White Trash Odyssey
Last night my friend Kerry held her annual birthday bash, and has been the tradition the past few years it was a "White Trash" theme party -- everybody dresses up as their favorite trailor-park denizen, mullet-haired metal-head or (in my case), lower-middle-class southwest Washington unskilled laborer. At last year's party, I overindulged in jello shooters, and ended up spending two hours wandering around in the fog, as I had gone outside for a bit of air to clear my head, and ended up getting lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Needless to say, jello shots were off my consumption list this time around.
So, after watching the Christmas ships (again! Hah!) I dressed up and headed out around 9:00 p.m. Just as I was approaching the 1st Avenue S. bridge, my bus ejaculated (yes, that's the correct word) a rather sizeable "burp", then the engine died. A quick restart attempt proved futile, and I had just enough momentum to pull off into the parking lot of a nearby construction company. Subsequent restarts proved similarly ineffective, and a cursory visual inspection did not reveal the cause.
Not wanting to completely miss out on the fun, I called Kerry and spoke with her husband Rob, who offered to come down and give me a lift up to their place. While waiting, I found the number for the construction company and left a message saying I would be by first thing Sunday morning to have the bus towed, then left a note on their front door to the same effect, just in case.
About 10 minutes later, Rob and another friend showed up and gave me a lift. I commented as I got in their truck that "this was really the perfect way to start an evening devoted to "white trash", having your car break down on the way to the party!" Little did I know this would only be a prelude to my evening's adventure.
The party itself was quite lovely, in a degenerated sort of way; I mean we WERE all pretty much making fun of an entire class of people, who I know from personal experience can't be quite as off-handedly dismissed or generalized as we were doing. Admittedly, many folks went to a bit of an extreme, however, my "costume" would have fit right in at any typical family function; I joked at one point that the entire evening would just get me back in sync with dealing with my own family during Christmas.
One of the high points of the evening, besides the BBQ-beef-on-Wonderbread sandwiches (among other equally yummy and perfectly disgusting foodstuffs) was the garage sing-along. Rob has built a little rehearsal studio into the back of his garage, and at one point in the evening I think there must have been about 15 people crowded into it. At various points up to three people were playing guitar, along with at least one harmonica-player (I never knew I knew so many people who could play the harmonica!), with the rest of us plowing through a catalogue of late '70's & '80's powerhouse rock numbers, singing at the tops of our lungs and generally commiting musical mayhem.
This is the kind of episode that reveals true hidden talents, and which never ceases to instill a sense of respect, and even a small amount of reverence for all the people I know who exhibit musical aptitude, something I've never had the pleasure of exploring on my own. It has always been one of my regrets in life that I've never learned to play a musical instrument, so I tend to feel a bit in awe of those who can.
At around 2:00 p.m. the party was in the process of winding down, although most of the remaining guests seemed to be equally determined to party until the sun came up (although with all the fog, I don't know how they would have been able to tell the difference), and I was just drunk enough at that point to get the idiotic notion in my head that I could walk back to my bus and call AAA, instead of hitching a ride back into town, then having to deal with it later in the morning. So, off I went out into the fog, just like last year, although this time with a decidedly different mission in mind.
Now on the one hand, this might not seem so crazy, but when one considers that a.) the only way I knew to get back was via the freeway and b.) I was completely unfamiliar with my surroundings, everything points to a disaster-in-waiting. Suffice to say however, the fact that I've lived to tell the tale belies these initial concerns.
So, off into the foggy night I went, generally retracing my route. I did have enough presence of mind to realize that walking along the shoulder of highway 509 would have been the epitome of stupid, and so figured I could find a parallel frontage-road that would lead me in the same general direction. Luckily, I seem to have a pretty good innate sense of direction (not to mention an eletronic compass on my watch -- hurray for gadgets!), and within 10 minutes stumbled across a 7-Eleven with an ATM. So, now at least I had cash, which opened the possibility of chucking the whole sceme down the can and calling a cab. Still, that would have been the easy way out, and in my state I was up for doing things less-than-easy.
Amazingly, it took me only about an hour and fifteen minutes to wend my way back to the bus, utilizing the aforementioned side streets, and only being forced onto the side of 509 for about a third of a mile. Along the way, I was reintroduced to the concept that there is an entire nocturnal world of which most daylight dwellers are seldom aware. At one point I passed a large warehouse where literally scores of people were pouring out into a full parking lot. As I approached closer, I realized they were all toting large bundles of what turned out to be Sunday newspapers. Some of the cars were literally stacked to the roof with hundreds of plastic bags all ready to be thrown onto front lawns and porches throughout the region. It was the assembly of morning paper-route people, and unlike the kids on a bicycle most of us probably remember from our youths, these were fully grown-up, licensed drivers, mostly of indeterminate Asian background, who most likely derived some modest income from the activity. Still, I'd stumbled onto the heart, the start and the locus of activity, which answered a very mystifying question; where DOES the daily newspaper delivery come from?
Now, I knew the answer.
But, this was to be only one of several similar encounters with the inhabitants of the graveyard shift (not counting the 7-Eleven, which technically was the first, and ironically now that I recall, also included a spotting of a newspaper delivery person). After that, I also ran across an all-night gas station, a 24-hour fast-food drive-through, some vague industrial activity which I was unable to identfy, and what appeared to be a wine bottling facility. Sometimes, we forget about the parallel universes of activity that occur only when the rest of us are safely asleep and dreaming, and if I got nothing else out of my experience, it was a reminder of the necessity for some of us to do this kind of necessary and usually unheralded work.
To wind things up: got to the bus at around 3:30 a.m., called AAA and amazingly (or not given the hour) the tow truck arrived within 15 minutes -- naturally, just about the time I was nodding off what would have been an uncomfortable nap sitting in the driver's seat. After doing his own inspection, the driver concluded that my coil was not sending juice to the distributor, and that this was most likely the source of my problem -- great since this is a relatively cheap part and very easy to replace. Then it was simply a matter of hooking up the rig and hauling it off to the Goodyear shop two blocks from my office. The driver even gave me a lift to within about three blocks of the marina, and by 4:20 I was in my warm, dry berth snuggling up to a couple of comatose cats.
Thus endeth my White Trash Odyssey!
on 6:54 PM