Austerity…and Everything After

Feel free to cue up some Counting Crows while you read along, if you’re inclined to give a nod to this post’s title inspo – August and Everything After.

If not, no worries. It just popped into my head last night in a near-literal fit of frustration.

I’d gone into the weekend feeling victorious, namely over finally getting paid the balance of my last week of work before transitioning to a Core employee with the company I’d been assigned to for nearly six months.

Knowing the rhythm of their processes, I know when I get an email saying my paystub is available, my direct deposit hits the next day. Since I got that Friday, I was expecting the deposit Saturday morning. I was just a little surprised when it didn’t land, and left curious as to whether that was a systemic issue or whether good, old RH had one more petty fuck you left for me.

Regardless, I’d planned this weekend to finally get some real time in with DoorDash for the first time in weeks. I think the two weeks I’ve been back from the desert, I’d averaged about 4 hours a week. I just don’t like it!

Just disregard all that foreshadowing.

Admittedly, I’ve been letting the looming of my grandfather’s estate settling allow me to shirk my 35 delivery per week goal. And the damn thing never seems to close – despite the original June estimate back in January! Last I heard was almost three weeks ago when dad told us the attorney said it was time to write checks. My inclusion and my siblings’ is strictly a matter of my dad’s generosity, him committing to share his share with us. For me, it’s moderately life-changing money, regardless of whether it’s equally divided or something just under the reportable threshold.

Anywho. Not having expected Robert Half-Ass to find its wallet at all, let alone in a conveniently timed fashion, I knew this weekend was going to be a rather austere one. In past similar instances, ie: pretty much the beginning of any month this year, I’ve pretty much lived off my Apple Wallet. That’s where my DoorDash earnings deposit. Unfortunately, no ATMs in my area seem accessible via their card-less technology. Go figure.

But I manage. I can always order food and grocery through my Apple Wallet, there’s just no real going out in that first week situation – although, I did discover that Regal Cinemas of all places has a functional card-less point of sale. So, that’s nice. If there’s no movie showing that I want to see, then there’s always new movies I can rent/buy through Prime if nothing grabs me on the streamers.

What I’m saying is, even though it’s tight sometimes, it’s still pretty good to be me.

This weekend, of course, I’m finally motivated. I know I’ve got another week to go before my first two-week paycheck arrives. Further, I was kind of daunted by the prospect of having to budget for two weeks versus getting paid weekly, having just adjusted to that weekly schedule versus the daily pay I’d been used to the last three years.

It wasn’t my strongest beginning. Friday night was tough, after a longer than normal Friday at the day job. When I saw the pay was just base-plus-$2, versus the usual base-plus-$3 I get when I drive, I decided to save my mojo for Saturday night. Why? I don’t know…at the end of the day, it was a $5-10 issue, depending on how long I stayed out. But I stayed in.

I hit the road last night at 6, after buying myself a pop and a lottery ticket. My first order was a two-fer with a total of 3.3 miles for $19. I usually like to stay over a $10 per-delivery average, but it was such a short distance, I took it as a win and shagged it.

Plus, these things usually net up a bit when all is said and done. Especially when an order comes through a secondary app. Even if it didn’t, though, I’d be on my “second” order in about 20 minutes since these first two deliveries were so close.

Except…forgot whose life I was living.

The first pickup was a block from where I accepted the orders and they said they needed a “couple minutes” to finish up. Not surprising, since I’d been so close.

Twenty fucking minutes later…I’m finally on my way. I pick up the next order in less than 90 seconds and am on my way to the drop offs – which are conveniently around the corner from one another. Unfortunately, what I hadn’t realized was that there was a Portland Timbers match last night. These two apartments were two blocks from Providence Park.

What I’d assumed would be the start of a $50 hour finally ended 40 minutes later. As I ended the second delivery, I was accepting the reality that I’d need another delivery set up like my first to finish my first hour in my usual $30-35 range.

Except the app kept reverting to the prior delivery instead of completing and taking me to the Home Screen.

That’s more like my usual life. After I’d crossed the Willamette River that divides the city’s west side from the east, I had pulled over to call support. I’d unsuccessfully tried to complete the order for 10 minutes – Portland is small, you can absolutely cross town on a Saturday evening in 10 minutes – so it was time to get some help.

After 15 minutes on chat waiting for someone to get to me, the chat had ended itself. Fine. I called in to the driver support line. That call started with a recording telling me there was high call volume so they were prioritizing active deliveries. Also fine, since I’d been unable to end my last delivery.

Then the system ended my call. So much for getting into the queue based on a technicality.

Worst part? I didn’t even get paid for the deliveries I did until hours later when I was comfortably stoned on the couch.

That prompted me to try signing in again, not that I was going anywhere. It still failed, so I put it away for the night.

I tried again this morning. Still nothing, and the only troubleshooting I can get to without signing in says, “Just keep trying!” Thanks, Dory.

The support line is still hanging up after the same pre-recorded message, so I’m sensing it’s a bad weekend for a lot of people.

And DoorDash.

But that’s all had a rather disabling effect on my day. This weekend I came into feeling motivated is ending with me not showering or brushing my teeth today until 3 pm.

I did somehow manage to whip up a concoction and eat a 1/2 pound of pasta – but managed to hold off til noon before diving in.

Eat your feelings, Xtopher.

I’ve watched two Harry Potter movies today – save your TERF comments, I’m watching the movies to feel good, not endorse the author’s anti-trans mentality – and suspect a third is coming.

And while I feel like I’ve survived a hardship and tomorrow I’ll wake up with more than $15 in my primary checking account, I’m not feeling a strong sense of relief. Most of my bills are “late” or actually late at this point. I prefer to pay them as they come in if they aren’t on autopay. Autopays are bouncing back – thank gawd they aren’t considered overdrafts! – and the balances on the bills I haven’t paid yet are now larger than the check I’ll get on Friday, so I’ve got to prioritize bills instead of clearing them out.

And given the time of month – I swear I didn’t mean to riff on TERF bullshit there – were in, my next check has to be for September rent. On top of that, I suspect it’s time Myrtle saw a vet, given the size of the puddle I came home to after last night’s abortion of productivity. That couldn’t possibly be a good sign. Or a cheap fix. But at least I’ve talked myself back from my comments to the Silver Fox last night – something along the lines of “Myrtle lives outside starting tomorrow”. And, no…I do not have a yard.

Grandpa’s probate attorney needs to find his damn checkbook. At least this slog of a weekend is almost over. Take that, Sunday Scaries. I’m looking forward to Monday!

Austerity…and Everything After

Victory Is Mine!

I spent a lot of time last week trying to decide if the burden of being right was truly the pain in the ass that it was seeming or just the cost of living in this self-service gaslighting state of affairs that is America today.

That did provide me some solace in the form of nostalgic thoughts I had from back when being right was fun and exciting. Knowledge was a pursuit, a validation…an overall positive attribute.

<sigh> The good, old days.

The issue?

