Sunday, September 1, 2013

RANGERING: Prologue (2004)


Dear Reader: The truth is never an absolute; it is subjective and it changes over time. So I do not claim that any of what I write is the truth. It is only my perception and recollection of events as they happened many years ago. In some situations I have changed names and details to protect the privacy of people involved, but I do my best to maintain the underlying substance of events and their impact on me.

NOTE: I will never write about upsetting details without a warning.



SEPTEMBER 2004

It was my “Friday” at Cape Disappointment State Park and I was working my typical night shift.  I had tweaked my neck a couple days earlier, I was in pain, and dog tired.  For several weeks I’ve been working two jobs, on many days getting up early to go to the first, then rush home to walk the dog and grab my lunch and dinner, and off for a full shift at the park.  By the time I get home, walk Jackie and shower, it’s time for bed.  It makes for a long day, and a long six-day week. 

As I finished cleaning my final restroom of the night, I heard Ranger Steve on the radio say to Ranger Eva, “Have you seen the moon tonight?  I’m at Beard’s Hollow and it is particularly beautiful.  Almost full, bright white and the sky is so blue.”  Eva answered, “Yeah, it’s a great night to be a ranger.”  I picked up my radio and added, “or a park aide.”

Exhausted, I drove the beautiful drive home under the deep blue sky above, complete with brilliant stars and that particularly beautiful moon.  I saw more deer than usual, including a couple of young ones.  I went through the tunnel under Scarborough Hill and saw Astoria twinkling in silver and gold across the river.  I was thrilled that I was going to have a day off, and vowed to spend it being lazy and unproductive.



Today I succumbed to a chiropractic adjustment.  It is a wonderful feeling to regain movement where there has been stiffness and pain!  I came home to an answering machine message from my mom.  “Kjerstin, I opened the mail from your bank; it says you have insufficient funds and the bank fees add up to $108.”

Normally this sort of thing immediately makes me cranky and agitated.  But I felt calm as I called the bank.  I’ve been so careful, especially since my cash flow is so sluggish.  I asked the bank representative if they could reverse the fees.  She told me she was unable to do that.  “I’ve been an excellent customer for nearly a decade, and I have a long history of keeping high balances in your bank.  You can’t help me out here?”  No.  I reasoned with her that if they had sent those notices to the new address I had given them weeks ago, I would have learned earlier there was a problem, not kept writing checks, made a deposit sooner, and would not have had the snowball effect of accumulating bank fees; her answer did not change.  As I waited on hold to be connected with a supervisor, my calm dissolved and I started to cry silently.  It has been so many years since I have had to balance my account before writing each check, since I’ve had to carefully strategize which bills will be paid by which paycheck, since I’ve actually bounced a check.

Is this what life is all about for me in Astoria, struggling financially and barely (not) making ends meet?  My confession to the supervisor that my paycheck from my part time job would not bring my account into balance, and my request for the bank to do something to help, was met with a bland response in the negative.  So much for big name banks.  I let them know that they would be losing my business.  I’m sure they were upset about that.

As I hung up, it occurred to me that $108 is nothing.  I’ve lost and given away many times that amount, many times over.  I got into my car with my token paycheck and drove to a small local bank to open a new account.  I had dealt with this bank several times while working at my summer job, and always found them personable, friendly and flexible.  Just as well to make one more commitment to Astoria, one more move away from big business towards community.  Since I had been a signer on that business account, they already knew me and were more than happy to get me started.  Then I returned to the chiropractor’s office and wrote her a check from the new account.



Sun setting behind Astoria-Megler Bridge
I took my dog Jackie out for her early evening walk.  On a whim we crossed Marine Drive to the river walk.  My home is on the east side of town, and we turned east along the walk.  The Columbia River was on my left, with the green and blue hills of Washington beyond.  Enormous ships were moored or went drifting by.  The sea lions had congregated in their usual places on the docks, creating a commotion.  Everything was taking on a golden hue as the sun behind me started its migration towards the horizon.  The breeze was fresh and clean.  I walked by derelict canneries built over the river on pilings that have become green and misshapen with weather and age.  The river rippled and twinkled.  I could not bring myself to go back inside while it was so beautiful outside, so we continued our walk out of town, past a small lake on my right where crickets chirped and the occasional Victorian house on the far side peeked out from amid the trees.  As we finally turned around, the sun was behind the highest part of the Astoria-Megler Bridge, under which the ships pass.  Past this high point, the bridge continues its sojourn towards Washington much lower to the water, skimming the river.  I followed it with my eyes to the far side.  If I looked to the furthest end of Washington that I could see, where land yields to ocean, there was the occasional glimmer coming from the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.  Clouds were rimmed with luminescent orange, like molten lava.  The entire landscape was surreal, in shades of blue and yellow and orange that would put a postcard to shame.  I started to cry again.  Is this worth $108?  It is worth far, far more than that.





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