November 4, 2007

NaNoWriMo 2007, Day 4

Posted in Books, National Novel Writing Month, Writing at 11:57 pm by Calico Jack

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            However pleasant my apartment might be, the one thing we do not have enough of in Santa Monica is parking. Unless you’re willing to pay outrageous monthly fees for a spot in a parking garage half a block away, all of the tenants in my apartment must fight over far too few spaces surrounding the building. Only two dozen or so are covered, and I’ve never seen an empty space last longer than a few minutes. In the early evenings it can feel like college all over again, endlessly circling the lot in the hope that someone, anyone will pull out at just the right time to open up a space before someone else gets there first. But about six months ago, I did a favor for the owner of the popular Thai restaurant next door. In exchange, he lets me use his parking lot for my car whenever I need a parking space. So I walked over behind the restaurant, waved at the manager who was chattering excitedly on his cell phone while trying to heave the enormous trash bags over the side of the dumpster, and got in my Cosmic Blue Mazdaspeed 3. That car was a gift to myself a year ago after successfully switching careers, and overall I’m fairly impressed with my taste in presents. Admittedly, it isn’t a car that will turn too many people’s heads, but that’s just the way I want it. I have a thing for hatchbacks, and with a 2.3 liter, 263 horsepower direct injection turbocharged engine, it’s as sporty a car as you’ll find under thirty grand. The Mazdaspeed is an absolute blast to drive, but like all good things it suffers from a serious drawback: the fuel economy sucks. The willfully naïve salesperson at the dealership gave me a figure of something like 18 mpg/city and 26 mpg/highway, but I’m lucky if I get two-thirds of that on any given tank of gas. And with the 263-horsepower engine requiring premium fuel, the car puts quite a large strain on my budget. Regardless, it’s fun, fast, and roomy; and I’d be more than willing to test it against anyone’s car on a twisty mountain road.

            The drive to my office was surprisingly quick for 9:15 on a Tuesday morning. I usually take Santa Monica Boulevard all the way into West Hollywood, since I rent space off of North Highland Street. Sometimes the seven or eight-mile drive can take upwards of an hour depending on traffic, but today I zipped through the row of green lights and arrived in front of grey, nondescript office building about 9:40. The four-story parking garage attached to the side of the edifice is reserved only for tenants and their “privileged” guests, and full-time security guards Andy and Sheldon take that responsibility very seriously. In Los Angeles it isn’t your wealth which determines status; it’s your parking space. This morning Andy was sitting in the security booth, and he smiled at me as I pulled up to the checkpoint at the garage’s entrance.

            “Hey, Tyler,” he greeted jovially. “Haven’t seen you in a few days. Take a weekend vacation or something?”

            I mock-glared at him. “You know my vacation schedule’s pretty much out of my control, Andy. But no, I finished up a job for a client last Thursday, and I didn’t have another appointment until this morning.” I passed him my key card; he inserted it into the scanner to log my arrival in the garage. The sole tenant of my office building’s third floor is a company that deals in private security (read: bodyguards) for wealthy clients and stars, so as an accommodation the owners stepped up the security both inside and outside the building. I’m not entirely comfortable with having all of my movements tracked, but I can see why some people would require extra security measures. As a result, I don’t make a fuss about it, and the security guys are most appreciative.

            Andy handed me back my card, double-checked the sticker tag on the front windshield of my car to ensure it was legitimate (their training is permanently ingrained, even when dealing with a long-time client. It’s what makes them good at their jobs), and pushed the button to raise the black-and-yellow bar that blocked my way inside. “Good luck with the client,” he grinned. “Hope it isn’t a looney.”

            “Yeah, me too,” I responded with a quick, tight smile. “Say hi to Monica for me.” Every year the building’s owners host a Christmas party for the tenants and all of the building’s employees—everyone from the janitorial staff to the security guards. I think it’s supposed to be a way for everyone to forget about class distinctions and enjoy socializing with each other, even if only for an evening. Last Christmas was the first time I went (the previous year I had just moved into the building), and I saw a lot of socializing…but the class snobbery was very much in effect. I quickly grew tired of the schmoozing that was going on amongst the other tenants, and instead joined the security guys and their wives/girlfriends in a riotous game of poker. I received no love from my fellow tenants, but I didn’t care; they weren’t my clients and as long as I paid for my own office space they were welcome to impotently look down on me as much as they liked. But the other side of that evening was that I became casual friends with most of the security department and their families. Now I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only clients on a first-name basis with them. We’re not drinking buddies, but they’ve done favors for me before, and I always make a point of asking about their significant others when I see them.

