Monday, February 06, 2006

The Incongruity Of Life

Have you noticed how sometimes everything seems to happen at the same time? Like life has accelerated all around you and suddenly you have been reduced to playing the role of a very small and helpless spectator. That’s how I have been feeling all day.

My mom has been sick for a while and this weekend she collapsed. So I finally decided to apply for leave of absence. I went to talk to my boss. Instead of empathazing he decided to give me an impromptu lecture on perceptions.

"You have to understand, in this business perception is reality. Without perception we are nowhere. Good perception can make you and bad perception can break you. It’s all about who’s in your value network and how they perceive you. You have to be in it to win it."

What is this? A bad parody of corporate Americanese? After 10 years I know all the lingo there is to know. I also know this is total BS people spew when they don’t want to give a clear answer or are just trying to strongarm you into doing something you don't want to do. Do I get the leave or not?

I don’t get a clear answer. I get, "I am supportive of your needs if you are supportive of mine." Whatever that means. As I leave his office I think of what Sartre said: L'enfer, c'est les autres. Hell is other people.

This Saturday a woman rearended me in the grocery store parking lot and then took off like a bat from hell. We were parked in facing spots, tail end in. We both get out of the store and into our cars at about the same time. But while I decide to pull out of my spot like a normal person she decides to back into me. I see her coming at me in the rear-view mirror, panic, go to step on the gas, notice a couple with a child about to walk in front of my car, decide becoming a triple murderess in the course of avoiding being rearended probably won’t fly well as defense in court and resign myself to being hit. She slams into me. I park my car and get out. The lady shoots off. Peels off like a freaking Nascar driver in training!! It was impressive.

After I get home and call mom I try tracking down the driver. I had managed to take down her license number and after some calls get a phone number for the car’s registered owner. I call the number and she answers. She says she’s sorry and that she’ll take care of any damages. She wants to keep insurance out of it because she has too many strikes already. I am just relieved she is going to pay so I say that’s fine.

That was Saturday. Then this afternoon I suddenly get an unnecessarily irate call from her. She says I have no proof that she was the one who rearended me. How did she know this wasn’t some ploy to get money from her and her allegedly rich husband. What was I up to and she won’t pay.

To think my trust in people’s humanity was on shaky grounds.

When I get home I open my mail. One is from the DMV helpfully notifying me that my license is being suspended for failure to comply with the conditions of a traffic infraction. I groan inwardly.

This so called traffic infraction happened 5 months ago now. I did commit this horrible crime aka going over the yellow line but there were mitigating circumstances in the form of a giant SUV the size of a small football field practically blocking my entire side of the street. Under the state law I can contest such tickets in mitigation court which, having cleverly remembered to snap some photos with my cool new camera phone while the unusually perky cop was writing up the ticket, I decide to do. So I file by mail. Then I get a suspension notice.

I call the clerk’s office and find my mitigation papers were never received. Armed with the USPS receipt I go down to the court but I am told there is nothing they can do. They are not responsible for postal mishaps. I guess I am. I return home to find on top of everything an FTA (Failure To Appear) notice.

So now I have to write a show cause letter to the judge and also request - ah, the irony - a mitigation hearing for the suspension notice.

Like a good little girl (a determined and slightly angry good little girl) I promptly dash off two letters. And then I resubmit the mitigation papers, in person this time, and also post bond for the amount of the traffic ticket plus any accrued fines. (Posting bond - just fyi in case anyone’s wondering - helps you avoid FTAs since essentially the traffic ticket is prepaid. If the court decides you are at fault they keep the money. Otherwise they send it back to you in a check.) A week after this the sun starts to smile on me. I get a notice from the DMV saying the license suspension has been removed and my driving privileges restored. Yay me! Then three weeks later I get a notice from the mitigation court saying my ticket has been knocked down to $55. Double yay me! Things are starting to look up.

And then I get a notice saying my mitigation hearing has been scheduled to get my driving privileges restored. Now I am confused. I already got a note saying my driving privileges have been restored. What happened? So I call the registrar’s office and I am told to write a letter. Again I write a letter. Then I notice there is a second number to go with the hearing details. So I call the number (at this point this is an exercise in masochism. I just want to see how far things will go.) and I am told to write a separate letter this time to the hearing attorney. So I write another letter.

But I guess I was late and he must not have received my letter in time because I am now holding a letter (is anyone keeping track of the number of letters here?) advising me that the hearing attorney has found me guilty for reasons of non-appearance and my driving privileges have been suspended for the second time for a ticket that I didn’t derserve in the first place and have since twice contested, partly won and already paid.

Ah, life. Mesmerizing, beautiful, angsty, inconsistent.

