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July 23, 2008

Parable of the Screeching Battery

July 23. Day 23.

This has been an ugly day. Not awful. Not bad. Not depressing. Not frustrating. Not glum. Not humdrum. Just ugly.

Ugly: Waking up to a soft intermittent beeping sound that grew louder and sharper and longer and louder and sharper and louder and louder until it became the only thing I could hear or think about. It turned out to be the safety/hazard beep of an extra jump-starter battery hidden beneath the kitchen sink. I tapped a few buttons. Nothing. With the diabolical determination of a Guantanamo interrogator or a tired toddler, it kept screaming for help, attention, a soundproof trashcan, a lollipop, a severe beating with a hammer, submersion in acid, anything to make it stop -- so I finally dumped it into a trash bag and took off for the nearest certified hazardous waste facility.

Uglier: Driving around for almost an hour, from Radio Shack to AT&T to a defunct Pep Boys, all registered battery recycling centers, only to hear "We can't take that. We only take cell phone batteries." I insisted, but I knew it was a lost cause from the start: What uniformed store manager with a floor full of customers would ever accept a bright yellow, secreting music box from hell?

But then, a glimmer of hope: I realized I couldn't just leave it in a trashcan, not downtown, since it would probably be mistaken for a bomb. Come on. A loud beep coming from an electrical device furtively tossed into a trashcan near by a crazed woman, just steps away from the NBC building or a busy mall? Not risking it. So I drove to the nearest Pep Boys, which was twenty minutes away. In traffic. By now I was starting to internalize the sound. Play with it. Grow with it. If Pep Boys didn't take this screeching fiend off my hands, maybe, in a few months, I could actually stop noticing it. Maybe it would become a sort of white noise that only I could tune out, and I could use the battery to clear a path in crowds. Take it to the busiest beach on weekends and watch as a spot miraculously opened up. Shorten any line. Hmm...

Ugliness again: On the way to Pep Boys, I get yelled at by two women sitting on a bench in front of a liquor store. I had sprayed my windshield and ran the wipers when one of them spat, "Just wash your car." I was tempted to say something, but they looked ready to knife me.

Uglier still: Getting the kiss-kiss from a bloated guy in a blue van when we both pulled up to the same red light. "Hi. Hiiii!!! [mua mua mua]." Fortunately: My trusty Nissan, though filthy, has 200 horses, so I grazed the accelerator and let him kiss my ass.

Ugliest : Finally, finally, a kind and gracious Pep Boys employee agreed to take it. He ever so gingerly took the battery out of the bag, fumbled with a few switches and buttons I had also pressed and MADE THE SCREECHING STOP.

Moral 1: If you really really want help, never stop screaming.
Moral 2: Before you ask others, make sure it's not simpler to help yourself.

Gained: return to the status quo.

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