After years of living in the city I am finally a Zipcar member and rented my first vehicle this past Friday. It was super easy to reserve the car online, I picked it up 10 blocks from my apartment, and was out of the lot within minutes. An hour later, I was still sitting in traffic in Manhattan. Another hour after that and I was stopping for Starbucks at a rest stop on the NJ Turnpike. I got out of the car and walked over to my windshield to swipe my zipcard. A lady who was parked next to me stopped me to ask, "Excuse me, I don't mean to be nosy, but what were you just doing?" "Oh," I answered, "I was just locking the car. It's a Zipcar." I have to admit I felt extremely cool, like, look at me, I live in the city and we have to rent cars and they don't lock the way your suburban cars lock.
This was the highlight of my day on Friday. It only went downhill from there.
I was driving to Jersey to do a favor for my mom. She wanted to get organized and wanted me to move her boxes from her friend's storage shed into my storage space that I still keep in Jersey. I could think of plenty of other things I wanted to be doing on a 94 degree day but it's a small favor to ask of me, considering she was willing to cut a hole in her abdomen for me. I am skeptical though, that she would do this again. I got to the shed and began lifting, moving, and sorting through boxes to see whose was whose. My clothes were soaked through with sweat as I spread out the boxes in the backyard, sorting through years of worthless shit. As I was standing in the shed, debating which box to tackle next, I heard a buzzing in my ear and swatted at away what I assumed to be a pesky fly. I swatted in the direction of another buzz when I noticed that these were no flies. A huge swarm of (killer) wasps were circling the shed (I come to find out, also it's home).
While I was visiting my brother in North Carolina we were quite lazy and watched a lot of television. One of the programs we watched was an hour long show on the Discovery Channel about killer bees. Killer bees are what happens when bumble bees get mixed up with some bad bees from Africa. They are extremely hostile and will follow you for as far as 2 miles with the intent of a mass murder suicide. I didn't know what the wasps' MO was but I didn't want to find out if they had the same misguided goals as killer bees. I ran out of there with my head ducked low, my arms flailing, in hopes of scaring off the wasps, as if to say, "I'm bigger than you, I shouldn't be this scared." Isn't this what you're supposed to do when you encounter a bear?
I stood, 30 feet away from the shed, staring at the cloud of wasps, trying to figure out a plan of attack. What would make them stop crowding my area of interest like women at a sample sale? Is there some sort of spray I could buy from Home Depot? This, I thought, could backfire if they didn't drop dead immediately. Wasps, I imagine, can be quite vengeful. Could I lure them away with a large jar of honey? Again, I was not dealing with a snuggly, yellow bear that wears ill-fitting t-shirts.
I paced around the shed, mentally mapping out its floorplan. Yup, only way in is the one doorway, the gates of wasp sting hell. I wanted to cry. I was sweating to death and my Zipcar minutes were ticking away. "Why," I asked God, "must you make every step of my life such a fucking challenge?" I imagined my mom calling to ask if I finished moving her stuff and me answering matter of factly, "No, there were bees." My mom views my intense allergy to bug bites and stings as me not being tough enough. I knew she would not be understanding. I had to get in that damn shed. My new game plan was this; I would crouch low in the grass and inch my way in, like a cat sneaking up on a bird, with less of the advantage. "I come in peace," I whispered, "I am one of you." This did not work. I would just have to channel the track star of my teen years, or the nights of running from cops at a broken up house party, which would be fitting to channel a little bit of both since I was running towards something and then quickly away. I would run into the shed, grab a box, and sprint 30 feet away from the shed, all the while screaming obscenities, "SHIT, MUTHERFUCKER, COCKBALLS!" I may not have a long sharp point coming out of my ass but surely my words could sting. Right? This was like a bad gym class drill except I was trying to impress no one. This process of moving took well over an hour because I had to wait 10 minutes between each sprint for the wasps to calm down and get over my insults.
Finally, after 2 hours of cursing the wasps (and silently my mom), the car was packed to the point where I could only see out the front window. "Sayonara, death trap shed!" I drove 5 miles to my Public Storage space, relieved that my soft Asian skin was not covered in painful red welts, only to find out that I had brought the wrong keys for my storage lock.
"Dear God, I am no longer speaking to you."
I looked at my watch and considered my options. There was no way I could drive 2 hours back to NY to get the keys, 2 hours back to NJ to unload, and then 2 hours back to NY in time to return the car by the 7 PM deadline. There, also, was no way I was going back to that shed. I went to the front desk and begged the girl to find a way to get me into my storage. "I would give you this drenched shirt off my back." Anything, for the love of the God that does not love you back.
She cut the lock and asked for nothing in return, except for the $12.99, the price of a new lock. God bless her soul.
This past Sunday I had to return to NJ for yet another favor for my mom. I'm starting to think she's now getting back at me for making her cut a hole in her abdomen and leaving a scar that looks like a smile above her bikini line. It went a little smoother this time. I was able to join my best friend, Romy, for a delicious sushi dinner and cocktails later in the evening. The following morning, I woke up at 6 AM to assist Romy on a photo shoot for Tori Spelling's children's clothing line (Little Mavens) on the beach. Aside from listening to toddlers cry all day and heavy lifting in the hot sun, there could be harder work days. We were done by noon, got lunch, and spent the rest of the day sitting with our chairs in the water, on the beach.
At 5:20, she drove me to the train station. At 5:30, when the train was supposed to arrive, I was told there were 30-60 minute delays. At 5:50, I was told all trains from the station I was at to the station I needed to get to were suspended, temporarily. "Sorry for the inconvenience," the computer generated voice on the telecom told me. Insincerely, I might add. At 6:30, my train arrived. At 9:00, 4.5 hours later, I arrived at my doorstep in Queens.
On the train home, I cursed everyone and everything I could think of; NJ Transit, train conductors, crying toddlers, drunk passengers, hot sun, my mom, wasps, and God. But as I sat on the train, ignored because everyone thought I had Tourette's, I thought to myself, once again, I needed to take responsibility for my life and stop blaming everyone else. It is not my mom's fault that she birthed me and thinks she can ask favors of me. It is not the toddlers' fault that their cries do not sound like Sarah Mclachlan to your ears. Or maybe it does. Lastly, it is not God's fault. I mean, have you read The Shack?
God does not hate you. New Jersey does.