it's official: today was the 3rd consecutive day of 90+ degrees weather (95° was the official number), making it the second heatwave we've experienced so far this year (the other being a heatwave back in may). besides the heat, today was also a humid day, so there was no escaping the discomfort.
i received a letter from the massachusetts revenue service yesterday with a notice that they intend to audit my state tax returns. i found it kind of funny since i hardly made any money last year and they want to take a closer look at my returns. one requirement caught me by surprise: they wanted a copy of my social security card. social security card? the last time i saw that was when i was a teenager, 3 decades ago. a social security card is nothing more than a piece of paper. can't they just pull my records, confirm that my name matches my birthdate matches my address matches my social security number? i planned on calling the revenue service office today asking them if i could forgo making a copy of a social security card which i no longer have. but the wait time was 10 minutes, and i just decided to go to the nearest social security administration office and get a replacement card for free.
so i went down to the SS office on fawcett street near alewife, but not before making a quick stop at the community garden to do some morning watering of my plants. there's no free parking at the office but there are several metered curbside parking spots, so i brought a fistful of quarters to feed the meter. there was some time left on my meter and i added 3 quarters to give me about 50 minutes.
i've never been to the SS office, although my parents have been here on many occasions, whether for themselves (to activate their social security benefits) or to help my aunt with her assisted living paperwork. my mother told me to get there early (like at 9am) to beat the rush. when i arrived at 10:20am there were already 2 dozen people sitting in the waiting room. a security guard sat at a front desk. i told him i was here for a replacement social security guard; he pointed to a touchscreen kiosk which after answering some questions dispensed a ticketed number. i was B311 and B300 was just announced, but there were other numbers (like those starting with A's). at least the waiting room had air conditioning.
being at the social security office reminded me of going to the DMV. but while the DMV is the great equalizer, i could see a certain type of people visiting the SS offices. first, there were senior citizens with social security benefit business. next, people who've never received a social security number before, so a lot of new immigrants and foreign students. next, people on welfare come to the SS office when they have benefit business, including a small subset of formerly incarcerated poor looking to reactive their welfare checks since assisted living payments stop when you go to jail (i didn't see anyone with fit this category, i only learned of it through an informational pamphlet).
there were 4 counter windows but only one was active (window A) when i arrived. later a second window opened up (window D). the people who worked there didn't seem like they were in any hurry, while the people in the waiting room wouldn't wait to get it over with. actually, a few people probably couldn't stand the wait and left, because occasionally a number would get called but no takers. the guy working window A was a young asian man (filipino?) who had a habit of ending every window announcement with, "window A as in apple." every. single. time. it was annoying. he also worked standing up while people at the counter sat in chairs, and one time i saw him taking a dripping sip of a large iced coffee.
the security guard was also quirky. he seemed like a good guy, but every once in a while he left the building to make the rounds to make sure the place was safe. he wasn't one of those cheap rental security guard but a bonafide federal guard who carried a gun. but the thing i noticed about him was he was a serious germphobe, and would always open a door using a paper towel, whether to grab the handle or press the automatic open button. his habit actually made me a little nervous, like what sort of diseases could i possibly contract at the SS office by touching the doors with my bare hand?
after 30 minutes i went outside to add more quarters to the meter because there was no way 50 minutes was going to be enough. i added enough quarters so the meter was back to an hour.
fortunately the two open windows weren't the only available counters. occasionally numbers would get called for interview counters in an adjoining room. that's where i ended up going. the woman i spoke with said normally this area was for interviews, but they were opened to give additional support. i was here to get a replacement card, which is pretty easy. i'd already filled out the form at home and brought my passport as id. while pulling up my record, she asked when did i naturalize to become a US citizen. apparently my social security record was never updated and i was still listed as permanent resident. in order to get that fixed, she asked for another form of id (my driver license). i was a little worried because i had just 10 minutes left on the meter. but after she inputted all my information, she gave me a receipt and said i would receive my card in about 10 days. she also asked if i wanted the letters of my first name as one word or with a space because they can't do a hyphen; i told her as one word. before i left i asked for her name. she gave me a weird answer, "mrs.nomi," even though she looked younger than me. maybe she thought i had some ulterior motives for asking, but i just wanted to thank her. i was finally done by around 11:50am after an hour and a half of waiting.
my next stop was the fresh pond tj maxx to look for small area rugs to replace the two from the guest bedroom. those old rugs had lost their rubber traction and the bottoms were turning into dust. i needed replacement rugs before my new roommate arrives on sunday afternoon. the parking lot was packed, and i had to circle a few times before i found a grey area spot underneath a tree. inside the store i found a nice 30x46" accent rug for $17 but i couldn't find a matching set. i came prepared, and tied the rug to the back of the motorcycle with my bungie netting.
