Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Worst 10 Minutes of the Day

45 minutes after I woke up on Thursday, I stood in the living room, repeating myself. "Brush your teeth," I said, first quietly, then a little louder. Finally, "BRUSH YOUR TEETH."

Umoved. "Okay!"

50 minutes after I awoke, I estimated that, in a perfect world, I'd be waking up an hour from now, at 8:50. I'd lounge around for awhile, read, then head for the gym. In the world of my reality, I gathered the Jawa's lunch and stuffed it into his new backpack, which is pretty cool because it lights up. Somewhere in the back of the house, instead of putting on his shoes, the Jawa rustled papers.

"Put on your shoes. Get your sweatshirt." I've said these words so many times in the past 5 years that they are rote. I sound like a robot or Tiger Woods saying them, and I know that by the time they reach the Jawa's ears, they sound like this: (distant, slightly annoying sound) "Wrrr... mfgblg ... snabrmp."

He walks into his room then emerges, shoeless, a serene expression on his face. I turn sarcastic. "Do you have any idea why you just walked into your room?"

Pause. Hmm. Big smile. "Oh yeah!" A few seconds later, he comes back out wearing his shoes, but no sweatshirt.

55 minutes after I wake up, we're walking down 32 stairs to the street. Shack is safely in the backyard with his bed, his food, his water and his weird little ball that bounces crazily and dispenses treats. We can hear him bark once as we descend the stairs. Some pirouettes follow, and then, finally, we are in the car, freezing.

"Dad, turn on the heater!"

Our sis not a truly urban neighborhood. People live in houses and have backyards, and our postage stamp-sized downtown has only the most basic amenities (though we will soon have 4 new restaurants, including a French bistro). And yet, because there is no left turn signal onto the major street at one end, it can take 10 minutes to drive its one block. Today is one of the bad days.

It starts at the stop sign at the bottom of the hill. Five cars are backed up, taking turns being either more polite than the two chipmunks in the Warner Bros. cartoons ("You go!" "No, I insist, you go." "Not before you go!"), or cutthroat like Jeremy Piven's agent in Entourage.

Minutes pass. It is now 8:00. School begins in 20 minutes. We have reached the first stop sign.

If there were no cars, there would be no objections to living in the city. If the fact that the bus cannot make the turn from Bosworth onto Diamond and so has to wait until two cars back out of its way but they can't because there're 10 cars behind them all the way to the stop sign, and then the bus finally makes the turn but not before several cars start honking because they're stuck behind it and can't make their turn before the light turns red, life in the city would be almost without frustration.

But there are cars. And all of them are waiting on the block of Diamond between Chenery and Bosworth. Because there is no left turn signal. So the light changes, the car in front inches out, then finally turns on its blinker, and waits. And a bus stops at the corner just then, disgorging thirty-seven people who are trying to get to the BART station across the street. So they by turns, run, job, walk and basically crawl across the intersection, making it impossible to get through.

The light changes back. One car has cross the intersection. Back on Diamond, three construction guys dart between the cars to get to the coffee place. And we wait.

8:04. I calculate in my head that we are travelling at 0.002 MPH. At this rate, we will arrive at school sometime in February.

Now some guy wants to pull out into traffic. He stopped in the bus zone so he could quickly go to the ATM next to the bar. His blinker is on, but nobody wants to give up their spot in line to let him in, so he just inches out until the guy next to him has the option of either letting him in or ending up with a crumpled fender. Since that guy is me, I let him in, figuring that it's easier than stopping to get his insurance and waiting for the cops to arrive.

The light changes again. This time, some guy has decided, reasonably, that since he's not turning left, he should be allowed to run up the sort-of right lane and through the intersection of Bosworth and Diamond. But he runs into some cars that are parked on the street, so he's stuck, and has to inch back into traffic to pass. It's 8:08.

Finally, we reach the front of the line. The light changes. Another bus arrives to unload 37 more people who want to get to BART. I wait, watch the guys coming toward me turn left. One guy has his blinker on, but then inexplicably goes straight, missing my front bumper by inches.

You have to be aggressive here, with 12 minutes until the first bell, stuck in this intersection, no matter how much being non-aggressive hurt you in your aborted real estate career. So I draw on some hidden, only-available-while-behind-the-wheel toughness and dart through the intersection. Two of the pedestrians have left me an opening of about 15 feet, so I hit it like Barry Sanders in the 2 gap, drawing wild hand gestures and a quick shout.

I only catch the "hole!" part of the shout. Frankly, I don't really care. When I get to school I'll attend some meeting that will result in the greater good for society, but I've got to get there first or society will never be helped. As for the two pedestrians, they made it across the street without injury. And they get to tell a story about the jerk who almost hit them in the crosswalk as they were trying to get to BART.

8:10, we finally reach the freeway, after quickly changing lanes to avoid a parked tour bus, then changing back to get on the on-ramp. The Subaru is so slow that we are passed by two cars as we "accelerate," but soon we are merged and are free. It is 8:11 and school is only a few minutes away.

The Jawa and I silently curse the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who ignore our pleas for a left-turn signal, even though the Jawa once confronted them with it during a summer camp field trip: (Friendly supervisor aid: "Does nayone have any questions?" Jawa: "Yeah, when are we going to get a left-turn signal in Glen Park?") We breathe a sigh of relief, knowing the we won't have to face the nightmare that is Diamond Street between Chenery and Bosworth for another 24 hours.

Five minutes later, we reach school. I drop the Jawa off and he disappears around the corner, his gigantic backpack bouncing crazily as he runs. Now I can start my day.

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