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Sunday, September 27, 2015


Although the official end of summer was announced this week, apparently, I am not quite ready to submit.  This has nothing to do with refusing to give way to cooler, shorter days, but due to the fact that I am only three quarters of the way through my book!  I usually read three or four books during the course of the season, but they are normally easy reading.  My first choice this year was a book that I have wanted to read for many years, but never got round to doing so.  Anna Karenina is not only a classic, which requires a little more concentration than your average thriller, it is written in a manner that takes longer to read than your average thriller, and has about seven hundred pages more than your average thriller!  Generally, my reading time is limited to the weekends but occasionally I get a chance to sneak in a few pages during the week!

The Inspection disk on my car indicated that it was 'that time' again, and the mini was to undergo its annual overhaul.  I had no reason to suspect that there would be any major issues, and asked Dana if he would call the mechanic to set up a time, and see if the garage had a 'loan' car, should any unforeseen problems arise.  My plan (oops) was that he (Dana) should call a week prior to my selected time, and once they had possession of the little vehicle, I would drive a couple of miles along the road, to Joe, and wait in the comfort of a coffee house!  Although I am perfectly capable of telephoning the mechanic and booking in my own car, for her 'makeover', the two men whom own the 'shop' are Lebanese and have very strong accents.  Like me, they have become accustomed to the American accent, and the American accent (in this case Dana) has become accustomed to theirs.  Throw another dialect into the pot and confusion reigns! Face to face is not such a challenge, but the telephonic airways do, occasionally, leave much to be desired!However, the note sat on Dana's desk and the call was not made until Tuesday.  All loan cars had been spoken for, and I would have to spend an hour and a half in the vicinity of the workshop.  After grumbling for a few minutes, I decided that this would be a good excuse to read a few more pages of the masterpiece!

The car was booked in for a service, oil change, and State Inspection at 8am on Wednesday morning.  I had spent the 'before work' hours on Monday and Tuesday finding more floor in the back bedroom, and was rather pleased with the results.  It has finally reached the 'diabolical mess' stage, which is such an improvement! I was up before the lark on Wednesday, as I wanted to complete the household chores before leaving the house at 6:45am.  Joe had indicated that he would be in his shop early and I was in need of a cup of coffee!  If I could fit in a cup of caffeine and a chat, before heading west, my day proper could start perfectly.  I left my house, book in bag, and battled the traffic.  

Coffee was just what the doctor ordered, as the lack of sleep the previous night had rendered me a little on the ditzy side, and with ten minutes to spare, I bid farewell to Joe and got into my car, ready to drive two miles down Congress Avenue.  The road that leads to the Capitol was busy.  It is always a little congested, but this particular morning, everyone had decided they wanted to be on my road, at ten minutes to the hour of eight!  I sat, and sat, watched the traffic lights turn from green to red, then back again, moving at less than a snails pace.  It would have been quicker to turn the abyss that was my back bedroom, into a reasonable dwelling place, than to travel the couple of miles along that particular stretch of road on Wednesday morning.  Finally, at 8:15, I made a sharp diagonal turn, and sped into the forecourt of the garage.  

Apologising profusely for my tardiness, the two men who greeted me were very gracious.  A smile softens most things, and we smiled a lot!  They explained that the service, oil change and Inspection would take about an hour and forty minutes, and I explained that I had come prepared, and waved my paper copy of Anna Karenina into the air, indicating that I would be occupied during the whole operation.  

