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I woke up Thursday morning feeling — for the first time in a long time — that it was actually going to be a good day. It was like all of the negative energy that had clung to me, like barnacles on the side of an old pirate ship, had washed away; especially after the previous day’s events.

(Wednesday started much in the same fashion: I had the day off and it was a beautiful, cool morning so I decided to pack a bag full of the puppy’s toys, her water bowl, a few bottles of water and head to Schiller Park.

After the pup and all of her stuff was successfully loaded into the car, we pulled out of the parking lot just in time for a light on my car’s dashboard to light up — singing ding! ding! ding! as it did – signaling that I was dangerously low on fuel. I pulled into a Speedway station a few block from my apartment and filled my tank up halfway. I got back in my car, put the key in the ignition, and turned it, but instead of my car start, I heard RRRrrrRRRrrrRRRrrr.

After failing to start my car two more times, I opened the hood and started to root around in the engine. As far as I could tell, everything was in working order; all of the cables and hoses and whatnot were still attached, the battery was looking good. I had no idea why it wouldn’t start.

A few minutes went by and a man who did not look completely unlike a pudgy Stone Cold Steve Austin approached the pump in front of me, his red plastic gas can in hand.

STONE COLD
You broke down?

ME
Yeah, it would appear so.

He looked through my engine and came to the same conclusion I had.

STONE COLD
Man, I don’t know why it won’t start.

ME
Me neither.

STONE COLD
My van ran out of gas when I pulled into the drive.
Let me fill ‘er back up and we could try to jump yours.
You got cables?

ME
Yeah.

So Stone Cold walked back to his van, filled it up, and drove over to where my car was parked, stopping just before his front bumper hit my own. His van was old and falling apart, the grill was missing and his front bumper looked like it only had a few days left on this world as well. Where it wasn’t completely covered in rust, the vehicle was painted a light tan. There were no windows, with the obvious exception of the driver’s and passenger’s side and the windshield. I imagined a mattress in place of backseats and lengths of rope, duct tape, candy and video games in the trunk.

Stone Cold opened his hood and we connect jumper cables from his battery to mine. After a few failed tries, we decided that the battery didn’t need to be jumped and that there was nothing else we could do to fix it ourselves at the gas station.

STONE COLD
Well, I think we’ve done all we could.

ME
Yeah, same here.

STONE COLD
I’ll tell you what; I’ll help you push your car into a parking spot if you want.

ME
Thanks. That’d be great.

So I stood outside the driver’s side and steered while he pushed the car from behind. The puppy hopped excitedly from one side of the car to the other, not understanding what was happening. We finally got the car into an empty parking spot — about twenty feet away from where we started — and I thanked Stone Cold for his help, giving him some extra cash to fill up his gas tank.

ME
I appreciate all of your help, man.

STONE COLD
Aw, it was the least I could do. Say, do you need a ride anywhere?

ME
Uh… no… I’m good.

STONE COLD
Are you sure? I got some gas in my van now.
I could give you a ride back home, if you want.

ME
I actually, uh, don’t live that far from here. I can walk.

STONE COLD
Nothin’ doin’. I have plenty of room in my van for you and your little puppy.

At this point, I was starting to feel a little wary. I realized that I’m not exactly a small person by any means – unless we’re talking height – but I’m not sure what he meant by “plenty of room in my me” and my “little puppy” and I’m not sure I wanted to know.

STONE COLD
It’s starting to get hot out. I wouldn’t want you to have to walk all the way back home in this heat.

ME
Really, it’s not that far of a walk.
In fact, if I look really hard, I can probably see my apartment from here.
And both the puppy and I could both probably use the exercise.

STONE COLD
Well, I could not, in good conscience, let y’all walk home by yourselves.
Now, come on. I got——-in my van.

An ambulance passed by, deafening the area and cutting off Stone Cold’s sentence for a moment. Even at the time of this writing, I’m still not sure, in the back of my mind, whether I would have liked to have heard him repeat “plenty of room” or venture off into something a bit more risque, like “candy.” Not that he could have gotten me into his van with a promise of video games or candy – A burrito, maybe. A new Blackalicious album, definitely. — I really just wanted to see where his true intentions laid.

I finally convinced Stone Cold that I was fine on my own and didn’t need any man-rape services at that particular moment, when I told him I was just going to call AAA. After all, I told him, if I don’t call them, I’m paying seventy dollars a year for nothing.

STONE COLD
You wanna at least wait in the van until the tow truck guy arrives?
I have some kick-ass tunes. You like Dio?

ME
You know, I’ll pass. I wouldn’t want to waste any more of your time.

STONE COLD
Aw, yer not wastin’ my time.
I’ll tell you what, I’ll circle back around in half and hour t’check up on ya.

