I used to have problems writing in any kind of noise. It’s still a little difficult. But the other day I was on deadline with two stories and had to get the long-suffering wife’s car inspected. So I took the laptop with me. The inspection/oil change place is cheap but that is about all it has going for it. Customer friendly under any sense of that term, it is most assuredly not. The waiting room is about half the size of my kitchen which is to say small. It’s dirty. The six chairs are the lightweight, plastic folding variety. There is a TV on with the sound jacked up to 11. Daytime TV at 110 decibels. Very good for concentrating. The repair bays are close by. Nothing like the sound of air guns and hammering to focus your attention.
The inspection and oil-change turned into three hours.
My companions for the journey were, at times, too many for the chairs. Next to me for at least two hours was a larger woman. I am being kind. She really needed two of the folding chairs but she drooped on most of mine so it worked out. She was accompanied by an older lady who had, and I am not trying to be unkind, dementia. She was on the chair on my other side, cackling, rubbing her hands together and taking all manner of odd artifacts from her purse. She had a strong odor of urine and sharp elbows. She made lots of noises and seemed to find everything very funny.
I suggested, no I kind of pleaded, to swap places with the large woman. She wouldn’t hear of it. She said she knew I was working and didn’t want to disturb me. Around this time the pissy old woman next to me produced a cigarette lighter shaped like a penis. This brought the house down. The large woman, moving with surprising speed for someone her size, produced a cell phone and proceeded to take pictures of the woman, the prick lighter and presumably me. I am still being kind when I say the larger woman had a voice like a donkey braying. A loud donkey. Braying. In my ear. Urging whoever was on the cell phone and most of Luzerne County to “Look at the pictures of Nana and the lighter.”
The woman was braying, Ellen DeGeneres was harmonizing, and the noise from the repair bays about six feet from where we sat was short of producing permanent hearing damage but not by a lot. I thought about Henry David Thoreau, writing in the woods. I thought about a lot of things. Mostly I struggled to keep from bashing anyone over the head with my laptop.
I am not good with a track pad on a laptop under the best of circumstances. I kept erasing parts of my stories and cutting and pasting was problematic at best. I would normally, when faced with this kind of frustration, vent my displeasure vocally. I gritted my teeth and formed loud strings of swear words in my brain. Some of them may have wriggled free. Somehow I got most of both stories done by the time the oil change and inspection and what turned into a tie-rod replacement and front end alignment was done. Three hours later and $300 poorer I had exhausted the laptop’s battery, drained my patience and thought about homicide. I am pretty sure a jury would have found it justifiable.
I figured if I could write anything that remotely made sense under those circumstances I am now able to write on the deck of the Titanic while it is going vertical.
With a sense of trepidation I turned the stories in to my editor and he liked both of them, with no revisions and just a few minor punctuation corrections.
Do you think I could rent a chair at the oil change place?