Saturday, October 9, 2010

Satan's Taxi: A Harrowing Tale of Misfortune.

I should have taken the Greenpeace membership. I should have paid the fifteen dollars to protect the whales instead of defiantly proclaiming that I didn’t care about the environment.  Fifteen dollars would have spared me the hefty portion of bad karma that poured into my life like the acid rain that is killing all the poor seal babies. Curse my cheapskate heart.   Although I’m pretty sure no amount of money could have kept unnervingly-persistent-greenpeace-guy from hugging me.  I must have offended the environmental powers-that-be because yesterday all stars aligned to force me to do good unto Mother Earth.
I was alone at my parents house in south Denver. The rest of my family and friends were downtown at a conference.  The plan was to drive down and meet some friends for dinner.  That was the plan.  So I called my dad to find out where the keys were so I could roll downtown in Big Red- the super hot minivan.  He nonchalantly informed me that he had the keys. He also had the keys to the other car.  He was not alarmed by this at all- and neither were the rest of my family members.
“So how am I going to get down there?”
Loud generic crowd noises, followed by a distinct ‘Hey bro!’
“I’m not sure” I could now hear him answering the bro who walked by earlier, “Why don’t you call someone”.
That’s wonderful. I called you, man.  I hung up and called my mom, not because this was a viable option of transport, but because I needed them all to know that you can’t ignore me. No one puts Baity in the corner.  My sister answered, apparently she had a brilliant suggestion. I could take her scooter. Her scooter is a powder blue, vespa-style “contraption”, which she named Nancy Drew. Yeah.  So the choice was to hoof it to the light rail station or ride downtown on Nancy Drew.  The panic is now starting to rise- on my end only.  The parents and the sibling think Nancy Drew is a quality solution to my problem. After all, she gets 100 miles to the gallon and is environmentally friendly.  Plus, I can park her on the sidewalk. Terrific.
So I decided that I would attempt to drive...her.  How to start the scooter was the next question.  Start her up, was the only direction I received.  After several unsuccessful attempts I called my sister back,
“Lauren, how do you start this? This is ridiculous.”
She assured me that it was “completely simple. Laine.”  It turns out starting the scooter was more complicated than an actual Nancy Drew mystery.
“Well first, turn the key to the left until it’s over the seat part and push it in. Then lift up the little handle on the seat and find the yellow knob then turn that to the right. Then rock the scooter back and forth, pulling the handle bars towards you until the metal hook on bottom pops upwards. Then turn the key to start and find the red switch next to the black lever. Turn that switch so that the circle part is facing downwards. Not the circle part with a slash in it, but the one with out the slash.  Then hold one hand break down- not both, just the one- push that down and twist the handlebar grip towards you while simultaneously pushing the black button that is under the red switch we discussed earlier.  When you hear it start, release the levers in unison and it should go.  If that doesn’t work just repeat the process a few times and it should work.”
“Hello, Laine?”
Deep exhale.
I tried very hard to be controlled. “You didn’t think that maybe that instructive guide would have been helpful to me earlier when I was dragging the scooter across the grass trying to jump start it in the yard?”
“Honestly Laine. It’s not that hard.”
“Mmmhmm yep.” was all I could manage.
So I started the scooter with that step-by-step guide, nearly missed a flower bed on the way out of the yard. Closing the gate proved to be another problem because I had to hold Nancy upright in one had and close the gate with the other. But in order to get Nancy fully out of the yard, I had to move significantly past the gate. So I sat on Nancy, trying to throw the gate door at the latch, hoping it would stick. It didn’t. What it did do, was come swinging wildly back at me, narrowly missing my face.  I realized if I set Nancy down in the dirt pile that lives behind our fence, I could get up and close the gate.  After closing it, I attempted to vault myself over the dirt pile and clamber back up onto the scooter, but all that happened was that my flip flop sank deep into a pile of dust. And then I had to repeat the Da Vinci code sequence of events to restart the scooter.
Once I got Nancy onto the open road I thought she would loosen up. I thought maybe we would bond.  I was wrong. Terribly wrong.  After about 46 seconds and one stop light I decided that my scooter journey was going to end at the light rail station that I could have walked to in the time I spend trying to start the scooter.  Unfortunately this detour was going to require a left turn across a busy street that was conveniently devoid of an arrow.  This meant that I now got to play frogger- on a scooter. Only when I died from ineffectively dodging traffic,  I wouldn’t hear a “womp woh” sound followed by a new frog life, I would hear all my bones breaking followed by paramedics criticizing me for not wearing a helmet.  (The helmet was hidden somewhere in the shed, where everything is covered in a white powder that I’m convinced is actually anthrax deposits left by the neighbor that hates us.)
So I’m trying to make a left turn. I manage to claw at a few levers until one of them makes a blinking sound. This is good.  But I have to roll slowly to a stop in order to wait for a break in traffic. So my feet are on the ground.  And now let me just say that the act of scooter-turning is a delicate one, because you must scoot quickly in order to avoid the cars that speed up when they see you have your blinker on, but you can’t turn the corner too fast or you’ll side-swipe yourself right into the ground.  And then you will die.  This is bad. So with this in mind, I see a break in traffic coming. I rev her up, Nancy is my friend.  I can do this.  But the car in front of me slows, creating disorienting horror. Which is natural when the only thing between you and raging metal cars that are speeding up, is is baby blue scooter named after a girl who solves mysteries about stolen candles.  So I panicked. I held the hand breaks, while turning the grips to initiate the gas.  I forgot, however, to remove my feet from the ground. So I skated across the street, creating a horrible grating sound, while burning the tread off my flip flops.   The wind from this sudden acceleration blew my previously combed hair in many directions, creating a rugged mane-like effect.  I think a spectator might have yelled “FOR NARNIA” as they watched me attempt the turn.   The speed increase also blew the water out of my eyelids, which streaked my eyeliner down onto my face. So I scooted into the light rail station looking like a drag queen who’d narrowly cheated death.   Even the homeless people wouldn’t make eye contact with me.
After hoisting Nancy onto the grass, I called my sister again to learn the very simple process of locking her back up.  I left Nancy Drew tethered to a tree, and vowed that if I ever saw another Greenpeace guy I would throw my account information at him before he had a chance to curse me with more environment spells.  But it would take a lot more scooter rides before I was ready to hug him.

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