There are maybe 200 calories in a ceviche tostada, give or take. I was eating two of those and was on my second pint of Trumer Pils. Each beer was also 200 calories. Combine that with the dressingless salad and however much sugar I dumped into the coffee I drank throughout the day, I figured my total calorie intake was somewhere between 1200 and 1500. Wait, my tostada came with tortilla chips. so maybe the maximum for the day was more like 1800 calories.
Still, that wasn’t so bad. A sedentary fat bastard pushing 50 is supposed to burn over 2000 calories per day. Doing the math, I could honestly say I was slowly but surely getting myself back into shape as I sat at the bar, swilled beer, and stuffed my face with toasted corn and fishy bits.
Meanwhile, the others in the bar were making disapproving groans at the wide-screen TV as our own SF Giants continued to get their collective ass handed to them by the Arizona Diamondbacks. I already had my evening’s fill of baseball that night.
It’s usually more than the evening’s half-inning saturation point, but i think a lot of that was because I was eating at the time. I get self conscious about my table manners, especially when the food is difficult to eat without being disgusting about it. Rather than be careful in how I consumed my meal, I instead sat off at the other end of the bar where I could have food fall out of my mouth without getting any dirty looks.
It was still early, not yet nine pm, but I knew I’d be going home soon. Two pints, or maybe three, was my limit most nights. It was enough to pay lip service to my alcoholism, but not enough to prevent me from doing a little reading in bed before I fell asleep. This was not always the case, not even close, but I’m more grown up now. At least that’s what I tell myself.
I tossed my food container in the trash, said goodbye to the bartender, and headed out the door. As I walked down the street toward where Valencia runs into Mission, a 49 bus rumbled by me heading north. I used to get on this bus about this hour of the night. There was a variety of mischief to be gotten into at a couple of stops along its route. None of that had much appeal anymore, too exhausting. Maybe that’s what maturity is all about. You don’t really get any wiser. You just get tired.
I crossed over to Valencia Street and started walking up toward my house. The night air was cool and misting, not uncommon for an August night in San Francisco. It was the kind of weather that conjures up that Mark Twain quote we’re all sick of by now, bullshit he never actually said.
To the left of me was the old stone-and-brick portion of St. Luke’s Hospital. Even during daylight hours, the doors and front gate are locked and bolted. It is as if that wing of the hospital served no purpose other than to lend character to the rest of the institution. If that were the case, it was doing a damn good job of it. It looked like either the admissions office of Miskatonic University or perhaps an insane asylum run by Christopher Lee.
The main wing facing Cesar Chavez Street looked more like what you’d expect from a hospital: parking, ambulances, and an emergency room open for business. The chances of my getting wheeled into one of those have gone down since my behavior has improved. It would certainly go up again when I got old and feeble. For the time being though, emergency rooms were for those less fortunate than myself.
It was times like these when I felt reasonably satisfied with my life. After a productive day at work, I had a bite to eat and a couple of well-deserved beers before heading home. Tomorrow I’d be ready to do it all again. I might not have been a great success in life, but I wasn’t a failure either. If nothing else, I was able to enjoy the peace of mind that comes from having no great crises on the horizon.
I got the mail before climbing the steps to my apartment. It was junk mail mostly, except for one thing from the company that managed the 401(k) from my last job. It was probably the quarterly statement with some less-than-stellar news on because the market’s been in the toilet lately. After I got in and let the cat inside, I opened the envelope and read the letter inside. It informed me that the entire balance of my account had been withdrawn. If I had a problem with this, I could call them at 8 am eastern time to discuss the matter.
There had to be some mistake. I had withdrawn nothing. I got on my computer and went to their website, hoping to find what was going on. I tried logging in but failed. I then followed the forgot-your-password link to a page that prompted me for my username. It dawned on me that I wasn’t 100% sure of that either. There was another link for forgotten usernames that took me to a page informing me that my username would be made available by talking to a customer-service representative start at 8 am eastern.
I went to the bedroom, lay on the bed, and stared at the ceiling with the light on. Maybe they’ll be sending me a check, I told myself. This didn’t seem likely so a number of other scenarios entered my head, all of them involving identity theft. Some involved an elaborate crime syndicate while others were the work of a lone hacker a local meth addict who’s been stealing my mail. Very few of the possible outcomes included the perpetrator being arrested. Fewer still included me getting my money back.
I slept about four hours that night.
When 8 am eastern rolled around (which was 5 am for me), I dialed their 800 number and got put on hold. At this point, my mental state had deteriorated to the point where every detail no matter how small pointed to a worst-case scenario. There mere fact that they said there was a high volume of calls meant that they were dealing with a major crisis. Maybe everybody’s money was gone, sucked dry by Al Qaeda operatives or handed over to Haliburton in the interests of national security.
When an actual person got on the line, I tried my best not to freak out. When she asked me questions to verify my identity, I took a moment to remind myself that this was perfectly reasonable and not some phishing ploy because she was in on it too. Eventually the truth came out. My money had actually been transferred from one internal account and they, in their infinite wisdom, only thought it was necessary to tell me about the withdrawal. It isn’t often I feel like I want to simultaneously thank and kill someone, but this was one of times.
So there it was. a crisis that never was. I was now free to go back to my life of counted calories and rationed alcohol. The only difference was the lingering feeling that this little glimpse of hell could one day come back, maybe next time for real.