Inevitable

Did you ever see that movie Final Destination? The flick that spawned a million sequels? In the first (and only one I’ve seen), a bunch of kids are boarding a plane for a school trip when one of them has a premonition that the plane is going to crash. He and some friends leave the plane, and kaboom!

Our friend the Reaper is not to be shaken off so lightly, so the rest of the movie entails the ever more ridiculous demises of the escapees, the point being that you can’t escape Fate, or the Reaper, depending on how you look it.

A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at the jobette to discover that the internet was out, meaning that we also had no phone, so the boss closed up for the day (Snow day! California style!). I was going to San Francisco the next day, so I just took that day off, too, since the entire Big Town was cut off from the world*. I won’t exactly say that I was thinking, “Haha! I’m on my way to unlimited internet!” all the way to the City, but it did occur to me that for once having crappy and expensive satellite internet paid off, since it was unaffected by the destruction of the fiber optic cable that cut off the Big Town from civilization.

However, while staying at the modest motel in San Francisco which is my home away from home, the internet was out for a day and a night as the motel managers upgraded the system. Anyone who has ever had anything upgraded knows that “upgrade” is code for “chaos”. Eventually, it was back up and running, though not notably improved, being slower than it was before it was improved. At least it worked.

A couple of days after I got back from the city, the crappy and expensive satellite internet experienced technical difficulties requiring the personal attention of a technician. The first appointment was four days later. While waiting for the appointment, I used my phone to check email, but other than that, I was web-free. Other than cobwebs, that is.

The day before the technician was due to appear, they called to tell me that the technician’s truck had broken down and he would come the next day. I later learned from the technician that his truck hadn’t broken down, and this was a frequent lie/excuse when the satellite company overbooked his services. Once they even told a customer that he had broken his leg, which made it a little embarrassing when he turned up without a cast on. This guy covers most of northern California and drives about 400 miles a day. I don’t know how he does it.

He made sure that everything was in working order before he left, since it would be three to four weeks until he could return if something turned out to be wrong. So far, so good.

*I later learned that many cell phones didn’t work, as well as ATMs and food stamp cards, for two or three days.

Birthday Eve

I was once again rewarded with a midnight power outage for staying up late on my birthday. Again, it was a Wednesday night, but fortunately, this one only lasted a few hours, rather than the fourteen hours the other one did. Exchanging texts with Megan in the dark and silent depths of the night, I learned that no accidents had been reported, so maybe it was a wayward tree versus a power line.

These out of season, mid-week, midnight power outages are getting a little strange.

I spent my birthday eve proving that I may be older, but I’m not wiser. I left home early, planning to drop Wednesday off at what is rapidly becoming her daycare, or possibly private school, in time to get to the jobette. I went to the gas station ($50!) and then Safeway, where I chose a mid-price bottle of sparkling wine and a Vogue magazine about the Met Gala.

At the check out, I discovered that I had left my wallet in the car. I left my embarrassing at 8 am purchases with the clerk and went back to the car, where I noticed that I had left the gas cap off. Fortunately, it’s attached by a plastic thingie, like mittens with strings for cars (or Suzies, as the case may be). I closed the gas cap and went back to the store, where I told the clerk what happened. She laughed and said that at least I’d gotten all the mistakes out of the way early in the day, so I was good to go!

I laughed my way to the car and drove the short distance to the car place, which is a used car lot, garage, and the only rental car place in town all rolled into one. As I rolled down the window, opened the door from the outside, propping it open with my knee while I rolled the window up again (this has become my signature move over the past couple of months), I was approached by one of the car salesmen.

It turned out that he was a Ford salesman in Santa Rosa for many years, and, like me, has only ever owned Fords. He told me that Wednesday was in fact the Car of the Year in the year she was born (2008), so he was kind of surprised by the issues I was already having after such a short time in our relationship. Maybe I really am cursed. He further suggested that I might want to consider trading Wednesday in for a less temperamental model and gave me his card.

At the end of the day, I picked Wednesday up* after they had repaired the door so I could now open it from the inside as well as the outside. I went home without any nagging on Wednesday’s part, though a couple of days later, I noticed that the windshield fluid refused to squirt, so – stop me if you’ve heard this before – I’m going to drop her off and get what I hope is the final detail taken care of on my way to the jobette tomorrow. I have to wonder why there wasn’t an error message to alert me to this problem – Wednesday never fails to tell me that the door is ajar when doing my signature move, or that the trunk is open when I just popped it and am safely parked, but cars are designed by men, after all.

Here’s hoping that Wednesday and I both stay out of the shop for the rest of the year.

*On the bright side, they washed and vacuumed her and she looks fabulous.

Wednesday’s Woes

You know those people who can’t wear watches because their magnetic fields or something mess them up? I think I’m that way with cars.

The five year old car that I bought a mere five months ago is already having problems and costing me a fortune.

It all started when I drove home one day from the jobette and could not open the car door. At first, I reasonably assumed it was user error, as it often (always?) is in my case, but nope. Wednesday refused to open, so I rolled down the window and opened it from the outside. Jonathan thought he could eventually fix it, but it would mean taking the entire door apart (disassembly to repair almost anything appears to be a Ford specialty). Also he was in the middle of digging a well which was due to be inspected*, and wouldn’t have free time to fix it any time soon.

I got used to rolling down the window (at least it’s summer) and holding the door open with my knee while I rolled it back up again. But then more problems struck.

The engine light came on and the wrench light also. My opinion is that these lights should be replaced by dollar signs, since that’s what they really mean. My brother read the codes and it said it was the solenoid or similar. Unfortunately, he can’t fix transmission-related things, not having the specialized and expensive equipment for it, so it was time to go to the car doctor.

