Tuesday, February 02, 2010
My car’s name is Roddy.
(I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: If your car doesn’t have a name, then one of you has no soul. This tale revolves around Roddy, so I figured I should get the explanations out of the way immediately. You might have thought I was talking about an afghan hound or something if I just started writing "Roddy had to be registered" and "He also had to go for a wash".
Roddy had to be registered. He also had to go for a wash. In addition, he needed to be inspected, but he wouldn’t pass the inspection unless he had a headlight repaired. After all of those things were taken care of, I was going to get him gassed – it seemed like a nice reward for going through all of that - then I’d do some shopping and get a haircut.
When I left work on Friday, I told everyone that I’d be a bit late on Monday due to going to the registry. I knew I had to do the other things, too, but I figured I’d take care of those tasks at various odd times throughout the week. However, come Monday morning, I decided I might as well take a personal day and get everything done at once. So, I phoned the office and left a message on Dan’s phone.
I usually get to the office by 8 o’clock or so, the first one in. Dan is my partner in the production department, and he’s generally the next one to arrive. So, I called, left him the message, and went about getting the various tasks done.
I should explain why Roddy needed to be registered, lest you think I’ve been driving around in an illegal car during the eight years since I bought him. Almost four years ago, I requested a vanity license plate from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. At that time, they started offering Boston Celtics license plates. Dan, as a matter of fact, told me about it. He and his wife, Mandy - as well as me and my wife, MY WIFE - are big Celtics fans. He and Mandy had been at a game, and they saw a table manned by people hawking applications for these license plates. They signed up for one. They told us about it, and we ordered one.
Now, you have to understand something important. The Celtics were hideous then. They weren’t the once and (possibly) future champions they are now. They were in the midst of an 18-game losing streak, the worst such streak in franchise history. The Garden was half-filled for most of their games. There were about as many people who wanted a Boston Celtics license plate as might have desired a case of the trots. So, in order to entice folks into ordering the plates, the Celtics were offering a pair of free tickets with each order.
The thing was, the plate came with a $40 fee. The tickets were worth something like $60. In other words, the Celtics and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts were willing to pay us $20 to get a Celtics license plate and see a game. And proceeds from sales of the plates benefited Childrens Hospital Boston, one of the top pediatric facilities in the nation. Who could say no to such a deal?
The answer, apparently, was "almost everybody in the state." Before production would begin on the plates, the state wanted 1,500 applications. Here I was, yesterday, after almost four years, finally getting my plates. I still find it hard to believe it took this long to find 1,500 Celtics fans. I mean, come on! They won a championship in the interim. Every frontrunner and bandwagon-jumper in the state must have ordered them. But, has the state ever lied to me before? Not in any way for which I could give you concrete evidence, and I’m not interested in having them look into whether I’ve lied to them, so let’s just drop it.
I had to do things in the correct order. For instance, if I had Roddy inspected before I had him re-registered, then I’d have to get him inspected again. In order to pass the inspection, he needed to have his headlight fixed. In the meantime, if he ran out of gas? Then I’d get nothing accomplished and need a tow besides. In addition, he was fairly cruddy from road salt and such, so a nice wash would probably smooth out any concerns the inspector might have been less willing to overlook if he weren’t such a nice-looking and gentlemanly automobile.
Before I could get the new plates, I had to strip off the old plates to hand in at the registry. This was a nice little workout for me. Roddy had not had his plates removed in eight years. The screws were rusty and very tightly screwed. I leaned into them, while kneeling on the street in the very pleasant 18-degree morning, and it only took 15 minutes and every ounce of my strength to get the damn things off.
Now I had to drive a car with no plates, which is illegal. I hadn’t thought of that. I considered putting the plates back on while I went to the car wash, but I wasn’t about to tighten the screws back to their previous level. And, if I left them loosened, with my luck they’d fall off (and the plates, as well) when I went through the car wash, breaking all of their machinery and costing me a bazillion dollars. I left them off and took my chances.
Of course, when you’re driving around with no plates, in a car with an inspection sticker that expired yesterday, and a broken headlight, you run into four times as many cops as usual. I imagined every one of them giving me the stink eye, ready to pull me over and throw the book at me. Amazingly, though, not a single one of them seemed to notice. While I was happy to be so spectacularly unarrested, it did give me pause to think that perhaps the local heat weren’t paying as much attention as they should. Or maybe they were busy busting murderers and rapists and terrorists. I’ll pretend that was the case.
