Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, September 30, 2010

MODERN INCONVENIENCES: LIVING WITH FRANKENSTEIN

Scene from Fritz Lang's Metropolis; The Modern Frankenstein of Technology

ONE: TECHNOLOGY AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT


Tap-tap-tap, the Technical History of the Kid

Once upon a time The Kid decided to be a writer. The only thing available in his house when this brainstorm struck was a fountain pen and some onion skin note paper. So this was the medium on which he wrote his first message.

It wasn't very satisfying. The ink smeared easily on the surface and bled through to the other side. He took his allowance and purchased a lined table. This was a bit better. He could write on both sides of the sheet and the lines kept his lettering straight, for his handwriting was never great shakes, or perhaps it was greatly shaky. It was certainly difficult to read (and would deteriorate to total indecipherability as he became the Old Goat). Even at age twelve he knew this would never do.

The nice young librarian at the town library took pity upon him and let the kid peck away at the town typewriter. This limited his "serious" writing to the few hours the Library was open. He began to wheedle and whine for a typewriter of his own. Lo and behold, his grandmother gave him a typewriter on his birthday. It was an old used portable Underwood. It was very similar to the one pictured, except it was older, less shiny and came in a worn black carrying case. It had been brand new sometimes in the 1920s.

But the kid didn't care. To him this was cutting edge technology despite a sticky "e" key. Of all the keys to be stubborn, it had to be the "e" and not the "q". He loved it anyway. It allowed him to write every night for the next ten years.  In 1958 he wrote the first story he was to sell to "Magazine of Horror" called "Last letter to Norman Underwood". (The story sold a decade later in 1968.) It stood as a tribute to the technological marvel he produced it upon, that old Underwood Typewriter.





Sometime in The Kid's twenties, when he had a bit of money of his own, he took a big step up to a shiny new Smith Corona portable. It was all white and looked so streamline with its smooth rounded corners.

But it still came with the same annoyances as the old Underwood, except for the sticky "e" key. The Kid had to keep buying ribbons. He tended to use a ribbon until the keys wore daylight through them and the papers were more embossed than printed. Changing ribbons was a dirty transaction with the new ribbon generally leaving smudges for the first few miles of type, not to mention his fingertips.

If a typo occurred, one dabbed away with White-Out (also tending to smudge and coat his fingertips). If errors or changes were two large, he was required to retyped the blasted thing and to create duplicates meant the horrors of carbon paper (and even more messy fingers).

At one point The Kid even bought a copier. Oh, this was nothing like the Xeroxes to come. This was a clunky plastic bulk of a desktop contraption that required great heat to produce a copy on odd looking paper. He could only copy one sheet at a time and he could only copy eight sheets in a row before the plate got too hot and he had to shut it down to cool. Cooling could take an hour. (And sometimes he burned his ink and carbon stained fingertips on the plate.) [This thing was so ba-a-a-a-a-d, the Old Goat couldn't even Google an image of it!]

Oh how The Kid dreamed there could a magic way to type his stories and not have to deal with carbons and ribbons and heat pads, oh my. And one day along came this possibility...

Sort of...


At lease a first gleam of hope for the future...

The kid bought his first computer, the Atari 400.

It didn't really help at all in all honesty. It was pretty good at running Atari Games, though.

There was no monitor, it hooked up to the TV set. It had no internal storage. It had no printer. There was this flap with Atari upon it on the front. Lifting the flap reveled four cartridge slots inside. This was where the programs went.

The Kid, being all wise,  had also bought an external tape cassette drive with it. This was what the program for Frogger was on, a tape cassette, that took forever to load. By the time it loaded you didn't feel like playing the game anymore, however, tape was also your only storage. You see, he could write his own Basic language programs on this beast and save them on a tape cassette. Big whoop!

It didn't do much for his writing. he could type out a short story and save it to tape, but there was no way to print it. What good was that?

The Kid was disappointed in this reality of the Atari 400, but it gave him hope for something better and sure enough, something better would came along in the years when he was transforming from The Kid into The old Goat.

To be continued.

Tap-tap-tap, the Technical History of the Old Goat


In 1984 The Kid (in mid-transfer to Old Goat) bought an Apple IIc, Apples first portable or compact computer. That was what the c stood for, compact. With a printer and an external disc drive it cost $2100, with all its 1 MHz speed capability. Man of man, did it seem fast...in those ancient days. It had 128K of RAM.

The external disc drive allowed for keeping a program disc in the main drive to run the thing while having a disc in the other drive for storage, rather than constantly switching the discs. It didn't have internal storage. Everything was on 5 1/4 floppy disks.


It came with 5 floppy disks with some software on them:


1. Introducing the Apple
2. The Apple At Work
3. The Apple At Play
4. Inside the Apple
5. System Utilities 

The Monitor was a whopping 9 inches and there wasn't all that much in graphics. It was beautiful if you liked green lettering on a black background, real colorful, eh? The Old Goat thinks the printer was a DOT Matrix type, rather than an Impact, but either way it still used the dreaded ribbon.


The main software was called AppleWorks and it was wonderful. The Kid had word processing, a spreadsheet and a database. The Kid could calculate his budget, could keep lists of his records (uh, for those of you who are not fellow Old Goats, records used to be these vinyl round things with a hole in the center on which was music that you put on a turntable and then played with a needle [Heh! Heh! I know, sounds pretty silly, doesn't it!]) and books. (In a few years the Old Goat will probably have to explain books too once everyone gets nimble with the Kindle.)


And the Kid went to town keying everything he'd written up to that time with that Apple IIc onto 5 1/4 Floppy Disks. The future was now and he had no idea how fleet the future can become yesterday. He should have learned way back in his salad days when he was plugging programs in control boards for such Job-of-the-Future equipment like an IBM 85 Collator. (No, that isn't spaghetti, it's a program.)


But he didn't.

During the early 'eighties The Kid had some influence over the capital budgeting for a big bank. He brought in the idea of sticking these newfangled computers on peoples' desks and even talked his boss into plopping such a project into the business plan. His boss's boss was the Senior Vice-President who ran the whole Operations Department. (In later years this would be called Information Technology, or IT for short. To some IT came to be a bigger monster than that Clown in the Stephen King novel of the same name.)


