27 September 2016

spider

Over Labor Day, J. and I drove down to that One Big State that takes up most of the west coast. We met some friends of his, who drove up from the south to meet us at a great location for climbing.

So, about climbing. I like climbing. If you give me a rock wall with reasonably large variations in it, I will scramble right up it.

Real rock climbing, though, involves walls that do not appear to have anything to hold onto.

I failed. Twice. I kinda choked, because the wall was harder than anything I've ever tried.

It was frustrating for someone who is mostly fearless about heights except for a tiny itty bitty little (small) fear of falling. Also a twinge of perfectionism. 

So I signed myself up for women's climbing clinic out on a big rock formation in the middle of State of Happiness on one of the weekends that J. was in Spain. 

I drove myself out there in my new car, the back full of tent and bedding (the comfy version of camping: foam pad and real sheets). I found a campsite in campground with a creepy name in a national wild land with another creepy name. Turns out the camp manager was also one of those older guys who calls every woman sweetie or honey or darling. So, maybe creepy? It's hard to tell with old men. I reserved judgment.

I went into Central Ski Town for dinner, which was more like 4 pm because I hadn't managed to eat lunch and was dizzy with hunger, and then bought a bunch of (somewhat necessary) stuff at Re!, and then settled into my tent by about 9 pm. 

I laid there in the dark, realizing that I'd never gone camping alone before, not real camping, not with only a tent between nature (cougars! rattlesnakes!) and me. Always before there have been other people around. People I knew, not just the strangers in campsites 50 feet away. I wasn't sure if I would sleep, but I did.

In the morning, we gathered at the climbing supply store, a group of women between 23 and 50. We'd all climbed before, some only inside, and we all wanted to learn.

We did. We learned to build an anchor up at the top of a pitch and to clean the anchor to rappel back down after everyone is done climbing. We climbed.

And then we hit a pitch that I couldn't climb. My confidence was up, because I'd been climbing, but this one didn't seem to have handholds. At all. 

The usual thing that people do when this happens, when they are standing below you, is to yell things like, "Try to the right of your left knee. Can you get a foothold there?" 

These women, though, they knew. They knew that it wasn't just about telling me where to reach. It was about giving me the knowledge that I didn't have to find a perfect handhold to try another step. "You won't find handholds here," one of them said. "Your hands are just for balance. Your feet move you up."

And so I put my hands flat against the wall and did exactly as the climbers say: I trusted my feet. I stood up on the tiniest little bit of incline, on my rubber shoes, and it worked. I climbed the wall like a spider, and at the top I got to undo the entire anchor and re-loop the rope through and do my favorite thing about climbing: I rappelled down the side of the rock, reminding myself to look around at this beautiful place and enjoy every moment.

17 September 2016

keys

I bought a new car a couple of weeks ago. An actual new car. It had 31 miles on the odometer when I drove it off the lot. 

I didn't actually set out to buy a new car. I believe in buying used cars, and I've been driving an almost 20 year old car. But I priced a bunch of used cars and started to realize that I would be saving about $2k and losing quite a few miles if I bought a several year old car, and an actually old car is not something I dare to buy without the presence of my dad or someone else who knows a lot about cars. Also I drive about 25K miles a year right now, so an actually old car wouldn't last all that long. 

And truly, I'd started to feel unsafe in such a small car on such a fast highway. My airbags didn't even work on that old car. 

I sent my dad some options (new Camry, used Altima), and he didn't get excited about anything until I mentioned the small crossover SUV. He doesn't like the low cars for safety, and the gas mileage is about the same on the small SUV as the bigger sedans.

After quite a few bad experiences (it turns out that car dealerships are a nightmare to work with), I found the only manual transmission version of the car I wanted. It was a 4.5 hour drive away. And they wanted it off the lot by the end of August.

We managed it, somehow. J. was the hero of the hour, considering that he was still jet lagged coming back from Spain and we both had to work the morning we made the drive.

We got back to Gone West at midnight.

Other than the car payment (I hates them), I am delighted with my new car. It's bigger, it has a manual transmission (my primary criterion for a car), and it averages almost 32 miles per gallon. 

A few things take getting used to, though: it has blind spots, it doesn't accelerate quite as fast as the tiny car (also I'm trying to be nicer to the clutch and transmission), and it doesn't have a key.

I was in the habit, with my old car, of using the key to lock the doors when I got out. That way, you never risk locking the keys in the car like you would if you did the lock-and-hold-the-handle-up trick on older cars. 

Now I can't remember to lock my car. There is no key! (Okay, there is a key. It's buried inside the clicker, and it's really only intended to be used if the battery goes out on the clicker.) I'm often at the door of my office before I remember that I didn't lock the car. Fortunately, the clicker works from afar.

