Saturday, January 23, 2010
It's been raining pretty hard this last week around my house. I mean hard. It rained so hard, the pond scum came up to the porch to visit. It rained so hard, Scott Brown and Martha Coakley shared an umbrella. It rained so hard, Lindsay Lohan put on some clothes. That's how hard it was raining.
Water was falling so quickly, the roads filled up with thick layers of cold water. The main traffic artery in my town became a thin, rectangular pool that housed vehicles like awkward sea craft. I, a regular victim of road-way temptations, was seduced into speeding through puddles and sluicing water up on the side walk as I roared through town at speeds I would never have achieved had the roads been in good condition in perfect weather. More then one passer by got his second daily shower as I motored around aimlessly, enjoying the inclement conditions and my own poor judgment.
I decided to meet N for lunch at a local bistro. We picked the one furthest from his house so we could sluice our way through downtown. We approached one intersection that was particularly flooded and I saw a man about my age getting ready to cross the road. The car in front of me had about as much respect for pedestrian traffic as NBC has for Conan O'Brien. It put-putted past the white lines without so much as a brake light.
The man was clearly flustered by the lack of respect. He'd evidently read his driving manual and knew pedestrians had right of way. As a trained observer, I saw the anger rise in his being and flow through his tensed shoulders and squared jaw. The untrained observer would not have noticed this, but might have seen the obscene gesture he utilized to express his feelings, in clear violation of at least one local ordinance.
This man's outrage and subsequent willingness to express it in sign language made me feel good for some reason. I flashed him a thumbs up sign (the only one-finger gesture allowed by city regulations), and drove on.
I thought the FCN-worthy content had been wrung from my day. But work that afternoon held new surprises.
I work as a glorified paper pusher at General Mills. Actually I'm just a paper pusher, there is nothing glorious about it. I move paperwork from one end of my desk to another and, sometimes, when my boss is really interested in giving me responsibility, I get to mail things. Not nail things, you inflicter of structural damage. I get to mail letters and such.
The other day I sent out over twenty letters. I dutifully put the documents in their envelopes and dropped them off at the post office where an overworked government employee accepted my payment and affixed the "appropriate postage" on each letter. Nothing was unusual about my exchange with the postal worker and I returned to work with my suspicion unaroused.
That rainy afternoon, the postal fiasco struck. One of the letters I had mailed was returned for insufficient postage. The postage amount had been determined by USPS and the letter mailed at the office at the hand of the able government employee. I hadn't touched the letter after giving it to her. But somehow the postage had been insufficient. I wondered how this could have happened and if all twenty envelopes would be forthcoming with their delinquent "returned" stamp.
I felt like one of the people I had splashed that morning while cruising in the rain: unsuspecting, innocent and now soaked. I hadn't done anything wrong. The post office had made an epic mistake just as I had been an epic jerk on the road. Now I had to face my superior in the hierarchy of office politics and explain how our office had managed to underpay for this letter.
For a brief moment, I felt like the man at the intersection. Tension rose to my shoulders, anger expressed itself in my visage. Then I smiled and nodded. I would take care of it.
To assure my superiors, I extended a thumbs up: the only one-finger gesture appropriate in office environments.
Posted at 5:41 AM