Various sisters of mine will be delighted to see a Monkees reference on my blog.

Various sisters of mine will be delighted to see a Monkees reference on my blog.

January 2nd was doomed from the start for a couple of reasons. One was that I was sick, and had in fact spent the last couple days asleep on the sofa with my face on the cat. He didn’t mind; he loves me and appreciates my company, even if I’m not entirely alive. The other reason is that it was the day that I had to drive back to school. In theory, the trip is supposed to take six hours, which isn’t bad, except that my car has had many issues and I have therefore developed a fear of driving that makes even a trip to the grocery store a terrifying ordeal. Also, in this particular case, the trip did not take six hours.

Before I had even left town, my car started blipping. Google gives a different definition for the word “blip” (and forms thereof) than I do. My definition of blipping is “That thing my car does when the battery stops working for an instant”. So my mother and I took the car to Joe the Mechanic, and Joe the Mechanic had the battery cables tightened so that my car would stop blipping. Joe the Mechanic also commented that the battery looks brand new, which is a comment I have heard from everyone who has ever looked under the car hood. There have been many occasions for people to look under the car hood, and most of them are because the battery has misbehaved. I have a theory about my car battery, and it is closely based on The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. In case anyone reading this isn’t familiar with that book, I’m not going to spoil it for you, because it is a book worth reading. But anyone who has read that book and who has heard the tales of my car battery will understand the connection.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

This emergency car repair, as well as a failed attempt to activate a debit card at the bank, delayed my departure by several hours. Not only was this very inconvenient, it also was probably somewhat dangerous, because I was already pretty tired by the time I left. It was the first time in days that I’d been conscious for more than a couple hours at a time, and there was no indication that Life intended to offer me a chance to sleep anytime soon. It almost came as a surprise that the first two and a half hours of the trip passed without incident.

Then an incident occurred. Or rather, an incident failed to occur. The incident that should have occurred involved me getting onto a certain road, but I never saw that particular road. Many miles later, the realization slowly dawned on me that I should have passed it by then. I would like to reiterate at this point that I was sick and my brain felt cloudy. Realizations, like the sun, don’t dawn as brightly when they’re obscured by cloudiness. At any rate, by the time I got off onto a smaller highway and stopped in the empty parking lot of a Church of Christ building, I wasn’t even remotely close to where I was supposed to be, and the title song of this blog post was stuck in my head because it seemed so appropriate. I consulted the cool road atlas that the insurance people gave me shortly after I got my car, and the road atlas helpfully offered me an alternate route. Feeling very clever for the fact that I wasn’t actually totally lost, I started the car up again and headed along onto Plan B.

I have never been here before, but I've been to gas stations that look a lot like this.

I have never been here before, but I’ve been to gas stations that look a lot like this.

Like Plan A, Plan B required my car to have gasoline, so I stopped at a cute little gas station in the middle of nowhere. It occurred to me that I have very frequently found myself at cute little gas stations in the middle of nowhere in rural Southern communities. On the one hand, I don’t mind because rural Southern communities are nice places, but on the other hand, it’s not cool to be lost in the middle of nowhere, no matter how nice nowhere is. At this particular cute little gas station in the middle of nowhere, I learned two things: 1. It was very, very cold, and my hands had already gone totally numb without me even noticing. 2. My car wouldn’t start. This, you see, was a slight problem.

A random guy at another gas pump was saying something to me, so I opened my door and called back, “Sorry, what did you say?” I noticed with disassociated interest that for some reason, my voice didn’t sound particularly panicky. It turned out that he the random guy was telling me to try again and again until it worked. It took a few tries and made some disturbing noises, but finally, the car did in fact start. I thanked the random guy, then drove away. ‘Twas then that my check engine light came on. That light has been the bane of my existence for a couple months now. (Or perhaps I should say one of the banes of my existence, for my existence has multiple banes.) It had appeared to have been solved by Joe the Mechanic and the tightened battery cables, but alas, such was not the case. I think my check engine light just likes being on all the time. Also, I think that somebody should start a band called Joe the Mechanic and the Tightened Battery Cables. Just kidding.

Darkness set in, as darkness has a tendency to do, and I gradually noticed that I was freezing. Also, I noticed that the traffic was suddenly quite heavy and quite slow. In fact, it was at a standstill. I considered taking the opportunity to call my mother to tell her that I was in Mississippi and I was stuck in horrendous traffic and I was sure I’d be on the road until late at night and it was dark and cold and I had been lost for the last hour or so and I had experienced car problems and I was still sick and my head hurt and my vision was getting blurry and that she wasn’t to worry. The thing is, I don’t like talking on the cell phone while driving, so as long as there was a possibility that things would speed up soon, it didn’t seem like a good idea to make a phone call.

