Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Welcome To My World.....

Mass - "Transit"?

One of the things I keep telling folks (including myself) is that life has to suck sometimes. If it didn't, we couldn't appreciate the good days. I can't imagine a life where everything is happiness, and sweetness and warm fuzzy puppy dogs. We all have to get scrapped and break things and lose money. Life is a balancing act, it isn't supposed to be on a silver platter. However, sometimes life just sucks a bit more than it has to. Once in a while, karma just really piles up and then opens the flood gates. After looking back at last weekend, I am expecting things to be blissfully boring this coming weekend, or possibly even warm and fuzzy.

Last weekend, I had to drive down to Tucson, Arizona to attend a conference that my office was putting on. It was the third conference this year and thankfully the last. Since the weather had cooled down, I thought I would treat myself and drive the good car down to Tucson. The good car is a 1991 Lotus Esprit. It is my mid-life crisis vehicle that rarely sees the light of day. It is impractical for anything but going really fast on a freeway. Heading to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk is not this car's forte. Like I tell most folks, it is more of a hobby than transportation. It needs a lot of attention to keep it running.

I left my house at 12:30pm and headed south. I got about 10 miles before noticing that the water temperature gauge had pegged into the red zone. I pulled off the freeway into a parking lot, turned off the car and as I was exiting, I heard a hose break and more steam than a Chinese laundry came out of the back of a car. There is nothing worse than having Volkswagens and Toyotas driving by you as your 170mph exotic sports car spews geysers of steam on the side of the road. The day wasn't starting out very well.

I was left with the prospect of calling the Lotus Dealer and seeing if I could have it towed in which would have shot my entire day trip to Tucson or trying to limp the car back home and taking the regular work vehicle. In retrospect, I should have had it towed. The infrastructure here in Phoenix, Arizona is saturated. Which means that it can't handle the number of vehicles that drive on the roadways. Often times trips of less than 5 miles can take well over an hour. Something that I was reminded of as I tried to limp the car back to our house. It was only about 10 miles to our house, but it took me almost two and a half hours to get the Lotus back to our driveway.

On the way back, I was forced to stop about ever 3 miles to let the car cool down, in hopes that I wouldn't warp the engine block. The second time I pulled off on a side street I found myself parked between a strip bar (known as a Gentleman's club here) and a Pep-Boys Auto store. As I stood by the car, letting the engine bay air out, a rather scruffy looking fellow exited the bar and walked past my car. He was twitching and looked nervous, which was indicative of someone high on methamphetamine, which is pretty common here. Phoenix is the Meth capital of the southwest. He crossed the street and entered Pep-Boys. I thought nothing of it, until I saw him run out of Pep-Boys 3 minutes later with a case of new wrenches tucked under his arm. He was quickly followed by three Pep-Boys employees in hot pursuit. He ran down the alley behind the strip bar with Manny, Moe and Jack in hot pursuit. About a minute later the 'boys' walked out of the alley with the tools in hand. The would-be thief obviously chucked them in the alley and kept on running. No doubt dashing his dreams of hocking them for more meth-money. I had enough excitement on this street corner and the Lotus was cooler, so I hoped back in to drive another 4 miles at 5 mph in traffic.

After exchanging the car at my house, I left for the conference once again, at 3:30pm in the afternoon. I might just make it by 5pm if I was lucky. I wasn't.

The already saturated freeways were loading up with rush hour traffic. It took me about 20 minutes to get back to the location where the Lotus had steam cleaned the pavement. It took me another 45 minutes to go the next 4 miles. Seems that the police had pulled over a semi-truck for some infraction on the Freeway. The end result is everyone has to slow down, get out of their car, take a picture and then proceed. Unfortunately for me there were about 3,000 of these people in front of me. We call this rubber-necking here. It took me 45 minutes to go 4 miles (that is 5mph on a freeway for almost an hour with a posted speed limit of 65mph). As soon I reached the police incident, I was able to accelerate to 70mph+ with no problem. I think this pretty much defines rat-race.

So I pulled into Tucson at around 6:30pm (6 hours after I left, and 110s mile later). I arrived at the resort where the conference was happening and found that my reservation had not been confirmed by my office, so they didn't have a room reserved. I had to purchase one with my own money and hope I could get reimbursed. At this point, I could not wait for the day to end.

After a short nights sleep (beds feel funny without my wife in them), I attended the remainder of the conference on Saturday. While taking a break with the rest of staff at one of the registration tables I was turned into camp counselor.

In the adjacent meeting hall to our event was the Southern Arizona Osteopatihic Medicine convention. I don't know how many speakers or exhibits they had going on, but the one room I peeked into was basically a Drug-Mart Superstore, with pharmaceutical representative handing out free drug samples like candy. All the participants had huge shopping bags full of drug samples and literature. They also had a much nicer buffet than we did. Now I know where all the drug money for prescriptions is going.

When the Osteopaths finally started to close up shop (or ran out of samples) their crowd started to disperse . As they did, an older man with two full bags of drugs walked by our table, eyed some of our literature, and then came up to me and started asking questions........lots of questions.

Seems he felt that he had been screwed by the lawyers, courts and ex-wife in his divorce and wanted to unload on me about the injustice of the legal system and what he could do to coerce his ex-wife into giving him more visitation with his ping-pong balls....errrr...I mean children. After listening to him drone on for about 10 minutes, I finally got to explain that we were a conference on "Foster Care" (children dependent to the State) and not on "Family Law"....children ripped apart in divorce court. He moaned and groaned for another 5 minutes and then walked away. I turned to my co-worker and politely asked if someone had written "Freak Magnet" on my forehead with a Sharpie.

For some reason this happens to me a lot. I must look like I am an authority on most subjects or have a really kind face that says "talk to me!". I don't know which one it is, but I want to get rid of both.

Needless to say, it was not a good weekend. I got home without incident (no traffic jams) and when Sunday rolled around, the wife and I went out and traded in two old vehicles for one semi-new vehicle. Buying a new car took about 4 and a half hours, which probably isn't bad, but isn't my favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon.

Now I am basking in the new car smell of the truck that is parked in our driveway and debating on the best way to have the Lotus towed into the dealer, where it will stay for about 3 months if past experience is any indication.

This coming weekend has to be better.....it has to be, I tell you....It has to be....right?