turnover

I got notice on Thursday that my assignment with the school I’d been working at since August was terminated. No explanation, no thank-you-for-your-hard-work. Instead, I got a kick in the backside: as I collected my time sheet from the office, I found out that the incompetent cow who works as the school secretary didn’t turn my last time sheet in to payroll, so now my next paycheck will be a week late.

“Oops, you must have turned it in really late,” she quipped.

I filled out the sheet at the beginning of the pay period, I said through gritted teeth. I updated it the day before I knew you turned the time sheets in. It was pointless arguing with her, however. She has a known habit of flipping her mistakes so it appears to be your fault. I ran the two time sheets down to payroll myself, cursing her, the school district and the idiots in HR.

Part of me was sad to leave the students I’d gotten to know: but the other part was relieved and glad. The work was getting too physically challenging, even dangerous. The previous day, the 150-pound TBI student ran away from class and charged straight into me. I managed to stay on my feet, but later at home, I discovered a huge bruise on my left shin and another on the left side of my rib cage. It didn’t hurt at first, but the next morning, getting out of bed was agony. I also had a very sore throat, which progressed rapidly into a stuffy head and runny nose. A colleague, one who gets paid sick leave, had come into work with a raging head cold two days earlier. I asked her why she hadn’t stayed at home, and she replied she wanted to save her leave time for when her children were sick.

I get that she’s a responsible mom and the district doesn’t allow us time off for family beyond three weeks of maternity leave: but people who come to work when they have a fever and a nose that’s running like a faucet are inconsiderate, speaking as one who doesn’t get paid sick leave at all. Plus this has been one nasty head cold—calling it a cold doesn’t do it justice. Last night I couldn’t tell if I was crying from the sinus pain or just had a runny nose and eyes. I tried to call the pharmacist and ask if it was okay to take sinus or cold meds with the ulcer medication I’ve been taking, but after the medical center’s switchboard put me on hold for 20 minutes, I threw aside the phone. “Screw it! I’m miserable and I don’t care if I get liver failure after this.” Dr. Google then said there were no reported side effects from mixing ulcer meds with OTC cold medications, so I took everything in the medicine cabinet and slept like a log after that.

That said, I’m back in the substitute pool now. It doesn’t pay as well as being a regular employee at a school, but I do have my freedom back. If I don’t want to work on a particular day, I don’t. I don’t get paid either, but given that I don’t get paid sick leave anyway and I’m both sick and covered with black and blue marks, I might as well use some time to recover.

Sunny has been loving that I’m home all day. She doesn’t like that I shake the bed with my coughing and blowing my nose, but my not working means she gets to stay in the cottage during our rainy, cold mornings and not get thrown out when it’s time for me to go to school.

Snoozing Sunny

ahh yaaas

I mentioned earlier that I have a buddy to hang out with now. He’s a 74-year-old gay man whom I met through the program for homeless families I volunteer for. We had some interesting conversations while working together in the kitchen, though it was always a huge effort since K is deaf as the proverbial doornail. I was surprised however when between volunteer stints, he began emailing me every night, sometimes as late as 4 a.m. (I told him I have to get up 5 a.m. for work; he said, “Good! Then I’ll expect a reply in a few hours.”) His friends at church told me K. has no family and has been profoundly lonely since his partner died five years ago, so they were happy to hear that I’d become his online “pen pal.”

With friendship comes responsibility, however. As I was packing for my Christmas flight to New York, I got a phone call from K’s closest gay friend, asking if I had heard from him recently. The friend had tried calling and emailing K about coming to his house for Christmas but hadn’t heard back. I hadn’t, but frankly my mind had been on trying to pack Christmas gifts for the whole family plus my toiletries and clothes into a single carry-on suitcase. After grousing that I had to leave the next day and ‘can’t you check on him, dammit?’ I put on my coat and drove to the downtown apartment building where K lives. It was pouring rain and I couldn’t find parking anywhere nearby, so I had to leave my car in an overpriced ramp and hike soaking wet to the apartment office. The staff called K’s apartment for me, but he didn’t pick up. A city police officer happened to be making a welfare check on another resident (the building was full of seniors living alone, apparently); he promised to check on K for me after he was done with the other call. After a nerve-wracking 45 minutes (what if he’s dead? omg!), the officer came down and said K had answered the door and appeared to be fine. His phone wasn’t working, nor was his computer.

