Chaos Attraction

Damned With Faint Praise

2013-08-22, 8:42 p.m.

Yesterday was my first writer's group meeting back after having to drop out years ago due to lack of rides. But I was worried about the damn tire. My plan, seeing as it's a half hour drive to the location and I had an hour and a half after work until then, was to take the bus home, change clothes (I did not want to fill up a tire in a sheath dress), drive to the nearest gas station and fill up the tires, and then drive over there, hopefully arriving early.


I went home, changed, and checked the tires with L's tire gauge, which is of the $2 variety and she has told me several times that I should get one that actually works well. The left hand side tires were fine, but the right hand side tires came out at 15 dpi rather than 30. I wasn't surprised that the problematic tire was doing that, but I hadn't expected the back rear one to be doing it as well. I went over to the nearest gas station.... and found the following:

(a) One car sitting there empty with the hood up, blocking the view. Its occupant was sitting on the sidewalk with a book.
(b) Car #2 waiting behind it.

UH-OH. At this point I left Melinda a message along the lines of "Um...I don't know if I'm coming or late or not...shit...."

Now, car #2 figured out that if he parked in the nearest parking space, he could stretch the cord far enough to fill up his tires. After he left, I eventually followed his example. The back tire filled up to 30, no problem, very quickly. The problematic tire...well, let's just say I wrestled the shit out of that cord and I still don't think I actually managed to fill it at all. But it was nearly 6 p.m., and I wanted to go to the meeting, and I did not want to have to call and cancel due to hinky tire. Besides, I have insurance roadside assistance for this shit, right? I've driven to Sac and back before on a deflating tire (same tire) and survived. Why not give it a go?

Oh, one more thing I wanted to mention: Mom requires me (on pain of death, drama, and "I will seriously call the cops on you"--so far she hasn't called police, but she has called my apartment management to go look for me) to call her every Wednesday night. I knew that if I didn't call her by around 9, she'd get bitchy, and I wasn't sure when I'd get back from my meeting anyway, but it'd probably be around then or later and I didn't want to deal with her calling me while driving. I am trying desperately to discourage that shit.. So my clever (hah) plan to thwart the inevitable nag call was to call her house at 5 p.m. and leave a message. I did NOT call her cell because she'd immediately see that I called and call me back without bothering to check the message. I didn't text her because "sometimes I don't hear that I got a text." So if I called her house, I figured this would (a) give me some lead time, and (b) she checks the messages on that.

First I ended up leaving out of a different end of town than I had planned, then I got on the wrong bit of freeway that doesn't circle around back to the end of freeway I was planning on taking...which looked like it would make me even later to get there. But apparently the nice thing about leaving after 6 is that you miss the traffic. So I was heading down the causeway and got a call from Melinda, which I barely managed to answer and put on speakerphone (can't find where I put the damn bluetooth gadget) to briefly say that I was on my way and would probably be late--she said no big deal on the lateness. And then Mom called, and I did NOT answer it.. I have been paying for the cheap and terrible message transcriber service on my cell, and when I eventually looked at what it said...well, let's just say she immediately called me without bothering to check the message, which said, "I AM IN A MEETING TONIGHT. IT MAY RUN LATE. I WILL CALL YOU WHEN I AM DONE. DO NOT CALL ME TONIGHT." GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. Then later she started in on the texting. Come ON.

Anyway, despite the tire and the late leaving, and being trapped behind a bus, I only got there about five minutes late. HUZZAH!!!!!!!! I reunited with all my old pals at group, who were happy to have me back and with a license again. So that was really nice. I don't recall how long ago I had to drop out--I am guessing maybe about three years ago, but I don't really want to check--but one guy guessed 2005 and I was all, geez, I don't think it was THAT far ago....

Since I've been gone, the writing group has instituted a new policy: new members have to spend 3 meetings writing to assigned prompts. One prompt is first and mandatory for your first submission, and then you get to pick from several others one for the other slots. I actually dislike writing to prompts--it's boring, feels like homework, they always have a short word count like 2 pages or something like that, and I never really like anything I've ever written for a prompt to bother with it ever again. They don't inspire me. The lone writing group I was in in Davis was about writing to prompts, and it got pretty dull for me. But this group now wants to require that before you're allowed "full membership," so fine, I'll comply. The first one was on narrative flow and writing 500 words on "walking outside and seeing everything you need to know about the world" or something like that. I interpreted that to mean that it was some kind of description piece. Description is not my strong suit in life--I find them pretty boring and skim them a lot--but I decided to describe walking through the giant amounts of construction that has been going on in my neighborhood of late. Y'know, as some kind of metaphor for "usually life is pretty quiet, except for the jackhammers and sudden potholes." I felt okay about it. I didn't really feel strongly one way or the other as to its quality.

This turned out to be a good thing, because man, everyone hated it. Everyone! The critique started out with Wally saying, "Well, I'm just impressed that you completed it at all." Wow, that is some of the best "damned with faint praise" and "if you can't say something nice" phraseology that I have ever heard in my life! (It's perhaps right up there with my coworker telling me, "I like you, I don't care what anyone else says." Which is also pretty hilarious to me.) I had to restrain myself from busting up laughing at it, which seemed kind of rude to do under the circumstances. Anyway, I apparently just didn't do the exercise at all the way that they wanted it done, they thought it was choppy, describing construction is boring "because we all know what it looks like" (first time I've ever heard that before--I am usually the only person on the planet who doesn't eat up description with a spoon), and it was especially boring because I had no point of view about the construction work--or at least, very little of the snark that they are used to. Oookay then! I don't particularly mind, since this isn't exactly a beloved piece of mine that I care about or anything, and obviously this wasn't working to any strong suit of mine. But it is kind of funny that it came out Worst Piece Ever, especially compared to my fiction, which in all honesty I just don't think is terribly good. I kind of wonder if I should bother to re-work on it or not, under the circumstances.

After the meeting was over, I showed my car to Melinda and Wally. Wally checked the tire for me and was all, "You'd better fill it up before you go home. There's a gas station down the street, I'll help you fill it up." Which was extremely nice of him. Like the homeless guy before him, he thought it was a valve issue and said that if I went to a SpeeDee, they could fix a valve at no charge. This perked me right up. I drove home successfully....thank goodness.

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