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I’ve been listening to Paul Theroux’s Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, which is his most recent book where he revists the same route that he traveled in The Great Railway Bazaar.  I’m only on chapter two, but the first chapter is a lot of him waxing philosophical in the brilliant way that only he can,about with it is like to revisit a place, and how it can only be sad and disappointing because inevitably it will have changed in some way that you’ll disagree with.   As much as I’m loving this book, I’m also forced to remember that reading (or listening to) Paul Theroux always makes me yearn for great life experiences that I just haven’t had, and feel remiss for not having them.  I also feel remiss knowing that I probably have had some great life experiences, but could never record them with the amazing words that he does.

I can draw all kind of parallels between him writing these books and me reading them.  I was reading The Great Railway Bazaar when I first moved to Providence to start library school.  Now I’ve started its sequel the same day that I got my official letter telling me that I passed comps and am an actual librarian.  For me it’s been nearly two years since I experienced his first trip– not thirty-three, but it’s been significant time in which a lot of things have changed.

Paul Theroux is the only author who I’ve ever underlined.  I’ve never been an underliner because I get so sucked into the story that I don’t want to interrupt myself hunting for a pen.  With him, it’s like every line is so true and brilliantly crafted that I want to memorize it, and since I can’t, I underline it.  That’s the frustration with listening to this on audiobook.

The bonus is, he’s riding around Asia on a train while I’m driving around South County in my car– it’s very appropriate.  Thinking about what I’m doing in my every day as travel, or adventure is very healthy for me, and makes me appreciate rather than go through my commute with blinders on.

As much as Paul Theroux is making me want to zip through Turkey en route to India (I mean, I always want to do that, except I’d like to linger in Turkey a bit more), it’s also making me think a lot about my upcoming trip back to Fargo.

A lot of the things that he’s saying about returning to a place are really hitting home for me.  When I went back to Oxford one year after living there to find that things hadn’t changed too much but just enough that I could feel how different it was– that was a bit strange to me.  I’ve moved around a lot over the course of my life, but I haven’t revisited the places that I left very frequently.

I’m out-of-my-mind excited to see my friends, and finally run the Fargo 1/2 marathon, but I know the whole trip is going to have an extreme feeling of surreality.  Lauerman’s is no more, so I won’t get to have my pickled eggs and schooner of Honey Weiss; there’s going to be someone else living in the apartment I occupied for 5 years; my old library is completely gone and a shiny new one is standing in its place; there’s probably going to be sandbags everywhere.

It’s not my town anymore, and that’s fine, because I left voluntarily, but it’s still weird.  I figured out before I left that I’ve actually lived in Fargo/Moorhead longer than I’ve lived anywhere.  I was born in Southern MN, Springfield while my parents were living in Wabasso.  We stayed there a year, then moved to Hallock for two years, then moved to Warren for a year, then back to Hallock.  That time we stayed in Hallock until I was 12, and we moved to Cavalier on my 13th birthday.  I lived in Cavalier until I was 18– then off to Fargo for ages 18-28.  I spent ten years in that town, a pretty much spent all of it planning various schemes to leave that didn’t quite pan out.

I was comfortable there, though, I was content.  I left in my own time, and it was the right time for me.

I’m excited to re-navigate streets that are a perfect grid, and eat Mexican food that actually tastes like real Mexican food, but mostly I’m excited to just hang out and actually appreciate the city without having to work all the time, or feel resentful because I’m still there.

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A while ago I said that one of the things I was looking forward to with the coming recession was the return of customer service.  Having worked in customer service of one form or another since I was fifteen, I may be more sensitive to shabby treatment than most, but also, I try to be polite and courteous to everyone always, and really take it personally when people don’t treat me that way as well.

In that regard, this recession is working out quite nicely.

For example, Jewish Friend and I went to the mall, and while we were in Banana Republic, Terrance the sales associate was falling all over himself to help us out.  He managed to pull this off in a sincere and non-overbearing way that made us both feel like he meant it when he said “I’m Terrance, if there’s anything you need, just ask.”  When Jewish Friend tried on a dress and wanted to ask me what I thought of it, Terrance came looking for me.  When she thought that maybe the dress would look better with a belt, Terrance brought her two of them, ascertained her size, then went to get the correct one.  Jewish Friend didn’t buy a belt, and the dress she found only cost $11 (what a coup!), but Terrance treated us like we were shopping with Richard Gere.