Hindus & Buddhists believe in reincarnation. They have the same concept of heaven and hell as most of the other religions but it’s tied to the theory of re-birth. So it’s not a straight heaven or hell kinda deal. The way it works is that you are born, you come to many forks in the road during your lifetime (choices) and depending on the choices you make and the outcome of those choices 1 of 3 things happen when you die. Either you ascend to a higher form and eventually go to heaven or you descend into a lower form and eventually go to hell or you are reborn into your next life. In this next life you are faced with tougher or easier choices depending on how you lived your last life. If you were good essentially you get a break. If you were bad you don’t. And you remain in this cycle of birth, death and re-birth until you break free of all worldly desires and are ready to pass into eternal peace, the state called Nirvana or Moksha.

So, by the above theory or belief it would stand to reason that I must have wielded some serious crippling power over my fellow human beings in my last life, wouldn’t it?

Years ago, when I was in school, my friends and I went to this fair. There was a fortune teller’s tent where a woman in eastern garments was reading people’s past lives. Naturally, being a gaggle of giggling girls of an impressionable age, we rush in to find what myriad pleasures and woes befell us in times unknown. She reads some cards and scribbles some symbols as each of us sit in front of her by turns nervously awaiting the big reveal. A friend is told she was a learned scholar in a past life, another that she was a gifted courtesan and a third, a princess. Then comes my turn. I wait with bated breath.

I was a peasant’s wife, widowed young to boot. My life full of hardships, suffering and sacrifices.

I remember feeling a little annoyed. Hey lady, how come my friend gets to be a princess and I am a peasant’s widow? Years later I think, but wait, that would mean in this life I get rewarded for all that hardship, suffering and sacrifice.

It doesn’t add up. Not like my life is all that bad. What, you mean penury, paedophilia, attempted assault and a depressive mother repeatedly trying to commit suicide in front of you and trying to set a match to your clothes doesn’t happen to everyone? Go figure.

Maybe I was cruel to the farm animals or something. Ran after the chickens with a stick. Scared them out of a year’s growth of feathers. That would explain it.

Somedays I think life is too hard.

Then I buy a $1.29 chocolate dipped vanilla ice cream cone at McDonald’s and think, life isn’t that bad.

(Yes, I regularly have incongruous responses to things. Like this afternoon. I thought about the Sartre quote when I left my boss’s office at 11 am. Then around 4:30 pm I checked Waiter Rant for new posts and came across the same line. The moment I saw it I felt upset. Like a kid in a playground who’s had her ball snatched away by a bigger kid. I thought, he used my quote! A minute later it struck me - it’s not my quote and that was funny. Besides, he makes better use of it.)

For the last half hour I have been driving around. The radio, the open road and me. I kept asking myself. What do I do? And then, like a tiny beacon of red hope, the little light at the end of my keychain goes on. It's a miracle!

Okay, so it was a bad battery connection. It was happening a lot a month ago. But I sort of fixed it and it hasn’t happened since so when the light twinkles on like that all of a sudden it still startles me. Besides, if you believe the eminently erudite Deepak Chopra, there are no coincidences in life. Someone out there is sending me a message through a bad battery connection.

The guy at the McDonald’s drive through calls me señorita rolling his rrrrs and wishes me a good evening as he hands me my ice cream. It makes me smile.

I have decided to contest the license suspension in court, call the nascar-woman back and try to talk to her and bypass my boss and go to HR for the leave. Maybe it'll all turn out okay. And if not, it's not the end of the world.

There was a china doll in my grandmother’s house. Cracked. It looked so fragile. People kept expecting it to shatter. It didn’t.


Blogger beefdrop said...

Oh my goodness. I see your determination and predict that if you keep trying, something is bound to happen, I don't know whether it'll be what you want though.
Aren't accidents a pain in the ass? Oh, with accidents, no one can be trusted, and I've learnt the hard way aswell. All I think about is that if I do get into an accident, I have to emmediately jump out and catch witnesses. Thats the golden rule of winning accident claims. You were so good by taking the pics with your phone camera too. I was so paranoid after this one accident, that I drove around with my videocamera in the car, just in case.

2/07/2006 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Neil said...

Sorry to hear about your mother. And your boss sounds like a moron.

2/07/2006 12:27 PM  
Blogger Andrea Beaudin said...

If it makes you feel any better, while most kids were learning "the Itsy Bitsy Spider," my mother was quoting to me that same Sartre line from No Exit.
I don't think that life is necessarily a punishment, but we are tested at times-- to do what is right and to be kind, even if we meet with some exlempars of What Not to Do. I don't know who or what is doing the testing, but I sure as heck hope we're graded on quite a forgiving curve.
Love the image of the china doll. (Maybe that's because I'm a little bit cracked!)
Keep strong.

2/08/2006 9:30 AM  

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