Friday, December 28, 2018

COLUMN: Late


Dear Boss,

I'm sorry I was 25 minutes late for work. Trust me, there's a simple explanation.

I am nothing if not NOT an investigative journalist. And I have carefully utilized my non-journalism degree and lack of investigative skills to uncover a very real conspiracy that runs so deep I might not even be able to convert it into an award-winning screenplay. I hope you people can handle the shock of what I'm about to reveal to you.

Why was I late for work? Because there exists a massive anti-Shane conspiracy involving (I'm pretty sure) the Hyundai Motor Company, Circle K Convenience Stores, The Iowa Interstate Railroad, Apple Computers, The Illinois Department of Transportation, and the passionate libido of a man known only as "Bill." 

As you may know, our office recently relocated to our new home near the East Moline riverfront. I reside in Rock Island. Allowing for my daily stop for caffeinated provisions, it takes precisely 22 minutes to get from my garage to the office parking lot.

Or so I thought. As I backed out of my garage, I noted that I'd left my driver side window cracked. This was noted when it started raining on my face. I generally prefer to make my daily commute free of facial precipitation, but when I hit the "up" button, my window instead made a noise like "gronk" and proceeded to roll DOWN.

My power windows occasionally go a little wonky when it's humid out, and the only way to fix it is to pull over, open the car door, and force the window back into position. Easily accomplished, but I was now sopping wet AND a minute behind schedule. No problem, I can make it up at the gas station.

Or so I thought. Every day when I stop for gas, I'm greeted by the same friendly clerk who has my morning coffee already rung up by the time I get to the counter. THIS day, though, I walked in to see a new clerk I'd never encountered before, who was on the phone with the regular clerk who was running late, and there was much dialogue and explanation to be had. Don't get me wrong, I love that place and everyone who works there, but I was now running FOUR minutes late. A challenge, but one I could handle.

Or so I thought. My car basically drives itself to work. Take the one way around Augie, left on 7th Ave., left on 44th St., annd... TRAIN. Grr. I come from Galesburg, land of trains. I know there's no avoiding trains. They simply make you late and you just have to deal. So as I sat there growing ever more tardy, I simply took solace in the passing graffiti alerting me that "Bill Loves Sweet Pea." Aww.

Five minutes later, I was rolling again, now on pace to be nine minutes late. That's bad, but not awful, and I was in the home stretch.

Or so I thought. Let's get one thing clear: no one asked ME if I wanted a new bridge across the Mississippi. Sure, the old I-74 bridge is a crumbling narrow deathtrap, but what's a trip to Iowa without fearing for your life at least once? I'm a fan of progress, but when progress closes River Drive without warning for God-knows-how-long, I'm less than enthusiastic.

So, too, were the other 30 cars impeded by the sudden detour. So now I was stuck deep in traffic and the only way out was to cut back to the one-way, which meant running into the SAME train AGAIN. In case you were wondering, Bill continues to love Sweet Pea. As I sat there now 14 minutes late, I realized I'd better call the office -- which I would have, had I not left my phone sitting on my couch back at home. I suppose one could argue that I'm more to blame here than Apple, but I wasn't the one who made the iPhone sleek and black and easy to blend into my couch. J'accuse, Steve Jobs!

With the train passed, I just needed to get up to the one-way and haul butt to work. Except the train had caused gridlock in all directions and it took SIX light changes to move three blocks. By the time I got to East Moline, it was too late. I turned to the office in JUST enough time to see the crossing gates go down.

And THAT, friends, is how I got stopped THREE times in one commute by the SAME TRAIN. As I sat there, looking at my office just past the boxcars, I wondered what Bill and Sweet Pea were doing just then. I'd like to think that Sweet Pea dumped Bill later that night because he showed up late after getting stopped by the very train he had just graffitoed. You suck, Bill.

And then, as the last car passed, I saw it. Just there, in the corner, was one simple piece of graffiti: "BILL RULES." I hope my co-workers didn't hear me cursing Bill from a block away, but it's a distinct possibility.

So THAT, boss, is why I was late. It's clearly a Bill-helmed masterplan. I guess I'll be setting the alarm a little earlier. I bet Bill gets to sleep in. Hey Sweet Pea, if you want to date a REAL man, give me a call. Just don't expect me to be on time.

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