Banana Wars

I know you’ve been worried. But we may have finally solved the problem of the exploding banana trees. Those three out by the pool have been bursting their terra cotta pots regularly ever since I got them. I’ll be inside and hear this big “WHUMP!” as one side of the pot falls off and hits the deck. Can’t put the trees in the ground because there’s a huge cement footing coming out from the wall. I was worried that I’d have to build permanent cinderblock planters, which is more work than I feel like doing on this. Also, we’re scheduled to sandblast and replaster and repaint the wall behind them next month, so I’m a little pressed for time. I’ve been putting off a decision because I was dreading what that might be. I just knew, whatever it was, it would involve a crane.

Which reminded me of the guys who built my Syndecrete bathtub. Syndecrete is a material similar to concrete, but twice as strong and half as heavy. They can build just about anything out of it by making a custom mold. My bathtub is massive, and features custom Basset tracks across the top. It was indeed craned up over the wall from the street and in the window. Thirteen very happy construction guys in my bathroom playing with their biggest toy truck ever. I had a feeling they could come up with a solution to the banana tree problem. I also had an ulterior motive here, because water that runs down the shower door has been pooling on the step and sometimes running down onto the carpet. There was lots of bad blood between David (head Syndecrete guy) and my contractors–late delivery, late payments, I don’t know what all. So I was worried he’d be reluctant to work with me again.

Not at all. What a dream to deal with! He was glad to have a chance to photograph the bathroom all finished. Before I said a word he offered to have his guys buff out some minor cracks and stains and reseal the tub. Leaky shower? No problem! They’ll just grind it down and re-polish it.

AND–he builds planters for trees all the time. The banana trees have now met their match. We can just crane the pots over the wall like we did the bathtub. Crane the trees up and into them at the same time. Might as well do all the bathroom repairs the same day. He took a broken piece of a pot to color match. Would 4-6 weeks be OK?

This means we can have the gardeners move the trees out from the wall (and not worry about breaking the pots–go ahead!). Do the wall project. Then bring in the new pots and replant everything. Did I mention I’ll be away at a resort while all this is going on? Which just might (we’re in the process of confirming schedules) be the week my assistant’s daughter is off from school and she doesn’t have anyone to babysit, so it sure would be nice if she could bring her daughter to work a few days.

Both computers AND the Jaguar are working. The stars must be aligned right or something. Not that I expect any of this to last… Now that my computer’s working for the first time in over a year, of course I immediately upgraded all my software. Not to worry, I have some books to help get me up to speed: “Teach Yourself FrontPage in a Week” and “Teach Yourself Adobe Photoshop in 24 Hours.” Only problem–which to do first? Can I do them concurrently? Do I ever get to sleep?

I dropped my cell phone and broke off the flip cover. They don’t make that phone anymore, so LA Cellular said I should send it back to the manufacturer to replace it. We decided to get the charger fixed at the same time–when I leave the phone on and plugged into the car connection, it gets so hot that you almost can’t touch it. Of course LA Cellular has no loaner phones and no idea when or if they might get any. So Paula brought in her antique extra cell phone to program with my number and use as a loaner. Her battery doesn’t work (and they don’t make them any more), but I can use an adapter plugged into my cigarette lighter. She headed over to LA Cellular to coordinate all this.

Turns out LA Cellular had become ATT the day before (surprise!). So no one there knew how to work the computer, how to answer the phone, what phone numbers to call for help, etc. They tried to sell her a new phone (they always try to sell you a new phone). They weren’t sure they could program her old phone with my number. They weren’t sure they could repair either of my problems. They didn’t know who to call. They left her in line (with the zillion angry people having trouble with their service because of the conversion) to confer in the back.

Meanwhile, one loooong waiting line over, some guy had dropped his phone and run over it. The phone was pretty much totaled (but they were able to sell him a new one!). So Paula wandered over and said, “Do you need that flip cover (the only part of the phone that wasn’t steamrollered)?” He didn’t. She snagged it and got the LA/ATT/whatever people to install it. Possibly the only thing they accomplished that day. While she was waiting, she started talking to the other people marooned in line. They agreed the phone ALWAYS heats up too much, nothing to be done but shut it off or disconnect it from the car.

So LA/ATT/Whatever was unable to solve any of my problems, but Paula was able to solve them all in line. I picture her out on the sidewalk, muttering, “Spare parts?” to people going in. Could be a whole new business for us.

In addition to being unable to scan my card as usual, Blockbuster Video erased my phone number from its computer somehow. (I toyed with the idea of giving them a false one, but didn’t. I didn’t know LA/ATT’s number offhand.) Blockbuster’s computers regularly erase customer records for no reason, it turns out. I told the clerk I would definitely NOT rent any videos from them on 12/31/99. He said, no, that’s the ideal time to rent–the next day the computer will have no idea who rented what. Then we decided it might go the other way. “You have had that video for 99 years and 364 days…”
Thank god for all the time- and labor-saving devices in our lives.

Copyright 1999 by Janine Smith. Not to be reproduced or distributed without permission