Well, the boss's boss, who was a brilliant man and a great guy, thought The Kid was off the wall. (Bosses' bosses thought The Kid was off the wall when he wanted to do digital storage and bosses' bosses thought The Kid was off the wall when he wanted to do Check Imaging and it seemed like somebody was always saying The Kid was off the wall. This Kid wasn't off the wall, he was outside the box.)


"Those little things may be fun to play with at home, but have no future in business," said the boss's boss. "The Main Frame is king and always will be king," and so the boss's boss killed the project, much to The Kid's disappointment. 


A year of so later The Kid-turning-Old Goat became the first person in that big bank to have a PC installed on his desk. The Main Frame had its place, but there was a new machine in town and it changed everything. Soon there was another desk sporting one, then another and another until they dominated the desk tops like TV antennas dominated roof tops in the mid-1950s. Main Frames were dead as king, PCs were becoming king, long live the king! Ah, but there was the rub!


The PC was King at work. The Apple was the hobbyist's hobby horse. This was a battle where the better machine hadn't won. 


The Kid-turning-Old Goat made a decision. He wanted his home computer to be on speaking terms with his work computer so he could work either place. However the Apple and the PC didn't get along. Mr. Jobs and Mr. Gates spoke different languages, so Kid-turning-Old Goat pushed his trusty IIc aside and installed a Compaq Presario, the first in a serious of four such towers to come under the Compaq and then the HP banner that graced his home workstation.


Fine and dandy, The Kid-turning-Old Goat had entered the world of Microsoft Windows, freeze-ups  and crashes, virus threats and Trojan Horses and cords and cables running hither and yon beneath his feet. And now he sat staring at his lifetime of the written word compressed in a bunch of flabby Floppies that weren't on speaking turns with the PC. He wanted his work in the computer, so it was keying everything all over again. He was beginning to think that sticky "e" key and the carbon paper might not have been as bad as he thought.


Now life has moved on and it is the Old Goat who sits behind a keyboard many hours in his remaining years, still pecking out little essays, poems and sometimes stories. Floppy Floppies and hard Floppies have come and gone and all his life's work sits resident on an invisible internal hard disk that will hold gigabytes of data. Backup to the PC is to CDs, which resemble records (see explanation of records earlier in this piece). It seemed a perfect world until one day he are sailing along and struck an iceberg called the Blue Screen of Death and all was gone. It is a good thing the Old Goat was diligent on backing up to those CDs.


But The Old Goat had it with the instability, foibles and failures of the Microsoft miasma. Standing over the stagnant remains of the last Presario, The Kid rose in his memory and his first love strummed upon his heart strings and the memories came back of the Apple of his eye. 


And the ugly gremlin from Microsoft now even speaks to the handsome polished perfect fruit of Apple. All can be right in his world again. He buys an IMac.


And they typed happily ever after -- well, we don't really know that! I mean, life isn't over and you know, the Old Goat is not all that old, so things happen and nobody should say the end with such assurance that everything will always be well and happy.


Yet,  haven't we surely reached the apex of all known technology? The Future is here today, right? Nothing could possibly come along and improve on today, right?


Hey, what's this thing. Its thin and cylindric. Hmm, you move this pointy end over this piece of paper and it makes marks. How interesting. Why you can write with this thing. Now why hasn't anyone ever though of this before? Hmm, thin and pointy? I think I'll call it a pen...



Passing of an ERA (Ever Rapid Anachronism)

So I'm sitting there in the parking lot of a mall late last evening because my wife wanted ice cream. She went into the super market to make her selections and I waited in the car. Most of the smaller stores along the wings were closed, only a few of the bigger stores were open. The super market, obviously, a Borders Bookstore, a drug store and an Office Depot.

That Office Depot is the newest store there, less than a year old.

But it wasn't the newest store that caught my attention.

It was the ones that were missing in the wing behind me. I could see this stretch of stores in my rear view mirror. They were all closed for the night, but their signs sill were lit and a few overnight lambs dimly shown somewhere beyond the display windows. In the middle, though, it was completely dark. It was like looking at a smile with the two front teeth missing. Those two stores weren't just closed, they were kaput, out of business.

The one had been so almost a year. It had just opened a couple of years ago on the cusp of cutting edge. It was being readied at the time my son was out of work and he applied there without success. He was disappointed. He thought it would be a good opportunity. The place was called Theater XTreme. It sold and installed home theater systems. As it turned out, he landed a job elsewhere about a month later where he has done well ever since and Theater Xtreme tanked, along with the housing bubble and the economy, a few months later.

The black hole next door was different. That store had been in there since the mall had opened several years ago. It use to be swarming with people with long lines at the checkout and long hours every day.
I was there many times when my kids were in their teens. Now it was dark. It closed about three weeks ago. It took me back thirty years to a war

No, not the Vietnam conflict, that was over by this time. I was thinking of the outcome of the Video Home System (VHS) and BetaMax war. There is probably a lesson for nations in that war, for everything I've ever heard, BetaMax was the superior product, but VHS won.

I had an early VHS player-recorder. It was a monster, kind of bulky and not very pretty, with too many dials and buttons. It didn't have user-friendly anywhere in the thick instruction booklet. It had a long row of little dip-switches in the back. You had to flick each of these in certain patterns to receive the TV shows in your area through this box. It was a time consuming and frustrating exercise until you got all the switches correctly aligned.

Once setup, it was exciting. Now I could record films off the TV.

It had been a dream of mine as a teen and young man to own my favorite movies. I knew it would never be possible. I bought a movie projector and some films. These were 8-mm. The average movie in those days ran 90 minutes. There reels ran perhaps twenty. Obviously you were getting the Reader's Digest version of the film. This was true theater xtreme.

And they were silent. There was no room on an 8-mm for a sound track. Editors had inserted some snippets of dialogue written on signs here and there in the film. Actually, most weren't even dialogue; they were cues, like "Later..." or "Back in the laboratory..."

But this is what I could afford. You could buy actual full length 35-mm sound movies if you were wealthy and could afford them. occasionally you'd read about kings and potentates and tycoons who enjoyed their own home theaters. It was rare, though, until after the VHS and BetaMax war.

Now you too could enjoy real hollywood films at home. Buying them was still too rich for my blood. A VHS film cost about $100 at first. That was when the video store was born.

