A Bad Day Gone Good


What happens when your day takes a sharp turn to the left? Your plans shot to hell? Do you just roll with it? Or do you flip out and throw a tantrum? I’ve done both. But last Monday, it wasn’t me letting off steam, it was my car. 

There’s not much one can do in the middle of the eighteen lane toll plaza of the Bay Bridge when steam starts billowing from under your car’s hood. There’s no place to turn around and not many places to pull over – if you can even maneuver across all the lanes  before you hit the toll booths. Told to keep going by the toll taker, the only thing I could do was continue on to the bridge, wondering if I could make it the eight miles across to the other side. 

Fortunately the new eastern span of the bridge has breakdown lanes, so after some debate on whether I wanted to risk the engine seizing up in the middle of traffic and getting into an accident, I pulled over. I made the requisite phone calls and waited. I also wondered why I wasn’t mad or upset. 

Yeah, my day was ruined but….. it was a beautiful day. The sky was blue. And my viewpoint was exceptional:  the architectural glamour of the new span; fast moving blurs of color and noise of the other vehicles whizzing past me on the right; small figures – workers – dismantling the gray hulking skeleton of the old span to my left; the lush green hills of Yerba Buena/Treasure Island in the distance.

Then there was Tony, the terrific and generous CalTrans tow truck driver. While I did have to wait awhile for Tony to arrive, he not only pushed me to Treasure Island, where he turned my car around, he even towed me all the way to my mechanic in Berkeley. That may not sound like a big deal, but it is. CalTrans is interested in only keeping the bridge clear. They’re supposed to take you in the direction you were headed and dump you off at the end of the bridge where you’re left to your own devices. But Tony said he wasn’t busy, so he did me a favor, and we had a nice chat about family and summer plans. 

Then there was Gallegos, the Mexican restaurant my mechanic at Oceanworks, Angus, recommended for lunch while I waited for my car to be repaired. Best darn refried beans I’ve had in years. ImageGreat food. I’d never been there, never even heard of it before. If not for my car’s thermostat getting stuck closed, causing the coolant to boil over and the engine to overheat, I might not have ever gone there. And I wouldn’t have had the time for a nice post-lunch walk during which I chatted on the phone with a couple friends I hadn’t had the time to catch up with lately. 

Yes, I’m $230 poorer now, but I know I did the right thing. With no coolant left, I would have seriously damaged the engine had I continued much further, and it would have cost me a lot more money. I wouldn’t have encountered new people or new places. I wouldn’t have had the time to be outside enjoying the gorgeous weather when I ordinarily would have been stuck inside, surrounded by my cubicle.  

And for you – the asshole riding in the passenger seat of the vehicle which passed me by just before I pulled over – you’ll get yours someday. Did you think it was funny, as your driver slowed down, to lean out your car window and scream “oh my god!” while staring at me? Really? You looked disappointed I didn’t freak out like you expected. Did you like the hateful glare I gave you instead? Jackass. Next zombie story I write, I’m going to zombiefy you. 

After the Rain

It’s refreshing to spend an evening in downtown San Francisco after the rain has ended. The air is clean and the people seem renewed. Voices are hushed. And the sound of “Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes floats through Union Square.

ImagePerhaps there is hope that our severe drought will soon end, that this isn’t the last of the rain. And perhaps there is hope that the drought in my mind, the drought of creativity, of focus and ambition, will soon be replaced with new ideas and new stories.

Yes, there is. As I depart the city via the new gorgeous eastern span of the Bay Bridge, it’s not the bridge’s gleaming architecture which draws my attention. It’s the hulking, darkened shadow of the old span to the right. Due to the lack of light, it seems as if the bridge ends in mid-air at certain curves. But not yet (dismantling is already six months behind schedule). But still, the sight of the steel skeleton, pieces missing here and there, spark an idea. I can’t quite voice that idea yet. I’m not sure where it’s leading. But I will follow.