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Gift from Hil Part 2 - 2014-12-30
A Gift from Hil - 2014-12-28
There was A LOT of turkey. - 2014-12-04
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2:37 p.m. - 2014-02-23
It Sucks, and yet It Doesn't

I've mentioned our horrible luck with vacuums. Ever since the ex killed my beloved Electrolux it's been nothing but flubs, duds, and lemons. So much so that for a while I used to pay someone to come and vacuum. (Well, she did other stuff too, but primarily the cleaner came to vacuum.) She brought her own. It was a Kenmore and it went a ton. She said she'd had it for over six years, it was used every day, dragged in and out of her car and clients' homes with all their assorted messes and the vacuum never gave her a smitch of trouble. Last year I decided I'd buy the same exact model. Such a sturdy vacuum from such a reputable company HAD to be a winner, right?


MY Kenmore was nothing but trouble. Considering our sad history with vacuums I'd also bought the extended warrantee, something I never do, but better safe than sorry. It was a good thing I did. THREE times. I brought that stupid thing back in for repairs THREE times. Friday I went back to Sears to pick up the power head from the repair shop again. The guy comes out and says it's hopeless. It could not be fixed. But since it's under warrantee if I brought in the entire machine and all its parts they'd swap it out for a brand new one. Okay, sounded good to me.

We have to backtrack here for a bit. Last week FIL was in the hospital with pneumonia. The endless snowstorms added their joy to the festivities. MIL ended up staying at the hospital with FIL for three days, it was easier and safer than her trying to get home and back through howling blizzards. Mick was demented. Worried about his parents, freaked and fussed by the snow, he shoveled and shoveled and shoveled. Our driveway. His mother's driveway. My office roof. Her deck. He'd run over to the hospital, clear his mother's car, see his folks, and then either head to their place to shovel or come home and shovel some more. A worried and exhausted Mick is a very unpleasant Mick. Not picking here, very few people are at their best when they're tired and worried. So my guy was ragged and Wolf and I were flinchy and laying low.

Medicare in all its governmental wisdom says patients with pneumonia must be discharged from the hospital after five days. Whether they are better or not. Home FIL went. Less than 48 hours later MIL calls from the ER. FIL couldn't breathe. The antibiotics had scoured him dry with diarrhea and so not only was he drowning in phlegm and his blood oxygen was down to 82% he was dehydrated and disoriented. Upshot, he was sicker than ever.

That was Thursday night. We ran over to be with them in the ER. Finally FIL was readmitted. An utterly exhausted MIL goes home. And my poor mannie is half out of his gourd with worry about his parents and fury at the blind regulations that put his father into the street when it was obvious he was still quite ill. Plus at this rate MIL would end up in a bed next to FIL she was so stressed from bullshit with the hospital and Medicare and the wretched weather and spending most of the previous week napping on a waiting room sofa and living on vending machine snacks and bad hospital coffee.

On Friday school was open for the first time in a week. Mick goes to work- dead tired and frantic about his father's condition. Wolf goes to school but only for part of the day, thanks to the bad weather and cancellations he HAS to see his psych for monthly med review pronto and the only time we could get in was when he was supposed to be in culinary class. Wolf is flipping out because he'd already missed so much time at culinary because he'd been staying at the high school on Fridays to prep for the algebra Regents and was afraid he'd be flunked for the quarter for excessive absences.

Oh, I forgot to mention that my back had chosen this happy time to go into spasms and I'd spent the entire week laid out and puking from the pain. I did make it to the chiro, which helped some, but I was (and still am) one hurting girlie.

But ya does what ya gotta.

In my raggedy patched jeans (Old Navy let me down big time, but that's yet another story) with my horrible shapeless unkempt hair and my screaming back I drive through an icy rain to Wolf's culinary school. I jump through the security hoops (show license, be issued a nametag, sign three different forms, speak to two different administrators) and get things smooth with attendance and Wolf's chef about his spotty class time. Sign child out. Drive down the block to the other building where the shrink holds court, sign back in, hike down 3 miles of hallways and two flights of stairs, spend an endless half hour with Dr Dimwit, get Wolf's prescriptions, hike back to the security desk, sign back out. Drive through icy rain to Sears with child in tow. Get the good/bad news about the vacuum. Drive to Sam's Club, almost get into a brawl over a parking space in the snow pile-crowded and very slopped up parking lot. Shuffle inside. Show ID to the door guard. Wait in line at the pharmacy. Hand over Wolf's 'scripts and find out that they cannot be filled until Tuesday due to insurance regs, exchange two pair of jeans for Mick (another long story), purchase the portfolio covers required by culinary school, and finally gratefully collapse in the Sam's snack bar for a badly needed hot dog and a cherry Coke. I call Mick to see how he's doing and while Wolf gnaws on his cruddy snack bar pizza I listen to my stressed-out husband bitch about the icy rain, his father's shaky health, and general disgruntlement with Life. Yikes. The coming weekend was going to be AWFUL. Mick loves Wolf, truly, but when he's stressed he forgets our boy is just a kid and tends to unload on Wolf for trifles. Not good. Thinking hard, I pop some more Advil to quiet my aching back, explain to the child that he'd be better off elsewhere, and get the ex on the phone. Step up, Mikey, and take our son for the weekend. It's been almost a year since you did any serious Dad Time. This was NOT a request.