After getting the code for the security elevator from the staff, I stormed upstairs, feeling both irate and relieved. When I got to his floor, K was waiting for me in the hallway.

He spread out his arms. “Can I get a hug?”

In his apartment I found that he had somehow disconnected his phone while putting up his Christmas tree. I reset the connection and got the dial tone back on, then called K’s friend to let him know everything was okay. Then I looked at K’s laptop and realized he hadn’t closed the goddamn reminder to “Update to Windows 10 for Free!” which had prevented him from opening his browser. K is heads and shoulders above my father at using technology, but he’s never figured out the details, like which browser or OS he uses on his laptop. I tried teaching him, but he was, hm, sweetly clueless.

circusbeartech

like this

Since then, K has been eternally grateful. He takes me to concerts and goes to the art crawls and museum with me. It’s sometimes a pain in the butt because 1) I am always the designated driver—K can’t drive anymore and doesn’t have a car—and 2) he can’t hear worth beans, so conversations are not only hard to carry on, but I have to shout, sometimes about ridiculously personal stuff like my financial situation. (Shrieking, “I’M BROKE! MY LAST PAYCHECK WAS CHICKEN FEED!” during intermission in Symphony Hall is not exactly a boost to morale.) I also have to keep an eye on him, as he’ll walk straight into traffic or out an ‘Emergency Only’ exit if I don’t grab him. At times I feel more like his caregiver, which brings back bad memories of my parents. But he’s better read and more intelligent than my folks ever were; and he does try to be a decent person, most times. He still harbors prejudices about “single moms on welfare,” Muslims, and Mexicans. I have to remind him that we’re both from groups that have been hated at one time or another, so we have to work harder at not making generalizations.

I don’t know why the Universe threw K into my path. It hasn’t been easy being his friend, but it’s been an interesting journey with him.

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short updates

I got this from my older daughter yesterday when I texted her, asking how she and her family were faring during Snowstorm Jonas:

Kai in snow 1-24-16

little snowman

Of course they took Kai outside to play in the snow! He looks wild with joy in that picture. It was probably crazy cold too. I used to go a little bugeyed walking around in heavy snow, probably because it took so much effort. :D

Work…well, I’m glad to get a paycheck, though next month it’ll be just enough to cover rent, a few bills, and groceries if I’m very, very frugal. I didn’t get paid for winter break, so that’s going to put a dent in the number of hours I normally work. I’m not even sure I’ll have a job later in the spring, because the union is shaking up the district’s policy of placing subs in long-term positions. The union is demanding the district fill those positions with permanent employees, which I support; the problem is that the district may simply choose to shut down those job openings and wait until fall to fill them. Legally, they have to have an aide for every three students in a special ed classroom. The district isn’t above playing musical chairs, however, and just shuffle students from one classroom to another, regardless of their functioning level or their ages. The classroom I’m working in now, a Level 3 autism class for 4th through 6th graders, had a student with a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury transferred in this past week. She can’t do any of the tasks the other students are expected to do—write her name, memorize her phone number, work on basic math skills and word recognition—because she has the intellectual level of an infant. She weighs 150 pounds and is taller than I am, unfortunately. She also packs a considerable wallop when she’s angry, which is frequently, since she doesn’t like being told what to do. Guess who got assigned to work with her?

The teacher says I’m really good with difficult students. I’m calm and talk to them in a soft and steady manner. I don’t freak out and scream when a student hits me, as some of my colleagues do. Most times it doesn’t hurt, and after taking karate and boxing, I know how to absorb a blow. I also know how to hold a student (gently) when he starts punching and kicking the other students or aides. So I’m the victim of my own success. I get assigned to the least controllable students in the class.

