If I could describe a perfect day: wake early, suffer no consequences for a sleep deficit, write a piece, have some minor house improvements, go to the office to find treats in the mailbox, pick up child, nap, eat pizza, read an entire book, buy a major appliance, work on the website, watch an Edward G. Robinson movie and hit the webs just before bed to find that Iranians have overthrown their government. That was Friday. Without the last part. Still, too good to be true. So let’s pick holes in it.
Woke early to take Gnat to day camp. Brilliant blue morning. I like to listen to the 40s channel in the morning, for no other reason than I associate it with driving Gnat around in the summer. We were early, of course, so we queued and chatted until the bus came. Downside: a guy from the office was dropping his kid off, and being a business reporter, he was dressed like an adult. (One of the few non-management people at the paper who ever wears a tie.) I looked like krep – unshaven, baseball cap, wrinkled jeans. Greetings from Bumtown, O Co-worker. He stowed his kid and skedaddled; I waited until the bus left, because Gnat requested it. Not because she was scared to be on her own – she’s been doing that for two years without a trace of anxiety, but heck, as long as I was here, would I? Sure.
One kid was quite specific; she leaned out the window and yelled: “Mom, I want you wait there until the bus moves and then wave, like this.” She indicated she preferred an up-and-down hand motion instead of the side-to-side model.
I studied the bus, and concluded that I was probably the 900,948th adult to wonder why we must strap our kids in like Laika in the back seat, but they can slide around unholstered in a bus? And why does the company that makes the yellow bus called “Blue Bird”?
Wonder if they have a website? Wonder if the website makes the beloved childhood icon like a school bus look like something sent back from the post-apocalyptic future to find Sarah Conner and take her to the middle school? Why yes. (Warning: sound)
Don’t miss the history page, where it’s apparent the name has been wrong for seventy-nine years.
Back home. I tried to get back to sleep, having only had 5.5 hours, but it wouldn’t work. And I wasn’t tired. Gave up. After lunch the contractor came to paint the laundry room floor. (Since he reads the site the first thing he wanted to see was the Water Feature.) He set to work, and so did I: wrote a column, then went to the office. Packages in the mail slot. I don’t always get to open packages right away – I’m quite behind, in fact, for reasons I’ll admit some day – but one of them split open right away: postcards. Lots of postcards from a reader who had been given them by relatives. They were under the impression she collected them, based on one chance remark 19 years ago, or something like that. She did not collect them. She did not want them, so she sent them to me. HERE! TAKE THEM! Some nice items – nothing of value, I must reassure her; don’t worry, it’s not like there was the postcard equivalent of a Homer Wagnus in there.
Also in the mail: the expanded Popular Mechanics debunking of the 9/11 conspiracy myths. When I went down to the lobby cash machine I put the book on an adjacent shelf while I extracted my money. A lanky young man waiting to use the machine pointed to the book, and asked how it was. I said I hadn’t read it, but I’d read the article on which it was based, and that was a good resource. “Of course, it’ll all be dismissed by the people who believe these things.” I took my money and stepped aside.
“I know,” he said. “I have friends who believe in the conspiracy.”
“Really? I don’t know how I could be friends with people who believed that.”
“They believe the whole thing,” he said. “The Jews were warned beforehand, that sort of stuff.”
“Oh, anti-semitism and anti-government paranoia. That’s a dandy combo.”
“You can’t talk to them about it,” he said, and shook his head.
Later that night I read the entire book. Sane, logical, unemotional, sensible, comprehensive. There: I’m now officially part of the conspiracy. My membership card should arrive in two weeks. I understand we get 10% off at Denny’s.
Picked up Gnat from day camp; she was utterly filthy. I don’t know what they do there – they put Mars bars on fishlines and cast them into the woods then reel the kids back in, dragging them through the forest detritus. Home; she played ToonTown and I napped. Got 20 solid dense minutes before Jasper started barking his head off – well, it would have to do. Ordered the pizza. Got the pizza. Ate the pizza. Walked the dog, then sat down to work on the Fargo site and watch a movie. (Not very good, but we’ll get to that on Wednesday.) Ended the night with an episode of “Deadwood,” which always makes me wonder if people really used that particular word back then, and in such abundance. No matter – as much as I’ve never really loved the Western genre, I have warmed to “Deadwood.”