Arrangements are made. Wolf and I scoot home and get him packed up for a weekend with his father which despite Wolf's antipathy for his old man is a better prospect than being here. Wolf scurries around taking care of his usual chores (pets, dishwasher, emptying the garbage and recycling bins) and I plot out a lovely dinner of sustaining and delicious comfort food for Mick. The ex shows up. (Only an hour and twenty minutes late! A new record for timeliness!) Off goes Wolf, dreading the time with his doofus father and loathe to leave me. I blow kisses at my son who returns them all the way down the driveway and into the street until they're out of sight. Before they're even at the end of the block I get a text from my kid saying he loves me and not to worry about him, Dad's an idiot but he (Wolf) will come to no harm. I encouraged him to have a good time, and assured him all will be fine here.

Which it was.

Mick and I desperately needed some alone time. Wolf's not the usual teenager with a ton of activities and a pack of friends. He doesn't visit or go to dances or to the mall to hang with his gang. He's not a demanding presence, but he is here. All the time. Not that the comparison is exactly apt, even Jesus took some time off from being the Messiah to hang with his pals in Bethany. HE stood down from duty and just hung out drinking wine and telling traveling salesman jokes, you know? The stress and the responsibilities and the lack of privacy had piled up and everyone was due a bit of a break.

Now to pick up the vacuum story.

After a relaxing night and sleeping late into the next morning Mick and I had a lovely leisurely brunch of toasted bagels and reading the paper. Ahhhh. He checked on his folks, then we made plans for the day. The wretched deceitful vacuum was thrown into the Rogue and off we went to Sears. At the repair center we turned in the vacuum and got an exchange slip for a replacement. I had an idea. Since the Kenmore had been such a hunk of junk why not choose a better model? We'd use the credit, add more $$$ of our own and go home with a superior machine. YAY!

Easier said than done. We shopped and compared and happily spotted a Dyson which was on clearance. The uber-fancy one designed just to deal with pet hair (our biggest vacuuming issue). So Mick plucked a box from the shelf and off we went to the check-out.

The snafus began. When presented with our credit slip, the Dyson and our dilemma the elderly cashier went stiff and all deer-in-headlights. She called a supervisor. Who in turn called a manager. That manager called a guy from repairs. Who showed up and then insisted his supervisor come and okay things. The register itself kept rejecting the credit slip and then ran out of tape. 45 seconds into this circus of the absurd Mick went crazy. Honestly? At first I thought Mick was kidding. Who could possibly go bonkers that quickly? This was no straight-up transaction ala merchandise for equal merchandise- we'd changed things, plus there was warrantee stuff attached, and three different departments had to coordinate within the labyrinthine backassward procedures set up at the corporate level. In retail I was asking the near impossible. I was willing to be patient. I'd been on the other side of that register and knew what it was like to be glared at by the hostile impatient nasty-ass public. Mick's instantaneous eruption was not only rude and counter-productive, it was embarrassing. As the minutes ticked by and the crowd grew and my guy went purple in the face and became profane I finally sent him off to go sit in the nearby recliner chair display and to please be quiet while I handled things.

With Mick shooed off and ensconced in an oversized recliner chair I turned back to the small crowd who'd turned out to help with my complicated purchase. Smiling I joked a little and showed some empathy. They'd all be quitting and heading for the nearest bar when they got through with this, what a beast I was to ask for the impossible! To a one the cashiers, repair guys, supervisors and managers assured me I was a treat. It was the snarling yelling jerks they minded. Me? They'd move Heaven and Earth to get me my vacuum, I was just that nice. And when it was discovered that the clearance price for the Dyson was only on the demonstrator floor model and not the nicely boxed one I'd chosen (which I hadn't known) my patience and friendliness was rewarded again. The senior manager gave me the vacuum at the clearance price anyway.

End result? I left Sears with a brand-new $500 Dyson for $200. They applied my warrantee credit, gave me the clearance price from the floor model, and added back in the sales tax of my original purchase. Just because I wasn't an asshole.

The craziest thing? Even with the snafus and the multiple staff and the recalcitrant register the whole process took less than 15 minutes.

How awful have we become? How insistent on having our way upon the instant? Those clerks and supervisors and managers didn't design the return policies. They hadn't programmed the registers and the rules. They were just hourly wage slaves in the service of a corporate structure where the decisions about how things should be done were made miles away from the actual sales floor and real-life customers. Those people with their Sears polo shirts and nametags on lanyards yesterday were just trying to muddle on as best they could to give me what I wanted.

I should make their lives a Hell? Because I had to wait for a whole quarter hour? Am I that important? Not a bit. For sure I'm delighted with the discount I got. And I'm wicked pleased with my new vacuum. But honestly I hurt a little to think that a tiny bit of pleasantness and decency was such a rarity and treat for those poor shmoes. That they would turn handsprings and work near-miracles for me because for once they'd been seen as real people with feelings of their own laboring under rules they hadn't made and I was nice about it, ye gods.

What kind of jerks have we become? What kind of spoiled brats? How lacking in camaraderie and empathy? I was ashamed for us.

It's not difficult to be kind. In fact it should be the norm. At least to my thinking it is. And to be so handsomely rewarded for behaving like an adult with a heart, oy.

So. I have a wonderful new vacuum cleaner. At an amazing price. Briefly seven or eight Sears employees felt like they'd been seen as whole people with lives of their own instead of just being whipping boys for an impossibly demanding public that doesn't give a shit whether their parents were in the hospital with pneumonia or their driveways were waist-deep in snow or their kids had needs, and their medical insurance companies were being squiffy, their roofs were bowing under the weight of ice, their vacuum cleaners kept dying, their spasming backs kept them up all night in agony.

We all have our shit. We all have our burdens and expectations and responsibilities.

And it just shouldn't be so fucking hard and rare to acknowledge that. ~LA

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