Prior to that, we went to Dunkin’ Donuts so I could fortify myself with an iced coffee.  I have never had a bad experience at a Dunkin’ Donuts, I can honestly say that.  Sometimes the person who helps me is all business, but he or she is always courteous and says thank you.  Most of the time, the service is downright delightful with people calling me sweetie, telling me to have a good day, or complimenting my purse.  On this day, I got my medium iced coffee regular, which normally retails for $2.43.  Stephanie, the shift supervisor told me $1.07, and it wasn’t until I had given her my credit card that I realized what she said.

“Did you say $1.07?” I asked.

“Yeah, you didn’t have a coupon, but I gave you the deal anyway.”  Then she looked around to see if they had anymore coupons that she could give me.

Sadly, they did not, but I totally wanted to hug her for looking.

I’ve also noticed the downside to increased customer service, and that is the hyper-vigilance of some.  I had to go to Staples a few weeks ago to make color copies for Sassy Redhead.  I don’t normally run errands for Sassy, but this was in an “I’m her intern” capacity, so I did it uncomplainingly.  At the copy counter were a youngish dude, and a woman wearing a slightly more dignified polo shirt– clearly the store manager.  They were both polite, but when she started ringing up my sale, she asked if I had one of their store cards.  I admitted that I didn’t.

“Well, have you ever been here before?”

After thinking about it for a bit, I realized that I had never been to Staples in my life.  I’d been to Office Depot (?) maybe Office Max– seriously, they all look the same, but never Staples.

“Well, we have a full copy center, and a full range of office supplies including furniture.” she told me and seemed a bit offended that I didn’t know all of this.

I just shrugged.  I felt like I should apologize, or give her some explanation, but the truth is, I don’t have a tremendous need for office supplies.  I really love Sharpies and Post-its, but I can grab those when I’m at Target.  The one time I sought out an office supply store prior to this, was because I was taking a practical writing course, and the professor assured us that our grades would be much improved if the resume assignment was actually on resume paper– I believe his exact words were “I like a nice off-white/cream, not too dark”.  So I bought some of that.

That was eight years ago– so my need to go to office supply stores is pretty much a non-need.

Of course I didn’t want to tell her all this because A) It’s none of her damn business and B) it’s a bit rude to roll into someone’s place of livelihood and shit all over it.

She pretty much forced me to get a card–“it’s free, all you have to do is print your name,” and I’ve actually been back to Staples twice more since then, which is both weird and a little alarming.  I haven’t gotten any money back though, but I’m sure when I do, I’ll be forever grateful to that woman.

All winter long I’ve been staring at my shoe collection longing to wear my sandals.  I sometimes would put them on to go down to the basement, and would think thoughts like once I can start wearing these sandals on a regular basis, I will be happy again.

The past few days it has been over 80 degrees– suddenly, inexplicably HOT.  I have not sorted out my summer wardrobe, I barely know what looks good, and I’m almost afraid to put on summer clothes thinking that the temperature will bottom out as quickly as it rose and leave me stranded at work in a skirt and tank top then I’ll be forced to walk home freezing cold, possibly stopping at the mall to buy a sweater to avoid catching a cold.

It’s a lot to deal with.

One thing I know for sure, is that it’s officially ok to start wearing sandals again, which I enthusiastically took on.  Sunday evening, the weather was lovely, so I shanghaied Gentleman Caller into walking with me to Wise Lawyer Friend’s house to feed her cats.  It was nice to be outside, and we segued through some pretty neighborhoods that I never get to see, but by the time we got to Wise Lawyer Friend’s house, we were both in agony.

He was wearing flip-flops, and I was wearing my black sandals.  These sandals of mine have taken me through the good times and the bad, and I’ve covered a lot of miles in them.  I canvassed Montreal and Washington DC in these shoes, and they held up really well, so a 2 mile roundtrip should be cake.

If it was cake, it was bad-tasting cake.

Gentleman Caller borrowed masking tape and covered every offended and potentially offended patch of foot skin with it.  I tried to do the mind over matter thing where I convinced myself that my feet only really hurt when I stopped moving, and that it wasn’t that bad really.

Last night I sat down on my toilet with a needle, antiseptic, and cotton balls and lanced away at the blisters lining the edges of my feet, and this morning, I pulled out the brown sandals and walked to work in those.

Turns out both the brown and black sandals chafe horribly on the pinky toe of my left foot, so now I’m going to have to hobble home and lance that blister as well.

