Monday, March 17, 2003

What did a '95 Honda ever do to deserve this?

[An unplanned Doug-ression composed 17 March 2003]

I shouldn't be writing this right now.

I should be sitting in the Olive Garden with my friend Mark. Tomorrow (Tuesday) is his birthday(he'll be doing something with his family then). We have been observing each other's birthday with a trip to O.G. for well over a decade now. Not only do we go to the same restaurant (different locations), we order the same thing every time: chicken parmesan. Some might find the repetition dull, but it's a tradition. More important, it gives us reprieve from what has proved the most difficult part of eating out: figuring out where to go. ("Where do you wanna go?" "I don't know, where do you wanna go?"...) Even if every other time we get together there's the same old problem, at least twice a year we know well in advance not only where we're going but what we're having.

The process works something like this:
1) Enter restaurant.
2) Wait for table.
3) Get shown by hostess to table.
4) Sit down at table.
5) Open menus.
6) Verify that chicken parmesan is still on menu.
7) Close menu.
8) When waiter or waitress arrives, one of us orders.
9) The other says, "I'll have the same."

Except that didn't happen tonight as we'd planned.

I left work the moment my shift was over, rushed to the train station, got home, quickly changed and got on the freeway to meet Mark at the comic shop where he would be closing up. Everything was on schedule. On the freeway I was stuck behind some idiot who seemed content to do the speed limit in the fast lane. Now, I'm not the most aggressive driver on the road, but I'm not sheepish by any means, and I was on my way to the Olive Garden event so I was motoring with slightly more enthusiasm than usual. After a couple minutes the driver accelerated slightly, but that wasn't enough. I said aloud, "Look, no matter how fast you go, I can go faster."

Then there was a loud noise from the passenger side of the car, that I remember thinking sounded like I'd run over a flower pot. From the sound something must have bounced off and careened across the other lanes. I thought, Hmm, that was odd. I should have immediately identified the unmistakable cacophony of hubris being struck down, but I continued driving.

After maybe 10 seconds I started to discern some sluggishness from my car. Nothing dramatic, but noticeable. To be on the safe side I put on my blinker and started over to the slow lane. As I crossed the other lanes, it became obvious that the rear tire was going flat. I got over just in time to exit the freeway and pull on to a side street. I'd only gotten as far as three exits from my apartment. I turned off the ignition, popped the
hatchback latch, and got out. The right rear tire was completely deflated. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the shop's number. Well, eventually I did; the first two times I misdialed and was getting increasingly frustrated. By the time Mark answered on the third try, the only answer I had when he asked how it was going was to say (and I quote), "Life is shit!" (Sure, I could have put an asterisk over the "i" to retain the G rating, but we're adults here; it's not like you wouldn't have known what it was.)

I won't deny that even after I alerted Mark to the situation (and we decided to try again on Wednesday night) and I proceeded to get out the jack and tools and spare tire that more vulgarity escaped my lips. Some of it was undoubtedly, by some standards, blasphemous. Hey, no one was within earshot. Say what you will about profanity, but there is something innately cathartic about it. Before I even had the lugnuts off, I had already sublimated the urge to flip off the sky and was considering how, all things considered, it could have been much worse. The tire didn't blow out; I was able to get off the freeway and put on the spare on a quiet side street; it didn't happen two days ago when it was raining profusely (it was merely really windy); I was still close to home so having to return going no faster than 30 MPH would not take too long; I didn't have to get a new tire right away since I take the train to and from work during the week; the spare was even inflated. Sure, I just had a flat on the left rear tire a month and a half ago (just before my birthday--hmm... I hope this flat tire thing isn't becoming another birthday tradition...), but in the grand scheme of the universe, I'd still been very lucky.

Besides, if Fate/God/whatever was really trying to mess with me, She/He/it was really only throwing minor inconveniences at me. I ask you: Is this the sort of reaction a pessimist would have? Maybe, maybe not.

Anyway, 20 minutes later the spare was on, the flat tire (with a deep gash along the outside--not on the tread, but the round part) and jack and tools were put away, and I was on my way back home. Still, I hadn't eaten, and so instead of chicken parmesan, I had chili dogs from Weinerschnitzel. And by culinary standards, that may not have been much of a step down (depending on whether you consider O.G. to be semi-fine dining or homogenized pseudo-Italian food). If nothing else, Olive Garden distinguishes itself by not having a drive-thru.

So here's the question: If Fate/God/whatever really did hate you, how would you know it? Would She/He/it just smite you and be done with it, or would She/He/it toy with you like a cat with a mouse, dragging it out as long as possible?

As long as She/He/it keeps it interesting and keeps providing me with material, I don't really care if this is tokens of love or of hate or of just random chance... as long as I get have dinner with Mark eventually.


p.s. You were expecting something about St. Patrick's Day. Admit it. Predictability is the death of art.

p.p.s. Hey, this is kind of like art.

p.p.p.s. My friend Kathie is going in for surgery for uterine cancer on Thursday (and I have the nerve to be upset about a lousy flat tire--I know). She wouldn't want me to bring things down with anything sappy, so I'll pass along this plea from her: "Please send out good thoughts for me - to whichever deity you choose, God, Buddha, Ala, Ganesha, Ra, Zeus, [Henry Rollins]; hedging all bets here." You don't have to not buy gas or send this to 10 of your friends, just think positive thoughts for someone who deserves them. Thanks.