While it sounds as though I were sulking or behaving with unpardonable ingratitude, the petty adventures of today have reaffirmed that the practical realities of life and the sorry hackneyed nature of all that we do is inescapable no matter what may be the competing circumstances. This is so even when one must suffer the ordeal of being on the beach of an Atlantic Ocean barrier island on a sunny warm day with normally nothing more pressing to concern oneself than the ambient temperature and what’s for dinner. Nonetheless in spite of the flightiness I managed to entangle myself in a series of frustrating events.
The testy drama began when I visited Sea Pines Community Services Associates, Inc. As the name suggests the organization is dangerously close to being a public service conglomerate which quite frankly frequently spells anything but helpful and is often more characteristic of calculated impediment. I was sadly not defeated in this sour presumption. When I entered the well-appointed building I was dismissively directed by a large woman at the first desk to another “department” (decals) around the corner. There was no so-called “Southern Hospitality” about the introduction from this front-line interceptor. This woman was acutely aware of the limits of her involvement and exceedingly anxious to distance herself from activity whenever possible. Around the corner I was greeted (“confronted” would be closer to the truth) by a well-dressed and attractive middle-aged woman with pursed lips who I could tell was gleeful on a Monday morning to make a profession of appearing to find everything difficult and incomprehensible. She reminded me of a border guard newly enfranchised with a gun. When for example I answered in reply to her curt rhetoric “How can I help you?” that I wished to enquire about car decals for entry to Sea Pines as we were “staying here”, she pursued my intelligence with the grave stamina of Socrates presumably all designed to narrow the focus of enquiry. “Do you live here?” “No”, I said, “we’re renting”. “Do you have a rental contract?”, she asked. “Yes”, I replied, “but I will have to get the estate agent to email you a copy “. The clerk (Robyn Kaser) handed me her business card on which she was described amorphously as “Administrative Assistant” and on which appeared her email address. Clearly she too was having nothing nonessential to do with my needs and her “service” was speedily translated into “self-service” as is so often the case when dealing with these subordinates. It was only after I had gone to the trouble of telephoning the estate agent to ask that the contract be emailed to Ms. Kaser (whose name I noted was suspiciously close to being of Teutonic origin) that she volunteered to inform me that unless the contract was for a minimum of six months they would not issue a long-term decal; it would otherwise be necessary to apply for monthly permits, something she insinuated “should have been” told to me by the estate agent’s office. At this point I accepted that my alliance with the local Gestapo had fizzled and I turned on my heels with a peremptory “Thank-you!” which of course I infused with as much high-handedness as I could muster. Apart from the failure of my mission I was not however overly concerned about what was nothing more extraordinary than a bureaucratic detail and I assuaged my anger at the unpleasantness of the minions by resolving to leave it to our trusted estate agent to straighten it out on our behalf. Besides I have always been taught to avoid confrontation with a subaltern; and as there was no one my own size within sight, I let it go.
My journey into the muck of the vernacular was however just beginning. The next project was to get some cash so that I had something to give the Mexican employees at the car wash. I headed for the local branch of TD Bank located near my former hair salon. When I put my bank card into the ATM I was instructed to choose which of my Chequing or Savings account was to be used for the transaction. Pointedly there was no mention of our US$ Savings account. I thought it was better to cancel the transaction and consult with a teller inside the bank. The teller, though pleasant, was quick to inform me that cash could only be withdrawn through an ATM and that if my US$ Savings account was not “linked” to my bank card then the only other alternative was to “top up” my US MasterCard then withdraw the surplus funds as cash. This round-about process was of course only designed to avoid the excessive processing charges which normally arise upon conversion of funds from the Canadian chequing account to US dollars. Considering the relatively small amount of cash I required I capitulated to using the Canadian chequing account and returned to the ATM for that purpose. Still I abhor that the large chartered banks are unable to cooperate sufficiently to provide their customers with ready access to their own money, the strength of which they rapaciously expropriate to their own advantage without any entitlement other than control.
At this point I would have thought my procedural traumas were over but this was not to be. The seemingly uncomplicated affair of putting gas into the car became my subsequent challenge. I nosed the car into the car station which I had used in previous years to fill the tank. Immediately I noticed that the station pumps had been renovated and I knew in an instant that modernization spelled inconvenience. As I imagined when I inserted my credit card at the pumps I was asked to enter a “Zip Code” which of course I could not do, at least not one which had any hope of corresponding to the postal code associated with my MasterCard (even if it were a US$ MasterCard). I thought it was worth the effort to ask the cashier inside the convenience store whether there was any way to by-pass this necessity since I wished to avoid this extra step each time I filled my gas tank over the next five months. I knew from past experience that the only alternative in these circumstances is to provide the attendant with one’s credit card for “pre-authorization”, then pump the gas, then return to the cashier to get a receipt. I was delayed in my enquiry by having to stand in a line-up of several people waiting to purchase potato chips or soft drinks. When at last I succeeded to make it to the counter the clerk told me I would have to be pre-authorized in order to pump any gas to which I replied that I would accordingly find another station for my purposes as I had no intention of repeating this extended ceremony each time I required fuel. The cashier never blanched; more wasted hostility. My next stop was further along William Hilton Parkway at a station I had previously noticed because I liked its open lay-out. Once again insertion of my credit card provoked the requirement for a Zip Code; and once again my attendance upon the inside cashier produced the identical response to which I similarly responded (a flippancy which was also lost on the cashier). My third stop was at Burke’s Beach Road, a decidedly modest fuel outlet which by virtue of its inadequacies promised to be less controversial. I was correct. Without even attempting to use my credit card I first consulted the elderly cashier who assured me there was no such fuss required, just insert the card. To my discredit I persisted in inserting the card in the incorrect fashion and the cashier kindly came to my assistance and told me what to do. It was just the last frustration!
Or so I thought. Thinking that I had now overcome all obstacles I left the gas station and parked in the beach parking lot to check my email which had previously not been working (a problem I mistakenly attributed to the internet delays which so frequently characterize our internet experience in “Low Country”). Surprisingly I discovered an email notification from OnStar (the in-car WiFi service provider) that our data plan had expired. This necessitated a call to OnStar. I was obliged to deal with a clerk for whom English was not her first language, a hurdle which therefore confounded our communications. I did however persist in unraveling the current dilemma (which I had thought we had previously resolved by arranging automatic renewal of the plan, but apparently not). To the credit of the OnStar telephone marketer she got me reconnected instantly.
When all of these inconsistencies were subdued I noted that I had missed a telephone call from Senior Home Management to which I promptly responded only to be greeted with rancour because I had not called to explain my delay.
Somewhere among these exasperating adventures I went to Island Car Wash to have the car detailed including in particular a hand-polish and cleaning of the four mats. This service was truly well-delivered as always and it was with pleasure that I compensated the workers accordingly. The success of this project effectively trumped the anxiety of my earlier head-banging routines. It was the musical equivalent of returning to middle-C.
While my dilemmas had caused me to lose sense of time it was only shortly after 1:oo p.m. that I – somewhat bedraggled (and unfed except for blackberries and coffee at breakfast) – returned to the condo. We hastily launched ourselves into the afternoon sunshine on our bicycles and lolled along the beach from Sea Pines Beach Club to Coligny Beach Park though we headed into a strong wind which we accommodated as welcome exercise (plus the incentive of returning home as though on sails). Our penultimate excursion was to Harris Teeter to collect a few things we’d overlooked in our $800 grocery order yesterday. And then we rewarded ourselves with a decidedly satisfying evening meal and later relaxation (including an uplifting performance on my electronic keyboard, specifically a new rendition of “I Wanna Go to Marz”).