But the drive home was the worst buzzkill ever. In heavy weekend traffic, some Einstein had decided to take all five lanes of Interstate 10 and turn them into one.
Using meditation, yoga, exercise and other highly sophisticated coping skills (like heavy medication), I did pretty well for a while, steadfastly rejecting the idea to tear up the center divider like a demented race-car driver on crack.
Others however, were not so restrained. As time and traffic crept by at an excruciatingly slow pace, fights broke out. Soon, there was gunfire. Old people began flinging each other out the backs of RVs. Dogs mauled their owners. When I began to see bodies hanging from the overpasses, I realized it was time to take action.
I got on my cell phone and called the Arizona State Department of Annoyance. This was their doing. After six hours in a voicemail loop, during which time I'd moved forward 10 feet, I got somebody on the line. He listened distractedly to my concerns, clacked away on his computer and told me, "That project is no longer ours."
"What?!" After all that time on hold, it was the last thing I wanted to hear. "But it was your contact number on the signs."
"It was our project, but they didn't like the way we were handling it. It was kicked up to ADAG."
"What's that?" I've been in this state for a while, yet I'd never heard of them.
"Arizona Department of Aggravation. It was all very political, if you want to know the truth. They snaked the project right out from under us. Said the people filing complaints were merely irked."
"So?" I was getting really confused. My clutch leg was fatigued, and I'd resolved to get out and push my car.
"They wanted bigger. Better. And in all fairness, they are the experts. Annoying people is easy. Getting them really pissed off is more of an art. Hey, this project utilizes federal monies. When the inspectors arrive, it has to be up to standard."
"Wait, you mean ... they're not fixing the road?"
He said it like I was the dumbest person ever. "Fixing the road? Why would they do that?" And he hung up.
After three days on hold, someone at the ADAG answered the phone, or so I thought.
"Arizona Department of Misery," the man said.
"What? I was on hold for the Department of Aggravation."
"Budget cutbacks. We've taken them over." Then he said nothing. No explanation; no, "How can we help?" Eventually: "What do you want, bitch?"
"That was uncalled for," I said.
"Why? Did it make you miserable?"
"Well, not miserable. Offended."
"Damn," he said. "But I'm just a trainee. If I ask you again, can you say I made you miserable? These calls are recorded for quality control."
"Only if you tell me what's going on," I said.
"I told you, bitch, these calls are rec ..."
"Stop right there. If you don't tell me what's going on right now, I'm going to write your bosses a letter saying you were nice!" I said.
Silence ensued, until he figured out he'd been bested. "Look, I'm only gonna say this once, and hope it flies under the radar. Every government has its way of keeping the populace beat down. In China, it's overt oppression; some African countries, periodic genocides. Here in Arizona, we use road construction."
It all became clear to me. Everything I was feeling, my entire experience--the buzzkill, the aggravation, the misery.
"Tell me something," he said. "What are you going to do when you finally make it home today?"
"Probably drink a bottle of Old Bushmills and fall into bed," I said dejectedly.
"Exactly," the man on the phone said. "And after you do that, how are you going to feel tomorrow."
"Totally fucking miserable," I said. I heard a distant, "Yeah!" and imagined that downward elbow-jerking motion that guys do in glee. Then a click and a recording came on. "We here at the ADM appreciate your concerns, and will be with you just as soon as possible. Please stay on the line ..."
Kenny G. music played in the background.