Two or three weeks ago, we noticed that our TV reception wasn't that great; we assumed it was the cable and hauled a Charter guy down to look at the box. Then we put in a DVD and realized it wasn't the cable at all--it was the TV, and it would have to be replaced. No one really looks forward to splashing out that kind of money involuntarily, so we were not terribly excited about this, but my parents are obsessed with Alabama college football, and the TV was already threatening to black out completely. "This is pretty much going to be our Christmas present to each other," my mother informed me grimly. So after putting it off for a week or so, they finally went to Sears last weekend and bought a widescreen HD TV, because if they're going blow that kind of money anyway, they're gonna blow it right. And it's a Sony this time, too--not a damn Panasonic like the one that just blew out. We have a Sony downstairs in the rec room that is, hand to God, older than I am, and while the picture's not pristine, we're still using it thirty years later. So they get a damn Sony this time, and they pay $65 to have Sears guys deliver it and hook it up, rather than fumble haplessly with the cords to the cable box and the DVD and the speakers they got a few years back. Delivery was slated for today, and the Sears guys were going to call my mother and give her a two-hour window--in the afternoon, when she'd be free--in which they'd come to the house; she would meet them there and oversee the process.
I didn't sleep too well last night--for some reason, I kept waking up every hour or so and then having a hard time going back to sleep--so I barely registered the doorbell ringing this morning. Sister Girl was in the bathroom blow-drying her hair, and I heard her snark, "Uh, that's the doorbell. Shouldn't you get that? "
[Looking out window:] "Uh, yeah, it's two guys in a truck with a big box. You know, like you're expecting."
Again, like I'm consciously ignoring it or something. So I flounder out of bed and throw on some clothes over my nightshirt and stagger downstairs. "Did we wake you?" Sears Guy #1 asks, chuckling. Actually, we can just call him Sears Guy, because Sears Guy #2 is the Silent Bob of the operation and won't have any dialogue anyway. I just laugh and say yes, because I must really look that zombified. They cart in the TV. I run go get my phone, because I've got an unpleasant call to make. Time: 7:36 am.
"Hey. It's here."
"What's here?" my mother says.
"The TV. It's here."
I figured she was going to be put out, but man, did I not even know what was yet to come. She barks questions at me; I pass them on. "Nobody told us to call," Sears Guy says placidly. "We just s'posed to deliver the TV between eight and ten."
I shoot a pointed look at the clock behind us, but I don't know that he noticed.
"Okay," grits Phone!Mom in my ear, and I can hear the ineffectively suppressed rage in her voice, "you're going to need to get two blocks of wood--"
"Blocks of wood?"
"Blocks of wood! BLOCKS OF WOOD! George stained two blocks of wood! They're in the den! Or in the kitchen! Or on the bed in our room!"
"BLOCKS OF WOOOOOD!!!!"
The two Sears Guys are staring at me in a rather stoic fashion, but unfortunately, they are not the two blocks of wood I am looking for. I'm running around the house desperately looking for Blocks of Wood! (and trying to keep the guys from hearing the steady stream of profanity leaking from my phone), and suddenly I turn a corner and see them on the entertainment center shelf behind Guy #2, which explains why I didn't see them the first time around. When I see them, I realize immediately what they're for: the TV sits on a simple wooden--hutch, I guess you'd call it? Basically, kind of a makeshift shelf so you can put a DVD player, for example, underneath the TV. The Blocks of Wood!!!, which are actually about eighteen inches long and three inches thick, are there to raise the shelf so that my parents can also fit the cable box underneath the new TV, because the new TV is a lot more narrow--you know, shallow, back to front--and they won't be able to perch anything on top of it. What she wants me to do is get the Blocks of Wood!!1! underneath the shelf before the Sears Guys start dealing with the heavy stuff. Meanwhile, she's fuming in my ear: "GOD! GODDAMMIT! This just makes me so GODDAMNED FUCKING ANGRY, I just can't even tell you--"
"Oh, I'm pretty sure you don't have to."