It suddenly occurred to me that they were waiting for something, from me, as I took my seat next to the water cooler, and settled into the tempestuous affair, that Anna and her young officer were now conducting, and was engrossed in the glamour and beauty of the Italian countryside, where they were now residing that was a far cry from South Congress Avenue, in the waiting room of a car maintenance establishment.  I looked up from the palatial surroundings of the Mediterranean Villa and hearkened to the voice of the middle-eastern mechanic, which bore no resemblance to the small Italian townee, whom was commissioned to paint the portrait of the gorgeous adulteress, nor that of her Russian lover.  "Ma'am", he said, most respectfully.  I stood and walked to the counter, knowing his requirements.  "You want my Insurance certificate", I correctly pre-empted.  Standing at the counter, with my mind still waving in the breeze of the European orchards, I attempted to find said certificate.  My handbag (remember Betsy?) had not been cleared for some time, and was taking on its own 'bottomless pit' alias. Just like my heroine, Mary Poppins, I put my arm, elbow deep, into the mass of nonsense in the hope that I could produce the rabbit from the hat, but was unsuccessful.  Perhaps it was in my purse (wallet). It was.  Still in date, it was enough to satisfy the gentleman whom was about to give the orders for the work to commence!  Looking at me with a sympathetic glance, one that could only be interpreted as, 'How does the weaker sex exist?' he walked away into the distance.  Somewhat agitated at myself for giving out false vibes, as I consider myself to be a woman of reasonable intellect and sensibility, (after all, I was reading Anna Karenina!) I returned to my seat.  Just as the Russian couple were about to embark on a visit to a local painter, whose artistic temperament controlled the atmosphere of the page, a voice came flooding through the studio, that did not fit.  "Ma'am", I heard as the brush hit the canvas, as the artist attempted to recreate his own masterpiece.  I jumped slightly, to the amusement of the middle-eastern gentleman, and was aware that I was looking at him with a timid stare.  "It should only take forty five minutes", was the comment imparted.  I thanked him and sank back into the palate that contained the mixture of paint, ready to be whisked away into the Italian countryside once again.  It was safer there!  

My car was ready to go within about half an hour.  Although having lived in the USA for the past eleven years, I have been, for the most part, treated with kid gloves and not taken on a more authoritative role in every day life.  Getting my car inspected was not something that was my task, as when Samantha and I shared the vehicle, she was the one who took it for its maintenance checks, as she was the one with the majority ownership.  I had undertaken the task last year, and whilst aware that the new laws dictate it necessary to have a valid inspection receipt before being allowed to renew registration, I did not realise that they would be combined.  I stood, after paying, and waited for my sticker!  It was explained, in very simple terms, that I would have to keep the piece of paper, just handed to me, as proof of upholding the law, when renewing my registration; or at least that is what I think was implied!  

Leaving behind the middle-eastern gentleman, and the depths of the Italian countryside (although the book was safely in the wilds of Betsy,) I drove back towards the office.  Satisfied that the car was in working order, and being slightly earlier than anticipated, I decided that it was time to give the outside of the car a new look.  It had been sitting in my car port, collecting dust and grime, for the past year, and I had not taken it to a car wash for a considerable time.  The red had become brown, and the Union Jack on the top, a rather gruesome grey!  Reluctant to let it go through an automatic wash, previously, I decided that at rising eleven, the vehicle had experienced enough slight scratches and small indents, that any detrimental effects caused by such a machine, would be minimal! Driving into the facility, I noticed four lanes.  The far right lane was for 'Express' customers, of which I presumed I was, but did not want to take for granted.  Driving my car once a week, if that, I am not completely au fait with the location of all the command buttons. The window operators on both Dana's car, and Samantha's car, are on the door.  Not so with the mini!  I struggled to find the correct app and after unlocking, and locking the door then turning on some hazard light or other, I finally managed to get the window to open, to the amusement of the young girl waiting to take my order!  She ushered me to the far right lane, and relieved me of some greenbacks before telling me to drive forward and await further instructions.  I had already given the impression of someone who would not be able to pronounce 'Karenina' let alone 'Anna'! A man, who could never be mistaken for a dashing pre-revolutionary Russian officer, strode up to my car, and beckoned me to open the window.  You would think, that with all my pent up intelligence, that I would remember the location of the window button, having just found it several seconds earlier.  'Anna, Anna',  I said to myself!  I found the relevant button, and was handed the radio aerial which had been removed, to avoid its being bent during the forthcoming wash.  After closing the window, having left my finger on the button during the receipt of said aerial, I drove around to the machine that was going to restore my vehicle to its original colour! The man who did not resemble the Russian officer appeared, from the side of a building that separated the two parts of the complex, and pointed to the instructions listed, and to which should be adhered, before entering the washing monsters.  I had put my gearstick into the neutral position, and taken my foot off the brake pedal.  He pointed once again to the list, and I nodded in affirmation that I understood.  He signaled for me to wind down the window.  'Anna, Anna', I said to myself!  Where was that button again?  "You are doing something wrong", he shouted at me and attempted to open my door.  "I am not!" I said, indignantly!  The door opened, and he pointed to my feet, and I moved my legs to show that I did not have the pedal depressed.  I rattled the gear stick to show that it too was in the correct position and then moved my feet again, as he was insistent that I must have my foot on the pedal!  "Do I look stupid?", I asked, hoping that it would be rhetorical, and that he would shrink back into the depths of the building from whence he came.  He did not have to answer in the affirmative, as he noticed the mistake I had made, which was not listed.  "You have the hand brake on!", he shouted, with out adding the suffix, "Yes, you do look stupid!"  I replied, again indignantly, "It is not on the list!"  He did get the last word, as my mind again (you wouldn't believe it could happen to a woman with such a high IQ) went blank as to the where the button was to wind up the window before being soaked.  "Close the window!"  he screamed! The machine started, I sat staring forward, aerial in hand, and waited for the large squiggies to do their thing! Eventually, the blowers dried the water, another non-Russian officer came to wipe down any excess drops of moisture, and I moved forward to have my tyres dressed!  The nice lady who took care of the wheels (although not as glamorous as Anna, but just as gracious as when she first appeared in the novel) kindly replaced my aerial and let me know I was ready to leave.  I handed her a 'thank you', in the form of more greenbacks, and drove to the office.

