Thursday, November 30, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different

This week, the world turned funny on me, which it does every once in a while, mostly when I am finishing up a piece of writing and not exercising complete control over the universe. After I finished a set of revisions and turned in the article, I discovered, in this order, that:

- A parking ticket that I paid several weeks ago never made it to the parking ticket center, so now I owe them $100 rather than $50. And the problem is -- there's no way to prove I ever sent it. On the other hand, since the check is still floating around out there, if they ever get it, they will cash it, which will mean that the ticket will cost me $150 total.
- I sent Mastercard a check for $400, and they have credited me $4000.00, meaning that I now have a credit with Capital One of 3,857.87. What's in your wallet?
- I discovered that my neighborhood zone parking passes had expired. How? I got a ticket for parking in front of my house. But the ticket was not for parking without a pass, it was for overstaying a two-hour limit. But there is no two hour limit on my street.
- I had to run off to a meeting at the Program, so N went down to renew the parking passes, lest we get more tickets. She discovered that she could not complete this task because of the overdue unpaid parking ticket. She went and stood in line to pay the $100, and found out that they do not take cash or a check, so she put it on my Visa card (they also don't take American Express. Priceless.) Then she went back to get the parking passes to discover that they do not take cash or Visa, but only a check. Even though this is the same department. Then she asked what was up with the parking ticket we got today, and the policeman behind the desk listened to the story and said, "I'll take care of that," and threw it in the trash. My view is that it is in a computer somewhere, and this will come back to haunt me.
- I got a notice that my subscription to the New York Times had been unpaid for several months and they were about to cancel it because their computer tossed my Visa card out of the system. I asked how this could happen, and they said it happens all the time.

Now, here is the strangest thing of all. N went to the dry cleaner, the one we use because she favors it (I like the one next to the highway entrance ramp), and it turns out the young fellow who has worked there the entire time we have been going there has been doing all kinds of weird stuff, primarily not giving people all their clothes back, only some of them. N came home with a variety of clothes that we didn't know we were missing, but which were still in the computer and going round and round on the rack for months: there were three wool dress jackets that I thought I had given to the Goodwill by mistake, but which are very nice and I am pleased to have back. Of course I never missed them, as I have been on sabbatical for eighteen months, and mostly I wear athletic clothes or jeans. Or pajamas.

But you might ask, How could such a thing happen? The truth is, I never remember from one visit to the next what I have left at the cleaners and I just take whatever they give me. I think everyone else must too. New Kid on the Hallway asked today what the definition of bourgeois is? This is the definition of bourgeois -- you have so many clothes you lose track and take whatever the dry cleaner gives you, and buy new ones if you run out.

But there is even more to the story. As it turns out, the clerk disappeared on the same day that a woman came in, completely hysterical, saying that she had brought in a jacket with a $10,000.00 brooch on it. He was gone, the jacket was gone, the brooch was gone. So then the manager had to come work the desk, because the other clerk who had been called in to replace him also became completely hysterical because she was being accused of Grand Theft. The manager discovered all the hoarded clothes, and now every person who comes in has to wait while she searches the computer for all the old clothes they never took home and had forgotten they owned.

And you wonder -- has that quiet, unassuming clerk just gone on to another dry cleaning store, in another state, to perpetrate his dastardly deeds under another name entirely?


The Combat Philosopher said...

You gotta love them computers! Thanks for the comment and let us hope that the C(r)apital One mistake goes unnoticed.

The CP

anthony grafton said...

Historians of science have to watch out for John Dee, the great Elizabethan magus. Scholars who have ventured to study his life and work have wound up suffering career changes (into the foreign service), breakdowns, gall bladder attacks and bad reviews. Just saying: there are many ways for a scholar's universe to tilt out of control.

Tony Grafton