Monday, November 07, 2005

Why being an adult is the same as being Gulliver

Back when I was younger and my family went on vacations to Disney World, I was always kind of amazed how smoothly the trips went. We went to the airport and bam, we had reservations confirmed on a flight. Then we flew and changed planes and landed right on time. And when we went to the rental car counter, we'd have a midsize car waiting for us and sometimes even got an upgrade, b/c my parents knew enough to use the free upgrade coupon. (rhymes with poopon not, qupon.) And during our weeklong stay we followed our schedule of going to the Magic Kingdom, Sea World, EPCOT, MGM and whatever else. And we always were able to sightsee random things, buy souvenirs and then get on our flight back to Buffalo and get back to our lives. It was always lots of fun and just seemed like there was soooo much that we did. How in the hell did my parents ever manage to orchestrate that? I always figured that I'd learn the magic answer when I "became an adult."

This past week, I realized how turning 30 and "becoming an adult" are not necessarily mutual progressions of time.

On Monday, Oct. 31 (two days after my 30th birthday) I got a call in the late morning from my boss telling me that my new Apple iBook G4 (on which I am typing right now) had been delievered at my office. Yay! I tell her that I'll be in the later afternoon to pick it up, after I run a bunch of errands. While I'm running the errands I noticed a thing with my car. I was sitting at a traffic light and when it turned green my car wasn't quite as responsive as normal. I pressed on the gas and my usually very sensitive pedal required me to push down further before my car started moving. I had been listening to the radio and sort of blew it off thinking that I might have imagined it. However, on the drive home from the grocery store it definitely happened again. I figure that I need to call Saturn to have my newly used car (I bought it a few months ago, it's a 2002 SL2) looked at.

I drop off my groceries and head to the office and the car does it's weird unresponsive gas pedal thing again. I'm not particularly happy, and I'm in fact scared in the way Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanze were scared about going to the mechanic way. If he tells me I need a new "Johnson rod" who am I to disagree? But when I get to the office and pick up my computer and see its image on the box, any fears of a tempermental car are swept away, at least until I start driving again. About one mile into my 6-mile drive home, the "service engine soon" light comes on. YIKES!

The car is still doing the pedal thing sporadically at stop lights, but fortunately is exhibiting no other problems with its operation. I get home and immediately call Saturn, before even opening my new computer. It's a Monday remember and they tell me that the soonest diagnostic appointment they can schedule for me is not until Thursday. (Side note: in a place the size of Los Angeles, you can't just drop off you car when you get an oil change and say, "Btw, I noticed a noise can you take a look?" that makes me miss Albany. you have to schedule diagnostic appointments, which are all-day affairs). So now I have to play the "umm, uhhh ..." game on the phone as I think out loud about whether I can afford to drive me car for two days with the light on. The woman on the phone says that there are like 1,000 reasons that light can go, 900 of which are totally OK to drive with for a few days, especially with my short commute. So i go ahead and schedule for Thursday and arrange the relay of rides to get me to and fro the dealership, which is like 15 miles away.

So I get back to playing with my computer and it's grand! I'm even having so much fun that the fact I just spent $1,400 on it and have an ???? amount coming on my car (at least a few hundred i suspect) isn't even a thought in my mind. I do take a quick break to read my car's owner's manual hoping for a magic bullet. It says that one reason the "service engine soon" light comes on is when the car is low on fuel and an air bubble sneaks in. I know I've got just a quarter tank, not really low, but certainly not high. I take a quick spin to the gas station to fill up, hoping against hope that well it'll be fixed, right? Well, I fill up but of course no dice. the Light stays on.

The next morning I am very wary when I start my car, but of course it's fine. And I notice that on my drive the car is driving smoothly, even at stop lights and stop signs. That's a good sign. About two miles into my drive, the light turns OFF!!! Perhaps i've been blessed by a miracle of magic bullet car repair. Should I start questioning my atheism? This should give you some idea as to how vulnerable I feel about my car. This is definitely one of the least manly moments of my life, confessing my extreme car wussness for the world to see.

So I resolve that if my car remains good to go for the rest of Tuesday and on the way into work Wednesday, I will call Saturn to cancel the diagnostic appointment and perhaps reschedule for a couple weeks later when I am due for an oil change. We're on deadline at work, so the idea of throwing this into my daily stress is just too much. Wednesday rolls around and things are peachy and I am now basking just in the glow of my new computer, which has a really nice monitor, which I look at a lot late at night when I would have usually been in bed before the new computer. And I'm not watching porn or downloading porn. I'm just staring at my desktop wallpaper.

Fast forward (though if you've read this far, you'll realize that nothing moves fast when I write) to Friday evening. I'm driving to my colleague's opening at an art gallery and my car feels a little shakey. Like the drive is just not smooth and at one light the gas pedal thing feels like it might have just come back. Well, a friend calls me and after the quick conversation, I look at my dashboard and tada "Service Engine Soon." It's back. I call Saturn immediately since it's 6:45 and they're open until 7 p.m. But since it's Friday everyone in the service dept. has knocked off early and I'm cheerily invited to call back at 8 a.m. Saturday. The three miles to the gallery, my car exhibits the shakiestness of all in the past week. I'd provide a link to fear here, but they don't really have one that I have time to find.

Well, the gallery opening is fantastic. Cool art.

But on the way back to my apartment, well, more scariness. The car keeps being unsmooth. That's the scientific way to say "I'm afraid that I'm going to be told I need a new Johnson Rod and that said Johnson Rod will be very expensive."

[for those wondering when the fuck the gulliver reference will make sense, it's coming up. keep your shirts on]

So I get home from the art opening and decide to once again turn my attention to my computer. I love denial! Well, i figure that it's finally time to hook up my printer and test out Pages (Apple's version of MS Office, b/c I won't patronize Microsoft if I can help it. And there's no better way to stick it to the man than by buying software from another multi-billion-dollar corporation. Well, on this night I discover that I cannot print from the Internet, unless what you mean by print is getting all blank pages for every page you intend to print from say, ( I really wanted to print out Steve Lopez's series on homelessness in downtown Los Angeles.,1,7834819.special

And Pages, it's awesome, so as long as you never want to send a Pages document to anyone via e-mail. I spend several hours trying to fix these problems, but no dice. Then Sunday night I spend many more hours trying to fix all these things--printer and Pages. I download drivers (I even find the updated drivers for my three-year-old printer), uninstall software, reinstall new software, read manuals (well, skim them), pore through discussion groups.

Eventually the phone rings. It's my friend, Jon, from the 716. He asks how things are going and seems to be able to detect that I'm in a non-purrfect state of mind. I hit him with the litany: the car (which actually is worse b/c it was bad, then miraculously good, then stomach-punching worse), the computer, being on deadline at work, the money associated with the car and the computer, needing a haircut. blech. Any one of those things independently, no big deal. Even two of them, like just the computer and deadline, fine. But the car and the computer and the deadlines and everything else in life was just too much. I told my roommate that I felt like Gulliver being stabbed by the Lilliputians (well, the car was actually was like being stabbed by a lilliputian weilding a Cutco knife--i bought two of them and they're spectacular.)

Well, I can say that there was a mild resolution. I fixed the pages problem. I figured out how to export files into forms that can be attached to emails. Yay!

It's funny, as I dealt with all this I remembered a time I talked to my parents about the vacation planning thing and how at my age, they were already raising two kids. And they basically said that you draw on your past experiences and try to emulate your successful models and avoid the missteps of those you've seen who suck it. But basically, you're never prepared. Them parents sure is smarts.

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