Of course, I’m looking for another job. I’ve filled out 14 applications this past month, mostly with community colleges. I haven’t heard from any of them yet, but I’m frankly ready to bail before then. It’s not so much the students, whom I can handle. They are the way they are; there’s no pretense in their behavior. The school I work at however is a gossip farm, full of whispers and quick glances over the shoulder. I’ve seen this occur whenever employees feel they’re not valued or have very little control over what happens to them. The newspaper I worked at when I first thought I wanted to be a reporter was on the verge of failing, but the owners were secretive and treated the employees like children: so the same thing occurred, with people gossiping about each other and the company, or flying into drama-filled tantrums at the editor’s desk. When the publication was finally merged with our rival and half the staff was laid off, I wasn’t sorry. I didn’t like losing my job, but it was a relief to leave a workplace where the walls oozed spite and vinegar.

There is good news! My son was asked to be guitarist for an Olympia band that will be touring as an opening act for Beach Slang, a punk band from Philadelphia. [Waves at crankypants.] The band that hired my son is called Dyke Drama; the trans musician who’s the lead singer, Sadie Switchblade, fronted another band in Olympia called G.L.O.S.S.

This has been very hard to explain to my friends who are mostly liberal and open-minded but can’t wrap their heads around why Chris is playing with a band called Dyke Drama.

“Your son isn’t gay, is he?”

Me, laughing: So far as I know, no.

“Then why is he playing with a lesbian group?”

Me: They aren’t lesbian, the lead singer is transgender.

Confused stare.

I don’t think I’ll be inviting any of them when I go see Beach Slang and Dyke Drama play in San Francisco (tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, May 3; the tour starts in Brooklyn on April 20). I have a younger friend who might go, but being younger doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t going to wig out at a trans punk band with my ironic hipster/anarchist son playing guitar. I dunno. I’m very proud of my kid, but it also makes me realize what an strange unconventional family we are.

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death be not

This is the first time I’ve been able to listen to David Bowie without crumbling into tears. Thank you, David. You appeared and saved a lost, depressed teenager who had no idea who she was or what she was doing with her life, and whose parents’ ideas of success had made her almost suicidal. After she sneaked off to her first David Bowie concert in 1976, she came home, cut off her hair and greased it into spikes, then told her parents to fuck off. It was the very first time I said the word “fuck.” I came alive that night.

Anyway, it’s been a hard week. It’s been difficult not to think of one’s own mortality, especially since I turn 60 this year. David Bowie and Alan Rickman were both just 69 when they died. Maybe I should stop wasting what time I have left and tell my feckless employer and colleagues to eff off, after putting on a totally inappropriate t-shirt and black jeans and spiking my hair again.

Maybe it’s wasn’t such an odd coincidence that I spent the last day of 2015 in New York City, essentially visiting graveyards: the centuries-old one at Trinity Church on Wall Street, and the more recent one which is the 9/11 Memorial site.

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Steeple, Trinity Church

 

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north pool, 9/11 memorial

I imagine anyone reading this thinking, ‘Ugh, why spend your last day in New York at such a downer spot?’ Those who know me in RL know 1) I like old historical stuff, the older and more off the beaten track, the better; 2) I’m a bit of a goth, deep down inside (check my closet and you will see a wall of black coats, dresses, skirts and blouses: it’s impossible to get dressed quickly because I can’t tell one black item from another); and 3) I’m Episcopalian and like checking out the different churches, especially since Episcopal churches tend to look very Gothic inside (see number 2).

