Sunday, November 4, 2012
LOST IN AUSTIN
Although there is a difference between my being Lost in Austin, and the mini-series, Lost in Austen, all revolves about going through doors and hoping for the best, or going through revolving doors and hoping not to get lost.
I was not sure whether Tuesday was an official holiday of which we were unaware, or if the Mayans had a contender for an earlier date to end the world, as everything had to be done 'NOW!' The telephone call to come and pick up some papers to be served, 'NOW', was not received at a convenient time. Samantha had left for the day and the only available car was Dana's, with the only real available driver, being moi! Dana offered to take on the task, but the whimpering was too severe. So, once again, I exaggerate slightly. He suggested (very smartly; Dana is nothing if not smart!) that I was dressed more appropriately than he, especially as the 'pick up' was from a law office, downtown. The temperature had dropped, again, and I donned my hat and jacket, and bid everyone, adieu! My phone had a reasonable amount of battery life, and the car was sufficiently gassed up, so I did not foresee a problem.
Road works have been the bane of the Austonians' lives over the past year, and as our roads are mainly one way, it becomes a challenge when every other street is closed. Unable to turn right, at any crossroad, I had to proceed from 6th Street to 1st Street. Of course, I needed to turn on 3rd, and was waved on by a toothless workman. (I am not sure whether he had his teeth at the beginning of the day.) Backtracking through the tangled web that has become downtown Austin, I began to think it would have been quicker to walk, but eventually, after circling twice, managed to park opposite the building where I had to enter. The parking meter accepted all manner of change, but not notes. I had notes, but no change. Rummaging in my bag, I found two dimes, which I fed into the meter. The digital screen told me that I had ten minutes in which to make my pick-up, and to press the green button. Depressing firmly on the over sized plastic emerald, I waited for my ticket. As nothing happened, I pressed again, and squinted to see the tiny 'ha ha ha' printed above the words, 'you have not put in sufficient money'. Asking why I had been told I had ten minutes, I received some strange looks from most of the people at the nearby bus stop, and a word of encouragement from a homeless person, telling me that I should not take any nonsense (well not quite using that noun) from the alien that had stolen my money. Finding another ten cents, I fed the greedy machine and this time it relented and gave me a ticket.
Five of the twelve minutes that I had now been given, were taken up in an attempt to cross the road. The little green man must have taken a day off, or perhaps had just as hard a time getting to work because of the disruption, as he did not appear. Instead, the red hand of doom stayed permanently fixed upon the screen on the side of the traffic light. Undeterred, I crossed, to a chorus of 'oooooh' from the crowd sitting at the bus stop, and another shout of encouragement from my newest fan with the colourful language. There was very little traffic to dodge, as it was held up by the barriers that forced it to turn any way except the way it wanted to go. Upon entering the building, I ventured to find the elevators. Numbers and arrows were stuck on the beams above my head. '1-4', '5-15', pointed straight ahead, then right. I turned right and found myself heading out of the building. Backtracking, I followed the sign again, and saw that there was another turn a few yards ahead. Again, I was faced with an exit. I know I am directionally challenged, but I have always been good with the picture clues in the children's crosswords, and assumed that a long horizontal line, with a sideways 'v' on the end, represented an arrow, and that the point of the 'v' indicated the direction to follow. I am not sure where I went wrong, but after being spotted by the security guards I was asked as to my 'business' in the building. Thank goodness I did not take on a job directing traffic as I was able to flash a toothy grin in his direction, and he showed me which way to go in order to reach my desired level. Fortunately, the law firm occupied the whole floor, and the receptionist had the papers in an envelope at the desk. I thanked her and stepped back inside the lift. I should really refer to the American version of the apparatus, e.g. elevator, as they are different. Have I mentioned the difference between a lift and an elevator. On the outside, they appear to be the same, but on the inside the buttons are very different. In a lift, to reach the ground floor, you press the button marked, 'ground'. In an elevator, you have a choice. 'Lobby' is a good choice; 'Ground' appears occasionally; '1' is also the 'reception' floor. Occasionally, there is just a star. I used to press the bottom button in the hope that I would land in the right place, but was often transported to the foundation level, just below the earth's crust. Today, I pressed the star, and waited. I pressed it again, and waited. Smiling at the receptionist, I jabbed it a dozen times, and still nothing happened. The young man who arrived on the scene a few minutes later, simply said, 'lobby', and upon a limp affirmative response from me, he pressed the long brown bar under the star. The doors closed, and we started our descent. My lack of preparation never ceases to amaze me, and I failed to follow my own precautionary measures when entering a tall building in Austin. It is advisable, especially if the visit is later in the day, to equip oneself with a bottle of water, flashlight, non-perishable food, and a sleeping bag, just in case of emergencies. I remember being told that the rule for the maze at Hampton Court Palace, was to keep going right, once you had made it to the middle. Of course, you had to find the middle! I wandered lonely as a cloud, and searched for the security guard whom I mentally berated earlier, but he was no where to be seen. Each corridor looked pretty much the same as the last, and I wondered if I should be leaving markers to see if I was going in circles, but decided against the idea, as I knew I was going in circles. Eventually, I saw the center, and started to go left, left, left. (They drive on the other side here!) Leaving by a side door, assuming that it would be easier to work the street maze than the one in the building, I arrived back at my car, which fortunately had not been given a ticket, despite my ten minutes being about twenty too short.