Eventually, the traffic did indeed speed up, and it wasn’t too much later before I reached the Alabama state border. Memory told me that the road was surrounded by beautiful trees and hills, but all I saw at the time was a black void all around. On either side of the highway, there was an abyss of nothingness, like midnight in the bedroom of a small child who’s terrified of the dark. I wasn’t sure if anything really existed except me, my dysfunctional car, the road I was on, and all of the perils it included. Disruptive eddies formed in the space time continuum for the sole purpose of making my life uncooler, and hours later, I discovered that only minutes had passed. I drove halfway across the world and only advanced a couple miles. Gradually, I became aware that it was entirely possible that I would die of starvation or old age before the night was over. The title song of this blog post, which was still going through my head, began to sound disturbingly warped and distorted in my brain. It occurred to me that perhaps I was merely tired, but I dismissed this theory because it was just so obvious that time-and-space anomalies were to blame for all my woes.

I wondered to myself, how do truck drivers and bus drivers do it? They have to drive during the night all the time, and surely they get tired. Then again, they probably don’t have to do it when they’re sick. I pondered the question of how easily truck drivers and bus drivers can get sick days. Since driving can be dangerous, you’d think that their employers would want to be cautious. I mean, driving a car when you’re sick is risky enough. All I’ve got is a bit of a cold, but it’s enough to mess up my vision and my reaction time, so I certainly wouldn’t be able to drive. Oh, wait. I looked at my hands on the steering wheel and noticed that I was in fact driving and had been for several hours. I also noticed some inexplicable distant-sounding eerie music slowly seeping from the dark abyss into my car the way a flame spreads across a sheet of paper, and I saw vaguely flashing lights in the sky that vanished when I tried to look directly at them. These things, it seemed to me, were not good signs. I felt about as safe behind the wheel as a ceramic Christmas angel on a shelf where a cat likes to play.

A cat who has been known to play on shelves with ceramic Christmas angels

A few lifetimes later, and after one more gasoline stop, I started to see familiar landmarks. A few miles away from campus, I made a stop for some groceries. Some people in the store gave me funny looks, and I can understand why, because I was shivering uncontrollably even though it wasn’t cold inside, and I had been so tense that my shoulders apparently had taken up permanent residence in the vicinity of my ears. I bought shampoo, hand soap, and enough food to get me through breakfast the next morning, then I returned to my car, which was conveniently sitting right where I had left it. For a moment, I had forgotten that this is what cars are normally supposed to do when their people are in grocery stores. It would be just like this day to change that rule.

This is not at all what the keypad on the door looks like, but I felt like I needed another picture here.

This is not at all what the keypad on the door looks like, but I felt like I needed another picture here.

Shortly thereafter, when I got to campus, I found that the Residence Life people had cleverly changed the code to the door while I was on the road, and I had no way of knowing what the new code was. I tried using my typical method of guessing the code based upon certain mathematical patterns that I have noticed in previous codes. Normally, if they have changed the code without my knowledge or if I have forgotten the code, this method works within five to ten minutes. (It is worth noting that I am often too lazy to memorize the door codes, but not too lazy to invent formulas for mathematically guessing them.) Unfortunately, my brain was so tired that I couldn’t keep track of the possibilities I had already tried. The only way I could have guessed right was by sheer luck, and as you probably have guessed by now, sheer luck was not a resource that was currently available to me. So I tried shaking the door, a tried and true method for accomplishing nothing.  Then I looked carefully at the lock, figured out how it worked, and tried to pick it with a CD, the only useful tool I had in my hand. For a moment, it actually seemed like it might work. I told myself that if my college didn’t want students breaking into their own dorms, they shouldn’t change the code without telling me, and if my college doesn’t want students finding a way around the door code system, they shouldn’t encourage original and creative thinking. But the lock wasn’t as easy to pick as I had hoped, and my CD didn’t do the trick.

So I stood outside while my nose ran and my fingers froze and I cried until a random guy who I don’t know came and opened the door.

Now it’s past 2:30 AM, I’m not quite done unpacking, and I have class tomorrow. But now tomorrow is today and today is yesterday, which is further proof that the space-time continuum is just messing with my brain.

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