And then she says, "LET ME TALK TO HIM."
I hand the phone to Sears Guy. He explains to her in his laconic way that, whatever she paid for, they didn't pass that information on to him, and that his orders are to deliver the TV and hook it up to the main signal. She is still vexed, but somewhat appeased. Also, she's not going to yell at someone else the way she's going to yell to me, if that makes any sense; I'm her venting proxy. So she calms down somewhat and hangs up.
"What she was telling me to do," I tell them, "was to put the Blocks of Wood under the shelf there, and then put the TV on top of that, with the DVD player and the cable box underneath--"
"Uh," says Sears Guy. "We ain't s'posed to touch nothin' but the TV. We just s'posed to leave it in the carton."
"You're not going to hook it up?" I'm confused because I wasn't asking them to touch anything but the TV in the first place--I would have moved everything else, and this Leaving It in the Carton thing seems directly opposed to the Main Signal thing.
"No, we just here to deliver the TV. 'Leave in carton.' See, says here, 'Leave in carton.' We can take it out for you, that's it. They only gave us eight minutes for this delivery anyway."
"But... we did pay for a full hook-up."
"I don't know what got paid for. All I know is, whoever called it in marked it as 'Leave in carton,' and that's what we do."
He shows me the order... paper... thing. It does indeed say 'Leave in carton.' He also shows me a paragraph circled that indeed refers to a main signal. That would be the cable... cable. Which we could have plugged in ourselves. But now I'm really confused, because those are still two contradictory orders. Except that now, they don't even want to fuss with the Main Signal at all. I'm still not exactly sure what happened. Somewhere between "We can hook it up" and "Here's what we do with the Blocks of Wood" (and if you want to sing that to the tune of "The wheels on the bus go round and round," I will not be able to blame you), something changed, and I'm not sure what it was. Were they just no longer under my mother's dread spell? I don't know. I just finally decided that I didn't want to deal with it anymore.
"Hey, it's okay," I say. For some reason, and I think you'll know what I'm talking about, if someone flips the hell out, I tend to become proportionally calmer
"You want us to take the old TV?"
"Well, we paid for that"--an extra $10--"so... sure."
My mother calls back a few minutes before eight, before I even have a chance to figure out how I'm going to break this to her: "So, have they hooked it up yet?"
I just start laughing very quietly, because I know what's coming. "Nope. Said they couldn't touch anything but the TV. Didn't even want to hook it up. I told 'em to leave it in the box so the dogs wouldn't scratch it at least. Wouldn't do much good to do anything else. They said they only got eight minutes to do the whole delivery."
The next coherent thing I get out of her is, "Is there a phone number to call?" They left a couple of pamphlets, you know, the general delivery agreement/instruction-type things. "Well, there's a phone number for concerns about the actual delivery time--"
Here's a lesson in customer service for you, and it's not the one you're probably expecting: don't ever, ever give a customer your private, home and/or cell number unless you are fully prepared for that customer to use it. There was an official Sears number in tiny print regarding delivery times, and there, on the last page, their sales associate had written his name (let's say it was "Marcus") and cell phone. My mother proceeded to call Marcus at his home, on his day off--not that she knew this in advance, but then, neither did she care--to "chew his ass off," as she said later, and then she called Sears and raised holy hell, and then she called my stepfather and sent him home from work to look at the TV. I don't know what good that was supposed to do; it's not like either of us took it out of the box even then. The net result of the holy-helling was that the delivery fee and the taking-away fee were both waived. My mother then called Charter Cable, who said that they'd need to bring out a new HD cable box anyway, so they might as well come hook it all up for us while they were there--or, at least, they were of this opinion by the time my mother was done with them. My stepfather, meanwhile, decided he would personally attend to the blocks of wood. He went over to the now-naked shelfy thing to lift it up--or at least he tried to, because as it turned out? The shelf had been firmly attached to the entertainment center the whole time, all these years. I just sat down on the couch and started laughing.