It was as if there had been an orgy of entrepreneurs and they all got pregnant. Video stores popped up like Starbucks did years later. Every mall with more than three shops seemed to have a video store. Most were mom & pop enterprises. Two miles from my house were four such places. I joined two of them.

Yes, I said joined.  Those first stores required memberships. You filled out an application, gave them your credit card number and paid a yearly dues, about $35 to $60. Some places offered a lifetime membership that only cost a few dollars more, so I had a lifetime membership in my favorite one.

You got a couple videos for that and for every ten you rented, you would get one free. I got a lot of free videos early on.

Of course,  seeing the success of these places brought out the big boys and chain stores appeared on the horizon. Over the years the mom & pop ones gradually thinned out as large coat-to-coast franchises slipped into the malls. Some smaller shops survived by specializing. I use to frequent one that had a ton of old movies you just couldn't find at the super stores. As big as places like West Coast Video and such were, they didn't have room for more than recent releases and bestsellers.

On the heels of this rental boom, the purchase price of videos dropped. In a few years you could actually afford to own your very own movies. The price had sunk from $100 to under $20. Things were to change rapidly ever after. BetaMax was completely gone from any shelves. VHS eventually had competition from DVDs and tape began getting less and less shelf space. (The last big distributor of VHS tape closed down in December 2008.)

Now you could view new films on your TV or download them to the computer. A place called Netflix came into existence and the late fee disappeared. Ah, the late fee. You could only rent over night once upon a time, except on the weekend. You could rent on Saturday and not have to bring it back until Monday. But if you didn't return your video by a certain time of day, you got hit with a late fee, which equaled one day's rental cost.  You could also be charged a fee if you returned the thing without rewinding. And if you ever lost the cassette, oh boy. You had to pay for the video and even when the prices of buying a film in the retail stores got down to $14.95, the video stores still charged a hundred bucks for a lost copy.

But that era is over. I sat on a parking lot last night looking at a dark hole where Blockbuster used to be. It dawned on me they are all gone around here. Blockbuster had been the last man standing. If I wanted to go rent a video...sorry, a DVD, I wouldn't know where to do so. All those video stores are gone. I don't know a mall anywhere around me now that has such a place. That Blockbuster was the last oasis.

And that Office Depot that opened up on the other end of that mall used to be a CompUSA. There use to be The Computer Store in the mall across the highway, but it closed almost a decade ago. Circuit City went down the other year and stores like Sears and Radio Shack got out of the computer business, too, at least the software end.  Office Depot sells some software for the PC, but only has a thin row of choices. Best Buy use to be full of computers and software, but it has shrunk that department down to a small section along one side.  Another era coming to a end. Hey, times change ever quicker now.

Think about all the obsolete junk that might be laying about your home. And think about this: For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John:2:16-18 (NIV)


Everything you get in this world has a shelf life and that shelf life is ever rapidly moving to being an anachronism. Your present life will be an anachronism someday, too, and you'll move on to somewhere else. Forget all this junk you surround yourself with here, which is going to be a moment and then trash. Think about what you really need to treasure before all your treasure is taken away and you spend forever in a black hole where the light of God never reaches. Put your desire in God before God assigns you to the trash heap.

Killing Me Softly with Technology

When I was a young man, a teenager actually, all I wanted was a typewriter and a tape recorder. I felt those were the tools a writer needed to make life easy. I got them both. The tape recorder was fun, but I didn't find it practical. I still had to write down what was said on tape. The typewriter was the main technological advancement from pen and paper for me.

My old battered Underwood Portable did me well for years. Of it could be tedious sometimes. I would use ribbons until a path was shredded in their middle by the battering of the keys. I would become ink smudged from carbon paper. And how annoying it was to edit or discover a missing sentence in the center of page 1 of a 12 page manuscript. It would throw every line off and require retyping everything.
If only I could think it and it would magically appear on the paper.
Then along came the personal computer and this was probably as close to thinking it to the paper as we could get. Editing and making copying all became a cinch.

With the first computers, you couldn't do much more but write documents and do some spreadsheets on Visicalc (if that was the proper name of that first spreadsheet software).  Not counting the Atari 401, my first real computer was an Apple IIc. It had no internal storage, everything was kept on floppies and it only came with an impact printer. But it was a wonderful little machine, very user friendly.

For some reason, the Apple failed to capture the corporate world. My company, like most, went PC and so in a couple years, I did too. I wanted to be able to do work at home and be compatible with the computer I had on the job. Apples didn't speak to PCs in those days.

Thus for the last 2o to 25 years I have lived in the Windows world. Which was fine, I was use to it and what you could do on the PCs kept growing and growing. 

You don't realize how depended upon and spoiled by the computer until you lose it. This past week my PC crashed big time. The only redemption I was offered was to do a system recovery. This wipes out all you have on your hard disk. Fortunately, I did have backups and I was able to backup some more recent files before the big erase, but I know I lose somethings. It is a bigger hassle than you may imagine. 

I sat there knowing I had to reload all this software and then restore all my data and photo files from the CDs I backup on and decided I had had enough of the constant in and out of the windows game.

My decision was to chomp on the Apple again. I now am working through an IMac. After so many years in the PC environment, it is taking some getting use to. I have a whole new system to learn. (At least, I got my photos onto the Mac and was able to pull one up for this post.) 

It is a bit scary, though, how imprisoned we have become to technology. It makes things simpler when it works, but it is a nightmare when it doesn't. 

TWO: PLUMBING THE DEPTHS

Drip Dropping Down the Drain

Twenty-nine years ago I pretty much lost a house to the flow of water. I understand the power of water unchecked. It can take out your ceiling, strip off your wallpaper, warp your floors and shut down your appliances. Beyond all the physical damage it can also flood a young mind with paranoia over even the gentlest patter of a spring rain. Ask my daughter about the years of nightmare and terror she swam through in her early youth.

     I've respected water since that time, but it hasn't shown me much respect at all. It certainly didn't this past month.

     It started with an inconsistent drip. I say inconsistent because it was easily stilled by turning the faucet to the center. If the handle stayed at the extreme hot or the extreme cold point, it dripped. Turn it a few degrees toward center and voila, the drip stopped.

