Saturday, October 27, 2007

Reflections on a Typical Saturday

I have been postponing our car's scheduled maintenance service for several weeks. It's supposed to be done at every 3,000 miles or 3 months, whichever is earlier, I think. I have two possible time slots: one is early morning on Friday before work, since on the other weekdays I have my assigned duty of ferrying CE to school, oops, USF. The other one is on weekends, anytime of the day when the service center is open.

Well, for the past several Fridays I wasn't able to resist the allure of the bed, finding it hard to get up until the very last moments when further lingering would seriously jeopardize my perfect record of punctuality at work, unexcused ones of course. On weekends, the mind is so relaxed by the prospect of not making the downtown commute that it just disregards the biological wake-up calls, unless there are some other compelling reasons to snap out of the slumber.

Today was that day, and wify's monthly Buddhist chanting session at Connie's house was the compelling reason. And the fact that it was brought forward one hour, from 10am to 9am, suited me just fine, as I could then deliver the car to the service center earlier before the weekend crowd of car owners would swamp the service center.

It was drizzling the whole way to the service center, about half an hour's drive away. So I drove gingerly, no sudden burst of speed, either accelerating or decelerating, not that I'm prone to that anyway, at least since I moved to the States.

I drove into the Express lane, instructed things that I would like to be looked at to the attendant, and entered the waiting room. That was about 9.15am, and there were still some empty seats to choose from out of about a dozen, lining two opposite walls. The other two sides are taken up by the service section where they give you an estimate of the cost and time for your effort, and the cashier tucked at a corner right across.

I had come prepared, loading four books into my backpack in anticipation of some quality reading time. One of them is The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver of the Lincoln Rhyme/Amelia Sachs fame.

Actually when I placed this book on hold at a local public library, I had thought it to be another LRhyme/ASachs saga. But it was not to be when my turn on the waiting list was reached.

It is vintage JDeaver alright, but the protagonists are now Kathryn Dance and Michael O'Neill, but no overt romantic link between them. I did sense perhaps a platonic connection between them by reading between the lines, or putting two and two together. While LRhyme is steeped in forensics, trusting the physical evidence more than the human ones, KDance is the kinesics expert, relying on human emotions and body language to deduce the criminal intent and nail the perps.

Examples from the book include “I think ...” as a denial flag expression; turning one's head away and rubbing one's nose as an aversion/negation cluster; and shifting one's weight and pressing one's fingers together as stress indicators. In this regard, perhaps none is more vivid than the exchange between the characters played by Samuel L. Jackson and Paul Giametti in The Negotiator, a detective thriller (If you have not watched it, do so; it's one of the few movies or perhaps the only one, that managed to have my undivided attention from the very first minute).

Even the bad guy (yes, we know who he is right from the start, what is missing and to be pieced together is the why and how) capitalizes on human foibles to get his way, which still remains opaque about half way through the book. The plot captivated my attention totally, to the exclusion of three other books that I had brought along to mix things up, so to speak, in case any one book could not sustain me through the long wait. That forward planning turned out to be superfluous, thanks to the creative prowess of JDeaver. Incidentally, these three other book are all non-fiction. So the outcome could have been different had I chosen to start with one of these three.

Of course it's difficult to keep above the din typical of a waiting room of any sort all the time. So one moment a lady was chatting with her friend using a mobile on how her car was totalled and she has just got a Lincoln Malibu. At another instant a mother was reading a story to her daughters, perhaps trying to keep the bubbling girls from distracting those in waiting, some of whom, like me, had taken to reading to pass the time. Then a voice would come over the PA system announcing that a car of so-and so was ready for collection.

During these times my concentration was tested no doubt but I was able to persist in my reading, save for the time when the service guy came up to me, holding a dust-covered air filter in one hand, and a scribbled note in another. I could feel that my wallet had suddenly become lighter. This was just an imaginary sensation of course since payment is by credit card.

You know which part of sending your car for service you dread most? That exact moment, when the service guy told you that more needed to be done to make your car road-worthy. So I started with a $50 estimate. Before I had even warmed my seat, the estimate had swollen to over $300, including a brand new set of front brakes for $189.

But there was some good news embedded in that exchange, that I have managed to wear down two of the tires such that my "tire for life" deal that I have paid for when I purchased the car more than 3 years ago could now be invoked. Lest you think I have been using the original set of tires up till today, I have to tell you that I already have 4 tire changes prior, but all due to blow-up for one reason or another: like hitting the road curb while adjusting the rear mirror; or running over a pile of concrete debris that had landed on the road, or rather into my direct path, when I was moving into it from behind a truck on an adjacent lane and thus could not see the obstruction nor institute any evasive action in time (the truck was still moving next to me, hello?); or like a nail, a long one, suddenly seen sticking out just right at the edge of the tire, thus ruling out any prospect of patching the damage.

After that disruption, I settled down again, following the thickening plot as it unfolded among the pages of the Sleeping Doll. Then a familiar name came up on pg. 165. Yes, you guessed right, ASachs. And then LRhyme, with whom KDance exchanged some investigating stories.

This kind of cross character scenes I have seen in TV series such as Law and Order, which has three different series with different character sets running at the same time (there is the just Law and Order, then there is the Special Victims Unit, and the Criminal Intent). But in novels, it is the first time. Though these cameo appearances only lasted three pages, thus far, it was enough to make my day. Such is my liking for the LRhyme/AS achs series.

After the two hour's stay at the service center, I joined my wife at Connie's house for a vegetarian lunch. I continued to partake of the wit matching duel between KDance/MO' Neill and the perps at the Brandon Public Library while wify continued with reciting the Earth Store Sutra for transferring merits to my late father-in-law at the same place. Both our “assignments” ended around 3pm and we headed home soon after that, each having accomplished the tasks that we had set out to do for the day, and then some.

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