Trinity Church sanctuary

sanctuary, Trinity Church: note the guy taking a selfie

I got in just in time for the noontime Mass, which seemed like a good way to end the old year. There were three security guards at the church: New York was in high alert while I was there, due to the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino just weeks earlier. Before the service started, a guard with a heavy Jersey accent told the tourists taking pictures in the sanctuary to clear out; even the Chinese tourists who ignored the “no flash cameras” sign at the entrance fled. Somehow the Jersey accent translates into “Don’t mess with me” in any language. I was sitting in a pew and had been (discreetly) taking pictures with my phone, but the guard left me alone, maybe because I was wearing my black church-lady hat and looked matronly.

*sigh*

After the service I went out and explored the old graveyard, which dates back to the late 17th century.

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Which also happens to be behind the old American Stock Exchange building. I wonder if back in the day the stockbrokers would look outside and feel a little memento mori. It does seem funny that such a solemn old place would be set in the middle of the financial district. Maybe if you’ve worked there for so many years, it just become another historic landmark you rush past on your way to the office.

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The graveyard at Trinity Church has enjoyed (if one can use the word in this context) renewed interest as a tourist destination since the opening of the hip hop musical Hamilton. (As of this writing, tickets are sold out until September 2016, though you can hear the music on Spotify and YouTube.) The body of Alexander Hamilton, first Treasury Secretary of the United States, rests there, along with the body of his widow, Eliza Hamilton.

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If you’re a history geek, there’s a lot to look at here. Robert Fulton, inventor of the first operating steamship, rests here too…

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…as does Captain James Lawrence, the commander of the Chesapeake during the War of 1812, and who may be best remembered for his last words, “Don’t give up the ship.”

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Just a short stroll away from Trinity Church is the 9/11 Memorial. Over a thousand people are still missing after the attack and their remains were never recovered. As a result, the families of the missing refused to allow the owners of the land under the old World Trade Center to redevelop it, since it was in essence the resting place for their loved ones. The foundations of the two destroyed buildings became two reflecting pools and are now the focal point of the Memorial.

911 memorial, north pool Rivera

the north pool, 9/11 memorial

South Pool 911 Memorial

south pool 9/11 Memorial

Of course, this being New York’s financial center, they had to build a new World Trade Center. The observation deck is open, but it was a cloudy, damp day and I’m not crazy about heights, even scenic ones. I was fine with looking at the building from Greenwich Street.

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one world trade center

The pools are surrounded by granite panels with the names of the dead carved on them. I was moved by the flowers left at certain names on the panels. I was also saddened and angered at noting how many names I saw which were Latino and Muslim. Some US political leaders, and specifically those running for the GOP nomination for presidential candidate, have said outright “these people” don’t belong in this country. But “these people” died here as well. The terrorists who flew the planes into the Twin Towers didn’t distinguish between them and the others who died that day.

911 memorial names

We were surrounded however by all these reminders that life goes on. A new transit hub that will be as big as Grand Central Station was under construction. It was supposed to be opened by the time I was there, but the project has suffered huge cost overruns and delays. In an odd coincidence, the terminal was designed by Santiago Calatrava, the same architect who designed the Sundial Bridge in Redding. Every time I think I am far from home, I run into reminders of it.

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I tried to get lunch in the neighborhood, but every restaurant was packed solid with hungry tourists and Times Square partygoers. I’d almost forgotten it was New Year’s Eve. So I found the subway entrance and went back to Astoria to pack and go home.

Leaving NYC

goodbye new york

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a new york christmas

My first week back at work has left me a raging headache. I don’t want to start the new year with a negative post, however, so I’m going to focus on the fun I had spending the holidays in New York.

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the pavilion at union square, looking lonely after christmas

While every visit to the city has been different, it’s even more so when you have a grandchild who’s grown up a little since you last saw him. Kai is now two years old. He chatters, albeit in toddler talk: “Don’t wanna!” seems to be his favorite phrase, though during Christmas he discovered, “Open present?” I got a Cuisinart sandwich grill from my younger daughter, which I left in the box so it wouldn’t be damaged when I packed it for the flight home. Kai however could not believe Grandma would be so stupid careless as to not open a perfectly good Christmas gift, so he kept taking it out of my room and bringing it to me, saying, “Grandma open present?” When Grandma seemed a little slow on the uptake (his expression would turn to exasperation, as if saying, “Old people! Gah!”), he would begin to pry at the package. His parents would swiftly intervene, which triggered a series of “NONONOs.” Loud, screamy NONONOs.

