Friday, June 13, 2008

Parking Problems


I’m so mad I could spit.

I don’t know whether to shit or go blind. I don’t know what that means. I mean, where would that kind of choice ever even come up?

“Table for two?” Yes.
“Smoking or non?” Non, please.
“Shit or go blind?” Hmmmmm…that’s a toughie.

Actually that’s a ridiculous scenario. Nobody has smoking sections anymore.
Either way, it’s a disgusting phrase but I’m pretty disgusted with my situation. I have one of those jobs that when I try to explain the daily indignities heaped upon the employees, people nod sympathetically and say:

“I know! Working sucks.” And I want to scream. And shake them. They don’t know. This is different. Soap opera miscommunication, Mafia secrecy, and sadism on a level that would put a Dutch hooker to shame.

“There are worse places.”
Well, that lifts my spirits. I feel better knowing that others are suffering. After all, it’s a zero sum thing, suffering. If they have more, then I must have less. What kind of person feels better knowing that others are suffering too? I’d feel much better if someone told me not to worry because everyone else in the world was warm, clothed, and ecstatically happy. Then I’d know this is as bad as it gets. Then there would be hope. What kind of logic goes into these reassurances?

Every day I’m pretty sure it’s the day I’m going to climb to the top of the tower and…well, nevermind what I would do up there because god forbid this notebook ever gets found and some fuckwit can’t understand the concept of hyperbole. Besides, there are all kinds of historic preservations restrictions against building towers that might mar the face of this beautiful city. You can’t see much from a second story roof.

It has been kind of a bad year for me (among others, but I’m writing, so it’s about me). I started a new job and then discovered they were only kidding about that whole health care/benefits thing.

“Omigod, you took that seriously? Schuyler! C’mere! This one took us seriously!” Clutching my arm, “honestly, we thought everyone knew we were joking.”

By the third day, I’m crying at my desk because the weight of the mistake I’ve made is hanging on me. I’ve signed a contract and I would have to pay $5,000 in damages if I quit (or 100K to hit the human resources lady). Did I mention that on the first day of classes I was 32 weeks pregnant?

I teach from 8 – 10:30 AT NIGHT. They knew I was pregnant. They knew I have a 3 year old. If they offered classes at 3:00 am, I’m pretty sure I would have gotten them. I regularly spend 12 hours a day in the office. My son is asleep when I get home at 11:00 (hell, I’m asleep when I get home).

There’s no parking when I get to my office at 10:00 am. There’s no faculty parking, so it’s a free for all with the students. 75 parking spaces. 800 students + 45 faculty – I guess math isn’t a strong point here. So, I’m walking ½ to ¾ of a mile to school (I said the thing about 32 weeks pregnant, right?) I’m 5’ tall and about 5’ in circumference at this point. Muggers know I’m slow. Worse, they know I put out.

I’ve got my keys out, you know, the ones so poorly cut they barely start my car. I guess so that I can irritate any potential muggers to death with the jangling.
Or hope they have a serious metal allergy.

“Let’s jump her, she’s fat, slow, and well dressed…”
“Fuck it man, the jangling is driving me nuts , let’s give up this life of crime and go into the ministry – maybe volunteer at the special Olympics.”
“Brilliant idea. Besides, you know itchy metal makes me.”

Heart racing, I get to my parking spot. Not to my car. To my parking space. And yet, my car is not there. Click, click go the gears in my brain. My left eye starts to twitch as my mind comes around to the idea that my car has been towed. I think the “no parking” sign must have been implied, because even with my senses heightened by the fear driven adrenaline rush, I can’t find it. A whole new take on the idea of the thought police.

“We thought you shouldn’t park there. Conceptual Parking Regulation 10.245 ¼. Look it up, we work in base 12.”

I half expected the towing company name to be “Transcendental Towing.” Motto: we tow the care you wish you had from the place you might have parked it.

Walking back the office, I’m struck with one of those movie memory moments as I remember my conversations with parking services.

Scene: 32 weeks pregnant, a small woman with an incredibly large belly (twins? circus elephants?) enters the office of parking services.

“I’d like to get a special parking permit so that I can park near my office.”
Blank stare.
“You know…the one where I work…”
No response.
“…ummm…as a professor?”

Electrons race, synapses crackle, somewhere a rooster crows. Something like suspicion passes over the countenance of the person to whom I’ve been talking.

A woman with a face almost enthrallingly ferret like asks if she can help me. Backing slowly away from the person (?) I had been addressing, who obviously inhabits the office only the create symmetry in the layout. I restate my request to the new person who, to my great relief, actually seems to be listening. Nothing like having your expectations lowered to make the smallest things seem like the greatest treasures.

“So, I guess what I’d like is a pass so I can park close to my office.” I say politely.
“Why?” Asks the woman. I laughed. For a moment, before I realized she wasn’t kidding. I’ve gained 60 lbs. Blind people can tell I’m pregnant.
“I’m 32 weeks pregnant now.” I paused as that elicited no visible marker of recognition. “I’m only going to get more pregnant.”
Still nothing.
“You know, until I have the baby.” I didn’t want this poor woman to walk around thinking I was going to be gestating permanently. That would probably require a different permit. I also wasn’t entirely convinced that she understood that a baby was what I was working towards.
“I’ll need proof that you have a high risk pregnancy.” I swear to god, if I were capable of self-inducing, I would have given birth in her office right then and there. Just to make a point. That’s the kind of person I am. Although, the effect probably would have been lost on her. I figured, I’ll save that trick for the muggers. Maybe it will change their lives for the better.

