Sunday, March 9, 2014
On The Edge
By J.P. Devine
I’m warm now. I finally got smart, and here I am cozy and warm. I’m parked in front of a Starbucks coffee shop, in the sunlight, with the heater running. It’s heaven. This is the warmest I’ve been in weeks. It’s been an horrendous winter, and I’m only just now beginning to feel my fingers.
I actually stole the idea for this from a story in a magazine.
I read that the great American short story writer, John Cheever, when he lived in Manhattan, would have breakfast with his wife and kids, get all dressed up, kiss them all goodbye, and take the elevator down to the basement, where there was a maid’s room.
There, he would hang up his jacket, take off his pants and sit and write in his undershorts until lunch time. Isn’t that wonderful?
Nobody knows why he did it. Writers are all crazy, but I’m betting it was because his wife kept the apartment cold to save money.
She, who makes an art — no, a science — out of saving money, is being driven mad by the price of oil. It’s all she talks about. At the dinner table, or out on a ride, I will tell her that I can’t feel my feet anymore. She replies with “You’ll be fine.” I hate that remark.
This winter, she has set a strict rule: The furnace must be kept at 60 degrees until 3:30 p.m. That is when she comes home from school. Until then, the freezer is warmer.
That means that when I’m sitting here writing, I am dependent on the myriad electric heaters to keep my blood flowing. Jack the dog has now taken to wrapping himself around my feet to keep himself warm, and Ms. Kramer the bird has stopped moving.
It’s been this way since we discovered that the war in Iraq really didn’t provide us with the cheap oil the Cheney administration promised us. I think she counted on that.
Now, despite the fact that we’re told the U.S. has more oil than ever, the price keeps going up. She insists that I go on Facebook and ask President Barack Obama to open up the Keystone pipeline to provide more oil.
I explained that Obama must first “friend” me before I can contact him.
She reminded me that I tried to friend him to ask for more support for gay marriage. I reminded her that he didn’t “accept” my “friend” request and hasn’t gotten back to me. I said I would try again. Anything to quiet her down and get her to let me ramp the heat up, if only for a few moments at breakfast, so I don’t have to eat my Cheerios in my father’s old navy overcoat.
She replied with her usual “We’ll see.” I hate that phrase, too.
This all ended when I acquired my new MacBook Pro laptop, which freed me from the frozen office and the desktop monster.
It suddenly occurred to me that I could be writing in a warmer place. As Miami is out of the question, I checked other options.
I noticed that a warm Starbucks is universally known for its hospitality to local students to come in, have a coffee and plug in to the Internet. I tried that.
I’m sorry to say that is basically unworkable. The Starbucks shops all over America are programmed to play the same music in every shop, and at very high levels. It doesn’t seem to bother the college kids who apparently can write their term papers and keep up with their tweets while tapping their feet and rocking their hips to Florence and the Machine. It doesn’t work for me. I need quiet.
So here I am in the dead of winter with a warm late March pouring through my car windows and the heater full on. (I sent a text to my Toyota dealer to ask whether carbon monoxide is a problem while running only on battery.) I’ve also discovered that if I keep my fingers pressed to the glass, the blood circulates nicely. I will, however, keep my pants on.
J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.