The thing that vexes me most in all of this is that I have been making a point of buying quality footwear.  I’ve been spending the money to ensure that I’m getting a product that lasts, and is actually designed to be comfortable for walking in rather than the $3 canvas shoes from the big bin at Wal-Mart that I used to wear– and my feet have never felt worse.  To look at them, my feet look pretty beat up and tough.  I’ve got calluses all over the place that look quite unsightly.  What’s the point of these calluses if they don’t protect me from blisters?!?!  Do they exist only to look bad?

I refuse to be one of those people who wear sneakers constantly.  I refuse to wear socks with my sandals because that is possibly the worst thing anyone can do, and I would hate myself for it.  Buying quality footwear has done me no favors, so what’s my next recourse?

I guess I’ll buy a box of band-aids and wait for my feet to adapt like I do every summer, and while I’m adapting I’ll remember the two pairs of sandals I’ve had in my lifetime that never gave me blisters, and hate the fact that one pair broke, and the other pair was so ugly one of my best friends gleefully threw them in the dumpster because she hated looking at them.

My little brother has officially bested me in the unofficial “get a job” competition.  Truthfully, I didn’t put up that much of a fight, but it’s still weird to hear about my little brother having a company car and a 40+ hour a week commitment that requires him to wear a suit and tie.  It’s also weird that even though he’s only had this job for about three months, he’s already starting to experience one of the things I dread most about having a full-time job– intrusion into your personal life.

My brother is a funeral director– so he already has to work rather strange hours doing strange work.  There are some weekends involved, evenings, and late night body pickups, but now people are leaning on him to donate his weekends and evenings off to fraternal organizations and churches.

He lives on the same street as three pastors, all of whom are trying to win his attendance– all of them are Lutheran, in fact, every church in this town in some kind of Lutheran church (ahh Minnesota).  Also, everyone he works with is a member of Lions club and they’re leaning on him to join that.  My dad had also taken up this crusade (my dad really loves joining things), and during the weekly phone call he has taken to plugging Lions et al.

I know that professional development is part of having a real job, and I’m fine with that;  I plan on going to every conference I get a chance to, and sitting on committees supporting things I care about– once I have a job, but I really don’t want to be told what to do with my day off.  Last time I spoke to my brother, he said that one of his co-workers had to take vacation days after being roped into organizing some fund-raiser.  The guy was not thrilled about it.

I remember, growing up, my dad was a high school principal, which required him to join everything he possibly could.  He was athletic director, on school board– basically he was out of the house from 7am until 9pm.  Is it completely selfish to say that I have no interest in that?  Maybe I’m lucky in that my interests line up more closely with any extracurriculars my job might ask me to take on than they do for my brother, but I already have a lot of hobbies, and will probably cultivate more during my summer of underemployment– I don’t want to give up all my free time for a job.

I’m worried I’m going to come off as some insubordinate bench-sitter if I refuse to sign on for all this stuff, but I find it all rather unfair.  The point of working a full-time job (as I see it), is having free time and money– take away the free time, and that puts me back to feeling like I’m working three jobs.

My brother just bought a 46 inch flatscreen that he said is so glorious “it will make your eyes bleed”, so I don’t think he’s caving anytime soon.  I’m a lot nicer than he is though, I wonder how long I’ll last.

I had my comprehensive exam last Saturday– my library school final exam.  Three essay questions, pass/fail, my biggest concern was writing that much in a blue book without my hand seizing up.  Prior to the test, Jewish Friend and I got together once to read over the Library Code of Ethics and the Library Bill of Rights, but other than that, I wasn’t sweating it at all.

My co-workers, all of whom have been librarians for 10+ years, were bent on calming me down and giving me sage advice, which I accepted graciously.  I assured them that I was not stressed about it, and most accepted that– except one.

The gentleman whom I work with on Thursdays is a talker.  I spend most of my shift listening to him tell me things.  For the most part, it’s fine, he’s entertaining; when I ask a question and it take 45 minutes of my four-hour shift to get an answer– I get a bit annoyed.  He also has told me on a number of occasions how good he is at “reading” people and understanding body language and social cues– then he keeps me 5-10 minutes late regaling me with mini lectures after I’ve very obviously taken my name-tag off and am trying to move toward the exit.

