N.B., this is about the fire that happened September 7, 2010. I didn’t have another fire.
After I got Thor admitted into intensive care, it occurred to me that the set of things that you do after your house burns down–even if it is out by 7:30–is such that teaching a 5PM class is not a realistic expectation. For about the amount of time that it takes to blow out a candle, I considered trying to get someone to cover my class, but that that idea was extinguished before it had time to ignite. I called the secretary, told her that my house had burned down, and asked her if she would please do whatever was necessary to let people know. Her reaction made me think that it might be reasonable to cancel class the next day as well, though that decision could wait. I was starting to infer that burning a house down was a pretty big deal. Perhaps, in addition to having someone vet my decision making, I might also be advised to give myself permission to behave in ways that on any other day I would judge to be selfish.
Next, it was off to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Since it seemed probable that my wallet would not be exhumed from the concrete roof tiles and cellulose insulation covering my bedroom, I would need a new driver license. With the bureaucratic nightmare that I experienced trying to pay the vet, I braced myself for the Kafkaesque hell that most Americans associate with the DMV. As I might when presenting my work at an academic conference, I rehearsed what to say. First, I would explain that my house burned down. From my conversation with my secretary, I had learned that playing the house-burned-down card softened people up substantially. I would next explain that I have no identification, since my house that just burned down. Oh! I could add the whole “I left the house wearing only my cell phone” line if it seemed necessary. Then I would ask, as nicely–and as pitifully–as possible, what it was I needed to do to get a new license. With my script rehearsed, I was ready to take on the DMV.
It turned out that the Tennessee DMV is very, very strange. When I walked in, there was no line. I told the woman my name. At the Tennessee DMV, due to the wonders of computers, one does not need identification to get a new driver license. She pulled up the photo on my license, and told me to look at the camera. While we waited for the license to print, I gave her twelve dollars. A few minutes later, she gave me my new license, literally hot from the magic press. The whole process took under fifteen minutes. I remain astonished.
Armed with identification, I went to the bank. I wrote a counter check for five hundred dollars, which I thought would me through the next few days.
Next, we headed to my house and met a guy from the insurance company. I acknowledged that my house had burned down and that it appeared to be a total loss, though someone else would need to make that judgment. He gave me a check for $3000 and told me that I would hear from someone in the next few days. They would pay for me to stay in a hotel room and I could use the money he had just given me to cover whatever additional living expenses I incurred.
Things were coming together.