My final pay from the temp agency I’ve worked with for off and on the past four years fucked up my final paycheck. Having nicknamed them based on the quality of my engagements with them –

– I can’t say that I was surprised. But I should admit that I was also impressed by the commitment they showed to delivering poor quality work with this particular fuck up.

I mean, honestly, it had to have simply been an epic string of comfortably employed idiots crossing my path because no truly stupid American could coordinate such fuck-uppery. Still, mad props to the recruiting team that assembled this melange of morons.

Quick (that’s a lie) backstory:

There was an app update about two months ago now. It was kind of a big deal, since for temps, all work is remote from your “employer”, regardless of whether you’re in an office setting or working from home. All of my timekeeping was done in the app.

The big change in this update was the prompt to indicate whether you worked onsite for their client or from your home. But it was easy, just record your time each day, then when you review at the end of each week, you’re given a slider for each day to toggle to remote or on-site.

Now, when I was offered this role, it was with the understanding that it would be about a 40/60 split. I was prepared to work Tuesdays and Wednesdays on-site and the rest of the days from home. However, COVID had other ideas and since Washington state – where the offices were located – was under an indoor N95 mask mandate, so the company was letting anyone who could work remotely do so.

When that mandate was lifted, my division’s (Finance) leadership decided to try a one day on-site return to office. As the COVID exposure communications became more than weekly, we were told to only come in if necessary. For me, that’s nearly never, so I’ve been working from downtown Portland, Oregon for most of my history on this assignment…I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to the office in six months now.

And that’s exactly what I told the industrious stranger from Robert Half-Ass that emailed out of the blue about six weeks ago asking about my remote indicators from my recent timesheets. Well, not the six month part, it was just four-plus back then. This person I’d never heard of before said she appreciated my response and it was just some internal stuff for reporting and such.

Anyway, smash-cut to the not too distant past when the conversation about converting me to a Core employee was happening with the company I was assigned to. The timing was setting up to occur the same week I’d planned to be working from the high desert during the week of my family’s annual trip. I’d committed to the arrangement thinking I’d burn some of my Sick Pay that I’d accrued with Robert Half-Ass by taking a few days off before I transitioned to Core status with the old/new company.

Except

When I submitted my timesheet for what was my final week of work with Robert Half-Ass, I received an error message from the app that I didn’t have enough Sick Pay to cover the two days I had requested.

<checks app>

I mean, I’m no MIT grad, but I still knew that 8+8 equaled 16 – and that 16 was less than 18, so I was confused. Mind you, I never understood Common Core and wrote it off as nonsense, but was open to the idea that it was valid and the people who tried explaining it to me were all idiot, no savant.

But I digress.

My timesheet was telling me I only had 6 hours of Sick Pay available despite what the app that timesheet lived in was telling me. I checked my last paystub and it said I only had 6 hours, so there was a disconnect somewhere. Then I noticed it said “OR Sick Pay”. That prompted me to say “Fucking Robert Half-Ass!” to my empty home, since I immediately knew that the question I had helpfully answered a few weeks prior had fucked me over. More to the point, the Robert Half-Ass go-getter had done so after making whatever internal updates that she thought necessary. Clearly, I was going to need some help resolving that on Monday, which is a bummer since when I submit my timesheet on Friday, I usually get paid on Tuesday. Wednesday at the latest.

But Monday had other plans for me and my job ate my life that day. Tuesday morning, I got an email from yet another Robert Half-Ass employee I’d never heard of sending me an Urgent Reminder to submit my timesheet. I reply back with the backstory and she tells me she’ll look into it. She gets back to me a little later telling me to call the I9 team so they can figure out if I should be accruing Sick Time based on Oregon or Washington law.

I mean…A) you do it. And, B) as I understand it, I9s are the forms used to record proof of employment eligibility in the United States, not any particular state and therefore shouldn’t have anything to do with what state I work in or whose employment laws I should be following.

But, ok. I call and they say it’ll take 24 hours to get a response. Oh, and also that Sick Pay isn’t portable, so when I move, I lose it. They’ve never heard of merging accrued time from different policies. They remain unimpressed and utterly unconcerned when I stress that I didn’t move, one of their cohorts toggled a switch and changed my work location.

Again, my assignment was to a WA-based company and it was known that the majority of work would be from my home in Oregon when the assignment started. If something needed to be changed, it was because someone set me up wrong from the get-go. All I did was accept an assignment and show up every day.

Definitely, fuck me for that.

Wednesday I get a “Second Urgent Reminder” from the same nitwit, despite my telling her it would be 24 hours before I got an answer from the people she directed me to. When I remind her of this – after the 24 hour window has closed with no follow up – she suggests I delete the Sick Time from my timesheet and she’ll submit a manual timesheet for my Sick Time. She also asks if I’ve called customer service, which provides me with a good stretch for my eyes as they simultaneously bulge out of and roll back in their sockets as I read this.

I tell her I’m not editing my timesheet, because then I have no record of my original document. Plus, I’d be submitting an inaccurate document and attesting that it was accurate by doing so. I tell her that my trust in her outfit is nowhere near strong enough for that level of faith. I can literally see them using my timesheet against me as justification to drop the whole matter.

The customer service people get back to me and are empathetic to my situation and promise to get me some help…as they tell me “No”.

The next day, I’m told again to submit a false document. “Hell, no” is still my answer, but they force my worked hours through the system without client approval so I can get those hours paid before the weekend. Over the next couple of days, I get three more responses from the same customer service mailbox, all from different people. The first is a solid, although phoned in affirmation of the “No” I’d received earlier and the other two are “Super-duper sorry for the delayed response, but it looks like someone else helped you!”

Did they? I seem to have missed the part where someone did something helpful.

I tell the original Urgent Reminder lady that if my Sick Pay isn’t paid or set to be paid on Monday, which would be two weeks late, I’m filing a Wage Claim with the Bureau of Labor and Industry.

Of course, it isn’t resolved and of course Monday also has different plans for me, again. But on Tuesday I am still on radio silence, so I fill out a Wage Claim on the BOLI website and submit screen shots of the different Sick Pay balances and the email thread asking about my work location.

I also forward the BOLI claim confirmation email to the Urgent Reminder lady, the Industrious Half-Asser that changed my work location without telling me and the customer service mailbox.

Feeling petty, I start off with “As promised” and then take the opportunity to remind them of the germane factors in their fuck up. Then I close with something like…well, I’ll throw in a screen shot because I won’t do it justice from memory. Hold please.

I particularly enjoyed the “maybe this will help you find your wallet” part. Like I’m a cartoon mafioso holding someone up by their ankles and shaking change out of their pockets.

Three days pass, nothing. I briefly debated following up with a message pointing out that not even apologizing for the position their internal dumb-fuckery put me in and continuing to carefully avoid admitting any wrong doing whatsoever demonstrates what low-caliber individuals these people are. Successfully, I resist. I know I’d also end up putting something in there about how misguided it is to choose loyalty to an organization that openly demonstrates how little loyalty it had to the mules whose efforts fill its corporate coffers.