He was either miffed that I didn’t seem stressed enough (don’t know how stressed he was about his comprehensive exam), or miffed that he didn’t have an opportunity to dispense enough sage advice because he spend the better part of my shift yesterday telling me how stressed I was about comps, and how I’ve buried those feelings.

“Look at you.” he indicated the fact that I was about to blow my nose, “you’ve been sick since you started working here.  You’re taking the stress of comps and internalizing it.  That’s why you’re always drinking water too.”

“Ok, this is a cold.” I told him, “And I ran six miles before I came in today– hence the water.”

He just gave me a knowing look.

I admit I stress about school.  From late February through the end of April, I become an incredibly dull person because I’m either stressing about school and avoiding doing homework by watching TV on DVD, or shifting my focus completely to some other inane obsession like online survey taking or scrabble.  I admit that I stress about school, but I will not admit to stressors I haven’t felt.

“I’ve been stressed about every other thing I’ve had to do this semester.” I told him, “Like annotated bibliographies, presentations, and papers, but I promise you, I was not stressed about the comps.”

He said something that indicated that I will be much healthier when I own my feelings, and then went out to smoke a cigarette.

If you doubt me, please, ask anyone about my behavior prior to the test. Despite what my co-worker thinks, I was not a ball of anxiety.  If I get my test back and find out I failed, then I will begin crapping my pants, but please do not insist that I don’t know whether or not something is getting to me.

Remember when Gloria Estefan was in that bus accident that killed a few of her crew and broke her back?  After she recovered, she was all over the tv singing the song “coming out of the dark” about her getting titanium rods put in her back and undergoing physical therapy.  It really wasn’t a good song at all, but everyone let her sing it all the time because it was obviously very important to her, and Gloria Estefan was relevant at the time.

This morning I woke up and felt like a human being for the first time in a long time.  I blew my nose, and didn’t immediately feel like I needed to blow it again.  I walked to work with a spring in my step, and I have ambition.  Of course as soon as I got to work, I logged onto facebook and starting writing this blog– but that’s ok!

Health is wonderful.

I have another cold.  I just had a debilitating cold that knocked me on my ass for a week, then I got over that, then Jewish Friend came over to study with me for our comprehensive exam.  She walked in the door, sniffled, and said “I took an Alavert two hours ago, but it hasn’t helped at all.  I think it’s a cold.”  By the end of our study session, my throat was scratchy, and now I’m a dizzy mucasy mess who spend the past two days either in my chair or on the couch feeling sorry for myself.

I forced myself to go to work this morning, mostly because I’m sick of being trapped in my house, and I think the distraction will help me.  I’ve missed a lot of work this year because I keep having colds, and my boss doesn’t have health insurance, so he demands that I come nowhere near him when I’m under the weather.  This makes me feel like I’m not pulling my weight, and makes the whole “I’m sick all the time and am useless” feeling that much worse.

So I went to work and conferred with my boss about the tasks of the day while he looked increasingly uncomfortable with my pile of kleenex and my near constant coughing.

“Did you ever think that maybe you’re just one of those people who can’t live in Rhode Island?” he asked me.

I gave him a curious look and he proceeded to tell me that with the damp weather and old houses, Rhode Island is one of the moldiest states there is.  People are constantly breathing in black mold spores, and most get used to it, but some never will.

“What’s your house like?” he demanded.

“Old.” I admitted.

“And you have to go to South County how often?”

“Not very.”

That answer disappointed him, but the fact that I had ever spent a significant amount of time in South County (a hotbed of mold activity!), was reason enough to believe I was doomed.

So what now?  I move out to the desert and take up residence in a lime green adobe hut where my lungs can dry out along with my hair and skin?  I like Rhode Island– I have a lovely little life here, and I don’t think instances of mold in South County should be reason enough to flee.  Still I do feel like I’m sick far more than I should be and when I am sick, I’m far more debilitated than other people.  What I should have been doing all along was keeping track of how often I get sick so I can actually see if I’ve been sicker in Rhode Island.

I haven’t been doing that, so that’s moot.  I guess I’ll just have to take more vacations.

I was re-reading a book a while ago, actually the first book that I bought when I moved to Providence.  I had to buy this book because it was Memorial Day Weekend when I arrived, and the libraries weren’t open.  So for the first time (possible ever), I went into Borders and purchased two hardcovers.  I then brought them home, and sat and read in my giant, nearly furnitureless apartment.

