Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Day in the Trenches

It was a busy day for me today. Usually I only say that when my morning commute is tangled up by a four-legged fender-bender in the hallway on my way to work, but today, I actually left the house, stood in the bright sunlight of summer, commiserated in the company of strangers and accomplished a wide variety of tasks, single handedly.

Well, I did use both hands on several occasions.

I saved up all of those little errands that lie about the house and clutter up the calendars and I decided to tackle as many of them as I could in one day. I’m not sure what got into me, but preparation for my excursion began the night before with the all-important list. Perhaps the huge deadline I have next week has obliged and invigorated me to shift some of my responsibilities to other projects and activities. That’s right, I’m taking what took me nearly three months to accomplish and I’m going to do it in 10 days… but not today. There’s errands lurking about. Plus, I want to see how the big tires on my truck adversely affects my fuel mileage. First stop: gas it up.

I dropped the kids off at school. Today Natalie started in a new room, the “big girls’ room” as we have led her to believe it is. Change scares her and she was a little hesitant to proceed into the room, even though she knows most all of the kids. It is the three-year-old room, and she still has three weeks until she is officially three, so that’s a big difference for her. There were some tears and some leg-clamping hugs (added to it that I neglected to kiss her good bye—some father I am) but she was fine by comparison to how she acted when she first went from the ones room to the twos. Cry me a river, and then the teacher said she was right as rain minutes after I pried her from my legs and escaped out the door.

Then I drove all the way out to the county buildings to pick up a copy of Matthew’s birth certificate. To say that there was a diverse grouping of people in the expansive waiting room of the records clerk department would be an understatement, as it looked more like the United Nations. In the air was the rubber stamp smell of progress mixed with a quixotic stench of impatience and anxiety that normally greets you in buildings like this, but since this was a government-run structure, that progress was summarily crushed by the weight of costly legislative processes and the anxiety and impatience is celebrated, elevated and distinguished to be a source of blissful joy and delight by the bottom-heavy clerks straining the springs of theirs chairs while wielding insurmountable rapiers of records-hoarding power. Since I was there to retrieve a birth certificate, my very past was in their pudgy sandwich-gripping hands.

Also saturating the air were the varying degrees of hygiene employed by the patrons of this (and of any) bottom-feeding government office; at least it isn’t the unemployment office. When someone walks by me too close, I always find myself either holding my breath or timing an exhale at that moment. Of course, not everyone avoids showers… and deodorant… and cologne… or rubbing a baby wipe on your face once in a while… and I’m sure 30 percent of the people I saw probably smelled delightful (well, maybe 15), I wasn’t going to chance it by sucking in something malodorous.

Standing there (I stood instead of sitting in the 20 or so chairs lined up back-to-back, musical-chairs style; they were typically small and set way too close together. Since I loath accidental human contact with strangers—you know, your legs touch or your elbows fight for space—I didn’t sit down for fear of clunking heads with the person sitting behind me and getting some kind of head dermatitis)… anyways, standing there, I found it funny in a bizarre way how much energy and fervor goes into obtaining little scraps of paper with your name on them proving one thing or another to somebody who asks this of you. Besides standing there and blinking incomprehensively in front of me, prove you were born. Other than storing all of your stuff in that building, prove you live there. Prove you two are married…besides the rings poking ruts into your fingers and the Friday-night silent arguments of defeatism.

Well, after all, it wasn’t that bad. I watched all walks of life breeze in and out for about 20 minutes before my unusually complicated number—D258—was called to Window 7, where I managed to make the clerk crack her foundation paint on her face with a brief but glimmering smile with some idle joke about how small the pencils were… I mean, really, I’m filling out important paperwork about my only son here, not working on a perfect game down at the Roll & Bowl.

And if I don’t pay enough in taxes already, it cost me a buck and half to park, where I decided that when the antennae on my truck started to slap the concrete ceiling in the ever shrinking parking structure (it was eight feet tall on the ground floor but only seven on the next level), that I should find other arrangements before I wedge my truck into some place that they’d have to cut it out of.

