Friday, May 11, 2007


The shore of Lake Superior is magnificent in summer…endless miles of pebbly beach where one can walk for hours without seeing another person. But on a warm summer’s day with no wind, there is a reason why there are no people. To walk there then is to guarantee being enveloped in a literal cloud of tiny, swarming insects I assume are gnats. The locals call them “noseeums”. And their effect can be maddening.

Problems are like noseeums. One or two at a time and they can be shooed away with relative ease. We all have them, all the time

But today is a Lake Superior lakeshore day. Why, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

My friend Norman is being released from the hospital today and, to save the $400-plus expense of ambulance transportation, it was agreed that I could pick him up and take him from the hospital to the nursing facility where he’ll remain during the period covered by Medicare post-hospitalization recovery period.

But in order to let me transport him, he needs the oxygen tank from his apartment, which I arranged to pick up this morning before going to get him.

At 8:30 last night he called to say that they needed the oxygen tank immediately, in order to be able to check it out. I hate going out at night because I am never sure of being able to find a parking place when I return. But having little choice, I went down to my building’s parking lot to get into my car.

But my car was not there. I was positive I’d left it there, though on rare occasions I will leave it for up to a day on the street. But I was positive I’d parked in the lot, and even remembered where. It was not there. I walked up and down the entire lot three times, then walked up and down the street in front of my building another two times. No car.

I called the police to report it stolen. Not having driven it in over a week, I had no idea when it could have been taken. They asked for my license plate number, which of course I could not remember (I’m very good about forgetting things under pressure). I looked everywhere through all my papers for the plate number and finally found it. I was told the car had been towed.

Since I have a parking sticker, I could only imagine I had somehow parked it on the street. Surely they would not have taken a stickered car from a sticker-required lot.

So this morning, first thing, I began trying to find out exactly where my car was and how I could get it. I made no fewer than seven phone calls. The police gave me a number. I called it. They did not have the car. They gave me another number. I called it. They did not have the car. They gave me a number. I called it........well, you get the idea.

Finally…finally…I found it, in a city impound lot so far away from where I live I was surprised that it is still in the City of Chicago. To get there by public transportation will take well over an hour, I”m sure.

When I called Norm last night to tell him I’d be unable to pick him up today, he suggested I go and get his car, which has serious front-end-wobble problems.

So now, when I finish typing this gnat-filled note, I shall take the elevated over to Norm’s condo (half hour plus), get his car and his oxygen tank, go to the hospital (fifteen minutes), wait until they officially release him (half-hour to an hour, probably), take him to the nursing home (20 minutes), return his car to his condo (25 minutes), take the Red Line downtown to the Blue Line, get off at Western and take “a bus”–they didn’t specify which one–to the impound lot, where I shall hand them $275, eyes welling with tears of gratitude that they don't charge--as they well could(who could stop them?)--$1,400, and they, with luck, will hand me my car.

On pondering why they had towed my stickered car from the sticker-required parking lot, the only thing I can think of is that the stickers might have an expiration date…something, of course, no one ever bothered to tell me.

Oh, the fun we have.

They’re just gnats, and they’ll all be gone tomorrow. But for right now…

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