     These things never stay so cooperative forever, of course. Eventually it took a bit more to silence the drip. You had to get it positioned to some exact spot for a while, then you had to slam the handle down more firmly and then you had to slam the handle down with a force like John Henry laying spike on the railroad. You know, ka-boom, sometimes more than once. Yet in the end the drip surrendered and shut up.

     Until a couple weeks ago when the drip did not cease, but instead became a waterfall. Oh, it was a thin waterfall, perhaps a quarter inch in diameter, but one doesn't really want a quarter-inch stream of water flowing day and night, does one? Besides how soon will the quarter inch become a half-inch, then an inch and then come with such viscosity the drain can't handle it.

     So I opened the doors of the vanity and shut the two shut-off valves.

     The steady flow ceased, but the drip returned mocking me and the firmness of the valves with a semi-steady drip...drip...drip.

      I did a little up and down slam of the handle and knew immediately the mechanism was beyond hope. Thinking I may have suddenly received some wondrous handyman abilities, I decided perhaps I could disassemble the device and do something, what exactly I haven't a clue.

      Nothing ventured, nothing gained. That's an old American proverb and I'm an old American, so I get my ratchet screwdriver, pop in a Phillip's head and give it a venture.

      There is a screw on top of the knob. There used to be a gold-colored disc covering where the screw resides, but it popped off and disappeared some years ago, so the screw is right there in plain sight. I slot in the screwdriver and twist. I twist, but the screw doesn't. Okay, a bit more muscle is needed. Unfortunately the screws been working out down at the gym and it ain't budging. I mean, this is one tough monkey of a screw. Usually with the ratchet driver I can defeat your average screw, but this isn't your average screw. This is super screw.

     Maybe it is my screw bit. I dig a larger Phillip's head out of the kit and try it, but it just skims out of the grooves. This screw is not going to come out, which is probably a good thing because what am I going to do if it does? Let stubborn screws lie is my motto.

      It's going to nag at my mind now like a dripping faucet. Oh, wait a minute, it is a dripping faucet. It's a dripping faucet dripping even though I got both pipe shut off valves as tight as they go. It doesn't seem there is anything but this situation growing worse.

  


       It's time to call the plumber.    



How Big was My Vanity?

"Yessir," says the young lady, "you are a premium Customer."

      That is good to hear and what it means is I have the Golden Ticket or the gold yearly maintenance contract anyway.

      "We could have a technician out to your place this morning."

      Technician is it? I'm old enough to remember a day when people had titles that actually meant something.  In this case, technician means a plumber. A plumber is a person who works with lead, although they don't make pipes out of lead anymore since they found out it tends to kill people. But I still prefer plumber because that tells me this person can unclog drains and fix drips...presumably. My great grandfather was in the building trade and he had four sons. One was a carpenter, one was an electrician, one was a plumber and one was a bookkeeper. What they were was what they did. None was ever called a technician.

    "Well," I said, "that's fine, but could we schedule it for next week (it was 7:00 Friday morning when I made the call). How about Tuesday."

     So Tuesday between 8:00 and 10:00 AM was when it would be, assuming the drip didn't turn back to a flood despite the turned-off shut off valves. If those shut-off valves were to fail altogether we would have to shut down the entire system and no one wants to go days with no flowing water in the house. Been there, done that and don't want to go back.

    But why are we waiting if the plumb...sorry, technician could come this very day?

    Because the Little Woman (which is probably the wrong euphemism for someone five foot ten inches tall) wanted to replace the old vanity in the bathroom. It seemed better to do it when the plumb...technician came to replace the faucet than have a second visit later. I mean, plumb...technicians never say, "Oh don't worry about a second call, we don't charge for that." We can use the weekend to go shop both a new vanity and new faucet.

    Naturally the young lady on the phone offered to have the plumb...technician bring their catalogue with him as a nice convenience to us, but you know that convenience would have a price. I'm sure they have nice stuff, but we're bargain basement people I fear and their catalogue items are probably a few floors higher.

      Saturday morning we are off to the home supply stores.

     We had barely gotten up the road,when it dawned on me I had forgotten to do any measuring. I meant to and didn't, which happens a lot being an old guy. We do a U-turn (legal in Delaware) and go back hope and I measure. I don't want the plumber coming and saying this thing won't fit.  It's measure or regret, I alway say.

      First off, we have a tiny bathroom. There is space for a tub, a toilet, a sink and the person using them.  It is not a designer bath, no place for bidets and double sinks, lounge chairs and makeup desks. It's pretty utilitarian and that's about it. Years ago we installed a vanity. It was twenty inches wide. I screwed a toilet paper holder into one side. The other side was up against the wall.

     Now we finally get to the home supply store, Lowe's.

     There is a number of vanities to look at and select, but there is not one that comes as small as twenty inches wide. The smallest in any shape, style or stature is 24 inches.

     We can do it. Twenty-four inches will fit. Anything bigger and when you go to sit on the toilet you'll be sitting in the sink, but 24 will fit.

     The price tag on most of the displayed items won't fit though. Not just the price of the vanities, but with most you also have to buy a sink separately.  But there is one my wife likes and the cost isn't bad and it includes the sink. It seems ideal, except it is "special ordered" with a two-week wait until delivery.

    The plumb...technician is scheduled in three days.

    And about this time a salesman ambles up to us. He says the wrong thing.

     "We just upgraded our whole selection. We got rid of all the low-end product. You'll find everything nicely upscaled now, no more of the more shoddy items."

      My wife thought that was plum crazy (or is it "tech crazy" now). We are not upscale people. Oh no, when it comes to scales we're on the down-low. There are a lot of people like us who can't go upscale. Call us shoddy or not, why would a big box store do away with the low end customer, especially in this economy?

     Next stop, Home Depot.

     There was a bit less selection, but they still had "shoddy" along with the upscale, nothing less than 24 inches wide, though. Lo and behold, my wife did find a vanity, a darker wood than our old, which came complete with a white sink at a sale price. She liked it because it had two drawers on one side, not just a big hollow opening inside.

     Right across the aisle were some nice looking faucets just the right size for this vanity.

     We had our new vanity and faucet, we hauled them home and now it was just wait for the plumb...technician to come on Tuesday morning and  snap everything into place. What could possibly go wrong now?



