I actually started thinking about this blog entry around noon today. I took the day off from work, but it wasn't under the happiest of circumstances. Yesterday afternoon, I got into my car at the Metro station and powered down my driver's side window. It started making a grinding noise near the end, and I put it out of my mind until the A/C had cooled my car down and I tried - and failed - to get the window back up. So at 10:15 this morning, I drove the 20 minutes to the only mechanic I was familiar with in the area to get things straightened out. Considering that I'd just agreed to pay $100 just for the privilege of having my driver's door pulled apart and looked at, I was dreading the estimate. I also had a quandary; how to occupy the hours until my car was ready?
Fortunately I was in Columbia, practically the progenitor of suburban clutter. My first destination was somewhat practical, as I walked right down the street to the MVA Express. My drivers' license needed renewing, and I was running out of time. Surprisingly, the "Express" part of MVA Express was apt; I was in and out in under thirty minutes. As midday was approaching and the sun beat down upon me, I swung back to the Auto Services Park (yes, there truly is such a thing, and it's not as fun as it sounds) and saw that my car hadn't yet moved. So I popped into the convenience store and bought an iced tea, and drank it down as I crossed the expressway to do some shopping. My destination was Target, for some cheap baseball cards. Shocking, no?
This was when I started thinking about what an unusual day it was for me. I only started driving four-and-a-half years ago, but in that time I've become very dependent upon the notion of coming and going of my own free will. Here I was scrambling across high-traffic streets and wandering in and out of air-conditioned stores just to pass the time until I could go home again. It was kind of fun, in a bizarre way, doing something out of the ordinary. I thought about Grant Jackson, and how he often looked downright distressed on his cards: frowning at worst, grimacing at best. It seemed that his mind was a million miles away, worrying about not only what would happen if he didn't get the current batter out, but whether he'd remembered to mail the mortgage check, and what about that mole on his neck - was it getting bigger? What were the guys laughing about when he entered the clubhouse that morning? I decided that Grant Jackson probably just needed to take a good long walk to clear his head of all doubts, worries and fears.
My ambling path took me to Toys 'R Us, where I gawked at a fairly disappointing crop of baseball cards as well as some board games and WWE action figures. Next was Target, where I was annoyed to find the $1.59 markdown box full of packs of football, basketball, and hockey cards. I settled on a $4 package of 100 random cards, deciding that my purchase should be just as random as the rest of my day. As I made my way to the checkout lanes, I noticed a young man in a Sammy Sosa Orioles tee that I hope was some sort of ironic fashion statement. Next was Dick's Sporting Goods, where I didn't stay long. I couldn't believe they charged as much as $32 for some of their O's hats, and their staff was overly friendly. My final attempt to keep the clock moving was a quick sweep through Gamestop, where staff and customers alike were speaking of the upcoming Madden launch in excited yet reverential tones. So I gave up, found a nice seat in the shade of an umbrella outside of Starbucks, and called my sister. She was clearly bored out of her mind at work, and we had an entertaining conversation until my phone alerted me that I had another call. It was...the auto shop.
To start with, you should know that I often misunderstand or mis-hear things that people say to me, especially if they speak quickly and/or quietly. That being said, the connection seemed bad (no fault of my phone, which was five bars strong) and the mechanic half-mumbled a cost of $460. Ouch. He also said something about the regulator, one of those terms that grease monkeys make up to confuse the automotive-illiterate. Anyway, assuming my car was repaired, I told him I'd be there to get it in a few minutes. When I arrived, he told me I'd have to wait a few minutes for them to put the car back together, which seemed odd. When he pulled my car around and gave me the bill for $94.50, I knew something was wrong. He asked if I'd just be covering the window with plastic, so I voiced my confusion. I had intended for the car to be repaired, and they'd just put it back together as is. He insisted that he'd just given me the estimate, and that I'd told him I'd come get the car, indicating that I didn't want the work done. So here I was with my window still wide open (not ideal for security or weather), and he was telling me that I could bring it in on Monday, thereby wasting more of my time and gas and money (it would be another $100 in labor to open the panel back up, but he was oh-so-kindly offering to cut that fee in half). I paid my bill and headed home confused and angry.
So now I sit here with conflicting opinions. Part of me thinks that Grant Jackson was right to seem so troubled; the next irritating dilemma is always just around the corner. But by and large, that runs counter to the way I live my life. I'm often prone to quick bursts of anger and pervasive cynicism, but I generally let my sense of humor and a laissez-faire attitude win out. My vagabond's morning was just productive enough that I should feel like I got something out of this mixed-up day.
Maybe I'll just sleep on it tonight, and sort things out over the weekend.