I pulled into the garage and started circling my way towards the top. As one of the tenants renting the smallest amount of space in the building, I wasn’t exactly privileged to a parking spot on the bottom three floors. But even the top floor wasn’t all that bad; it had a roof and a spot reserved just for me. However, one day I crunched the numbers and figured out that I was paying well over seventy-five dollars every single time I parked in that space. It rather quickly sucks any of the fun you have seeing your name on the sign in front of your spot. But the lease deal doesn’t have an opt-out clause for the parking garage; if you want to rent their space you’ll have to pay for parking as well. Sometimes it feels like I got the raw end of the deal, yet in my line of work it looks good to be able to tell a client “I’ll put your name on the approved list for parking; just tell the security guard when you arrive.”

After taking the parking garage’s elevator down to the main lobby, I walked up to the front desk and greeted the two receptionists working there. Why this building needs more than one I don’t really know; during my more cynical periods I’ll suggest that it is merely another way to charge extra on top of the already exorbitant fees we pay to rent space out of this building. Nevertheless, both Ryan and Kara are a lot of fun to talk to, and very competent at their jobs (although I suppose I would be as well if there were two people doing the work of one). And it’s plainly obvious to everyone that they have quite the crush on each other. They just haven’t figured it out themselves yet.

I swiped my key card on top of the lobby desk, waiting for the soft chime and the flashing green light to tell me that I was cleared for entry into the building. Behind the desk, Kara finished talking to someone on the phone and excitedly looked up at me. “Tyler, you just missed Tom like five minutes ago! He came in here for the White Shark guys, and they whisked him away really quickly! I should have had him sign the guest sheet, but I wasn’t thinking. I wonder if he’ll come back downstairs soon so I can introduce myself—wouldn’t that be so cool?!” The above was said with nary a pause between sentences, in the rapid-fire chatter of someone who had obviously been waiting to share her excitement and simply couldn’t hold it in any longer.

I spent half a second mentally decoding the words Kara had shot at me, then asked, “Which Tom are we talking about here? Tom Hanks? Tom Cruise? Tommy Lee Jones?” Next to Callie, Ryan rolled his eyes and stifled a laugh. He obviously knew what was going on, but there wasn’t any way he was going to spoil Callie’s excitement in retelling the story.

Kara gave me a look as if I were a big blockhead, then exasperatedly cried out, “No, you fat monkey!” At this I unconsciously moved my hand towards my stomach to make sure I had miraculously added twenty pounds since I left the apartment less than an hour ago. “MySpace Tom! You know, the first friend that everyone gets on MySpace? He’s upstairs on the third floor!”

Now I understood the reasons why Ryan had been trying to contain his mirth. I tried to give a Kara an enthusiastic response, but I found it rather difficult to get excited over someone who was directly responsible for unleashing forces that set the internet back ten years. I never had a MySpace account, and found it hard to understand why so many people flocked to its mediocrity. Ultimate personalization sounds like a great thing; but when 95 percent of the people on there have absolutely no sense of taste or decorum, or even know what a unified color scheme should look like, I’m going to stay away. And I would like to personally shoot the person who thought it was a good idea to both allow music on people’s profiles and—even worse—set it to play automatically.

Kara, of course, cared about none of that. She was busy chattering away to Ryan about a movie she’d seen last weekend, and I was about to head up the stairs, when she paused suddenly and pointed at me. “Wait, a woman came in about ten or fifteen minutes ago; she said that she was one of your clients. I asked her to take a seat here in the lobby, but she said she would rather wait for you upstairs.”

“Thanks, Kara.” Those people who come in early for an appointment and refuse to wait in the lobby are usually either very concerned about their privacy due to fame or have something to hide. I was about to find out which one.

Next chapter ->




  1. […] NaNoWriMo 2007, Day 4 « Ignorant Critics said, […]

  2. […] Posted in Books, National Novel Writing Month, Writing at 6:58 pm by Calico Jack <- Previous chapter […]

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