Monday, March 02, 2009

A Blustery British Night in Susanville

This evening William asked me if I'd drive him uptown to the gym so he could work out. It was dark and cold so I did. Besides, I've been meaning to add myself to the account so I could use their weight equipment and, on rainy days such as today, I could use the walking machines.

We went inside and spent a few minutes at the check in trying to make sense of the different account information on a flyer but the young kid behind the counter couldn't access our information. Since I had no idea what sort of account we had, what to change.... I gave up and decided I'd let Hubby deal with it. Maybe I could just use the walking machines that night, I asked. Sure, for seven dollars.

Well, no, I didn't want to spend seven dollars when we were just gonna turn around and add me to the account in a day or two. I'd just go home then. But, then again, because of not feeling well and because of the rain, I'd let TWO DAYS go by without walking. I was feeling pretty frustrated about it. Outside I realized it wasn't raining anymore. Well. There were plenty of sidewalks uptown, all lit up and wide for walking. For free.

I walked down to Main Street and headed down hill. I walked for about five blocks. It was cold but I was bundled up pretty good (Girl Scout motto - always be prepared! Okay, maybe that was the BS motto but I'm stealing it). I decided to walk down to the light at bottom of the hill, just past the high school. I got within a half block of my goal when.... it started raining again.

Clearly I should have planned for this eventuality. If I had been smart I would have simply walked around the block closest to my car. Or walked up and down the couple of blocks up hill that had plenty of shop awnings to use for cover. But I was lured by the rain drop free air, outwitted by Mother Nature who was simply taking a short break to rest before she started wringing out those clouds again. I had been in optimistic denial of the possibility of more rain because if I had let even the corner of that thought into my head, I would have talked myself out of walking at all.

I went across the street and began the long walk up hill in the rain. At the gas station on the corner I went in and got a plastic bag for the book I was holding. I had my book with me because when I'd first started walking, if I'd decided it was too cold, option number two was to take it to the pub down the block from the gym and read until William was ready to go home. I hate going out twice, once to drop off and once to pick up again.

But I hadn't been cold. So I'd walked. And now I was getting wet. Except, because of my bag, my book. Fortunately I had on a wool hat and scarve that shed the rain pretty well. My jacket and purse are both made of rain resistant windslicker fabric. I love my jacket. It's traveled all over the world with me - not to hot, not to cold, fends off all but the most torrential downpours, has plenty of zippered pockets both inside and out, a rain hood zipped into the collar, the black fabric doesn't show dirt or even get dirty. The zipper broke last week and I'm just tragically sad about it. Fortunately it also has buttons outside the zipper so I had those snapped to keep it shut.

It might be raining but I was still warm and feeling brave and virtuous about my adventure. I found a couple of brand new pencils on the ground. Put those in the bag with my book. I stopped in the rain to read the posters alongside the movie theatre. I made it up to the awninged blocks. I kept walking all the way to the top of the hill where Main Street becomes the highway and heads up a streep grade into the mountains, which start right there at the tree line, just a finger tip away.

When I ran out of sidewalk I stepped into the street and the wind nearly picked me up and helped me across. Brave and virtuous changed in seconds to cold and silly. It was time to head to the pub.

Inside it was dry and warm. No one out on a blustery night 'cept me. The waitress brought me a pot of tea (which they don't have quite right for an English pub, but at least it was hot and they brought me milk instead of cream to go with it when I asked). I unwrapped my wet gear, put my feet up on an extra seat and read A Girl Named Zippy. Wonderful, wonderful writer. The waitress retreated behind the big wooden bar at the far end of the room. Three separate basketball games flashed quietly on flat screen televisions high above her. If this was truly England, there would probably be one television at most. And it would be soccer, not basketball. Or possibly some news bit about sheep.

Eventually two older couples came in, ordered meals, and proceeded to have a quiet but jovial meeting.

Three young people, not teens, but barely adults, hip, tattooed, and heavily pierced came in wearing tight sweatshirts and even tighter jeans. They sat at a booth. The waitress brought them two long white tapered candles in crystal candle holders, set them on their table, and lit them. It was so out of context, so unexpected, so charming. The candle flames were bright and flickered heavily when the wind squeezed through the cracks in the outside doors. The rain kept coming down.

Several chapters later, after two complete fill ups of hot water in my tea and almost all the milk in the small pitcher was gone, William called. Outside the rain had changed from steady to intense. It was raining sideways, and it had that thick, splatty feel it gets when it's considering turning into snow.

I sprinted across the street and around the corner to where I'd left the car. Behind the building pulled up short, surprised to see the car pulled out into the middle of the empty parking lot, engine running quietly, the headlights cutting long rain polka dotted funnels of light out of the darkness.

I've been asking William to have a go at it for months to no avail. I met resistance at every turn. Every time I've offered he's refused, insisted he'd walk home if I kept pestering him. Instead, he waited. He chose the darkest, stormiest night of all to finally agree to learn to drive the stick shift in my car.

Slowly, but suprisingly with no grinding of gears (one stall though), we made it home safe, sound, and dry. Mostly on the right side of the road. Meaning, the right side of the road for an American car, on this most English-y sort of night.


Blogger JulieZS said...

Such an important skill to have, even if you don't normally drive a stick, there is always going to be an emergency or strange situation where you'll need it. Glad you've taught him! We don't have a good manual car to learn on, our Landcruiser isn't running, but we need to make sure they learn it. Just like learning handwriting even though you'll be mostly keyboarding the rest of your life...

11:33 AM  

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