The car doctor said that he could diagnose and fix the solenoid thing à la carte, but that Wednesday was overdue for a 90,000 mile maintenance, and most likely the solenoid thing or whatever it is would be fixed by the zillion and one things included in the 90,000 mile maintenance procedure. Unfortunately, the maintenance procedure was $700.

It’s at times like this that I wish I were a real adult instead of the extremely faux one I am. Surely by the time a girl is more than half a century old, and with yet another birthday sparkling on the horizon, she ought to be able to make good decisions about things like this. Somehow I didn’t get the manual, or else I never read it, since we all know reading the manual is a last resort.

I decided to just do the maintenance and walked sadly to work, trying not to cry. It took two days to fix the car, and when I got it back, I learned that it would take a further $150 to get the part for the door and get it fixed, which I get to look forward to this week. Ever since I got the car back from the shop, I haven’t been able to make my iPod work with the car stereo, so it’s been long and silent drives to the jobette and back, alone with my deep thoughts.

When I put on my turn signal today to turn into the parking lot at the jobette, I got an error message saying “check turning lamp”. At least the other lights are off, right?

Maybe it’s just as well that I learned to drive so late in life. I may have saved a bundle!

*My siblings’ land partners have rented out their house in Grass Valley and are moving to the property to start building their house there. Since the house will have to be inspected, the well will, too, unlike the original one the boys dug a few yeas ago.

Affordable?

Go pour yourself a glass of something and sit down. This will take a while.

Ready?

So…last month, my buddies at Covered California called me on April 8 to tell me that the deadline to make my initial payment was April 10. I never did get the letter with the PIN I was supposed to use to pay them. I gave them my credit card number, flinching at the $351.01 (don’t forget the penny). Oddly, my insurance was effective April 1, or a week before I made the payment. April Fool’s?

A couple of weeks later, I received my membership card and instructions on how to register on line. Needless to say, the website did not recognize the membership number on my card, so I was reduced to calling the behemoth bureaucracy.

When I finally got through to an actual person (who was quite nice), I got the bad news, and then the bad news:

  1. Dr. Sue and the entire clinic are not covered by the très expensive insurance. So I can either go to a whole new, unknown doctor or keep paying for the annual visit myself. So I’ll be paying $351 a month for insurance I can’t use (unless something really bad happens – always a possibility).
  2. Because they were so late in billing me this month – apparently, the bill that went out yesterday should have gone out on the 22nd, they are billing me for May and June at once, or $702.02. Yay!

I have to say, I’m not vey impressed with this whole thing. I do not find the Affordable Care Act affordable at all. Even though my job is supposed to defray $400 of the $702, that still leaves me with a $300 payment for insurance I can’t use, and that’s not even considering all the bureaucratic idiocy that accompanied the entire process. It’s been a complete débâcle from start to finish, and the end result seems to be that I’m paying a lot for nothing.

Later: Just got a letter dated March 27, sent to my house’s address rather than the mailbox where I actually get my mail, telling me that I owe my first premium. Which I paid last month. Did I mention that one of the first things they asked me on the phone today was my mailing address, which they said matched their records? You can’t make this up!

No Fun*

I stayed up late on Wednesday night and was rewarded by a midnight power outage.

I was mystified by this, since it wasn’t rainy or windy, and annoyed by this, since I love the accoutrements and comforts of civilization.

Fortunately, I still had a flashlight by my bed, and headed downstairs to call my buddies at PG&E. As usual, I was the first one to alert them to the situation, so I resigned myself to a long night. I had a hard time sleeping, especially after an update informed me at about 2 am that the power would be out until 2 pm.

I texted Megan and she was the coffee fairy, with room service, no less. She also had the news that someone had driven into a power pole on the Ridge (apparently, it is not the first time this has happened, and when I drove by the location later, I could see why. It is located right near a curve, and I can see that someone could easily miss it in the foggy, inky, midnight blackness.) and supposedly been arrested, though no one came to visit Megan in the ER that night, so the driver must have been unscathed.

It was foggy and grey out, so the house was dark and freezing. Although the heater burns propane, it needs electricity to turn it on, thus rendering it a useless plastic box during power outages, which only occur during the cold months.

Of course.

Unfortunately for all concerned, I was slated to take Rob to the Big Town for dental surgery that day, when I was both sleep-deprived and cranky. It took both of my brain cells to get us there in one piece. I dropped him off at the dentist’s office, wished him luck, and headed to the grocery store for a few last minute items for Jessica’s birthday party this afternoon.

After that, I went to the library for the usual book exchange and to attempt to deal with my work emails, which rapidly overload my inbox if not handled quickly. I couldn’t make the wifi work on my creaking, aged MacBook, though I could on my iPhone. Go figure. I packed up all my stuff and headed to the Company Store, where I was able to access the wifi and deal with the most urgent work things, though by then I was in an even less lovely mood.

I was still having a better time than Rob was. Arriving at the office more than two hours after dropping him off, they were still working on him. I settled in to wait with my new library book, a fascinating read about the Kitty Genovese case. About an hour later, there was a loud noise, and it appeared that the huge aquarium in the waiting room had developed a fatal flaw in the glass. It began leaking with increasing rapidity, and the nurses and receptionists applied towels and called for reinforcements in the shape of boyfriends, who appeared with a ShopVac.

The fish were relocated to a bucket, but not before the exiting water shorted out a fuse, taking the computers with it and flushing the dentist out from wherever he was torturing Rob. Inspection from across the room revealed no dripping blood on his hands, which I took to be a good sign. He was not pleased with the destruction of his office decor, however, including the new laminate flooring, or the patient who asked if she could post about it on Facebook.

