Friday, February 25, 2005

It's Raining, It's (Not) Pouring

Finally, the end of the drought is in sight.

For the last several weeks, the dry season has been taken to extremes. It's been so bad that the brush fire danger has been rising to frightening levels. I love the sunshine, but at some point the rain does need to fall. The other day, we did get an evening shower, but it wasn't much of a match for pervasive dryness.

On Friday morning, I woke up to cloudy, gray skies and knew that the rain had come at last. Sure enough, it pattered down steadily for most of the day. It wasn't one of those monsoons that drenches Florida during the rainy season, and there was no thunder or lightning, but at least it was enough to bring the fire risk back down to reasonable levels.

I was stuck at home working, but it probably would have been a prime day to go to the theme parks. Epcot and Disney MGM have a number of indoor attractions, as does Universal Studio for those in Celebration who care to drive a little farther. When the rain chases the crowds away, the waits are pretty much non-existent for brave souls who are willing to don a plastic poncho and potentially get damp. I'm willing to risk a little wetness in exchange for an absence of lines. But alas, I had to work on my regular job; then, later in the day, calls for my travel agency came in steadily, so that kept me occupied well into the evening.

Since I live in a Craftsman-style triplex, rainy days are always a special challenge when I want to use my back door. Due to the oddly illogical design of the back awning, it turns into my own personal version of Niagara Falls whenever we get anything heavier than a drizzle. I am not exaggerating, as the mildew on my back door and doormat would attest, and the green creeping crud is trying to take over the porch and the sidewalk too. Ever see Stephen King's "Creepshow," with that weird green gunk consuming the people? That's what I think I'll be facing someday. I fight it with bleach and Simple Green, but once the rainy season comes, it quickly turns into a losing battle.

Several months back, I wondered how other owners of similar houses dealt with the issue. Once day I went over to Roseville Corner, which has lots of duplicates of my home. Surprise, surprises...every one of them is equipped with gutters, not only on the houses, but also on the garages. They were present on the model that we used as the basis to select our home, too. They were apparently a standard item that somehow was "forgotten" when our place was built. I am currently going around in circles with our builder, Cambridge, on this issue, and the green gunk may win out and consume me before it ever gets resolved.

Actually, Cambridge was very good about handling the miscellaneous punch list items that came up early in our occupancy, while they were still working in Celebration. But now that builder is done here in town, and suddenly their customer service level has plummeted. Besides the gutters, we have two simple items that they need to handle (a cracked floor tile and a non-functioning outlet). They took forever to send someone out to look at the problems, and now they are trying to say that they will not be covered because our warranty has expired. Duh! I reported the items before the expiration, and then they dragged their feet about sending someone. At the time, I forgave them due to the hurricanes; little did I know they would try to turn it around on me.

They also had the nerve to say that the outlet simply needs to be reset. Believe me, I know how to do that, and I know that it is not the problem. The top part of the outlet works fine, while the bottom has some sort of physical obstruction in it on one side. I can tell that it's going to be an ongoing took several months just to get them to try to deny responsibility. They ignored my bi-weekly phone calls and finally sent a letter. I responded in writing and they're ignoring that, so I guess it's time for the calls to start up again. Ah, the joys of owning a new home!

It looks like me might finally get our last furniture issue resolved soon, too. Last summer we purchased a special-order entertainment center. We bought it from a picture, but in a stroke of supreme good fortune, it matched the wood tone of our other furniture almost exactly. But in their hurry to get out of our house before we discovered that the glass shelves were jammed immoveably into once of the cabinets, the deliverymen did not fasten the bridge correctly. Shortly thereafter, it came crashing down on the t.v. It only damaged the casing, but I was not a happy camper. A repairman came to remove the shelves (which entailed dismantling the cabinet) and said that a new bridge would be ordered, since the old one had been damaged in the fall. Months went by; each time I called, I was promised a non-existent return call.

Now that I am in Celebration full time, I can concentrate on getting loose ends tied up. I spoke with the store manager and discovered that the bridge was never ordered. Worse yet, our unit was discontinued a month ago! She offered an exchange for something different, but I've grown very fond of the entertainment center, so I'm hoping that it can be salvaged. A repairman came out this past week to see if he can rig something up. He took the bridge back to the shop with him, so I have my fingers crossed. It took some looking to find a unit that we liked, so hopefully he can hide the damage and reattach it in a more secure manner. Our new television set is coming next week, so I don't want anything crashing down on that!

But back to the rainy Friday...the only thing that I really missed was my semi-daily walk downtown. I could have gone in between the showers and carried an umbrella, but I didn't bother. Instead, I ended up driving to Herman's for an ice cream treat on my way out to do some business. Even with the threatening weather, the downtown area was hopping with Friday night crowds. The movie theater and restaurants were all doing a booming business, and I had to park a couple blocks away. Oh well, at least that gave me an abbreviated version of my usual hike. There was no bubble gum ice cream, but I didn't care because they still have that godly Mississippi Mud. Peanut clusters are delicious any time, but put them into chocolate ice cream and the Yummy Factor shoots up by 75 percent.

As I drove down 192, the sky was still spitting, but it never really got very steady. I guess it rained itself out during the daylight hours. I'm sure that all of the tourists have their fingers crossed that it will blow over and be gone for the weekend, when the crowds descend upon Disney World and the other area attractions.

That night, the heavens had pretty much rained themselves out. I had to pick my husband up on the airport around 11 p.m., and my windshield remained dry throughout the drive. Saturday, the sky was still murky, but the threat of more precipitation never turned into reality. Still, the clouds were enough to scare my husband away from taking a bike ride. Instead, we spend the day running errands...getting some spare keys made, picking up some items at the Florida Mall, checking some things out at the cell phone store, and the like.

I hate going to the mall because the traffic on Orange Blossom Trail rivals anything that I ever encountered in downtown Chicago. You can take 417 to the airport exit and slip in the back way (Boggy Creek to Sand Lake Road), but sometimes that is just as bad. Thankfully, today the car volume was relatively light. We worked our way down the road: first, Ace Hardware for the keys and some Simple Green to battle the creeping gunk, then the T-Mobile store and a quick stop at the Borders bookstore next door to stock up on the latest true crime paperbacks (I love them, especially Anne Rule, and I've gotten my husband addicted, too), then Bath & Body Works inside the mall for some scented plug-ins, and a grand finale of a mushroom pizza with goat cheese at California Pizza Kitchen.

CPK is across from Buca di Beppo, an Italian restaurant that I know well from the Chicago area. It's a great place to go with a group of people because the huge portions make sharing a necessity. They also have a cheap but wonderful house wine that I could drink all night. On the way out, we stopped by to see if they have a table in the kitchen like some of the Bucas in Chicago do. Sure enough, they did; you have to reserve it in advance, but it's a great spot, as you get to watch all of the dishes being prepared and carried out into the dining room. Visiting the Florida Mall Buca is definitely on our to-do list.

So that was my rainy Friday and my almost-rainy Sturday. Hopefully the sunshine will return on Sunday so I can slip in some outdoor activities before the work week starts up again.

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