Wasted Day in Roanoke

As the late summer sun set, I set my GPS for downtown Roanoke and used her directions and my own instincts to take a city tour. From the dance center I drove by the shopping mall, the UU Church, and eventually downtown. Roanoke is situated on a historical rail yard so is cursed with one of those American layouts cut in half by the rail, and now spanned by monstrous high overpasses. Trendy offices and a few restaurants repurposed the historic warehouses and buildings edging along the historic rail front. Roanoke also follows ?? a natural layout ?? with a large dogleg throughout, eliminating convenient grid streets. I drove across both sides of the rail, pass the ??? rail headquarters and enjoyed watching the last orange rays on the historic and well kept art deco buildings. Bits and pieces, here and there, of civic improvements had not been pulled together yet.

Downtown had a three block area of redevelopment, around the old farmers market with over a dozen trendy restaurants huddled like piglets on their mother. Late Sunday it was fun to zoom around downtown and see the pockets of redevelopment, with the offices and most restaurants closed traffic was miniscule and parking was plentiful. But it had been a long day and I was getting tired.

I was headed to NYC and everything was going south. I was going to visit Jack, my roommate from the February cruise, but his birthday was smack in the middle of my arrival. We kept trying to move me forward or backward, but it was getting crazy. I had 10 days to get to Traverse City, and his little party was stretching into a week as friends would fly in and stay at his place. My NYNurse friend continued to string me along, but asked me delay. She had asked me to fly and meet her on her bahama vacation and I blinked. We would have had three days together, but I had no experience with that kind of thing, and only now realize you always go anywhere a decent woman offers you familiarity. Now, she was saying it was her year end processing and was all backed up. I was going to NYC also to see my friend Bill, before he sold his condo and moved to New Jersey. While I say this summer was unscheduled wanderlust, there were some deadlines, and my stay in NYC was getting pinched.

In my exhaustion, I called Jack and we agreed to call off my visit and have me return in August as part of a second circle. I turned up the heat on the nurse. She said “visit me in August, too”, go visit your friend and see the sights. It was fun to push her, I had never done anything. I texted her saying I was driving 1000 miles, not to see an old friend from work, but to see her. She had to commit to see me at one dinner or I would cut contact, unfriend her, and block her calls and texts. I didn’t expect 3 days in the islands, but 3 hours at Dennys. She blinked … and said ok. With that I added an extra day to my motel reservation in Roanoke to screw around with my now solid schedule, and headed to bed anticipating a warm omelette for breakfast.

To my surprise, I woke up at 2am totally jazzed. This was forboding of a catastrophe, as it implied I’d likely get a migraine not Tuesday, but Wednesday morning. I call these “echos” from missed sleep, and they knock me flat. But right now I was hungry, and tired, and jazzed so at 2am I looked in Yelp and a couple of the restaurants downtown were still open, even on a Sunday. So I drove back downtown, easily parked the scooter empty of baggage, and picked between the last hour of a couple trendy places. I picked a micro brew serving pub food on darkly lit dark wood tables. I’m sure it has out the door crowds at lunch and dinner business days, and it was regionally favored for its cute ambiance getting highest rating among the few pickings. So I ate an expensive burger and fries sitting at the bar, chatted with the bartender, and caught up on facebook on my phone. From him I learned about the restaurant, the district, the city’s economy but the information just wasn’t compelling in my zombie state. So I left a tip and scootered back to my motel, now with 2 days to get my act together.

I woke up at nearly noon Monday, blessing light blocking curtains and went down to get a free cup of lobby coffee. I had a billing dispute here, but thought I had it worked out. I was wrong but too tired to fight it. Traveling alone gets expensive due to simple harassment. I intended to arrive Saturday night, and attend church Sunday morning but got lost among the blue ridge parkway. I cancelled the room at 6pm against their 5pm deadline and stayed instead in Johnson City. For their courtesy, I gave them my extra day on Wednesday. Had them been hard nosed (their right) I would have checked out on principle (my right) and checked in next door. But I accepted a refund for Sunday night, stayed the extra day. A month later, when I finally had time to go through the multiple charges and reversals, I finally figured out that they put through an extra charge, two days after I left. Grubby bastards. But it was 30 days later, and I didn’t want to spend an hour or two fighting for the $100 in the middle of my crazy summer long trip. Oh well.

I finally had a day to devote to my IRS tax problem and got on the phone with them. I setup my laptop to let me work, while I plugged in the phone and kept in on speaker. From my call with them in Detroit I knew the hold times could be 20-30 minutes or more, again and again as you are passed between departments.  But that was ok, I needed to make reservations in NYC and beyond, to figure out my rough schedule through AMUUSE camp in two weeks, and write some blogs. With extra time I’d look up meet-up groups and FetLife events in New York City, trying to figure out if I could get there on the subway. Those kind of schedule searches can take me hours as I work the multiple websites and related links against google maps, transit, and my calendar. In the end your trying to figure out a best choice, with a backup in case of bad weather, cancellation or just losing interest in some crazy sex party 2 hours off the beaten path.