That’s me, I’m always thinking of others.

The next day I went to my doctor’s office. I waited 45 minutes in the waiting room (with a name like that, how'd I not see that coming?) purusing an old copy of Field & Stream. Then they asked me all the questions I’ve already answered before as if somehow my due date would have changed or my drug allergies. It could have taken a lot less time if they had just said: “Anything new?” I get into the lovely gown – opens in the back for…convenience? And wait.
And wait.



I listen to my iPod for about an hour. Then I start paying really close attention to the little holes that are in the suspended ceiling tiles. Have you ever really looked at those? I mean, really examined them? Well, I have and it’s fucking boring. I can hear my doctor on the phone. I know it’s her because she has this bizarre Alabama/Australian accent. She’s talking to someone about dinner. Somebody apparently doesn’t know how to use a rice steamer. 20 minutes pass and she’s still on about what kind of veg they should eat. I’m hanging on her every word – I must know how the rice turns out

I’ve had it. I put my clothes out, go into the hall and politely ask the doctor if she wouldn’t mind squeezing me in since, you know, I had an appointment.

After a visit so brief it could only be expressed in theoretical numbers, she tells me she can’t write me a note since my pregnancy isn’t high risk. I think the visit ended with me saying something like:
“Fucking cunt!” but it could have been: “Fuck you, cunt.” I’m not real clear on the details, I just know it would probably be best to find a new doctor.

Two weeks later, with that accomplished and now at 34 weeks (see, I wasn’t inventing that whole thing about getting more pregnant as time goes on) I manage to get the requisite note. I waddle back to the parking services office. Isn’t it funny how when an office has the word “service” built right into the title, you know it’s going to be a hassle? So, I’m doing all of this schlepping in the 90 degree heat of the deep south. It doesn’t just feel good, it looks good too.
Walking straight past the decorative receptionist, I go over to weasel woman’s desk and triumphantly produce my note.

“What’s this?”
I explain to her that it is a written communication in which marks on a piece of paper stand for sounds that come together to form signifiers which in turn represent thoughts. It’s a traditional form used to convey information.
Her eyes begin to narrow. Have you ever seen a weasel with narrowed eyes? It’ll send chills down your spine. I realize at this point that I have been too technical in my explanation. I simplified the whole process by telling her exactly what is written in the note. It’s not her fault, with public education being what it is, there are a lot more illiterate people out there than we think. I’m a sensitive person. I just wish I had known, I would have handed her my grocery receipt and told her it was a “note” the very first time I was in the office.

After examining the paper closely, looking for tiny scrawled messages of desperation from the doctor such as “this is a fake. I’m only doing this because she’s holding a gun to my head. Her pregnancy is is low risk, she’s just lazy. Call the police.” If people can write my name on a grain of rice, I think someone might be able to fit all of that in a note. She hands me a stack of forms to fill out.

Luckily she was there to explain to me, in my hour of need that, unbeknownst to many, paper has two sides and so when I’m finished filling out side one, I could just turn the paper on over and continue to provide them with more information. There were a lot of questions on these forms. Immigration requires less information, and I know. I’ve spent a lot of time with immigration forms.

I finish filling out my forms, having copies of my ID made, giving a DNA sample, swearing honesty in front of a quorum, and the final death round of celebrity boxing Nintendo. I think the nude photo might have been optional, but I hadn’t come this far only to be thwarted by modesty.

Ferret lady gave me what I think might have been a smile, although she may have just had something in her teeth.
“Okee dokee, we’ll process the paper work, put it in the system, and mail you out a parking pass.”
The office is 20’ x 20’. The photocopier that she needs in order to give me a copy of the parking permit is not more than 5’ away. Other than the mute wonder, she’s the only one who works in the office. There aren’t any other desks so it’s not like the permit printer is off on family leave (even less so because my job doesn’t really offer that kind of thing) and they have to await his/her return. Parking passes are printed on 8 ½ x 11 paper. Processing consists of photocopying something they print out. You know, so they have a copy for their “system.”
“How long does that take?”
Obviously irritated that I’m still here. I’m sure she’s busy.
“Six to eight weeks.”
Me, gasping for breath. “I’m only going to be pregnant for another 6 weeks. Tops.”
With a sigh and pitying glance, “Well, you should have come in earlier.”
“I did! I’ve only worked here for two weeks and I came in two weeks ago. Should I have come in before I worked here? Before I moved to the state? Should I have fucked in your office??” Even the fish were watching at this point.
“Listen. We can’t just drop everything because of an unplanned pregnancy.” Ferrets had moved way down on my list of favorite animals. Right after mole rats.
“Unplanned?” I squeaked. “Just because you didn’t know about something doesn’t mean it was unplanned. I planned for this very carefully. I’ve been taking special classes since I was two, my parents made these decisions before I was born. The stars were aligning. I’m in Nostra fucking Damus’ book.” For a moment, I had forgotten her illiteracy. I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I fell back on an old standard.
“Fucking cunt!” With feeling this time.

So, no permit and now, no car. Yippee is fucking skippee again.

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