  



Water Flows Directly Through My Wallet

About 8:00 Tuesday morning the phone rings. It is a young lady telling me the technician is on his way. He arrived ten minutes later. This is a nice change. Usually when given those between 8:00 and 10:00 windows one is pacing back and forth at four minutes to ten wondering if they will make it when the phone rings to say the last job took longer than expected. That didn't happen this time, must be a good omen.

I went to the door and this kid is standing there. I have noticed since reaching my present age that all the maintenance people who come to service something are kids.

But he is pleasant enough. He slips these booties over his shoes and comes in to see what is to be done.

Well, of course there is that unstoppable faucet in the bathroom and the new vanity, sink and hardware to be installed. There is also a faucet on the outside front of the house that has been dripping for the last eight months or so. My wife figured we should get that replaced as well. And there is the bathtub faucet that seems to be developing its own slow drip. I figure the tub could use a new shower head, too.

He takes a look at the tub faucet. It is a Delta. He doesn't take kindly to the Delta. "It's a good faucet," he says, "but the design is terrible."

He explains how it has three little pipes that connect inside. There is a giant nut behind the knob. The danger is with the faucet having some age now that when the nut is turned it will twist and break the pipes. Then you have a bigger repair.

He examines the sink faucet and agrees it is shot.

We walk outside and look at the leaky faucet.

So after this little tour we go to the kitchen and he begins flipping pages in a book. All jobs are priced up front, no hourly rates, no guesswork. So he tells me the costs and one thing is immediately clear, the tub can wait until another day or a worse leak. Not only is he nervous about snapping pipes removing the Delta, the quote to replace it with a Moan and replace the shower and all is a bit steep for me right now.

We sign the agreements, which includes a three-day change your mind agreement like they always give you when you borrow money or get a mortgage. Seems kind of silly, although with what plumbing work costs maybe one does need a mortgage.  Still, he is going to do the work right now, this instant before the ink dries so what happens if I change my mind in the next three days? Do they come back and unrepair the repairs?

"We'll start with the bathroom sink," he says.

He goes into the hall and looks the vanity over. He is making hmmm-hmmm sounds. I never like to hear hmmm-hmmm sounds coming from the throat of anyone doing work for me. They're not a cat, they're not purring. (I don't think they are purring. Perhaps considering how much I will be paying them, they are purring.)

Here is the reason for the hmmm-hmmms. Our old vanity, the one being replaced, is 20 inches wide. This new model, with the two drawers down the right side that my wife likes so much, is 24 and with the new sink added will be 25 inches wide.  He is concerned the drain pipe will not line up, especially with the drawers taking up half the space.

Oh, boy, I did all this measurement to make sure the thing would fit in our small bath, but never considered the drain pipe perplexity. I had considered the water feed lines lining up given the four inch differential, but having looked in the old vanity and seen those feed lines had flexible pipe I figured it didn't matter. I didn't think the drain would be somehow a different matter.

He does some measuring and then says he may have to cut some off of the drawers, is that all right. Yeah, fine, I don't care cause I don't want to take this thing back and reschedule. (As it turned out he didn't have to cut. He got everything fitted in nicely, if tightly.)

We dodged that bullet and he installed the vanity and sink.

Now we are left with replacing the outside drippy faucet. This should be a piece of cake, I thought. Ha, what a fool I am.

First was the matter of how this would be accomplished. In my naivete I thought the faucet would simply twist off the pipe similar to unscrewing a lightbulb, except maybe with some cutting and soldering involved. Well, cutting and soldering probably was involved, but the faucet could not be removed and replaced from the outside of the house. The pipe had to be worked from the interior of the home.

Second we had to locate this interior pipe. When they built this house they did not make such things as pipe easily accessible. Every time I ever had to get plumping done it resulted in cutting holes in walls or ceilings. This was no different. The pipe ran between walls and would have to be reached by cutting a hole in the back of the entryway closet.

"We don't patch drywall," says the technician.

Yeah, I know, I've heard that several times. Why plumbers are so handy doing a lot of more complicated stuff, but can't patch walls and ceilings they chop up I do not know. It must be a union thing.

Third, he asks where the shut off valve is. Ha, there's the rub. If there was a shut off valve and I knew where it was, that faucet wouldn't have dripped for eight months.  Everything else in the place has a shutoff valve. The sinks do. The outside faucet in the rear of the house has one right in the laundry room above the shut off valve for the water heater. It is a big red lever. You can't miss it.

We begin a search, but as stated, everything is behind walls and ceilings.  We can't even be sure how this pipe meanders about. We get a flashlight and enter the storage shed downstairs, which runs back under the stairs. This is a dark, sometimes low, full of stuff, little room where the main shut off valve is. We search. He sees the pipe that has to be that outside faucet running into the main system, but doesn't spot any shut off valve. So the whole system has to be shut down.

Now it is time for action. There should be nothing more standing in the way, right?

Now the Whole Hole Thing


The technician and I have abandoned any further search for a shut off valve on the external faucet. We have shut off the entire water supply to the house and he is ready to replace that dripping spigot.

(What's the difference between a faucet and a spigot? One starts with f and one with s. They are two words we Americans use for what the British call a tap.)

He goes to his truck and comes back with a bucket, torch, and a reciprocal saw.

Now we have some cats. When the plumber first came and examined the new vanity to be installed, Mark jumped inside as soon as he opened the door. I am concerned about a cat jumping in the hole he is about to make and becoming lost inside out walls. However, once he turned on that overgrown saber saw there is such a gut-wrenching noise all the cats scatter to their preferred hide-y-holes beneath sofas and bureaus. No feline is going to pester the guy while he is doing this work.

Since the pipe is behind the wall of our entryway closet (the double doors to the left of the cats in the picture) I first must empty it out and make space. It is amazing how many coats one can have they never seem to wear. I pull everything off the rod and carry this apparel to the bedroom. I still must remove various items from off the closet floor. Everything not in immediate use gets chucked into this closet.

Now he can begin with his noisy saw and fix this tap trouble.

The hole is cut and the saw is silent and I hear a "Hmmm".

As stated previously, "hmmm"s are never a good sign. He calls me.

He is concerned about what lies behind the wall. We both squat down to peer through the square he cut.