Idiots. Remember, American culture is self-service gaslighting…the hell with right or wrong, what can one get away with?

Friday is the day I get a call featured in the picture above. She’s using her “Look how friendly and helpful I’m being!” voice, which I repeatedly remind her I’m not buying.

She promises me that she can get me paid.

…if I will only go in and edit my Sick Pay out of my timesheet.

I flat out ask her why everyone has such a hard-on about my timesheet. Her response is a series of unimpressive sputters and assurances I cannot take to the bank. But if I’ll just do it, she can get a deposit for my Sick Pay set up by the end of the day. She even promises to put it in an email for my records.

I acquiesce, telling her I’ll take her email but I’m also taking screenshots of the before and after on each of the days on my timesheet I’m being made to edit before they will pay me. That oughta partner up nicely with my and her phone logs to give me the comfort to edit the timesheet I’m not ever submitting. The worked hours have already been paid without me submitting the damn thing, but Robert Half-Ass simply cannot pay the Sick Pay unless it’s not recorded on my timesheet.

Fine. Gotta love that logic.

It’s done and our call ends after I implore her to dig deeper into who else this has happened to, because there’s no way I’m the only temp assigned across state lines in a border city like Portland. If it hasn’t happened to someone else yet, it’s just that…it hasn’t happened yet. By the time it comes up, perhaps the employee will have accrued enough time in their new policy to cover a sick day – I’d nearly gotten there, only two weeks away since in either state we accrue 1 hour of Sick Pay for every 30 hours worked.

She told me that was above her pay grade but she’d send it up the ladder. Oh, that inspired confidence. So I reminded her that they weren’t paying me my earned time off without BOLI holding a figurative gun to their head, so I had zero doubts she’d pass anything on to anyone without a figurative gun to her head nor would they do anything about it unless they were forced to.

Sure enough, a few hours later, she sent me that email. You know what she started it with?

“As promised”. The very words I started my email to them with when I confirmed my Wage Claim submission with them. Isn’t that pettiness cute? She quoted me back to me.

In a show of appreciation of that shitty attitude, I’m leaving my Wage Claim open and pursuing penalty pay – which is capped at a cool 100% of the unpaid wages. It won’t hurt them, but it’s the principle.

Someone really should have showed a little professional mortification over this whole shitshow.

Victory Is Mine!

The “Literal” Treatment

BMW has entered the chat.

A chat I don’t want to be involved in, anyway.

Certainly a chat I don’t want brands I value to seek to be involved in, either.

But this is America. We ruin everything.

And as hard as we fight to not be inclusive, except when it comes to money, there are exceptions. Companies in America gotta get everyone’s money – so they’re gonna at least act inclusive.

One of my favorite examples of this is corporate rainbow-washing every June for Pride month. And then the month ends…

It amuses me – this observation, but it doesn’t bother me. Not because I think The Gays, collectively, have become unworthy of anyone’s support or pride (which is true) but because it’s also such an stupid American cultural reality. It’s the End of Christmas Morning Phenomenon: “Is this all I got?”

So, yeah. Complain, please…that you got a spotlight for a full month, you ninnies.

Anyway, then there’s BMW entering into a courtship with what is arguably America’s largest and most diverse subculture. Actually, it might be the unacknowledged dominant culture.

Idiots.

The “sub”culture, not BMW. They might be geniuses.

What are they doing?

Pandering to the group of Americans who ignore the squiggly red line under words they type…because spell-check is wrong, not them.

Those idiots.

How? Just how does a multinational – global, even – manufacturing company target an audience like this?

Believe it or not, it likely didn’t involve anything as spectacular as running head-first at full speed into a wall or ripping whip-its before sitting down to develop content. Very likely, I’d imagine it was rather organic.

Picture it. The setting: HR. Aaand…scene!

That’s it. Can you picture HR without the mental image of the employee it conjures being a ubiquitous Karen?

That’s all it takes. Someone who embraced the rampant misuse of the word “literally” so long that a dictionary gave the fuck up and rewrote its definition to align with the misuse.

You think they’re gonna hire people who would demand a high level of detail from themselves in their work? I’m talking in any department, too, not just in advertising.

I just don’t want you walking away from this post laughing at stupid creatives in stupid corporate America. I want you horrified, chagrined and slightly frightened of how pervasive the problem is.

Oh, you want to actually know what got me going on this? Not that the pic at the top of the post didn’t bury the lede, but…check it:

The caption says “Your BMW Has Our Undivided Attention” – italics are my addition, for emphasis…in case you’re one of them and don’t know it.

Call me crazy, but to me, undivided implies focus. Presumably, that guy is wrist deep in my BMW.

His hands are inside my car.

Where are his eyes?

Where?!? What are his eyes focused on?!?

Not watching what the fuck his hands are doing, that’s where.

So the collateral that BMW sends me to earn my business by demonstrating their attention to the service they provide is a picture of them not providing a commensurate level of attention to the service they provide.

Got it. Yeah.

Don’t mind me. I’m just over here observing shit.

What really bugs me is that I got this in the mail on a Saturday. My day off. Well, the one that overlaps with USPS service.

My day off from running payroll for a laser manufacturing outfit.

That’s five days of me seeing people that manufacture lasers but can’t manage to remember to punch back in from lunch. So I spend a good deal of time each week being surprised lasers work as intended, given the poor performance our employees have at such an entry level job expectation: making sure they get paid accurately for their time by punching a damn time card.

But, hey…if our lasers work on potentially nothing more than dumb luck, maybe that BMW tech will manage to not fuck up my car while giving it what passes for undivided attention while working on it?

Or I’ll pop the hood on Angela one day and find a windshield wiper where there should be a dipstick. Which scenario seems more likely?

Figuratively more likely, by the way. I know a windshield wiper would never literally fit where a dipstick belongs.

The “Literal” Treatment

My Kind of Conversion Therapy

I got a call from my boss yesterday afternoon. She gets me. Here’s how the pre-call planning went via Microsoft Teams chat:

Boss: Hey!

Me: Quit screaming at me.

Boss: Call me.

Normally, my neurotic ass would immediately spiral with that enigmatic command. But like I said, she gets me. We have a…rapport.

She starts our conversation off with “Guess what?” Even though her tone suggested good news, that opener is cryptic enough that mentally I replied, “You need me to bring back my laptop?”

It was just the opposite, though. She told me that the CEO had finally signed off on my Offer Letter.

I probably added a “finally” retroactively where there was not one in reality.

Seriously, though, it had taken three months to get my Offer Letter put together and approved. I know this because I found it hard to take her seriously when she asked if I was interested in converting from a contractor to a core employee…since it was April 1st.

When I pointed that out a couple weeks later during our weekly touch base, her response was, “Wait, did you mean it when you said ‘Yes’?!?”

And this is why we get along.

