I'm sure the time will come in the next few weeks where everything calms down and a routine develops and I start to really enjoy this new stage of my life living as a Memphian with my fiancee. But right now, I feel like there's a deep, dark unknown dead ahead, and I'm headed for it whether I'm ready or not. I can't be dishonest about it because it really seems bad if I'm asked by my fiancee or anyone else how I'm feeling about everything, and I respond, "Great! Can't wait! Very excited!" My face and voice and demeanor would betray that immediately. I'm not worrying about the relationship with the fiancee. I'm worrying about my entire life being uprooted, all of my routines being changed, everything with which I'm comfortable and familiar becoming unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I spent this last week savoring many things about Chicago and my surroundings that I will miss, and as a result, I now have the next two days to pack my entire house and prepare to move first thing Monday morning. But hey, I do everything last minute. I may not publish this post until tonight because I'll be typing and packing intermittently. But I will eventually publish the details about my last week as a proud resident of Chicago.
Just found out that I misplaced the box of garbage bags that I bought a few days ago. Now I gotta go back. Fuck.
Ok, back. Still immature, still irresponsible, spending money on a product that I already bought but managed to lose. At least it was the dollar store garbage bags.
So anyway, I've been doing the endless list of things one must do preparing to change jobs and cities, so I won't bore you with all that. The new job, Symcor, has been wishy-washy on my start date. Julie, the H.R. person I've been dealing with who's based here in Chicago, told me that originally, they were going to let me chill until maybe May while they get new management people in place at my site in Memphis. Then a few days ago, she said they wanted me to start ASAP. The last days she mentioned to me as possibilities were this coming Wednesday or Thursday, which would give me a full day or two to recover from the move and wash some clothes. I haven't heard back from her, but I figure if she had not called me by Monday, I can spend a few minutes of that 10-hour drive to Memphis calling her.
I had a voucher to have my house cleaned for an hour by an outfit called Sassy Sweeper, and I scheduled a cleaning for April 2, but they never showed up. I called their "customer service" four or five times complaining about this, and each time they said that someone would call back if I left my name and number. Finally, a woman calling herself Audrey, who I guess runs this outfit, got back to me and told me that I should have gotten an e-mail telling me that my previous appointment was canceled because I requested a downtown cleaning crew even though I live near the western suburbs. The stupid website never indicated that I couldn't choose the crew I wanted, so that's what I did, and I never got any fucking cancellation e-mail. Audrey made good on the voucher by scheduling for this past Wednesday at 9A. I was already planning to call in sick just to enjoy the nice weather, so I decided to make it an eventful day by buying a ticket to a White Sox game, scheduled for 1P. Well, it was a day of things not going as planned. The Sassy Sweeper crew didn't arrive until about 9:40, throwing my whole schedule into disarray. I wanted to leave as soon as they were finished because I had to stop downtown at the public library to print the tickets since my printer is out of ink. By Sassy Sweeper not being done until 10:45 (and doing a shitty cleaning job), I couldn't leave the house until 11:15, and I didn't get to the library until 12:10 or so. Then I had to hustle to the renewal desk because my library card was just a little bit expired, like, 4 years or so. Then I finally printed the tickets, paid the pocket change for the printing, and got to the ballpark just in time to miss most of the 1st inning. Not only that, but I bought a "premium club" ticket in the same LG Skyline-sponsored section that my fiancee and I attended a couple of years ago when I won those tickets thanks to the ESPN Zone Sports Spelling Bee. That section provided a free buffet-style meal, unlimited food and drinks, and it was just the best damn time I ever had at a ball game. That section, I was sad to find out, no longer offers free food. They have an usher peeking her head around the corner every couple of innings asking us if we wanted to order anything, but we'd have to pay for whatever we ordered. I got the $5.50 hot dog and chips. We Sox fans as a whole didn't get what we wanted from the game because the Pale Hose managed to take a 3-run lead into the 9th inning, give up 3 runs to tie it, then give up 3 more in the 10th to lose. I got to see my team for one last time, but it was an up-close look at the fact that their bullpen currently sucks a fat dick. Even the postgame meal didn't live up to my hopes--I decided to go to Potbelly, a Chicago sandwich shop, and try their Uptown salad, which had chicken, cheese, lettuce, dried cranberries, apples, and grapes. That combo of cheese and chicken and fruit didn't do it for me. But at least I tried it.
