As a scientific term, nothing rivals vermischt to describe much of this human’s state. The body is off, the life is off, and Jane and I are off to something new. All of which has thrown me so thoroughly off kilter as to create a permanent state of anxiety, the latter being of very mixed and uncertain origin. Uncertainty being the name of the current game.
And speaking of names, consider Vienna. I have asked this question before. How could the designers of the Santa Clara Valley tram system have hit upon such a name for the stop near that most mundane of light industrial neighborhoods, where Lawrence Expressway and Tasman Street cross. Several miles to the east Caltrain deposits passengers at a point along the same expressway — named Lawrence Station. So why Vienna? I am of two minds here, and they are vying for my attention, these minds. For the advantage in station names that spring from the abstract rather than the concrete of the neighborhood…is that there is no neighborhood. Notting Hill Gate will always be Notting Hill Gate. But the faceless commerce of Silicon Valley, single-story, sometimes two-story buildings, short on windows and long on sameness…. Nothing in it is guaranteed to remain very long. Consider that my Jewish congregation occupies the former home of a commercial space satellite company. That one of the pioneers of audio electronics has sold its home to Stanford Hospital. That sprawling office parks everywhere are becoming condominiums. So don’t count on Lawrence/Tasman to be a light industrial neighborhood forever. Might as well call it Vienna.
I’m not sure what to call it, the mission that brings me here. I am seeing a man about a van. The last time I saw him for this very same purpose Bill Clinton was in his first term. The whole country was in another stage of things. Institutions, public ones, existed here in this very Bay Area to support the adaptation of automobiles for disabled use. In the mid-1990s the California Department of Rehabilitation, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center – the region’s hospital for spinal cord injury – all worked together to get disabled drivers safely on the road.
It’s all gone and over with because ‘we don’t have any money’ – so now there’s just Marc. And here we are in Sunnyvale staring at my new Chrysler van. I have never seen this car, or anything like it, except on the web. Only someone who has remarkably little interest in cars, and even less faith, would buy a pixel version of an automobile. The thing is red in the way that fire engines are. I am already feeling this is a big mistake, but I check myself. Driving is a big mistake, I have been saying. And where has this gotten me? Stranded in suburbia. Carless for seven months. Missing all sorts of events. I shake my head as though to dispel all this, and proceed with the morning’s task. A behind-the-wheel fitting of special disabled gear.
A consultant I hired has been through all this before. Now Marc is deciding where to place some of the controls. The typical Chrysler dashboard is not designed for additional buttons and lights, but too bad. They are getting affixed and wired and tested, anyway.
Problem is, working the brake and accelerator, steering, all these things are still not quite worked out. Marc recommends a steering wheel extension. Didn’t one of his employees discuss this with me months ago? Or was it the consultant? Isn’t this rather basic, this matter of controls and their placement? The system is broken, that is the simple fact. And we are doing the best we can, all of us. The consultant will return to pass judgment. Yes, in another decade, a small fleet of physiotherapists, an occupational therapist, a California state vehicle inspector…all these people got into the act. Before I got into the driver’s seat. A better way from what may have been a better time. But it doesn’t matter, for this is the only time I have.
And decades later, I am still nervous about driving.