Barter is part of my vocabulary. I love finding great deals and resist paying retail at all costs. This mindset is a holdover from a childhood spent in the country: ‘I’ll give you this bucket of scrap iron for those Archie Comics and that Sugar Daddy’ or ‘you want that old branding iron? I’ll give it to you for that crock of freshly churned butter’. (Trust me that was a good deal.) It’s no surprise that I aspire to bartering and acquiring the best deals I can as I convert Bubba the Bus; which leads me to the story of the Cork Man from Bayview.
I found myself clicking through ads on Craigslist; that online flea market where you can find coffee makers and sex swings, side by side under the heading Household. My quest is to find materials for my conversion process; adhesive, carpet, furniture and other miscellany, including underlayment for the floor—the most desirable being cork. Lo and behold, I found exactly that; a brand new, unopened roll that was a leftover from a job site. The cost: $50.00, which was a bargain. I phoned and when the man answered, I asked for his location. Of course, he responded: Bayview.
For those who aren’t from San Francisco, Bayview is the neighborhood located the farthest away from me, and still considered ‘The City’. Part junkyard dog, part chain link fence and part demolition site; it has rightfully earned the moniker “San Francisco’s most isolated neighborhood.” It is a place best visited before the sun sinks in the sky. I asked for the exact location and was told that it would be given to me ‘exactly when I decided to come.’ It was an odd response, but one I decided fit with the aesthetic of Bayview. So, I had a cocktail, took a nap and a few hours later, when I woke up, I wondered how I would get the cork. Should I take a bus? How heavy would the cork be? Would it fit in a MUNI seat? I decided to rent a Smart Car from GetAround, which turned out to be the right decision.
I phoned Cork Man, who advised me to call his sister, once I arrived, and she would sell it to me. 45 minutes later, I arrived in Bayview, to a warehouse with boarded windows and the obligatory chain link fence and junkyard dog. My call went straight to voicemail. My 2nd call received a pre-set text: ‘Can’t talk right now. In a meeting’. I returned the text, explaining who I was and that I was here for the cork. She replied that she would call me in 10 minutes. After 20 minutes had passed, I phoned again—to no avail; so, I phoned the original Cork Man. When he answered, I explained the situation, in between the barks of the Doberman behind me.
“Well, what do you want me to do about it,” he bellowed.
“I just want the cork,” I explained. “I rented a car and came all the way out here for it.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” his voice gruff and loud. “You didn’t tell me what you want ME to do about it.”
It was a valid statement; however, I was feeling uncharacteristically emotional—hostage to a hormonal surge; the sort that makes me lose my keys—only to find them in the freezer next to the Vodka or causes me to cry during Toyota commercials. Hence, I burst into tears. My sobs were all-encompassing; to the point, where even the dog stopped barking, tucked his tail and scampered away.
“Knock it off. Hang On, I’ll be right there,” Cork Man barked into the phone.
The line went dead and I still wailed.
Five minutes later, a pick-up truck screeched into the barren lot and a burly, bearded man jumped out. By this time, snot bubbles had formed at my nose and I was doubled over, sobbing incoherently.
People gathered around. Silence and questions filled the air around Cork Man and I. He began to panic. “Stop it. Stop it,” he clamored. Then he dashed into the warehouse, grabbed the roll of unopened cork, heaved it—(all 150lbs. of it) on his shoulder like a rag doll, and at a near run, brought it to my Smart Car; at which point, I realized a few things: A) I didn’t know how to open the compartment that masquerades as a trunk of a Smart Car and B) I wasn’t sure the cork would fit into the car anyway.
In between sobs, I try to explain to Cork Man, that I didn’t usually behave like this; that I am not an emotional person, etc., etc., etc.…
“OPEN THE GODDAM DOOR,” he shouted; which I did. He flung the roll into the car and somehow it fit.
I approached him with my money, explaining that I had just gone to the ATM and didn’t have change. Could he make the change? Cork Man was already backing away from me, returning to his truck, a look of bewilderment etched across his features.
“I don’t want your money. Just take it. Just go. GO, GO, GO….”
Five minutes later, while driving down Bayshore Boulevard; I realized a couple of things:
1) I learned that I was still subjected to hormonal horrors, even though I have gone through menopause. (This was a surprise for me, as I thought they abandoned ship along with my menstrual cycle. They have not.)
2) For every hormone hostage, there will be an innocent bystander in the line of fire. Today, that bystander was Cork Man.
3) Being single and hormonally unsound can be a mixed blessing. If I ever had to see Cork Man again, I might be embarrassed—but today, there was no need to pay retail as my raging hormones, saved me $50.00.