Two hours

I pull up to the service entrance at the downtown dealer. Crap! That’s right. They moved. A couple of hours on a sunny summer afternoon for a late lunch at one of those new places downtown, and strolling around downtown streets while my car is in the shop is no longer the plan.

The mega sized map they’ve plastered on the old showroom plate glass window shows “X marks the spot.” They’ve moved somewhere south of the stadiums. Next to this is the wood-framed Official Public Notice Project Plan mini billboard, whose 4×4 stanchions are dredged into the now dried up flowerbed of the once pretty array of Marigolds and Petunias. Another long-established downtown property leveled, and the ground beneath gutted for yet another commercial/residential highrise. How much more of this expansion can my city take?

It probably might make me late for the car appointment, but I decide to wind my way south to the new dealer/service shop location along narrow residential streets. Then again, it just might turn out to be quicker that way, given the time of day. Up over the hill, back down through the I.D., across a main arterial at a couple of junctures, but always staying west of the freeway and east of the stadiums, freight train crossings and as far from traffic as possible.

Check time. Leisurely late lunch at a little downtown bistro dashed, of course, but also no time now for a quick drive-thru at one of the many fast food joints in that part of town. Drag. I’m really hungry.

Pull up to the new place. Fancy digs! It is huge, slick, modern, bright and shiny. The now former quaint, antique place, which I used to imagine was just like what my grandfather had in his days as a car dealer owner, is not the vibe of the new place. From the looks of the nearby properties under construction, I guess this is where all the car dealers that used to be in and around downtown are relocating. Not surprising. Downtown property is platinum these days. But, still. Interesting location, considering.

Also gone are the hodge-podge days of leaving your car anywhere on the lot you found a spot, even if it was with the new vehicles for sale, or somewhere on the street where you could find parking within a 3 block radius, hoping the poor service rep would be able to locate it. Four very long, tidy, clearly defined lanes lead into the garage entrance where cars can queue up; pretty little cars, all in a row.

Dashed again! A Courtesy Shuttle ride back to downtown not advisable when service rep says it should only be an hour, maybe even less, but 90 minutes, tops. Not worth the trip for them or me.

Escorted into waiting room, which I assume will have vending machines. None. My stomach growls loud enough to make me a little embarrassed. Walk the few blocks to the closest fast food place? On second thought, not through this neighborhood. Still the hub of warehouses, freight yards for both trains and trucks, and everything else un-pedestrian friendly. Only drug and skin hawkers and their customers walk these streets, even in broad daylight. So, late lunch will have to be packaged hot cider (it’s 80 degrees, so scratch that) or coffee with a ton of those little half/half creamers.

I take a seat in one of the IKEA-styled leather living room chairs and settle in. Battery on Kindle dead. Damn. Set creamer lunch flavored with a few drops of coffee down and look for newspapers. There’s got to be newspapers. Oh, good. Two. USA Today and the local rag. All in pieces of course. Read business and Around the Nation section, and “art” section of the local rag. Now what?

Dig out phone and go through a ton of blogs. See a writing prompt I know I should be able to breeze through. But I choke. It’s the curse of the TV contest/reality show “right up my alley,” challenge: There’s always a contestant that gets excited because a challenge is “right up my alley.” They inevitably blow it.

I’m looking out onto the showroom floor and I see a local TV news anchor and cameraman walk in. A TV crew? What’s that about? The anchor is as thin as a rail. Like, frail-looking, thin as a rail. And why patent leather 5-inch pikey stilettos in the afternoon? Club hopping doesn’t get underway until at least 10pm, I thought. Maybe she wants to get an early start, right after the 5 o’clock news.

I go back to my phone. Thumb through what else I can burn time with. Oh, that’s right. I deleted that app. These things have so little memory.

