Hildegarde

Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

January

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Okay, still mostly at the beginning of it.  I’ve been having a very strange week.

My life tends to be very scheduled and repetitive.  It’s either that, or watching everything fall into chaos in no time flat.

I wake up at 4:35 in the morning (long story), make a 60 ounce cup of tea with two tea bags steeped twenty minutes, and–while it’s steeping next to me–sit down at the computer and Write For Serious.

Once that’s done, I write this blog and/or write emails and–that kind of thing.

I do, of course, have times where I relax a little–every Sunday I turn off the alarm and get up to read and listen to music.  I do the same on Christmas Day and my birthday.

Even on those days, however, I do the Writing for Serious, because if I don’t do the Writing for Serious, I feel as if something has gone wrong with my head.

About a week ago, something annoying happened. 

I don’t use an alarm clock to wake up.  I use the alarm function on my cell phone.

My cell phone is one of these Samsung slider things that is probably at least five years old.  For years now, AT%T has been trying to get me to “upgrade,” but all the models they’ve shown me have had touch screens instead of keyboards and all kinds of “smart” functions that I not only don’t need, but actively don’t want.

It has gotten to the point where it is almost impossible to find a charger for this thing, but I love it, and I’ve been holding onto it for dear life.

Well, I suppose the bottom line is that all good things must come to an end. 

A few days ago, the phone began to refuse to do things–it won’t let me onto the menu, for instance, or to instant messaging.  It will let me onto my address book, and it will dial out, but that’s about it.

And that has meant that I have not been able to use the phone as an alarm clock.

Now, it’s break at my place, and will be until January 25. 

I don’t have to be up to get anywhere on time until then, and I saw no reason to go running off to get another phone or to find another alarm clock.

I’ve kept to the same schedule for many years.  In my experience, even when I don’t have an alarm clock, I wake up pretty much on time anyway.

But here’s the thing.

I haven’t been.

For the past several days, I have been waking  up–quite naturally, and feeling really good–at 7:30 instead of 7:35.

I have wandered downstairs in order to do what I always do.

I  have managed the tea, and sometimes I have put on the Bach, but I’ve been accomplishing nearly nothing.

In the meantime, of course, Actual Work has wandered across my doorstep and deposited itself on the dining room table.  It sits there demanding to be done. 

It’s been extremely odd.

Well, today, even though I got up late, I made myself do the Actual Work, and I worked on some new writing. 

I will get back into schedule soon enough.  And I’ll find a phone that doesn’t completely annoy me. 

In the meantime, however, I’m feeling a little unbalanced.

I have therefore decided, in what I think may be a desperate attempt to  return order to my life and block out the memory of just  how good it feels to sleep until 7:30, to keep a log of all the books I read this year.

I know, I know.

It’s kind of dweeby and unnecessary and the sort of thing you do when you’re twelve, but there it is.

I’d say I’ll comment on each one, but I can’t pretend that’s part of the project.  I always comment on what I’m reading anyway.

So far this year, I’ve read:

1) George Steiner.  The Poetry of Thought: From Hellenism to Celan.

and

2) dDorothy L. Sayers.  Five Red Herrings.

The Steiner you’ve already heard about.

As to the Sayers–I first read it when I was first living in New  York thirty years ago.  I didn’t remember it when I picked it up to read again, which is part of the reason I picked it up to read this week.

It’s a Lord Peter Wimsey without Harriet Vane, and possibly before Harriet Vane.

And what it actually is is a study in detection–detection is pretty much all there is.

The characterization is light, at best, and always at one remove.  We are told about characters rather than seeing them whole, and all the action consists of various people–Wimsey,  a police constable, a police inspector, etc–trying to detect the solution.

It’s interesting enough, but it’s not what I read novels for, even if the novels are detective stories.

I think we had a discussion here a while back about the relative standing, as writers, of Sayers and Christie.

I’ll stick with my original judgment that Christie was always a better writer than Sayers.  Sayers had one or two really spectacular successes–Gaudy Night especially–but the average quality of her work starts off weak and only gets to Christie’s level by a long and rather laborious process.

It took Sayers a while to learn to write  novels.  Christie wrote novels from off.

To be clear, though–the book is very enjoyable, and I would recommend it, but I would recommend it for what it is:  detective fiction defined very narrowly.

I have a next up, and I’ll get to it eventually.

First, though, I have a question:

Let’s say you were in a large store.  A woman is there with her four year old daughter.  The woman is pushing a shopping cart that has been overloaded–by a store employee, not the mother–with an enormous box containing the part of a wooden desk.

The box weighs a hundred pounds. 

As the mother and daughter stop at a shelf, the little girl goes around to the front of the cart to look at some things and the box suddenly falls on her, slamming her to the ground.

What would you do?

What do you think the store employees, the store managers, and the other customers did?

Having actually gotten some work done today, and this blog written, I’m going to go off and see what needs done next.

Written by janeh

January 8th, 2013 at 10:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses to 'January'

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  1. What would I do?

    1. Get the box off, asking others for help heaving if necessary.
    2. Sit the mother on the floor next to kid, to keep kid still and in place, unless she’s hysterical, in which case I’d do it myself.
    3. Call 911
    4. Render what first aid I could on the spot until EMS arrives

    But I’m guessing from your question this is not what happened. Bystanders took cell phone pics but didn’t help. Managers tried to blame the mother or kid, employees did little or nothing.

