I live in an area affectionately known as the “tri-cities,” for reasons that should be obvious: we are three cities. Okay, the name is a misnomer because, quite frankly, we’re more like a cluster of seventy-niner cities, which means you can’t spit without hitting one city or another. Therefore, we’ve accepted the more appropriate moniker of “Chicago,” which runs about forty miles out from the city and abruptly stops.
That dividing line is called “Not Chicago.”
Everything that happens outside of Chicago is, effectively, “Not Chicago.”
Now, I’ve lived here in Saint Charles for as long as my three remaining firing synapses allow, which means that I’m accustomed to suburbia. I’m not exactly a city girl gone country, because, to be honest, Chicago is the most wonderful city on earth, but I like my wide lawns and mornings without seeing seven or eight people peeing on things.
Considering the size of Chicago, it’s probably (like most things that make sense to the rest of the world) just me.
(pointless and non-pithy aside: did you know that “East Chicago” is actually in Indiana? That, my dear Pranksters, is a hot pile of bullshit).
After spending my formative years creating a massive carbon footprint, tooling around in my wee del Sol, playing Summer Car,* smoking cigarettes, and getting lost on the long winding roads, driving just to see where we’d end up, I assumed that when I got the job in a town so small I can’t even tell you the name because you’ll be all, “whaaa-huh?” in the same way most people assume I’m from St. Charles, Missouri, which I assure you I am not, that I’d be well-suited to both the locale and the commute.
(holy run-on sentence, Batman)
The commute, well, there’s no better form of therapy than a fresh cup of coffee, a full tank of gas, and miles of open road. I use the time to compose hilarious tweets I never end up sending because I’m fucking driving. This whole “texting and driving” bullshit confuses me. I may be able to make a sandwich, chug a coke, and paint my nails while driving a stick, but texting (or Tweeting) while driving? It both baffles and annoys me.
It’s the locale of the hospital I can’t quite understand.
I walked into my office on my first day and noted that the mysterious filing cabinets had disappeared while a desk had appeared in its place. Win! There was no computer on the desk. Not Win!
The very next thing I attempted to do baffled me further. I grabbed my i(can’t)Phone and went to tweet something about a time-warp and/or my lack of computer making me feel as though half my body had mysteriously disappeared, when I noted something I didn’t even know existed.
My fucking i(can’t)Phone was roaming.
Pranksters, I didn’t even know phones DID that anymore. I’d honestly thought that roaming charges went the way of Friendster. When I mentioned this to my boss, she said, “Oh yeah, I have to stand in the middle of the road to send a text.”
I’m almost entirely certain that I amassed a large collection of flies as my mouth hung dumbly open.
“No…cell phone coverage?”
She just laughed. I shuddered.
Later that afternoon, as I was leaving, I realized the old tank was on empty so I pulled off to a tiny gas station chain that I’ve only ever seen in the deep south. The wind howling outrageously around me (no buildings around = wind blows sharply from the plains), I tried to grab out my debit card to pay at the pump because, well, duh. You have to do that shit here.
It was then that I noted that for the first time in probably 7 years, I had the option to pump my gas BEFORE paying for it. Underneath that shocking revelation, a sign said neatly, “Only In-State Checks Allowed.” As in, you could pay for your gas via check.
And here I was thinking I was the last person on earth to both take baths (which is neither here nor there) and write checks. I’d always thought it was nearing time for my Murder She Wrote marathons, tripping young people with my cane, and chugging a mysterious substance called “Geritol.”
Apparently, Pranksters, there exists a world OUTSIDE of Chicago that allows for personal checks while banning cell phones.
I also learned that I could buy a shed the approximate size and shape of the FBI Surveillance Van with a free metal roof, which just plain old seems like a bad idea. I mean, metal attracts lightening and shit. Or at least, it does in Chicago. Not Chicago, though, maybe that’s how they cook the wild boars the mens hunt all day long.
All I need is a midget dressed as a hot dog and a diner with a creepy waitress to make this a full-on David Lynch movie.
And the oddest part? I enjoy it.
*A game in which you remove most of your clothes, crank the heat, and attempt to confuse other drivers, who are, no doubt, bundled and shivering from the cold January winter.
To call my father “fastidious” would be akin to saying that “diet Coke tastes okay.” Sure, they’re both true statements, but they don’t quite delve into the true essence of the statement. I’d say he probably has some degree of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but I’d imagine it’s more the “compulsive” rather than obsessive part of the diagnosis.
