A day off is something to be treasured, a bright flower amidst a field of ragweed. I cherish my days off. I plan and prepare activities that will balance physical exertion with intellectual pursuits to enhance my emotional equilibrium. But I believe somewhere there is an entity, powerful and ruthless, who gleefully twists and distorts the entire concept of a day off. Recently I experienced this being's wrath.I woke up, showered, dressed, breakfasted without incident. My car started with a pleasant turnover and hum. It was cold and windy, but clear. My first trip of this carefully planned day was to the post office for stamps. Their stamp machine was out of order. It is always O.O.O. (Out of Order) because it is, after all, the post office, balancing their entire budget on the popularity of the Three Stooges stamp. A small line at the window awaited. No prob. Except, ignoring the large "Wait on Line" sign near the window, people with forms they had just completed barged in front to have said forms verified. Evidently if you have waited on line for a form here you can forego further line awaitings once you've vaguely grasped how to fill out the thing. The clerk, looking straight down, pretended not to notice the line-cutters or care. My luck getting on a timid line. "You're supposed to wait," one person squeaked, then quickly gave up. If you try this cutting in at Motor Vehicles, incidentally, you'll wind up with $1,500 worth of orthodontic work.
Next stop the tailor where I needed a new zipper on my winter jacket. "$15," I said. "No, $20. This is a big jacket," responded the woman behind the counter. "$5 extra for a couple of inches of zipper?" I shouted. She shrugged. Standoff. I caved. I needed that jacket, which I got for $39.95 by the way.
My next stop was the muffler shop because mine sounded like an elderly uncle with emphysema. Whenever the mechanic points at you and motions you into the work area despite a sign stating "No Customers Allowed in Work Area," you know it's trouble. "Your muffler's hollow alright, but look at this." He touched part of a pipe that may have been created during the Spanish-American War and a piece of rusted lettuce fell off. "This has to go. This too. And this." Every time he pointed at something a cash register pinged in my mind. "$258.76" he said in the office. On the TV over the counter Rosie O'Donnell was touring Streisand's garden. I wanted to chop off a metaphorical rose.
Later, after a doctor visit in Jersey City, I returned to my car to find a $43 blocking crosswalk ticket. I looked at the curb. It was painted in about 1942, meaning there was barely a difference between it and unpainted, "good curb." It was the color of some tiny, poor country's military uniform, somewhere between pauper beige and dirt.
I topped off the day with a visit to the new Circuit City on Kennedy Boulevard, carrying the notion that I could actually get an application for their credit card. After spending 15 minutes watching two employees shuffle blue and white papers as dozens threw down employment applications, I was told someone on the floor would fill out my application, something I thought I could easily handle alone. Two such employees ignored my plea as they rang up sales, and another stared straight ahead, mesmerized by Oprah's face on dozens of TVs along the wall. I turned and left. The automatic doors, amazingly, functioned perfectly. Total wasted time, 26 minutes. I want this: I want the Current to pay for my therapy. At least the first six sessions. - Joe Del Priore