Today I went to a new tea place because there was a gluten-free donut popup shop there, and I've been meaning to try these donut holes (which are only offered at popup locations). I got a particularly excellent chai and more donut holes than I could eat (the others are in the freezer; let me just say a word about the chocolate ones: YUM). I sat around people watching and internet surfing and writing in my journal.

When I got up to go, I couldn't find my keys. Not in my pocket, not in my purse...

I realized that I had left them sitting openly in the console in the car. The unlocked car. Which was parallel parked on a public street, still so new that it doesn't have permanent plates on it.*

Good news!! No one stole my car.

Bad news: I'm an idiot who deserves to have my car stolen. All those times I made fun of people who left their cars unlocked with the keys in the console (admittedly overnight) because what do you expect? Of course your car is going to be stolen if you ASK for it to be stolen. Well, I regret my choices now. 

* I have the permanent plates. They arrived in the mail on Thursday. I just haven't found a wrench, daylight, and time to put them on the car. I have no defense if I get pulled over; they are sitting on the floor of the passenger side. My defense will be, "But it was raining."


13 September 2016

hypothetically

Text conversation with J. this morning: 

Me: Hypothetical question: you are driving in the middle of three lanes on the highway just south of the city, on that curve before the rest area. The left and middle lanes are full of cars. The right lane is empty. There is a cop behind you, and he lights you up. Do you: a. Come to a halt in the middle lane, b. Cut across the crowded left lane to pull over on the curve without much of a shoulder, so you are still partly in the lane of travel, c. Pull across the empty right lane to the wide shoulder, or d. Both a. and b.?


J: definitely d
because that just shows how cops pulling people over is dangerous



Me: Ding ding ding!!!
That's exactly what the guy did this morning.


J: sigh. awesome. 

...

I was in the left lane. All of the following happened: we all slammed to a halt. We all had to get over to get around the police car, which was still in the lane of travel (because there was a concrete barrier on the other side). And then everyone behind me had to slam to a halt again because the cop waved to the guy that he needed to get over to the right side of the road, which he did by cutting across moving traffic.

I do not understand the instinct that would cause a driver to pull to the left, into traffic/a concrete barrier, instead of to the right, into an empty lane/the wide shoulder, when being pulled over by a police officer.

19 August 2016

impossible

It turns out to be ridiculously, impossibly hard to buy a car. I know what car I want. I know how much I'm wiling to pay for it. And you know what I get, after extensive research, when I tell a car dealership that? 

Last night, one of them told me that I am wrong. 

Let that sink in for a moment: this guy claims to want my business. He tells me that he can get the car I want. He called me, so he apparently does want my business. And when I told him, based on my research, that one aspect of his pricing (a delivery charge) was more than I wanted to spend, he didn't say, "Let me see what I can do," he said, "No, you are wrong." 

Then he proceeded to mansplain to me 1. why buying a used car is a bad idea (he also sells used cars), 2. why Mazdas are just as good as Hondas and Toyotas (which is nonsense and unnecessary, since I told him I wanted to buy a Mazda for the manual transmission EVEN THOUGH they aren't as reliable as Hondas and Toyotas), 3. why he doesn't pressure people into anything because he wants people to send other people to buy from him (while continually telling me that I had no choice but to pay his delivery fee or end up with a lemon). 

I really don't understand how car dealerships do any business. So far, I have had the following experiences:


  1. A car dealership that won't come down to reasonable prices. Should a used car really cost the same as a new one?
  2. A car dealership that added all sorts of hidden costs and turned out not to have the title anyway. They also wanted me to sign a paper with my offer on it. I get the psychology that they think it makes me more committed, but it just made me irritated that they thought I was that easily manipulated.
  3. A car dealership that claims to be able to get the car I want, but insists on telling me that I am wrong about everything. This bullying does not make for a happy customer. 
  4. A car dealership that does not, despite confirming in writing, actually have the car I asked to see. They tried to sell me on some other cars until I flatly told them not to contact me again unless they had a manual transmission in stock. 
How is it that every other business at least attempts to offer what people want at a price people will pay except this one? 

If I were a man, I would have my car by now. 

14 August 2016

good

I walked down to the waterfront tonight. I haven't done that in a while. Last year, when I was unemployed, I walked down there often, because I had to get out of the house somehow, and I didn't have money to spend. I watched a lot of sunsets over downtown.

As I walked along the esplanade tonight, there was a cloud of smoke in front of me. It didn't smell like anything by the time I got up there, though, so I didn't think much of it. I assumed someone had done something involving smoke and then walked away.