(he reminds me too much of my daughter and her great range of Barbie dolls, which she obsessively fusses over)
When I was a wee Aunt Becky, rather than swatting me or yelling, he’d sit calmly in his chair, insist that I take a seat on the couch and begin to
drone on lecture me:
Dad: “Well you know, Rebecca, that I like my hairbrush to be on this specific shelf.”
Wee AB: “Yes.”
Dad: “And this morning, when I went to brush my remaining three hairs, it wasn’t on my shelf.”
Wee AB: “Yes.”
Dad: “This is a problem.”
Wee AB: “Yes.”
Dad: “I need my things to be where they are put.”
Wee AB: “Yes.”
(three hours later)
(by this time, I’ve already rearranged the features on his face to make him look like a Picasso and begun a letter to my Congressman about unfair lecturing by an adult to a minor)
Dad: “So, when I went to the bathroom this morning to find my hairbrush it wasn’t there.”
Wee AB: *stares at wall*
Dad: “REBECCA ELIZABETH, ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING?”
Wee AB: *nods*
Dad: “What did I say?”
Wee AB: *drones back* “I should always put your hairbrush away.”
Dad: “Right. Now, where was I?”
This tactic worked well on my brother, who’d have been wracked with guilt and pleading for forgiveness by this point, but I’m more of a quick, “hey put my crap back,” or “smack me across the face,” kinda girl. Always have been. My father has never understood that about me, so for years, I’d get The Lectures. It became a running joke once he realized that I wasn’t listening to him or feeling in the slightest bit guilty for committing such a heinous and unspeakable crime.
When it comes to his compulsiveness, though, nothing matches the way he feels about his car. Now most of you Pranksters know that I’m a bit of a car nut myself, but I’ve never had the opportunity to select a car for myself, so I don’t show the proper amount of respect for a car the way my father does. Someday I will and when I do, I am positive I’ll similarly warp my children.
Thursday evening, I’d left Not Chicago on time and had managed to wrangle my children into my CR-V without too much mayhem, which I considered a bonus. They were even wearing pants!
Sitting in the turn lane, waiting to make a left through “rush hour traffic,” I finally saw my opportunity and I took it. We sped off toward home for a nice night of lounging against the machine. Except… there was this rattling noise coming from the bottom of the car. Not the Oh CRAPBALLS You Blew A Tire noise, it was more You Ran Over A Branch, Moron,” so I wasn’t particularly concerned. I figured I’d lose the branch on the drive back to the FBI Surveillance Van or extract it when we arrived.
Alex sprang out of the car to examine it.
“Uh, Mom?” He said unhappily. “There’s something broken under there.”
I groaned. I’d just gone through the most ridiculously dramatic blown tire event of my life and now this? Really? I bent down to examine it. What appeared to be half a gigantic metal pill was, in fact, actually hanging off the bottom of my truck. Which meant absolutely nothing to me, which is I why I snapped a picture and sent it to The Twitter. Really, it’s the best course of action. The Twitter is ALL knowing.
Always a Daddy’s Girl, even after suffering the lectures about my improper placement of personal items, I called my father, who then stopped by on his way to visit my mother in the hospital, and explained the problem as I understand it to be. I sighed a little bit, cursed the CR-V and went about my night.
Until it dawned on me: I shouldn’t be driving the thing until that was fixed, and there was no way in balls I’d manage to get to the dealership for a couple of days.
Once again, I called my father, which I consider repayment for hours lost to lectures and asked him the most dreaded of all questions: “Can I borrow your car?”
Now, my father loves his car more than he loves his children, of this I am quite certain. Hours upon hours he spends babying the thing, carefully detailing it on his days off, making sure it’s beyond pristine. He’s so fastidious about his car that I normally refuse to ride in it for fear of somehow breaking it and being subjected to yet another lecture. I mean, I don’t breathe near the thing – my breath might contain something that could potentially damage it’s impeccable paint job. I don’t even look at the thing when I’m at my parents house, just in case my eyes somehow refract sunbeams onto the wrong spot and cause a dent.
So for me to ask to borrow it took a few Klonapin and a whole lot of “calm the balls down.” Honestly, I’d rather chug gasoline than ask him for this favor. He responded in a way most unlike him:
Not-So-Wee-AB: (deep breath) “Dad, can I borrow your car to get to work tomorrow in Not Chicago?”
Not-So-Wee-AB: “Are you feeling okay?”
Dad: “I’m fine. Hey, you do know how to drive stick, right?”
Not-So-Wee-AB: “Yes, Dad, you taught me.”
Dad: “And you were terrible.”
Not-So-Wee-AB: “No, I drove home in a winter storm. I’m excellent at working a manual – I miss the crapballs outta it.”
Dad: “Oh, that’s right. It’s the BIKE you had issues with. You were 11 before you could properly pedal.”