"There's this two by four," he says.

I can see it.

"The pipe is behind it and up about two or three inches."

We both feel up behind this board. Yes, I can feel the pipe right up against the back of this plank.

"I don't know what this board is," he says. "it runs all the way up about two feet."

We both reach up as far as we can through the hole to measure the height of this board. It does indeed stretch up about two feet  therefore, it is not a two by four; more a two by twenty-four. So what is the problem.

"I just don't know why this board is here," he continues. "I have to cut it to reach the pipe, but I just don't know what it is."

"You have to cut it?"

"Yes. There is no other way I can reach the pipe. But I'm not sure what this board is and I'm reluctant to cut it."

Now he is scaring me. What is he saying? Is he saying if he cuts the board the whole house tumbles down around our ears?

Whatever, he really doesn't want to cut the board.

Now he goes outside and takes a wrench to the faucet. He removed the handle and pulls out the upper assembly. I see him go to the truck. He comes back with a short length of pipe with an old faucet in its middle. He sits down and he is tinkering with this old spigot.

Finally he comes back in and calls me.

"I thought maybe I could do something with the washer," he says. (Gee, why didn't we start there?) "But when I got it apart the whole bottom was missing, no washer or screw. I thought maybe I could use part of an old faucet, but nothing fit, so I just put your spigot back together.

"I won't charge you anything for the job because I couldn't fix it."

So we settle up the bill and he goes his way. I have my vanity installed and my bathroom faucet problem solved, but I am also left with a hole in the wall and a leaking outside tap.

We've lived with its little drip for eight months, I guess we can live with forever more.

I figure I better patch up the hole before some cat discovers it. I go to the utility room and look for some spackle or patch. All my containers have dried up. I'll have to run out and buy some.

As I leave, I notice it is only a few minutes past ten. I decide to drive to the DMV and get my car inspected. This has also been worrying my mind all summer. In this state when you buy a new car you don't have to have it inspected or buy a new registration sticker for five years. My car is now five years old and my sticker expires on August 15.  I have not had a very lucky season and I am nervous that the car won't pass, that it will need brakes or shutter, dread, stark fear, not pass the emissions test.

But we are already into the first week of August and I can't put it off too much longer. What is something is wrong? I'll need time to get it fixed. I had been thinking about taking it to the DMV tomorrow, Wednesday, after work. This is the only day the DMV stays open late. But today I am off, it is still early, let's get it over with.

The state does the inspection here. You go through a bay and they work it over. The disadvantage is you sometimes wait in a long line. The advantage is you know exactly what is wrong, if anything, and no garage mechanic can sell you on something you don't need done.

I drive down the inspection lanes and am the third car in line in lane two. I am watching the inspectors working ahead. They seem to be going through it fairly fast and I don't see them sticking any hoses up tailpipes or anything. Maybe they are going easy today and skipping steps.

I am finally number one and motioned down. Come on, come on, come on, he is motioning and then the "hit it" sign and I slam to a stop. This is the brake test. The man asks me for my registration card and how many miles I have. He disappears into his both, makes some marks, hands me back my card and says pull up to any bay with a green light.

They have changed the procedure. Now you go through two bays. This was just the brake check. Here we go, nervous time all over again.

I am again third in line. Now I am two in line and the car before me is motioned all the way down into the bay and the inspector comes walking out of the bay with an orange pyramid. What is this? He motions me forward to just inside the door and motions the car behind me up closer. He then sets the pyramid behind that car. Wow, just made it, this guy is shutting down the lane. Probably going on his lunch break.

I get to the actual inspection station. He walks about the car, lights, high beam, blow the horn, left turn signal, right turn signal, same in the rear, put the car in park and step out please.

No, I'm not being arrested. In newer cars they no longer have to stick a pipe up the tailpipe. They plug a cord into something beneath the dash board. It is much faster than the old days.

He tells me to get back in the car. He tells me everything is fine. He wishes me a good day.

What relief. I worried for nothing. I have passed, now I just need to go inside and pay for a new sticker. I always get the two-year one. The less I go through inspection, the better.

I drive to the administration building and there are no parking spaces. I drive up a row and down a row and around a row and each time if a space opens someone coming the other direction always grabs it before I can get there. I drive out of that lot and ahead is another lot with plenty of spaces. As I enter it I see a sign, "Employee Parking Only" off to my right.

I circle around and go back to the administration building lot. Still no spaces. I see people walking out of that other lot with papers in their hands. The heck with it, I'm parking over there. Maybe employee parking is only the right section.

I get in the building and take a number as if I am at the deli counter of the super market. I have 911. 9/11 is this an omen. Last spring when I came here on another matter I got 666.

Like the deli department, they call your number and direct you to a window. I look at the number now being serviced, 982. I have a wait ahead.

Two hours later, after a quick stop at a hardware store, I am back home patching the hole.

He has cut it in two pieces. I paste in the first piece. Now I get the second piece and set it atop of the first and my hand slips and this piece disappears behind the wall. I remove the first piece again and reach behind the wall as far down as I can. No piece. I can feel a ridge of floor, but just a bit over is another space and into this space the second piece must have fell. It has disappeared into our walls to who knows where, perhaps the Land of Oz.

I reset the first piece. I retrieve all our coats and rehang them. I put the other junk back in the closet. I close the closet doors. As far as I'm concerned the faucet fiasco is over.

If only the faucet had felt that way.

And So It Flows

It is Wednesday, woeful Wednesday, another day in early August in the heat of summer. Not all the plumbing problems were completely solved, but I suppose one can live with a hole in the closet wall and a slightly dripping outside faucet.

Today it is back to work and other things to deal with and it is Wednesday, wonderful Wednesday, when we go out to dinner. Something to look forward to where we will escape the rigors of the week.

I work part-time, not full days. My day is done by mid-afternoon and I go home. I pull in the driveway at 2:30 thinking perhaps I will work on my Blogs or maybe just catch up on another episode of "Lost" on DVD.

As I step from the car, my wife steps out of the house walking down the path toward me. Wives popping out of the house to greet is never a good thing.

"We have a problem," is her greeting.

"What?"

She points to the middle of the front yard where the sprinkler sits at the end of the hose that runs from the external tap. A foot high spray loops in the air from its many holes.

