Fortunately, this appalling oversight can be attended to, thanks to my adventure yesterday.
As I have mentioned, and you may have heard tell of in the newspapers, New England recently received the blustery, icy, hellacious weather that had sweeping through the Midwest for the past few days. Thursday afternoon, I found myself in a bit of a jam, driving home, when I made the grim realization that Ford Mustangs do not handle well AT ALL in snowy weather. And to make things worse, five miles from home, the motor to my windshield wipers died, forcing me to make the last leg of the return home journey basically blind. Had I had a dog sled and a pack of dogs, I probably would have felt a hell of a lot safer.
Knowing that we were going to get more snow during the week-end, I called in to work on Friday and arranged to drive to the dealership where I purchased the Mustang, to get the motor replaced.
Of course, that meant that I had to get the car out of the parking lot. And that, truly, is where my adventure began.
See, one thing I will give the apartment complex: they're good about plowing. They spent hours the evening before plowing all the lanes and all the roads leading to the buildings, and following up in the morning. What this did mean, however, is that all of the cars in the parking lot were covered with about a foot of snow in the rear--something you had to crash through to pull out of your space. It's kind of like a "Hey, Kool-Aid!" moment, I suppose.
No complaints there. I expect that that's going to be the case. I certainly don't expect anyone to dig my car out, nor would I really want anyone to. So, at around nine, I bundled up and headed outside to scrape my car.
The first person I saw outside was Eustice, shoveling around his car. Trying to be a nice neighbor, I waved hello, but he would have none of that sort of thing, of course. He simply grimaced and looked the other way.
Fair enough. I moved to my car and started the scraping process. I paid a lot of attention to the front windshield, making certain it was clear, and also the top of the car, so that snow wouldn't blow down onto the windshield while I was on the highway. Then, I hopped in the car, took a deep breath, and started to back out.
Sure enough, almost immediately, I felt the car slide and heard the whir of wheels. I tried to give it more gas, but that only made the wheels whir louder. I tried moving forward. I tried moving backwards, again. No go.
Clearly, I'd have to dig some of the snow away. Only problem was, I didn't have a shovel.
Well, I knew that sure as hell Eustice wasn't going to give me one. So, I walked back to the apartment, into the attic, to see if we possibly, miraculously, had a shovel stored somewhere.
And then I thought, "Maybe the front office has one."
Well, that made sense. Surely I couldn't be the only person trapped in the snow this morning. Surely with all the plowing and the work that they had done, they might have a few shovels lying around, unused, one of which I could borrow for a few minutes.
So, I bundled up again, and made the walk to the front office.
It appeared completely deserted, except for a truck parked near the entrance. I noticed that the back of the truck was open, and that there were emptied bags of sand inside the trunk, along with a nice, sturdy, black shovel.
Should I borrow it? I stood there, contemplating the situation. Nah, I concluded, it was too risky, and I certainly didn't want to be branded as a shovel thief, especially after I had had the nerve to complain about pesky squirrels running about through our attic only ten months earlier.
Fortunately, fate intervened, and the assistant manager of the complex pulled up to the office, at that very moment.
I've never been able to get a handle on this one. Corb and I see her, every now and then, at the local Target, where she works as a security guard. She always says hi to us, and knows us by first name, but I've always sense this icy reserve underneath the small talk. Just...something.
Anyway, I tried to be nice as possible. "Hey! How's it going?"
She smiled, without showing any teeth. "Hi, Ted."
"Cold enough for you?" She smiled again. "Hey, I was wondering, do you have a shovel around here that I could borrow? My car's stuck in the snow."
She looked at me, as if surprised by my request, but still maintaining a false sense of cheeriness. You know how you sometimes get people who are trying their hardest to appear helpful, when really they don't want to be helpful at all? That's the vibe I was getting. "A shovel? Hmmm, don't think that we do, Ted."
Really? Interesting. I looked over at the truck. "Well, what about that shovel over there?"
She looked at the truck. "Oh, THAT shovel," she said, and started walking over to it. And then she said...I kid you not... "No, I'm sorry, we can't let you borrow that shovel."
I was a bit surprised, frankly. "Why not?"
"Well, you see, that shovel needs to be used by the maintenance staff, in case they need to dig through the snow for easier access. You know, the roads and stuff. They need that shovel to be available, so I wouldn't feel comfortable letting you borrow it."
I stared at her, incredulous. "Not even for five minutes?"
She shook her head, and her look of non-helpfulness under the guise of helpfulness grew even more pronounced. "Sorry."
At that point, I have to admit, I started to fray around the edges. "Why not? Look, I have to get my car to a dealership, because the wipers broke down during the storm last night, and--"
She cut me off, clearly irritated. "Okay, Ted, okay! You can use it. But only for five minutes, you hear? If I don't get that shovel back in twenty minutes, I'm coming after it. And I know where you live."
I went to the truck and took the shovel, unsure of how to respond. Should I thank her? Was she just kidding? You know how some people have a sarcastic sense of humor, and don't really mean the things they say? I certainly have that sort of humor, although I can usually read people, and if I see that they're not getting it, I'll say something like, "I'm just teasing you," or something like that.
But no, none of that. Just "I know where you live," and then she started to head on in.
So, I walked back to the car, dug myself out, pulled out safely, and then headed back to the office to drop off the shovel. It took all of three minutes.
And as I was walking away from the office, the assistant manager had the nerve to stick her head out of the office, and call out, sweet as pie, "Bye, Ted! Have a GREAT day!"
I just stared at her, amazed. Then, I walked back to the car.
I mean, the day before, when my car lost the use of the windshield wipers, and I ended up stuck in the snow, the guy in back of me pulled over, pulled in front of me, and took the time to attach my car to his truck and pull me out. Once out, he literally risked his life to disattach the rope that he had attached to the front of my car, and then drove slowly, so that I could follow him for ten minutes. This was a total stranger!
Do I expect a bit more from a place that I have lived in for four years, where I have paid rent, for the most part, on time, for 48 months? Where I have had interactions and exchanged pleasantries? Well, perhaps I'm not expecting them to save my life, but it might be nice to think that they'd let me borrow a shovel for five minutes, just so I can dig myself out. I would say, yes, that would be the decent, neighborly thing to do.
A few hours later, as I was driving my way home from the car dealership (who, it turns out, needed to purchase a motor, meaning I'm back there this morning), I stopped at the nearest CVS. I picked up a shovel, for my car, so that I would never have to worry about things.
And then, I did something else. I purchased a second shovel. And then, I purchased a big red bow, which I carefully placed on the top of the shovel.
Then, I drove to the front office. I parked my car and took out the shovel.
The assistant manager wasn't there, but the manager was, talking on the phone.
She looked over at me, and said to whomever she was talking to, "I'll call you back." She put the phone down. "Hey, Ted," she said, glumly.
She looked me over. "Oh, you have a shovel."
I nodded my head.
"For everyone to use, I bet." Clearly, she knew the story.
"Exactly!" I said, trying my best to sound fake cheery. "I'd like to give you this shovel as a gift. That way, if anyone needs a shovel, you can hand it to them and at least pretend to care!"
I placed the shovel near her desk.
"Thanks, Ted," she said, like a zombie. And then, I left the office.
What a place.