Archive for December, 2005

Annual Christmas Breakdown

// December 18th, 2005 // No Comments » // archive

Lisa and I had quite a day yesterday. The day started off quite well, actually. We were able to sit and eat breakfast before church (rare for us). It wasn’t long, but we both laughed about enjoying the 2 minutes of quiet time before church.

Then we got to church early and got to talk with some friends before starting and again afterwards. Usually we are running in with barely enough time.

We were able to have a good lunch and get home to change for the annual party on my Dad’s side. In fact, Lisa took the time to hang our Christmas lights in front of the house. Again, it’s been the best day already.

We left a little late for the party, but we were confident that we’d be OK because nothing ever starts on time with my family. In fact, we’re usually the first ones there.

Before I continue, I should say that we had car problems last year at this same place, at the same time of year going to the same party. Next year we are taking a cab.

It is here that our day starts getting ugly. I’m on the highway going at a good clip when I see the battery light go on and suddenly it’s VERY hard to steer and our heat goes out. I think we had a conversation along the lines of, Lisa: “You were thinking about car trouble weren’t you? You were thinking about last year?!” Dan: “Yes, I was! It’s still not my fault!”

Luckily we were on the tail end of the turn and I was able to get us off the highway and into the parking lot of the party. In fact, the only snag was not being able to steer into the lot right away, getting honked at in the process (but not rear-ended). I even managed to get the car turned into a spot closeby.

My Dad was able to figure out the problem without even looking at the car. He and my uncle came out, looked under the hood and pulled out the broken fan belt.

Now I call for service (we have AAA). I’m distraught, I’m hungry and I’m stressed. After a few calls back and forth, I work out that we can tow it to a place nearby for free or pay extra to get it towed to a place in Riverside, where we live. I opt to pay the difference (not much).

Cheerfully, the AAA rep tells me that I could upgrade to the “plus” package, which allows you a tow within 100 miles for free. That’s even cheaper than paying the difference in the tow. I’m just about to say. “Yes.” When she tells me that if I sign up for this, I wouldn’t be able to use it for 3 days. I tell her, laughing through gritted teeth, that we need the car fixed now. I take a confirmation number (which Lisa writes on her hand) so that I can call back later when we are ready to be picked up.

At that point, it was 5:00. I probably should have called immediately. Instead I thought I’d enjoy the party. Haha. There are more kids running around at this party than I remember and a few of them want my attention immediately. Nicholas, my nephew is finding it hysterical to put his head up the back of my sweater.

In spite of the fact that I’m thinking about the car, I manage to eat something and talk to most of my family. By this time, most of them know that we have car trouble (again). In fact, most of our conversations at this party start with, “So I hear you broke a fan belt.” Since most of my family conversations usually start with, “Are you working yet?” this is actually a more positive spin on things.

Then at around 6:30, I decide to place the call. They tell me that the towing place will be there by 8:00, most likely sooner.

So I spend the next hour with my cell phone clutched in my hand, hoping it will ring. My cell phone is also kind of low on power, so I’m a little anxious. Lisa tells me to stop checking it so that I can conserve the power I have left.

At around 7:45, I get a call from AAA telling me that the towing place has been called and that they are on their way. They tell me that they should be there by 8:45.

We end up saying goodbye to my entire family. We are the last ones in the party room. In fact, we have to wait inside the bar area, where there’s a Bears game on. (If there’s one thing I dislike more than cars and winter, it might be football). Most of my family have left because they have kids. The ones who don’t have kids have left to go home to watch the Bears game. My Dad, in fact, was AT the Bears game. I’m sure that alcohol must be the only thing keeping people in the stands warm, because I’m by the door of a bar watching for a tow truck and I’m freezing.

I get a few calls from my family on my phone asking me if the tow truck has arrived yet. Furthermore, I get a few cell phone numbers from family to call in case we are left here. Luckily we have a piece of paper to write this information on, since we are running out of space on our hands to write any more numbers.

Finally at about 8:50 pm, I get a call. It’s AAA, telling us that the tow truck is there. (He’s in the wrong parking lot and he didn’t have our cell phone numbers).

We finally get things straightened out and the tow truck guy puts our car on his flat bed truck. I am both amazed and fearful of this process. I know that people must do this thing all the time, but I just don’t want to know about it. Our car is secured by some chain (and who knows what else) and we squeeze into the cab of the tow truck. Between us we have a plastic tub of cookies, and a Peanuts coloring book with a bunch of cell phone numbers written on it.

I don’t remember much of the flight home. I was gripping the dashboard in mortal fear. Our driver weaved in and out of traffic with our only car secured to the back of his truck. I knew that we had to make it through this because we had to live to tell others about it. The moments that I had my eyes open, I had my eyes affixed to the road and the rear-view mirror to make sure our car was still there (not that I could have done anything but scream if something had occurred).

Again, I know that people do this sort of thing all the time. But I don’t want to be part of it, nor do I want to be on the road with them while it happens. Had we strapped a rocket to our car, pointed it at Riverside and launched it, I don’t think we could have made it home any faster.

We made it home in one piece, with our car outside of the Riverside Garage. I’m still waiting for a call on my (fully charged) phone to find out when our car will be ready.

I also feel that we are lucky in this situation (again) because it could have been so much worse. We made it off the highway to the party with only one irate driver behind me. I think that’s pretty good odds, especially the way I drive.

So that was our day yesterday. I’m going to spend most of today drinking hot liquids, setting my desk on fire and glancing at my cell phone to see if our garage called. Maybe I’ll even get some work done.

Lucky Me!