Eventually, the remains of Rob appeared, semi-frozen and even less chatty than usual, about four hours after I left him there. We were both glad to get home, though my happiness was tempered not only by Rob’s discomfort, but by the sight of a slim black cat leaping from the Ridge to the haul road which runs behind my house.

At my house, I saw Clyde, but Roscoe didn’t appear until several minutes later, so he might have been the cat I saw. The thought of my cats playing on the road fills me with horror, though they may have been doing it for years without my knowledge. Ignorance really is bliss.

In decanting the groceries from the car, I discovered that the six pack of Strongbow cider** I had bought for today’s gala was missing in action. It was listed on the receipt, so I must have left it in the cart in my sleep-deprived haze. I hope one of those poor schmos who keep rounding up the carts from all over the parking lot find it and enjoy it after a long day of thankless tasks.

At least the power was – and is – back on.

*To quote the great Iggy Pop. You can enjoy the fun version of No Fun here.

**I always enjoyed drinking cider at the pub with my Dad, and trying out the artisan ones when we were in places like Somerset and Herefordshire. I was looking forward to that Strongbow!

Bureaucratic Hell(s)

I was supposed to have jury duty in the Big Town on the day of Deputy Del Fiorentino’s service. Little did I imagine when I got the summons the month before that it would be one of the saddest days in the County’s history. Needless to say, all trials were cancelled for that day, but I’m not sure that my service was, so I may find another summons in my mailbox sooner rather than later.

No wonder I only check the mail about once a week.

In addition to the jury summons (at least it wasn’t a subpoena – so far, my goal of being subpoena free this year is on track), I had a letter from the DMV and one from Covered California, each with their own particular brand of bureaucratic bullshit.

The DMV informed me that they were planning to suspend my registration since they had no record of Wednesday being insured, despite the fact that I had called the insurance guy and set it up before driving the long way home from Modesto on the day I bought her. In December. Not to mention paid for it every month since.

I called the insurance guy to confirm and he verified that Wednesday was and is insured. He emailed me documents to this effect, which I printed out and took with me to the jobette, adding the DMV visit to the lunch time errands of the day.

At lunch, I headed to the DMV and was sorry to see that there were about ten people ahead of me. To those of you in civilization, that probably seems like a good thing, and it definitely is compared to the horrors of the Oaktown DMV. I wished I’d gone to the library before the DMV, though.

When my number was called, I went to the desk and explained my problem. The clerk clacked away on her computer and handed me back the threatening letter. I asked if there was some kind of receipt or confirmation number, and she said no, it was fine. She added that the insurance people had not notified them of the coverage until March 20, which happened to be the day I called insurance guy to confirm the insurance. Hmmm. I hope this issue really is resolved.

As for healthcare, I got a letter from my friends at Covered CA claiming that I hadn’t chosen a plan. The letter was dated March 15 and said I had until March 15 to choose a plan and have to pay for it by…the day I received the letter. However, I needed a PIN – not included in this letter and still not received – in order to pay. They insist on being paid the first month’s premium before sending me the card to show I’m covered. When you try to call them, you just get lost in automated limbo and, amazingly, there’s no option to talk to an actual human (who may or may not know anything anyway).

I checked with Jarrett, my intrepid guide through the jungle of healthcare bureaucracy, and he said that I should get the PIN and everything else in time for the April 15 deadline so I will be covered on May 1. If not, I will let him know and he’ll…do something. Want to take bets on how this one plays out?

And then there’s the propane company. I fired the old one after endless frustration with trying to get them to show up and fill up. Things were OK with the new provider until I got a bill with a finance charge because the bill had not been paid within 20 days. I had paid earlier bills over two months and never had a finance charge.

When I first signed up, I called Provider 2 and asked them specifically if I could do this, since it’s the way I paid Provider 1 for years with no finance charges. They said yes, and if I couldn’t pay within 60 days, to give them a call and we could work out an arrangement. Fill ups cost between $300 and $400, in case you’re wondering.

When I called them today, the guy said everything is due within 20 DAYS! And that they would never have said that about 60 days. So I guess I imagined the whole conversation and/or am lying my ass off. He said lots of people pay $400 and $500 a month. Maybe businesses can easily do this, but not people I know who make $10 an hour, which is just about everyone, including me.

Their genius ideas for dealing with this include overpaying during the summer months, when both cost and demand are lower (coincidence?), or putting whatever I can’t afford to pay on a credit card. Because credit cards are an extension of your income, you know.

So now what? I guess I’m looking for Provider 3. And a bottle of wine. Or three.

News Round Up

Or, sweepings from the corners of my life…


The big moment!

In just a couple of hours, my boss from the jobette (third from the left, or the rebel with the long hair, as my co-worker phrased it) will be meeting President Obama. Can you believe it? Instead of being at his desk in our office (a converted JP Penney store), he will be standing in the Oval Office with the most powerful man in the world. He might even get to shake the president’s hand! The occasion is the President’s signing into law an act making the Stornetta Public Lands on the beautiful south coast part of the California National Monument, protecting its breathtaking views and sensitive ecosystem forever.

I’ve been participating in the twice monthly conference calls dedicated to this project for a year now, so I feel that in some small way I am part of this success for our county. My father (whose birthday is less than a week away) would be proud.

So, yeah…health insurance.

Jarrett’s been helping me find my way through the labyrinthine maze of health insurance. As I suspected, I make “too much” money to qualify for assistance with the premiums. You’d think I’d be used to being squeezed like a lemon as a member of the rapidly dwindling middle class, but I’m still bitter about paying $250 a month for it, especially since I’m still paying off Wednesday for the next two years or something.

I get to pay $250 a month and the cost (“co pay”) to see the doctor is about the same and the prescription cost is more than I pay now, without insurance.

