what was that? is that all there is? who is this? this is it.

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swipe it again

August 30, 2019

At 11:14am the dispatcher chirps me,

“pickup a rush roundtrip from the ACLU going to 44 West Mercer. Wait for the signature then take it back right away. We need you in the core to cover Nooners!”

Who is this we?  We only have two riders and the other one called in sick, again. And 44 West Mercer my ass. Bad addresses are no problem and We’ll be there right away. Labor costs are down while caloric output is steadily increasing in this December weather. It’s coming up Burberry everywhere, but where is the accompanying warm fuzzy holiday feeling I read about in the paper? 

Oh yeah. It’ll be a quick little jaunt out of the core… 

“Copy ACLU and the story to go with it”, I chirp

There used to be a little patch of nature on the way to LQA, a wetlands preservation greenbelt. It was one of my favorite strips of asphalt in Seattle. Surrounded by trees with a short descent into a sweeping right turn and no traffic on the smoothest road ever. The city recently sold the land to developers after the river dried up and there wasn’t really any wetland to preserve anymore. Then budget shortfalls heavily outweighed the weak protests about the loss of greenspace in the city. The loss of a place to sit down and actually feel like you weren’t in Seattle. The loss of a place where you could pull off the road to take a piss and easily disappear into thick undergrowth and maybe say hi to a few happy raccoons and some crazy looking birds and chirp out. The loss of a place where a Vietnam vet I once met, could campout for months.   

“Base to Matt!”

“I’m still 4 blocks away” I say, “it‘s a bad address anyway”

“Swipe it once!”

What? Swipe what? I’m not exactly sure what that phrase means, but in this context, I catch his misinformed drift. No 10-9 needed. This job would be a lot cooler if I didn’t have to talk to anyone on the Nextel. If I wanted to talk on the phone, I’d work in an office. Now I'm starting to smell a little stress. The attorney I‘m looking for, if he even has an office on West Mercer Street, and if he's in his office and available, will most likely take his time signing these documents, especially since the ACLU appears to be hounding him. It’s all the same to me, but I don’t need any added stress direct connecting me. 44 West Mercer? Is that a typo or what? It’s not like it could be confused with “eighteen” over the phone. And it’s not as simple or recognizable as the old 1911 2nd Ave dyslexic slip. 

I’m almost there or where it would be but this road doesn’t go through. Maybe I can take the stairs and they’ll spit me out up on Mercer... 

I open my eyes and look at the clock, it’s 12:03 so I guess we don’t need to worry about those Noon rushes anymore... But I’m not sure where I am. These stairs could be in any building built within the last 30 years. There are no windows but the floors are clearly labeled on each landing.  I try the doors on each floor, until I find one that's unlocked on level M2. When I step out of the stairwell the temperature is 20 degrees warmer and the stuffy air reeks like Graham & Dunn. The walls are covered with O’Keefe impressions and bad bleached bone desert scene murals. Around the corner I find myself in that Azteca we talked about earlier. Only it’s no longer an Azteca. But it obviously used to be. They just taped over the name on the sign and wrote the new name --Guadeloupe’s--in sharpie. If this building wasn’t even here three weeks ago how could Azteca already go out of business?.. 

I’m just trying to find the out, the way, up to West Mercer. 

A woman in a hound’s-tooth coat with matching earmuffs is leaving the restaurant with a stack of Styrofoam clamshells to-go. She gets up in my personal space and tells me there’s an elevator that goes up to Mercer. But I didn’t even ask her a question. When I approach the front counter, the hostess and a two busboys are gathered around a large Anasazi ceramic bowl filled with individually wrapped peppermint candies. But these aren’t the good kind, they’re some cheap Chinese knock-offs that look stale. When I reach for a mint, the busboys laugh at me and mumble something and before I say anything, the hostess says she’ll show me the elevator.  She walks around the counter once in a clockwise direction then into the restaurant. I follow her but have trouble keeping up. The place is packed.  The aisles are full and the tables are too close together. The third aisle is less crowded so I make my way through and bang my messenger bag against the back of several people’s heads as they eat their lunches of chimichanga combo platters and nachos mega grande. Nobody says anything they just get very angry, Seattle style. Near the far wall I come upon a large bald woman with the heavy shadow of a recently shaved moustache. She’s wearing a fake tuxedo T-shirt and the bottom half of a Snuggy held up with an old innertube. I can hear Simple Minds blaring on the one earbud she has in, but it doesn't remind me of Breakfast Club. She’s sitting on the floor and she's in the process of breast feeding a kid in a Houston Oilers helmet with an Earl Campbell jersey that‘s too small for him. No matter how far I extend my leg to step over her and the kid, the cleat on my shoe keeps snagging on her shirt because of her enormous breasts. After a few attempts looking like karate kid,  I’m committed and finally ready to shift my weight forward with a little hop off my left foot, my right shoe pulls her shirt down. She says, “I see an alligator” but I keep walking, scared to look back because I assume she’s referring to one of her tattoos that is now exposed. When I eventually get out of Guadeloupe’s, the hostess is long gone and all I can see are non-descript cement walls and rows of planter boxes containing no plants and no soil but filled with exhausted inkjet cartridges. There are piles of expired fire extinguishers stacked neatly here and there. Walking and walking the vacant office plaza there is nobody in sight.  

Pondering various maladies that could cause me to feel like I’m walking in quicksand wearing cement shoes and a lead suit. Expending so much energy and accomplishing so little. It’s no longer stressful, just frustrating. 

I have no idea what time it is and I can’t remember where I locked my bike.




I'm pretty sure I dreamed this in 2009

I took the photo in 2019

Add Comment

pilder w asser said...


Posted September 1, 2019 10:37 AM | Reply to this comment

Alistair. said...

Nicely written Mark. I enjoyed this.

Posted September 1, 2019 10:55 AM | Reply to this comment

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