One of those days that makes me not want to leave the house again.
In case I start spending all my time here, I thought I would explain. After today, I might not leave the house again. Ever.
The registration on my car expired December 31. December registration sucks, for several reasons. For years, this had to be done in person, after standing in a long line. December is the worst month for most people to need time away from work. It’s cold in December and traffic is horrible in December. December is an inconvenient time to come up with tax money.
In my state, we keep the same plate for years. At registration, we receive a sticker to place over the year on our plate. The color of the sticker changes in January. The earlier in the year your registration date falls, the longer you have before anyone will notice. When your registration month is December, your color sticks out like a sore thumb and some cop who doesn’t want to chase down real criminals, and who is still angry because he didn’t have a New Year’s Eve date, will most likely pull you over on January 2.
My life was crazier than usual during November when I should have taken advantage of early registration by mail or internet, so I was stuck with standing in line in December. Truthfully, I was too proud of myself for not losing the paperwork to be disappointed. I decided to wait until the end of the month, when I’d have more money and less on my mind. Big mistake.
The first time I left home with my checkbook and paperwork in hand, planning to return to the location I had used the last twelve years, I didn’t get far. I had a flat tire on my car, which, for those who don’t know, is held together by tacky bumper stickers. I didn’t want to deal with this myself, since it was December, and cold. I called roadside service and had them put my spare on. My daughter came the next day to take the car for the repair and they didn’t finish until after the registration office closed.
Then it was New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day, and I was driving on the wrong color. Sweet kid that she is, the daughter returned on January 2 to take care of the registration. Didn’t happen.
Unfortunately, my state is in serious financial trouble. One of the many creative ways our Mayor decided to save money was by closing government services on random days. My daughter returned without the registration because, when she arrived at the office, she found a closed sign on the door. I’m sure this closing must have been announced - in the paper, on the news, and on the website - and I (we) missed them all. Surely, they did not let everyone drive there and find the sign on the door.
Meanwhile, my muffler is falling off and my brakes are squeaking. I put it all off a couple more days because now it’s January, colder and wetter, and I wanted to be like Aniko’s kid and hibernate.
Today, the sun was shining and nothing on my body hurt too much, so I ventured out again, checkbook, paperwork, and MapQuest directions to a closer location in hand, thinking I’d get legal first and maybe leave the car with a mechanic on the way back. During my few days of hibernation, either I grew taller or my tree sprouted a new branch. For some reason, I ran face-first into a branch. It didn’t hurt physically but put me in that weird position of wondering if I should laugh so anyone watching would know I was okay, cuss at the branch so that person would know it was the tree’s fault, or pretend nothing happened and maybe that person would think s/he imagined it? After picking up my glasses and breathing a huge sigh of relief when they weren’t broken, I opted for number three, which didn’t make sense.
When I pulled onto the last street on my map, I reset the odometer so I wouldn’t miss my destination. The first 5 miles, my stomach twisted as the muffler rattled and the brakes squeaked. I considered stepping out of the car at a red light to see if it was as loud outside as it was inside but decided that would only draw more attention.
At 5.5 miles, I moved into the left lane and slowed down to watch for my street. This, I learned, really, really annoys people in that neighborhood. I think it might also prove I have crossed into blue-hair status, which added disappointment to embarrassment, churning stomach, and fear of the dateless cop.
Luck was on my side for a few minutes, however. At about 5.8, everyone else slowed down with me. Traffic came to a standstill. My brakes might be squeaky, but they do hold. And while they hold, that muffler rattles twice as loud. The standstill lasted long enough for me to run through every cuss word I know, mentally and then aloud, until I realized I wasn’t wearing a headset and it was obvious to everyone around me that I was talking to myself.
I passed 6.1, and 6.5, and 7.0, and 7.5 without seeing my destination. In case I was supposed to start 6.1 where the road changed names, I decided I’d go on to 9 before giving up. At nine, I turned around, and considered options. I could strain my mathematically challenged brain and figure out where 6.1 would be now, watch carefully, and if I didn’t find it this time, I could drive to my old location.
I didn’t find the place on the way back and realized time was not on my side. I would be even more disappointed if I drove my raggedy heap all the way to the old location, got in line behind thirty people, and they closed before my turn. Waiting until another day sounded good.
After this much frustration, I deserved a treat. Aromas in the little store/deli down the street have tempted me since I moved here. This seemed like the perfect day to try a plate. I pulled in, waited for someone to vacate a space in the full lot, parked, and thought I’d ended up in heaven when I opened the door and stepped inside.
No food. Only aromas. They had just closed the steam table for the day. I didn’t cry, and I didn’t cuss the kids parked behind me waiting for their friend who had gone inside to buy their cigarettes and beer.
I’m glad to be home. I might stay here and pretend I don’t own the car outside with expired tags, a flopping muffler, squeaky brakes, and the broken bumper.