"America is a good place to be if you're a dissident."
[an only slightly less confused blink]
"I saw your bumper sticker."
"Ohhh! . . . I hope it is."
This explanation clarified a great deal, since my bumper sticker states: "You measure democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists." Abbie Hoffman. However, I do wish people wouldn't start bizarre conversations with me without clarifying what inspired their comments.
He then wanted to talk about my car, and how he had a Nissan once too and they're such good reliable little cars (this is true: for a 13-year-old car, mine is exceedingly well-behaved, and if I were to buy a new one I'd certainly give preference to Nissans), and about how the Sacramento Kings played such a great game last night (did they? whatever, I don't follow basketball), and everything else under the sun. He was one of those people who feels that sitting in a waiting room with a complete stranger without speaking to them is terribly, terribly awkward. I, on the other hand, am one of those people who feels that sitting in a waiting room with a complete stranger without silently ignoring one another is terribly, terribly awkward. So we both proceeded to make each other extremely uncomfortable, him asking one question after another and me making one-word replies to each of them.
I had asked the oil change people to check for anything wrong with my brakes, since my brake warning light has lately become convinced that it's really a combination temperature gauge and compass which should turn on whenever I'm heading north if the weather is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but should remain off at all other times. Since the weather was well over 55 degrees this afternoon, the oil change people of course reported that nothing appears to be wrong in the least and that my brake fluid levels are just fine. This probably means I should take it to a real mechanic. But whenever I try to tell a real mechanic that my car only ever has any problems in the morning, they always proceed to park my car in their lot and not even glance at it until 4:00 p.m. three days later, at which point they immediately declare that it looks just fine and then charge me $200 for the trouble of glancing at it at the wrong time of day anyway.
On my way back home, there was a traffic jam and nobody was polite enough to let me into the right lane in time for my turnoff, so I suddenly found myself in an area that had to be within a 10-minute driving distance of my apartment but which nonetheless I'd never actually seen before in my life. There were huge brown vacant fields, and then there were rows and rows of tiny airplanes hardly any longer than my cararmy airplanes and UPS airplanes and other airplanes of all kinds, huge long rows of tiny airplanes parked in the brown fields. I know there's an air force base on the other side of the freeway from where I live, but I was on the same side of the freeway that I live on, and apparently there's a whole other miniature airplane-landing field there too, whose existence I'd somehow remained completely unaware of despite living practically next door to it for three years. I must be a terrible explorer. Anyway, I proceeded to get extremely lost in the twisting turning one-way roads between the airplanes. I drove around in circles confusedly for twenty minutes before finally spotting some passing cars and taking a wild guess that if I followed the passing cars, they might lead me back to the regular universe where the land is full of buildings instead of rows and rows of airplanes parked in brown fieldswhich they did indeed do, but they led me out at an extremely different end of the airplane fields than the end that I'd entered through, so I was in an area of the city that I once again didn't recognize. Luckily, the fact that the roads were lined on both sides with ugly menacing eight-foot-tall brick walls painted tan informed me that I couldn't be far from home, since this kind of hideous roadside decor is in fashion near where I live and I can't imagine that a fashion that ugly could have spread very far away. I drove until I saw a street name I recognized, then took note of the position of the sun and the direction the my apartment is in with respect to that street, and found my way home again. But I somehow managed to turn what should have been a ten-minute commute home into a 45-minute one.
And when I got home, I was immediately notified that maintenance is to be done on my apartment on Monday, which means I should probably make some effort to ensure that it doesn't look too pigstyish that day. I also still have to buy my car new tires in the immediate future. I wish life didn't require such an endless supply of routine maintenance tasks.
Scrub jays have awakened me at 6:00 a.m. several nights in a row lately by shrieking at the top of their very powerful lungs exactly once per second in nonstop rhythm for hours on end, approximately four feet from my formerly sleeping head. Earplugs are of some help, but I'd seriously like to add scrub jays to the extinct species list.