I was gingerly lifting a low weight with the leg abductor when I glanced up at the television in the far corner, above the treadmills. In the “news” report, a group of women in wedding dresses were stuffing cake into their mouths, their faces smeared with icing.
On my walk to work, I ran into Dave, who lives around the corner from my office. He was on his way to his law-firm job downtown (I guess he’ll sit the bar sometime soon), resplendent in loosely knotted red tie. He was trying to decide whether to catch an MTA bus or a JHU shuttle. No doubt he’ll tighten that tie up when he gets to work.
Elmer, the contractor I’d contacted through our new property manager, stood me up on Tuesday. I’d called him on Sunday, and he’d picked Tuesday evening as a good time to stop by and take a look at the tub-surround job. (I was calling this the “tub-liner job” before, but I guess the really cool contractors call it a “tub surround.”)
“Just call me around one p.m. on Tuesday to remind me.”
I’m not sure where all of these contractors got the idea for this “call and remind me” jazz. I mean, I’m likely to do it anyway, but actually asking for it just makes them sound like addle-brained teenagers. Are they not familiar with the practice of writing things down? Do they not know that little books are sold expressly for this purpose?
So I called on Tuesday but only reached his voice mail; the outgoing message was entirely in Spanish. I guessed that it was saying something like “leave a message after the beep.” (I’m all multi-cultural like that.) So I did: I said I was calling to remind him as requested, and then I left the address and my phone number. He was scheduled for six p.m.; by about seven, I’d given up hope that he would actually come, and then Kevin arrived to look at the strawberry patch, and I forgot all about Elmer.
I called him around one on Wednesday.
“I thought you were going to stop by last night to look at the tub-surround job,” I said. I tried to speak distinctly; I don’t yet have a read on how good the guy’s English is.
“Yes, but I didn’t have the address and I didn’t have your number.”
I let that go by (to give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe his outgoing message en espanol had really said something like “don’t leave a message because I won’t get it”) and we set up another visit for noon on Saturday. When we hung up, I realized that he had once again not asked me for my address. (He hadn’t asked on Sunday, either.) Is this his first week doing this, I wondered. I texted it to him, adding “see you saturday, 12 p.m.” Assuming he receives texts, I figured this would be a good way to avoid possible language-barrier problems, as I always find it easier to understand things in a foreign language when they’re written down than when they’re spoken. But since he has so far acted like an addle-brained teenager, I’m not going to assume he receives texts; I’ll call him on Friday to remind him, and maybe Saturday morning, too.
I’m heading out to Arizona on Tuesday. This trip, we won’t be living as high on the hog as last summer’s visit, when I rented a Dodge Magnum (white, with tinted windows; the model is part of this new “fist-shaped” aesthetic that automakers seem to have embraced and this particular one was easily the ugliest car I’ve ever driven) and we stayed outside of Flagstaff for a few days at some cabins in the woods. This time, there’ll be no car rental so we’ll have to stay inside Flagstaff. And because there is no car rental, I needed to arrange transportation from Phoenix (where Southwest, the only real U.S. airline, lands) to Flagstaff. I’d been all set to buy a ticket on Greyhound when A. turned me on to Open Road Tours, which, for only about $10 more than a Greyhound ticket, picks you up at the airport for the journey. Plus, they only transport about a dozen people at a time, so I guess the vehicle must be something other than an interstate bus. Maybe it will be a sort of party bus, with a jacuzzi in the back. Here’s hoping. But anyway, I called on Wednesday to make my reservation and it was a treat to talk to the guy who took my order. He didn’t seem to be in a hurry at all and kept repeating certain details back to me and asking if there were anything else he could do for me. “You just call if your needs change,” he said at the end, “and we’ll accommodate you.”
Well all right.
It’s thunderstorm season and I love a good storm but it’s strange how they always seem to come just a few minutes before quitting time. After the time I’d been stranded by what looked like a huge one and called my brother for a ride (only to have it clear up by the time he arrived), I realized that I’d had an umbrella in my office after all. One of the huge “golf” or “door man” umbrellas A. and I purchased in quantity for our rainy October wedding. I’d stuck one in the office so that I could produce it in time to escort some VIP in from the rain or something like that. I’m the kind of person who relishes producing just the right umbrella for the job.
So I knew I had the umbrella option and didn’t need to wait the storm out, but for a little while I just sat in my desk chair and stared out at the gathering gloom and the traffic lights bobbing in the breeze. As the storm started to build, the ominously tilted tree on the southwest corner of Calvert and 25th began to writhe in the confused winds, its branches bending and swaying like a crowd of punch-drunk boxers, its fluttering leaves green as emeralds in the storm light. I was briefly hypnotized by the sight and only stirred when I heard the faintest sounds of thunder. Or was that just the chain-smoker who lives above my office coughing?
When I left, clutching an umbrella the approximate size and shape of a Zulu spear, I discovered that the rain was not heavy and walked for a few blocks with the still-closed umbrella on my shoulder like a rifle. In a little while my gray polo shirt (my “commuting shirt”) began to show the flecks of heavier and heavier drops and I briefly deployed my umbrella. Open, it was more like a tent than an umbrella. I started to feel ridiculous, as if I were wearing mountaineering boots to clear snow from my front walk. Besides, the cool rain had felt nice on my skull (one of the pleasures of near baldness). So I folded the umbrella back up again and walked the rest of the way home in the rain.
I didn’t even get very wet.
This is where the political stuff would go, but I decided to lay off of that for a little while.