Note to HBO: I’d love to see a Colonial America series. But don’t make George Washington swear so much.
In between the dogwalk and the Friday night work, there was a trip to buy appliances. Major appliances. Durable goods. I went to Best Buy after supper to buy a washer and drier to replace Stiller and Meara. Got the same guy who sold me the LG microwave / toaster combo: Jim. Fifty-something fellow. Knows his appliances. He didn't push me towards any brand, just laid out the features and benefits. They don't work on commission, which I like. I went with an LG combo for the usual complex, well-grounded reasons: I liked the styling.
Then came the upselling, and I went along with the new vent hose and the metal tubes. But things soon turned in my direction. The washer and drier both had $50 rebates: nice. And since one of the units had that “Energy Star” label, I was entitled to a $75 dollar Best Buy gift card. I was rather stunned: that’s a lot of money. Of course, it’s not $75 to them, but it’s still $75 to me.
“Are you a member of the Members Rewards program?” he asked.
Since I don’t buy major appliances on a regular basis, no. But! But! He explained the benefits. For a yearly fee of $9.95, I would get store credit gift certificates based on the size of my purchase. For example: I’d get $60 in store credit now if I signed up.
“So – if I spend ten dollars now I get $50 in store credit?”
He nodded. He left it to me. Ball's in my court. (He didn't say, but I suspected this was one of those things that the Head Office noted. A salesman who turns a certain percentage of sales into Members Rewards sign-ups has a gold star in his file.) I toted up the rebates, the gift card, the Members Reward program, and realized I was ahead of the game, and then some. Why, it’s almost as if they have lots of profit built into the items, and that allows them to make these offers. The amusing thing is that I would have bought everything without these offers – where else am I going to go? Sure, there's that boo-tique appliance store with the free coffee and gorgeous showroom, but they might as well drive a mailed fist up your nether regions when you show up, just to set the tone for the final financial outlay.
I signed up for the program. He explained how I could access my records and benefits online. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I have no interest in checking my records and benefits online.
Left the store with a spring in my step, completely unaware of the horror that would strike 48 hours later.
#1. The delivery people called to tell me they would bring the new
washer and drier Monday morning. At Seven AM. No, I said. I requested an afternoon delivery. Seven is not possible.
“Well, it’s been entered in The Route,” the fellow said. "Did they explain how The Route works?
I explained, kindly, with a preface that indicated I understood his position and needs here, that I was not here to accommodate the Route. But rather, may I venture to assert, the opposite. We rescheduled.
#2. My wife, having had a few spare moments to consider things outside her normal busy life, wondered whether the new washer was the same size as the old one. After all, the old one said ULTRA HIGH CAPACITY.
I didn’t know the answer. I thought it was unlikely it was smaller – but then again, I didn’t know. I think I said “that’s a fascinating question, honey, but I believe we can be assured it’s fine, since the salesman assured me that the differences in capacities among the items was minimal, and since I did not get one of those units you stack in the closet that chokes if you give it more than a sock and washcloth, I think we’ll be fine.” I probably said “I don’t know. Little late to wonder, isn’t it? I might as well have said “Why do I care? I don’t do the laundry.” And so I spent Sunday afternoon attempting to figure out the capacity of 17-year old washer. Plugging the model number into the Google did nothing. Estimations with a tape measure seemed incomplete. I finally called the GE hotline, and a helpful clerk called up the specs. It took a while, since they were probably stored on ancient IBM mainframes that used rotating drums for memory. Verdict: 2.7 cubic whatevers. I checked out the new one: 3.4. Booya.
So that was my weekend. That, and digesting the news. Was it just me, or did things seem inverted? The bad news: we discovered a terrorist plot. The good news: we concluded a peace pact with Hezbollah.
Maybe if I walk on my hands this week it’ll be easier.