I don't mean to brag, but I'm feeling pretty proud of myself today. I just did something worthy of "adventurer" status in Oregon Trial II. It wasn't the greatest feat. Nothing deserving of a GOOD mag email blast or 60 Minutes free-solo fame. We're talking college app essay material, a little deed that affirms who I am.
So, I just moved to West Philly, and though I work full-time I've been trying to get more involved in the neighborhood. I went to my block watch meeting the other day and found out about this block-wide "obstacle course." It sounded harmless and fun, and I've been trying to get involved, so yeah.
First, I had to get someone to cover my shift. I do entry-level quant work at the UPenn med school. I'm still an hourly and I try to rack up enough hours to get overtime. I'll have to backload my already-consumed papri chaat eat-out budget to next week. Alas.
I walked across the bridge to Center City and checked out a Philly car-share. I bike, but this was part of the course (official name, unimaginative as it may be: "The West Philly Challenge").
1. Start at 2pm.
2. Drive to the PennDOT office in Southwest Philly and get a new state-issued photo ID (lots of news about this…you can use it for voting) before the office closes.
3. The photo has to be good. After you're done, you have to scan it and make it your profile pic on Twitter, Facebook, and - B.F.D. - Google Plus.
Southwest Philly is a trip. It's where they put the airport and (let's be real) the poor people, to make life quiet for everyone else.
I made it in time. But then, the line.
I waited in line.
Halfway through, I realized I didn't have a pen and they weren't giving them out, so I shelled out 25 cents at the dispenser.
I got to the front of the line.
The unthinkable: I forgot my birth certificate. When my partner and I got married, we both hyphenated our last names (go ahead, judge), and I couldn't get the card with my Social Security Card and passport alone.
This was my McNabb 4th-and-26 moment. Should I go home empty or call my buddy Mike whom I've only known for a few weeks and is probably having an afternoon with his girlfriend and doesn't want to be bothered? I did.
Mike was the hero of the day. He got there right before the desk was closing up, and c'mon, you know those state workers - protected by their union, but in reality overworked, and I'm not one to judge anyway - were not going to do overtime.
The camera guy caught me when I was only half-smiling, and somehow the contours of my cheeks got flattened, but it made for a decent conversation starter at the after-party that evening.
"You should be a model," Jackie from three houses down told me, before breaking out some PBR and expostulating on the city's inexcusably slow response to potholes on our modest but still dignified street.
"I know," I replied.
And this is how I got involved in the neighborhood. Patience, a little ingenuity, a little poise under pressure, and the whole thing - politics? civic engagement? a Republican scam, but still - was fun.