(Hat tip and apologies to Douglas Adams for the title.)
Since the Jahnmobile has been on the fritz, getting around has been somewhat problematic. For a while, I was getting rides to and from work, but this is too much inconvenience for the people involved. Then I tried a new tack: ride the #4 CARTA bus downtown to the end of the line and walk the rest of the way. "Walking the rest of the way" involved crossing the Market Street Bridge and walking up Cherokee Blvd over Walden's Ridge (and thru the tunnel), where it becomes Dayton Blvd, and then down the hill to Signal Mountain Rd and on to Komatsu -- a distance of roughly 3½ miles.
If it were flat terrain, it wouldn't be so bad; but that hill's a killer. And as the weather warms up.....
Being of the not-entirely-stupid variety, I decided right out of the starting gate that hitching a ride would be a most excellent idea. (Which probably explains why that song from Vanity Fare kept running thru my head.)
Fortunately for me, there are some nice people here in the Scenic City. The earliest one I remember was a guy in a silver SUV who lives in Red Bank (a suburb). He stopped and asked me where I was headed. I told him my ultimate destination (way out of his way) and added "... or anywhere near the #4 line". He asked which I would prefer, but there was no way I'd ask him to take me all the way home (15 miles out of his way). But take me home he did, and I thanked him profusely.
For some reason, most people have caught me up at the top of the ridge, usually about 50 yards or so from the tunnel. I guess I look pretty bedraggled by that time and they feel sorry for me. But who I am to complain? Half a loaf is still way better than none.
One fine day, as I was nearing the tunnel, I turned around to look for oncoming traffic and held my thumb out for three cars that were coming. No luck. Just as I turned around to head thru the tunnel, I see a green truck come out of the tunnel and pull into the last side street and stop. I trundled over, and the driver asked me where I was headed. Komatsu was fine by him. Along the way, we chatted about my circumstances. When he dropped me off, I went thru the gate and picked up the keys from the guard shack and headed to the main building. Just then, I heard someone call me from behind.
I turned around, and it was him again. He had circled around and come back to the fence. I trundled on over and he said "How about I come back after work and take you home?".
I managed to stammer something about I'd be all right hitching a ride back to the bus stop, but he really wanted to do it. So, when I clocked out at the end of my shift, there he was waiting for me. Wow. I got home in time to inhale some dinner before crashing.
Now all that is set-up for what happened this week.
Usually, if I make it thru the tunnel without being picked up, I just cross over and walk the rest of the way down the hill against traffic. By that time, I figure there's not much point in it. But on Monday, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. Not 200 yards from the tunnel, a guy pulled over and gave me a ride the rest of the way, getting me to work almost 45 minutes early -- enough time to rest up a bit before starting work.
On Tuesday, I thought "What the heck? It worked Monday." So I did the same thing. Hardly a quarter mile from the tunnel, a familiar-looking car pulled over. It turned out to be the same guy from Monday. By the time I got to his car, we were both laughing. I said "Hey, you're the same guy from yesterday!" He said "Yeah, I though I recognized you."
So, another 45 minutes early, another good rest before work.
And now things get interesting. Paydays are the 5th and the 20th, but we almost always get paid early. Nice. So I was sort of anticipating getting paid Tuesday evening. Only one problem -- my boss got delayed and couldn't make it there until 7:30 (I leave at 6:45). I figured I could wait, but I'd be midnight getting home. OK, it threw a monkey wrench into my plans, but as Publilius Syrus said: it's a poor plan that allows for no modification.
So, my Wednesday plan went out the window. I had planned to ride CARTA around to Gunbarrel road, walk a quarter mile to the bank and cash my check, stop by Target and SprawlMart and check for sneakers, hit Dollar Tree* and grab some snacks, cross the road to the Mall and get a battery for my watch and pay my phone bill, walk down the hill to my storage and pay for May, then catch the 1:05 to work.
(*Any store with "Dollar" in the name is on my list of faves.)
Instead -- since I had to either pay for storage Wednesday or pay a late fee Thursday -- I headed out to the bus stop to go to my storage. While I was waiting for the bus, I figured it couldn't hurt to stick my thumb out. Within minutes, a guy in a pick-up stopped and took me to the gas station next to my storage. I went in, paid for May, then rooted around in my stuff for a couple of things I needed. After that, I stopped at the gas station for a morning paper, then headed across the street to the bus stop, where I removed and discarded the parts of the paper I never read. Just then, the 12:35 bus came along.
OK, so I'm now half an hour ahead of schedule (and $1.50 ahead of budget). I read the paper on the way downtown (is that Petula Clark I hear singing?) and ask the bus driver about this shuttle that runs around the downtown area (and crosses the Market Street Bridge at all the wrong time for me to bother riding it). Just as she tells me about it, one comes out of what appears to be the garage and I manage to make it off the bus and to the corner in time to hop on. Yay! More time saved -- not to mention a quarter-mile walk across the bridge.
With this much extra time on my hands, I decide to head east instead of west and just peek into the shops. Nice. I walk back and cross Market Street and head to work. With my thumb out. Hardly a quarter mile on, I see a car pull over in front of me. It looks familiar. It's the same guy from Monday and Tuesday! We have a good laugh as he gets me to work over an hour and a quarter early. I sign in at the guard shack and pick up my keys and realize I've got way too much time before I can clock in. Then it his me that there's another SprawlMart just up the road, and I can reach it by going out the back gate.
So I go to our cage, pick up the bicycle we keep there, and head over to the back gate. I leave my backpack in the janitor's closet of the building next to the gate, park the bike at the gate, and walk across the street. I had just enough money left from my last paycheck to get a pair of sneakers, plus some snacks from the Dollar Tree, and head back across the street. In the break room, I change my shoes and put my snacks in my backpack and by then it's 2:55. Just enough time to pedal back to the cage, clock in, and go to work. Life is good.
On Thursday, it gets even better. It starts with the same routine: #4 to the end of the line, walk across the bridge, and start up that bloody hill. In the heat. By the time I trudge thru the tunnel, I'm beat. But, I figure maybe that that guy from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday isn't too far behind. About a quarter mile past the tunnel, a black sedan almost runs me over and a red SUV pulls over behind him and stops. Yay! I get a ride! I trundle up to the vehicle and start to say "You headed anywhere near Koma...". The driver's laughing. It's one of the guys I work with, out to run an errand before work. "Yeah, I guess you are", I say. We had a good laugh, and he let me off with enough time to take a little break before work.
Then comes Friday. I hop CARTA around to Gunbarrel Road, cash my check at the bank, stop at SprawlMart for a couple things I needed, hit Dollar Tree for some more snacks, walk over to the mall and get a battery for my watch (and stop to pass the time of day with some of the people I know), go out to the Sprint building to pay my bill, and get back to the bus stop in time for the 12:35 bus.
Once downtown, I don't bother with the shuttle. I just walk across the bridge, enjoying the view, and hope someone picks me up before I get to the tunnel.
Not a quarter mile up the road, a familiar-looking green pick-up pulls over. "No way....", I think. Oh, yes. It's Miles; the same guy who not only took me to work, but came back and took me home. Once again, I get to work over an hour early -- plenty of time to rest up before work. After work -- by prior arrangement -- my friend Bob comes by and picks me up and takes me home.
By now, I'm seriously thinking of buying a few lottery tickets.
And how was your week?
(Sometime in the not-too-distant future, I need to take some pictures of this town and post them here.)