Friday, November 2, 2007

Domino Effect

Have you ever noticed that bad things tend to come in 3s?

Well, at least that's what I'm telling myself, anyways.

Because I'm writing this Friday night (on the couch, wearing a bathrobe, Nathaniel's slippers, and my hair up in a towel from my shower), I'm obviously not in Panama City. I had really hoped to make it out there - nay, planned on heading out there today. But a series of unfortunate events be felled me, and I find myself at home.

Tomorrow is another day, thankfully. And hopefully when the sun rises, it will see me happily on my way towards Ironman Florida bliss.

And why? do you ask, am I sitting on the couch, bathrobe, slippers, and all. Good point. Here we go.

Literally 10 minutes after I published my post this morning, I got ready to go to the pool for my swim. Finally! I still felt guilty about sleeping in, but figured that as long as I got it in by 12 or so, I would still be on schedule to make the bike and then the drive out to PC. As I was leaving, I realized Holy Cow! It's November 2nd and I totally forgot the rent cheque! Shit! (The second time I've muttered shit today. Not that I don't curse, but this was directly related to an error on my part. Strike one - falling back asleep. Strike two - forgetting rent. Which are both unlike me... I'm usually really good about both, believe it or not.) Oh well. I figured I would drop it off on my way to the pool.

Said my farewells to Nathaniel, grabbed my keys, towel, water bottle, and headed out the door. Got in the car. And... the car wouldn't start.

Shit! Shit! Shit!

Strike 3.

We've got a 2003 Toyota Camry - it's got a lot of miles on it (90,000), but we've taken really good care of it, done the maintenance, and made sure that it runs well. Let's just say that I'm a little paranoid about breaking down in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. Not that I drive late at night by myself over long distances... but you never know. So just from a pure safety standpoint, I really don't want to worry about the car malfunctioning. One of the "safety" devices that Nathaniel and I had installed when we bought the car, was a "keyfob" - a small button/switch that when you press sends a signal to the engine, allowing it to turnover and thus start the car. The idea is that if someone tries to steal your car, they won't be able to hot wire the engine to turn over because they haven't activated the keyfob. Lately, our keyfob has been acting up... meaning that at the most inopportune of moments (like when it's really hot outside and I've got groceries, or in the middle of a parking lot filled with bikers who you didn't bike with because you did your own workout, and they can't quite figure out why you never ride with them, but make it clear that you should...) - the engine won't turn over. I'm not a big fan of cars not starting, especially when I've got stuff going on.

Double shit.

Slightly irked, I walked back into our place, declaring to Nathaniel, "The bloody car won't start!" He got off the ugly green recliner (Tabbitha, seizing this opportunity, quickly jumped on), marched out to the car, and tried to turn it on. It coughed. It sputtered. It did exactly what it was supposed to do if someone was trying to steal the car. It didn't turn on. Great.

So while he messed around with the car, I walked over to the apartment complex to turn in our rent cheque.

We live at an up style, gated community in Pensacola. They like to refer to themselves as "apartment homes." But it's like a gigantic apartment/condo complex. The place is pretty nice, but we've got an annoying neighbor who neglects his dog that lives right above us. Nathaniel and I have mentioned it a few times (like when the dog barks for hours and Nate is studying for a flight exam...), and we're at the point where we'll take one of my ski poles that I use when I rollerski in my off season, and bang it on the ceiling. That usually shuts the dog up for about 20 minutes, and then it starts again. But other than that, we're not bad tenants. We make sure our place is really clean (remember my bug phobia), when we got a notice about our grill on the deck we moved it to the proper area, and most importantly to the managers, for the 14 months that we've lived here we've never been late on a rent payment. We usually get it in about a week or so ahead of time, just because it's what we do. We're responsible adults who simply get the job done, end of story.