A family arrives. She’s a fresh, girl-next-door beauty and he’s every bit the handsome, magazine-perfect former fraternity rat. They are dressed very casually, like it’s Sunday afternoon at a Gap-meets-Ambercrombie&Fitch-LandsEnd backyard BBQ. They have three boys, very close in age, 5, 6 and 7 maybe? And a toddler and newborn. I’m fascinated. His new family? Hers? A blend of both? She’s looks awfully young to already have 5 kids under the age of 7. They are cool, collected, easy with themselves, and totally aware everyone is looking at them. They are buying a car.

The boys are wiggly, happy guys, full of energy, in constant frantic motion and absolutely impossible to contain. They test every boundary they see. I am one of them. The youngest, running away from the other two, crashes into me. Startled, but suddenly happy to find a new adventure, whatever that might be in a middle-aged lady who is smiling at him, he starts to climb into my lap. Dad calmly says, “no.” I look at Dad, whose gaze is fixed on his kid. I am ignored. I look at the boy and smile again. Shyly he backs off me and sheepishly walks to his father. I wave good-bye.

“No,” as it turns out, is something Dad says a lot. But, no fuss. The boys just move on to whatever they spy next. Finally, Mom sends them down the hall leading to the restrooms with 5 Hot Wheels, which they proceed to hurl down the tiled floor with the most aggressive energy I’ve ever seen. Each Hot Wheel smashes repeatedly into the newly plastered walls of the new building. I can see the dings from here.

I take out a scrap of paper and a pen and decide to write notes for the prompt that has me stumped. Pen doesn’t work. This has turned into an odd day of nothing working and nothing going as planned.

A big, kinda mean looking middle-aged biker dude walks in and fascinates the boys into stillness for a split second. He sits down, takes out an iPad, puts on the goofiest looking granny-readers, and reads his iPad. I love the oddness of the people who live in my city. I really do.

I need a pen. I walk into the sales floor area and up to the main counter just after a sales guy leans in to conspiratorially whisper to the other two on the other side of the counter. Just as they lean forward to hear the secret the sales guy is about to reveal, I step in and startled all three into awkwardly re-assuming their professional demeanor. I feel like a feared schoolmarm who has caught her students goofing off.

Hi. Anyone got a pen I can borrow? All three frantically pat down their pockets and the counter top. “A bunch of salesmen with no pen, what’s that about?” jokes one. Just then a pen is tossed across the counter to me. Tossed. I know I’m not here to buy a new car, but…tossed? Maybe these guys need some schoolmarm-ing. I thank him anyway.

The TV crew is still here, huddled in a far corner interviewing a young couple. Still can’t figure what’s going on that’s so important for the evening broadcast. Maybe some B-roll for the morning magazine show about car dealers leading the gentrification and retail invasion of south of the stadiums?

Back in the waiting area. It’s been longer than hour. Figures. A man is quietly arguing with one of the service reps. Biker dude is still reading, boys are sprawled across the floor drawing on paper provided by the service desk, and Mom has moved to a far corner with the two babies to discreetly see to their needs.

I respond to a text. Drinks tomorrow to celebrate? You bet. I’ll miss my friend, but I’m happy they have found the next step in their life.

I settle back again to write notes. I hear a baby softly wail and then Mom call out to Dad. I look up. He ignores her. Just as she calls again, this time a bit hysterically, I spot a toddler’s little naked butt dart by, heading straight for the showroom floor. Dad flies into action.

The toddler’s brothers are laughing. Dad’s too late. The toddler, a boy, as we all can now see, has discovered the best game in town. He is giggling and giggling and giggling as he deftly dodges his father’s attempt to catch him. He streaks across the showroom floor, straight for the TV crew. I can see the headlines now: Naked Baby Jail Break: News at 11.

Sales rep comes in with a sad look on his face. Something is very broken on the under-belly of the chassis of my car and so I will have to return it for a full-day’s service sometime very soon. The temp fix will hold for the time-being. This day and nothing working!

As I drive away, I see the TV crew outside in front of the dealer’s sign interviewing Mom, Dad, their wiggly happy boys, now clinging tightly to their parents legs, the newborn cuddled in Mom’s arms and the now completely clothed jailbird wrapped tightly in Dad’s safe embrace.

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