Thursday, October 22, 2009

RESCUE ME or How to Waste Time Effectively

Really, this still seems incredible to me. Let me start off by ruining the story with the preface, I am home, whole, with my car, wine in my hand to go with the whine about to start, dogs and I happily fed on chicken and veggie dinner and all seems OK.

You should just be so glad you weren't there.

So, I woke up at 4:30. Michael just got out of the shower, but he said I could sleep till 5am, I tried but I gave up and got out of bed when I realized there was no way I was going back to sleep. Besides the dogs can't figure out what's going on so early. By the time I was showered, pressed and dressed, he was pretty much ready to go. He's excited to go to the airport and fly away to see his beautiful daughter and her wonderful kidlets. The weather report said there was supposed to be fog this morning so we head out earlier than we planned. We ended up well enough ahead of time to stop and eat a little breakfast before we got to the airport.

I printed his boarding pass yesterday, so he towed his carry-ons to the security point, which looks more than grossly backed up, but he gets through it in less than ten minutes, I watch him till he waves good-bye to me and slips around the bend where I can't see him anymore. I'm thinking, 'my hands says good-bye with a lot of have a lot of fun but my heart is screaming take me with you, don't leave me here, and crying come back, to me, my love, come back! (because supportive and cool as I try to be, my heart is all dramatic like that) and he's gone forever.' I turn and head out to the car, thinking I'll get home and commiserate with the girls.

At some point when we got out or when I attempted to get back into the car, we (probably this should be I) triggered the car alarm, which we have not been using as it's not working consistently and we hadn't figured out how to fix it ourselves or how to pay for it to get fixed. So, the horn is blaring, honk-honk-honk-honk while I continue to push the button that won't work for about 20 minutes. I don't know what I'm going to do, but I can't stand in the garage anymore, so I go back in to use the bathroom, cause that's what incredibly loud noises in large cavernous echoing places make me need to do if I didn't think I need to before. While I'm washing my hands, I'm thinking, OK, I don't have the cell phone because I convinced Michael he needed it. I don't have any cash left because I spent the last dollar bills I had paying the ticket to park, just before I realized I was actually going to be camping out, I have a debit card with enough on it to put gas in the car and that's it. What to do, what to do, what to do.

I thought about once upon a time, I used to have to rescue myself before I became so reliant on my Superman, what would I have done then? I used to have myself towed home. In fact, the first week I had this car I burned up the engine (not really my fault) and was towed about 100 miles home. I still have this service, I should call them. I think it's an 800 number so I don't have to have cash for the pay phone, let's try that! (Cheering is heard in the stands as she flies across the corridor toward a sign with a handset phone ~ so very blessedly glad that payphones have not gone completely obsolete.) I pick up the handset and cheerily dial the number because I CAN do something and it feels, oh, so good! I talk to a representative who doesn't seem quite awake and find out that they can't send someone to dismantle the alarm, against company policy (which does make sense now because then they could be helping to steal a car, really, but at the time was just about as aggravating as not finding any green m & m's in the whole package) and a tow truck may not make the clearance to get into the parking garage. So, after talking to her and being placed on holds of 5 minutes in length several times, she arranges for a locksmith to come out. Total phone call time, 45 minutes. I'm thinking, OK, I'll be able to get back just a few minutes late to open the office but I'll be OK.

I should here point out that I did not have a watch on and have no internal clock to help me keep track of the time.

I stopped by an information desk with a white courtesy pay phone, as I can't find a security person anywhere that doesn't have anything to do with the TSA, and there was no one at the previous info desk either, and dial information. I ask the nice lady if there is anyone that works in the garage as far as security or an attendant. She puts me through to the Parking Garage Department where I tell another nice lady that my car is disabled in the garage and she listens to me explain that I'm really stuck, with the alarm on, I can't start my car and drive away. She says she's sending someone to see if they can help me, a white Ford Truck with a light on top.