I probably could have shared my thoughts on this surprise (to me) development with my boss. Thoughts like, “Thank gourd for The Great Resignation making employers desperate enough to hire a grumpy old bastard like me!” or “You could hire millennial or Gen Z folks for less than me…if you could actually hire anyone from those generations”. (Sorry, Vee!) Actually, I’m confident she would have beat me to the punch on that last part.

Anyhoo…she’d warned me it was gonna take a while. “We move slow”, she had admitted. She did not undersell that.

I just never imagined it would be a longer process to complete than the tenure I had as a temp with the company at the time she had issued that warning. I’d gotten the exploratory offer at two months.

Two weeks later when she’d “updated me” about my salary expectations, I’d told her that was faster than I’d expected. Two weeks after that, she’d confirmed that HR was starting on my Offer Letter.

Ok

Five weeks later I hear that my Offer Letter was on the CEO’s desk for his approval and I’m all, “Eureka!”

Three weeks go by. Mind you, a week after I heard the CEO had it, his Admin called me to check on some expense reports “he’d” submitted.

I had patted myself on the back for not quid-pro-quo-ing his expense reports and just told her that I process expense reports on Fridays. It was Thursday…so the next day I reimbursed his $25,000 from four months worth of expense reports. Before the day ended, the Admin was back in my inbox telling me “she’d” completed the last two months of reports, so I added another $15k to his reimbursement before beer:30 that day.

You know how you know someone makes too much money? Not just that they can get by submitting expense reports only twice a year, but that they can do it by letting an average of $7k a month ride.

Oy.

Anyway, I’m glad I coughed up his dough because it took a scant two more weeks for the Offer Letter to find its way back to HR. No telling how long it would have taken if timing hadn’t worked out like it had!

But someone was impressed enough with me to throw a couple extra percentage points on my salary from what my boss had said she’d try to get for me – which was less than I’d asked for, but more than I was making as a contractor, so I wasn’t mad. But seeing it come back just a shade off of what I’d asked for made me feel it was worth the wait.

Mind you, this is still a 45 hr/week base at about 60-65% of what I made last year driving with Lyft. I’ve been doing some DoorDash deliveries to help bridge the gap, too – but that’s another shituation. I can max out at about a dozen hours on a good week with DoorDash, that’s about half as many hours as I drove for Lyft and on a good week I earn about a third of what I made driving for Lyft.

All that boils down to me working more than twice as many hours this year over last and maybe making 75% of what I earned driving <30 hours a week for Lyft. Since it’s July, I don’t think it’s premature to declare that this is gonna be a financially tough year.

But the first six months of this year have helped me get back into a budget mindset. Between that and the 16% bump I’m getting converting from contract to core, I think I can stare down the balance of the year without having to steal from my parent’s present retirement fund.

Anyway…here I am, the guy who swore he was done working for Da Man back in 2018. Didn’t quite make it five years before I found something that appealed enough to me that I could sell myself back to an outfit long-term.

Maybe this company is the conversion therapy I needed to take away the shitty taste my last few professional roles left in my mouth.

I don’t want to shock anyone – I have more than a few older readers – but, yes…that was me sounding optimistic. I apologize for not warning you ahead of time.

My Kind of Conversion Therapy

Bad Math

It’s been following me around this week.

I swear, I’m not even trying to entice this shit. It has been a particularly frustrating week for my inner Rain Man, though.

It started when I picked my parents up from the airport after their trip to see Black Sheep Bro. Actually, it was likely well underway at that time, but I hadn’t become attuned to it yet. They wanted to fill up my tank at the Fred Meyer near their house. At $4.95/gallon at the place by my house, I wasn’t saying no!

We roll into the station and the guy puts in mom’s phone number and asks if she wants to use her $1 off. She says yes, and I look at the sign and think the resulting $3.97/gallon makes the price damn near reasonable. We get the receipt and mom declares the $3.93/gal price to be downright worth the stop. I’m staring at the sign and mentally subtracting a dollar from the price posted in it and not coming up with $3.93 – but at least it was an error in our favor.

Then I woke up to this on the Twitter this morning:

Seriously. The state of Florida thinking their involvement in the schools improves the quality of the humans they turn out is grossly overestimating their contribution.

Like, not even in a bizarro universe is that a truth.

Here’s a math problem for ya: True or False – a racist minority + racist laws = less racists?

Pretty sure that is false and only increases the number of racist in that state because there’s no critical thinking – race theory or otherwise – being taught in those classrooms to offset the racist behaviors these kids learn at home from their racist parents.

My response on the Twitter post was something to do with math books being inherently unrelated to Critical Race Theory since…it’s fucking math! Maybe they were worried about the whole three-fifth a man thing coming up in the fractions chapter.

Hard to apply logic to a mind filled with the screwball thinking that goes on in Florida, though.

But here’s where I realized that this whole bad math thing had been simmering for a while. My now-truly-a-gig gig, driving for DoorDash.

My mind likes to recreationally search out patterns, and the way this app operates kind of lends itself to that on every job. When you accept a delivery, there’s a tiny .5 font telling you the estimated miles involved. I started noticing it so I’d stop accepting orders to the suburbs 10-15 miles away for $9 and no tip. Then it went from nothing over 10 to nothing over 7. Now, I’m loathe to accept something over 5 miles away unless it pays around $15.

But that’s not the algebra I’m getting at. My mind just likes to see that a job has X miles in it and then see how close that math shakes out. This is all really just something to pass the time, anyway. Might as well keep an eye out for things that make it worth the while…otherwise, I’ll focus on how boring it is and how much I really don’t like it.

But this is where it gets interesting. To me, anyway.

In the same Rain Man vein, I try to keep my lifetime deliveries at a number that ends in a 5 or 0. I did the same thing with my Lyft rides.

What makes it hard is mentally keeping track of where I’m at. Since it’s boring and I hate it, I consider 5 deliveries a full shift. I can usually mentally count to 5. But there are jobs that I cancel for one reason or another: the restaurant is closed or surprisingly open given the dysfunction I experience once I arrive. There’s been a couple instances where I show up and they are having a random and insurmountable issue and tell me they have to cancel. I’ve had a couple of “shopping trips” where they were literally out of every damn thing the customer wanted.

So, that makes it kind of tricky on the old memory.

But after a few instance of checking my number and seeing odd things, I start paying attention – determined to true up my number and make my wreck-reational OCD happy.

I’d hit the road thinking, ok…I gotta do 7 jobs tonight to get back on track. I hit my seventh job and call it, and see this:

117?!? Well, that ain’t right. I try and figure out how things got that fucked up and just can’t make it make sense. More determined than ever, I hit the road the next time, determined to balance my scales with 8 deliveries.

It was a tough night and I failed, hanging it up out of frustration after my normal 5. Then I see this…

Ok, do the math with me here. 123 minus 117 does not equal 5!!!

Fine. The next time I hit the road, I’m committed to 7 deliveries.

