December 5, 2007
I was going to say “Sleepless in Secaucus” because it works so well, but I'm not in Secaucus. I'm in Hoboken.
I got into Jersey City Friday night and spent the night in a good hotel with all the creature comforts including a tv and a bed big enough for me and half the Siberian navy. Luckily none of them showed up so I had it all to myself. From that location I found the Newport Center Mall and Target – where I have a charge card! – and I was able to get to a nice Italian restaurant for a good dinner. Everything was fine on Friday. I thought, “If the rest of my life goes like this, I’ll be okay, even without a toenail.”
After picking up a few basics at Target Saturday morning I made my way to my apartment in Hoboken in the middle of the day. I had ordered a new kind of rollaway bed, one that inflates automatically once it’s plugged in. It seemed a better idea for guest accommodations than a convertible sofa, and would make do for me alone until my furniture arrives.
I unboxed the bed, plugged it in, and it magically became a full queen-sized sleeping machine. Then I plunged about Hoboken – shopping for the little things to equip myself for living, enduring the cold blasts of winter tempered by moments in overheated buildings. I had a light repast at the Greek restaurant on the corner and slogged seven or eight blocks to the A&P. I was getting used to the 3-flight climb of stairs to my apartment and was doing just a little too much. My head was filled with plans, long-term like buying major furniture, and short-term like eating a nice meal at the restaurant around the corner.
I needed a little more cash for my expenses so I went to an ATM machine after lunch. I hit the usual buttons and had an odd experience when the machine asked for my PIN number. My mind went blank. I’ve used that number at least once a week for over five years and under normal conditions I can hit the numbers automatically, without thinking about them. At this point, no number came in my mind. I said to myself, “Pretend you’re at the ATM in Fairhope.” I hit some numbers. The message came up, “You have entered an incorrect PIN number, Please try again.” I tried about five combinations of the numbers I knew had to be right, but I was still coming up dry.
The shaggy-dog story goes on and on. I tried at least ten different ATM’s and was told by each that I was giving the wrong number. I took a break, thinking the right number would hit me if I stopped worrying about it. A number came to mind and I tried it, but it too was not right. I called the central office of the bank, gave them all my ID numbers and information and told them of my dilemma. The lady on the line was cordial and told me she could mail me my PIN. I said, “You’ll email it to me?” and she said they weren’t allowed to email the numbers but she would send it to me in the mail. I told her I needed cash immediately. She suggested I use the bank card at a big store like Wal-Mart and ask for cash back. Unfortunately there is no Wal-Mart in Hoboken (Got that, Fairhope readers?) so I tried the CVS. Apparently the message was out about my card number because at CVS, when the card was swiped, instead of coining money for me, the machine said BAD READ and I couldn’t even use the card to pay for the paper towels and Clorox in my cart.
On the phone, my daughter promised to bring extra money for me when she came the next day. By now my stomach was churning and I was feeling more than a little strange.
Some time about five in the evening I began to realize that I had overextended myself. I didn’t feel I could stomach a restaurant meal. Instead I went out into the cold again and bought a bowl of won-ton soup at a little Chinese place called Off the Wall, and a Coke – the old Southern miracle cure for anything.
Except, apparently, whatever I had coming on. I felt strangely euphoric and nauseated at the same time. I didn’t know what the euphoria came from; I just thought it was the excitement of having made such an enormous move, but later it seemed to me to be connected with whatever was making me vomit everything that went into my mouth -- perhaps a brain-chemical reaction to a body on its way to a bad time.
I set up the inflatable bed and attempted to sleep off my stress. However, the bed had a way of deflating itself every two hours or so, forcing me to get up and turn the switch to inflate it once again. This was okay since I had to get up every two hours and throw up, but I could tell this procedure would get old very soon.
The next day the virus caused me to spend a lot of time sleeping. I decided to call the bed company and get the defective inflatable replaced – no problem, but I’m going to have a lot of nights of interrupted sleep before my mattress arrives.
The next 24-hour period was spent with much time in the bathroom for other reasons than had been noted here. It wasn’t until a day later – yesterday – that my system was back to normal. The PIN number has yet to be found in my mailbox, the furniture will not arrive until Monday, and my Internet hookup cannot be made at least until then. This morning I was homebound awaiting the arrival of the man from the New Jersey gas company.
Thinking the furniture was only going to take three days, I didn’t pack all that much, so as soon as the gas man came, around 1:30 P.M., I made my way back to Target in an attempt to buy enough to get me through. I expected to take a taxi home, but I also expected to get my PIN number so that I’d have enough to pay the fare. The PIN number didn't appear, and besides I didn't have all that much to carry. I needed a few extra towels, a scrub brush, unglamorous stuff like that -- and I wasn't that taken with the lamps and furniture at Target to justify buying in and finding some way to get it from Jersey City to Hoboken. My cell phone ran out of juice about that time anyway.
All this is just par for the course of making such a big move. I’ve little or no control over anything. I’m spending most of my waking hours waiting or shopping for things I already have with money I don’t. But it’s not Hoboken’s fault.
Hoboken is just what I wanted it to be – funky, charming, noisy, and convenient to Manhattan. All night long there is activity. There is a busy, zany energy in its bustle and in its friendliness. I am looking forward to the next adventure. But it would help if I could get my bank to shake loose some of the money I put in there. I wonder what that number is.