Soon thereafter, I stopped at a railing at a good turnaround point. There was a firefighter peering over the railing (just in a t-shirt, not in gear), and I realized that he was looking for the source of the smoke. 

I started walking back, partly following the guy out of curiosity. The smoke was more clearly a column now. Looking over the edge when I got there, I saw something smoldering in the brush. The firefighter was climbing down around the end of the railing. 

Another firefighter passed me as I turned to go. "Garbage," he said. "Smells bad, doesn't it?"

I smiled at him, but what I was really thinking is how familiar it smelled. We burned our garbage in Liberia and in Rwanda. I know that smell, and it feels like home.

(Side story that I may have told before: I was at a music festival during my college years. It was very hot, and things sometimes got thrown on the ground and trampled. At one point I sniffed the air and said, "Ah. Smells like rotting garbage in the hot sun. I remember that smell from Liberia. It smells like home." One of the people I was with said, "Don't you think it's a little messed up if a smell like that makes you feel at home?" But I do not, in fact, think that is messed up. I never have.)

Walking back along the water, I thought of a conversation I had with my mom last summer, while I was unemployed, about how things could change at any time but it's really hard to enjoy all the free time of unemployment when you don't know when it will change. 

But change it did, and it's all so different now. I have a job that I love, I just agreed to buy a car that won't make me feel like a bug about to get squashed on the highway, and a cute boy brings me turron from Spain. If I could tell the me of a year ago how it turned out, she never would have believed it could be this good. 

17 July 2016

motorized things

The other morning, I could not get the AC to turn on in my car. It was quite annoying, because I need the AC to work in order for my windshield to stay free of fog when it rains.

I had my oil changed over the weekend, and when they finished up, one of my headlights wasn't working. They had joggled it loose somehow (they fixed it). So I suspected them of also doing something to the AC. What, I didn't know, but something.

I tried many times, turning it off and on, and then I gave up. Ugh. A car problem. 

On the drive home, I noticed that the fan wasn't on. Turns out that the AC only works when you have the fan on.

So there's that.

...

The motorcycle repair garage across the street was extra loud one night this week.

I was getting up at 5:30 am last week, working 10 hour days, so I needed my sleep. I was not particularly pleased when they started revving one of the loudest of the engines over and over and over for a good half an hour, starting around 10:30 pm. 

The thing about a noise like that is the unpredictability. I can sleep through a constant noise. I can sleep through a noise that occurs at regular intervals. I can't sleep through a noise that stops and starts unexpectedly.

I was too tired to do anything about it, but the next day I went over into the garage full of metal and rubber and said, "So, I live across the street, with the window facing this way, and..."

I didn't even get to complete my sentence before one of the guys was apologizing. He knew exactly what the problem was, and how late it had been. They were getting ready for a big trip this weekend, it seems, and that bike was having trouble. 

...

My headlight has gone out again.


04 July 2016

bits, pieces

Apparently my commitment to avoiding ants in my chai just disappeared when I got up after 6 hours of sleep on Friday morning and found an ant in the day's chai. I don't even drink the chai until I get to work, 2 hours after I wake up, but it's a ritual, and I wanted it, especially after staying out late for J.'s birthday. So I fished out the ant and went on my way.

I have now resorted to making chai on the coffee table in the living room, since I found an ant on the bar stool. How is this possible? They are everywhere. 

...

I've become the sort of person who reads about climbs for fun. Hmmm, Class 4 but very exposed. Crumbly 5.0-5.3 approach. That sounds like something that requires a real climb leader, not just a bunch of us who have taken the initial class.

I also have plans for the intermediate class, starting a year from now. I have to get in three more summits, including two that involve rock climbing. I just have to find people to lead them, since I'm a little bit of a skerdy-cat when it comes to the anchors, etc. I like safety as much as I like getting to the top of a mountain.

...

I like fireworks a lot, but my tolerance for them on a Monday night is low, and they are going on in all directions around my house. The kind, you understand, that are illegal in some many states. 

There were some kids setting off a firework in the middle of the road, in the fancy neighborhood up the hill. I watched as one lit it and another tried to set a plastic take-out container upside-down over it. The container tipped, and the kid who lit it had to go back in and set it right. 

Fortunately it was just a smoke bomb, and all it did was color the take-out container green before the it tipped over again.

The only other adult visible, standing on the sidewalk I was on with a smaller kid, looked at me with the look that says, "We are supposed to be the grownups around here. What do we do?"

I just smiled at her. That is not a battle I'm going to attempt. I'm sure there were some parents somewhere, off on a porch. This is not the kind of city where kids roam free. 

It's a good thing I can sleep through a lot, because a lot is going on right now.