Sigh.

Speaking of Jarrett, there was an earthquake on Sunday night, centered 50 miles out in the ocean from the town where Jarrett lives, which is a two hour drive north of Hooterville. Jarrett was fine and there was no damage. I didn’t feel it, though Megan did. She said it was the longest one she could remember in quite a while, and Jarrett agreed.

I think even the earth is revolted by the hideousness of the time change. I know I am.

Megan came home yesterday to find Audrey in her – that is, Megan’s – bedroom. At first Megan thought it was her cat Ramona, who is also a tabby but is much bigger than Audrey, until she got one of Audrey’s patented Stinky Looks before Audrey vacated the premises.

I wonder how often my cats go over there and what they do when they are there. Maybe it’s because Megan is their Staff when I’m away and so they think of her house as kind of their other house?

Miss Adventure


The former hostage, relaxing at home

Being a dog parent, on the other hand…

Megan and Rob took Star with them to the city. She does get a bit bored on the drive home – don’t forget, it’s about four hours each way – and expresses this by yawning loudly and shifting around in the backseat so the Staff knows she’s discontented and that the chauffeur should step on it, traffic and twisty roads be damned.

She is pretty patient in general with the car, though, because she knows that for every stay in the Safeway parking lot, there is the potential for a walk or a visit with her BFF Harlow. And even if it really is all parking lots, she still gets to be with her pack, most importantly Megan.

Arriving in the City by the Bay, they could not find parking. The parking lots near the hospital were full, and the valet spoke just just enough English to refuse a car with a dog in it (and it’s more likely that Star would refuse a strange man getting in HER car anyway). I well remember the frustration of driving those one way streets in the city looking desperately for a parking space – the main reason for selling my Mustang convertible all those years ago.

Time ticked relentlessly toward Rob’s appointment with the neurosurgeon, and they finally found a parking space, locked Star in the car, and ran inside. The surgeon said that he could work on Rob’s pain with an injection into his spine, but apparently Science, however Neurological, has no cure for Rob’s spasming and ever more claw-like hands.

You’d think this would be the bad news of the day, but you’d be wrong.

Leaving the hospital, they walked to the car only to find it wasn’t there. Needless to say, neither was Star.

They then noticed the sign saying it was a tow away zone after 3:00. The appointment had been at 2:45. Megan’s amazing cab catching abilities swung into action as she managed to snag one, in rush hour on Nob Hill, no less. She and Rob jumped in and explained the situation to the sympathetic cab driver, who sped crazily through the city on his mission of mercy.

Arriving at the car jail, Megan was relieved to learn that Star was still in the car and not taken off to the pound, where she may or may not have been alive, partly due to her breed and partly due to her attitude toward strangers trying to haul her out of her car. Star was much calmer than her Staff at this point, and Megan persuaded the car jailers to let her rescue Star from the car while she went to get the ransom from the nearest bank.

Megan had texted me about it: (“My car was towed with Star inside! I am losing my mind!”) while I was in the Village dropping off some jobette materials. I called her and hadn’t heard her so upset in years. When I knew everything was OK, I picked up a bottle of wine for her before getting Stella from camp. Fortunately, I had already bought burritos for them to warm up for dinner when they got home, which ended up being around 9:00 pm rather than the expected 7:00 pm.

I’m sorry to say that the whole escapade cost a whopping $600 between the towing charges and the parking ticket and whatever else the Powers that Be could dream up. But the main thing is that Star is safe. I’m guessing that she’ll be joining Stella at camp the next time!

Report Card

Newsflash! I’m still blowing my nose about 500 times a day at a conservative estimate. Maybe you should just assume that I’m a snot monster until you hear otherwise.

~Sniffle~

Ironically, I went to the clinic yesterday for a check-up having nothing to do with my actual illness. It was just a routine check up. I had originally scheduled it for a couple of weeks ago at 8:00 am, when I would have been the first patient and I would have had a fighting chance of getting to work on time at 9:00. Of course, the clinic called to reschedule it for 11:30 today, making sure I’d have to take at least one unpaid hour off from work.

As usual, I waited for more than an hour and saw Dr. Sue for about 10 minutes. Poor Dr. Sue was totally overwhelmed with fellow flu sufferers. I don’t know how she works such long hours with sick people and is still so nice. She actually apologized for my waiting in a room full of germs. 🙂 In case you were wondering, I am perfect as always, other than the seemingly endless sniffles.

I ran into my brother in the waiting room. He was getting some paperwork done for continuing to be a fire fighter, and his next stop was the DMV for more fire fighting related bureaucracy, always fun after working a 48 hour shift.

I paid my usual $50 for the check up. I still haven’t availed myself of “affordable” healthcare. I need to research it more, but it appears that I will either have to pay $200 a month, which has a $4,000 deductible and requires $75 for a doctor visit, or $400 a month for a lower deductible and co pay. If I understand my insurance-ese correctly – and I should after the whole Miss Scarlett débâcle – this means that I will be paying $200 a month for nothing, since it will not go toward the massive $4,000 deductible, which will have to be met before any benefits kick in. This doesn’t strike me as exactly affordable.

Suzylocks and the Three Cars

I’m coming to you from the modest motel in San Francisco, where the foghorns are blowing up a storm, so I’m guessing it’s dark grey outside. You may wonder how I got here with Miss Scarlett in the shop and the loaner Honda clearly not up to the road trip.

The day after Thanksgiving, Megan, Jarrett and I went to the craft fair in the Village, our holiday tradition. Then we went to the Big Town, where we confidently drove up to the strip mall where the DMV is and the one car rental place used to be. Used to be.

