Sunday, July 30, 2006

In Which I Am Determined to Win

I'm trying very assiduously to lessen the painful bite of the monthly electric bill here in our household. Now, living in the South without air conditioning runs the gamut from "dumbass" all the way to "are you freaking insane?" To completely do away with the air conditioning would be foolhardy in the extreme. So, as part of my cost-saving measures, I'm trying to go as long as possible during the day without having to run the air. Usually, when the cat begins to burst into a rapid boil, that's my cue to turn it on.

When JF arrives home at night, we turn the a/c units on to cool the house down enough to make it possible for us to sleep. We have an older house, so we only have window units. There is one large unit in the living room, and one each in the master bedroom, and in Offspring's. These make it possible for us to live without say, roasting chickens over our broiling bodies, or killing each other in a heat-induced haze. Mostly.

We had a very old box fan that I had given to Offspring to help her try to keep cool (well, cool-er, at least) during those times when we were trying not to run the a/c. (Might I interject here that I was *not* joking last week when I said at Phantom's Wednesday Whine that I was sweating so much that it was pouring off my ass like a flume ride? While I'm grateful that I shared the coveted "Elevated Risk of Mullet" Award for the best sentence in a WW, I wasn't really joking. I chose to let you all *think* I was joking, because that way, I win prizes, and no one really stops to think about my sweaty ass. Because, you know....sweaty ass ain't pretty. Anyway, enough about my ass. Where was I? Oh, yes....)

So, I decided to hie my happy behind to El Diablo WalMarto to pick up a few groceries that we needed, and look for one of those space-saving tower fans. I figured that if I could find a relatively sturdy model for a cheap enough price, I would buy it, and station it in front of the computer where I seem to be spending most of my day. At the very least, I could go from full-on boil to a low simmer. Offspring decides not to accompany me, since she's decided we apparently spend way too much of our time in WalMart already. What she does not realize is that without her presence, the shopping time is greatly diminished because we don't spend an hour in the toy section, gushing over the Bratz dolls and their gigantic heads. So, off I go, alone -- ah, the blessed state of alone-ness! -- to WalMart.

Once there, I find a fairly large tower fan for what I deem is a reasonable enough price. The box, while not heavy, is large and bulky. I wedge it into my cart with my other purchases, and pray that I don't mow down other shoppers like grain before a thresher between the Housewares and the checkout. I make it to the register safely, only to find that everyone else in town decided to go to WalMart at the exact same time that I did. And -- holding true to my luck -- everyone all decided en masse to check out at the exact same time I did. I get behind a perfectly nice older gentleman who decided to, after he'd laid all his purchases-to-be out in a complex pattern known only to him and possibly a NASA scientist, that he was going to conduct an elaborate Swiss banking transaction from the keypad/debit card scanner thingy. I half expected him to break out with a lawn chair and seat himself oh-so-gingerly with a cup of tea while the cashier recited algorithims while balancing a roll of cash register tape on her nose in the manner of a trained seal. It was just that kind of day.

Finally, after Swiss Banking Gentleman had made his (seperate! ?) purchases of Boost! drink, vegetables, rubber cane tips, and wine coolers (what kind of party is this guy having, anyway?!), he toddled off, and it was my turn at the register. My transaction goes off without any delicate maneuvering, Swiss or otherwise, and I limp back into the steamy wretchedness that is my town. I load up my car, and crank the air and stereo to full blast for the trip back home. Pulling out of the parking lot, I remember that JF had asked me to buy him the lightest blond hair dye that they had, and I've forgotten to get it. Apparently, JF is feeling adventurous again. The Nair is no longer enough to sustain him -- he needs bigger and better thrills. I console myself with the fact that he's not got a lot of hair left to dye. I decide I'll go back out later in the day for the dye, and happily blare along with U2's "Vertigo" for the ride home.