Looks familiar, right? Just where I’d left off last time. This time, no grumpy old Xtopher moments to derail my productivity and I hang it up a few hours later, feeling like I’ve righted my universe.

Oh, short-lived peace of mind…

That’s right, people. 123 plus 7 is now 128!

You ever seen the movie Highlander? “There can be only one” ring a bell? I mention it because my reaction to that math might have resulted in me Highlander-ing Gilbert Gottfried this past week.

Just picture it…

But more important to me as a business person is how am I supposed to have confidence in an organization that can’t count? Especially since they farmed it out to a computer who was clearly programmed by graduates of the Florida Public Schools. Even more so, as an “employee” of this outfit, how do I muster faith in their accounting that I’m being paid correctly?

Not to worry, since this is me, I’m more concerned with unfucking up my stats. I’m back to needing 7 jobs to get there.

And in a victory for mathletes the world over…

Victory is mine! I can figuratively sleep once again. I’m back into a comfortable rhythm of blocks of 5 deliveries and calling it a day. My aggressive and goal oriented brain starts rocking the boat by turning numbers over in itself figuring out how many jobs a week I need to do to pay my rent. I try to settle that bastard down because it comes up with 35…which is only 7/night five nights a week – or three nights if I do a double one weekend day!

Me: Shut. Up.

I try willing my inner Rain Man to just settle down. It’s a struggle, because after 30+ years in retail, making goals is an intoxicating reward.

Still, I go out to put my 5 in tonight before dinner with a friend. I feel like I’m squeezing too much into my day, but am driven by the exercise, earn, write paradigm of success I’ve set for myself – a whole other goal. So I do it. I think that with my average being 2 deliveries/hour, I can make my 6 o’clock dinner with a little cushion if I am on the road by 330.

Fate favors all sorts. Sometimes even me…as I had my 5 jobs in by 5 and was pulling in to the garage by 515! Then I checked my lifetime number…

For the love of…just, goddamnit!

Bad Math

I Can’t Have It All?

Part 2: What the hell was I thinking?

Damn universe, always teaching me lessons…like crippling humility.

So, there I was…having most of it. Gently nudged into balance by the Silver Fox. I’d gotten Angela all spruced up for her annual check-in with Lyft, but was focused more on those other pillars that make me feel like a normal person productive: writing and exercising.

No big news on the writing front.

Yet….

Couple blog posts. I re-read my prime WIP, by way of seeing where I need to tweak formatting before I hit publish. That’ll happen this month.

For sure.

So that’s something. Hoorah for lightly edited stories.

Also something?

I exercised twice as many days in March as I had in February. That ain’t nothing. April’s looking good, too, there’s a Class Every Day challenge and I’m on track. But balanced old Xtopher is keeping in mind that some days will be ride days, others will be strength…but mixed in will be days that are just a longer than my usual 5 minute post-ride stretch classes or even yoga classes.

Balance.

Also helpful? And this is where all that foreshadowing nonsense comes in: I got de-platformed by Lyft.

You read that right. Boy, they rogered me but good. Real good.

But that’s another blog.

I chose to look at it optimistically. The removal of a barrier to a balanced day.

The thing is, though, my temp gig doesn’t pay that well. I mean, I can’t complain, it’s not minimum wage – which I’ve certainly done as I explore non-career level employment. And it pays the bills. And-and, in a real Pinocchio twist, they started making sounds about converting me from a temp role to a real boy job.

The pay talk…we’ll see. I’m looking at it as a positive – even though the talk happened on April 1st. That’s just how my life goes. It was a good talk.

Except, the universe being the lesson teacher that it is, I was de-platformed by Lyft after dumping about $3k into little repairs for Angela that I’d been putting off. That was the month after the surprise $2500 I’d put into her in January, no less.

And after all that I had boldly (ie: no drink in hand) faced my taxes.

The day after I’d done my first draft of the taxes was the day I got the dry fuck from Lyft.

I’ll tell ya…I don’t believe in god, but I fully embrace the notion behind the phrase “If you wanna make god laugh, make a plan”.

And that’s what I had done. Made a financial plan that included making quarterly payments to the Feds for my $11k tax bill.

Thank god it was only a first draft. The second draft is a much less traumatic $8k, but it’ll still require an episiotomy after my main revenue stream gave me the same treatment it gave the driver that raped a passenger here in Oregon.

That seems fair. My punishment is the same as a rapist. My crime? I got two speeding tickets in a 12 month period. Yeah, well stick with “sounds fair”.

More on that later, I’m sure. You know how loquacious I can be when I get going on something.

Now, look…I may be seriously fucked right now, but I’m all Mr Bright Side, damnit! Even if that just means I jump off the bridge with the best view in town – that’s a tough one here in Portland – and don’t take anyone else out with me.

So that naive dumbass Mr Bright Side fella is looking at this as a way to achieve balance. Less opportunities for proChristination. Fewer distractions.

Bright side. Mr. Me.

But since my temp job doesn’t keep me in the happy hour budget I like, tax debt or no, nor does it afford the luxurious $30 treats Mistress Myrtle prefers…I need a second income stream.

Reluctantly, I signed up to be a delivery old man boy with DoorDash.

I hate it. It’s boring. It does give me that “in service to others” paycheck I found I missed after leaving retail. So, that’s a plus. And it pays around $7-10 more and hour than the temp job, so there’s that, too.

But it’s sooooo fucking boring.

Bright side? I can really only tolerate doing 5 deliveries in a shift. More than that is excruciating. Ok, that last part wasn’t very bright side, I admit. But, dashing out to do 5 deliveries after work a few nights a week and then a double or triple on a – singular – weekend day leaves me plenty of time for happy hour hangouts during the week – and it gives my budget the wiggle room to offset said indulgence. It leaves me the time for writing and exercising.

All. That.

There’s plenty to be grateful for. And since I hate it, the ~20 hours I give it each week balances my books. Well, excluding the G-men obligation. I might have to see if there’s a niche market for barely out of shape old men on OnlyFans to solve that problem. God only knows what weird shit passing as erotic that The Gays are lapping up these days.

Fucking morons.

But I think I’ve got a third draft of my taxes in me. I just need to make a phone call first. I think we all know how long I could drag that task out. So I’ll also file an extension…sometime between April 14th and 17th.

It’s good to have a plan.

And goals. Since my goals are work, exercise, write and not “pay less in taxes than Trump” I think I’m in a good place.

Fuck, being optimistic is a weird feeling. I should’ve stretched more before this post. Anyone else miss grumpy old Xtopher?

Don’t worry, he’ll be around. Until then, cheers to the bright side and cheers to you for reading. Thanks!

Look how my thigh is about the same size as my thumb in that pic. You go, Chicken Legs McGee!

I Can’t Have It All?

I Can Have It All!

Part 1: Everything’s fine!

I creep into every week with a simple goal – to have a day or several where I succeed in all three pillars of what I consider a “good day”. I want to make some money, exercise and write.

That’s it. Nothing earth shattering. No outrageous goals like cure cancer before lunch.