    Of course I’ve always been a cool head in a crisis. I fall apart and shake later.

    Lymaree

    8 Jan 13 at 1:05 pm

  2. The Blog has eaten my first response.
    I’d agree about Five Red Herrings–a good, workable fair-play timetable mystery, but there are no people in it.
    I’m not sure I agree about Christie and Sayers. Christie worked pretty much on a level. If her first mystery wasn’t her best, it wasn’t hugely worse. Many Sayers mysteries are worse than the Christie average, though I do find Lord Peter better company than M. Poirot, or even Miss Marple. But Sayers got better, and I regard Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honeymoon as about as good as a mystery novel can be, with theme, plot, mystery and setting all blended to good effect. I think it’s telling that Sayers then went on to do other things. She’d mastered the mystery, while Christie went on turning out “a Christie for Christmas” for decades–very good mystery novels, some of them, but lacking a few points of great. Twice, Sayers was great.

    The big store. I’d expect the customers to get the box off the kid, and the help to be paralyzed by fear of lawsuits, but the framing of the question suggests a surprise ending.

    robert_piepenbrink

    8 Jan 13 at 2:09 pm

  3. I have all the Sayer’s novels but only a few of the Christie ones. I’ll go along with Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honeymoon but my real favorite Is Murder Must Advertise.

    Re the big store. In Australia, I would expect both the customers and staff to help. From what I’ve read about the US, I’d expect everyone to call a lawyer!

    jd

    8 Jan 13 at 7:42 pm

  4. I love both Sayers and Christie. Gaudy Night and Murder Must Advertise are my favourites.

    Speaking of books read in 2012, I’ve already read quite a few but the outstanding book that I just couldn’t put down is “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate” by Greg Lukianoff which, if even no more than half true, is simply terrifying. It would be interesting to hear whether Jane or CathyF (or anybody else with recent experience in American colleges) has seen anything like the sort of behaviour of college administrators detailed by Lukianoff in his book and/or at his parent organisation at http://www.thefire.org.

    As for the store situation, there are a couple of points that I would think would apply to many if not most Australian stores:

    1.

    Mique

    8 Jan 13 at 8:54 pm

  5. I love both Sayers and Christie. Gaudy Night and Murder Must Advertise are my favourites.

    Speaking of books read in 2012, I’ve already read quite a few but the outstanding book that I just couldn’t put down is “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate” by Greg Lukianoff which, if even no more than half true, is simply terrifying. It would be interesting to hear whether Jane or CathyF (or anybody else with recent experience in American colleges) has seen anything like the sort of behaviour by, or at the directions of, (mainly) college administrators detailed by Lukianoff in his book and/or at his parent organisation at http://www.thefire.org.

    As for the store situation, there are a couple of points that I would think would apply to many if not most Australian stores:

    1. I doubt is any staff member could be found or, in the unlikely event that one could be found, he/she would be willing to help a customer locate, let alone lift, a 100lb box. (Honourable exceptions exist, eg Costco and one or two others.)

    2. I hope I would do what Lymaree suggested, because I doubt if the staff would notice.

    As to what actually happened, surprise me.

    Mique

    8 Jan 13 at 9:06 pm

  6. Mike, after I answered Jane’s question, I saw Kat Tromp’s post on FB, it was apparently to her niece to whom the incident happened.

    Crappy response from the store staff, if you ask me. Ripe for lawsuits. I’m not normally litigious, accidents happen and sometimes no one’s to blame, but this time, especially as they did NOTHING to mitigate the problem, including helping to get the box off the child, I’d say sue their asses into oblivion.

    Lymaree

    8 Jan 13 at 9:35 pm

  7. Particularly reflecting on Lymaree’s comments.

    Under English common law, which is the underpinning of the modern law of most English speaking nations everywhere, there is NO duty to come to the aid of another. NO matter how little risk it involves, no matter how little effort it would involve.

    But.

    Once you start the effort, you are obliged to follow through to completion. You may not abaondon your effort half way through because you’ve re-evaluated your original estimate of the risk and decided the risk to yourself is too great. Say for example, pulling an injured person out of a busy street and the cars coming around a curve simply don’t have adequate time to react so they’re coming way too close as you’re trying to help and you decide you’d rather not die yourself. Too bad, you started to pull the person out, now you’re obliged to finish — or be held liable for the injured person’s death if they get killed.

    Similarly, if you go to the aid of the child with the box fallen on her, if in moving the box – with the best of intentions – you cause further injury.

    Now you can be held liable for the injury. If the court decides your moving the box is what caused the final severance of the spine (which did not occur in this case anyway, but to make a point) you could be liable for all the rehabilitation and ongoing medical support and treatment for the injured for the rest of her, and thus your, life.

    And the insurance company that’s acting as first payer will come after you (the legal term is, IIRC, subrogation) even if neither the victim or her parent do so personally.

    Of course, none of this would matter if we had a national single payer system so medical bills were irrelevant.

    But we don’t, so they are, and the law is what it is.

    And that’s without mentioning the bystander effect.

    But in English common law countries, the fact is that bystanders have — added to any bystander effect — rather good reasons of personal financial survival to not get involved.

    How much liability the store would have had even in the case of a serious injury is a whole other subject.

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