Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Nice Day for a Walk

So, I’m an idiot. You knew that, right? But did you know the severity of my affliction? Last week, when I first dropped off my truck for its lift and wheel/tires, I walked home. I didn’t really think anything of it and I enjoyed the unusual jaunt through the city on a street I've only seen from behind the wheel. It was early, around 9am, so it wasn’t too hot, but the shop is just over three miles from my house, so it was a long haul home. I didn’t mind too much, and I even met a gaggle of old men staving off the ravages of time by trying to stay active; one offered some advice on crossing the street, and I think I heard him call me a whipper-snapper but he might have been referring to the ginger snaps at the old-folks’ home on the next block. I brought my camera to take some pictures of the truck up on the lift, so I snapped a few shots of various things I saw on my way home that probably would only interest me (so I’ll spare you from looking at them, aside from the cool tree at the top of this page). Taking pictures gave me something to do besides plod through the miles like a homeless guy with nowhere to go.

So, why did I have to return the truck to the shop? In the vast scheme of things (meaning my whole life as seen as one big fishbowl) I had to take the truck back because I’m destined to do things the hard way. If it’s easy, it’s wrong. This used to only encompass my personal projects, but lately, I’ve noticed that it is expanding to encapsulate projects that I’m associated with. Take for example, the water heater leakage (it is leaking in more places now than ever, and short of hiring a Dutch kid with big fingers, it will have to be replaced).

Last week, I noticed that the truck now has a slight shimmy at around 45 miles per hour, and being the perfectionist that I am, I knew that this would bug me every time I drove that speed, so I took it back on Saturday morning. The manager, with whom I’ve been dealing with the whole time, was out because his wife had the nerve to disrupt my plans that morning and go into labor. Really, it was his third kid, did he have to be at the hospital when I was having a crisis with my truck? So, I dealt with another guy who didn’t know me, my truck, or my situation. He said drive it for a couple of days and maybe it will correct itself. I found that hard to believe, but what really sealed the deal for me was that he chucked me on the shoulder. There is nothing I like less than getting chucked on the shoulder, and perhaps on that short list are people who, while they’re shaking my hand, grab onto my forearm with their other hand, like I’m going to run away.

Much like my fears of failure, my doubts about the shimmy came to fruition, of course, and it didn’t miraculously heal itself in the 150 miles I drove it over the weekend, so I returned it to the shop this morning to have it fixed…at least, it’d better be. With that kind of financial outlay, I demand good service, and I can be a business's worst nightmare if something doesn’t go right or my needs aren’t fully satisfied. Ask Bank of America, when I demanded they return two years worth of monthly charges to my checking account because they didn’t bother to tell me that checking was free when you had direct deposit. They did it. And I still switched to another bank. However, when it comes to my cars, I’m especially picky and usually insatiable when it comes to satisfaction.

I dropped off the truck, gave them the key, explained the situation (again) and left. Since the city library was only a block away, I stopped in to poke around a little in the bookshop and to get a few ideas for the city-history-themed bathroom renovation I plan to start this weekend (definitely more on that project to come, for sure), then I started the final leg of the trek home. I slung my camera strap over my left shoulder and headed south.

While I was ambling my way toward the old homestead, I thought it to be a good idea to take a detour through the historical homes district of my town. It was only two blocks east from the library (East of Eden said the bibliophile… oh that’s rich on several New Yorker magazine-type levels), and I would still be headed south, toward my house. Not a problem. Word to the wise: Back in the day, it seems city planners rarely allowed streets to conveniently intersect each other at right angles like they do today, and a map of this neighborhood would have more sinewous lines on it than an old lady’s leg. After a couple of twists and turns, there came a point when I didn’t know where I was, and I’ve lived in this town for six years. Standing at the corner of Clue street and Less avenue, I didn’t recognize anything.

Just keep going south, I told myself. As long as I’m headed south I can’t go wrong. Of course, if the street I’m on doesn’t continue south anymore but deadends instead, which way do I go? And if the street it intersects with is curved, do I go to the left where it curves northward and take a chance that another southbound street will crop up or do I go to the right and backtrack slightly west?

All the time, the temperature of the day, which started rather mild by comparison to previous days… all the time I’m out there, walking around on my pilgrimage, all the while, it is getting hotter and hotter. My shirt was sopping wet, and my rubber shoes felt slippery on the blacktop of the street. Every exposed piece of skin is glistening, and not in the good way like some bathing beauties bronzing themselves on the beach, but in that sweaty-guy-who-can’t-afford-a-car bad kind of way that makes people not want to stand too close to you. I should have been pushing a shopping cart filled with a rag-tag collection of kids and yelling at cars as they zoomed by.

My sunglasses even were speckled with drips of sweat that had been flung from my body, and I had that soggy feeling every place an appendage met the core of my body. Saying I was uncomfortable would be an understatement, but let’s just point out that once you're home, taking off your underwear before your shower is easier when it is dry and not clinging to your soppy skin. I had to roll it off like an ace bandage. Yeah, nice image but an unfortunate fun fact of my day.

So, I took what could have been a nice 3.1-mile saunter in the coolness of the morning and turned it into a 3.7 trudge on a Trail of Tears forced march. The bad part is that I didn’t leave until noon and I didn’t get home until 1:30, at the hottest part of the day, nearly 100 degrees, and it should have been a clue for me that it was too hot for a walk because there were no old guys out. And here’s a fun way of gauging the outside temperature in a suburban environment: For every old guy you see on his daily walk down to the doughnut shop for the paper and a cruller, subtract 10 degrees from 100. No old guys plodding around? It’s 100 degrees out. And for every Asian woman you see with an umbrella and wearing black polyester pants, add one degree over 100. Neather of both? It's exactly 100 degrees.

Well, next time, I’ll call a cab. Nah, you’re right, I’m much too cheap to pay for a cab; plus, to me, sitting in the backseat of a cab is akin to licking the toilet seat at a construction site Port-A-John.

But again, that’s just me. I'd rather walk throught he furnace of the day and peel my underware off than consider burning my entire outfit as a sure-fire method of killing the germs you can get from the backseat of a taxi.

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