Lately, things have been a little more stressful. I'm excited but very nervous about Clearwater, and Nathaniel just finished one part of his flight school training and is in the transitional phase before he starts helo school (he'll be flying helicopters). As a result, things have been a little more stressful and our schedules have been "out of whack" so to speak. So we both made a mistake, with all the other stuff going on, and forgot to hand in our cheque before business opened on the 2nd. Big deal.

Or so I thought.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not great with confrontations. I get really emotional, and tend to wear my heart on my sleeves. I'm very passionate about stuff, but because I'm overly sensitive, I just don't deal all that well with people being rude or offensive. Give me a few hours and I can write a scathing letter (and I have before), but I guess I'm a little too polite or just don't possess that certain fiery spirit to call someone out when they make an opposing point. And I don't mean to infer that I'm a weakling, I just don't want to disappoint people, or make them feel bad. It's something that I've struggled with, and am dealing with even at the moment. I'm really happy with how much more assertive I am - but when I'm already down about sleeping in, my schedule being thrown out of whack, and the stupid car not starting, I guess I'm a little vulnerable. (There have been a few times in my life that I've stood up for myself during great times of stress - once at a music camp that I was miserable at and was planning on leaving two weeks early because the people were awful. I was 13, and the executive director, musical director, and housing director called me into their office and tried to make me sign a statement saying that my parents were fiscally responsible to pay for the full 5 weeks, even though I was leaving 2 weeks early. It got really ugly. But I bit my lip, tasted the blood, didn't cry, and refused to sign. I still marvel at the stubborn teenager I was, and even to this day want to give her a hug because what she went through was awful. The other time was when a horrible military wife wanted me to "volunteer" for a position that through her own neglect she didn't fill, but needed to be filled before the guys left on a deployment. The conversation quickly got very ugly, and she insinuated that her husband - who was a superior rank to Nathaniel - would not write a favorable letter of recommendation (a very big deal in the military) for Nathaniel when he was applying to flight school. I told her she could kiss my ass, hung up the phone, and burst into tears. And obviously her ploy didn't work - Nate is going through flight training with flying colors. It's just the fact that no one had ever really stood up to this woman. And I was really proud of myself.)

These moments, however, are few and far between. They're really life altering, I think.

Walking into the apartment office, nay "apartment homes" office, well, I didn't have one of these experiences.

I gave the cheque to one of the girls I know - we've hung out a few times, she and her husband are really nice, but we just don't have similar schedules. I tried to get it to her, and her response was, "It's okay - don't worry."

Just then, the evil owner of the "apartment homes" came into the room and saw what was transpiring. She looked me up and down, and I kid you not - she sniffed (remember, we're in the South. Southern "ladies" y'all). I was wearing old running shoes, a swimsuit, shorts, and an old triathlon shirt, while my hair was up in an incredibly messy ponytail with my sunglasses perched slightly crooked on my head. What would you wear if you were on your way to the pool?

"Oh honey. We're gonna have to charge you," she proclaimed, her sugary voice coated with fake sympathy.

I looked into her overly made up face, her perfectly manicured fingers (devil colored red), her trim pencil skirt, and button down tuxedo shirt, and her narrow eyes, and felt my knees go slightly weak. What was the deal with me?

I was speechless. Memories of the car not starting, my oversleeping, feeling like I was being an awful friend because I wasn't in Panama City, the stress of the upcoming race, dealing with issues form my past - it all seemed to bubble up. I tried a small apology.

"I'm really sorry! This has never happened..." The desperation in my voice increased a notch or two. My fried gave my a very sympathetic look, as the manager stared me coolly down. "Things have been pretty stressful for me lately, and I don't know what I was thinking..." I stammered. And then I stopped talking while this woman walked past me, took the cheque from the table top, and peered at the information.

"1616." She said, crisply. "I'll get the lease and see how much you owe."

My office friend gave me an even greater look of sympathy and then tried to intervene on my behalf. "They've lived here for well over a year. Never any problems..." she stopped immediately after a cold look from her boss.


