So, it is Sunday afternoon, and I am supposed to be heading off to a little get-together at my bosses house. Instead, I sit here watching the rain play stop-and-start in an unpredictable little game. I won’t be lunching with my coworkers or going any farther than my feet can take me today, and that won’t be far if this rain doesn’t chill out.
The bad news is that I was actually looking forward to our get-together. Unlike many, I am blessed with a boss I actually like and I was looking forward to seeing his new home. I may not always like my job, but I score straight A’s in the “cool co-workers” department. The good news, I guess, is that I have unexpected time to kill and am blogging away. I’ve struggled to find writing time for the past week or so.
The interesting part is how I ended up in this predicament.
Saturday was my birthday. I woke up Friday morning to a gorgeous breezy day. It was warm and summery, but the kind of summery that leaves you comfortably toasty rather than sweltering. It felt like the Swampass summer had decided to throw me a bone and lay off the oven-roaster temperatures for my birthday weekend.
The other reason I was so lighthearted is that pre-season football has begun. I’d watched the Ravens play with Lee the night before, and was looking forward to the Steelers game that night. I got to my office and noticed my Steelers garden gnome sitting on my credenza. Yeah, I know. A garden gnome belongs in a garden, not an office. But he brightens my workspace and makes me grin when I’m having a stressful day, so he lives in my office instead of my veggie garden. My veggie garden doesn’t need a gnome to make me happy. Sometimes, my workplace does.
So I grabbed my camera and goofed around. With the season beginning, it was high time to put up a goofy picture on my Facebook profile. As a Baltimore girl, most of my friends are Ravens fans. What fun is football if you can’t mess with people a little?
Satisfied with my obnoxiousness, I plowed through the workday and got on with the fun of the evening. If you watched, you know my Steelers didn’t exactly start off the pre-season swinging. The Redskins spanked their heinies.
But that was fine, because I was at the pub with some good people, enjoying the steamed crabs and Alaskan king crab legs a friend had brought up to celebrate my birthday. You can’t be too annoyed by football when you are bringing in your birthday with beautiful weather, good friends, crabs (of the non-itchy variety) and beer.
My actual birthday dawned cloudy and rainy. But that was fine. I’d done my celebrating and was happy just to relax and go with the flow. Lee and I went to my mom’s for a while so he could do some yardwork between raindrops, then we went with my niece to my grandmother’s for a late lunch/early dinner. After we were done, we decided to head to the gym.
It was on the way there that he noticed that the brakes weren’t working properly. This is not something you want to happen in the middle of traffic. Luckily, the gym is less than a mile from our house, and we were just about to turn into the parking lot. It happens to be in a mega shopping center, so he figured that maybe we needed brake fluid and ducked into the dollar store to grab some.
He put it in, and it leaked right out.
So there we are, in the rain on my birthday, with a big-ass problem on our hands.
The fortunate thing was that there’s also an auto body shop right there. The guy took a look and mumbled some stuff to Lee about what needed fixing. I sat in the passenger seat and zoned out. In my head, all I was hearing were dollar signs and aggravation. Not to mention I was a little shaken up from the scary few seconds before we’d pulled into the shopping center. Discovering your brakes are acting up while on a busy street in the rain is not fun.
Then comes the clincher. The body shop can fix us up, sure. But they’re getting ready to close, so not until Monday.
Well, alrighty then.
They agreed that it wasn’t safe to take the van back out onto the main road. Better to just leave it there til the mechanics show up for work on Monday morning. So we hauled our gym gear out of the back, along with the pile of DVDs we’d borrowed from my mother for a movie night. Then we started hoofing it out of the shopping center and up the boulevard towards home, bags slung over our shoulders like a couple of vagabonds.
Walking up a busy street with a bag almost as heavy as luggage and drizzly raingoop falling on your head is NOT the best way to spend your birthday afternoon. Especially when what you’d had visions of doing instead was soaking in the gym’s hot tub.
Funny how those both involve getting wet, and I’d looked forward to one while the other just pissed me off.
There was nothing to be done for it, though. We were close enough to home that it just felt silly to call a friend or family member and drag them out of their way to come get us. So we trudged along, and I grew more irritated by the moment.
Why me, I whined in my head. Its my frickin’ birthday. We’re without wheels now until sometime Monday, which means all our fun plans are shot. The only money we have to fix the van is what I’d saved in hopes of taking either a forensics writing or memoir writing online class this fall. So there went the little reward I’d promised myself for sticking to my writing goals while day-jobbing my arse off. Shit on a freakin’ stick. I was getting drizzled on and sooo didn’t need frizzy hair on my birthday on top of everything else.
Then I looked around at where I was, and burst out laughing.
You’d have to know my area to understand what I found so amusing. The strip we were on is a well-traveled area that leads into the city. While my street is quiet and suburban, a bustling and gritty area of Baltimore is just down the block waiting for us. And that’s where we were.
Among other things, this particular stretch is known for its “five-dolla-girls.” These women roam the road waiting for someone to pull over and pick them up for a quickie. They get a few bucks and move on to the next … um … customer.
In the pool at the gym the other day, I’d been talking with an older lady who mentioned that she lived close enough to walk there. I said I did too. She grinned and said the only reason she didn’t was that a woman walking up the boulevard was far too often mistaken for a “five-dolla-girl,” regardless of her age or her appearance.
She was right. The five-dolla-girls of the boulevard don’t all dress like hookers. You’ll see them wandering around in miniskirts and heels or sweats and tennis shoes, short-shorts or baggy jeans. They come in all shapes and sizes and range from horribly young to almost old enough to be my grandma. If you’re a female walking on the boulevard, someone is likely to pull over and ask “how much” even if you aren’t sticking out your thumb and showing cleavage. Because they often take their “customers” to the hotels along the road, the five-dolla girls also tend to be carrying around knapsacks full of clothing and I-don’t-even-wanna-know what else.
And there was my sorry butt, on my 41st birthday, trudging along the five-dolla-walkway with a gym bag full of clothes. I surely would have gotten some offers for rides I didn’t want if Lee hadn’t been with me. As it was, they probably figured I’d picked up a client on foot.
The thought struck me as so funny I started laughing as I walked, traffic whizzing by beside me. They probably thought I was a very high five dolla girl then.
Gradually, the anger and frustration melted away, and as we neared home it was gradually replaced by gratitude. Yeah, being without wheels for the rest of the weekend sucked. I had to bail out on my bosses get-together, and we also most likely have to postpone Monday’s trip for the birthday surprise Lee had planned for me. My guess is our wheels won’t be ready til late in the day. And of course, losing my writing class fund on my birthday sucks monkey butts.
But. But. But.
We’re alive, and safe. If the problem had happened the next day, on the highway en route to the get-together, who knows what would have happened? And if you gotta have something like that happen, what better place then where there’s a body shop practically at your fingertips? We’re kind of stuck at home with all the rainy weather, but the gym is in walking distance and looking like I might be a five-dolla girl IS kind of amusing. At least, it is as long as Lee’s with me. We have a boatload of movies to watch and had leftover steamed crabs in the fridge to enjoy last night.
If I think about it, the good outweighed the bad, even in this sucky situation. It could have been ever so much worse.
But if you happen to live in the area and see me walking up the road with a gym bag between now and Monday, please don’t pull over. If I ever need five dolla that bad, I’ll get a different sort of night job.