Ozarks Update: September, 2007 (via old-fashioned method of communication known as e-mail) some of you may find the story familiar...)
Here is a 36-hour capsule of my life. Much more typical of my life in general these days…
It's my first day back to work after my "weekend." After our shift meeting, my boss (one of several), calls me back to the office to deliver the ridiculous news that, for the third time, my Wal-Mart has decided to pass me over for a promotion back to my old job of Customer Service Manager (CSM), which they pulled out from under my feet over two years ago. I could go on for hours, as I did with my boss that night, arguing against the reasons they gave for awarding the position to someone who has worked for Wal-Mart for less than a year, but I won't. I don't have the time or the energy to get myself all worked up about it again. But my career at Wal-Mart will be coming to an end as soon as I can figure out a way to extricate myself.
That very day, there is an ad in the paper for a local factory hiring line operators at a starting wage that is $1.00 an hour more than I'm making now (which is a dime more than what I would have gained from the CSM position). After 90 days, I would be making $2.00 an hour more, with full benefits kicking in on the first of the month after the date of hire. So tomorrow I will go and put in my application. There is also a dairy plant in Cabool, 10 miles away, which offers really good pay with a lot of overtime. In the meantime, I will spend every spare minute (of which I have about six per day) trying to put together a nutrition workshop and client handout materials.
Thursday, 7:00 a.m. Amanda asks me for a ride home. I have a computer tutoring session at 8:00 a.m., so Amanda does her grocery shopping while I purchase my new printer (via credit card, a necessary business expense), a 20 pound bag of cat food and a few other items. We're out of milk at home, but I won't buy any groceries because I will be going directly to my tutoring session. I'll have to buy my milk at the grocery store on the square, and will have to pay $.30 more for a gallon, which will be a budget buster (!), but oh, well.
Thursday, 7:45 a.m. My car won't start. I had planned to buy gas, but decided to wait. Well, it looks like I'm out of gas. (I can't read the gas gauge at night on my way to work, because there's a short in the electrical system that causes all of the gauges to go crazy as soon as I turn on my headlights. Yeah, I guess me and electricity don't get along.) It’s pouring rain, but Amanda and I manage to push the car most of the way to the Murphy’s gas station at the front of the parking lot. A nice man helps us with the little uphill slope leading to the pumps. I have $4.00 which I was going to use to buy milk; I pump the gas, and Amanda, feeling sorry for me, has already paid for it by the time I’ve finished. But the car still won’t start. I have never had this problem before. Considering how little $4.00 actually gets me, I assume the car just needs more gas, so out comes the credit card. I put in another $5.00, and it still won’t start. So, we push the car into a parking spot out of the way, and hoof it across the quarter mile deep parking lot, back to the store, in the pouring rain.
Thursday, 8:15 a.m. I use one of the store’s phones located on a pole at the front end of the store. The line sounds a little crackly, but I don’t think much about it. I call Damien, even though he can do nothing to help me except maybe call a friend to come and pick us up. Amanda has no one to call. Her husband is at work, and she doesn’t know anyone else’s phone number. I don’t even expect to get a hold of Damien; at this time of morning he will be out in the barn working on a painting, or organizing, or practicing his guitar. And he’s not even expecting me home before 9:30 a.m. So, I’m not surprised when I get the answering machine. I am surprised, however, when the machine cuts me off before I get eleven words out of my mouth. So, I call again and manage to say twelve words and am cut off again.
My feet are soaking wet and I look like a drowned rat. I go to the service desk and ask for a phone book. I’ll call Rob and Angela. They live nearby and have given me rides before. Rob answers the phone. "Hello? Rob? It’s Dawn. Hello? Rob? It’s Dawn." Click. I dial again. "Hello?" "Rob? It’s Dawn." "Hello? Hello?" I can hear Rob’s wife, Angela laughing in the background, and Rob is a bit of a practical joker, but I’m in no mood. "Click." Or maybe the phone really is messed up. So I traipse my wet self to another phone and try again. This time I get through and Rob says they’ll be there in ten minutes. I never did quite determine if he had been hanging up on me for fun but I suspect so. If I were to confront him on it now, though I would kill him and claim insanity. Or PMS. Or duress.
Thursday, 8:45 a.m. Rob finally shows up. He drives me and Amanda back to my car at the gas station to retrieve our packages, and then drives us each home, me hauling my printer, 20 pound bag of cat food and other stuff into the house, in two trips, in the driving rain. Rob doesn't even get out to help. Once inside, I tell Damien what has happened and immediately call my computer client to apologize for missing our appointment. Then I call the gas station to tell them I will move the car as soon as possible.
Thursday, 9:30 a.m. We have been driving the car with expired plates since the end of June. Back then the windshield needed to be replaced in order to pass inspection. $200.00 for the window, plus $15.00 for the inspection, plus $30.00 for the tags. Needless to say, I didn’t have the money. We finally did get the windshield replaced, but (I) still have not been able to come up with the money for the other stuff, which now includes a muffler repair, and windshield wipers, plus the newly discovered mystery ailment. Damien’s chief concern at this point is the fact that the car is parked in a public place (with expired plates) and the city might decide to ticket or tow it. I doubt this will happen, but the car does need to be moved. He calls a friend who owns a tire shop just up the road from Wal-Mart, and said friend agrees to tow the car to his shop as soon as we can get him the keys, which of course are here at the house.
Thursday, 11:30 a.m. The rain has finally let up, so Damien sets out on the 2.5 mile hike to the tire shop. I have had two glasses of wine (I NEVER drink during the week, but today has been more than I can handle, and I’m too stressed out to eat or sleep.) It really is time I went to bed, but I’m too wound up.