Ah, ha, when the plumber fiddled with the spigot he couldn't fix he made it worse. This is not a good thing.

I go in and immediately to the phone and call our plumbing contractor. The young lady who answers is very commiserative and assures me she can have a technician to our house between 5:00 and 7:00 that evening.

Well, there goes dinner out.

I hang up, go to the hall closet and find a flashlight that works. My wife asks what I am doing.

"I want to see just where this pipe (to the faucet) goes."

I know it runs in from the spigot about two feet east of our front door and I know it then goes behind the entryway closet wall and is behind a big board behind the wall. I know it connects into the main system downstairs in the storage closet. But where does it come down, can I see anything important down in that closet.

The closet is very dark, there is no light inside. Actually, there was, the fixture is still there, but we had some electrical work done many years ago and the electricians said they couldn't fix this fixture for some reason I forget. Can't anyone fix anything anymore. Possibly not. (See my essay in Life, Death and the Lonely Art, "Nobody Knows Anything, Including Me".)


The people who owned this house before us did a lot of -- uh -- improvements. They built a rough and rickety bunch of shelves in the storage closet where it runs beneath the stairs . I have covered these shelves with plastic bins holding the junk we insist on holding on to forever. I also fill the storage closet with larger such bins containing our Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Valentine Day and what-ever-else Hallmark holiday that demands cluttering up the house with cardboard and tinsel. Most of these I had removed to allow the plumber access to the main shut off valve, but I had left the others on the shelves. Now I remove a couple of these and shine my light under the stairs.

What to my wondering eyes should appear? Well, the pipe that runs to the outside front faucet of course. I see it runs back to the rear wall then curves up to where it will meet another joint behind my entryway closet and head outside. But what is that thing sticking down about two inches just before the pipe reaches the back wall. Could that be a shut off valve?

Perhaps, but there is no lever or wheel on it and I'm not touching anything at this point. Let the plumber do it.

And wait, what is that laying back on the shelf? It's the piece of wall board he cut out yesterday that I dropped between the walls. It didn't go to the Land of Oz after all; it just went to the downstairs storage closet.

The plumber; that is, technician, the same kid from the day before is back. I take him down to the storage closet and sure enough we have a shut off valve after all. You just need a pair of pliers to turn it shut.

He is still nervous about that two inch by twenty-four inch board that hides the pipe, but what choice do we have. If we don't want to bleed water profusely across our lawn forever or climb over boxes to a well-hid almost-out-of-reach shut off valve perpetually, we are going to have to cut.

"You're not going to cut the whole board (you know, the whole twenty-four inches), just a little about like the hole in the wall you cut, right?"

"I'm going to cut enough to work," he says. "but you'll have to sign off on it."

"Then cut," I say.

He cuts. He doesn't need to snip much from the board at all, even less that the hole he made in my wall. Why, oh why, didn't we just do this yesterday?

He is there less than an hour replacing the old faucet with a new one. The house didn't cave in around our ears. there have been no quivers and there have been no more drips.

The new spigot is a bit stiff to turn on and off being new, but the important thing is after you turn it off, you absolutely have turned it off. And the new one has a pretty red wheel.

Man, I hate what water can do! Especially to my wallet.

Now all I have to do is finish patching the hole in the wall.

And wait for the reluctant refrigerator...but that's a different story.

THREE: OTHER DELIGHTS OF THE AGE

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, 1490-1510

Hot Flaming Sofas, Batman

And so it is after our electrical fire in the living room. Our scorched couch now rests in the back yard, defying me to disassemble it for disposal. Our little vacation trip was cancelled and we spent the money on a new sofa instead.

Thus we are celebrating our 49th wedding anniversary in grand style, aren't we?

But my daughters showed up on the day after the fire and a day before our anniversary with an anniversary cake they baked for us.

It is in the shape of a sofa, a burning sofa with flames shooting from its middle.

Case of the Reluctant Refrigerator or "Waiting for Godot" Redux


VLADIMIR:

Ah Gogo, don't go on like that. Tomorrow everything will be better.

ESTRAGON:

How do you make that out?

VLADIMIR:

Did you not hear what the child said?

ESTRAGON:

No.

VLADIMIR:

He said that Godot was sure to come tomorrow. (Pause.) What do you say to that?

ESTRAGON:




Then all we have to do is to wait on here.

                From Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett


We moved to our present home many years ago on a shoestring with two young girls and a baby boy.  The home was roomy, with a nice sized yard and a huge downstairs family room, making it ideal for people with children. The size and the affordable price came with some sacrifices. Namely accepting that everything wasn't in tiptop shape and beautiful.


The kitchen may have been the most ugly. It was old. The stove was gas and had open flame burners on top of somewhat dubious safety. There was a built-in wall oven, also gas, that worked for perhaps one week after we moved in. There was no dishwasher and a small sink, with a garbage disposal, which quit perhaps a month after the wall oven. The lights were ugly, especially the bizarre yellow and brown chandelier over the eat-in corner. The side walls were covered with a greenish tile and the cabinets were a very heavy dark brown wood, which was beginning to separate.


But it was what we could afford and so we lived with it for a decade and a half. In that time those old heavy cabinet doors, repainted many times and a lighter shade,  began to fall off. We would screw them back up, but their weight and the old splitting wood reached a point where nothing would keep some in place. By the mid-1990s we were cooking in a kitchen Ghetto. Even the refrigerator we had hauled with us from hear and there over the years had lost a handle and looked defeated.


Then the gas range became more erratic and we began to fear either an explosion or dying in our sleep from leaking gas fumes. We could live in this mess no longer. It was time to tear out and rebuild and so I borrowed from my 401K (something that would have repercussions a few years down the road, but that is a tale for another time) and we ordered up a new kitchen.




And so they came and ripped away and all the hanging doors, non-working or dying appliances and threatening ranges were gone. That old gas oven sits forlornly in the rumble waiting to be toted away to the gas range happy baking ground with the old non-working garbage disposal atop it.


Soon the transformation took place.




This was not without hitches, of course, one being a fowl-up on the backsplash for the counters. Somehow it got lost in translation and thus the wallpaper. Eventually the wallpaper was peeled away and the Little Woman got out her tools and tiled the back wall behind the counters. 