One of the guys at the car wash noticed. As he was soaping Roddy down, he said to the other guy, the one operating the machinery, “Hey! This guy has no plates!” The other guy said, “I don’t give a shit. He paid.” That’s the sort of attitude that keeps this country running smoothly and it makes me proud to be an American.
After the wash, I drove through the many police again, but this time they probably let me go because Roddy looked so spectacularly shiny. I drove into a gas station that did inspections, got a fill-up, and inquired as to whether or not they could repair Roddy’s headlight prior to doing an inspection. I was assured that it could be done, so I told the attendant I’d be back after I got my new plates.
I should mention here that I didn’t repair the headlight myself because new cars (or, in Roddy’s case, relatively new cars, if 1997 is relatively new) have all of their stuff jammed up against all of the other stuff so tightly, you can’t get at anything unless you remove two or three other things. I used to own a 1965 Ford Falcon, and I could do every repair I needed to do on that car, myself, because there were only six moving parts under the hood and one of them was a cat that crawled up into there to get warm on a cold night. There isn’t room under Roddy’s hood for a hummingbird to wedge itself in.
OK, so I went to the registry, where the line to get into the place was about a quarter-mile long. This is because the registry, being an arm of the state government, is always trying to do helpful things to ease the burden of the workingman. They had thoughtfully made their schedule 9-to-5, Monday-Friday, so that nobody could come, say, after work, or before work, or on weekends, or any other convenient time for somebody with an actual job. I got into line with all of the other folks who were missing work and waited.
Actually, the line moved fairly quickly, all things considered, and I got to the front of it only twenty minutes after entering it. Then I was given a number and told to wait for it to be called. It was, about fifteen minutes later. I traded in my plates, went back outside to the parking lot - where the temperature had shot up to 21 degrees by this time – and installed my lovely new Celtics plates on Roddy. Then it was back to the service station, where only two cars were now in front of me for inspection, whereas none had been before. Whatever. Another 45 minutes, combined, for the headlight repair and the inspection, and $60 or so later I was on my way with a lovely clean car, full of gas, headlights beaming, fully registered and inspected, and sporting Lucky The Leprechaun license plates.
It was about 11:00 now, so I decided I’d do a little bit of grocery shopping, then get a sorely needed haircut, and then head home. I did these things and was mighty proud to have accomplished so much in one day and still have time for a decent snooze, which I did and which I took.
Do you believe in ESP? I believe in ESPN, but that’s about it. Sometimes, however, you find yourself getting signals of some sort and it’s hard to ignore the implications. During my little nap, I had a most vivid dream. I was at work. For some reason, I was still trying to get everything I detailed above done, but I couldn’t leave work. They needed me because someone else hadn’t shown up.
I woke up with a vicious headache. That has nothing to do with the story, but I just felt like complaining.
I got out of bed and went into the other room. I saw that there was a message on our answering machine. It was from Kim, our office manager. She asked me to call the office. I did. She asked me where I was. I said I was at home. She seemed relieved to hear this, but she wondered why I hadn’t called in earlier to tell everyone that I wasn’t going to be in. I said that I had, and had left a message on Dan’s voicemail.
“Ah,” she said, “That explains it.”
It seems I had run into one of the problems with working in a smaller office. I had taken a personal day, but Dan had also decided to take one. So, nobody ever heard my message. They all thought I was dead or had run off to join the circus or something like that.
Spooky! Perhaps the headache and the dream had come about because all of my co-workers had been thinking about me and broadcasting their thoughts and I was picking them up. Or not.
This has been a fairly pointless 2,000 words, but I appreciate you having slogged through them. You must really like me. I could have said most of what needed to be said in the following twelve words: Roddy looks really nice in his new plates, and here’s some photos.
I know those don’t make up for your time, but it’s the best we can do at the moment. Roddy asks me to tell you that he appreciates your patience and he loves you all. He says that if you ever need a ride to a Celtic's game, he'll gladly give you one.
Soon, with more coherent stuff.