I checked my confirmation email on my iPhone and learned that the car rental place had moved. We went to the new location, which is a fancy way of saying “desk with a girl inside a car dealership”. It turned out that she only had one car available, even though it was nearly 4:00 in the afternoon and they close at 5:00. Apparently people who promised to return their cars had not kept their word.

Since the car rental place is closed on Saturday and Sunday, I had no choice but to take the enormous and hugely hideous Jeep Compass. Megan and Jarrett callously left me there to deal with it with the insouciance of people who have driven an ambulance (Megan) and currently drive a gunboat sized 1977 Chevy (Jarrett). I asked if I should bring it back full, and she said, “No, it’s at a quarter. So bring it back at a quarter.” Not only did this necessitate an immediate trip to the gas station, where it took me forever to figure out how to get the key out of the ignition as the day darkened, but I’ll have to try and finesse my gas purchasing to make sure I don’t give the rental people an early Christmas gift.

Did I mention that the monster gets about 18 miles to the gallon?

Although huge, it’s claustrophobic inside, with surprisingly little trunk room. Also the windows are tinted, making vision difficult at dusk, and the rear window is partly blocked by the absurdly high seat backs, even at their lowest setting, and is difficult to see out of at all due to the odd angle.

I felt like the universe was saying, “You don’t like the tiny, noisy, rattly old car with no radio or stereo? How about a huge, quiet, new car with a CD player?” I had an almost physical longing for Miss Scarlett as I drove along the Ridge, in peril of the three foot deep car eating ditches. This one’s too hard. This one’s too soft. This one’s just right.

One of Those Days

Oh, it’s been quite the morning so far.

The little heater I use in my uninsulated and otherwise unheated bathroom crapped out on me before my shower – hello, 50 degrees! – which was not quite warm enough despite only using hot water. On emerging from the warmish shower, I reached, glassesless, for the pink towel turban I use for my hair, discovering that a spider was in residence.

Now, I’ve pretty much learned to peacefully co-exist with my arachnid roommates, but this was unexpected and somewhat horrifying as the spider skittered down my face.

Imagine how the spider felt.

I got into the 1986 Honda that I’ve been driving during Miss Scarlett’s hospital stay. It’s creaky and rattles and sounds a lot like the Waltons’ old truck that was always breaking down. I can barely hear the rattles and creaks over the sonic boom of the engine, however. There’s a hole in the exhaust pipe or similar, so it sounds like a plane taking off even when you’re only going 20. It also doesn’t have any kind of power assist for steering or brakes, with the result that I am now driving like the old lady I am, or, dare I say it, a tourist.

Good thing, too, since as I came around a curve on the ridge on my way to the jobette this morning, there was a dog dancing happily in the middle of the road. I slammed on the unassisted brakes while the dog bounced around happily. He reminded me of the good old days when Schatzi used to prance around in front of my car on the driveway, necessitating getting out of the car and making sure she was safe before heading on my way. I’d do anything to have to check on her safety now. I sure miss that girl.

I stopped off at the mechanic’s on my way to work and they were still working on estimates, but the numbers under discussion were alarming. We’ll see what happens. I may be the only girl in America who is less stressed by Thanksgiving than the rest of my life. I wish I was running up a tab at a bar instead of at the mechanic’s.

Ugh

So yes, we did get the rain. Two and a half inches of it in three days, though we are now back to sunshine and I fear that I will once more be watering the garden with icy cold water before too long.

On the rainiest of the rainy evenings, beset by logging truck backwash and the futility of headlights, I was just a few miles from home, driving up the hill from the Gro when I noticed that the car was barely going 30. The engine light came on, and then I lost all steering and brakes, not fun on a dark, rainy country road. Somehow I was able to steer Miss Scarlett off the road and more or less off the Ridge, though her capacious butt was closer to the fog line than I would have liked.

I went down to the house whose driveway I was unexpectedly occupying and knocked. It was locked up with no lights and all the shades drawn, so it’s likely a vacation rental. I made my way to the Gro, where there is a pay phone to call for help – no cell service in these parts – and a nice place to wait for it to arrive. I was offered rides home and possible diagnoses of what ailed the car.

Miss Scarlett was ignominiously towed back to town, where it was discovered that there was a problem with a belt, pulley and tensioners. They further discovered that there is a hole in the radiator, which is buried far, far inside, necessitating an entire day’s labor to replace it.

I called my brother, who said that I should have called him when it happened, so that Rob could have towed it to the family property and worked on it, saving the exorbitant labor costs. I pointed out that he was at work in town and Rob was out when it happened, and I was so shaken up that I wasn’t thinking straight. I am barely an acceptable adult at the best of times, and this was not the best of times.

My brother is going to go and look at it on Monday and figure out whether it’s better to tow it back to Hooterville or let the mechanics work their magic. Stay tuned….

Home of the Braves


Atlanta at night

It was a long, long walk through the Atlanta airport. This turned out to be a universal source of amusement for everyone in the know, which turned out to be everyone but Me. Apparently I should have taken one of the train things labeled Gates A, B, C, etc. instead of persistently plodding toward the signs that said Ground Transportation, with alluring pictograms of taxis.

About a day later, I arrived at the taxi stand and was swept on my way to the hotel. The traffic was as bad as I remembered from my epic drive to Florida a few years ago, though still a total delight compared to LA.

At the hotel, I was thrilled to see a beacon of hope. A Starbucks! Right in the lobby! I ordered a small coffee, and perhaps due to the alarming demeanor of a girl who had had no sleep while wedged into a tiny airplane seat all night, he asked me no questions in return, but simply put a warm cup of hope in my hand, becoming my new best friend.

