Tuesday, May 22, 2012

48 Minutes Mystery

I was lying in bed watching the late news when I first heard it. I’d just devoured a particularly creepy episode of 48 Hours Mystery, which should not be legal after seven cups of coffee.

The weather report was on, with no rain in sight.

Sometimes I hear things that turn out to be the dog under the bed doing whatever poodles do down there. That wasn’t it, because Coco was curled up sleeping at my feet.

Sounded more like the garage door. I turned the volume down and held very still, as if that might help.

I imagined someone reaching into my truck, punching the remote on the visor, and letting himself in.  If that was it, the intruder closed the garage door behind him, because I heard the noise again.

I stared at the silent television, wishing I hadn’t had so much caffeine. The icemaker emptied into the bucket. I jumped and kicked the dog, who came up barking, looking toward the stairs. The stairs a criminal would have to use to get to my bedroom from the garage.

Still careful to move only my eyes, I scanned the room, considering my options for self-defense. I was in trouble unless I could fashion a weapon out of some novels, a remote, and a stack of unpaid bills.

“Get away or I’ll paper cut you and make you watch Bachelor Pad.”

Then the dog had to pee. I could face my nerves or prepare to clean the carpet. I hoped to go out to the deck for a smoke and maybe discover the neighbors using power tools in the dark, so I could calm down.

I heard it again when I got to the kitchen. If it was a robber rapist ax-murderer operating the garage door he was still pushing buttons. I peeked out the back door, let the dog out, and then slipped out.

I’d just lit up and looked to the stars when something slammed hard into my chest at exactly the same moment that I heard it again.

I swung and swatted and twirled. The grasshopper hit the siding so hard that he surely got brain damage in that tiny green head.

Thunder. Eighty miles north of the only storm predicted. I hung over the deck rail and looked to the south. My sky was lit by stars, the neighbors’ by lightning, and it was gaining on me.

Mystery solved, I headed in to set the coffee pot for morning, but not before running to the truck to make sure it was locked. Just in case.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Howdy Neighbor

Remember Gladys Kravitz, the nosy neighbor on Bewitched? She is my neighbor now.

Mrs. Kravitz hasn’t liked me much since the yappy poodle and I moved in and I threw a housewarming-slash-college graduation party. The celebration did get a little out of hand, but it’s not like my friends get drunk and turn my deck into a disco more than once or twice a year.

Kravitz has kept an eye on me since, and I tell ya, two years of being the quiet neighbor who keeps to herself does not undo one loud party.

It’s crazy coincidence how every time I go outside, Kravitz needs to top off her bird feeder. She acts surprised to see me, then the inquiries come. “I’ve meant to ask. Are you working?“ “What does your lawn guy charge? He isn’t there very long.” “You must have a very large family?”

Every time I imagine she might like me something happens. Last night I took my coffee to the deck and called a friend. Kravitz appeared in her back yard and waved. Progress!

Suddenly I heard commotion from below, yelled “Oh #%$! I’ll call you right back” and started screaming “Coco NO! Drop it! NO! Drop it!” as I tried to run down the stairs. But I couldn’t run down the stairs, as I’d just finished two days of hard physical exercise and the muscles in my legs did not work, so I turned sideways and hobbled down the stairs, still cursing the dog.

Coco had a baby robin in her mouth. Mother and Father Redbreast were in panic mode, also screeching and squawking and swooping at the poodle.

The dog dropped the bird. Not intentionally. I managed to grab her collar and pick her up before she could catch it again.

As I limped toward the house I noticed my neighbor’s back side, bent over her flowerbed as if she hadn’t noticed a thing.

This is why Gladys and I will never be friends. My friends would have said “What the hell are you doing now?” or “Why are you walking sideways, you fool?” as they raced over to help.

Then they would have joined me for coffee, and waited, to make sure the little bird could fly.

Gladys Kravitz, if you ever put down your opera glasses long enough to read something, and happen to find this story, I apologize.

Let me make it up to you. I’m having a party next month. A big one. You can have the first deck dance.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Staples. that wasn't easy.

I needed business cards and now. I remembered that Staples has an in-house print shop, so I went to their website to see what they offered. They had a bazillion options. They were also having a big sale, so I could get 250 cards for only five bucks.

While searching for any hint of delivery time on the site, I noticed that they offer INSTANT PICK UP. For $25, I could order the same $5 cards and pick them up in the store right away. Not really right away, as the small print said to allow four hours. Four hours worked for me, so I chose a simple black and white design, typed in my info, and checked the weekly ad for anything else I might need. Envelopes! A box of twenty #10’s, self-sealing, for ONE dollar!

Five hours later I was ready to go get my business cards and #10 envelopes when the phone rang.

“Hi, this is Brian at Staples calling to see if tomorrow is okay for your business cards. We are out of paper.”

“Really? Who is this really? The office supply store does not run out of paper. Is that you John? This is not funny.”

“No, it’s Brian at Staples. Our truck will be in tomorrow and we can print your cards then, or we can print them on regular paper today.”

“Ok, tomorrow is fine.”

“We will call you tomorrow when they are ready.”

I was visiting friends the next evening and planned to pick up my order on the way home. No call came. Staples still had no paper.

Wednesday came, and I was meeting my daughter for lunch and then had to pack for my trip the next day – my trip to a conference that I needed business cards for. I called Staples and asked if they happened to have any paper, as I was in the area and needed my cards. The helpful associate who answered said that she would start printing them.

I arrived at 2:00 and started looking for the envelopes, but kept getting distracted by signs stuck to everything, saying “Staples. That was easy.” An employee offered to help me, and led me to an aisle full of envelopes, ranging from $6 to $50 per box. She was unaware of the advertised sale, but offered to take a look at the ad to find the proper item. When she got to the register and grabbed the flier she also took a phone call. She clearly had only one page of the ad, but glanced at it, hung up the phone, and told me I must have seen an ad from a different city, as they did not have any envelopes on sale.

I went to the print center to get my cards. The saleswoman put the box on the counter and opened it so I could take a look. I ordered a simple black and white card. Easy, right?  There was no black. The part that should be black was twenty shades of gray, like when your home printer is almost out of ink and keeps trying to print anyway.

I asked if I could get the online price since INSTANT PICK UP took three days. She looked at me as if I did not speak her language and repeated the price. I read the business card box to her.

 “Quality. Service. Guaranteed.” Where was the quality? Service? What was the guarantee? She gave me another blank stare and asked if I wanted debit or credit. I gave up and vowed to check out and other companies recommended for business cards.

“Oh, your receipt has a coupon! Good for $5 off your next in store visit.”

Oh goody. Maybe envelopes will be on sale.