insufficient funds

I wake up this morning at nine after a solid night of sleep. I had dreamed that Boss gave me a check today. In fact, in the dream, he gives me three checks. One is for $750. That’s a typical paycheck from Boss. The next two are for about $650,000 each. I dunno why he’s giving me this kind of dough, but I spend the rest of the dream knowing that I’m a millionaire. And though somewhere in my mind I suspect that this is all about to evaporate, the emotion is quite real. I remember an overwhelming sense of relief. So as I wake up and dig sleep from under my eyelids I remember that my rent check went out yesterday. I dropped it in the mailbox. Rent is always a matter of timing, and often I have to mail it out before I’ve actually received the money I’ll need to cover it.

I roll out of bed the moment I realize that it’s nine o’clock. I have to throw together something for Boss to look at regarding We’re supposed to meet in the morning about it. At this meeting, which is to take place at his “office” in Bel-Air, he’s going to give me that check so it doesn’t bounce.

It takes me about an hour to throw together this sample page. He hasn’t called me, so I call him and get his voicemail. I’d really like to make it over to the Grove today and catch the opening day of Harry Pothead and the Prisoner of Zenda, but since I have time to kill and Boss hasn’t called, I squeeze in a final revision of the Blood & Mist treatment and mail it off to Edgar.

It’s 12:30 now. No word from Boss. The movie starts at 1:15. I jump in the car and head down, calling Ryan (to see if he wants to join me and feed his slightly creepy crush on Emma Watson) and Sara (to see what she’s up to–looking for a grill for Louis.) While I’m talking to her I spot one of two Space Invaders known to inhabit upper Fairfax. It’s sitting above Canter’s. Then I call Boss, whom I finally get ahold of. He’s at his chiropractor and has changed his mind about meeting in the AM.

No kidding.

He says he might not make it over to meet me at Rocket, but that he’ll call me within half an hour to let me know when we can get together. I tell him I may not have my phone on, but to leave me a message. I turn off my phone, pull my car into the Grove, plunk down some cash for a movie ticket and settle in for more than two hours of Hogwarts bliss.

When the movie’s over I realize I cannot find my sunglasses anywhere. I search under the chair, in the cushion (such as it is), my pockets, the floor, the concession stand, the projection booth… They’re just gone. This puts me in a slightly sour mood, which is exacerbated by my hunger. So squinting, I walk out into the daylight and check my phone. no call from Boss. What a shock. I stroll over to the Farmer’s Market, bumping into Joy Ozo and her sister on the way. It is wonderful to see her, but they’re headed over to a Craig Kilborn taping, so they can’t dally.

Later, I’ll kick myself for not bumming a couple bucks off her.

I order a piece of pizza to eat. Normally, I can avoid the pizza when I’m at the Farmer’s Market. But today the hunger gnaws at my innards, distorts my grip on reality. It takes forever to arrive because they have to make it right then. As I sit down among all the tables and pigeons and aged foreigners and bite down, the cheese and meat inflict third-degree burns on my tongue and mouth. Smarting, hungry and irritated, I wait for it to cool a little. And then it occurs to me that I just used my last three dollars to buy this pizza. How am I going to get my car out of the parking lot?

Since I’m at the Farmer’s Market, before I head back, I make a feeble attempt to look for the elusive Space Invader hiding there. I do not find him. Heading back to my car, I try to remember how much change is in my ashtray. I’ve got sixty cents in my pocket. I’ll need $1.40. I don’t think I’ve got anything left in there. I raided it when I did my laundry last time.

My ashtray is full of pennies and nickels. There are several dollars in Australian money there as well. No good. I have to find an ATM. At the foot of the escalators I find one. I shove my card in the slot and agree to allow the bank to gouge me for $2.25 (this is the Grove, after all.) But no cash comes out. I check the slot. Nothing. That’s weird. I look at the receipt. It tells me that I’m a victim of error #018. Insufficient Balance.

WTF?? I’ve got at least two hundred in there now. Possibly more. So I call Wells Fargo. The friendly voice says, “Okay. Account balance.” I wait. “Your account balance is: overdrawn seven hundred forty one dollars.”

I stop. I stare at my phone. How is this possible? I dropped my rent check into the mail yesterday. And into one of those neighborhood boxes, not those post office chutes that drop the mail directly into the hold of a waiting plane. Clearly my landlord, Nathan, recived the check and sprinted to the nearest bank.

Good God. Now what? I’m trapped at the Grove. I just need a couple bucks, but how on earth am I going to get it? Do I panhandle? Is there any hope I can find Joy again? No, no, that was half an hour ago. Should I find some pay phones and check coin returns? Should I look for dropped dollars? I call Sara to see if she has any suggestions. She’s not far away, and offers to come get me or give me some money. I realize that I guess I really don’t need a solution. I just need to vent. I hang up and look around.

I begin asking questions. “What happens,” I ask the woman at the movie theater info desk, “if I drive up to the parking lot attendant without the money to pay for parking?”

She looks at me. “You know, I’ve always wondered that.”

The Grove’s concierge has this suggestion. “Use your ATM card,” he says.

“That’s not an option,” I say.

“Then use your Visa card to get a cash advance,” he says.

“That’s also not an option,” I say. My Visa’s serving as overdraft protection for the checking account. Fat lot of good that’s doing.

He thinks. Then he says, “Okay, use your American Express card to buy a gift certificate for the Grove. Use it to go get a coffee. Spend the chenge on the parking fee.”

He’s a bloody genius.

He says, “I can sell one to you right here.”

My trusty Amex card to the rescue. I gamely purchase the smallest one they sell. Ten dollars. With a growing headache and a plummeting mood, I make my way back to the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. I wait in a stifling line and order a small coffee and wave my gift certificate. The Coffee Bean lady tells me they don’t accept Grove certificates. The Coffee Bean is part of the Farmer’s Market. Apparently, by crossing the little avenue where FAO Schwartz used to be I’d stepped over the boundary.

Now I’m irritated. I step back across Chackpoint Charlie, climb up to the third floor of Barnes & Noble and buy a coffee there. They have to have a conference before they accept the certificate. Apparently they don’t get many of those for coffee. But finally I get my change and head back to my car. I’m so irritated that when the coffee starts splashing onto my hands through a bad seal at the cup seam I simply drop it in the nearest garbage can. I’m not in the mood.

By now, the fare has increased to three dollars, which I pay, happy to at last be free of the Grove. Curious, I ask the attendant, a young guy, what would have happened if I didn’t have the cash. He shrugs and says something like this: “Uh, I have to get up and like, get your license number, and, like, it takes a while…”

“And then…? What, I get to pay later?”

“Supposedly, I guess. Yeah. You have to pay.”

I drive off. He hadn’t answered my question very well. To hear him tell it, if I were to arrive at the booth without proper funds he would have to write something down and that takes a while, which would mean having to endure the annoyance of drivers waiting behind. I might even be made to pay somehow.

It is now five o’clock. I have just enough time. to get home, wash the scent of rich people off me and head in to work. On the way back up Fairfax, I see the second of the two Space Invaders while sitting at the light at Beverly. But I’m so tired, I barely have the energy to call Sara and tell her.

But I do. Because it’s a Space Invader.

Work is a whole new post that I don’t have the energy to tackle tonight. I console myself knowing that at least today I finished the Blood & Mist treatment. If anything might serve as an escape hatch from all this, it’s the craft.

Tuning out now.

About the author: will

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