I've been standing next to my car a few minutes and paced the aisle a few times when little truck angel without wings arrives. A nice man, Dondi, looks at my car, sets the alarm going, tries to figure out the fob, looks at the battery, the fuses, the horn system. It's foreign, so, brave attempt that it was, it probably felt as feeble an effort as it looked. I tried to let him off the hook as I was sure there was so many more important things he was paid to do, that he would rather be doing than hanging out uselessly with me. Kindness, Samaritan, possibly imagining his wife in my situation trying to hold it all together, he stood there telling me jokes, Irish jokes, Finish jokes, Pollock jokes, none of them as offensive as racist jokes they used to tell when I was a child, but funny. I told him he should go to a barbershoppers contest, his get add to his repretoire. I think he must have stood there chatting with me about an hour, maybe 90 minutes. Finally, he loaned me his cell phone and I called to check on the ETA of my rescue. I also called the call center for my facility and apologized that I would not be at home at the time I should be to open the office, that I was stranded and waiting for a tow truck. The rescuers were supposed to be about 6 minutes out, Dondi's dispatcher said he was supposed to go on break, so he left.

The locksmith shows up, a young man, Roy, with long, black, curly hair, an Eastern European accent, driving a white van with a California plate, pretty well used as the handles were falling off, which now I realize should have been a clue: if the handles of the locksmiths van are hanging limply off the doors, is he REALLY an efficient locksmith? I explain what I think the problem is, he does exactly what I had done before seeking help, trying the buttons on the fob several times, unscrewing the back, rubbing the batteries on a soft cloth, gently prying up the tiny metal contacts, reassembling the fob. Then he looked at the battery, attempted to jump it with one power station unit then two (these were pretty cool, by the way, they were about the size of an igloo cooler, except black and with a red cable and clamp on one side and the black on the other side) but even with two, the car did not need jumped, it was not going to start, the alarm is blaring. After alternately monkeying around on the car and consulting with someone on a cellphone in a eastern European language, he gives up, has me sign a paper, and loans me his cell phone to call the service again which puts me on hold a few more eons, while he's motioning he wants the phone back he's got to go, when I get off hold and hear a tow truck is coming, he gets it back and leaves.

As he's leaving, I see Dondi driving past the end of the aisle I'm on, I wave at him, because I've found his Rolaids in the console of my car, I had seen them fall out of his pocket earlier and had thought when Roy leaves, I'm going to go find the bathroom again, (the alarm had been going off for quite a while while Roy monkeyed around) and try to find Dondi to get the bottle back to him, but seeing him, saves me an adventure. He waits near my car for me to run into the terminal and come right back, then he goes off to 'work' again.

So, I sit in my car to wait. Roy had said it was just after 10 before he loaned me his phone, I'm thinking I'm going to sit here for about 45 minutes. No cell phone, no electronic games, not even my Nintendo DS, no books or other reading material, no knitting, not even a piece of paper and a writing utensil so I can play tic-tac-toe or hangman with myself, or even write out a last will and testament. I am tempted to start biting my nails, but I start looking around. I try to guess all the noises I'm hearing, count the passersby (only one of which comes over to my obviously incapacitated vehicle and asks if I need a jump) , guess the planes by the take-off and landing noises, after a while I decided I don't know enough about aircraft, start counting lights, admiring vehicles and how well some fit into a standard space and other just don't, think that every engine I hear is my rescue tow, count the divots in the ceiling, count how many beeps my car beeps when the alarm goes off until it stops (once I'm pretty sure was in the 80's). I finally get crazed enough, I get out and start pacing the aisle I'm on, then over to the next which is closer to the ramp to my floor. I even tried to stand in the empty space next to my car and make the green 'available' light turn to 'occupied' red but realized after many different moves that if there was video being made somewhere I would be immortalized after my soon-to-be death as one crazy old woman.

After forever and an age, I realize I need to use the restroom again. I can't believe it's so soon again, must be extreme stress so I run into the airport again an head for the same restroom. After scouring my hands for the third time, twice this time, because the restroom is busy and it hasn't been cleaned since the first time I was in there (I know this for a fact, because I've used the same stall, the toilet tissue is decidedly smaller and someone abandoned a water bottle that still sitting there) and I'm afraid some traveler from foreign places may have left behind another flu virus. I head over to the same payphones and find that it is now just after NOON and I have been waiting for rescue for OVER FOUR HOURS. I dial the number again, and this time I'm speaking with someone who sounds like she did her yoga today and had some great coffee. She tells me the truck was there but couldn't get into the garage with the lower than sky high clearance and left. An hour before.