The remainder of the week did not cause me to be considered anything less than an intelligent, middle aged woman, whom could conduct herself with grace, charm and above all academically proficient!  

However, there is always an however!  Samantha had a delivery to make over the other side of the water on Saturday morning.  As we were not on our usual route she asked her trusty lady, on her trusty phone, to give us options for grocery shopping.  We entered the car park of a new Walmart and shopped in the rather different environment.  The store is not particularly new, but it exuded freshness, and we enjoyed the experience.  That is, until we got to the check out.  Opting for the 'express' lane, Samantha started to put her wares on the counter.  The older gentleman, (I use the word figuratively speaking as his manner did not fit the description,) told her that the counter did not move.  The distance from where she had placed her groceries, and his hands was so small that he would not have had to stretch his arm to full length to retrieve them, but he was not about to try.  She moved everything up to where he barely had to move his arm from his torso, and he begrudgingly started to scan.  As he was doing this, I started to pile my wares onto the same counter that Samantha had originally placed hers. Stopping mid-scan, he stood, huffed and made a gesture with his eyes that I had not learned the lesson he was attempting to teach!  I can read Tolstoy I thought!  "You stupid woman", did not come from his lips, but they were hovering.  Still refusing to continue with the scan, until I moved the objects closer to his hand, indicating with his eyes only that I should push them forward, I told him that I was paying separately, and thought that I would keep the items separate, until he had finished scanning my daughter's produce.  He sighed, and continued to scan.  Eventually, it was my turn, and he waited whilst I pushed my groceries to an acceptable place, and he started the process again.  The yukka root was a mystery to him.  He stopped, looked at his chart, looked at me (and I was now thinking, 'Huh, not so stupid after all!') and back at his chart.  His whole demeanor changed as he said, very nicely, "What is this?"  Tolstoy rules!  "It is a Yukka root!" I replied, with grace, poise, and a little bit of elevated snobbery!  I had finally come out on top!

Anna and her lover returned to Russia on Saturday afternoon, after I had taken a swim.  I am sure they returned many years before I swam across the pool for twenty minutes, but it was the first time I had witnessed the event.  Their further exploits will be revealed to me in the coming weeks, but they will probably be of little interest to anyone else.  However, reading Tolstoy by the pool does cause a little bit of a stir, as everyone comments on the fact that I am reading something rather heavy!  It keeps the illusion alive!  I do not think I have any reason to display my inability to act like an intelligent person in the coming week, (or merely an adult!) as I do not have any challenging hurdles to jump.  However, time will tell, and as the Russian autumn starts to cover Anna and her contemporaries, so our autumn takes on its own colour and diversities.  Perhaps I shall be less classic, and more of a thriller, in .........another story

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