So with my coffee and apples and granola bars and trail mix I started the IRS process, waiting half an hour, then pouring out my story for 20 minutes to be passed onto the next person. In the meantime I found a great AirBnB in the Bronx, a home letting out a couple basement rooms just like my friend Jordan back in Florida. I would be close to town, and from google streets I could see that she had street parking directly in front, and even a gated front area by her garage. I fired off my now standard parking note and quickly got confirmation for my stay. I would be staying, riding around, and visiting one of the few places in America I had never set foot. I had been to Manhattan, LaGuardia, Long Island, Staten Island and God knows hundreds of times to New Jersey. We had a scenic fall tour to the catskills, west point, poughkipsee when Jesse was little. But in those million miles I had never been to the little slice of land starting at Yankee stadium and slicing northward. I’d stay in the Bronx, visit Yonkers and Tarrytown and Ossening. I’d drop in on Rob and Laura Petri in New Rochelle. I was kinda excited.

I wrote Bill with my schedule and he gave me the weird “good” news that his co-op sale was delayed and a visit would work. It seems he got his buyer, his down payment, and even the mortgage was lined up. However, “the co-op board” needed to approve each buyer (something he had to go through to get in), and they were simply dragging their feet, making everybody crazy. So Bill was anchored to his upper west side apartment, and I’d get to visit before it was gone.

I wrote ?? Nurse with my schedule and, I hate to admit this, chatted her up. I was still new at this, and my light chatter was heavy handed, walking the line between enthusiasm and desperation. “Can’t wait to see you” can go either way, depending on the rest of the sentence. But she was still on the hook. I was learning more about her, and she was so intriguing to me, and she stood to be my first purely web-based write, call, and drop in date. How exciting!

But the long productive call to the  IRS ended on a sour note, after a sour song based on a sour premise. Lyn had always done the taxes since we were first married. But a couple years back we spent a bunch of money to replace the car and pay some big medical bills. My broker, I suspect purely for his convenience, pulled the cash from my IRA instead of the other mix of stocks and assets. He kept reassuring me “don’t worry, with the disability, there won’t be any tax”. What he was saying was they’d be fully taxable (of course), but no additional penalty invoked. That was very little consolation when the withdrawls skyrocketed our tax liability, crossing over into our usually barely taxed social security. We ended up over 50% tax liability and furthermore misfield for it. The computer based audit kicked it out, wanted nearly twenty thousand dollars (requiring selling more stock), and Lyn freaked out. This was during the seperation so she loved to push that onto me, then delayed and delayed the filing until the day I left so I carried this with me onto the trip.

We confirmed the number owed, and I agreed to pay the tax and interest. I asked if I could at least get the penalty waived since it was confusion and misinformation that got me here. There was a form to fill out, which took 2 more people and 90 more minutes to get the information. Towards 4pm I got my final IRS representative on the phone, from her voice a black female who mumbled and included what is now called ebonics. But I knew her trick. The goal is to frustrate a customer to get the to raise their voice so the rep can say “I am not required to tolerate verbal abuse” then hang up on you. So he mumbled and used street vernacular and voice intonations to insult me. “I ALREADY explained that you need to …” to which I was so apologetic it was humorous. “Oh, ma’am, you are absolutely right and I am so thankful you are helping me here. I have a hearing disability and it is totally my fault that you are being required to repeat yourself and I am grateful you are being so helpful to me”. We sparred for about 3 full minutes, her trying to get a rise out of me and my giving her a brain-fuck back. She simply employed plan B. She said “let me check on that, I’ll need to put you on hold” … and she disconnected me. She was so deep in the bowels it would take me over and hour to get back to her. But I had her name and employee ID, and every intention to write her up to the consumer ombudsman. But to what good should I waste even another minute of my trip? In the end, I did nothing and she got away with it. In the next few months, as I pondered her, I decided if there is karma she will suffer, and suffer dearly for abusing people with her teeny tiny piece of power. And that was my day in Roanoke, before the motel screwed me as well.

I figured to do laundry with my extra day but was getting tired. I found and verify a nearby 24 hour laundrymat and went to the nearby waffle house for some eggs (no wifi!). Then I headed back to the room and to bed before 8pm, exhausted still from SUUSI, and everything since.

I woke up at 3am, hoping to run wash, then pack and go before morning rush. I packed my mini bag and ran my clothes, reading facebook, and ate some drivethru. At 4am I was tired again, not up to riding into the sunrise so decided to cut bait on “blue highways” and instead use the freeways to 2-day to NYC. I’d head back to bed, and be up and out by 11am, spending the night in NJ, near the Hudson.

I was right, at 10am I woke with a splitting migraine and few options. I need to be in NYC in 2 days, then be on my way toward Michigan. I took my Maxxalt, then a second, and waited for things to clear. I called the desk and asked for an extra hour which I was given but this may have given him time to ponder billing me for Sunday. ….

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