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My practicum project is done and three of six finals have been taken.


Being awake 35 of 37 consecutive hours.


A train in the distance.


A Coca-Cola.


Why am I still awake?


No entry.

friday, december 7th

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Quote Du Jour:
"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion... I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward." - (Kurt Vonnegut)

Out of the way... And out of my hands...
Aviation final, Tuesday at 12:30. Check.
Practicum oral presentation, Wednesday at 5:00. Check.
Broadcast regulations final, Thursday at 3:00. Check.
Practicum video project complete, Friday at 11:30. Check.
Sociology final, Friday at 3:00. Check.

Wow. What a week.

At this time Monday, I wasn't sure that it would ever be over. Now that it is and I'm sitting here tired and sleepy but still very awake, I'm not sure what to do with myself.

Part of me wanted to buy a couple of six-packs of Smirnoff Ice, turn off the lights and turn up the stereo -- drinking myself to sleep. I need the sleep and I figure that having my last conscious thoughts be drunk thoughts might be helpful, too. Of course, with my roommate, I was almost sure that he'd come in as I reached my peak and ruin the buzz. On top of that, he'd probably turn me in to an RA. Who needs that sort of drama so close to the end of the term? Not I.

Instead, I've planted my ass in front of the computer to bring you a second December entry. If the roommate stays away just a little while longer, my endeavor will be a successful one. If you're keeping score at home, you know that this puts the merry month into a tie with November for all-time last place in the number of entries category. Certainly, if the rest of my December is like the first week... I'll be able to manage a few more updates.

A week ago tonight, I thought I would take my extremely sleepy ass home for one night. I have a growing list of things to do in Smallville and figured that I could tackle a few before returning to school the next night to edit video for Practicum.

The trip probably lasted less than a half-hour. I'd covered 20 miles or so and made it to the next town north of here shortly after 9 p.m. I was in the inside lane of a four-lane street and then it happened. The truck gave out. The engine died and took the power steering with it. I was left steering a dead horse across the outside lane and into the refuge of a parking lot. And then I was left with a truck that wouldn't crank.

What followed in the hour afterward was enough to consume a month's worth of cell minutes and make the author wonder why everyone thinks they're an auto mechanic in times of crisis. I called Jonathan and had him drive up to take a look with me under the hood. Hell, if any two guys could solve a problem, it'd be us. No, wait. Maybe I'm thinking of Simon and Simon... Or Starsky and Hutch. It could've been Thomas and A.J., but they were never much good without Rick, so they don't count. Hmmm. Nevermind.

Everything that we could inspect in a parking lot with poor lighting seemed to be in working condition. I've had problems with bad battery cells before and the symptoms sort of matched up, so as a final hope, we pulled the battery and headed to Wal-Mart.

I interrupt this entry to suggest a new federal law: All Wal-Marts in communities larger than 7,500 citizens should be required to remain open 24 hours every day. Okay... That's out of way. Carry on.

The community we were in has about 20,000 folks but their Wal-Mart closes at 10 p.m. on a Friday night. How is this possible? Why has there not been a public revolt? How can people survive under such oppressive conditions? Eh... Who knows? I'm just glad that we got there at five minutes 'til 10 and convinced the guy to test the battery. It flunked the test, we exchanged it for a new one and thought our problems were solved.

Of course, we had to get out of the store with the battery. This proved to be more of a challenge that it should have been.

AUTO GUY: "Take it to the service desk for an exchange."
SERVICE DESK: "The service desk is closed, take it to a register."
REGISTER: "I can't do that, take it to the service desk."

There was plenty of similar dialog for the better part of 15 minutes. I'm sure you're getting the picture without a verbatim account. Once I convinced someone that I didn't live in the town and that I wanted to get a battery so I could mosey my ass on down the road, they tried to decipher some code off my old receipt. They attempted to look up this code on their local computers. They may have been listening when I told them I was from another town in another state... but they sure as hell didn't retain the information. They also didn't read the receipt where it listed in big, bold print the other Wal-Mart's address in another town in another state. And so, we waited and waited and waited until someone finally chimed in, "you didn't buy it here, did you?"

With that matter cleared up, the exchange was made quickly. We left after having spent an hour in the store and headed back to the truck confident that the problem was under control. Yep. You guessed it. We were wrong. The new battery was about as effective as the old one. It lit up the headlights and the dashboard, but the truck still wouldn't crank. We left the truck sitting the parking lot and headed back to Oakdale.

My plan for Saturday was to find a local mechanic to take a look at it and hopefully put me back on the road. I was willing to give up my editing time Saturday night for a chance to get the hell away from school. But, it a town where the Wal-Mart closes before the news comes on TV, I had no luck in finding a mechanic that worked on Saturday. I had my truck towed to the local dealership so they could check it out Monday morning.

As the week progressed, the problems associated with my truck grew in size and expense. We went from a $600 replacement of the timing chain on Monday to the eventual discovery of bent valves and the necessary machine work to repair them by Thursday. The final cost was in the ballpark of $1500. Yeah... Ouch. There may be a small Christmas in the Fletcher home this holiday season.

Nothing is ever simple with me. I don't know why that is. Anyone who wants proof only has to look as far as my education, my love life and (this week, at least) my truck.

Left to agonize over...
Criminal Investigation final, Monday at 8:00.
Corrections final, Tuesday at 8:00.
Media Ethics final, Tuesday at 1:00

copyright © 2001, Thomas Fletcher. all rights reserved.