The following day I received a call from one of our clients, asking someone to come to collect some papers. As I have been taking phone calls from this person for the past eight years, but never had the opportunity to meet, I offered to make the trip. Finding the building was not at all difficult, as it was just south of the river and out of the downtown area. The building was rather oddly shaped, with a large sign outside, pointing to the entrance, and very clearly printed, 'Suite 100'. Oddly enough, I assumed it would be a simple task to find suite 200. With fewer arrows than the previous day, I followed the most prominent and entered the building. The receptionist in the corner office appeared to be less than excited to see me, and even less responsive to my question, 'Do I just go up these stairs to get to Suite 200?' The eyes rolled, and the mouth opened just wide enough to emit a sigh, followed by a nod of the head. At the top of the stairs was a fire door, which was obviously locked from the inside. As I pulled and knocked a couple of times, I heard the door to the downstairs office close. Undeterred by her reluctance to help, I went back in and asked, 'Is there another door'. The 'well duh', was probably not warranted, but perhaps her sister works in a large building, downtown, where people who are lost really do need directions! I did find another entrance, and climbed the stairs to my floor, where I was finally able to put a face to a name.
No sooner had I arrived back at the office, did the phone ring for another pick up. Apart from the obvious road works, the parking around the particular office, had been cordoned off, and the only place to stop was in a 'no wait' zone. Whilst the local traffic cops are sympathetic, they do not like to see an empty car. Samantha agreed to drive, and dropped me at the back door. Fortunately, I was familiar with the large brown building, and entered the elevator, with a young man. Not one to take architecture for granted, I noted that the carpeted walls of the elevator came down to about a foot above the door, and there appeared to be a slight recess. I wondered quite how far it went back and never missing an opportunity to make a fool of myself, kicked my foot in the general direction of the space. My fellow passenger tried very hard not to laugh, when I squealed slightly as the pain ran up from my boot to my leg, and I realised that the 'recess' was nothing more than an optical illusion, where the gray marble shone down onto the perspex floor and gave the impression that there was a gap. If ever I wanted the ground to open up, etc etc, now was the time. Why does the lift floor recede only in James Bond movies!
The desk clerk at the Courthouse, on my third outing, laughed when I told him, 'they let me out occasionally; think I need the fresh air!' I am not sure if they just smile because they feel sorry for me, or just don't understand me. The mouth moves, words come out, but as for the content, they are completely baffled.
After a couple of days of adventure, my work load increased and it would not have been the best use of my time to leave the office on a whim. Hopefully, everything will be complete by the time the Formula1 Grand Prix reaches our little town, although from what we have been told, Austin will be thrown into turmoil due to diversions. Being a fan, I am looking forward to the prospect of being a few miles from the big event, but I may change my mind by the end of the session! It may bring some more of my countryfolk to town, and I will, once again, be understood (or not!!)
With the clocks going back, and the year slowly coming to an end, I spent the afternoon by the pool. It is still strange to sit outside in the sun, in November. The doors in my house all seem to exit into the right room, and at least I do not get lost in this little part of Austin. Next week will see the results of the election, and at the end of the week, we celebrate our official wedding anniversary. (We chose the 11th of the 11th, as it cannot be transposed....England put the day then the month, here it is the other way around) and we may choose to take advantage of the public holiday, but that will be......another story.