Friday was my last day at Chase, and I had been feeling weird about leaving ever since I gave notice two weeks ago. This was my first job leaving voluntarily, and I was torn between taking it easy since I didn't have to worry about my performance here anymore and still helping everyone out. I kinda split the difference because I busted my ass as always the days that I was there, but I took a sick day this week and last week. But it was still weird because we're just as busy as always and I still cared about my job and the people with whom I work. I felt like I was leaving some unfinished business. Plus, I didn't know if they were going to give me a sendoff or not. But they did, and it was so sweet. The new supervisor, who's only been over me for the past month and a half, stopped work just before 10A to have everyone gather near my desk and share some doughnuts and coffee and tell me goodbye. She gave me a paperweight of the Chicago skyline and a pen. She asked me for a speech, and I got up and just told everyone that my shyness and introverted style was turned out by their kindness and social skills over the years, and I was thankful for that. Then Linda, one of my team leads, presented me with a couple of signed cards, and she was very anxious for me to open one of them. When I finally got around to checking it out, it was filled with many dollar bills, which totally stunned me. I wasn't expecting financial help at all. Like I said, I didn't know if they were going to do anything for me. I'm not the warmest guy at work. I'm very business-minded and cold-blooded, and probably seen as an asshole. Plus, if anyone had been paying attention over the years when cards went around for other people, I never, ever contributed money. I could never see it in my heart to donate to anyone else's cause, justifying it by how poor I am. Well, these folks ain't rich either, and they cobbled together $176 cash just because I was leaving the company. I could never thank them enough. As a final send-off, I couldn't leave the floor all day for break or lunch because we were so busy. Guess that's why everyone was approaching me all week not saying how sad they were to see me go, but congratulating me for leaving, as if I were being released from prison.
I'm watching the Bulls choking against the Pacers while I pack as well. Hopefully that changes before the game ends.
So I took the long way home yesterday, still a little disbelieving that I was taking my last ride as a Chicago commuter after all these years riding buses and trains everywhere. But the symmetry of what happened this morning brought it all home. My aunt took me back to the driving facility so that, once again, I could attempt to get my first driver's license. The insurance card was printed on an 8x11 sheet of paper this time, making it much harder for me to lose. My aunt had to get used to the concept of riding in a car with me driving, and hey, I can't blame her. All these years, I've been the fat ass waiting for people to caddy me around, and now I'm going to do the driving. I guess she thought I was a complete amateur, but eventually she relaxed. The lines and the waiting were much lighter today because it was raining this morning. Not too hard, but really, if you can help it, not the kind of conditions where an inexperienced driver would choose to take his or her first road test. But I had no choice. It was do it now or wait until Tennessee, and who knows when my fiancee and I would have time to coordinate our schedules to get it done. The person administering the test was a young brotha who remained calm throughout, which helped my nerves a lot. After all the varying answers from various folks to the question "What are they gonna have me do on the road test?," all he had me do was drive in a two-block square, turning left with a couple of rights thrown in, then he had me turn down a side street about three inches before stopping and backing out while turning right so that I could turn around and drive back on the previous street. I did it very slowly. The rain probably helped me do everything very slowly, including staying under the speed limit the whole time. At one point, he told me to get all the way to the right in order to prepare for a right turn, and I obeyed a little too well, not checking for other cars or signaling. He immediately scribbled something down on his clipboard. Fuck, I thought, I just failed this damn test! But I kept my cool and did everything else he asked, finishing by pulling headfirst into a designated parking space at the end of the test. He calmly told me, "Now wait until I get out, then park the car in the regular lot and come in and get your driver's license." I almost didn't believe what I heard. I really did think that I fucked up the test, and given my history of fuck-ups, I honestly expected him to tell me that I had failed. But it wasn't a joke. I went in, got my pic taken, and in minutes, I walked out with my very first driver's license in my hand. I immediately took a picture of it with my cell phone and sent it to my fiancee, who wrote back, "YOU TOTALLY ROCK!!!!!!" Yep, I go 35 years, 3 months, and 25 days as a Chicago commuter, relying on public transportation to earn a living and the generosity of friends, family and lovers to socialize. And the day after I stop being a commuter, I become a licensed driver. I guess it was just meant to happen that way.