You may wonder how I struggle to accomplish this. Like, why is my weekly goal “a day or several” and not something more aggressive reasonable like “at least three days a week”?

The answer is simple: go fuck yourself.

Wait. That came out wrong.

I used to run, run, run and go, go, go. All day. I did that for 30+ years, starting in high school, no less!

Now I’m tired. Actually, I’m not just tired…I’m fucking tired.

And after leaving my retail management career behind after 30+ years, I was ready to rest. I liked my little income setup: Lyft 25-ish hours a week and keeping an iron in the temp job fire to keep things fresh. My average for temp placements was 2/year, which I was fine with.

I was a little less fine when I got my W2 for last year’s temp assignments and saw that I’d earned around $1700 in 2021. And that mindset is never the right time to pick up the phone when your temp wrangler calls.

But I did, didn’t I?

Because I’m a dumbass.

Which is how I ended up on assignment in early February. It’s full-time, which I hate because I frankly make more driving. Plus a 40 hour/week commitment seems so vulgar now. But I’m getting used to it.

Stubbornly.

Case in point, I was still committed to getting my minimum $500 in ride earnings in each week after this temp job came through. That goal actually wasn’t much of a problem, most weeks I was clearing four digits. I swear, with Lyft, if you download the app they practically automatically send you $500/week. I think if you go longer than one week without managing to earn over $500, they send someone to check in on you.

What I’m saying is that it’s pretty much a sure thing. People gotta go places, you’re going to make money. I’m ok with that.

Until…the Silver Fox ruined everything. Root of all evil, that guy.

I met him at our local after work one day when he’d come back up to town. Him being all pro-me, he was apologetic or overly grateful or something…stressing that he didn’t want to keep me from making money.

Ooh, foreshadowing!

But I assured him everything was fine. I’d overachieved prior to his visit, so it turned out that Bob’s now my uncle. In assuring him I was ready for a rest – there’s that foreshadowing again – I spilled my prior week’s Lyft earnings to him.

Amazed, he asked how long that took me.

Me: I dunno…like 30 hours? Nah. Less! I dunno…I was getting up at 430 if I couldn’t sleep and going out for the early bonus hours before plugging in to work at 8. Then doing a little driving after work on some days, too. Oh, and then Friday and Saturday!

SF: And you worked 40 hours on top of that doing the payroll thing?

Me: <raises glass to self> Yupperz.

SF: Geez! You worked 70 hours last week!

Me: <blinks cluelessly>. That can’t be right.

SF: That’s amazing.

Me: It never occurred to me that I’d worked that much. Driving doesn’t feel like working. Not at all.

See? He’s obviously the devil.

Anyway, that also drove home the point that my stubbornness had over-corrected and was keeping me from succeeding at accomplishing my other metrics: writing and exercising.

Shift my focus, did I.

Plus, Angela needed some spa days. I’d been putting off my oil change and replacing a fog light some malcontent had popped out of my bumper last summer during our…protests.

Who objects to a fog light being in a bumper where it belongs?!? That’s what I want to know. Stupid protester.

Anyway, I book a few days in the shop for the car and dial back the driving.

Ratchet up my workouts – which had gotten ridiculously infrequent. Like less than two/week.

I still struggled to write. I posted a couple of blogs and opened my laptop to check on a draft…the shock of which nearly fried my laptop.

What? It was a long pandemic.

But I still have WIPs to get out on “in progress” status. The Gays aren’t big readers, so it’s really only for my own sense of accomplishment. It still bothers me that they are languishing there in WIP status. That’s on me. No one reads them? That’s on someone else.

Shockingly, that stubborn streak of mine asserted itself in a strangely non-self-sabotaging manner. I started choosing to exercise or write versus choosing to drive, aka: proChristinate.

It was oddly liberating.

And motivating.

Maybe I could manage to have it all several days a week after all?!?

Tune in soon. See if that next shoe that drops is a platform heel with a goldfish living in it or a cross-trainer that washed up on the shores of the Puget Sound with an amputated foot still in it.

Yeah, I think we all know which way this is going for foolishly optimistic old Xtopher….

I Can Have It All!

Well, Now I Feel…

Something.

Bad?

Nostalgic?

Accomplished?

Formerly accomplished?

Probably that last one. So…thanks, Facebook Memories.

Three years?!? How has it been that friggin’ long already…since I’ve had a date?

Kidding. Trying/not trying.

But I guess it’s just one more reminder that it’s been a long pandemic. If we factor those two years out, then it’s only been one year!

Don’t get me wrong, I tried to make hay out of the forced free time we all gained with the 2020 lockdowns. In April, I started NaNoWriMo – despite having two WIPs from prior NaNos still waiting for completion, then didn’t finish. Again.

I think I got derailed after a Twitter battle with a local stripper, who I’m sure knew nothing of my existence until I dared to correct him on his feed. Then I was all he could focus on, earning me featured status in his social media stories where he called me old and ugly. Not to mention a failed writer.

The young people are so woke – which seems to manifest with being disagreeable and combative. That’s regardless of the validity of their initial point. What moxy.

Sure, I’d only finished three books at that point, clearly, that’s failure in the eyes of a stripper who leaves the stage in a thong.

I actually finished all tasks associated with my job title, son. I have to imagine that a stripper’s job isn’t complete until they are clothes free. But what do I know? When I was a young man, tracing on one’s flesh was viewed differently than it is today – and I appreciate the evolution of sex work from villainized and humiliating to artistic expression and empowering.

This kid was – pardon the entendres – a dick.

Ultimately, that all stopped when he blocked me – the penultimate admission that he was wrong. The ultimate expression being actually saying it. But this is hardly the United States of Accountability, let alone Admittingyouwerewrong.

Anyway, as this was going on, I flirted with the idea of going to one of his shows and tipping him one of my books – yeah, I’ve got a few copies laying around. My overt grumpapotamus self imagined reading wasn’t high on his hobby list, see also: how he got to his current level of misery in his life.

Judgy.

The women strippers I meet driving with Lyft are all – every damned last one of them – such interesting people. Very engaging. Great stories. The male strippers I meet are all cunts. And not in that cool English slang type of way. At best, they look at me, and treat me like, I’m an ATM. Not that I go to strip clubs often…none of them have palatable beers.

I also considered going and tipping him $.02, since me giving him my figurative two cents was what set him off in the first place. Ultimately, I decided my absence was the best action for me.

Still determined to make some productive hay out of the lockdown, I pivoted to another project I’d been kicking around. When I finished my third book, it came in at a whopping 530-ish pages. I hardly consider myself a gay George R. R. Martin, so I sought out opinions from a few beta readers. They all told me it was fine.

But that length made printing costs pretty high and I think the lowest price I could charge was $19…and that was with me making less than a buck a copy. I knew there was a logical plot break that I could use as a kind of cliffhanger if I chose to split this into two books, I just hadn’t.

