Tim Pratt's Journal
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2005-12-27 8:09 AM
A Christmas Story
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So it was the day after Christmas, and Heather and I slept in -- way in, because we were up until about 3 a.m. the night before playing with our new toys -- and after a little mid-afternoon puttering about we decided we should go do something fun with our holiday. What better course of action, we decided, than to see a movie? We looked online, and we debated, and decided we wanted to see the new Harry Potter on the big screen -- because, if it was bad, at least we'd get the big-screen spectacle, which would make it more enjoyable than seeing it on DVD.
The only place the movie was showing at a convenient time was the giant ubermall, Bay Street, in Emeryville. Big nice movie theater, though, so we decided to brave the post-Xmas-day crowds. Heather drove, that angel, and began the slow circling dance in the parking garage, which was totally full, the automotive equivalent of an overbooked airplane flight. We must've spent 20 minutes creeping along in a line of cars, waiting for a spot to open up. Around about minute 15, the dashboard lights started flickering, and the battery light came on. (That bit of information is known, in the biz, as foreshadowing.) The car didn't die though, and after a bit the flickering stopped, so when we saw a spot, we decided to grab it. We knew it would probably be smarter to go home, but it would've taken us another 20 minutes to get out of the garage, and we were afraid of the car dying in the middle of traffic flow in a veryveryvery full parking garage. Besides, we reasoned, if the car won't start when we're done, we can always call Triple A. (That bit of reasoning is known as ironic foreshadowing.)
So we went and had a nice dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. They have this new appetizer, California Club Egg Rolls or something like that, basically egg roll wrappers filled with turkey, avocado, bacon, etc., with a sort of ranch dip on the side; pretty much a club sandwich in tube form. Gimmicky, I know, but they're delicious. So we ate those, and Heather ambled to the Body Shop, and I went to Barnes and Noble and found that they already had copies of my book turned face-out, and all was well. We reconvened and went up to see the movie.
Good stuff! The best Harry Potter flick yet, I think. I never read any of the books after the first one, so the movies still have the capacity to surprise me in terms of plot (except for the bits that are telegraphed, and the bits that are the same every time -- the new professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts is never what he seems, etc.), and this movie actually had a good structure, I thought. Not perfect, but very entertaining.
Post-movie -- this was around 9:00 or so -- we went to the car, crossed our fingers, tried the key, and, bah, nothing. Wouldn't start. A dead battery, we figured, though of course we feared it might be something worse, because there's a certain principle in life that says no Xmas bonus can be spent on pleasant gifts, but must be spent instead on necessary things like car repairs. We called Triple A, which has always stood us in good stead, and were told a truck would be dispatched and would arrive within half an hour. No problem. We kicked back, reading the books we'd brought with us (we are wise, and take books everywhere). 30 minutes passed. Then nearly an hour. Hmm. We might have asked some passerby for a jump, but we thought the truck's arrival was imminent. Heather called back, and was told the truck was en route, and would arrive in five minutes. Another 30 minutes passed. It got colder, there in the parking garage. Exhaust filled the air. Etc. Heather called again, was told it would be 15 more minutes, and she overheard the operator -- speaking to someone else, away from the phone -- say "that guy is such a liar." We were not filled with hope by this comment. We were also concerned because we'd discovered from mall security that tow trucks couldn't actually get into the garage, since the clearance is only eight feet. If it was something worse than a dead battery, we were in trouble.
We waited. And waited. Finally Heather got a call telling us we had to meet the truck at the garage's entry. This was after, oh, two hours of waiting. Heather legged it as fast as she could... and returned a bit later, furious, because the tow truck driver had driven away. He'd waited maybe 2 minutes, not enough time for her to make it down there. We called Triple A... and were told we'd have to put in a new service call, and begin the wait anew.
By then it was after 11 p.m.
Heather went to talk to security, to find out if they could give us a jump, or if it was all right to leave the car in the garage overnight and for us to take a cab home, because by then we were just tired, and would rather have dealt with it on the morrow. Instead, security told her there was some tow truck hanging out by a different entrance to the garage.
Heather went down and found him. It was not our driver, but some other driver, called by some other poor souls with car trouble. She begged him to come help us, told him it was a dead battery, told him she would pay him cash, etc. Three times she asked him, and three times he denied her. He was waiting for someone else, he said; he was already on another call, he said; he couldn't possibly desert those people, presumably on their way down to meet him at that very moment, in order to help us. But finally she batted her eyelashes, she unleashed her misery, she told him our sad tale, and he took pity on us, and came up with his battery charger in hand.
Up went the hood, on went the alligator clips, I turned the key, and turned the key, and turned the key, and after a few minutes the engine started running and kept running.
We were saved.
It was a Christmas miracle. A good Samaritan. All that good stuff. He wouldn't even let us pay him anything.
The car drove fine. We drove it home, and around the neighborhood a while, to build up a charge. We finally got inside the house around midnight.
This morning, as we went out to the car, a tow truck drove slowly past us in the street. At that moment, we knew our car would start, without any trouble -- that we would have no need for the fortuitous tow truck in our midst -- and lo, it was so.
And my darling wife and I, we laughed all through our commute.
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