NOW, I let myself have a breakdown. I had held it together pretty well, but now, the dam broke. The ceiling caved in. If there was a chair there I would have sat, I very nearly ended up on the floor as it was, I leaned heavily into the phone cubby that I had been trying to stand apart from earlier for fear of those foreign flu viruses. Now, I didn't care, now, I was without hope. Now, I'm thinking of my husband touching down, getting on our cell phone to let me know he was arrived and OK, but worried about not being able to reach me. Now my dogs' legs are not crossed anymore, because their bladders have burst. Now, I wonder what my boss is thinking when she arrives to my facility and I'm not there. Now, there's a hundred tenants pounding with big, beefy, greasy fists on my front door with the closed sign engraved in the glass. The fax machine has run out of paper, because the guy at the call center has been overwhelmed with irate monsters, and wants me to take care of it myself. I'm crying now, I can't breathe, my head's about to explode.

She puts me on hold to go find out what can be done. I pick up the phone next to me, put it to my other ear and figure out how to use my debit card in the thing, and I tried to call my daughter, while I'm still waiting, but at Noon, she doesn't answer, so, either she's sleeping in today, or she's at work, I can't make myself leave her a message. I call the facility my boss was supposed to be at before she came to mine, thinking I will talk to Marilyn and she will tell me that everything will be fine in a voice that cheers like a little roll of candy Sweeties. Instead I get Doug, who must sense that I'm falling apart, because he says, Marilyn has been trying to reach me, she just drove up to my facility to find out why I'm not answering the phone, he'll call her ~ in the meantime, the boss has bailed, stuck at her doctor's appointment to do more tests. I'm more relieved she's bailed and feeling guilty that I'm not more concerned about extra tests, like I should be. I start to dial my mother when the lady comes back on the line on the other phone. She's found another tow truck with a lower clearance and it should be there in ONLY 25 minutes. Wow! Will I even make it back to my car before he shows?

I hurry off the line and nearly race to my car. I pace the aisle faster now, I now include going so far as to watch for the truck on the swirly, curly ramp. I think about the clearance a tow truck needs to get into the parking garage, I hope this works because I CAN'T LEAVE Little Red here in the Short-term Parking garage, but can't decide if that's rude to the car, or the thousands of people who will pass it by looking for an available space. I wonder about the clearance thing again. What if it was some other kind of rescue, an ambulance, a firetruck, a SWAT team, a crime scene analysis lab van, HAZMAT, anti-terrorist units. Those vehicles would have to be able to get into this public place. It's a fairly recently built building, it seems like some architect or engineer should have figured in the rescuers vehicles. I wonder what kind of truck that other one was. I think about the Disney/Pixar CARS movie, Tow-Mater could have got to me somehow. Actually, I'm glad my favorite CARS characters are not in this place, it looks nice, upwards and around, but the floor that they would have to touch is really gross. People have treated it so badly, just pouring out whatever was left in their drink to dry and ferment on the floor, because there is no slope to it to drain this filth away, left their gum there to polka-dot the pavement forever, among other things, too many cars probably left here too long to ever clean it.

Finally, I see a tow truck, it passes my floor and I'm thinking, is it even possible there's someone else waiting to be rescued here just like me. But then I see him backing into my floor, he's not passing me by. I finally get to read the name of the company on the side, and it's the one I have been waiting for (not the same companies as the first or second rescue attempts) and it's the right one. Hooray! He rolls down the window and I say, 'I think you've come to save ME!' I could see in his face that he's almost hoping not, but I don't care, I'm beyond caring anymore, please, please, PLEASE just take me home!!! In short order, we have rolled poor little red out into the aisle, he says I can sit in the truck if I like, because I'm shivering, probably more from lack of food and nerves that are completely shot than from the chill in the autumn air. His truck is pretty much automated, so it's just another minute before we're ready to take my girl home.

