Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Racka Fracka Fricka Frack!

Je suis sans voiture, and I am not enjoying it! It's such a pain in the ass to have to arrange one's activities around the schedules of buses and kindhearted friends, to be limited in one's movements because one is no longer automated. It's a real pisser that the bus service in my neighborhood is so spotty, and that I have to walk quite a way to and from the bus route and my home or office.

On Monday evening, after a lovely afternoon of shopping and burgers with JB (I got a white sequined wrap-dress for myself and a gold-and-silver sequined dress for one of my skinny friends, a video copy of Drop Dead Gorgeous, and a big fat PBS-produced copy of The Forsyte Saga for Grandmother), I was driving home from the grocery store and ran over a little curb in the road that I didn't see and which really shouldn't have been there (civil engineers never think of consulting me before they litter up our roadways with unnecessary curbs and difficult interchanges); the impact, slight as it was, jarred something loose in Miss Marjorie's innards, and the motor stopped. The car drifted to a halt about ten feet out of the intersection, sitting in the left lane of southbound Constitution Avenue in Alameda where it joins with Marina Village Parkway. I turned the key a few times, the engine would turn over, but it wouldn't catch (I don't know really if that's the correct terminology; more truthfully, it chuggachuggachuggaed but didn't vrooom).

So I sat there in the car with my hazard lights going and made several phone calls (thank God for cell-phones). First I called my uncle the cop, who lives in Alameda, but neither he nor my aunt were home. Then I called Grandmother, who told me that my uncle was at work, but I could try his cell-phone. So then I called his cell-phone, but he didn't answer (maybe he was roughing up a perp or something). Then I called Information to get a tow company in Alameda; they connected me, but the tow company did not answer. I called Grandmother again, and asked her to look up a tow company in the Yellow Pages, preferably something based in Alameda. All this time, I have the phone plugged into the cigarette-lighter, and so I'm sucking up the car-battery; all this time my Butter Brickle ice cream and Fudgsicles are melting in the trunk.

Eventually I got hold of Pito's Towing (which is not in Alameda, it turns out), described to the dispatcher as well as I could where I was (I didn't know I was "southbound" until later), and was told that a truck would get me and tow me home within twenty minutes. So I called my sister and talked her into coming over next day and seeing if she could do something with my car once it was back in the driveway (since I only had to wait twenty minutes, I figured I might as well use up the car-battery, since I have a recharger at home). I called Grandmother back and told her what was going on. Then I sat back and waited, ate a couple of melting Fudgsicles, and hunted through the car for my headphones so I could listen to my CD player.

While I waited, one young man stopped and asked if he could help; I told him I had a tow-truck coming, and thanked him for his Samaritanism, and he went on his way. Later still, an Alameda cop came by and pushed me off to the right side of the road so I wouldn't be in the roadway. He also very kindly took no notice of my eighteen-month-old registration stickers (I lost last year's registration stickers before I could get them on the car, and then I keep forgetting about getting a smog-check and re-registering, so the lost stickers are expired now, too). Both the Samaritan and the cop were pretty cute, though I wasn't really in the best mood to appreciate their charms. And while I was hunting for my headphones, I found my long-lost British Queer as Folk soundtrack CD (but not the headphones, of course, so I can't listen to it).

After about an hour, the towtruck shows up. Both he and I (and the dispatcher) had forgotten about the CalTrans work on the Posey Tube (I was some four blocks away from the tunnel), which closes that major artery into and out of Alameda every night at nine, so the truck had to go all the way over to the Park Street Bridge and back again, a ten or fifteen mile detour which accounted for the delay. The driver poked around under the hood for a while to see if he could start the car himself, but he couldn't. So he hooked up Miss Marjorie and dragged us to Park Street (chattering all the way... he was quite the little talker, but didn't say anything even remotely interesting).

For reasons that were beyond my understanding (though certainly not for lack of repetitive explication), the tow-truck driver switched me with another tow-truck driver once we reached Park Street. Something about sharing commissions with a buddy and getting back to his interrupted dinner. The next driver was somewhat less chatty, and eventually I got home and was done with the whole thing. The Fudgsicles were a total loss, but the ice-cream was still okay (though I imagine all the toffee bits have sunk to the bottom).

And so for the last two days, I've had to take the bus to and from work. I had to rely on others to take me to my AA meeting and then to fellowship afterwards and then deliver me back home. I have had to put off running certain office errands until I could be out of the office for an hour or two and had sufficient energy to do the errands on foot. The whole thing sucks.

On top of which, if I can't get Marjorie started again in the next couple of days, I will have to rent a car or bum a ride to go to my men's retreat in Camp Meeker this weekend. And while bumming a ride isn't such a hardship, I have a drag show on Sunday evening that I will also need a ride to and from. I had planned to just pack a drag-bag with my weekend bags and go straight to the show from the retreat (stopping at my office to change), but I can't ask someone else to conform to that schedule for me; and yet it would be rather expensive to rent a car for four days just to do four or five hours of driving.

And then, if Miss Marjorie really is dead, I have to face a decision: to pay a big wad of money to have her brought back to life and up to speed (getting the steering column and the internal wiring all fixed up, and all her fallen pieces glued back on, as well as whatever is wrong with her right now), or to pay a slightly larger sum of money for a different car of the same make and model that is hopefully in better cosmetic condition? I love Miss Marjorie, but she is a car... it would be foolish to let my sentimentality over material possessions lead me into a poor consumer decision.

Well, we shall just have to wait and see. My sister is coming over today to pick me up from work and see what she can do with the car now that the battery is recharged (she couldn't do anything with it yesterday with a dead battery); after we make a thorough investigation we will have a better idea of just how dead Miss Marjorie really is... one can't formulate problem-solving strategies until one knows the exact terms of the problem.

In other news, I got a response about my evaluation. The Boss sent copies of his evaluation to the staff as well as to the Executive Body to whom the report is made. It wasn't wordy or fulsome or even especially flattering... but it was positive, and I feel strangely validated for some reason:
    Staff Secretary: Robert does a multitude of tasks and does them quite well and is a most congenial person. His letter writing is first-rate and his ability to resolve mechanical problems is extraordinarily useful. His institutional memory is invaluable. Alas, he, too, suffered from a lack of direct supervision and several tasks were either delayed or went undone. Now, with an assurance of presidential stability, Robert has gained a renewed sense of the importance of his role in maintaining a flow of communication both within and without the office. His efforts to address his weaknesses are paying dividends and the office is a more productive workplace.

    Conclusion: At his best, Robert is extremely valuable to the productivity of the office. The trick is to keep him at his best and that is the task of the President. This President recommends his continued employment.
So unless my non-fans in the Executive Body manage to create a cabal of some sort (and I was crushed to learn that I am not universally beloved), I am secure in my job for another year or two. The Boss is considering negotiation a contract with me, just in case he doesn't win the upcoming elections.

Well, I guess I'd better get some work done. I'm trying to get all the loose paper on my desk filed away, and that's taking a good deal of time.

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