Not-So-Wee-AB: “Thanks for the reminder, Dad.”
Friday morning, bright and blurry, I drove my father’s car for the first time since he’d bought it, back when I was pregnant with Ben. And with the exception of the sixth gear, which I wasn’t accustomed to using, it was a blast.
He’s going to have a heck of a time dragging those keys out of my hands.
I don’t get the impression, Pranksters, that a lot of us hold much stock in the idea of Providence (always with a capitol “P”) because, well, we’re a little bit jaded. It’s hard to see a world in which so many bad things happen to good people and say “everything happens for a reason.”
I don’t buy that statement.
What I do believe, as cynical as I can be, is that sometimes, sometimes, we’re given a nudge from the very most unexpected of places.
Providence, I suppose.
Earlier in the day, I’d been chatting with Crys, who is not only my pseudo-shrink (read: I don’t pay her to listen to my babbling), but my friend, about jobs.
Crys: “I need to call this lady back about an interview.”
Me: “Oh yeah? What for? Toxic waste handling?”
Crys: “Hahahaha. No.”
Me: “What about being Billy Mays replacement? Or being the MOVIE PHONE guy?”
Crys: “Hahahaha. No.”
Me: “Okay, well, I’m out of ideas then.”
Crys: “I don’t even have the energy to call them back. I mean, I’m not sure I’m up to interviewing right now.”
Me: “*nods* Yeah, I get that. I’m burnt out on applying for jobs. I can’t even fathom trying to interview somewhere without shitting myself.”
Me: “Which I do every single time I get a text message. I also drop a remote, which is neither here nor there.”
Crys: “You’re so weird.”
Me: “I’ll take that as a compliment!”
After several hours of watching dancing cactus videos, my cell rang. A number I didn’t recognize, which is generally code for someone looking for my “expert” opinion on salt or attempting to guilt me into donating to the “People Affected By Sarah McLaughlin ASPCA Commercial,” so I tend not to answer.
For some reason, unbeknownst to me, I answered.
It was a friend of mine – we’d worked together as servers when Ben was a baby, sneaking off and chugging beers in the coolers during our breaks, causing mischief and mayhem wherever we went. Ah, the days of wine and roses.
*looks mistily off into the distance*
Her: “Hey, you still looking for work? The (insert rural hospital here) is hiring.”
Her: “Okay, here’s my boss.”
*cue annoying hold music*
Boss: “When can you come in to interview?”
Me: “I can make time any day that works for you.”
Boss: “Tomorrow, 10AM, okay?”
Me: *does happy dance*
See, Pranksters, I’ve been working on finding gainful employment since July, when The “D” Word was made official. I’ve written resumes, studied how best to create one. I’ve had friends read them and editors examine them. I’ve applied to places until my fingers were cut to the bone. And? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Pranksters – I love blogging like I love diet Coke, but I want to be able to come here, stare at a blank WordPress box and fill it with words. With stories. With tales this side of normal.
What I don’t (and have never) wanted to have to do was to resort to blogging as a means to pay the bills. While I’m entirely aware that Dooce can and does, we all know I’m no Dooce.
When I’m staring at a blank WordPress box, trying to come up with an extraordinarily dull tale in order to “put something; anything up here,” a fat wad of nothing fills my brain. When I tell that motherfucking organ to get all creative, it tells me to shut the fuck up. Trying to force creativity is akin to putting flippers on a monkey – it can be done, but why should it?
So that call? That, right there, was Providence. With a Capitol P.
I’ve been blogging, you see Pranksters, since Jesus rode me to class on his handlebars and gave me noogies on the playground behind the slides, and I’ve watched the evolution of blogging as a way to tell our tales into a way to “get famous” and “make monies,” by allowing advertisers to pay us pennies to promote their product.
There’s not a damn thing wrong with that, I should add, it’s just not why I started to write.
It’s also not why I continue to write. My space is my own and I want it to remain that way – I don’t want to be a corporate shill for a shitty product and I don’t want to be a “brand.” I’m me. I’m really Aunt (Motherfucking) Becky, and I’m really real. End of fucking story.
By taking a job at a hospital in the real world, where people are judged by their merit, not by number of “fans” or “comments,” I’ve inadvertently liberated myself from the business end of blogging. An unexpected side effect, I suppose.
I couldn’t be happier to be back.
And without you, Pranksters, I’m not sure I’d be standing today. I hope you know just how much you mean to me. You’re my family and without you, I’m not sure I’d have survived the Dark Time.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have something in my eye.
————-What’s been going on since I’ve been away, Pranksters? How are you?