Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oil Change

Last week I went somewhere to get my oil changed. There are only 8 things I hate worse than getting my oil changed (8. Moving, 7. My foot disease, 6. Wet locker room floors, 5. Animals, 4. The Blackberry Pearl, 3. Swimming laps in a pool, 2. Laundry, 1. Grocery Shopping). This is partly because I have no idea what I'm doing when I walk into these places. Normally I have a little pep-talk with myself before I go in, sometimes driving around the block two or three times to make sure I get through it. It usually goes something like this: "O.k. son. It's just an oil change. These people can't ruin your life unless you let them. It's o.k. to say 'no' if they offer you something you don't want. Be firm. You are a strong person. That doesn't have to change just because a bunch of men covered in grease are yelling at you using words you don't understand in a small dirty room that smells like popcorn, cars, and coffee. Why on Earth do they offer popcorn in there anyway? Do people actually dig a handful of oily popcorn out of that machine that clearly hasn't been cleaned since 1975 and has black fingerprints all up and down the sides? By the way, you need to stop by the grocery store on the way home and get some milk. Might as well pick up a couple of bags of Peanut M&M's while you're there. Oh, and apples."

Once the pep-talk has taken place, I go inside and do my best to make them think I know all about cars but I'm just having them change my oil because I'm too busy to do it myself. Employee then looks at my car for 3.2 seconds and then approaches me with a long list of things that he swears up and down have got to be fixed that day or several small children in China will die. Usually, in an attempt to feel like someone who actually takes care of his car, I choose one of the things on the list to agree to while declining the rest against employee's judgmental head shakes and warnings. I then sit down in the waiting room again with stale popcorn and girl with giant bump-it Utah hair who is screaming into a cell phone about how cute someone else's hair and shoes are. Then employee walks back in and calls out that they are finished with the Sentra. I pause for 23 seconds and look around the room to see if anyone else is going to claim it because I never can remember what kind of car I drive when I'm put on the spot like that in front of so many people. When I finally check out, I always end up paying somewhere around twice the amount I had anticipated. Oil change place, one. Eli, zero. I get into my car and before doing anything else I quickly study the new sticker they've placed on the windshield, telling me the exact date they expect to see me again. I consider it the new dooms day. Another day to dread, now months away. And I speed away promising myself next time will be different.

But last week something special happened, throwing me into a whole new routine. I stopped by the place on my way home from work. I was dressed in what I thought was classy business casual, complemented with my favorite green socks. When employee came into the waiting room to get me, he looked me up and down and said in a voice reserved for breaking bad news, "Oh, it must be laundry day."

Eli: Huh?
Employee: Laundry day. Because of how you're dressed.
Eli: Yeah . . . What?
Employee: Well I just mean . . . obviously you're wearing that.
Eli: You mean my green socks?
Employee: Oh yeah, the socks too.
Eli: Too?
Employee: No offense. I think it's great man! I love it when people dress however they want, whenever they want.
Eli: Well I don't dress like this all the time. I'm just coming from work.
Employee: Oooooooohhhhhhh. Do you work at a call center or somewhere where they don't care about how you look.
Eli: . . . So how's that oil change coming?

For obvious reasons, I would like to officially award "Oil Change Employee" the "Tellin-it-like-it-is" award.

Getting my oil changed is darn near moving between wet locker room floors and animals on my list of things I hate. Darn near it.

~It Just Gets Stranger

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


To catch up a bit, the semester finally ended (much later than it was scheduled to go). The week after finals I was packed away in a tiny prison cell for five straight days frantically trying to bust out a nightmare of a paper we'll just call "Satan" before returning, for the 256,127th time (give or take 4) to the Contract paper beast I feel I have sacrificed any hope for a social life to complete since January. Sometime toward the end of that fiasco, I packed up everything I own (which currently consists of a paperback "Crime and Punishment," sheets, mismatched art and souvenirs from various third world countries, leftover prescription medications that have all gotten mixed up and are now a part of what I like to call "the surprise variety pack," that horrible lice-ridden shirt I bought in Mexico a year and a half ago, 10 toothbrushes, and enough pin-striped slacks to clothe several impovrished countries) and moved to Uncle Will's basement in Salt Lake to start my new job.

The move did not go without drama, unfortunately, as exactly 37 minutes after arriving at Uncle Will's house I abruptly ran my car into the side of his garage. Fortunately he wasn't home at the time which gave me a few minutes to gain composure, clean up the pile of debris (which by the way seemed to be more massive than the pre-crash car was itself) and quickly try to come up with a story that began "you won't believe what happened!" and ended "and that's why none of this was my fault." Fortunately and miraculously the big crash did absolutely no damage to Will's house, causing me to forfeit what may have been the most sensible plan: to immediately drive back to Provo and call Will to tell him I wasn't going to make it after all. Also, miraculously, Krishelle and I were able to use bright-red duct tape we found in Will's garage to bandage the vehicle back together so that it no longer looked like a recent participant of a monster-truck show. This was a huge relief as I was absolutely convinced immediately after it happened that the mysterious they would have to tow my car, along with half the neighborhood, to the nearest junkyard.

48 hours later I received my very first ever speeding ticket. Two weeks shy of my 10-year driving anniversary, they finally caught me (I like to look at my relationship with the police as a hostile fugitive situation). Pathetically, the ticket was for going five over down a street on which I thought I was actually going too slow.

Naturally I was more than ready to ditch the country for Mexico with Krishelle and Will last Wednesday. I was warned that the town we were going to, San Felipe, had not had fresh edible food since an accidental delivery in 1967 but I thought all would be well as I've got pretty low standards anyway (but not as low as my last roommate who I saw one Sunday afternoon eat a cold hotdog covered in cheese from a can, mustard, mayo, sour cream, and wrapped with two different kinds of lunch meat, causing me to give up food for 40 days even though Lent was months away). Wrong. Immediately after arriving in San Felipe, several hours south of the border and away from anywhere with people, we plopped down in a restaurant that every major world humanitarian organization would put all efforts into shutting down if the roads to San Felipe were reasonably driveable by something other than army tanks, and ordered what seemed to be the safest option on the menu. Something, which I am now convinced had literally been eaten at least two times before, was molded into the shape of a burrito and delivered to us on a cracked and stained plate. We spent much of that afternoon laying on our backs, moaning and wondering whether we would ever be able to eat again. Sometime around 4:00 Will informed us that it wasn't a surprise that we all felt sick as that was the exact restaurant that gave him Shigella six years ago, which the doctor told him he had gotten from consuming someone's feces (that only explained part of the flavor. Oddly, everything we ate in San Felipe tasted like seafood, and not the good kind of seafood but the kind that that kid in the first grade used to refer to in his daily joke at lunch when he would say, "Do you want 'see food'?" And then he would open his mouth and point at the chicken-fried steak soaked in expired chocolate milk he had just gnawed through. His name was probably Brad). Krishelle and I both gave Will blank stares for the next 12 minutes, wondering why on Earth anyone would ever return to a restaurant that gave them Shigella. Then I remembered how many times I've gone back to Beto's and it suddenly didn't seem so crazy.

We then spent the next several days laying on a gorgeous hot beach, making our best efforts to do absolutely nothing (including returning to the restaurant that we had now nick-named "Shigella's").

And now here we are. Work has been great and the break from school has been nice. Here's hoping for an exciting and strange summer-

~It Just Gets Stranger