I took the great glass elevator to my room on the 27th floor, which featured floor to ceiling windows, as you see above. I repaired face and hair, put on dress up shoes, and prepared to impersonate a responsible adult.

It was a short walk to the building where the meeting was to take place:

The lobby was quite lovely:

The meetings took up most of the day and went very well. Yes, I still have to write up my report on it along with the rest of the third quarter reporting, but I’m not going to think about that now. One of the ladies I met with walked me to the nearest branch of my bank, where a kindly gentleman issued a temporary card for me and printed out a list of recent transactions.

About 75% of them were not mine. When I got back to the hotel, I called my friends at the Fraud Department to go through them, and what they showed on their system and my print out – just minutes old! – did not match. Needless to say, they showed about half of what was on the print out. I will have to go into a branch and deal with it there. Again, not thinking about that now.

I went back down to the lobby, where I printed out my boarding pass for this morning and discovered that the store with the souvenirs also had wine! They even opened the bottle for me and put the cork back in for the perilous journey in the great glass elevator:

The wonder store in the lobby also had clary sage bath salts, so after checking in with my boss and my sister, I took a long bath with a glass of wine and my MacBook perched on the toilet playing an episode of “Gilmore Girls”. After that, it was time for room service and an early bed.

Now it’s time to head back to the airport. It’s been a good trip.

At Last


Welcome to Los Angeles

Well, that was not fun.

I blithely assumed that it would be fast and easy to fly to LA from Santa Rosa. Only a two hour drive to the airport instead of a four hour one! A terminal the size of my house with parking that’s a mere $9 a day (instead of $18 at SFO)! All these halves should equal twice as good, in Suzy math.

The plane was the size of my car and my teensy seat was located right beside the wing/engine for maximum alarming noise capacity. The plane noises, however, were nothing compared to the kids cluttering up the plane. It was like a school bus with wings. Don’t kids ever go to school*?

Little did I know that the scrunched, noisy, and bumpy flight would be the fun part of the day.

Once decanted at LAX, I found the area where the shuttle buses to the rental car places theoretically stopped to pick up would-be renters. About four of them swept by, packed to the gills. This should have given me a hint of the horrors to come, but it didn’t.

Finally a shuttle deigned to stop for me, and after shoehorning me in there, the driver said, “No mas” and went on his merry way. I admired the bougainvillea and birds of paradise growing by the side of the road as I clung to the overhead bar. Arriving at the rental car place, I was greeted by the sight of a line of epic proportions. The last time I had seen anything like this was in post-glasnost Russia 20 years ago, where they were waiting to buy cigarettes.

It took an hour and a half to get to the head of the line. I wordlessly handed over my confirmation, driver’s license, and credit card. As per usual, it took me about a minute to conclude my business, much like waiting in airports back in the day when you had to check in with actual people.

The car itself is really nice, a brand-new Ford Fusion. Don’t tell Miss Scarlett that I’m cheating on her with a younger model. It’s what you do in LA.

The long wait had not improved the traffic or my mood. I also hadn’t eaten all day. I spotted a Whole Foods, like a beacon of hope in the darkening sky. I pulled in and picked up a picnic dinner (rosemary roasted chicken breast, golden beet salad, and potato salad for $8), and more importantly, a sky blue bottle of Skyy vodka and some blueberry lemonade.

Back in the car, I sadly watched the arrival time on the GPS tick upwards, from 7:15 pm to 7:39. It was nearly 8:00 by the time I reached the motel. I had left the house at 10 am for a 1:45 flight arriving at 3:15. According to my friends at Google Maps, I could have driven here faster, in a mere 8 hours instead of 10.

Good to know.

I walked into my assigned room and was greeted by incessant barking of a Baskervillian type. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from, but I wasn’t going to find out. I returned to the front desk and the unapologetic and unconcerned clerk assigned me to a different, bark-free room.

At last! I made a drink and put on the baseball game. As I ate my picnic, the Tigers lost to the Red Sox, thus putting the perfect capper to the perfect day.

Tomorrow – or today – is, as Miss Scarlett’s namesake observed, another day, and it has to be a better one. Right?

*I posed this semi-rhetorical question to Megan via text, and she responded, “No. That’s why they can’t spell pneumonia.” The hospital just hired someone to work in the ER who spelled it “numonia”.

Manic Monday

My week got off to a great start with my car not starting in the Safeway parking lot on a rainy Monday morning. I stopped off to pick up a few things on my way to the jobette, got in the car, turned the key, and heard a very discouraging noise.

Figuring that it was likely a user issue, I tried again a couple of more times with no result. Unsurprising, but not the results I was pointlessly hoping for.

I called Fernando, the mechanic who fixes Miss Scarlett when ministrations are needed which are beyond my brother’s many capabilities. He said he’d come by and see if he could start the car. Ironically, the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” was the last song on the radio when I turned the car off.

Fernando was unable to resurrect the car, but offered to drive me to the jobette and then call the tow truck for me. I handed over the keys to my car and got in his. As we hit the highway, we saw the tow truck. Fernando chased it down the road, honking and waving. The truck pulled over and agreed to pick up my car.

I realized how lucky I was that this happened in The Big Town instead of in San Francisco, where I am going tomorrow. I would have no idea what to do there, and it would probably cost a lot more to get the car up and running again.

It turned out to be the starter. It was the original, almost 20 year old starter, and the new one is warrantied for the life of the car. It was nearly $500 to fix it ($300 of it being the part and a further $70 for the tow, which the insurance company will reimburse), but I’m glad that my car keys aren’t just a collection of pretty, shiny objects today.

Wish me luck heading to the city tomorrow!

