snow days in balmor

well, my apartment roof is leaking (again).

it snowed seriously last in baltimore about two years ago, and i have some fond memories of taking some long treks through wyman park, treading new paths through the drifts in my ruptured doc martens. i was listening to the wheel of time audiobooks back then and could walk aimlessly for hours. those recordings, by reading and kramer, have an incredibly imbalanced voice acting to writing quality ratio, which almost makes up for the belabored 14 book storyline. i tapped out a third of the way through book 11, and without another compelling audiobook series, have found myself taking shorter and shorter walks since.

now, the snow has returned, and i regret that on this first snow day of 2024, ive managed to have a miserable time. i haven’t done the right thing: bundled up, strapped on my headphones, laced up the boots, and walked for a few hours in the snow. this week (more like the past two months) have been overshadowed by my discovery of my apartment’s roof leak and mitigation attempts, which have culminated in a plan to move apartments soon-ish.

in addition to stressing out about the logistics of the move, the new lease, and how strongly ive been procrastinating packing, i spent yesterday (sunday) stressing about a research meeting i had scheduled and was set to host this past (monday) morning. i woke up early this morning, having set far too many alarms, because i am constantly worried that my insomnia will make me late to important events. i was so stressed i might sleep through this meeting that i disappointed myself in bringing my work laptop home over the weekend, so that i could hop out of bed, open the laptop, and hop straight into my presentation if i slept in. i had managed to maintain a park’s distance between my bed and my work laptop throughout the holiday, and i can only hope now, for my mental wellbeing, that this is a cat i can cajole back into the bag.

the rain and snow storm have made my internet connection at home slow and stuttery this week, so having successfully risen, caffinated, and eaten in time, after checking in on emails i decided to extricate my work laptop from my soggy home, stroll through the snow, and host the meeting from my office. with 45 minutes until meeting start, what could go wrong?

i slipped into my winter boots, which, unlike my fractured martens, are decidedly too big for my 10.5 dogs. i trudged uncomfortably along the beaten path, blazing no trails through fresh snow, worried all the while that when the melt arrives eventually, my apartment roof would begin leaking in my absence, possibly condemning my hapless cat and priceless few possessions to disaster. i listened to a podcast to distract myself.

reaching the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy (remember when that guy tried running for president?), i made my fatal mistake. since the last time i tried entering the building during a holiday my id card had not unlocked the automated door, i walked to a side door with a sticky, but manual keyhole, and inserted my building key. turning the key, the lock clicked, the door opened. great success. i turned the key back in order to remove it from the lock, and it wouldn’t budge.

and so key remained fixed in the lock and the door was opened and the world was so cold and the key was stuck and i had 15 minutes ’til my meeting, so i was fine, right? i just had to get the key unstuck, so i could use the same key to open the door to the wing of the building that housed my office, so that i could enter my office and from my office, host this meeting.

i called the building manager, then security, with 10 minutes to go. which became 5 minutes. i unhooked the stuck key from my keyring, found a corner of the hallway, and sat down to host my meeting, defeated. i am receiving notifications that colleagues are joining my virtual meeting when security arrives. i explained that i really need to host this meeting, but that the key in question is stuck in the far door. the security guard graciously offers to check it out on my behalf.

i begin the meeting and joke about my situation, both roof leak and key stuck. should i have done this? i do not know. i often make the mistake of responding honestly, “not well, X is going wrong and Y is very difficult” when asked “how are you?” i have difficulty gauging the acceptable level of honesty expected of a professional environment. who knows if i made my colleagues feel uncomfortable by describing my leaking roof and stuck key while they filed into the zoom meeting?

the meeting goes okay, but i make the mistake of attempting to coordinate introductions amid the participants. i expected to do this when the participants list included people from three different teams, but because of the american holiday and other extenuating circumstances, really only one of the three teams was in attendance, and so most everyone knew each other already. while this was playing out, the security guard returned to inform me that my key was frozen in the lock, and i should try holding a lighter to the bold to losen it. he leaves. the rest of the meeting went okay except for the part where i was hosting it, and so i was talking for most of it.

meeting ends, and i get a call back from the building manager, who gives me the locksmithing equivalent of “did you try turning it off and on again?” so i close the work laptop, get up from my hallway corner, and walk back towards my boulder. near the stuck door, i run into another phd candidate, and we chat for a moment before i realize he has also gotten his key stuck in the door directly adjacent to mine, and has called security himself to try and get his unstuck.

another security guard arrives, this time equipped with a multitool. he chides us for not using our id cards at the remote door while he applies what appears to me to be excessive force on a key stuck in a crap lock. he is, however, the expert, and instead of snapping off, both our keys are rescued by his gerber pliers.

i manage to make it up to my office, where i work for a while before leaving my laptop and trudging home in the snow. i began packing this afternoon, a futile attempt, because ive filled four boxes of books and only halved the first of my three sets of shelves, but it’s a start.

since the leak begun, ive felt a block settle over me, a mental miasma similar to the mold im sure has settled in my crawlspace. perhaps the two are related. i haven’t been able to make much progress with fiction writing, and i can’t find much energy for things id like to do. i just feel the dread, of the upcoming move, of the leak, of continuing to work and work, but not feeling useful to the world. i wish often i was out there, helping make things better. but im not even sure where out there is.

we took a picture of a planet in another solar system yesterday, and after the light had traveled for 90 years, been caught in a net of mercury, cadmium, and telluride, transformed into a voltage, then a few gigabytes of data, and sent a billion meters from the biggest space telescope ever made to my computer here on earth, i felt disappointed. partly, because i wish i had saved clicking those buttons for tomorrow, and had enjoyed the start of the snow instead.

until next time, clear skies.






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