Chinese Checkers

Here’s how you know life is telling you to get over yourself.

First, start with the conviction that you have something really worthwhile to contribute to the California High-Speed Rail Authority. After all, you have turned up at a local meeting of the HSR. Not that there aren’t local meetings all over the place. And not that all sorts of worthwhile contributions don’t flood in daily to the beleaguered HSR staff.

Anyway, you are at your computer writing this noble memo. First, you discuss the merits of a CNBC video on high speed rail around the world. Next, you talk about Gordon Brown and his stunningly successful meetings with companies like Lloyd’s and Barclays to convince them to pony up for construction of CrossRail, Europe‘s biggest infrastructure project…and the way things are going, perhaps the last. Never mind. It’s all terribly important, and you have these ideas. And damned if you’re not going to send them off.

Of course, you’ve got several other ideas. One of which involves growing tomatoes in San Francisco. This is not a small infrastructure project on its own. In fact, it involves a significant investment in home agricultural equipment. This has been ordered and, if you have bothered to read your emails, is destined for imminent delivery. 

Of course, you have several other projects underway. Not the least of which is the tutoring of a 10-year-old at a nearby grade school, your goal to raise his reading level from its currently abysmal state. That’s why you’ve made a special trip to the library, had a 20 minute consultation with the children’s librarian and, just as a back up, acquired a Chinese checkers set. The kid you are tutoring likes games. You hope he’ll like reading.

So you’ve got your high-speed rail memo under control, more or less. And you’re just about to send off the email when the doorbell rings. The timing is unfortunate, because whoever is out the door probably has a package. And you have an appointment, vis-à-vis tutoring. You have been watching the progress of the #35 bus on your phone app. And it’s all a little much. Nothing to do but grab the Chinese checkers set, also two library books and shove everything in a shopping bag.

Of course, you have to let the dog out to pee. Then lock the door, the back door that is. Then head for the front door, which has a handy automatic opener, revealing two packages. One is at least six long and blocking the doorway. Not that it can’t be grabbed and moved, presumably. Wrong. It’s way too heavy. And it slants diagonally across the door aperture, as though positioned there deliberately. No sense in getting a siege mentality. I yell at two passing kids. They run away. A passing adult stops, surveys the situation, and offers to help. While also noting that she is possessed of a weak back, and, my, but aren’t these boxes heavy.

Once they are inside, I shove the cartons out of the way with my wheelchair, open the door and note the passage of the 35 bus. Which I have missed. Back inside, I try to make use of time. Wow, a woman at the High-Speed Rail office has responded. In fact, she has responded at length. She has listed all the things they’re doing. Whereas I have listed all the things I think they should be doing. I stare at this communiqué slightly dumbfounded, appreciating its detail, and wondering if either of us has accomplished anything at all.

Nevermind. I catch the next 35 bus, get off at the school, roll inside for the last day of the term. Things are slightly chaotic. The kid I’m tutoring turns up with a friend. This is fine, but my tutee is shy about reading. He is what might be called disadvantaged, lives in public housing and attends a school with techie executives’ kids who are gathering around our picnic table at the edge of the playground talking about what happens when school is out. One is going to New York. Another tells me that ideas happen when you’re bored. I tell them this is all wonderful. I try to focus on the kid I’m there to focus on. He doesn’t want to read. Never mind, for I have brought a Chinese checkers set.

I pull the latter out of the shopping bag and find a bit of a surprise. After all, this bag is the one usually devoted to groceries. One of which still remains. Or the remains of it remain. The former avocado has been mashed by a Chinese checkers set, guacamole now covering it and, you guessed it, two library books.

We are now in recovery mode. Two 10-year-olds help a 72-year-old quadriplegic rinse the avocado off the checkers. They help me wipe off the books. We try a little reading, which my kid doesn’t want to do. The checkers don’t interest him either. It is what it is, and whatever it is, it is over. After about an hour, I head back to the 35 bus.

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