jeudi 4 février 2010

I try not to get too worked up about things that don't matter and over which I have no control, or annoying things that happen due to my own actions (usually when trying to take a shortcut, literally or figuratively). I generally succeed. But on occasion, a passing setback can really get to me. Like yesterday. Warning! This is a pretty boring story.
This quarter, I go to the UW just once a week, for a three-hour seminar. I try to get to campus 30 minutes before class starts, so I can review my notes. I have found a perfect spot just outside the classroom: a table with two chairs, set off the main hallway. It is quiet; I can spread my stuff out; no one bothers me. Yesterday, I got to the campus gate at 2 pm. One of the two parking ticket booths at the 45th street entrance was closed. No big deal. There were about 4 cars ahead of me. It takes about 30 seconds to transact this business of paying for parking and getting a little piece of paper that you leave on the dashboard. You pay full price (15 bucks tout de même!) and get a refund when you leave.
After five minutes of sitting, I began to get that bad feeling (irritation rising) when there was no movement at all. The sports car that was in front of the booth when I arrived was still there; the guy in the booth was just standing there; a car had pulled up for a refund. After another five minutes, I thought about turning around and trying another entrance. But I was stuck, since several cars had gotten in line behind me. Finally, there was some movement. The sports car drove off. Only three cars in front of me. But the guy in the booth was talking to the driver of the car waiting for a refund. Then he left the booth and went to the closed booth, where he swiped the magnetic stripe of a credit card. Then he came back to the booth and picked up the phone. He was holding the receiver with a handerchief. Then he was gesticulating at the driver of the car waiting for a ticket to park. I looked at the clock in my car. It was 2:20. I had been sitting there for 18 minutes! This pantomime continued -- the phone, the gesticulating, running to the closed booth -- for several more minutes. I felt as if I were watching a foreign film in a language I don't speak, with no subtitles. Finally, at 2:26, it was my turn. I handed the guy my credit card and said I would be parking at Padelford. He blew his nose with the handerchief and then used that hand to give me back my card. Ewwwww! I decided not to ask him what the problem was.
At 2:26, the campus is full of jaywalkers, rushing to class because they are late. It is a time-honored tradition at the UW for pedestrians to assert their absolute right of way at all times. Bikes bow to them and cars bow to all. Cars have to stop (unwritten rule) whenever any pedestrian wanders into the street on campus, whether or not they are in a crosswalk. Once you stop for one pedestrian, other pedestrians come out of nowhere -- like zombies in a horror movie -- and cross in front of your car. And you just have to sit there. As a student at the UW a quarter of a century ago, I was one of those zombie pedestrians. So now I feel that divine retribution really does exist.
By the time I got to class, I was ten minutes late. Luckily, my classmates and prof were having trouble getting a dvd player to work and so hadn't started. I went from being 30 minutes early to being 10 minutes late. I was annoyed. I felt as if 40 minutes of my life had been stolen from me by the gods and their earthly zombies.