Old Vinyl

Exhaustion. What is it, why is it, and how can it be eradicated? That is the question.

There are a few other questions, of course, but they are all subsidiaries of the one described above. With sufficient energy, one can do anything.

Except sleep. At least on some nights. Which leads to exhaustion. And also leads to one flying out the door, actually, rolling, just to get away from the morning’s most egregious fatigue-related embarrassment. Which all started with a car, more precisely a van, my 1995 Ford. May it rest in peace. From this distance in time, I gaze upon the massive thing with something like fondness. It was always there for me, one might say. Two might say that it frequently wasn’t working…and that the entire mechanical concept was never working, except for spry, joint-flexible quadriplegics under 30, of which I am not a prime example.

Next time you hear someone knock government, big or small, have them check out the Department of Motor Vehicles. Actually, this agency works rather well. Compare it with, say, Blue Shield, and you’ll see what I mean. The DMV won’t put you on hold while someone denies your claim. There’s a good chance they won’t answer the phone at all. Note that these comparisons are eminently unfair, Blue Shield being at the right end of an enormous conveyor belt of healthcare money. DMV is one of those big-government beasts that Grover Norquist wants to strangle in a bathtub. Still, you won’t strangle dealing with the DMV. In fact, you may fare rather well.

Back to the Ford. Back to the wall is how you feel when the ownership papers go missing. The “pink slip,” as it is known in California, simply did not last 16 years in my files. At some point, it climbed to the top of the cardboard dividers, looked across the darkened sea of folders, and gave up. It probably shredded itself, so lonely was its cabinet life. Naturally, when it was time for me to give up the old van and spring for a new one, the pink slip was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, the DMV has an established route around this bureaucratic impasse. It’s even signposted. There is an official form for loss of ownership documents, or some such. Finding this really exists on the DMV website makes you want to kiss the screen.

Thing is, even remedial and straightforward procedures like the DMV’s can prove daunting for me. Hard to say what it is. Partly I’m not interested and don’t pay attention. Partly, it’s simply too organized and logical. I am neither, despite appearances. So once I had donated the old Ford van to our local public radio station, the good news had to be shared…with my insurance company, for example. Not to mention the DMV itself, which had just sent me an annual registration renewal form.

Problem is, in officialdom, you have to speak officialese. Of all the world’s languages, this is the most difficult. What do you call that form? The Receipt for Fuck Ups Who Lose Their Ownership Papers? Probably not. So what is there to do but send the radio station car donation lady, Mrs. Frank, if you really want to know…a request for something that sounds reasonably official. Like “Final Transfer of Title.” So far so good, right? Now Mrs. Frank may not work for the DMV, but she might as well. After all, she spends her days informing person X that their old Camaro has just been auctioned for XX, and now behind its wheel is person XXX. All day, every day.

So when she got my email requesting final transfer of title, it’s understandable that she may have blanched ever so slightly at the text: vinyl transfer of title. What is this, she emailed back. Vinyl? Well, fuck people if they don’t have any imaginations. I have this voice recognition system, don’t I? It’s not my fault that the stupid thing can’t discern final from vinyl. And this was precisely my stance on that very morning that Mrs. Frank’s email rolled across my screen. Vinyl transfer of title? Mrs. Frank, I really don’t have any time for this. Furthermore, her email rolled across my mobile screen, a.k.a., my smart phone. I was trying to deal with this outside in the middle of a very windy California day. And here’s this silly woman with her vinyl and her final, and damned if I was going to put up with it. Downright short, I was, with her. More than miffed. I mean, I’d had it.

This is what exhaustion can do. It can help one acquire a sort of reputation. For being ever so slightly screwy, for example. And the fact is that if you are in a wheelchair and are seen to be endlessly rolling about suburban streets to no apparent purpose…you are already there. Eccentric, at the least. Demented, at the worst. And the most terrible part is that there is no explaining. To suggest that your “vinyl” was a typo only makes you sound more demented. You might get away with pleading drunk or brain-damaged. But, no, this is no random error. As for this so-called “voice recognition” excuse, if you’re hearing voices, maybe you need to go back on your meds. And if you’re hearing voices and recognize the wrong one, and if you’re in a wheelchair and 66 years of age, you are so totally fucked…you might as well get a good night’s sleep.

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