So it turns out we owe an extra $50, not the "10%" like the manager thought. As she was explaining she said, "I know it's a lot of money." What did she think - that we couldn't afford it? No wait, it's the fact that I'm wearing what I'm wearing, and the fact that her idiot of a son lives above us with his damn dog, and she's had to - on more than one occasion - pick the dog up when it's barking late at night and her doofus of a son is out partying. She plowed on, "But I've got to teach you a lesson." A lesson, my inner-voice cried! What are we, in kindergarten? I'm a grown adult, we've NEVER been late on rent. The money isn't the issue - it's the principle. If I had been here 2 hours earlier, we wouldn't be having this stupid conversation. And then she finished, a final look of triumph flashing in her icy blue, overly-penciled eyes, "I know it's expensive. But you need to be responsible. I know. It's a tank of gas. But we've got to teach you a lesson."

And there I was. Being taught "a lesson".

I said, "Fine." And I walked out. As soon as I left the building, and as soon as I was out of visual range from the office, I could feel the tears welling. What was the deal? I tried my best to hold it in, prevent the inevitable. I've run a marathon, I do triathlons, damn-it! Why the heck should some stupid, pathetic woman, bent on sucking as much money out of me as possible make me so angry? And then I cried. Sometimes you just need to cry, so I did. Big sobs - and for what.

I felt as though I had let so many people down. I let myself down by sleeping in. I let Nathaniel and myself down by forgetting the stupid rent. I had let Ludi, Memo, and everyone else who I wanted to see out in Panama City down because our anti-theft device was doing too good of a job.

Triple shit.

Hence, the domino effect.

Nathaniel still couldn't get the car started, but could clearly see how upset I was. He was very upset about how we were treated by our "apartment homes" complex, and tried to cheer me up by saying that it didn't matter anyway because we would move sooner than later (which, I know what he was getting at, but it didn't cheer me up. Moving is hard - some aspects I enjoy, but it's also really stressful). He convinced me to come inside, that we would deal with the car later, and that in the meantime I should call Ludi and Memo and tell them I might not make it out today - and that because they loved me, because they accepted who I am, that they would understand.

So there I was, a wibbly, dribbly mess, going through tissues on the couch, calling my best friend and coach, telling them that I couldn't make it out because we were having car troubles. I didn't want them to worry (they could tell I was upset) about anything, as they're racing tomorrow, but promised I would do my best to make it out tomorrow.

After a while I calmed down, Nathaniel's idea of eating a good lunch was helpful, and we watched the NOVA program online about 12 non-runners preparing for and running their first marathon. Emotionally exhausted, full from my lunch, I fell asleep on the couch.

A few hours later, Nathaniel woke me up, with the news that he had fixed the car, or at least had fooled around with the starter and that it was working. At this point it was 4:30, and I still needed to do my workouts... so he was a great help in getting stuff ready, and saying he would go to the pool with me, even if it meant just reading on the sideline. And a call from Jen Harrison really cheered me up - I'm planning on meeting her tomorrow (fingers crossed) if everything goes well.

The swim was great, I had a good bike ride, talked to people who are racing, and promised them that even if I didn't see the start, I would still be with them in spirit.

It was a tough day - the phrase "when life hands you lemons..." kept repeating in my head. Lemonade wasn't appropriate. Something stronger, that involved a high proof was. I'm still pondering that one. And we all make mistakes, we all screw up, things don't always go as planned. But that's life. C'est la vie! But it's how we handle ourselves, how we pick ourselves up and get through that's the true testament. It can't and won't always be easy. But we plow through, nonetheless. I guess that's why Ironman and tomorrow mean so much to me, even though I'm not racing. I have so much respect for each and every person out there - they've all faced a tremendous amount of adversity, from good times to bad, but they've all persevered. And here they are, on the eve of their big event. Fair winds, flowing seas, and sunny skies, my friends! I am with you in spirit.

Tomorrow is another day. And besides, I'm not a big fan of dominoes.

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