next stop was to my parents' place via concord avenue to water the backyard. i saw a bunny hiding in the perennial flower bed behind the garage. that could also explain why my zebrina hollyhock seeding was completely missing. that made me angry because the seedling was big enough that i didn't think it'd be in danger but apparently all plants in the backyard need collars until they're at least a 1-2 ft tall. this zebrina did have a collar but i removed it thinking it'd be safe. in it's place i planted some cupcake cosmos. elsewhere, a few mixed sunflower seedlings have emerged in RB3; i put a container on top of those to prevent slugs/snails/rabbits from eating them. i also blocked the one hole in the backyard fence i knew the rabbits were coming in from; hopefully this will lessen some of the damage. the problem is there's too much debris in the yard for them to hide; hopefully after a cleanup the backyard won't be as inviting.
i got back home a little after 1pm. i had a yogurt for lunch. my mother needed ice cream and yarn and i was prepared to make a supply run, but she changed her mind. it was getting hot inside the house, temperature climbing to 84°F, while it was even hotter outside. the worst part was the humidity. installing the air conditioner would fix the problem, but it was still too early for AC (typically i don't put it in until july, even as late as august). besides, it was the last forecasted day for high heat, and by tomorrow the temperature will drop down into the 70's.
the day was sunny until 5pm, where it quickly became dark. all this heat and humidity, we were expecting to see some thunderstorms. i went outside to put the cover on my motorcycle then walked down to beacon street to take a better look at the sky. less than 10 minutes later the rain started to fall. big drops too, where they landed it created droplets of 2" diameters. i could also hear distant thundering. i saw a girl get home right before getting soaked. she was all smiles over her lucky break.
what happened next came within a few short minutes. the fat drops became a drizzle then a steady rain then a downpour. then the winds came, strong at first, before it quickly increased to hurricane force, shaking everything outside. everything was coming down so furiously that it was white out conditions for a few seconds. trash cans were blown into the flooded streets as storm drains were suddenly to capacity. twigs and leaves flew in the air. i anxiously watched my motorcycle, certain the wind would topple it at any moment, the rain cover billowing out like a balloon. there was a car immediately behind my bike, maybe that created enough of a wind buffer, but the bike didn't fall, even though it should've.
then i heard a loud cracking sound, and saw the tree of my neighbors across from me split in half, a large tree branch falling across the street blocking it. because of all the branches and leaves, instead of a thud, it landed softly. for the first few seconds my brain couldn't even process what i was seeing. then i finally understood what just happened, a tree had been toppled by the wind.
the microburst lasted just a few minutes. i noticed the tree had taken down some powerlines. my immediate concern was the risk of electrocution. but afterwards it dawned on me: do i have power? i looked around the house. everything was dark. for the second day in a row i was experiencing a blackout.
soon neighbors were out inspecting the damage. the whole area lost power, so they were at least curious to ask other neighbors if they were experiencing the same thing. despite the violence of the storm, there was very little destruction, other than that one tree, and even then, it couldn't fallen in numerous ways that might've smashed nearby houses or cars. the streets were covered in twigs and leaves, and the rain water emptying into the storm drains washed away yellow streams of pollen. the temperature was cooler but still somewhat humid.
i called the cambridge police to report the downed tree. a fire truck showed up around 5:40pm. they blocked the street to prevent cars from traveling down (and discovering the damaged tree) and put up some caution tape. the fire truck and 3-member crew stayed until dark, without sign of eversource utility or the tree crew to fix the problem. occasionally neighbors would come out and ask the firefighters if they needed anything (water, bathroom break). john the former firefighter from down the street came out with some watermelon for them to share. nothing like a small natural disaster to bring people closer.
one major complication was the issue of jurisdiction: the tree itself is a private tree, but blocking public road. also a lot of cambridge neighbors called the police, but the tree is actually in somerville. somerville fire department actually came by a few times from the other end (somerville side) to inspect the damage, but they didn't do anything either before leaving.
eventually it grew dark, with no fix in sight. i lit nearly a dozen tea candles that karen had left behind and put them in the kitchen, bathroom, and living room. i could see very well but i could see cook, one of the advantages of a gas stove. i ignited the range with a match to steam 2 sweet dates zongzi for dinner.
i passed the time reading brandon sanderson's the way of kings. the book is arranged by character POV (much like game of thrones). the most interesting story follows kaladin and his bridge crew, with the least interesting being dalinar kholin and his lost of faith in being the king's advisor.
eversource finally showed up around 9:20pm. the downed lines had nothing to do with the power (i heard it was cable lines). instead of repairing the fallen lines they left it as is, and went to the middle of the street to fix a transformer. they worked on it for about 20 minutes then left, the street still in the dark. neighbors came out to watch, since there wasn't much to do in the house with no electricity. the weather had greatly improved, now it was not only cooler but dryer as well. less than 10 minutes later after eversource left, we finally got power, around 10pm. coincidentally, that was the same time that my parents got back their power in belmont yesterday.