God, I am exhausted.
I just spent the whole morning in a meeting about winter shelters. It seemed odd to be sitting around a table in the community hall talking about blankets and heating oil and whatnot with sweat trickling down our spines — it’s 85 degrees here in Boston — but I suppose it’s my own damned fault. I’ve been tugging on sleeves and poking people in the back for a month trying to get them to talk about winter.
So Andromeda — she’s the head of the community center in our neck of the woods — put me in charge. That’ll learn me
You know what’s funny, though? Once I was put in charge and put out a call for people to help me (and conscripted a few, the baked brownies to bribe a few more), I found out that I wasn’t the only one worrying about it. Last year, if you’ll recall, people died. Even before Halloween, they were talking about heating oil prices doubling. Of course, after the attacks, those prices seem hilariously quaint. Like $4/gal. gas.
We came up with a lot of good ideas that can be enacted locally. A lot of it is education: teaching people how to stay warm with less fuel. Things like: dress warmly. You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but people still tend to think of heating their homes instead of heating themselves. We’re looking into buying lots and lots of silk and merino underwear from the Vermont Country Store to distribute. Blanket drives to make sure everyone’s got a nice snuggy warm bed. Pamphlets on why short skirts and high heeled shoes aren’t the best bet in 20 degree weather.
Home energy audits. Rapid-response medical teams.
And, of course, emergency shelters. The community eating centers — we have GOT to come up with a better name for those! — can hold a lot of people, but we need to make sure they are properly heated. And outfitted with blankets, cots, urns to heat coffee and tea, etc. Phones and phone trees to check on the elderly and ill. Cars and a gas budget for picking up people who have run out of heating oil at 2 a.m. on bitterly cold nights. Private areas for children, moms, nursing moms.
There was a HUGE debate about co-sleeping that I finally had to end by standing on a chair and using my “mom voice.”
And, for my sins, I got elected to go up a level. Apparently, I need to go to the city administrator for the whole Boston area — not just my little corner of Cambridge and Somerville — and try to convince him that we need to do these things on a city-wide scale. Andromeda was suggesting that I should think about working on a state- or even region-wide scale. (Region or country? Are we a country?)
Going up a level means politics. I hate politics. I hate dealing with people I don’t know who can’t be bribed with brownies or strawberry jam or beet pickles. (The local military guy, as it turns out, doesn’t have a sweet tooth but remembers his Baba’s beet pickles fondly.)
It also means budgets. Buying enough silk and wool underthings for my slice of the Commonwealth is one thing. I can do that math. I know those people. Buying enough for the whole of New England — how do you make sure everyone gets enough and no one gets double and what about people who have some already, we don’t want them to have extra, but aren’t they getting stiffed, what about people who are allergic….?
Sometimes I just want to beat my head against a wall.