I stopped to take a couple of pictures of some city streets for a potential freelance newspaper column gig (more on that as it develops), and then I was off to Kinko’s to make some copies of our Living Trust and Last Will and Testament (shudder!) and finally to get some business cards made to display my writing/editing talents. It wasn’t crowded, at least as much as I thought it would be during the lunch hour. Five aimless souls wandering around the copiers like zombies not sure if they should copy or collate were all that I saw. I walked up to the counter and began the hailing process, where I look mostly distressed, desperate and needy with a pinch of pathetic thrown in for sympathy’s sake. After about 10 minutes of solitude, I decided I would have more luck trying to get a drink at the Viper Room after a major Hollywood premiere than I would flagging down one of the four people urgently trying to look busy behind the counter. When I was finally blessed with the attention on one of them, the Giant Book o’ Business Cards was plopped before me like a Chinese phone book. I didn’t know how it worked, how to read it or what to do with it at all. In the time it took me to look up from the scads of examples piled therein, my faithless servant had vanished in thin air right before my very eyes.

I cringed, decided I wasn’t going to get anywhere looking through this monstrosity, heaved it closed with the resonance of a great tomb of literature slamming shut with a cavernous echo throughout the stacks of an ancient library, and left in one of my many lack-of-quality-service huffs. A letter I will write.

Luckily, I remembered Staples’s old motto: “Yeah, we have that” and I went there, copied what I needed copied, ordered the exact business card I wanted (something very plain and straightforward… and inexpensive) and even picked up a nice leather holder to flamboyantly display them when I say, with relish, “Here, take one of my cards and thank you for considering my query.”

While I was in the neighborhood, I paid homage to Target for some Fabreeze, but it was an in-out ordeal… it always is when I’m without little scampering feet who want to see every toy on every aisle, check out the bicycles and then catch a few stories in the book section. Me: Fabreeze, Aisle 15, pay, leave.

Home Depot was a bust. Why do I bother? They didn’t have the A/C filter size I needed; why is mine always the one rare, impossible-to-locate size that I can never find? Is it only made by Tibetan monks using silk hand-squeezed from worms and hand stitched into frames fashioned from the bones of dodo birds and the shells of Galapagos Island turtles? I swear. Every time. They didn’t have the rubber weather seal to replace the one under the front doors that’s falling apart. They didn’t have those little chair pegs for the kitchen table so the legs don’t make that hideous screeching noise every time you move it. They didn’t have the two screens I needed to replace the ones destroyed by Chief Breaks Everything. They had nothing.

The Post Office was easy for a change, as it always feels like I’m waiting in line for Space Mountain when I go there, but today I was Number 71 and they were on 69… and 70 was a no show.

After that, I returned to the library (for the third time in as many days) to disturb the little old ladies working in the Friends of the Library bookstore into finding the two historical posters I want for my city-themed bathroom remodeling that I promise myself to start one day soon. If I start now, Kara pointed out, I doubt very much I’d be able to finish by the date of Natalie’s birthday party, and I don’t want partygoers traipsing upstairs to use our General Issue bathrooms every time the urge strikes. It’s the point of a guest room, for guests, and I hate to tempt people in the peeking into my medicine cabinet to see what brand of dexamphetamine I take for my verbal diarrhea. Well, finally after three attempts, the volunteer I met today remembered to bring her glasses so she was able to locate the posters in question from the backroom and I was on my way again.

Frankly, I don’t remember what else happened today. When I got home, I cuddled up on the couch with four freshly micro’d hot dogs smothered in a homemade relish/mustard concoction, just in time to catch “Seinfeld” on TBS and to toggle back and forth to “If These Walls Could Talk” on HGTV.

The kids and the wife returned home from their respective days, and all went well at school for Natalie, as I expected. Splash Day was a success and she had fun. Baths were given (and taken, depending on your point of view), Natalie watched the first part of “Finding Nemo” until “Nemo’s daddy got hurt” and then she was whisked off to bed.

The night was quiet again, too quiet it ends up, as I realized that between “Rock Star Supernova,” So You Think You Can Dance,” “America’s Got Talent” and the crapulence that is “George Lopez,” Wednesday has to be the worst night of the week for television. I ended up the evening (and began the morning) doing some work toward my big August 11 deadline and then dashing off this tripe for posterity’s sake. Posterity? Who am I kidding to think that the Internet will dutifully embrace my ramblings until the end of time. Perhaps, in the future, someone will record these thoughts onto spinning rings to be played over and over to the delight of Weena and her Eloi friends.

I’m sure I’m missing some gem experience of my day? No? Bored enough? Heck, I’m proud you made it this far even… in fact, for those that made it to the end, the secret word for the day is butterscotch… butterscotch. Next time you see me, say “butterscotch” and you’re guaranteed to win a fabulous prize*.

*Fabulous prizes not guaranteed.

No comments:


web site tracking
Sierra Trading Post