Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

The first day at a new gig is always stressful. (No, I haven’t changed jobs. I’m at two years and counting, nearing my longest tenure for any position that didn’t have “unemployed,” or “musician,” or both associated with it.) Monday was my first day at [Government Agency Name Redacted]. Clearing security, getting a badge, trying to accurately put names to at least ten percent of the new faces – all took priority over remembering my hat and gloves. It wasn’t that cold when I left the house.

It was when I got back to the car. The first day at [Government Agency Name Redacted] went well, thanks to being properly prepared, and not becoming distracted by little things like my hat and gloves. Or turning off my lights when I parked my car. You know how most people, when the car doesn’t start, try it three, four, nine times, in case it wasn’t really dead, just sleeping? Not this time. One try was enough. Not a sound. It was like trying to start a brick.

Fortunately for me, the Crazy Like Me Correspondent was parked close by. (She may be Crazy Like Me, but she is definitely Smarter Than Me.) We took two cars because I started work before she did. We came back together because the Beltway Correspondent and the Music Education Correspondent were waiting at the latter’s home with a hot meal. AAA would be available later. The car could wait.

The Music Education Correspondent has eclectic taste in food. Last time she made what appeared to be Mongolian Yakdick in a sterno sauce. Tasty, if a little chewy. Knowing I was about to spend at least an hour freezing my hindquarters off waiting for the tow truck, I was looking forward to consuming the hindquarters of some unfortunate quadruped to make it a break-even proposition.

The joke was on me. The MEC decided Monday was a good night for a bacchanal of vegetarianism. Spinach lasagna. A salad with vegetables I couldn’t even identify. I found out later some of them were beets. Russian peasants ate beets to keep from starving at Stalingrad. I doubt George W. Bush has our troops fighting and dying in Iraq to preserve our right to eat beets. (I have no idea why he still has our troops fighting and dying in Iraq, but I’m willing to bet eating beets isn’t it.)

A chocolate dessert might hold me over. It would have, too, had there been any. Plum pudding. Flaming plum pudding. The MEC got a little carried way with the igniter fluid (or the “accelerant,” as the arson investigator put it) and we almost had to call Red Adair to put the thing out.

(It’s our turn to host next time. Here’s the menu: Pork cops stuffed with ground beef, covered with thick gravy. A side of bratwurst, boiled in a light beer sauce, then seared over a hot grill. A salad of thinly-sliced salami, pepperoni, cappicola; provolone and mortadella cheese, with finely crumbled feta, topped by a single slice of onion as a garnish. Dessert will be frozen meatsicles.)

I called AAA; a truck would be there within ninety minutes. Craze drops me off, and I sit. I can’t read, because there’s no light. I have a flashlight, but I’m saving the battery in case I need it to signal the tow truck in this big ass parking lot. (Only smart decision I made all day.) At least I’m out of the wind, which is gusting hard enough to shake the car.

And it’s cold. Not Chicago freeze-the-hair-in-your-nose-together cold, but cold for this area. Twenty, with luck. Just as I wondered if I should have accepted the Crazy Like – I mean Smarter Than Me Correspondent’s offer to borrow the blanket from her car, the tow truck arrives.

Two nice guys, made even nicer by how happy I was to see them. I palmed a twenty for a tip while they got their little jump box out of the truck. I’d never seen one before. About the size of a small briefcase, with one end of a set of jumper cables sticking out of it. Hook it up, turn the key, and the car starts.

And it did, too. They advised me to let it run, charge things up a little. I’m game, even though standing in the wind is giving my ears the supple quality of carved gargoyles. (Forgot my hat, too, remember?) Just as I’m ready to call it fixed, one of them decides to shut the car off and re-start it, just to be on the safe side.

Good idea, with one hitch. The car wouldn’t start. It clicked like it was thinking about it, but no dice. Whether it was because of an improper charge, or because they left it hooked up too long to my parasite of a car, the jump box is now an inert lump. Even worse, their confidence in the jump box was such that they don’t carry cables anymore. There I sat, not five feet from a tow truck battery that could jump start the Eisenhower, and Sling Blade and his partner don’t have any cables. My erstwhile saviors spent twenty minutes flagging down passing motorists. They even stopped another tow truck. I could hear him laughing all the way over at my car.

They called AAA and asked for another truck. AAA called me back to apologize, and tell me one would be there in half an hour. He’d better, because all this calling back and forth, plus extended usage at work while my phone got set up, has drained my cell’s battery. If Plan B doesn’t work, I can’t even call home for a ride.

Plan B arrived, the car started, and I arrived at home a mere fifteen hours after I left. I take great pride for showing enough restraint that Craze didn’t feel compelled to move out. This restraint is a relatively new addition to my repertoire. (Ask the Sole Heir’s mother, or Lady Voldemort.) I have to go now. I’m having my gloves surgically attached to my wrists.

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