Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Rant: Where's My Vacation?

I promised myself I would go easy on the rants in this blog, and I never intended for my second post to become one. But man did this holiday season just reek of overcast for me.

I took time off of work from the 23rd of December through the 1st of January. I was not looking forward to the flight home. I have never been afraid of airplanes, but I despise the demeaning atmosphere that surrounds putting up with security. It did not help matters when I bumped against the metal detector after ‘passing’ the test (woot, I haven't contracted Muslim!) and had to walk back through to silence the insessent whining of the alarm which seemed to say, “freedom ain't dead buddy, it just never was.” I don't speak in black and white, so I won't say that the terrorists have won — but they have undeniably succeeded at injecting something tangible, long term, and quite negative into the veins of this country. Gosh, if you call this something ‘terror’, then you might be tempted to say that they accomplished what they set out to do, which when converted to the parlance of games might read something like “The terrorists have won.” But I won't say that, it's getting trite.

The week I spent at home with my friends and family was actually quite enjoyable, less stressful than I feared. This essentially negates the power of the title of this post, but I'm keeping it because it sounds nifty-keen in my mind's ears. Christmas is just a commercialized bastardization of a religious celebration that I do not adhere to anyway (a duplet of negatives which seem to cancel each other out, leaving arithmetic apathy in my heart for the whole ordeal), but if this is the time of the year when I can most easily be with the people I love, I am going to try my hardest to make it back east.

The real problem began when I flew back home (my current home, not my hometown). My car would not start, and with scarcely any groceries in my apartment I can assure you this did not help me look forward to the two days I would have before work to start my real vacation, a period of R&R by myself, for myself. For starters, I was charged $75 to get a professional jump start. A professional jump start is just like a regular jump start except the pro arrives in an important looking pickup truck, does it a little bit faster and probably a lot safer, and then charges $75 for it. I asked the guy if it would be okay for me to pay with a check as I did not pocket a lot of cash in preparation for this and could not make it to the ATM atm. He noticed my foreign area code like a secret agent trained to spot things like that and inquired about the Boiling Springs address on my check book, I explained that I had just moved out here not too long ago and he said he'd take my check (with my driver's license number and expiration, phone number, and mother's favorite color for good measure written on the front).

My car was dead again the next day. I did not want to shell out another seventy-five thin pieces of paper approximating my value as a human being, so I went to the leasing office to see if they had any jumper cables. Besides, it was time to fork over the $1,435+ that I have to pay for my one bedroom apartment with no washer or dryer, which is $400 more than the two bedroom apartment with a washer and dryer that I split with my roommate in Atlanta (California here I am, ready for another sham). The leasing office was closed as it was New Year's Day, so I turned around to go back to my apartment. I needed a key to get back in the gate, and as it was a gate that I rarely use (I usually have my car and use the car entrance), I found myself embarrassingly running through every key that I had to try and get in. Finding no luck from any of them, I had to slide in behind a guy leaving the apartment complex. I knew that I lived there and was not looking to muck up trouble, but I also knew that he didn't know that and I appreciate him showing the kindness to not only let me in but vocally ask if I needed in and hold the gate open for me. I thanked him and entered quickly, keeping my head down sheepishly as if I had just done something wrong: “The name's Jeff, I smuggle bombs onto planes, practice check fraud with highway repairmen, and sneak into housing developments that I have no right to be in. Happy New Years!”

I ordered pizza for delivery ($25, yeesh) and waited until the next morning when the leasing office would be open to get my car straightened out. I arrived bright and early. Let me tell you, they had no problem accepting that rental check, but when I asked if I could get a jump start the lady behind the desk gave me this odd look (like she started to break out of that fake smile that people in that position wear everyday to emote sympathy but could no longer find the subroutine to do so in her mind) and said, “I'm sorry, we can't do that. It's against our policy.” If ever in my life my jaw opened far enough to sweep the floor upon which I stood like out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, it was at that very moment. I even asked her, in all seriousness, “You're kidding, right?”, waiting for her to laugh and go get maintenance. I find myself accurately cynical about public service positions and the quality of said services, but this level of bone-headery went completely under my anticipatory radar. She did not laugh, did nothing of the sort. My dad confirmed what I presumed to be the reason for this god-awful policy: that they don't want to be held liable in the event that my car is damaged during the jump start. After having been a cashier at Winn Dixie for two years, I have become aware firsthand that peons like her have a sort of “I'm too low-level to help/care” immunity that prevents any further debate to blossom into something productive, so I just left as politely as I could. After asking one person leaving my apartment when I did if they had jumper cables (they did not), I bit a familiar bullet and called the tow-guy to give me another jump. “Didn't take it and get the battery looked at yesterday, I see?” “No sir, I tried my hardest to carry her there but either she has gained some weight since our union or I've lost some muscle.” Another seventy-five dollar check, DL# PN# and DNA sample, and I was running again.