But with one half finished draft from April’s NaNo making me feel guilty, I decided this was the perfect time to tackle that split.

Obviously.

And I did it!

Well, “did it” so long as completing the split and edit of the first half. I knew I needed to flesh out the second half to beef it up a bit. It had originally suffered under the pressure of me knowing the page count was running high for one book. This was my chance to flesh it out.

But my first goal was to get the newly shortened second installation in my No One Of Consequence series back up online. Then I hit a formatting snag. Just a teensy one, but it proved to be overwhelming to my lockdown self and I never went back to finish it. I couldn’t imagine jumping to the third installment to get that story wrapped up, it just seemed wrong.

Four frustrating months go by. I spent a lot of that time considering the optics of dying during a pandemic with unfinished works. I thought it looked pretty good. Other artists somehow pull it off.

Margaret Mitchell.

Elvis.

No, wait…Hemingway! That’s a better comparison. I’m a drinker, not a druggie. And we’ve established the fact that 500+ page books are not my style, so…yeah. Hemingway.

That was probably my biggest self-soothe of the pandemic.

It carried me through the next three months. Right up to the next NaNoWriMo event, the big one in November. Now I can finish!

Or…start another work.

The following April?

Ok, this was pure motivation. And adrenalin.

I had just gotten my Peloton and was jazzed to pick up the autobiographical trilogy I’d fancied when I wrote Dating Into Oblivion. When I wrote that, I was nearing the end of a year long blogging theme that had resulted from a friendly intervention at my 50th birthday party.

Rude.

As a result of the collective will of my well-intentioned friends, I leaned into a blog theme I had just finished that I hashtagged fitfy. It was a play on fifty, an age I had been determined to reach with some progress toward accepting my aging self with a healthier attitude toward diet and exercise.

I’d been having trouble forgiving myself for not being able to eat and exercise like an idiot twenty-something. Naturally, my 51st birthday had involved me tapping a keg of my favorite beer at my then-favorite bar.

Anyway, knowing I had that “fitness in my fifties” notion in the back of my head, I decided to tackle dating in my fifties. It gave me something to do, at any rate. I figured the trilogy could round out with working in my fifties. It was a notion I rather fancied.

The problem was, there wasn’t much I could actually do since I’d just gotten my bike. I considered harvesting stories from my year of fitfy blog posts, as I had when I put together Dating Into Oblivion. But I considered that would have been only a portion of the project. I needed new content to complete the story.

Another partial credit NaNo for old Xtopher. PaCreNaNo? Kind of sounds like a pancreatic medical crisis.

Maybe that stripper was right.

Shudder.

Possibly, but improbable. Maybe what I needed was the motivation of writing something people might be attracted to en masse. My current accomplishments and WIP library all featured what I call gay shit – and I hate to break it to you, but The Gays aren’t known collectively as big readers.

It’s the pandemic – everybody else was pivoting, why not me? That sounds like a riff of a Cranberries album.

I picked a theme close to every Portland NIMBY’s heart: the homeless. Came up with a mystery plot. I even created a nom de plume based off of my parents middle initials and old world naming paradigms – JT Robertson.

Finally…in November of 2021, I completed a NaNoWriMo! Have I published? No. I’m mentally kicking it around, polishing it up. Completely retooling the voice. Flipping the plot 180 degrees.

Y’know…the basic writer’s nightmare.

April’s NaNo is weeks away.

Weeks.

I’m determined to finish something from my WIP list before adding anything else to it. I figure at this point, if my goal is to have a WIP library consisting of a prime number of works – it isn’t but I need to set boundaries of some kind – then I either need to finish one or add four!

I think seven is enough of a library. Let’s see if this Facebook Memories shaming is enough of a motivator to get NOOC2 published and back online. Lord knows that providing airplane reading material for a friend’s trip to Africa last month wasn’t it, so fingers crossed.

Sure enough, I woke up this morning, uncovered my laptop…and started organizing my tax receipts. Then I got this text

RUDE!!

So I wrote this, instead. I refuse to be so known by my best friend.

To answer my original question: seen. I feel seen.

Well, Now I Feel…

Near Misses

One of my favorite George Carlin bits, that there’s no such thing as a near miss. You either miss something or you don’t. I believe his position was that a near miss was technically still a hit.

Makes sense to me. Literally.

Ever more precious to me is that his audience was made up of the same group he was lambasting with the observation: Americans.

Stupid, stupid Americans.

And we loved it. Iself, included.

Well, one of my weekly tasks at the new gig is covering the payroll portion of the company’s weekly onboarding. Guess who follows me and sometimes comes in early? Safety. So each week I’m reminded of how many times near misses came up throughout the day when I went through the onboarding process – which was an odd experience, since I was contracted through my temp agency.

My inner dialogue was working overtime that day correcting them every time one of the presenters reminded the participants to report unsafe conditions, even near misses.

I mean, at least say it ironically.

I watched the other captives participants for any recognition of the devil may care attitude that was being programmed into them – “My safety doesn’t matter, I only have to report injuries”. But there was none.

I guess when paired with the word “American”, stupid takes on some of the same qualities as “fuck”…it can mean a variety of different things, contextually.

I’m one of the self-aware stupid Americans. It’s misery. I envy the Americans who are too stupid to understand how stupid they are.

For what it’s worth, my favorite mental near miss scenario of the day was the bride whose groom was late, but eventually made it to the church. Better luck next time, near miss sis.

Near Misses

John Lennon Was Right

Instant karma got me.

Or, car-ma…as the case t’were. I’m accepting that it was my fault for kvetching about one measly 4-star rating out of two and a half years of 5-star rides.

Hence the karma pun.

Anywho…Angela crapped out by the side of the road tonight. Actually, it was in a drive lane, but it was the curb side of the road – if you’ll allow me to split that hair.

I had called my friend, Diezel, before she died. He sometimes works on things like brake pads for me – hey, he works for burgers! His take on it was that it was an alternator and/or battery issue.

Angela had given me a “charging malfunction” error before I had called Diezel. When she had died the first time, giving me a last minute “drivetrain malfunction” message as she locked herself down in a parking lot.

The middle of a parking lot.

At sundown.

In The Numbers. Let’s just say that’s nowhere for an old white man to be broken down. Particularly after dark,

I Google “drivetrain malfunction” + “BMW X3” and learn that I can probably restart it after five minutes. I find a tree, take a whiz and go back.

<Le poof>

She starts up.

Knowing what to expect performance-wise, thanks to the prophet Google, I set out for home. I’m crawling, since Angela isn’t feeling like giving me more than 20-ish MPH.

Sticking to arterial surface streets, I had called Diezel as I limped westward. He tells me to look for a side street to park on and he’ll come get me and take me home, I can have her towed tomorrow.

I know he’s right – he’s an engineer and a rational thinker. I am an emotional thinker.

Emotionally, I want to get home. Knowing Diezel is right, my fallback is to get out of The Numbers.