When I get home, I pound like a maniac on the door for Offspring -- I'm holding milk, a huge fan box, an ice cream cake, and three other bags with assorted stuff. And we're all melting. She finally hears my flailing, and comes to open the door. She says, "You told me not to open the door to anyone!" I said, "Yes, *to strangers!* You were looking out of your window at me! You knew it was me!" I get inside, get the items put up, and clear a workspace in the living room in which to assemble the fan.

Of course, once you open the box, the pieces multiply or something, because you can NEVER get them back in the box. I take all the styrofoam padding off, and begin laying out the parts for their conversion to fan-dom. The styrofoam, of course, disentegrates, all over the chocolate-brown runner that we keep in front of our comupter. It looks oddly like someone embedded aspirins in a huge Hershey bar. I get all the pieces out of the box, and am somewhat stymied to find that there are no instructions for assemblage. Hm. Curious. I check to see if maybe they're still in the box. No. Maybe stuffed inside one of the styrofoam bits? No. Did they slide under the couch? Hell, if they did, they're just *gone.* That thing is a bitch to pick up! But no -- there's a shoe blocking the way, so they couldn't have gone under the couch. Well. Maybe this fan is so simple to assemble that you can just do it from looking at the picture! So, I look at the pieces and decide that these two over here *obviously* are halves of a whole, so I snap them together. The four plastic hunks that make up the base aren't all that hard to figure out -- look at me! I'm a freakin' genius. I can put together a fan! Uh-oh. Wait a minute! I was supposed to string the electrical cord through the middle of all those pieces! Argh. Now, I have to take all the pieces apart and fit the cord in between the halves. Suddenly, I'm not such a genius anymore.

So, I take it all apart, string the cord, and put them all back together again. I go to then attach this one lump-shaped hunk of plastic to the bottom of the tower, and I discover that the tabs match up, but there's a set of screw holes. Why would there be screw holes, but no screws? I realize that I have no hardware either. Who the hell packed this box? I resolve to stomp myself to Taiwan, Sri Lanka, or China and kick their asses for not giving me my directions and metal bits. I quickly lose that resolve in the face of the truth: I have to go back out into the heat to WalMart. WalMart once in a week is a daunting prospect. Twice in one day seems an awful lot like some sort of cosmic punishment.

I attempt to pack the fan back up in its original state in the carton. The universe laughs at me for thinking that I, a puny human, could manage such a feat. So, half the parts go into the box with the Shredded Wheat that is the styrofoam packaging, and the rest into a Wal-Mart bag. I head back out into the tropical sweatiness. When I get back to WalMart, I have to search for a shopping cart, since everyone in town is STILL apparently wandering aimlessly around in the store. I decide to skip the monstrously long Customer Serivce line, and go straight back to the fans. I find another fan just like the one I already bought, and check the box for signs that it has been opened already by Philips-head Screw Gremlins. It seems to be Gremlin-safe, so I wedge *that* fan into the cart along with the first one. I make a quick detour at the hair dye, and pick up a lovely shade of Lemon Yellow for Juggling Freak.

I now have to brave the Monstrously Long Line at Customer Service to exchange the fan. I wait with the rest of the population who aren't fricking fan geniuses, and try not to implode. I'm not quite successful with the implosion part. All I want is to get home, plug in my fan, and change into clothes that aren't tranluscent with sweat. Finally, it is my turn. I tell the cashier that I want to exchange the fan. She fiddles with her register, and passes over a reciept for me to sign. The next thing I know, she's shoving money into my moist palm. While I normally encourage people to just *give* me money, this was not what I had expected to happen next. I explain to her that I just wanted to do an even swap. She looks at me like I just told her to have coitus with a close relation. She mutters something about having to get the manager to void the last transcation. I stop her -- Wait! I'll just pay you for this one! I mean, she refunded me the money for the first fan, I'll just outright purchase the second, and the hair dye, and be on my sweaty way! She again looks at me as if I've suggested something highly improper, but decides to humor me. I ask her if I can open the box to make sure that the directions and the screws are there. Surprisingly, she lets me, and there they are! I have never been so happy to see simplistic broken-English directions and three tiny metal screws encased in plastic before! Yay! I buy the fan and the Lemon Yellow Clairol, and I'm finally out of the clutches of the evil WalMart.

