[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published October 14, 2020] ©2020
My sons have teased me for years that I’ve spent my life “rehearsing for death.” But just wait til I’m actually dead and they need to get the streetlight out front fixed. Actually, it won’t be the kids’ problem since they no longer live in town but my husband Olof is clear that all he’ll ever need after my untimely demise is a file on my desktop (and a copy printed by the phone) called Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About This House.
This document has been my (adult) life’s work. As much as I’ve complained about technology, this information all used to be kept on 3x5 cards in a little metal box. It was a laborious way to keep – or find – information.
As for that phantom streetlight, which I’ve written about before not only in my Light column but in a story for San Diego Magazine, both SD G&E and the City insist that there IS no streetlight in front of our home. It doesn’t show on their maps and therefore isn’t their problem if the light is broken. You can only imagine how hard it is to get a non-existent streetlight fixed.
But this saga and its resolution is now saved for posterity in my EYEWTKATH document.
For years, I had probably the best collection of San Diego City phone numbers in the entire county: Numbers related to trash problems, tree roots, tree trimming, postal issues, water meters, rat control, parking problems, sidewalk repairs, and yes, dead streetlights. These were numbers that people actually answered as opposed to the ones that were listed in the phone book for such services which rang in perpetuity and never picked up. In fact, I fantasied that those city numbers actually forwarded to a deserted bunker in Montana.
You knew you had a good number when someone answered with “HOW DID YOU GET THIS NUMBER?” But getting those numbers required considerable guile and cunning, never mind Herculean persistence. I possessed all of those.
Decades of complaints from the populace about the failure of anyone in the city entrusted with fixing city problems ever answering city phones (never mind fixing any problems) has finally led to the admirable Get It Done app on the city’s website which, remarkably, often really does get it done. So my list of actual city service numbers is becoming obsolete.
But my desktop file is so much more. It lists info you rarely need until you do, like your SD G&E Circuit and Block numbers. Your postal route number. Endless customer codes and security codes that on-line customer service people hope to stump you with and therefore use as an excuse to not help you. Medical record numbers for multiple institutions. Our interior and exterior paint colors. The name of pretty much every doctor we’ve seen in the last 20 years. Newspaper account numbers and the personal cell number of our newspaper delivery guy. Never ever throw out a phone number.
One of the longer sections of my document lists vendors we’ve used for every possible service. Writing down who you used before saves a lot of time wracking your brain trying to remember the name of that great carpet cleaner or hardwood floor repairer or HVAC person you used three years ago. I often add people recommended on Next Door for services I don’t need now but may well in the future.
I will fully admit that this file could be a lot shorter if I could avoid the editorial comments that as a writer I feel compelled to add. In fact, am incapable of not adding. So instead of just noting: “use again” or “don’t use again,” my file reads:
About a recent locksmith: “Very competent. Also very chatty. Is a conspiracy theorist and insisted on giving me literature about (a) The Rapture (it’s imminent) and (b) the government is planning to use the Covid vaccine as a ruse to implant microchips to control people’s minds. Didn’t ask how they get the microchip in that little tiny needle. But front door lock now works perfectly!”
Painter: “After he painted bathroom and laundry room – great job! – he re-hooked up the washer but switched the water lines which boiled my cold-wash-only stuff into munchkin size. Definitely use again but leave the rest to a plumber.”
City Dead Animal Recovery: “They will NOT remove a dead possum from private property! Don rubber gloves and get enough momentum to heave possum over fence into street. Call back and deny being previous caller about dead possum in that location.”
So kids (and Olof), long after I’m gone, you’ll never have to wonder who we use – and especially don’t use – for dozens of services. So if you hire that pool filter-cleaning guy who left the filter apart overnight allowing heavily chlorinated water to pump out and kill an entire lawn, it’s on you.