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presents!

I finally had to hide the grill in my suitcase, covered by the sweaters I didn’t need. The weather service didn’t lie this time: it was a balmy 72 degrees on Christmas Day in New York City. It did rain a bit, but that just made the air humid and sticky. I took Jingjing the granddog out for a walk that day and wanted to peel off my raincoat after the five-minute hike to the park. My bra felt like a wet elastic band around my chest; the t-shirt I was wearing was stuck to my back, just like a late spring day in the Midwest. Once the sun went down, it felt a little more like winter, but not by much. I tossed and turned in what felt like an overly warm bed before chucking aside the long-sleeved top section of my pajamas and putting on an XL Sony Playstation t-shirt generously given by my younger daughter the video game animator. (It was originally meant for her brother, but he didn’t show proper gratitude for it.)

RFK bridge at night from Astoria Park

hazy astoria park at night

Another thing that was different during this visit was that while Kai was able to go with us to a number of places in the city, our sightseeing schedule was often at the mercy of his nap schedule. We did go out together quite a bit, though it often meant one parent taking Kai home for his nap while the other accompanied us through Manhattan, or enjoying a very short outing, in this case, to the American Museum of Natural History.

Interacting with Oviraptor

interacting with oviraptors

I came here with Emmy two years ago, before Kai was born. It was a completely different experience, however; it might as well have been at a different museum, though there was a lot there I remembered.

Lots of dead animals made up to look they were still alive:

Kai at the water hole

kai at the watering hole

Okapi

okapi

Elephant at the museum

african elephants

I realize a lot of people wouldn’t have the opportunity to see many of these animals if they hadn’t been shot, brought back to the museum, and mounted by an expert taxidermist: but doesn’t anyone find this ironic, especially since so many of these animals are endangered?

Still, we had a good time.

Grandma & Kai & Mastodon

grandma, kai and mastodon bones

Due to the limitations of sightseeing with a two-year-old, however, I did venture out by myself to see the 9/11 Memorial and Trinity Church, the oldest church in New York City and the burial place of Alexander Hamilton, among others. I’ll save those for a separate post. Happy New Year, everyone!

 

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Darth Vader Joy

joy

I don’t normally take pictures while shopping at Target, but this was so strange I had to get out the iPhone just to document that I wasn’t hallucinating on medicated Christmas cookies.

I got some bad news-good news at work this past week: because of some new rule district HR negotiated with the union, I had to leave my job working in special ed inclusion on Friday. The explanation is that they have to first offer the position to employees already working permanently with the district; if one of them applies for the job and has more seniority and credentials than me, s/he gets it. I’m assuming that there are plenty of longtime employees with more seniority than me (credentials, hardly, but that’s never stopped them from hiring people who can barely do first-grade math), so goodbye and good riddance to my old job.

I was angry at first, but relief has settled in. I’d hit a wall in working with my student: after observing him for four months, it was clear, to me at least, that he was intellectually unable to do regular classwork. I broke everything down for him—writing, math, reading, even art projects—into very basic steps. Every day was like he had never looked at at a multiplication word problem or a spelling worksheet, unfortunately. It wasn’t just poor memory or his being slow to grasp concepts: there are a lot of people with normal intelligence who can’t learn, say, algebra in a single lesson and need alternate methods to grasp abstract concepts and operations. My little guy struggled with anything that couldn’t be drawn in a simple picture or counted out on ten fingers. This past week it was finally getting to him: he would burst into tears and sweep everything off of his desk in frustration. It beats his trying to stab and hit me a month earlier, but I felt profoundly sorry for him. “The Miracle Worker” aside, there are times where pushing a child to do something beyond his abilities is borderline abuse. (And if you’ve ever watched the 1962 movie with Ann Bancroft as Helen Keller’s teacher, there are a number of pedagogical  techniques she used that would get her fired from today’s schools.)

