“What the… ”
Just before opening my car door to drive to work, I noticed writing scrawled on my window. It was gibberish, but the paper notice stuck under my windshield wiper cleared away my confusion:
The police noted my expired tags, and gave me 48 hours to get them updated, or move my car from my condo complex’s parking lot. And they were nice enough to write on my window with some kind of gunky chalk. I called the number on the ticket to plead my case, explaining that I needed more than two days. They responded I’d have extra time… because of the Thanksgiving holiday. So maybe three days.
I sat in my driver’s seat, considering my options
Unfortunately, it wasn’t so simple as getting new tags. Cars in Colorado have to pass an emissions test first. Because of my busted catalytic converter, I would fail. Getting a new one would cost several hundred dollars. Which is why I had been spending many months driving around with expired plates, always watchful for police cruisers. Little did I know I had to worry about parking at home too!
As I drove to work, I reminded myself that this was perfect, and to stay calm about it. I’d figure something out. And when I pulled into the strip mall where I’d be sign-spinning that day, I saw a welcome sight:
Ken, my friend and co-worker, installing a new headlight on his car.
I greeted him and, after asking about the work he was doing on his car, gave him the bad news about mine.
He had a solution
“I know a mechanic who does jobs on the side really cheap. I can get you in touch with him. And in the meantime, there’s a grocery store open 24/7 a couple blocks from where you live. You could park your car there and nobody would notice! They’ll just think you’re an employee.”
Gotta love how the Universe works. I was grateful for the help, and wasn’t at all surprised. Since the first day Ken started – a few months after me – we enjoyed working together. And it wasn’t long before we realized we both studied and practiced Taoist meditation. He was a few years younger than me and, in many ways, the polar opposite. Ken was incredibly athletic, and turned sign-spinning into a literal art. He practically defied gravity with the way he combined sign spinning, flipping, and acrobatics.
He was also tough to pin down, and although he promised to get me the mechanic’s phone number, this lead to many missed connections.
But in the meantime, I began parking my car at the grocery store two blocks away. And these were no city blocks. In Aurora, a “block” means row after row of cookie-cutter housing and a strip mall or two. So my new morning and evening commute on foot was half a mile each way. In December. In Colorado.
Day after day, I’d put on my three pairs of pants, shirt and three jackets, grab my backpack… and trudge half a mile in below-freezing temperatures, wondering if that’d be the day I’d reach the parking lot and find my car gone
Then, always relieved to see my Nissan Altima faithfully waiting, I’d get in. (It didn’t help that my door-locks malfunctioned in such a way that necessitated keeping at least one door open so I could enter. Every time I approached my car, I’d pretend to unlock the doors with my key fob. Then I’d open the rear passenger door – the one that I kept unlocked all the time – and casually reach around to unlock my front door from the inside. I did this for a couple years.)
After a tense moment of cranking the engine and hoping it’d start… I’d drive to work, where I stood outside virtually all day, constantly moving. Then in the evening I’d drive back to the parking lot, and walk half a mile home in the dark.
(Sometimes I’d even do a special backwards-walking meditation… and freaked out at least one fellow pedestrian.)
This temporary solution, while trying to get the mechanic’s phone number from Ken, stretched into almost two months.
But, much like my years as a sign-spinner, it was oddly peaceful
I used my daily walks to meditate and calm my mind.
I wasn’t able to get the mechanic’s contact info out of Ken until the company’s Christmas party.
However, a much bigger breakthrough would occur that same night of celebration.
At the party, I approached the owner of the entire business, and planted the seed in his mind that I could do much more for the company than just wave around a sign…