Coming to Wesley Homes, Part 8

Smokey and I Cause a Little Trouble by Pat King, Wesley Homes Des Moines resident Mom, what’s out there in the hall? Every time I came into the apartment Smokey poked his nose around my shoes and tried to get past me. “Get back, Smokey. You aren’t allowed in the hall. Cat dander and all that,” I’d tell him. I just want to look. “Listen to me: you are persona non grata beyond this door,” I’d insist. I explained to him, “You have a perfect deck, and you can come and go, in and out and up down, all day long.” Mom, that’s boring. “Well, that’s the way it is.” I was firm. That’s what you think. Each week I put my sheets and towels to be laundered in a bag with my name and room number and then pop the bag down the chute, which is not far from the elevator. Unseen miracle workers, apparently living in the basement, catch the bag, wash and fold everything in it, wrap it in plastic and send someone to deliver it to my door the following day. What a perk! Marketing hardly mentioned this lovely perk, just as they hardly mentioned the kind lady who comes with her vacuum cleaner, sink cleanser, dust cloth and floor mop and leaves my apartment sparkling every other week. And the perks just kept coming. It was 10:00 at night when I remembered my laundry bag had to go down the chute before 7:00 the following morning. Should I drop it down now or get up at 6:45? No brainer. Do it now. I stepped into the hall without looking for Smokey. Before I could stop him, he was loping down the hall at a great clip. “Come back here,” I said sternly. I could hardly yell, “Stop where you are!” First of all, I didn’t want to alert anyone that a cat was loose, and secondly, it wouldn’t have done any good. Smokey was out for a night on the town. I dropped my laundry bag and raced to the solarium at the east end of the floor. There are tables, a davenport, lovey chairs, lamps and wide window sills. All perfect hiding spots. Finally, I cornered Smokey behind the drapes. “Come out,” I hissed. He zipped passed me, jumped from chair to table and disappeared behind the davenport. From there, he headed down the corridor to the lounge. Oh, no, he was definitely not allowed there. All the coffee tables, comfy chairs, plants and lamps seemed made for him to jump from one to the other. He was in panther heaven. I could have caught him if I wasn’t tripping over my bedroom slippers. As I chased him, I kept looking over my shoulder, hoping no one could see us, hoping all the residents were snuggled in front of their TV sets with bowls of buttered popcorn. Finally, I’d just about cut him off when he darted past me and sprinted into the laundry room. Aha! I had him. I closed the door of the laundry room and glared at him on top of the washer. “You’re grounded.” Sternly, I picked him up ready to scold…and he kissed me. Thanks, Mom. That was so much fun! Eight years ago when Bill and I first signed up for the Wesley Homes Reservation List, I took one look at the resident-run TV station and knew that was where I wanted to be. It was like when I was 13 years old, and someone came to our home room at Cleveland High School and showed us the Cleveland News. I knew I wanted to be on that news staff. I had to wait two years until I was a junior. In the case of Wesley’s Channel 950 I had to wait a lot longer than that. But the time had come. I knocked on the studio window. Joan Zatloukal, the station manager, invited me in and gave me a tour. I suggested that maybe I would help with filing. I wanted to be there in that control room where all the action was. Joan invited me to come the next day to the studio next door and watch the filming of a live interview. When one of the camera persons didn’t show, the next thing I knew I was behind a camera, ear phones on and hearing instructions from the control room. Pan left. Pan right. The interview lasted 28 minutes. I honestly thought I had been behind that camera for two hours. One of the engineers came into the studio and clasped me on the back. “That was your baptism by fire! Now you are one of us,” was his welcome. I learned to operate the camera, and along with Richard Barnhart, learned to edit film, create graphics, add music and burn a CD – all the while having the best time ever. Enter humiliation. Bernie Bailey, who puts together the weekly schedule, decided to teach part of his complex job to me. In the course of learning, I struck the wrong key and knocked all the stored movies out of sight and out of reach. I’m still embarrassed by this. Everyone in the control room gasped at what I had done. Although they hung over Bernie’s and my shoulders and gave advice, no one could undo the damage. The movies that the station depends on were gone. There was only one other option. Call Kathy. Kathy is an IT person, and Bernie was reluctant to ring her because the station is perpetually counting pennies and Kathy gets paid for her services.  Over the phone, she said, “Do this.” Nothing happened. “Now do that,” she instructed. Nothing happened.  “Check this and this and this,” she continued. At that, the miracle materialized. All the movies came back. The control room people cheered. I was still too deeply embarrassed at what I had caused to join them, but I cheered in my heart. Next Thursday: Smokey is Missing

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