As I'm trying to heft the enormous fan box into my car, the bottom of the box gives way. Plastic pieces roll under my car. Oh, joy. Hell with it -- nothing seems damaged, and I've got all the parts that went under the car -- I'm not going back into the store AGAIN. This fan WILL work or it will face my wrath. And it shall not be pretty to witness!

I throw the remnants of the box and all the assorted pieces into the back of the car, and head off towards home. Behind me, I hear a car honking maniacally. What on earth is it now?!?! It turns out to be a friend who directs a lot of plays, and he wants me to audition for his next show. He asks for my phone number, and tells me the date of the auditions. It's a farce, which I love. I'm glad to know that even looking like a demented woman on a sweaty bender, the guy was still interested enough to have me audition for him.

I get home, finally, and once again lay out the parts for assembly. This time, having put the fan together and taken it apart twice each, I'm more familiar with what I'm doing. The only real need to consult the directions is to make sure that I'm putting everything where it's supposed to go. I screw the pieces in place, and plug the fan in. There's no shower of sparks, and no immediate brown-out, so I think I've actually done it! The fan whirs to life at the touch of a button. I haven't screwed it up! Yay, me!

So, I'm ending my evening with the fan blowing merrily at my workstation, and the prospect of an audition looming. I survived two trips to WalMart in one day, and I didn't electrocute myself or anyone else with my fan assembly. I'm still not looking forward to paying this month's electric bill, though. Maybe I should send them their check encased in a block of styrofoam. It might anger them, but I'd get a laugh out of it.


peripateticpolarbear said...

hil freaking larious!

Karyn said...

Dude, are you SURE we're not related?

PS: I think the styrofoam utility bill thing is perfect. PERFECT.

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

Oh my god, hilarious post. So sorry about the return trip to El Diablo.

ccw said...

Obviously I did not completely grasp just how hot your house is during the day when we talked.

It sounds like the trip and return trip from hell, but I am so happy that you have a working fan.

I am refusing to open my electric bill until the last possible moment.

Phantom Scribbler said...

You're killing me! If I laugh, I wake the sleeping baby in my lap... but if I don't laugh, I will spontaneously combust!

Harmonia said...

I remember Purple Elephant...haven't seen her in a while! I'd love it if she were to stop by. I am not sure if I would be the best person to try and offer suggestions but I will try...she might want to register for free over at Veggin' Out. The Health Section is a great place for info and to post questions. Dori is awesome when it comes to that stuff...she cooks and bakes for many allergy veg*ns. Either way - I wish her the best of luck and hope to see her soon.

Marni said...

Bless your heart! You are a much braver woman than I! I cash in stock to pay our electric bills.

They say Southern women don't sweat - we glisten -- I call bullsh*t on that. I sweat like a mad woman; and can totally relate to the sweat running off my ass.

I can't stand the heat and will run my AC to its limits. I pay for it, but it is worth it in the end.

corndog said...

Funniest. Post. Ever. I laughed so hard, I somehow ended up getting coffee in my ear. You are more determined than me; upon not finding the screws the first time, I would have just given up, opened up the freezer and sat my sweaty ass down in the ice tray.

Old Lady said...

Damn! I couldn't survive 2 trips to Walmart in one day or a day in the south in July/August w/o AC.

KLee said...

Welcome, Old Lady! Glad to see you over here!

Yeah, the South is not a good place if you want to remain cool. One of the universe's little jokes, kinda like the Jamaican Bobsled team.

Yeah, two trips to WalMart in a day almost DID kill me. I managed to claw my way out of that hole, though.

Hope you'll stick around over here!

liz said...

You are a braver woman than I.

My family gets on my case because I want to keep the a/c at 80. The men in my life want to keep it at 68. No. Frelling. Way. We're not made of money and I'm not bringing in any.