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Pain in the arse

November 3, 2020

Well, yesterday was a fucking pain in the arse day.

I hate going to town at the best of times. (Actually, I’m not sure there is a best of times. Usually if I leave the island it’s to go through town to get somewhere else – like Vancouver or Victoria or London.) I hadn’t left the island since September last year and now I have to do it twice in one month.

Yesterday it was to renew my driver’s licence, which had to be done before my birthday on Saturday. (Speaking of which, why is the new Ian Rankin still unpurchased on my wish list? C’mon, folks, there’s still time with Prime.)  There are two places in town where you can do this. One, the one I know and have used before, is in the town centre. Bit of a hike, but walkable from the ferry. The other is way the hell out in one of the many strip malls. Due to Covid you’re now supposed to make an appointment. By the time I got around to it, there were no appointments free at the reasonably accessible site until well after my birthday, so I had to make an appointment at the almost out of town site. I had a feeling as I did this that it would turn out to be a disaster.

If I had to take the car, which I would, I’d have to get in the ferry queue early. The appointment was for 1:50pm. I left the house at 10am to get in the queue for the 11:20, but when I got to the end of the very long queue it was clear I would not be on the next ferry. So, the 12:35 then. Good thing I had some cereal bars in the car. Oh, but wait. Twenty minutes later the queue started moving. It seems the 10:05 was nearly half an hour late leaving, so I would be on the 11:20 after all – whenever the hell it left.

So much for part one of my plan – swinging past the accessible site to see if I could get in without an appointment, as a mate on the island did not all that long ago. By the time I got off the ferry, that site would be closed for lunch. Okay, maybe there would be time before my appointment to do the other thing I wanted to do as I was being forced to go to town. I wanted to go to a bathroom specialty shop to buy a new bathroom sink.

Let me tell you a story from back in the 1990s when I was working on toxics for an environmental group in Vancouver. There were multiple occasions when I had to go to the burbs for various reasons – often in the evening, after dark. Whenever I had to attend one of these meetings, which invariably involved driving, I would ask Mike how long it could possibly take to get there and then I’d add half an hour to allow for getting lost – which I always did. That’s what going to town is like. I can navigate my way around the town centre area. I know where the mall is that has the Hudson’s Bay department store and the mall that used to contain a Sears, before it went bust. Beyond that, it’s hopeless.

I do have an iPhone now (thank you, John) and it recently became attached to a mobile plan. Okay, I thought on Sunday. The iPhone has a GPS. I’ll just plug in the addresses for the bath shop and the licence office and that will take care of that. I was expecting it to be like a car GPS with a voice instructing me: “Turn left at the next set of traffic lights.” It didn’t, so of course I missed the turn to get to the bath store. By the time I’d driven up the highway to the next turn, pulled over and checked the GPS on the phone to see if there was another route I could take (there wasn’t), there wasn’t really enough time to double back, find and buy a sink and get to the licence place on time.

Okay, I thought. Someone had told me it was opposite Home Depot and I know where Home Depot is (opposite the mall with the Hudson’s Bay), so I drove there. Home Depot has things like bathroom sinks. Maybe I could find one there before my appointment. Hurrah! They had exactly the sink I wanted in the right size to fit on top of the cabinet in my bathroom. Oh, wait a minute, the sink I want comes with a not very nice cabinet. But I only want the sink. Check with a salesperson who tells me, no, they don’t sell this sink or anything remotely like it separately. Of course they don’t.

Time to try to find the licensing office which is supposed to be on this road somewhere. The address is definitely on this road. I should be able to see it, but I can’t and the iPhone’s GPS is no help whatsoever. I ask someone in the carpark if they know where the licensing office is. They tell me it’s further down the road by the Superstore. I drive down there. No sign. All the GPS tells me is that I am now further away from the office than I was before. Stop a woman walking along the street and ask her. Yes, she says, it’s on this road opposite Home Depot. I drive back slowly, looking, looking, looking. I cannot see the office anywhere. Pull back into the Home Depot mall carpark, my head swivelling around like a scene in The Exorcist. I approach someone else in the carpark. Yes, he says, pointing over his shoulder, it’s right there. I look. Oh, yes, there is a sign. I hurry over. The office seems extremely small for a testing and licensing facility, but that’s fine. It’s there. The door is locked. I knock. A woman comes. I tell her I have an appointment to renew my licence. She tells me they don’t do that, only insurance. The place I want is just across the street. I beg her to come outside and show me. By now it is nearly 2pm and I am late for my appointment. She steps outside and points. Do I see the HSBC sign? Yes. Do I see the CWS sign? Yes I do. Do I see the smaller sign below it to the right? At first I don’t and then I do. I thank her profusely and set off on foot.

Here’s the thing: the actual address of the place might be on this particular road, but it and the other building in this strip are set so far back they might as well be on an adjacent side street. No wonder I couldn’t spot the place driving past. Bastards. Just like those suburbs designed to confound me back in the 1990s, these fucking strip malls seem to exist solely to drive me around the bend (around several bends yesterday). Although I am now 10 minutes late, my appointment, thank god, is not cancelled. Give up after the woman’s third try to take a photo of me that isn’t absolutely hideous. Leave and head back to Superstore to see if I can find some of the bread flour I like that isn’t available on the island. Nope. Try another supermarket. Nope. The friends who normally pick some up for me when they’re shopping in town haven’t seen any for months. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

Okay, back to the bathroom store. By now I’ve somehow managed to screw up the GPS on the iPhone which is insisting my current location is somewhere I’m not. Try to figure out the directions from the map. Take the correct first turn, the wrong second turn. The traffic system will not allow me to correct my mistake. Give up. As much as I’ve always hated the bathroom sink Mike chose when I was back in London, today is clearly not the day I am going to replace it.

Head back to the ferry terminal. If I’m really lucky and the queue isn’t too long, I might just make the 3:45 ferry. It is just emptying as I pull in, buy my ticket. At least something has gone right. I am a bit surprised that the ferry, which was running so late earlier, has caught up to its schedule. It pulls out at 3:35. What? Ten minutes early? Why? Oh, I see. This isn’t the 3:45, it’s the 2:10. Never mind. At least I will actually get home before dark.

Did I mention I fucking hate going to town?

From → Blog

  1. Gabriel permalink

    Maybe if you did it more, you would enjoy it more

  2. Donna permalink

    Ugh. What a day!

  3. John Galpin permalink

    What a day! Just out of interest, when you say GPS on the iPhone, are you using Google Maps? That’s normally really good, in Europe anyway…

    • Yes, Google maps. Probably works really well if there’s someone else in the car with you to provide directions. (In that case, so would a regular map.) On your own, not so much.

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