Monday, November 30, 2009

Urban Hiking

The Purple Slug wouldn't start.

That's really an understatement. Actually, it behaved as if I had the wrong key. I couldn't even turn the key. I tried turning the steering wheel and all the other permutations of buttons, wheels, gears, etc. No dice. It was the end of the line. The Purple Slug was in all out rebellion. Apparently 49 degrees, light rain, and a north wind constitute the end of the line.

So, I had to drive Whitey.

Whitey is a white, 1998, Mercury Mountaineer. With 178, 568 miles on him. He's seen some action to say the least. There's nothing wrong with Whitey except for the bouncy ride and the fact that my feet, no matter how I position the seat, never really touch the floor. But I can reach the pedals safely and usually rest my left foot on a low pocket in the driver side door. Still, it's a more active drive than the Slug where my feet touch and the seat feels like a recliner. Driving Whitey can feel like galloping on a horse sometimes. And it can kinda wear on you.

Hindsight being what it is and all that--20/20, you know--I should have worn my hiking boots.

I'm not kidding.

I dressed for a trip to the grocery store. Our local grocery's furthest spot is no more than 20 feet from the front door, so even if you have to park in the last spot, there's no way you'd have to be exposed to the elements very long. Switch gears to the modern college campus and you're looking at a half-mile hike minimum unless you're one of those football players with a little red handicapped tag.

Yes, yours truly is going back to school.

Apparently, some time back in 2000 (four years after I graduated) I was assigned a user ID and password at one of the local campuses when they introduced a new student records management system. Since I didn't know the ID and PSWD and since my last name had changed, I had to make a physical appearance in the admissions office to talk to the resident sys admin person.

As a sys admin person, you know this just irks me right down to my socks...having to make a 45 min drive to change a user ID and PSWD. I made it without rolling a single eyeball even once...even when she explained (painstakingly, I might add) how to use the web registration form. The reason was probably because her office was an oasis of warmth.

When I got to the University Center, I realized this was like the last week of classes before finals..which means everyone was actually there and probably even there studying. I had to circle with the other vultures for a parking spot in the last row of the last outlying lot. It wasn't even paved, just "surfaced" with a light gravel and a clay-like mud my grandfather always calls caliche. It was in the 40's, raining, and windy. I looked down at my non-windbreaking sweater and yoga pants and my Crocs and almost stayed in the car.

After waiting in the queue at the door and finally stating my case to the admissions folks twice, Lupe Gonsales' office looked and felt like home. To her credit, she got me fixed up quickly. I registered and went back out into the weather to hop in the queue. Again.

After reaching the admissions folks (again). I found out that in 2003, someone by the name of Anna Gustavo (who no longer works there and no one recalls) put a hold on my account pending an official transcript from another university. And...even though she no longer works there and that ruling has been one presently at the university supposedly has the power to reverse her hold.

(my aunt fanny)

So...I go home to request an official transcript. I hop on the Internet and cruise over to university #2's site. It proceeds to ask me for my "PeopleSoft" number.


So...I get on the phone. And my first question is "What in the heck is a PeopleSoft number?" I already's a number I don't have assigned to me when I wasn't there. And I was right.

So...I get in the car.

I got a little smarter. I exchanged my shoulder bag for a little backpack and grabbed a windbreaker and a scarf and some gloves. But didn't put on my boots. Big dummy. Or pack water. Bigger dummy.

I really thought parking at university #2 would be better because I could park in the visitor parking. Visitor parking used to be free. Emphasis on "used to be." When I arrived, I was totally disoriented because the university has sucked five more city blocks up into it's domain and what used to be parking is now a Welcome Center with parking on top (not for visitors) and two huge buildings are under construction with several others already open. After feeling old for a few seconds, then jealous about the fast food venues that are now open there (for only a few seconds), I realized the "visitor" parking was eight metered spots. I lucked out and got one. Paying for it was something else. Fortunately, I have a four-year-old. I just dug around in the cracks of his car seat and on the floor and found three quarters and I was set.

The walk was a little hike, not nearly like the morning's, but enough to make me seek out a fountain. They were giving away free plastic cups, so I helped myself to one and took a traveler to the front desk. The remainder of the hike constituted the entirety of the building. It was wild. I checked in at the front desk (SE corner of building) walked through a hallway to the NE corner and another to the NW corner where my name was on a screen next to the desk where they would wait on me. After about five minutes, they got my request processed (seriously, they could have done that over the phone) and it was a stair-climb up a couple flights then to the SW corner to pay the cashier (who mentioned that there was a hold on my account from a 2007 audit...apparently I forgot to pay a lab fee...ugh). Then down, around, and back out to my car (by way of the water fountain again).

I sat in the car and thought about the drive and wracked my brain for anything else I could do at 5pm in the downtown Houston area, but just couldn't come up with anything other than to get more gas (ugh). So...I voluntarily joined the masses heading north at a snail's pace...

...and made it home in time for my 4yo to tell me "I really miss you when you're not home, Mommy."

Man, I love that kid,

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