Cambrian: Slice of Life

A tale of Gumby, Roadrunner and a pesky power outage

I’ve had it! Cambria’s recent “out-of-the-blue, sunny-day, wind’s-not-blowing” power outage convinced me I absolutely must unscramble my office. After the lights went out April 13, I was on my hands and knees again, wriggling between the side of my desk, its pull-out computer tray, the desk chair, the legs of a three-tiered work table (which sits perpendicular to the desk) and various file boxes stored below the table. 

Just call me Gumby.

Why was I there? I was stretching past the farthest set of work-table legs toward the wall so I could reach the back of a small space under an antique nightstand, which holds my computer tower and a work light. The nightstand is wedged in among the desk, work table, a legal-sized wooden file cabinet and the wall. (Sheesh! It’s dusty back here!) 

It’s an extremely tight spot for my shoulders, head and arms, let alone the rest of me. Even a gymnast Gumby would have a hard time getting in there. Problem is, I’m not Gumby, who’s pretty skinny, in case you forgot. 

Snug doesn’t begin to describe this. There’s barely enough space to breathe, and the results could be disastrous if I sneeze.

No choice, though. I had to squeeze in there somehow to press a button that turns off the power-backup unit that keeps electricity streaming into my computer and other electronics until I can shut them down properly. 

If I don’t press the magic button, a loud, Roadrunner-like “meep! … meep! … meep!” echoes loudly through the house until PG&E gets the electricity back on or the battery-powered backup unit chirps itself into a nervous breakdown. 

No, Roadrunner Meep Meep must be silenced.

The device is under the nightstand, the only place where the unit fits and where requisite cords from the computer and other devices can reach it.

Yes, getting into that Gumby position is terminally awkward, especially with grouchy knees that don’t like kneeling on cold, porcelain tile. 

Backing out of that spot, however, would provide fodder for “America’s Funniest Videos.” Except I’d strangle anybody who came near me with a camera (“Are you listening, husband Richard?”).

One tight fit

I’ve gone through those Cirque du Soleil moves during every power outage for six years, ever since we moved into this house and stuffed all my office essentials into an 

8-by-16-foot room that’s about the size and shape of a horse-barn stall. 

Tight fit? My mini-office also holds two tall 4-by-8-foot cherry-wood bookcases, a two-drawer wooden file cabinet, a set of wicker file drawers, a shorter bookcase and four wooden TV trays that hold, respectively, my briefcase, my laptop and netbook computers, and papers related to whatever it is I’m currently writing or researching … because my primary desk is narrow and full of other stuff. Always.

I don’t even want to talk about those boxes under the work table or an ever-expanding collection of papers that I keep shuffling around from spot to spot until I find enough time to put them away. (Yeah, right. Like I really enjoy filing.)

But enough! Gumby’s on strike! I’m rebelling against Roadrunner, power outages and overstuffedness.

(Whimper.) I don’t know where to start. 

Gumby will prevail!

Should I finally finish the filing, so I can pack away all the old stuff in case I need it someday (have I ever looked at any papers in those transfer boxes? Nevermind.)?

Or should I take everything out of my office except the desk and computer, and start over? 

Mercy sakes, no! Those bookcases weigh a ton each, empty, which they’re not. It was tough enough getting them into this room when the room was empty. Getting them out with the desk still in place would be … painful.

As I sit here on my chair, surveying my tiny domain, any option sounds exhausting. 

But I can’t let Roadrunner and PG&E win again. Gumby will prevail! I hope. 

I stand up ramrod straight, square my shoulders, take a deep breath and proclaim in my best military tones, “Cover me, Husband Richard! I’m going in. If I’m not back by dark, send in the rescue squad (and a chiropractor with ibuprofen, please).”

Meanwhile, Roadrunner watches and waits, knowing the power will go out again, and then …