In the book, a recent college graduate struggles to find a well-paying job, lives in a hovel in NYC with three other girls, and scrimps along “borrowing” toilet paper and canned goods from her parents.  The message that she is poor is insisted upon over and over and over to the point that it is just distracting.

When I started my job at URI, my boss lectured me on how to survive on the pittance that they pay me (I was just so thrilled that it paid my out-of-state tuition, I barely looked at the hourly rate).  “What I did was take out all the student loans I could, pre-paid my rent for the year, bought the things that I knew I would want right away, and lived as frugally as possible.”  Then he told me a story about how once upon a time he had $.85 to last him a week and a half.  At the end of the week and a half, he still had the $.85 because you can’t buy anything for $.85.

I listened to this story thinking that it was not all that impressive– certainly I wasn’t as blown away by it as he expected me to be and as I pretended to be.  If I didn’t have to commute (which he didn’t– he walks everywhere), I could go a month (recent evidence is contrary to this, but I still maintain that it’s true) without spending anything aside from paying bills.  Also, I’ve never been in a situation where I had to suffer for a certain amount of time eagerly waiting to be paid, because I’ve had a credit card since I was sixteen and I always have a savings account.

Sure, I’ve been broke.  I’m broke right now and staring directly in the face of a summer of underemployment and another layoff– but I’ve never been so broke that I haven’t had food, or any money at all.  I’ve never been as broke as people who are actually broke.

When you hit a period of extreme cash poorness, you eat all of the food that you’d already bought and really didn’t like, but you couldn’t bear to throw away– the oatmeal, ramen, and disappointing pasta that was really on sale.  If you have to buy things, you use that jar of change in your bedroom, or you just don’t buy things.  The thing, I think that bothers me the most about these two stories is that they are based on choices.  The girl in the book had a job interview, but decided midway through that she really didn’t want it despite the fact that it was well-paying.  My boss is in his early 60s and has no credit cards, health insurance, or savings– retirement or regular, but has spent a lot of time telling me how much money he used to make.  I’m not saying that I always make the right choices, but it seems that these situations were exacerbated by short-sightedness.

When my friend Map Fleece was in a period of utter destitution, she finally ate this jug of pre-made tomato soup that her mom gave her that she had been moving from apartment to apartment for more than a year, and it was just as gross as she expected it to be.  I scam free meals every chance I get, and will take on every extra job that comes my way regardless of whether or not I actually have time for it (which reminds me I should get back to my data entry…)  I guess my point is this– none of this is real  poverty, it’s a setback or a temporary period of destitution.  Perhaps I’m just as guilty since I talk about this stuff all the time, but I rarely complain about my circumstances, I just talk about them.  If I had tried harder, I’m sure I could have gotten a real job with my MFA, but I wanted to be a librarian, so here I am.  I made a choice.

I could insert all manner of pithy quotes here, but that’s obnoxious, and I have a saying that’s all my own– if you don’t like your situation, either change it or learn to deal with it.  It’s all about attitude.

If anyone has and ideas for free or nearly free fun for this the summer of underemployment– let me know, I’ll have a lot of time on my hands.

I’ve started taking online surveys.  One of the frugality blogs that I read recommended them and I decided to dive in for reasons that are threefold.

  1. I like giving my opinions about things, especially things I hadn’t previously thought about.  This makes me feel introspective, in a way.  The other day I was asked to watch a commercial for Visa.  I watched it once, then it made me watch it again.  By the second time I was a little bored, but wanted to do right by the survey.  After that, it asked me a series of questions about what I had seen, and I felt like a right dumbass when I realized that I hadn’t really paid attention and was very uncertain about a commercial I had just watched twice.  As a result, I’m trying to be more aware of stuff, which is probably always a good idea.
  2. Every time I complete a survey, I get entered into a contest to win money.  I will never actually win the money, but it certainly doesn’t cost anything except the time I would be otherwise spending farting around on the internet waiting for someone else to make a move in one of twelve facebook scrabble games I have going.
  3. Doing surveys allows me to spend more time on the internet and less time doing homework.  There’s a lot of downtime after I’ve finished reading my daily blogs and waiting for some people to make their moves in facebook scrabble, and I certainly don’t want to get bogged down in doing homework.  Also, reading for pleasure or watching tv are too obvious in the slacking, while as long as I have URI’s reference databases open and a blank word doc, I can convince myself that I’m going to make the two of them meet– sometime.