Bulls win! Derrick Rose is the fucking truth.
So I continue putting my life into boxes and deciding what's coming in the house with me and the fiancee and what's going in a storage unit. She's already decided that my sports and wrestling tapes have no space in her home. They will go to a climate-controlled storage unit along with my music cassettes and vocal diary cassettes and childhood memorabilia. I really should let go of those relics of my past, but that's what happens when you're an only child--you develop relationships with things that represent who you were, who you are, who you wanted to be someday. I mean, I'm sure that happens to some people who weren't only children as well, but I imagine it's a lot easier for those who had to rely on themselves from day one. It's all still so strange, the concept of sharing my life with someone else. I keep telling my fiancee that no matter how much we prepare, the amount of frustration we're both going to experience while getting adjusted to each other's constant presence is unimaginable. And she's expressed concern over my demeanor, since every time she tries to tell me how excited she is that we're finally about to make a family together, I sound like I'm about to be audited or something. But as I said earlier, I'd be lying if I didn't say how worried I am about the move and the job change and the bad times we will have, as every couple has. The good times, I have to learn how to enjoy them, because it's not in my nature.
My friend "Jacob" has learned a lesson on not opening his mouth and offering assistance when someone is in a tough spot. He said weeks ago that when I found a job, if I needed help moving, he could drive down from his current residence in central Wisconsin and git 'er done. Well, I found a job sooner than I expected, and way sooner than he expected, and he is going to undergo an ironman-style endurance test. He's driving to the Chicago area Sunday evening with his mom. They will stay at a hotel, then come pick me up early Monday morning for some grub. Then, while she takes my Comcast cable equipment back to Comcast since they won't come pick it up, he will come here and help me load up the truck. We will embark on the 8 or 9-hour journey to Memphis with his mom driving his car behind the moving truck and drop off the stuff that I'm allowed to take into the house. The fiancee will have a large rib dinner waiting for us whenever we finally make it. Then we will take her bed and load it into the truck to take to goodwill, since she has decided to use my bed for our sleeping needs because I'm more comfortable on my harder mattress. Then we will finally drop off my stuff in the storage unit, which is a 24-hour unit. Then Jacob will take the truck to its final drop-off place. The fiancee is putting Jacob and his mom up in a hotel so they don't have to drive back home until the next day. I'm so lucky that Jacob is going to take on this task because I don't know how I would have moved if he hadn't volunteered. And I will be repaying him by spending an ungodly amount to make it up to Wausau for his wedding in a month. I have to take a 1-stop flight there and back because there's no such thing as a nonstop from Memphis to Wausau. It ain't cheap, and it's not counting the tux rental or their gift. Sigh. The duties of a best man. At least he's not into strippers so whatever bachelor party I can throw together, it won't be expensive, nor will it threaten the sanctity of either of our pending nuptials.
So this is it. Chicago will be in my rear view mirror literally in a matter of hours. I'm still stunned at how fast this is all happening. I am so Chicago. My tastes, my sports allegiances, my attitude, everything I like has a bit of Chicago about it. No matter how long I'm away from Chicago, a part of me will always be Chicago. And never say never about a return someday. Maybe I will grow a set and pursue a broadcasting career and find my way back to the place I know best. But until that happens, here is the official proclamation: The new home town of this blog from this point forward will be Memphis, TN, and its surrounding suburbs, and my fiancee and I will reside in one of those suburbs. Any blog posts written outside of Memphis or a suburb will have that city as a date line, but the new default location will be Memphis and its suburbs. I will be a full-fledged Memphian as of Monday, April 18. Let our new life together begin!