Anecdotally Speaking

The superfluous, a very necessary thing. --voltaire

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Fifteen Degrees Below Zero

Yesterday I get up early to head off to my new job in the city. I have an appointment at 8:45 AM to sit in on a treatment session of an outpatient group that is scheduled to begin at 9:00 AM. This is an early start, even for me, because I need to go to the far side of town and in the best of weather, it will take me 45 minutes to get there. So I figure I need to leave by 8:00 AM, but I don't get off until 8:15 AM, so I'm stressed. Typical.

Worse, there is a snowstorm going on and it is in the middle of dropping, oh, I don't know, four, maybe, six inches, who knows, maybe even eight inches of snow, all over my world. I fret over the clock the whole way as I drive in, as if that will make any difference. At least I have the 4 x 4 Trailblazer; it handles the roads just fine. I only get slippery sloppy just once or twice. I arrive at 9:02 AM and I figure that will probably do just fine. I compose a passable "oh the roads were terrible" excuse as I go in.

Then I find out that the group actually starts at 10:00 AM, not at 9:00 AM. Typical. So I make it to group on time and I am sitting in group, doing my doctor thing, when my leg starts buzzing. Dutifully I have remembered to turn my cell phone to the vibrate mode before group started. I had slipped it into my front trouser pocket so that if someone called me during group, it wouldn't disrupt the session, but I would still know if someone was calling.

I realize now, too late, that I have underestimated how loud a buzzing cell phone can be. I try to act nonchalant as at least two people in the group are checking their own cell phones, no doubt thinking the ambient buzzing might be their own phones. I can't help it, but I feel like I just did the silent fart in a crowded elevator; nothing to do but just act natural, hum a few bars, whistle a little. Mental note: turn off cell phone in group, check voice mail after.

So, I check my voice mail after group is over and find out that Cindie called. I give her a ring back. Apparently, her Buick is high-centered in the driveway at home and is totally stuck in the snow; she is not going anywhere. I have the 4 x 4 and she is supposed to be at the hospital to take out a gall bladder at 1:00 PM can I go over and do that for her? Sure, yeah, why not, what choice do I have? I cancel out the rest of my schedule and head over to the hospital to take out the gall bladder. I do make it to a board meeting that I was scheduled to attend at 4:00 PM though.

Latter, after the meeting is over, I'm sitting at a drive-through waiting to get a burrito to eat on the drive home, when Cindie calls me and says that she has a pregnant patient down at the hospital who is now in labor. A friend has picked Cindie up from home and has driven her to the city and now Cindie wants to meet me, take my 4 x 4 and then let me catch a ride back home with her friend. So, that is what we do.

I have a dozen red roses with me in the car that I had picked up for Valentines Day tomorrow. I could have surprised Cindie with them if I had gotten them home without her knowing I had them. But switching the cars and all, it sort of let the cat out of the bag, so we had our Valentines gift exchange in the parking lot of the Ralph's supermarket. I could say, typical, but no, it's rather just, strange maybe. It works for us though, in a funny romantic sort of way.

Cindie's friend drops me off at home and as I walk down the driveway I see that Cindie's car is not only stuck in the snow, it is now somewhat buried. It seems as if the elements have decided that her Buick is an object that must be claimed, absorbed and incorporated, as if it is something that no longer belongs to the humans.

My task the following morning is to recover the lost Buick. I trek to the barn to retrieve the long unused skid loader. This is the first time this winter it has been needed. The first thing I am aware of is that despite the pleasant and cheerful greeting of a bright sun, it is frightfully, frigidly cold. I check the thermometer; fifteen degrees below zero! After tossing hay to the donkeys, I turn around, head back to the house, and layer on more cloths, whew!

Back in the barn, I brush the frozen bird droppings off the seat of the skid loader. I climb up; strap myself in, first the belt, then the roll bar cage, clanking into place. I pull the choke, set the throttle, turn the key and hear the sad sound of errr, errr, errr, errr, then silence. Dead battery. How anticlimactic. I extricate myself and climb down. I stand and perform the requisite "stare at the thing when it doesn't work" pose and notice that one of the tires is flat. Typical.

I put the battery charger on it, grab the snow shovel and walk out to the Buick's final resting place. I look the problem over. I cannot stand the idea of walking away from this, thwarted. And don't forget, I'm male, and I'm not yet ready to ask for help; I still have a desire to solve this problem on my own. So, I get down on my hands and knees and start digging. I would not have done this unless I thought it looked somewhat simple and easy. And it would have been, if I had gotten it unstuck on the first rock-it-back-and-forth effort. But no, instead, every time I dug the blasted car out, it would go one or two feet, then get stuck again. I like literally dug the stupid car out ten times before it finally came loose.

And it's a crazy thing, because if I had known that it would have been such an ordeal, I never would have started off doing it that way in the first place. But the longer I worked at it, the less likely I was to quit, because I had already put so much work into it; come hell or high water, damn it, it's coming out or I'll die first! Argh! It's OK; I'm fine now.

After Cindie's car is out, the driveway looks like a war zone. Well good, it should. I feel like I've been in a war. The neighbor has left her car in the driveway. She couldn't get it in because Cindie's car was blocking the way. She asked me to bring it in after I finished getting Cindie's car unstuck. So I walk down to where it sits, get in and find the keys. I put the key in the ignition, turn it and hear the sad sound, click, click, click, click, then silence. Dead battery. Typical.

Fifteen degrees below zero?

One week from Saturday I will be in the jungles of the tropical rain forests of the Amazon, enduring instead sweltering heat.

Hmmm, now that is juxtaposition.

Nothing typical about that.

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