Driving Me Crazy

You guys know that I’m not too crazy about driving, right? My chief objections are that it’s both too fast and slow, while being simultaneously boring and terrifying. My siblings’ years of EMS experience have taught me that the faster you drive, the worse the outcome if you crash, but of course you want to get where you’re going – and get out of the car! – as quickly as possible. So it’s too fast if something bad happens, and too slow because it takes forever to get anywhere. There you have the boring/terrifying dilemma.

I do realize that a girl with this kind of automotive attitude should not have moved to a place where a car is an evil necessity, or a necessary evil. And public transit is not an option. It’s more than five miles to the store, where the bus leaves once a day and takes more than an hour to get to the Big Town, and one bus coming home. I don’t think even the most pioneer-spirited among you would want to trudge 11 miles a day, especially with groceries in hand on the trip home, and even more so in the pouring winter rains.

Having said that, it is a nice, though long, drive to the jobette, beside the mighty Pacific – I still love the part where I come out of the trees on the Ridge and get my first sight of it, spread below me in all its glory – through trees, past little villages and meadows. The worst part is being behind people going under the speed limit who refuse to, or don’t know enough, to pull over. I have suggested that we include this vital information in the visitor guide, but it doesn’t seem likely.

The other day, I was on my way to work when I was faced with a long line of traffic on the road by the store and post office (and the happy cows in their giant field). I waited a long time before finally turning onto the highway. There I was confronted with the unlovely sight of a line of cars recently released from the stop light governing the work on the next bridge south, waiting at the Hooterville bridge light, governing its epic repair/restoration project.

Normally, I’m all for the Hooterville bridge project. It’s the only remaining wooden bridge on the entire long length of beautiful Highway 1 and deserves to be preserved. But this was a perfect traffic storm, and I was on my way to work. There was no cell service to text or email my boss from the gridlock, so I just had to hope for the best.

When the light finally turned green, we started slowly on our way. I was probably the 20th car in line, many of which sported the dreaded out of state plates, so I knew I was doomed. Indeed, we proceeded at a pace so glacial that I have literally driven in funeral processions that were faster.

When we finally got to the Village, where there are two welcome lanes – your one and only opportunity to get past the snails who have been stymying you for the past several miles – everyone kept up their glacial pace of 30 in a 55 zone. I soon discovered that midway in the cortege was a CHP car, so we all made our sadly majestic way to the Big Town.

I was only a few minutes late after all.

Equilibrium

The other day, I came home to find an unexpected express mail envelope.

Sadly, there was no glamorous starlet to open the envelope and announce the contents – life is full of these small disappointments – but the contents were glamorous. A friend had sent me a gift certificate for two nights at a posh hotel, along with a day pass to the spa, $100 resort credit to spend on dinner or in the gift shop, and other delightful et ceteras.

The only catches were: the hotel is in Reno, a 6 hour drive from Hooterville, and the gift certificate had to be used by September 14.

I called to see if they had any availability at such short notice (and at the Labor Day holiday*), and they did, so I’m heading out of here on Tuesday (my brother’s birthday**) and coming back on Friday. I hope I can see something of Reno through all the smoke of the Rim Fire, which is still merrily blazing away. Oh, and it’s supposed to be about 95 degrees during the day while I’m there.

At first, I was all like “Finally, I’m going somewhere that has nothing to do with work! For the first time in about 10 years!” In fact, the last time I went anywhere not for work or with a work component of some kind might have been when I went to England to sort out my late father’s things, which no-one would consider to be a vacation.

Then I had a call with some folks based in Reno about a software product we may be interested in, so I’m stopping by their offices. I’ll have to take dress up clothes and pretend to be a grown up for part of my Nevada adventure.

I had about two hours after getting off the phone with the resort to enjoy my vacation glow before having a subpoena delivered to my door. What is it with me and summertime subpoenas? This is getting to be a bad habit.

This subpoena arises out of the fact that I tried to help out a neighbor who was involved in a domestic situation. I didn’t see or hear anything personally, but I still have to go to court. At least it’s just in the Big Town and doesn’t involve cross-country travel or the US Attorney’s office. I guess I was enjoying that vacation anticipation just a little too much.

*Needless to say, my sibs and I are working on Labor Day. That must be why they call it Labor Day.

**We are celebrating his birthday with a BBQ tonight.

Freakish Friday

The unusual rain gave way to unnatural heat. It’s been way too hot for way too long. Looking at the weather forecast makes me want to cry. At first, they said it would go away on Monday, but now it looks like Thursday before we can get onto the back burner. I hate the front burner.

Living in my uninsulated, upside down rowboat shaped house doesn’t help. Even when it has cooled down outside, it’s still an oven in the house, especially upstairs in the sleeping loft. Even with the screen door (thanks, Rob!) and a fan on upstairs, I can barely sleep with a sheet on, and I hate that. It’s flying in the face of my pro-blanket policy.

The heat makes me cranky (or crankier), as you can tell. On Friday, my brother invited me over to the property for a barbecue. He said that Erica and Jessica were there, and my late-breaking birthday present, but I didn’t want to leave the three fans in my living room for the sunstroke savanna that is the property. He called me back to ask me again, and I felt like Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, where he says, “He’ll keep calling me…he’ll keep calling me…he’ll make me feel guilty…OK, I’ll go! I’ll go! I’ll go!” You can see Alan Ruck in all his comic splendor in this scene here.

I got in the car and blasted the tunes and the air conditioning, even though it’s a quarter of a mile drive (not including our very long driveways). I drove about 10 miles an hour the whole way to make the coolness last as long as possible. When I finally pulled up, Jessica came over to the car and she was actually mad at me for not coming sooner, so it’s a good thing I didn’t bail on the whole thing completely as originally planned. I don’t think she has ever been mad at me before.