 

(This clip is a bit too long: if you want to see the worst of it, go to around 2:10 and watch Patty Duke get slung around the room.)

I did get hit by a moment of sadness when I opened up the Christmas card from the teacher I worked with and found a touching little note inside. She’d mentioned a number of times that she “didn’t know what she would do without me.” While I know that’s boilerplate compliment, it suddenly hit me how much I’d invested, emotionally and temporally, into that classroom and that particular student. As difficult as the assignment was, I was going to miss the other students and the routine there.

Before anyone wonders how I’m going to keep body and soul together after this, worry not: the special ed coordinator called almost as soon as I got the news about Former Job and gave me a new assignment for when school resumes. It’s not any class I would have chosen. It’s an ASD level 1 class, riddled with problems: troubled students with behavior issues (and some are violent), aides who are bitter and angry, and an incident in which one longtime aide was fired for physically picking up and throwing a student out of the classroom. I don’t plan on staying there. I’m already applying for other jobs, none of them within the school district.

In five days I’ll be in New York and seeing my children and this little guy.

Kai lion leaping

dressed as Steven Universe’s pink lion for Halloween

He has a new little sister coming in the spring, so we have a lot to celebrate. I wish the same for all my WordPress and ex-Vox neighbors. Have a peaceful, happy Solstice/Christmas and a New Year filled with delights!

 

 

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farewell to fall

I know it’s already Advent and just 19 sleeps until Christmas: but I’ve been stuck in bed for most the week with the remnants of whatever virus is still in my system. I’ve been mostly oblivious to Christmas, especially since it’s been sunny outside, albeit bitterly cold (for California).

I have as proof this:

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pitcher o’ice

I forgot to bring my Brita pitcher in after enjoying a warmish afternoon on the Landlady’s patio. The next morning, when I went outside to retrieve the pitcher, I found the water inside frozen solid. It took a day and a half for it to thaw out, even after I kept it indoors next to the radiator.

Earlier in November, I went as a delegate for my church to the Episcopal Diocesan Convention in Redding. My boss in Outreach Ministries pushed me to go, and on checking in for my delegate badge and packet, I found out why: the leadership of the Diocese, even in Northern California, is primarily white and silver-haired. Lord knows they tried to demonstrate they’re open to diversity: part of the opening night’s service was held in Spanish; the sermon was given by a female priest; we sang as the closing hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” During the Convention the Youth Ministry leaders were given a prominent spot for their presentation, as were Native American and Community Outreach Ministries (my gig as volunteer).But it doesn’t bode well for the future if white seniors are the only members who have the time and energy to show up and vote on critical issues. My church, being urban and roughly 30% LGBT in membership, had a more diverse turnout: but we were the exception to the rule, and it was sobering.

Sundial bridge from south shore Convention business aside, I took some time out to visit the Sundial Bridge in Redding. The town has endured some economically rocky years after the lumber industry shut down and its main source of income has mostly been from tourism and being the “gateway” to the Trinity-Shasta National Forest. When the Sundial Bridge was built over the Sacramento River as the centerpiece for a municipal park, it was hoped that it would draw more visitors into the actual city.

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glass floor on the bridge

I don’t know if it’s succeeded or not. The local hotels were busy, but that was mostly because of the Convention and local high school football playoffs. (Having teenaged boys lurk around the hallway of the hotel at night, reeking of beer, was not a highlight of my trip.)  The surrounding park had a botanical garden and arboretum, with sculptures by local artists decorating the footpaths. But it was mostly the gorgeous weather, the bright blue of the sky and the river, and the turning fall colors that really made the visit worthwhile.