Thursday, 1:30 p.m. Is that the car I hear? Wow, that would just be too cool. Here’s Damien. He says, "So, have we reached the practical-joke-stage in our relationship?" Apparently, the car just started right up for him. We call Damien’s friend, Lee, with the details, and his guess is that there is a problem with the fuel pump, or the fuel pump relay. He can take a look at it once the rain has let up and things can dry up a bit. It might run $60.00. (Plus the inspection, and the tags (for which I now owe an additional $5.00 late fee), and the wiper blades, and the muffler. Oh, and the broken driver-side window, and the oil leak, and the radiator leak and/or the thermostat. The car likes to overheat, at random, most often after idling for anything more than four minutes, or just as I’m pulling into the parking lot for work, which is awful darned convenient. At least I have nine hours to let it cool off. Have I mentioned the short in the electrical? And the missing spring on the driver side door, or the missing spring on the gas cap cover, held shut now with duct tape that doesn’t’ stick worth a crap, probably because I bought it at Wal-Mart?
Thursday, 7:00 p.m. I’m up an hour early, because I don’t know the status of the car, or whether I will need to call someone for a ride. Damien and the band are rehearsing out in the barn, and when Damien comes in for a coffee break, I learn that he was unable to make any headway with Lee, the car guy, because Lee’s medication took hold and rendered him comatose. Our automobile diagnosis will have to wait until tomorrow. Damien checks the car and it starts without hesitation and I am relieved, albeit, short on sleep.
Thursday, 9:40 p.m. Since I got up early, I’m ready to leave for work a few minutes earlier than usual. I’ve gotten into the habit of watching my rear view mirror for the police but this one snuck up on me. I spotted him behind me at the stoplight on the overpass about an eighth of a mile from Wal-Mart. Crap, crap, crap. It’s raining, but I bet he can still read my (expired) plates. I take the first turn into the parking lot, and he follows me. Then on come the red lights. I keep moving forward, figuring I might as well park for work rather than having to chance starting the car again or hiking across the mile-long parking lot (in the rain, which, until very recently, I used to love). Well, the police officer apparently thought I was going to give chase and felt the siren was warranted. So, I moved another few car lengths, parked the car, got out my license and registration, cussed a little, and gave him my version of my and Damien's rehearsed story, in which I blamed "my husband" for neglecting the issue. No wants, no warrants. No citation. Just a verbal warning and a reminder that every time I drive until properly tagged, I am breaking the law. Thank you, officer. I’ll take care of it first thing tomorrow. Have a nice day.
Thursday, 10:02 p.m. I’m only two minutes late clocking in for work. That’s what I get for getting up early.
Friday, 7:00 a.m. Amanda asks for another ride. I need to buy groceries since I couldn’t yesterday. By the way, it’s pouring rain outside. Day four, I think, after a nearly one-month drought. We decide to have coffee and a smoke before leaving, and it turns into an almost hour-long bitch-session with me telling everyone who asks why I didn’t get the CSM position. By the time I get done, the combination of coffee and adrenaline (a/k/a anger) have put me into overdrive.
Friday, 8:30 a.m. When we step outside, I decide to be chivalrous and let Amanda wait under shelter with our shopping carts while I go fetch the car, which is parked who knows where? (That nice police officer really put a monkey wrench into my carved-in-concrete routine last night.) I finally locate my car, and it fires right up, as if it’s as ready to get home as I am, which by the way, never quite seems to live up to my expectations. I pull up to the store entrance and park the car in a fire lane for convenient loading access. Of course, I need to turn off the engine in able to extract the keys to unlock the hatch. (I’ve heard there’s new technology on the horizon that will allow one to open doors, windows, hatches and such without leaving the comfort of the front seat. I can’t wait.)
When I get out of the car, I run into a girl, Angie, who used to work with me. I spend some time catching up with her a little bit, while Amanda loads the bags into the back of the car. I tell Angie it was nice to see her, but I am running really far behind and must be going. Amanda and I jump into my Blazer while Angie runs for her car.
Why should my car start? What made you think the car would start twice in a row? Are you a complete moron, or what? Do you not realize that this is the Fall Season Premiere teaser week of “My Life for Your Entertainment Purposes,” a sitcom which appears on a local channel in Malaysia? (The actual premiere won’t air for a couple of weeks, but the Malaysians like to get things heated up early.)
After repeatedly testing the strength of the steering wheel against two balled fists, I get Angie’s attention and ask if she can wait in case we need a ride. I try for minutes and minutes and minutes to start the car. It comes SO close, SO many times. Tease, tease, tease. I run to Angie’s car. (Why does she have both her back windows rolled down? Doesn’t she know it’s raining?!) Angie agrees to wait while I run into the store to call Damien, not that he can help me much, because, well, you know the drill. He recommends that I try one more time - "Make sure you do not pump the gas!" (Who would do something so silly?) - and, if I’m not successful, just come home and we’ll take it from there.
Friday, 9:15 a.m. This time I crank on the key -- and crank, and crank -- never letting up, convinced that for sure the car is going to blow up. But, finally it turns over, - can anyone tell me why? - and we are on our way. I thank Angie for waiting, take Amanda home, reminding her three times while she is chatting her way out of my car, that said car will overheat very soon if I don’t get moving. I still have to stop and buy cigarettes (yeah, whatever!), and by the time I get home, the car is so hot I can’t believe it didn’t explode.
And, I think, that brings us to the end of our 36-hour time capsule. If I sit here long enough, I will come up with details that I have neglected, but my focus now needs to be on getting together, for all you eager beavers, the details of the 72 hours that have since passed. As far as the car goes, I don’t know anymore than I did 72 hours ago, which is putting a real damper on my weekend that has, just this hour, begun.
P.S. My shoes are still wet, and my answering machine seems to be working just fine…for everyone else.