We get out of the garage and through the gate. Dondi has had me complete a short form so they are watching for us and we are through the toll-gate in just moment without anymore charge than I've already paid, including the tow-truck guy. Tow-truck Guy, or TTG is cucumber cool to get through so easily, but I find it's hard to get this guy to be positive about anything. I tell him, I've always thought his job would be cool, because you're rescuing people when they are having a bad day, he says yeah, that was true the first year, but after ten years, it's hard to be happy about much with it anymore. After that, I try to be quiet and let TTG drive, but I'm sure my blood sugar has sky-rocketed hours ago and I can't shut up. I chat stupidly at TTG about his job, the pieces of crap he's probably had to rescue. Lots of blue-hairs out this afternoon, to see the pretty colors, I suppose. I try not to tell him how to drive, but I have to tell him which lanes to be in where.

Finally, I'm home, it's just after 2 o'clock. I shake TTG's hand and say a sincere thank you, but it easy to see, he would rather have had to tow my car in a repo or abandoned so he hadn't had to listen to me. I'm still beyond caring. It's hard to decide what to do first, I try to do everything all at once, open the office, get the mail, feed and walk the dogs, check and return the messages, try to call Michael and answer the phone, put some food in my stomach. It ended up, I opened the shades and turned on the lights, had the phone in my hand and went outside with the dogs, just as my sister calls and tells me to call Michael, he's really worried, but first tell her I'm all right. Yes. I'm home. I tried to tell Michael a short version of this story, but I'm sure, because he loves me, that the little I did tell him the first phone call just made him mad as a hornets nest, and just as loud, if he wasn't where he was. I managed to ask if he got all kinds of hugs and kisses, and I do remember he told me get got a huge face-bath from his daughter's Pappillon Gizmo. I know he's fit to be tied about the cell phone because when he got there, it had no coverage, it probably should have been left home with me.

The messages I answer include one from my walking buddy, who called at 9am, wondering if I got home from the airport OK. How did she know? She's so sweet, she came over as soon as I closed the office to take me and the dogs to the park. They really needed it, but it was sweet to me too.

OK, wine & whine done. I've called the locksmith I spoke to about the fobs a few months back and I'm waiting for him to call me back. In the meantime, I'm looking at my non-Chilton's manual to my car to see which wire I can cut without blowing up my car.

See, I told you. You are glad you weren't there aren't you?

11/4/2009 ETA: The locksmith came on Friday, said that the switches in both doors are not functioning, he has a used one he thinks will work for the driver's door, which is fine. Turns out, he got it in there but it didn't work. He got the alarm reset, but doesn't recommend I lock it as this whole mess will start over again and he will come back on Monday, just hours before I am to pick up my Superman for the return home.

On, Monday. He came very late in the day, I had actually decided I was going to have to drive the truck (groaning at the image of having to find a parking spot for the supertanker). He had done some research on my car and can't seem to determine how to fix the issue as the part will cost about $185 per door, from the dealer. I ask, again, can't the alarm just be disengaged. So, that's pretty much what he does. Doing this has also disengaged the power locks so the driver's door can't lock or unlock the passenger door. (I have always thought that was pretty stupid anyway as you can pretty much just extend your right arm and take care of that without even bending your body in any way, but, I just keep that to myself. For now.)

Now, I can lock the car with my key and drive where I need to go and do what I need to do and all is well.

One nice thing that came out of all this: There was an irritating light in the dash panel that flashed constantly for the air bag. Turns out that it just needed a 30 second reset to the computer.

The one (only one?) bad thing? My poor little red has a scar from her escapaade: When we got out of the car, I didn't get the window rolled up, it was cracked a bit on the way there to help with the defrosting window situation. Well, it is now cracked a bit, permanently.

I keep replaying that entire day every little bit of time and can't believe how bad it got. I think because of being diabetic it struck me much harder that it a.) should have b.) actually did. In fact, being diabetic is what I blame the constant replay on. I can't seem to put it aside yet, and I am completely alone in the experience. On the one hand, for that I'm grateful, being alone that no one was there to suffer it with me, and on the other hand there is no one to share the continuing agony with.

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