ME
Oh. Good…

Stone Cold eventually got back into his Rapemobile and drove off in search, I’m sure, of latchkey kids with a sweet tooth. The tow truck guy arrived within about twenty minutes and, as luck would have it, the engine started before he could even check under the hood. Turns out, my car didn’t start due to vapor lock, although, I still had the mechanic at the Monro station across the street test my battery.

The rest of the day consisted of: neighborhood kids knocking on my window trying to communicate with my puppy, who, in turn, became incredibly agitated and howled at them; an unbelievably aggravating phone conversation with my parents; and a reoccurring dream where my teeth continuously fell out.)

So, yeah, Thursday was looking pretty good.

First of all, I work nights on Thursdays, so, even though I was up at the ungodly hour of 5:30AM to let the puppy out, I had nowhere to go further than the couch and nothing to do but nap for the first few hours of the morning.

Second, it was one of my manager’s last day at work and, while that was kind of sad, since she was a great person and great at her job, we were throwing a kick-ass going-away party for her.

It was also the last day that I would have to host the Teen Gaming Program, for about a month. (For those of you who don’t know, the Teen Gaming Program is where, once a week, they lock me in a room with a dozen or so teenagers and give them Wiis and Playstations. It’s kind of like Lord of the Flies, except with more video games and less pig heads on pikes – mind you, I didn’t say no pigs heads on pikes, just less.)

Work ended and I made my way to the Short North, forgetting how difficult finding a parking space can be on High St. at night. I drove around for a few minutes, finally finding a couple walking to their car and, once they pulled out and drove off, I stole their spot. I got out of my car and examined the area; I can be quite cautious about parking on the street. I wasn’t parked next to a hydrant; there was a no parking sign, but it was for the hours between 7:00AM and 6:00PM, and, considering it was around 8:20PM, I thought I was safe; and, after examining half a dozen cars parked around my own, I saw no parking permit stickers or signs.

So I made my way to The Art Exchange, pushing through a mass of people congregated outside of the gallery. I showed my ID to the… bouncer? — I guess — and went inside to find Abby; which wasn’t that hard, since she was at least three feet taller than anyone else in the room.

We talked for a bit, although, it was so loud in there that I could hardly hear what Abby or her friend Jenn said. Hell, I couldn’t even make out which song the DJ was playing. After a few minutes of small talk, I broke away from the two of them to go A) put in my vote for Abby’s quilt, B) snag myself some free beer, and C) look at some of the other “art”.

The subject of the show was Blue Moon Ale, a tasty orange beer. All of the pieces displayed incorporated the beer, the logo, or the drinking of said beer in some way. Sadly, half of the pieces I saw looked rather unintelligible and amateurish the other half looked more like beer commercials rather than art. There were only a few pieces – and I include Abby’s in this statement – that looked like they were actually worth a damn.

And, to my surprise, there was actually a decent spread of food. Most gallery shows will put out cheese and crackers or chips and dip, and, when I heard there was going to be free samples of Blue Moon Ale, I was sure they would be served out of Dixie cups. But, lo! This was not the case. Kegs overflowed with orange ale; tables filled with antipasto skewers, crab cakes, finger sandwiches, and expensive cheese spreads. Half-eaten trays of food were replaced with newer, fuller trays before they had time to sit out for several minutes (reminding me slightly of female newscasters). I only partook in the drinking of a glass of ale, although, I think maybe I should have squeezed a few more orange slices into the beer; Abby liked the antipasto skewers so much she shoved a tray of them under her shirt to take home with her.

I stuck around for about 45 minutes, until the crowd started to get to me and I remembered that I have a puppy at home, in a crate, who will be exploding with urine should I not make it home sometime soon. I said my goodbyes and made my way back to the car, only to find a parking ticket under my windshield wiper. I cursed and examined my surroundings for a reason for the ticket and cursed again. I got in my car and drove to High St and took a right, taking another right onto 5th Ave and yet another onto Summit Rd, eventually turning left onto 670. But before I could even reach the speed limit, I saw flashing police lights in my rear view mirror.

I was getting pulled over.

I stopped my car, turned it off, and waited for the officer – a portly, gray-haired middle-aged man who will hence be known as Officer Dickhead – to approach. He eventually walked up to the driver’s side, taking his time and, even though my window was already rolled down and I was looking directly at him, he knocked on my door anyway.

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Evening, son. License and proof of insurance, please.

I produced both and he examined them carefully.

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Son, do you know why I pulled you over tonight?

*sigh* No one told me there was going to be a test.

MEHonestly? No, I don’t. I wasn’t speeding and it’s not like I cut someone off or was weaving in and out of lanes. And I just got on the freeway so, no, I honestly have no idea why I got pulled over.

OFFICER DICKHEAD
You have a tail light burned out, son.

