down my front like an idiot. Damnit. Stupid newbie stuff like this is why I’ll never have a lumberjack beard. But mixed in with the water are these little white granules, about the size of BB’s. I’ve been seeing this white stuff floating around in our water for a while now. The stuff I saw wasn’t this coarse, but was the size of sand or dust motes. I assumed they were “calcium deposits”, because I had no idea what else what they could be. Now that I’ve got a chunk large enough to hold, I have to say it doesn’t feel like a mineral deposit. It feels like PVC.
Our water pressure wasn’t reduced. Our water fixtures have been gradually getting clogged with bits of pulverized plastic. The bathroom sink didn’t get stopped up because it’s a really old no-nonsense faucet without any filter on it, so there was nowhere for the material to accumulate.
How long have we been drinking this crap? Is everyone in the neighborhood drinking it?
I breathe out, clearing my lungs. Then I suck in as I squeeze down on the inhaler. The squeezing depresses the stem of the pressurized canister, which aerosols a measured dose of Albuterol into my mouth. I keep breathing in until my lungs are full, and then hold it. This is a motion that I’ve been performing since I was nine. I’ve been doing it for over three decades, but I still don’t feel like I’m doing it right. If you breathe too late, you just spray the medicine all over the inside of your mouth, which is gross and unhelpful. If you breathe too early, then your lungs will already be half-full when the medication gets there and it won’t get down into the deep areas where it’s most needed.
I frown at the inhaler. It felt a little flat. Am I running out already? This thing is less than a month old! How often am I taking it? I have no idea. It’s like asking someone how often they stretch or yawn. It’s a completely reflexive action. I do it when I need to. The fact that I’m going flat after a month means I’m huffing on this thing like crazy. I haven’t taken it this fast in years.
It’s the cat. And the smoking. Downstairs, Wilma has been smoking. Even with my addled sense of smell I can tell as soon as she fires up.
I have no idea what to do about it. I mean, sure, I could go to the landlady and complain. There are many, many possible outcomes of that course of action. I’m sure that, “Neighbors get rid of the pets and everyone quits smoking” is probably the least likely. I could piss them off and cause a bunch of drama and strife, but that’s not going to fix the problem. The frustrating thing is that there's no way to make them understand. They'll just assume I'm whining because I hate the smell or whatever.
That's the thing about my health problems: They're weird. People don't get it. If I was in a wheelchair or missing an arm, people could wrap their heads around my needs. We know what a proper handicap-accessible building looks like. But my health problems are exotic, counter-intuitive, and at first glance they come off like harmless allergies. Some people think my problem is horseshit. Or psychosomatic. Or they think I've got simple allergies and I'm just a big baby about them. Or they think I'll be fine as long as I don't have line-of-sight to the animal in question. Or that the problem can be solved by having really “clean” pets and vacuuming a lot. Even if you find someone willing to sit still for the whole explanation, it's hard to get them to mentally connect the idea of owning a cute little animal with blue-lipped suffocation.
I want to make it clear that I'm not saying I've got it worse than someone in a wheelchair. That would be silly. I'm just saying there's something vaguely embarrassing about having a condition that nobody understands and is caused by tiny adorable pets. It short-circuits people's ability to reason and understand. I suppose the preponderance of movie kids with plot-driven asthma hasn't helped.
The water company is still at it. They block all traffic, dig up part of the street, replace some pipes, pave over their handiwork, then the next day they move four paces up the street and repeat the process. At this rate I suppose they’ll be done by the year 2100 or so. I don’t know. Maybe this whole water pipe business is a cover and they’re actually looking for mithril.
 One assumes.
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