Friday, July 17, 2009

Sweat, Bug bites, and Phone Companies. . . a few complaints

It is hot here – and muggy. The days start out at 85 degrees and grow hotter until its over 95 degrees by supper time. The heat index hits 100 by noon. And because of the humidity, sweat breaks out when you walk from your house to your car. Consequently, I find myself hunkering down in air-conditioned spaces. We aren’t even walking the dogs properly, let alone getting any exercise for ourselves. I’m just going to have to get used to the heat, or else find an air conditioned place to exercise, because hiding indoors will transform me into a flabby, lifeless donut in no time.

And Arkansas has bugs, too. Apparently, the hot muggy weather spawns hoards of flesh-eating creatures adept at biting me, even as I scurry between my house and my car. Last night, I made the mistake of sitting down on our lovely deck overlooking Harris Brake Lake with the idea of watching the sunset. But within 3 seconds (no exaggeration) I had collected six new dime-sized bug bites on my arms. I still have about 45 ugly, itchy bites on my legs because we attended two outdoor parties our first weekend – which was July 4th – without using bug repellant. I have cut back my fingernails to stop myself from scratching my own skin off. Even so, my legs are covered with red splotches and scratched bug bites.

And now to the phone companies: AT&T installed our office DSL line two weeks ago, and we have already logged 53 sales calls on the new phone. Clearly, AT&T sold our brand new phone number as a sales lead to credit card companies, insurance agents, and who knows who else. By chance, we have not been working in the office, so we didn’t have to hear all these calls. But what happens next week, when we are working there?

Verizon is no better: my Verizon cell phone started failing as soon as I became completely dependent on it two weeks ago, when we cut loose from our California landline phones. And of course, nobody at Verizon can fix the problem unless I buy a better phone (from Verizon), and sign up for a longer service contract (with Verizon).

I wish we could do without the fine print, grumpy service people and punishing contract terms that all of these companies uniformly attach to their services. But we are plugged in people and thoroughly addicted to phone calls, media and broadband access. I have been trying to decide which phone and cable TV companies to use in our new house. To me, the process feels like choosing a new drug dealer – hoping the guy won’t take too much advantage of me, but knowing that he probably will.

Face to face, we have been treated extremely well by everyone here in Arkansas. People look you in the eye, and offer a few pleasantries before jumping into whatever business you have with them. It feels very relaxed and civilized. We both grew up in the South (Texas for me, Florida for Mick). The Southern culture rings familiar for us both, but in an unpracticed way. We have to remind ourselves to slow down and be friendlier than Berkeley custom would have allowed. I would like to make that natural, unconditional hospitality a habit again, if I can.

Enough ranting. This morning, Katie called to ask for a babysitter while she 'settles some new chicks' and I spent a happy half hour holding Honey while Katie moved the new batch of chicks into their backyard brooder. The chicks are delivered by US mail, if you can believe that. And they live in the brooder for a few weeks before she moves them out to the pens in her pasture. Calls like this one take the pain out of all my other complaints. Thank you, Katie!


  1. My sister Iris, who once lived here reminded me of the old joke that the mosquito is the state bird of Arkansas. She said, "It is because the main crop is rice - requiring large tracts of standing water for most of the year. I used to believe that Arkansas mosquitoes were genetically modified to resist the most potent bug sprays. It was my kids that used to suffer the most.How does Katie protect Honey?"

    Katie found a natural bug repellant lotion for kids, but Honey does have some bites, I have to say.

  2. Another friend passes along this advice about bug repellants: "I have just learned about a full-proof, anti-bug repellent bar none from a guy who hunts and fishes on the bayous of Louisiana and all his buddies swear by it--it is Victoria Secret's Amber Romance Body Lotion. He buys it by the case and stashes it the glove compartment of his pick-up and in the pockets of every hunting/fishing jacket he owns so it must work!"

  3. Avon's Skin-so-Soft was supposed to be a good repellent, but after trying it in the High Sierra, I found it didn't work so well. Had lovely soft skin, though, for the mosquitos to do their work.

    The real solution is screened porches and outdoor tents.

    Great writing, Cheryl. I love reading about the geographic and cultural differences. It's strange being somewhere where people smile and say hello. No matter where you are when you get outside the urban crunch people tend to be more open and courteous.

    Quelle pain about all the phone and technology problems. Soon you'll be settled and old hats at all things Arkansasian.

  4. I am sure it would politically incorrect to recommend DEET... :) I never got one bite in Uganda.