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Friday, March 26, 2010


Barbara's brand new laptop, the one that had worked perfectly in Michigan, would not work in Florida. We thought it had something to do with the Civil War, but were wrong.

--He’s nice, I like him.
--And right on time, too. That in itself is a huge plus. I can’t count the number—
--Please don’t, Barry. I was here every one of those times. I lived it, too, remember?
--I know what it’s like down here. I accept it. I know about how all the traffic lights are timed by sadists, and about the hundreds of deranged, criminally insane people the state of Florida’s Department of Motor Vehicles issues drivers licenses to.
--Please don’t—
--I’m sorry, it’s like exorcism. If I say this speech, it helps me to live. It prepares me for the next time I make an appointment with a tradesman or a vendor who never shows up.
--I don’t think it helps you. I think it makes you more nuts.
--No, it helps. It reconfirms for me the deeply flawed nature of human interactions. It reestablishes for me that this is the norm, not an aberration. It refreshes my memory, it equips me—
--No, honey, it doesn’t. It makes you go on the way you are right now.
--OK, I’m almost done, then I’ll shut up. I know all about the short-circuited nature of things here in sunny Florida. Which is not all that different from the short-circuited nature of things in Michigan. Except in a heightened way, but with fewer homicides. At least on the Gulf Coast. But: I cannot come to terms with service people who can’t even do me the simple courtesy of calling me with a lie to explain why they’re three hours late, or why they won’t be able to come today, or come any day, ever. Is that too much to ask? A simple call on your cell phone as you’re driving around? A little lie? Just a courtesy, a simple, little thing, instead of stiffing the poor sap whose toilet or roof or pool you said you’d fix between one and four, but no, not today, not tomorrow, not, I’m sorry to say, ever.
--Better now?
--Good. He was nice, and he came on time. And fixed my laptop problem. Be grateful.
--I am. He stopped on his way to his shop, and didn’t charge us for another service call. I gave him a twenty anyway, to secure his good will for the next cyber failure.
--It surprised him, our problem. You said that when you described the “symptoms” over the phone, he told you he was stumped. He said he’d “never heard that one” before.
--Actually, I think that’s why he came so fast. It intrigued him. It’s just like Dr. House, he’s only engaged by weird illnesses. Why would a new laptop computer refuse to connect to the Internet, when it’s resting right next to both the cable modem and the wireless router? Why would this same laptop work perfectly thirty-five or forty feet away in the same house? Answer: Because it’s resting right next to the wireless router, etcetera.
--Being able to use it wherever I want is like being released. Paroled.
--Just like the thing with my Volkswagen. Or was that before we got married?
--Honey, you told me about it yesterday.
--Of course I did, exactly. I’m topping up mine. You?
--I’m fine. I’ll just sip my wine with happy thoughts of my new laptop.


  1. Men need an audience, Barbara. What are you going to do? Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. At least I hope that's true!

  2. I live in a poor county in a poor state, and yet, it is almost impossible to get service people to come and fix anything. You'd think they were all independently wealthy.

    If they do show up, they are always days late, and when they take a look at the appliance, etc., that needs fixing, they all, without exception, run a finger back and forth under their noses, hitch up their low-slung jeans, and say, "This is gonna be a bi-i-i-g job." This prepares me for their outrageous fees.

  3. I love your conversations. Do you really talk like that or is it just digital conversation? Whatever, it's fun to read.

  4. Let me see if I got this straight. If the repairman had been late we would have heard of the vagaries of repair people in both Florida and Michigan. The repairman was on time and courteous and we were privileged to learn of the vagaries of repair people in both Florida and Michigan.

    Okay -- got it. We are kinda' slow in Texas.

    We're kinda' slow -- but appreciative.

  5. K-
    As is usually the case, you are right: Barbara indulges me, anchors me, puts up with a great deal,etc.

    The hitching-up-of-pants, shaking-of-the-head-for-emphasis thing with service people rings true. But a new style is developing: the science-oriented, technical specialist. I became aware of it when getting estimates for a new roof. Of the four who came, two looked like roofers, and two looked like they had stepped from a "clean room" at Intel or Dell Computer. Dressed in freshly laundered jumpsuits with caps bearing the company logo, clipboard in hand they "did an analysis." Needless to say, I went with the guy who came to the house in shorts and a tee shirt.

    Yes, for good or ill we pretty much sound like this. Not most of the time (I hope), but now and then. It's those moments I use (with Barbara's reluctant permission) to write DBD.

    You have found me out--damned if you do, damned if you don't. I would just add this:
    what led to talk of tradesmen was the exception to the rule, someone we needed to come to the house, who agreed to do this, on a certain day at a certain time--and who not only did so, but fixed our problem. God love him.

  6. My TV went on the blink last Dec. First, I was told it's an old model. Next, I was told it's a projection TV. Finally, I was told I needed a new "motherboard" and was scheduled an appt. How did the guy on phone know what the TV needed if no one had looked at it?

    The TV was turned off when the repairman arrived. The repairman (who had not yet touched anything) took one look at the TV, stepped back and said "Whew!" I said to him, "They sent me a psychic and I ordered a repairman."

  7. It's the Mason-Dixon line. Entirely new set of rules kick in based on a core strategy of passive-aggression. And there's no use pissing them off with any self-righteous consumerism, either; they'll do the appliance-appropriate equivalent of slashing your tires and charge you for it. They'll probably key your car on the way out. Over time, you become worn down to obsequiousness and over-tipping.

  8. Diana--
    I love "They sent me a psychic and I ordered a repairman." If the guy didn't laugh at this, out the door he should have gone. And all the amazing, intuitive "analysis" of your problem over the phone, then the powerful, x-ray vision of the man who came (a small miracle in itself), enabling him to see, on entering, that something worthy of a "Whew!" was waiting for him inside your TV.

    Even if I agree with everything you say, I am going to resist aligning myself (again) with an us-versus-them take on this or other topics. What I may think in the privacy of my own little inner world is another matter. But I would like to make it clear that although I am having some fun regarding tradesmen, like tea partiers the real source of my frustration has mostly to do with something other than my my announced object of frustration. With me, it's dependence on people with knowledge and skills I don't have. Unlike you, I'm no therapist, but I am pretty convinced that people often resent the ones they most rely on, the ones they owe. And with tradesmen, of course, "owe" is certainly a factor in more ways than one.


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