Shit goes down there. BiPOC folx who live on the west side are reluctant to head to that part of the eastside when it’s dark. Last year was Portland’s deadliest in decades: gun violence, fire deaths, homicides, traffic deaths. You name it, if it was violent or deadly, we either broke a record last year or came damn close.

The Numbers – a nickname based on the blocks between ~122nd and 180th on the eastside of town – had more than the lion’s share of traffic and gun violence deaths last year. Don’t even get me started on the record number of stolen cars last year – October and November had around 13k stolen cars for the two month period.

Two months.

I didn’t want to leave Angela there.

We made it into the double-digit block numbers. I’d just crossed 102nd and was promising Diezel I’d pull off as I hit the 205 overpass at about 93rd.

She died. On the uphill approach to the overpass. I briefly considered jumping, but only therapeutically. Well, mostly.

I told Diezel what happened and he told me to drop him a pin for my location, he was leaving that moment.

Friends like him…they make me feel like I don’t deserve them as friends.

I throw a little pity party while I wait.

I’d just squared up my Multnomah County business taxes from 2019 and 2020, because TurboTax small business doesn’t do them – nor does it tell you that ain’t happening.

The county, though. They tell you. Two years later.

Well, that’s when they told me I owed $1400 in tax for 2019…the year I started driving for Lyft. In August. I decided to get ahead of 2020 – when I’d driven the whole year and made 4x what I made in ‘19 – and dig it out before the county hit me with penalties like the 2019 miss had created.

So much for buying a new place this year.

It wasn’t looking good, anyway, based on financial timing and the likely prime rate boosts coming down the pike this year. At best, I’d be looking at two hikes before I had mutual acceptance.

I’d accepted this. It was nice to at least have a goal to work toward, however briefly.

But here I was again, in crisis mode.

I was startled out of my pity party by a pair of headlights in my windshield.

Diezel!

But…not Diezel.

A Good Samaritan!

Yes! This was the Portland I knew and loved.

It was a woman who had passed by and pulled a u-turn in front of me to pull up to my hood grill – let’s not call it a hood whilst stalled in The Numbers. She walked up to my passenger window and asked if I needed a jump. I told her, “heck, yeah!” and she was off to her cargo area for her cables.

BMWs are weird. The battery in my X3 is in the back, but you jump it from the front. Actually, there is a positive post, that’s it. I’d been watching videos on this, so I kind of knew this – but she wanted to check in with her significant other, so we FaceTimed him. He agreed with my guess that we just needed to attach the negative to a hunk of metal and we were good to go.

She started her car and I got in mine to give Angela a wake up call.

She started right up. I revved her a few times. I was ready to let her sit and charge for a few minutes, but my Good Samaritan was antsy to go. I couldn’t fault her, but knowing about jumping cars from watching my parents do it while growing up in the 80s, that was my best guess for next steps.

Sadly, she was already talking about how to disconnect the cables with her Boo when I came around. He agreed I was good to go, so I yielded to their current information.

As soon as she turned and left, I put Angela in gear…and she re-died.

Diezel immediately pulled up behind me.

My first and third savior of the night.

“Galbs”, he said to me, “you need to call a tow truck to take this to a garage.”

I knew from his tone that this was his way of telling me this repair was beyond his capabilities. At least as far as roadside repairs were concerned.

He gave me a towing company name and number. Three hours.

He pulled another from his list and dictated the number to me. One hour!

Between calls and hold times, Diezel had been amusing himself by blowing his air horn at passing cars that had cut their lane change around us too closely. One of those blasts had clearly scared the towing company dispatcher shitless.

Fifteen minutes later, Diezel decided to get out and strobe his flashlight at the Stupid Americans who were too distracted to see his emergency flashers and proactively – not to mention safely – merge into the other lane.

He was worried about someone rear ending him. Looking at Angela’s dark brake lights and dead emergency lights, I couldn’t blame him. I was grateful to him for being there to save a near-certain collision.

There was a car backing down the overpass in front of Angela. He stopped and popped his rear hatch.

“Why don’t you go meet him?”

I acquiesced, and the man met me by my car with three flares. Another Good Samaritan.

For such a crappy night, the universe was putting a lot of amazing people in my path.

By the time the tow truck was a half hour late, the flares had burned through. Diezel was strobing approaching cars again. We could not believe how people fucked up such a simple thing as not hitting a stalled vehicle.

I couldn’t decide if it was distracted driving, stereotypically too polite Portland-slash-Portlandia-type drivers, or a combination of the two. Cars in our lane would slow to zipper in behind the car with the right of way, and that car would in turn yield its right of way by slowing to let it in front of them.

Both lanes of traffic came to a stop or near-stop several times. I retreated to the cab of Diesel‘s truck for an update on the tow truck.

Fifteen minutes.

Ten minutes later, the driver called. He was ten minutes out. He told me the tow would be just under $200. I asked if he could invoice me because I didn’t have it immediately – see also: why I was out driving on a Tuesday.

No.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity-fuck-fuck.

I’d payed two year’s worth of County back taxes and my January bills in the last ten days. Followed by also taking several days off to process my 4-star rating.

The savings I can usually access within 48 hours was nearly tapped. I was anticipating needing to tap into my other savings for the repair – that savings has a five day turnaround, so no driving for the better part of a week on top of opening the drain on my savings again. Not to mention any significant penalties for early withdrawal – or its modern day equivalent.

I was feeling hosed.

I looked a little more longingly at that guardrail. Sensing my distress, Diezel handed me his credit card and told me gently not to worry, pay him back whenever, but get the repair taken care of first.

I offered to at least get him a beer, but he demurred. It was after 9:30, after all…this one hour wait had turned into two and a half hours, not to mention the 30 minute transit and depositing Angela at the garage. He usually turns in closer to 8. Proposing a counteroffer of a hug, since we hadn’t seen each other in real life for over a year, he took off for home.

Realizing Myrtle’s dinner was over four hours late – a millennia in cat-time – I rushed upstairs to feed the mistress.

Then I prescribed myself a therapeutic Emotional Support Pizza that I keep in the freezer in case of emergency.

Don’t judge my Hawaiian pizza tastes!

You cannot understand the number of weekend nights I’ve come in from driving to bare cupboards. This was one of several I picked up after deciding I simply couldn’t face another 3 AM pizza from 7-Eleven. Plus, you can dress up a frozen pizza with red pepper flakes and – especially – an herb mix from Penzey’s Spices.

You’d eat this. <chef’s kiss> Admit it.

Plus, I broke open a bottle of the Columbia Gorge’s finest – from Marchese Cellars – to polish up the therapy session.

It’s a $30 bottle of amazing red. Not a bad companion to a $7 pizza…so if those herbs and red pepper flakes don’t make that pizza palatable…this will! Then this happened

Come the fuck on!

Undeterred, I got that cork out on the second try. Hopefully, that’s a harbinger of the ease of repair for Angela.

Now, I think I have some In Case Of Emergency Ben & Jerry’s around here somewhere…

John Lennon Was Right