We huddled in the shade of some rhododendrons and drank some cold Mike’s. My present turned out to be a fancy camera. Erica asked her professional photographer friends what they would recommend as a step up from the one I had, and they suggested this one. It’s $900 new, but Erica found one that had been previously enjoyed, but not too much, since it still had its original packaging and accessories. She had even taken a couple of pictures of Jessica to test it out. I was kind of overwhelmed. Just the ceramic knife (which I use all the time) would have been enough!

Lichen turned up, hot and scratchy after a long day of ripping out brambles in the bone-crushing heat. He sat in the shade, took off his boots, and applied tea tree oil to his scratches. He says it’s the best thing for scratches and bug bites. I thought about how different our days had been before we all met up. Lichen working in the sun; Jonathan driving to another town to help a friend fix his equipment (and later working on Erica’s car); Erica and Jessica’s long drive from the Valley; Megan working in the garden in the blazing sun; me at the courthouse with all those other sad women (it’s always women), working on our paperwork for divorce or custody or restraining orders, supporting each other the best we could.

My divorce is hopefully on track for October 2. The judge in the county seat wanted me to fill out an Income and Expense worksheet and submit copies of my pay stubs (which I don’t have) and tax returns, all of which felt like a huge invasion of privacy. It also seemed totally unnecessary, since we have already signed and notarized a document which states that we are not asking each other for alimony and further, that we never can, so it seems ridiculous to do this other paperwork.

The Family Law Facilitator said that the county seat judge is new and wants everyone to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, but she was pretty confident that the local one wouldn’t, so hopefully that will work out. If not, I’ll just have to do the extra paperwork. Apparently John and I may well get the final decree from the judge before October 2, though the soonest we can plan our next weddings is October 3.

I’ll get right on that.

The Fly in the Ointment…the Monkey in the Wrench

The trip to the city – well, the preparations for the trip – were not exactly snagless.

I went to check the car fluids, and on propping the hood open on a stick in the usual way, discovered that the oil cap was missing. A look around Miss Scarlett’s interior revealed nothing. Since I only ever check the oil and fluids in the driveway, I must have dropped it there at some point. Maybe it blew away or the kitties played with it into oblivion in the way cats do. Who knows?

I called my brother, who was getting ready for work, and he told me to come over. He took the oil cap off his non-operational (for now) car and tried it on mine, and voila! It fitted. While I’m in the city I will get a replacement part. I hope.

Rescued by the rescuer, I went home and washed the dishes. In the process, I managed to drop and break the last of the hand-made Mexican glasses I bought many years ago from the artist who made it. Brooming and vacuuming ensued, and some grumpiness, too. I began to feel that this trip was not meant to be.

Arriving at the motel, I leaned over to pick up something from the back seat of the car and the contents of my bag spilled to the garage floor. I could find everything but my phone, a cause for panic. I called Megan, who said she’d call my phone and I’d see if I could hear it. I didn’t hear it, but I did see it flashing. It was caught in the door handle of the back seat. Even when I’m more than a hundred miles away, my sister still came to my rescue, just as my brother did earlier. What would I do without them?

I am staying at a different modest motel this time, ironically because the internet works so poorly at the old place, a real problem when your database is online only and your chief communication with your boss is by email. Ironically because it’s even worse here and I was on the phone for half an hour with tech support, who admitted it was an issue at their end and said they’d call me back when it was resolved, which hasn’t happened.

Happy birthday to me?

13th of Never

Well, yesterday wasn’t Friday the 13th, but it was Monday the 13th. And we all know Mondays are worse than Fridays!

Things were crazy at the jobette. We sent out ballots for Board nominations last week, and this week people started calling to complain about not getting theirs, or not getting enough, or something. Anything. In all cases, they were wrong and we were right, but this is not much consolation after being called “incompetent” and other lovely adjectives. I mean, I am, just not in this particular case.

A woman also called to complain about a fortune teller in the Village. She and her husband were visiting for his 70th birthday and decided to stop in and see a psychic. According to this visitor, the seer was “verbally abusive” and told them they should get divorced immediately. The visitor said that she and her husband have been married for 44 years and took exception to this suggestion. “I mean, I didn’t expect her to sugar coat it, but this was insulting!” I ended up giving her the contact information for the county entity which issues business licenses (do psychics have licenses?) and the Better Business Bureau. I wasn’t clairvoyant (or competent) enough to think of anything else.

A guy drifted in saying that he had been released from the jail in the county seat that day and hitchhiked here. He was looking for a private investigator and a lawyer to help him with the restraining order which had been issued against him. I suggested that he check with the police station and the court clerk, conveniently located in the same building. He said that he had to check in with the police anyway, so I guess that worked out. I am a little uncomfortable with my growing familiarity with restraining orders and other depressing legal proceedings. My neighbor is in the midst of dealing with such problems, and we as a family are trying to help her to the best of our ability, but there’s no doubt that it’s upsetting. I definitely think ignorance really is bliss.

I had a few work-related errands to do on the way home, and when I finally got there, the Leafs were ahead of the Boston Bruins by 4 goals to 1 in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs. The Leafs haven’t won Lord Stanley’s coveted Cup since 1967, thus achieving the longest drought by any championship team in the NHL while simultaneously being the most valuable, earning more than $1 billion last year. They haven’t even made the playoffs in 8 years, so the fact that they were still in there fighting and had actually forced a game 7 against the Cup winners of 2010 was huge and inspiring. By the time I had taken off my make-up, gotten changed, fed the kitties, started dinner, and, more importantly, poured myself an adult beverage, Boston tied the game in the last 90 seconds of the third period. Boston went on to win in heart-breaking overtime, and I’m still stunned.

The imperfect end to an imperfect day.