I went straight to the nearest Sears, already late for my first day back to work, and wanted to bite the air so hard as to hurt it when I saw that it was merely an appliance outlet and not one of their auto repair places. I went inside anyway and asked the guy behind the counter if he could point me in the right direction. I could not have dreamt a friendlier response; after a good fifteen minutes of trying to find the closest Sears auto outlet, fighting a failing inter/intra net connection, he advised me to see a non-Sears expert rumored to be of high quality. I thanked him and left, half expecting my car to fail me in the parking lot. It turned on thankfully, and I decided I better go to work.

At lunch, a co-worker agreed to help give me a ride when I finally dropped my car off at a real auto repair place. I was told it would take an hour and a half to fix by another man exhibiting a level of amiability toward strangers that I thought was extinct in our digital, distrust-or-face-regret society. A few hours later, I received a phone call saying it wouldn't be finished until tomorrow — needs a new battery, some new transmission fluid (specially suited for my car, naturally), and something called a “dog bone mount” is cracked in my engine, and that I can expect to part with another $300. I took the light rail home tonight, at least as close as I could, and walked the remaining fiteen minutes. I actually enjoyed the walk, I don't do that as much as I should, but I did not enjoy the sinking feeling I got in my gut as I approached my apartment and realized I did not have the gate remote to get into my apartment (left it in my car) and did not know which key on my possession, if any, would open the walk-in gate. I thought I heard a car pulling out of my apartment complex, and sped up to try and walk in through the gate behind it. It was parking; no such luck. I slowed down when I saw a couple out walking their dog, about to exit through the walk-in gate that I was going to try and enter. Unfortunately, they slowed down when they saw me, and simply stood back a few feet as if teasing me, asking me to prove that I lived there.


Knowing exactly how it was going to turn out, I pulled out my keys and started jabbing them into the lock (they give you a lot of keys here, maybe that accounts for the ass-fuck pricing). Nope, nope, ah it went in! — but won't turn. And putting on this show for the young couple before me did not help to alleviate my stress. “It's cool, I'm not trying to break into your west-coast suburban utopia and threaten your kids or pets, I'm just riding this downward spiral to the bitter end.”

Somehow I made it into my apartment tonight, and I don't think I did anything wrong despite having distrust breathed in my face several times over the holidays (smells like garlic and pickles, if you were wondering). It is interesting to me that, despite having my car break down and having to face a fear of being stranded and unable to obtain nourishment if need be, the worst (and best) parts of this ordeal could be traced back to the people I had to interact with. Whether it is the friendly guy behind the counter who's “been there before” and willing to help solely because, somehow, trusting people still comes naturally to him, or the soccer mom whose finger is already on the mace because there is the slightest chance that you will pose a threat to her offspring and you just don't seem to belong in her habitat, we tend to have an amazing dependence on and responsiveness to the attitudes and opinions of those around us. I'm still not certain which is sadder: the number of people who naturally distrust others, or the fact that we live in a world where such distrust is honestly warranted. Here's hoping that someday we can overcome human nature to become something more than just human; something called humane.

Oh, and don't wait until the last minute to get shit fixed in your car.


Eric said...

Sorry about your epic boning. Great read though! As soon as I started imagining that I didn't know you, it became very entertaining.

Shaun said...

Finally I have something else to read. $75 for a jump? What a rip - I only charge $60.

Eric said...

Don't you have a site or blog somewhere Shaun?

eiyukabe said...

Yes, Shaun, post a link to your blog so I can increase my Wall o' fame }:>