Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tales from the Road

 by Carola Dunn

I headed north last weekend to sign my new book, Gone West, and the paperback of Anthem for Doomed Youth in Seattle and Portland, at Seattle Mystery Bookshop 

and Murder by the Book. The signings went very nicely--I had a couple come all the way from Vancouver BC to Seattle to see me, and lots of Facebook friends turned up in Portland. However...

Parking on the street in Seattle is murder. So when I saw a parking lot with lots of empty spaces, I decided to park there in spite of the exorbitant cost. I wanted two hours but the only option was all day for $10. Plus $2.20 in tax. And the machine didn't give change. So I put in a 10 and three ones. The machine failed to deliver a ticket to put on my windshield.

The meter provided a number to call to report problems. So I called to report the problem. I entered all the figures they asked for, hoping against hope to get to a Real Person. Instead I was told that my credit card was refused, for a refund call xxx-xxx-xxxx, goodbye, and the automaton hung up. Of course I wasn't ready to write down the number so it sailed right by me. I got out pen and paper and called again. They wanted my credit card number again before they'd give me that phone number. And I wasn't going to give it again--endless loop, endless charges??

Being in a hurry to get to the store, I ended up putting my credit card in the machine and being charged $12.20 on top of the $13 cash. This struck me as a bit pricy for two hours of parking in a half-empty lot.

Several "contact forms" and phone calls later, they're supposed to be emailing me a refund form. As I had to spell my email address five times before she (at least it was a Real Person) got it written down, I'm not hopeful.

The Portland bookstore isn't downtown; it's on the edge of a neighbourhood where I've never had any trouble finding a place. No problem. I had a most enjoyable signing with an audience who asked lots of questions and bought lots of books. And then I set out for home, 100 miles south.

I always have trouble getting onto I-5 southbound in Portland. It's unbelievably complicated whatever your starting point, but I did think I had at last figured out how to do it from the bookstore. I headed for the Hawthorne Bridge, prepared in my mind to make the loop at the other end and hopeful that I knew which way to turn on the surface streets leading to the freeway.

Hawthorne Bridge was closed.

I studied my map. Go north a few blocks and cross the Willamette on the Morrison Bridge, I decided, having once got lost going south to the Ross Island Bridge.

Morrison Bridge was closed.

What was worse, there was no choice of which way to go from there--you were funneled onto I-5 northbound.

You may remember that what I needed was I-5 southbound.

Just in case you're worrying, I didn't end up back in Seattle. I made it home--

but now I'm hoping that trip wasn't an omen for my coming signing trip to San Diego. All I have to do is follow I-5...


Jaden Terrell said...

Ah, Carola, I can get lost going around the block. I got a GPS for our anniversary a few years ago, and it was one of the most useful gifts I've ever gotten. I call him Daniel, and having him makes me feel safer and more confident when I'm on the road. He doesn't understand construction, so you can get turned around unexpectedly, but so far, he's always managed to get me back where I need to go.

(Tim Hallinan calls his Doris, and his blog relates some of his adventures with her while on his cross-country book tour.)

Carola said...

I've read too many local stories about people being directed by their GPS onto forest tracks and getting stranded in the middle of nowhere. Sometime fatally. And the only time I've been in a car using it, we turned east on Beltline and it told us we were on I-5, which is north-south and 5 miles away. So I'm distinctly wary...

Jackie King said...

Carola, I've always been directionally challenged. The only two directions I'm sure about are up and down. Your post gave me a smile and in return, I give you all of my sympathy.