Tuesday, October 04, 2011

When Life Imitates a Nightmare

Have you ever had that nightmare--I'm assuming it's one common to the human experience--in which you desperately need to accomplish something, but are thwarted at every turn? What you need to accomplish doesn't really matter, indeed it's often something utterly absurd like taking your dog for a manicure or buying a single, perfect daisy for your mother-in-law who is in the hospital and just gave birth to the president of the United States. Sometimes it's simply a matter of finding a toilet. Only, in the dream, no matter how hard you try to accomplish your task, new obstacles pop up: the door is locked, you find a port hole, you crawl through a tunnel, you reach the toilet stall at last only the "toilet" is a giant mushroom.

Yesterday evening, Grace asked me to take her to get a piercing she really, really, really wanted. She didn't have the money for it, but she could pay me back Wednesday with the money from her catsitting job, and could I please please please please just take her? Please. I relented--she had been wearing me down with begging for weeks. The piercing shop is on the "Corner" a busy area of shops and restaurants across the street from the University. I usually avoid doing business here because parking is impossible, although you can find a spot on the street if you apply yourself, which I did, about three blocks from the shop.

At the shop, it turned out they didn't take credit cards, but the guy said he would take a check, despite the "NO CHECKS" sign on the door. My checkbook, it turned out, was empty, as I had carelessly written the last check and forgotten to replace them. I remembered that there was a branch of my credit union across the street from where we'd parked, and I said I'd just quickly run to the ATM and they could get on with the piercing, which I didn't want to watch. I signed the consent, left my ID and hurried away. I got all the way to the credit union when I remembered that this branch doesn't have an ATM, and since it was after 5:00, it was closed. OK, there's an ATM in the hospital cafeteria, a little out of my way, but I'm a fast walker, no worries. You have to cross the railroad tracks to get to the hospital, and wouldn't you know it, there was a train coming, but I managed to get over the tracks, acutely aware that the piercing had probably already been accomplished by this time.

The hospital is undergoing construction, so the "main entrance" is a little door off to the side and then you have to walk a long hallway, which, whenever you are in a hurry, is always crowded with slow-walking groups of hospital visitors, and patients, dragging their IV poles outside so they can smoke cigarettes. I dodged among the slow walkers in the hall, rushed through the lobby, entered a second long hallway, this one crowded with slow-walking physicians. I reached the cafeteria at last--the ATM is in an alcove on the far side behind all the tables--only the area with the tables was roped off for floor cleaning. I took a detour, got to the ATM at last, and someone was using it. After she left, I swiped my card and got the message, "UNABLE TO READ YOUR CARD," but after a couple more swipes, it accepted my card only I accidentally selected "Fash Cash" which doesn't let you customize the amount you're withdrawing. I wanted $60 but my options were $20, $40, and $100. OK, I would just take out $40 and do a second withdrawl for $20, only the machine didn't ask me if I wanted another transaction and logged me out. I tried to initiate a second transaction, but my card was rejected, every time. After several minutes of waiting and swiping and waiting and swiping, I gave up and decided that surely Grace and Seamus--still waiting at the shop--would have a little money, plus I had a couple of one dollar bills.

To exit the cafeteria, I took a shortcut through an outdoor courtyard, became momentarily confused, found a way out of the courtyard into a different long hallway, then accidentally exited to the outside through the door for wheelchairs, which sent me down a ramp going in the wrong direction. I finally got myself sorted out--there was an incident involving tourists cluelessly standing at an intersection and blocking the button you need to press to get a walk signal-- and back up to the Corner, which was crowded with slow-walking UVA students.

Back at the shop, everyone was anxiously awaiting my arrival and the shop guy must have been starting to suspect this was all an elaborate ruse to get a free piercing and abandon my children to his care. I explained, somewhat incoherently, about all that had gone wrong. The charge was $45. I pulled the $40 out of my wallet, plus four one dollar bills. The piercing guy was all, "$44 is fine, don't worry about it," but Seamus manfully produced four quarters from his pocket.


  1. Amazing. I am tired just reading this post. I particularly appreciate that you will not go to another ATM that will no doubt charge a ridiculous fee for its use. If you had been a minute or two longer, perhaps he would have paid you to relieve him of the children (I suspect your children are slightly too behaved to actually have that work).

  2. All for a hole. It's incredible how frequently this sort of misadventure is tied to children, isn't it?

  3. Some days it's hardly worth while getting out of bed, and probably a lot safer.

    Mind you, we could always reduce the amount of kids with piercings if we did it the old-fashioned way; with a red hot needle. It'd be cheaper as well.

  4. I'm with Jennifer: I'm exhausted just from reading all this.

  5. That is a crazy story. I hope she enjoys the crap out of that piercing.