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“haystacks:” I think they were actually a Japanese ornamental grass

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a place to contemplate the end of fall

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reflections in a goldfish pond

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more trees: the leaves hadn’t changed yet when I visited.

fall colors

outside the convention center: the fall colors were actually nicer in town

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Salamander, detail from “Sounds of Water” sculpture by Betsy Damon

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detail, “Earthstone,” sculpture by Colleen Barry

This was also my first long-distance trip in the Civic. I was a little nervous: the car had done fine on my 12-mile commute to work, but I wasn’t sure how it would handle the 170-mile, two-and-a-half-hour trip to Redding. Most of the drive was through long stretches of agricultural land, with just a few small towns and truck stops between home and the hotel. After so many years of traveling alone, I’m less concerned about personal safety as I am getting stuck on the side of the freeway at night with 18-wheelers and oversized SUVs barreling past me. (Getting sideswiped while parked on the shoulder of the highway is not unusual out here, mostly because people drive too goddamned fast, even after dark and in bad weather.) To avoid this, I took the day off from work (yay) and left later in the morning, making sure I had plenty of snacks, water, and CDs packed.

(I love having a CD player in my car. I don’t use it a lot on the commute because I need both hands to drive through the crazy traffic, but on roadtrips, having good music to listen to is a joy.)

Gas was not a worry, since the gas mileage on the Civic is close to 30 miles to the gallon, and it’s even higher on the freeway. I fill up the tank maybe every ten days, if that. I got to Redding on less than half a tank, and I filled up after checking into the hotel only because I wasn’t sure where I’d find another gas station in a strange town. The GPS on the iPhone is a godsend, but still, driving around in the dark, looking for a suburban church in a neighborhood of cul-de-sacs was a bit anxious. Trying to find the hotel after the check-in and reception ended at 9 p.m. was more so. (You can tell Redding is a small town: nearly everything was closed by 9 on a Friday night.)

We did get a lot of business done at the Convention. I won’t go into it because this post is already getting long and boring, lol. I was glad I left half an hour early so I could hit the road home while it was still daylight. The Civic ran like a steady little thoroughbred, but we still hit traffic on Saturday night, and it began to rain lightly. When we finally rolled into the driveway to the cottage, I was relieved and grateful I had such a good little car.

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grateful

…I have internet today. And I have a whole week off, since school is out for the Thanksgiving break. I don’t get paid time off, but after three unrelenting months of working with a little sociopath, I’ll take it.

I also have no excuse not to update the blog now, hee. Getting everything into one blog post, however, is going to be tough.

Most important event of the month: my daughters gave me a newish car.

Honda Civic 2007

2007 Honda Civic

I guess you can call it an early Christmas gift. My  battered ’96 Camry was becoming less and less reliable and more and more expensive to repair. The last fix emptied all of my bank accounts and left me with nothing to pay the rent with. The mechanic kept saying the Camry was good for at least another three years (and I’m sure he adored it, since it’d brought him $1400 in revenue this past year): but my daughters decided I needed a new car now.

The younger one flew up from San Diego one weekend (which was fun in itself—I hadn’t seen her since Christmas) and helped me shop, since she’d had some recent experience with buying a used car. I didn’t want to use craigslist: there’d been a number of incidents here where someone answered an ad for a car on sale and arranged to meet the seller and his car in a park or restaurant parking lot, only to get robbed by the “seller” of his wallet, phone, and sometimes his own car. So we ended up trolling the dealerships.

I won’t say the cars were junk…but it was hard to find something within our budget. One otherwise sexy maroon Mazda 3 had 238,000 miles on it (who drives that many miles in just five years?); a 2009 Honda Civic sports coupe had the worst tires I’d ever seen on an operating vehicle; a 2005 Toyota 4Runner handled like a truck and had a tired, beat-up interior, like kids had spilled multicolored Gatorade on the seats and dogs had thrown up in the back after tearing holes in the upholstery.