// December 15th, 2005 // No Comments » // archive

Yesterday was the office holiday lunch. Well, I say “office” kind of loosely, because it’s an old loft building. It doesn’t feel very officey (can be good) but it also doesn’t feel very functional either. There’s extra computers set up on the conference table. Also there are power cords strewn all across the room. A pool table in the middle of the room, next to a swanky couch are covered in boxes, packaging and designs in the works. My desk is a table made from plywood and duct tape (and the duct tape is winning). The legs are pieced together from plumbing pipe. It looks great and would look even better if I could have better lighting. Ironic because I’m working on the website for a Tech Lighting company. I have a lamp that plugs into the mass of extension cords beneath my desk, but the plug is the size of a coffee mug and keeps falling out of the socket. Also the office chairs are less than perfect and keep switching on me. I had one day where I had the perfect chair. Then when I came back, I had a loose one again. The other day, I distinctly heard a screw or a bolt fall from my chair. There’s been no other sound or movement from that area, so I think I’m OK. I can’t see below my knees anyway.

Aaaaaanyway, yesterday was the office holiday lunch. Well, I say “lunch” kind of loosely because I don’t actually know what went on. We were told to take a 2 hour lunch because their office was closed for 2 hours. No, we couldn’t stay and do work (which there still was a lot of). We had to go outside and walk amidst the unshoveled sidewalks looking for a close place to eat. There’s a Subway and a Starbucks (good for me, but bad because of the piled up snow and slush).

So I walked to the Subway and had a good lunch. I got a wrap and ate well. The restaurant was very brightly lit, a plus for me. I brought my laptop, intending to work for an hour on some other freelance projects. It’s nice to be busy. After eating, I packed up and decided to go to Starbucks and work.

I arrived, asking for my usual (large coffee, sugar-free vanilla). I am so predictable. I’m glad that there’s a Starbucks near this office (I’m glad of anything near this office). As I go to pay, I realize… I don’t have my wallet! I am stricken. The girl tells me not to worry, gives me the coffee and tells me not to worry about it. I’m too stricken to think clearly and I grab the coffee. I don’t even think that I’m going to have to trudge over snowy sidewalks searching. I grab it and go.

All along the way I am searching the ground, the snow, the slush, the gray stuff that could be ground, snow and slush together. I’m looking for a black wallet in a Chicago winter. Good luck!

I make my way to Subway, the coffee in hand, not realizing that I have flown accross this terrain without hurting myself, spilling my coffee or ramming into anyone or anything.

I first go to where I was sitting and ask the woman there if she’s seen a black wallet. Neither of us looks under her chair. I go to the counter and ask 2 people if they saw a black wallet. They haven’t but suggest places where it might have fallen or been kicked under something. Then I go back to where I was sitting and look underneath it. There’s the wallet that neither of us could see before. I’m safe! The entire store is telling me how lucky I am. I agree with them!

I go back to the Starbucks and pay the girl at the counter. I told her I found it. She looks at me briefly as if I have 2 or 3 heads. “You didn’t have to come back!” she cries, admonishing me. I thanked her again.

Then I finally go to a table where I can do one of my favorite things: work in a cafe and drink coffee. Plus I have about 40 minutes left before I have to walk 5 more blocks to work. That’s when I notice Jeff, one of the other freelancers. He’s also here, banished from the office. “Killing time, too, huh?” he laughs. We pick a table to sit at and instead of working, I chat with him for 20 minutes. We work next to each other but not on the same thing, so we barely say two words to each other. So now we’re actually getting to talk. But in the back of my head, I’m thinking about work and how much I need to do.

After 20 minutes, he starts to read and I just set up my laptop to try to get something accomplished at this 2 hour lunch. I manage to answer a few e-mails, open a few files to check them but on the whole, not accomplishing much. Furthermore, I need to walk 5 more blocks back to the office, lugging my laptop.

I start moving, walking behind Jeff. About 2 blocks in, during our daring traverse down 100 N. Morgan, I lag behind severely. Another pedestrian is walking in the other direction. There is not enough room for 2 people on this path. A shovel’s width of cleared snow and slush is between us. I try to step aside, but there is hardly enough footing. She squeezes past. I breathe a sigh. I can continue, though my reserves are nearly out. I debate about setting up camp here, but decide to move on.

Jeff is waiting for me. “I was wondering what happened to you!”

“One man paths. Dangerous!”

We move forward. Without further incident, we reach our goal. Thankfully the door is unlocked, because there’s no one in to buzz us. There’s an elevator, but Jeff climbs the stairs. I do the same and by the end of this, I know why I never take these stairs.

When we finally reach the office door, I’m ready to take my coat off and unpack my bag. I set down my coffee (yes I had it all the time, didn’t you know?) and prepare to open the door.

Unfortunately, it’s locked. There’s another freelancer waiting by the door. I think he’s been here a while. He’s seated on the steps. I at least can take off my coat, which helps.

There we wait for about 10 more minutes for the regular office staff to get back.

I don’t mind that I missed the party/lunch. I’m going to plenty of parties in the next few weeks (and I’m looking forward to them). I would just rather get back to work, not to mention finish the deadlines. Were they afraid that I’d start taking things from the office? How? I couldn’t walk off with equipment. I’d be too concerned of tripping over power cords.

In fact, I was scrambling to finish this example of a work in progress before the weekend, thinking that there was some monstrous deadline. Instead, when I send it off, a co-worker said he wouldn’t get to it until Tuesday. Then it hit me. The last two holidays I wasn’t necessarily working through them. This holiday, I’m busy, following up leads and working on 2, perhaps 3 projects. I’m lucky.

So I put down my coffee and get back to work. There’s stuff to do. And I’m lucky!