service at Sears
Friday, December 5 2003
For the past few days it has been bitterly cold, with temperatures rarely rising out of the 20s. Today, though, there was the added complication of an impending snow storm, the first big one of the season. Gretchen and I decided to go shopping, since our food stores had dwindled away to a few boxes of Chex. (It's a great staple, and I could go for days eating Chex alone, but Gretchen is a civilizing influence counteracting such straight-guy barbarisms.)
While in town, we stopped at Sears to check on the progress of the tire I'd ordered some weeks ago for my pickup truck. Yesterday I'd tried calling Sears all afternoon, but when a woman had finally answered, she'd put me on hold for so long that I'd eventually given up. This was unusually bad customer support and left me wondering, "Can Walmart really be kicking their ass that bad?"
There was a substantial line of people waiting for service at the Sears automotive counter, but Gretchen bypassed this to ask an employee about the status of my tire. It turned out that there was no record of my order in the Sears computer system at all, even though (some weeks ago) I'd been given a computer printout with an estimate and everything. One of the employees told us that if an order doesn't get processed in a certain amount of time, it gets cleared out of the system automatically. As a computer programmer with considerable database experience, this made no sense at all. "You mean, my tire doesn't come, nobody calls me, and I have to come down here to find out that I'm not even in your computer?" I was irate, and people in line were looking at me like I was some sort of spectacle. None of them radiated much intelligence or looked especially vegetarian. I saw the fat woman who had filled out my form and originally entered me into the computer some weeks ago and I said, "There you are, you're the one who did my order!" She said something useless and hurried off into the back. The quality of the customer service had me wondering if this particular Sears outlet was in the process of going out of business.
There was one employee there named José who seemed to have an unusually cool head in the face of all my shouting and swearing. José was one suave cookie, dressed as he was in his long leather jacket. He didn't seem to know all that much about tires, unfortunately, but he did take us into the back so I could look at other possible tire options. Since my truck is a four wheel drive, I'm supposed to get an exact copy of the tire I'm replacing, but I hardly ever use all four wheels, and at this point I just want something that's good enough, so I can have a spare once more. Meanwhile, the spare I've been driving on, the one with the slow leak that I blasted with a Fix-a-Flat, has been holding up fine.
The Hannaford was a madhouse of pre-storm activity. It was even crazier there than I'd remembered it being on Thanksgiving Eve. Today our purchases focused heavily on canned items.
This evening, Gretchen and I watched a DVD called Porn Star - The Legend of Ron Jeremy. Schlumpy Ron Jeremy, with his elephantine appendage and mastery of orgasmic control, lives the life that frat boys want to live, except in their version of the fantasy, they get to look better and have stupider thoughts. They, along with Kid Rock, claim to look up to him, but their interactions with him looked more like condescension than admiration. Ron Jeremy's concerns are typical of Los Angeles. He wants to go to the parties where the celebrities are, where he can meet people and advance his career. Like most people, he's unhappy with what he's doing now. Despite its upside, he doesn't want to be a porn star anymore; these days the thing he's shooting for is mainstream success. But it's hard to overcome the taint of the porno industry in a nation founded by guys with buckles on their hats. And, in the context of mainstream movies, once you take away the erection and the orgasmic control, all you're left with is a schlumpy guy suitable for minor roles playing characters who are killed off in a variety of violent ways. The fact that Ron Jeremy isn't an asshole makes it that much more so.
Today I began work soldering together the new copper swing lamp. I knew from the start that the main difficulty was going to be pulling electrical wire through all the twists and turns of copper fittings. Not having ever done a project where electrical wire is snaked through plumbing, I began with a hypothesis and then observed how this played out in the real world. My first idea was to snake some sort of natural rope (in this case jute, but hemp would have been groovy too) through the pipes as I put them together, solder the pipes, and then tug the wire through. But the plan didn't survive the soldering, since it went hotter than I expected and the jute burned up in the pipe.
This led me to segment my lamp assembly into three pieces. Threading even the most complicated of these pieces (where I'd have to pull wire around five 90 degree bends) wasn't difficult, because I used water to help me. I put a piece of dental floss in one end of the pipe, put the assembly under the bathtub faucet, and turned on the water. Eventually the other end of the floss emerged with the outflow from the other end of the pipe. I soon discovered that pulling electrical wire with this floss wasn't even a remote possibility, so instead I used it to pull through a piece of jute rope. But not even that could pull the wire, not even when lubricated with cooking oil. Either I'd have to get some thinner electrical wire that could be more easily pulled, or I'd have to use something strong like a steel chain as a pulling string.
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