The problem with these surveys, is that I just don’t seem to fit the profile for a lot of them.  Today, I started taking one about my shoe-shopping habits and it kicked me out when I said that buying shoes doesn’t make me feel guilty.  I got booted out of another because I don’t plan to buy a car in the next year, and because I’m not Hispanic.  Also, the fact that I don’t suffer from hemorrhoids or have a hyperactive 7-year-old are a drawback for the first time ever.  The weirdest thing so far was a quiz that I took this afternoon about casinos.

Frankly, it’s weird to me that there is a survey about my casinoing habits, but that’s not really up to me.  I don’t much care for gambling– it’s just not my thing.  I don’t like spending money, and if I do spend money, I want to get something in exchange for it.  I do however enjoy races and bingo.  Therefore, I’ve been to Foxwoods to play bingo, and Twin River to the dogtrack.

I told the survey this, and it asked me if I was aware of any of the other casinos on a list of those in my area.  One of them was Mohegan Sun, which I’ve heard of, but never gone to.  Then it proceeded to ask me about twelve questions about Mohegan Sun followed by about five questions about what I do at Foxwoods other than play bingo.  When I tried to select bingo again, it got angry at me.

So I don’t gamble enough, and would would be neither more nor less inclined to visit Mohegan Sun knowing that they just underwent a huge renovation and now have a state of the art something or other.

I think I’m going to have to stick to surveys about buying groceries.

About a year ago, I locked myself out of my apartment.  I was heading down to the basement to move laundry from the washer to the dryer, and I closed the door without popping up the lock.  As I heard the device clicking into place, my first thought was I can’t have just locked myself out, it can’t be true.  Thankfully, I was still in my building, but unfortunately, it was true, I could not enter my apartment.

After that incident, I made copies of my keys, gave sets to friends, and then decided to also hide some so I would not be in this predicament again should my friends be unavailable to rescue me.  I had a magnetic key hider that you’re supposed to put you car keys in and then stick to your bumper, but instead I hid the key in it and secreted it away in my overgrown backyard.  This came in very handy on one occasion when Sassy Redhead needed to gain access to my apartment while I was in class, but the key hider had gotten gunked up with so much dirt that Sassy had to break it to get the key out.  So I needed a new hiding place.

My landlady has a potting shed in the backyard that has a broken lock on the door. It’s relatively clean, dry, and seemed like the perfect place to hide a spare house key.  I put the key in a tiny inconspicuous box and tucked it away in a corner of the shed.  This was about eight months ago, and I’ve rarely thought of it since.

Recently, the boys in my neighobrhood have become more and more familiar with my backyard.  Despite calling the police on them, leaving outside lights on, and pushing the panic button on my remote car opener whenever they get to close– they will not be deterred.  A while ago, they took their trespassing one step further, and brought a TV and X-Box over to the potting shed, hung sheets over the windows, and had a wonderful time for about 45 minutes until the police arrived.  Since then, things have been pretty quiet.

A couple days ago, Gentleman Caller remarked that the door to the shed was open sometimes and closed sometimes and that he found that to be strange.

“It’s the wind,” I said, certain that it was the wind doing this because I had noticed it too and decided it was the wind.

Then Gentleman Caller pointed out the unfurled lawn chair and bag of fast-food refuse.

It’s hard to argue with that.

Yesterday, the door was open again, and so I went in to find the lawn chair, a pair of men’s flannel pyjama pants, and the box that I had hidden my key in lying on the floor with no key in it.  I have no idea how long the key has been in a stranger’s hands, but this does not sit well with me.  I immediately went down to the basement with a hammer to defend myself should I find a hobo lurking in the shadows, and removed the second key I had hidden there.  Then I emailed landlady and told her how big a moron I am.  She was completely unconcerned and told me the shed was a good hiding place.

Later that evening after securely bolting the door with a bolt that has no key,Hobo-739433 I asked Gentleman Caller if he wanted to go on a hobo hunt in the basement.

“I have a hammer,” I assured him.”

“I know you do,” he said, “But the problem with hunting hobos is that they have eyes.  When you see the hobo, he also sees you, and then you have to deal with him.”

“Then we call the police and they come to collect the hobo.”

“Or, we just don’t go down there and get the locks changed as soon as possible.”

So there may be a hobo living quite uncomfortably in my basement that reeks of gasoline and is only slightly less damp than the out-of-doors, or the key was taken by the neighborhood brats as some kind of trophy.  Either way, I’m changing the locks.