ME
Oh, thank God!

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Pardon?

ME
Nothing. I’m just glad it isn’t anything serious.

Officer Dickhead handed me back my insurance card, but kept my license. Then, he started writing my ticket.

ME
So, um, what are you writing there?

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Your ticket.

ME
For what?

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Your tail light is burned out.

ME
Couldn’t you just give me a warning?

OFFICER DICKHEAD
I could, but then you wouldn’t learn anything.

ME
But I have learned something. I’ve learned that my tail light has burned out. And, with that knowledge, I can go home and fix the burned out light.

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Well, then, consider this extra credit.

ME
Isn’t extra credit usually optional?

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Not this extra credit.

MEBut… but that’s… illogical!

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Pardon me?

ME
That doesn’t make any sense!

OFFICER DICKHEAD
What doesn’t make any sense?

ME
This whole thing. It’s… it’s… it’s… illogical!

I was trying very hard not to use the words “fucking stupid” or “re-goddamn-diculous”.

ME
It doesn’t make any sense that you’re giving me a ticket for a burned out tail light. That’s like giving me a ticket because someone’s shoe is untied, or because I missed a button on my shirt or because someone put a “kick me” sign on my back!

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Your point?

ME
My point is that these are things that you’re not going to know about until either you trip over your shoelace, some says “Hey, you misbuttoned your shirt.”, or you start getting kicked!

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Where are you going with this?

ME
It’s physically impossible for me to be behind my car, while I’m driving, to see that my tail light has burned out!

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Son, please, lower your voice.

ME
I didn’t raise my voice.

And I didn’t. I was talking the the officer with the same even tone that I would use to speak to any of you, although, admittedly, with less cursing. Actually, I was speaking better to the officer that I would to any of you. I was using my white voice; the calm, cool tone of voice and speaking manner that I use when I am at work or talking to mine or anyone else’s parents or family.

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Calm down, son.

ME
I… I am calm. I’m just saying, it’s a burned out tail light. Does that really warrant a ticket? I mean, it’s not like I was speeding or ran someone over or was drinking and driving.

OK, that last one may not have exactly been the truth…

ME
You know what? My other tail light burned out, like, a year ago! When I changed it, I bought a two-pack of bulbs! I have a spare bulb in the glove compartment!

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Keep your hands where I can see them.

ME
But I have an extra bulb. I can change it, like, right now and then we can pretend that this whole thing didn’t happen! I’ll have two working tail lights and you won’t have to write me that ticket!

OFFICER DICKHEAD
I’ve already started writing the ticket.

ME
Well, then, you’ll be able to stop writing the ticket.

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Once I start writing a ticket, I cannot stop. By law.

ME
But…

OFFICER DICKHEAD
By law.

ME
But… but that’s… illogical!

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Son, I have asked you to calm down and lower your voice. Am I going to have to ask you to step out of your vehicle as well?

ME
No… But… you also don’t have to write me a ticket…

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Son, please step out of your vehicle.

I got out of my car.

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Step around to the back of your vehicle.

ME
You’re not going ask me to spread ’em, are you?

OFFICER DICKHEAD
You’re not going to give me a reason to, are you?

ME
No…

OFFICER DICKHEAD
I just want you to take a look at your car and see that your tail light is burned out.

ME
OK, first of all, I never disbelieved you. I completely believe you when you say that my tail light is burned out. I do. Secondly, my car has been turned off, so even if it is burned out, I won’t be able to see which one was burned out and which one is just turned off.

OFFICER DICKHEAD

ME
See? This whole thing has been pointless!

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Son, I have asked you plenty of times before to calm down and lower your voice. Do we have to discuss this downtown?

ME
No… But you also don’t have to write me a ticket.

OFFICER DICKHEAD
Son… *sigh* Son, just get back in your vehicle…

I got back in my car, Officer Dickhead served me my ticket and made sure to tell me to “have a nice night.” I drove off adding my ticket amounts together and coming to the conclusion that $48 is way too much to pay for one glass of beer, even if it is a tasty orange brew.

I continued down 670 East, eventually turning onto 270 South, exiting onto East main St; the dancing lights of the Hooters electric palm tree telling me that I was almost home.

I dropped my messenger bag onto the dining room table, when I walked in the door, placed my Blue Moon Ale glass in the sink and grabbed the puppy’s leash from the kitchen drawer. We went for a quick walk and then it was dinner time, for both of us.

I poured water and a cup of kibble into her food bowls and then took out some kick-ass leftover chicken salad that I made the day before. I scooped some of it out onto some crusty home-baked bread and carved a thick slice of sharp cheddar cheese on top.

I ate and eventually I slept, hoping Friday would be a better day, my puppy licking my orange-flavored fingers.

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