Friday, April 04, 2008

Nut Behind The Wheel


I stood alongside my rented van in the dead of night and tried to open the rear door.

I should tell you that this wasn't actually happening; this was a dream I had recently and it's still on my mind.

I don't know what I was doing with a rented van and why I was out so late at night, but this was a dream after all, not the six o'clock news.

I aimed the remote at the van to open the rear door, so naturally the front windows came down. I hit another button and the rear windows came down.

Okay, I thought, I'll get in back of this bastard and aim the remote straight at the offending door.

The little electronic blips coming out of the obstreperous--nice word, no?--device will have a shorter distance, more direct route.

That worked just fine, for a few seconds anyway. The rear door began to rise and I was feeling so proud of myself, having shown this gas-guzzler who was boss.

And then the van took off.

I stood there and watched this driver-less vehicle race down Fifth Avenue, a few blocks from my house. It was like something out of an episode of Get Smart.

I freaked, of course, and started chasing after the damn thing. The apartments and storefronts were all dark and there no people around.

I saw the marquee of the Alpine theater, and then I spotted the devil van swerving from one side of the street to the other, coming dangerously close to crashing into one of several parked cars.

Oh, my God, I inwardly scream, I'm gonna get sued!

The ghost van made a hard left at 68th Street and disappeared. As I got to the intersection a wacky looking guy driving something resembling a dune buggy came roaring up in the opposite direction on the sidewalk.

I got a look at this guy's wild, insane smile, as he blasted by me. I was confused for a second, thinking that somehow my vehicle had made a loop around the block.

Then I got angry, wondering why this jerk was so happy while I was so miserable. The nerve of that hump. And what's with the dune buggy in Brooklyn?

I've learned through therapy that you--the dreamer--are everything in the dream. All the people, even the inanimate objects, they are manifestations of you.

When I analyze this dream, a lot of things jump out at me. First, there's the feeling of confusion--not understanding how the remote works.

Then there's the fear of being left behind, abandoned, as the van races off without me. I'm losing control, a common theme in nightmares.

The van is another side of me, as it speeds along without any idea where its going. I feel that way often when I look at my career choices.

I feel a lot of these moments in my life where actually un-choices, where I let things happen to me, rather than take decisive action.

Give It Some Gas

And that nut in the dune buggy? I think that's another side of me, the side that wants to flaunt all the rules.

Notice the driving on the sidewalk. No good Catholic boy would do that. And this part of my personality wants to be happy, he wants to enjoy raising hell without feeling guilty or ashamed. That hardly sounds like me at all. At least not the daytime me.

I'm feeling uncertain about my future, what jobs I should apply for. Part of me says just take any job for now; you're unemployed, dummy, get on somebody's payroll and sort it out later.

But I've been doing that for so long, taking any kind of work "just for now." That's what it will say on my tombstone: Here Lies Rob...Just for Now.

Life is a finite affair and there are just so many jobs you can plug away at before the great baseball manager in the sky comes out to the mound and tells you to hit the eternal showers.

I need to find my dune buggy career, where I can drive on the sidewalk and not give a damn.

One place where I doubt I'll be applying is the gas company. A construction crew from Keyspan was working outside my house yesterday and they spend most of the day digging up the street and installing some new valve.

One of the workers came in to test the pilot lights on my range and oven and everything seemed to okay.

But I started getting this funny smell--or I thought I did--and when I found my smoke detector wasn't working, I went up to the hardware store to get a new battery.

As soon as I put the battery in, the thing started honking and beeping, telling me in it's own little annoying way that I should move to fresher air.

Lovely. I have to go out in a little while and now I was having a gas leak. So I did kind of a dumb thing. Well, not kind of, just straight up dumb. Instead of flagging down on the workers--who I thought had left--I called the gas company.

"We'll send somebody right over," the woman told me.

"When will that be?" I asked, ever the impatient.

"We're sending the fire department. How long does that take--five minutes?"

The fire department? Lady, I didn't want the fire department, I just wanted someone to make sure the gas was okay, that's all.

I went outside and found the workers were still there and none too pleased that I called the cavalry. Then I heard the sirens.

Sirens? What the hell was this, the Chicago fire? I looked up the block and I see two huge fire trucks rolling down my street. Oy...I could have used these guys in my dream to find my runaway van.

In fact the whole situation was running away from me, just like that goddamn van. (Who rented me that thing anyway? I'll never dream-patronize them again.) I was losing control, unable to stop this ridiculous situation.

A whole bunch of firefighters came into my house, with the helmets, boots, and the heavy coats, but nobody could find any trace of a gas leak.

I was a little nervous because the basement is in such abysmal condition--a potential fire hazard. Fortunately, they didn't seem to care.

The firefighters left and my neighbors got a show. The gas company guys were pretty grumpy even though I tried to apologize. I'm sorry, I panicked. The smell of leaking gas has that effect on me.

You see? I took decisive action and sparked a fiasco. I should take the next robot van out of town.

I skulked back into my house and hoped the workers would be gone by the time I had to leave.

My prayers were answered, praise the Lord. They were gone and I headed off on my appointed rounds.

But no vans this time; I took the subway.

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