Then there were the salesmen (and yeah, they were all men: I didn’t see one woman on staff that day). They huddled in groups around the showroom doors, watching us like a pack of feral dogs eyeing a couple of loose chickens. One would pounce come out and greet us; we would explain to him we were shopping on a budget, preferably for a Honda or Toyota sedan, and he would promptly show us a car that was $3000 over the price we’d asked for. Uh, no, that’s ‘way beyond what we can afford. “Oh, really?” he’d say in an incredulous, disappointed voice. “That’s a nice car for the money. But let me show you….” He’d walk us far into the wilderness areas of the dealership and show us everything that wasn’t anywhere near what we’d talked about: SUVs, sports cars, even a few that looked like they were salvaged from a wreck.

We also got treated rudely by one sales manager, who turned down our request that they take $1,000 off their asking price for a rattletrap Kia Rio. He stared at us coldly from under his eyelids. “Any car that’s under $10,000 is junk, and WE DON’T SELL JUNK.”

I gave him the finger as we drove out of there. It was childish, but I doubt if he saw it, and I was frustrated as hell with the whole process. Who turns down ten grand? Was it really that easy for him to make that kind of money?

By this point it was 4 in the afternoon and the shadows were growing long. Daughter and I agreed as we pulled up into the dealership at the end of the road that this would be our last look for the day. This place sold Acuras and Audis: we could smell the new leather and car wax as we walked in. Daughter worried that we wouldn’t be able to afford anything on this lot. It was intimidating, looking at the rows of shiny new Audis, but before we could run, a salesman came out and asked if he could help us.

He was quiet and soft-spoken, and with his vaguely British accent and Wilford Brimley appearance he reminded me of a minor character from Downton Abbey. I suppose they get a Downton Abbey customer base at a place that sells high-end cars (I mean the Great Hall customers, not the servants’ quarters customers like us), but it was such a huge change from the brash in-your-face greeting we’d been getting all day, I wanted to ask him if he could bring us tea. He probably would have, but instead he showed us the Honda Civic.

It was a sweet, clean little car with 86,000 miles on it. I think he was surprised I popped open the hood to look at the engine—the exterior was so perfect, I had to look at the guts to see if there was anything wrong with it—but was happy to show us the Carfax plus the mechanics’ report of all the things they had fixed before putting it on the lot. The only main issue when the car was traded in was the rear brakes, which the dealer had replaced. “Otherwise we could have sold the car for a lot less, but we wouldn’t want you to drive off with an unsafe car,” the salesman purred.

The test drive went without a hitch. The handling and acceleration were a lot more sporty than the Camry, which always struck me as being like a prim, sedate but well-mannered old mare. She didn’t like being pushed beyond her limits, but she could get you wherever you went in comfort if not in style. Driving the Civic was like riding a smart young horse who liked to take the bit and occasionally run. It surprised and spooked me a little, but after ten minutes, it was fun.

We did find out that the salesman was originally from Australia. His sales manager, who also had an unusual accent, was from New Zealand. (Cue the snippy jokes about Kiwis and ‘Stralians.) I didn’t ask why they moved to California but guessed cars sales are a lot more brisk out here than Down Under.

I didn’t trade in the Camry. It was so old and beat up, the value would have been negligible. Also, this happened the night we bought the Civic:

Goodbye Camry

Goodbye old girl 

I know this post is already too long, so I won’t get into details, except that I hit a tiny concrete island and it deployed the air bags. That was the worst part: my daughter was stunned after the bag hit her in the face and knocked her left arm back. I got hit in the chest. I would have been injured a lot more severely had I not had a knitted scarf wrapped around my neck (thank you again, Older Daughter) and the knot cushioned the blow. I didn’t notice until the day after that my left boob was black and blue. Since it’s just fat tissue, I didn’t worry about it. I was just profoundly sorry my daughter got hurt, and I did this to a car which served me faithfully for 19 years. My only solace is that National Public Radio will use the car to make some money, which hopefully will make up for all those years I never donated or signed up for a membership.

 

 

 

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