Everything was new. We replaced the old gas range and wall oven with an electric range and built-in microwave. We installed a dishwasher and a working garbage disposal. We even got a new refrigerator.


All back in the mid-1990s.


Several months ago our new-now-old refrigerator began to do an odd thing. Water began to puddle on the bottom shelf and in the meat drawer. Just a bit of moisture at first, but over time the water grew deeper and more frequent and we had to be constantly emptying the meat drawer into the sink. I even put in racks on the bottom shelf to keep things above the rising tide. Very annoying and certainly a possible health hazard.


There was also the knowledge that whatever was going wrong, this fridge could stop fridging at anytime. And thus I set out one day to surprise the Little Woman by buying a new refrigerator.


Off I went to a very famous big box store that use to have two names but now goes by only one. It has existed for a long time and was once very famous for catalogues. It was having a refrigerator sale. They had many, many brands and units on display, all with good markdowns.


I had to eliminate many from possibility because of size. We have two cabinets above the space where the unit must go, so this limits the height to less than 68 inches. Not at, but less than 68 inches, and most of the refrigerators I examined were at or above that height.


I also wanted something a bit different from what we had always had, that is a white or almond unit with two big handles on the front. I finally settled on a right sized, black refrigerator and summoned forth a salesman named Babu. 


Babu clicked all the information into the register and then he made that familiar "Hmmm" sound. Hmmm sounds when you are purchasing something are never a good thing.


"Ah," he says, "this particular model is out of stock. Is it an emergency?"


No, it isn't an emergency since it was more of a whim and spur-of-the-moment to come here, but who knows, next week it could be.


"It must be ordered," he says. "Can you wait perhaps 15 days to three weeks for delivery."


"Sure," I say. This is all happening on July 8.


So I buy the black refrigerator and pay for it on a credit card, we shake hands and everybody is happy.  I go home and print a picture of the new black refrigerator off the Web and then I show and tell my wife and now my wife is also happy. Three weeks is not so long to wait. There is a number to check at what time they will show up at the home that you can call the night before delivery. You can also call to see when delivery is scheduled, nice little convenience that.


And so we go on with our lives, dealing with all the other problems that have assaulted us this summer, the leaking faucets and the car inspection and other things I will someday tell you. The three weeks fly by. It is sometime around that fifteenth day and I decided I should call that number and see when delivery is scheduled.


It is all automated. It almost sounds like a real human woman talking to you, but it isn't, but it knows what I want as soon as it answers and says I have a refrigerator scheduled for delivery on August 2.


So okay, that is more like 25 days after I purchased this thing, not 15 or even three weeks. But close enough and I will call Sunday evening next week to get a time frame for the Monday delivery.


We wait out the next week and I come home from work on Friday and there is a message that the store delivery service had called. I call them back and a lady answers, not a mechanized voice, but a real woman with a heavy accent very hard to comprehend compared to the nice clear automated voice. 


"You have a refrigerator scheduled for delivery," she says (I think that was what she said) after I explain I am calling regarding a message, "for August 5," she continues.


What? August 5, I thought it was coming August 2.


"No, no, August 5. You call night before get exact time window. Thank you for shopping..."


Oh well, what the heck. It's only an extra three days. Maybe this is better. I work on Monday, August 2, but I am off on the fifth, so I'll be home for sure when they come. The Little Woman likes it if I can be there for these things even though she is real good of handling such matters.  It just makes her more comfortable.


I do not call on Wednesday evening, I do not pass go, I do not collect $200 dollars, I go straight to jail.


I am up bright and early, as usual, on Thursday morning August 5. I have no idea when they will deliver the refrigerator, but I am not going to wait until the last minute.  The Little Woman had already cleaned most of food from it and we had been eating out almost every night this week rather than buy new groceries until after the new unit arrives.


Still there is stuff remaining.  I carry the frozen items downstairs and push them in our freezer, which is getting pretty much full.


I come back and now I take the milk, eggs, butter, a dozen or so yogurt containers, some cheese and a couple other things and ram these in the small fridge in the computer room. This little fridge is actually my sons and we use it for our personal beverages. He has some beer and soda in it and I have my own soda, chocolate milk, iced tea, water and orange juice there. There isn't much room, but I get the essentials from the kitchen in there as well. Fortunately neither my son or I had stocked up on our drinks lately.


I now remove the kitchen table to allow more room for the delivery guys to maneuver. I take out about a dozen wine and other beverage bottles from the fridge and set them aside on a bench. Now I go out to the shed and get a large plastic tub to put all the condiments from the door shelves in and as I begin this process the phone rings.


It is about 7:o0 in the morning.  I look on the Caller ID and it is the store. Perhaps the refrigerator is this very moment a few miles away and they will be here by 8:00.


I answer the phone and now I am speaking to Anna or something like that, who is another real woman with another real heavy accent and it ain't a Boston accent and it ain't a Georgia drawl and it ain't even a Tennessee twang.  It ain't the King's English either and she is saying something about there was a delay problem with the manufacturer, but the manufacturer does have a refrigerator in their warehouse with my name on it and it will be delivered August 14.


"You call night before, get time window. Thank you for shopping..."


I didn't do well in math in high school, I admit. But I was an accountant for several years. I think I can add and subtract. Tell me what you get, but I get something more than 15 days between July 8 and August 14.


I'm glad they called to tell me. At least I hadn't gotten all the condiments out of the old refrigerator.


I spend the next half hour reversing all I did. All the wine bottles and such, back on their shelf. The milk and eggs and cheese and yogurt back from the computer room. The ice cream back up from the downstairs freezer. The plastic tub back in the storage shed. The kitchen table back where it belongs. The new refrigerator somewhere in limbo.


Now we must wait another 9 days.


Waiting for Frigdot.




ESTRAGON:




Then all we have to do is to wait on here.

VLADIMIR:




Are you mad? We must take cover. (He takes Estragon by the arm.) Come on.
He draws Estragon after him. Estragon yields, then resists. They halt.

ESTRAGON:




(looking at the tree). Pity we haven't got a bit of rope.

VLADIMIR:




Come on. It's cold.
He draws Estragon after him. As before.

ESTRAGON:




Remind me to bring a bit of rope tomorrow.



On Friday the Thirteenth (how is that for foreboding) I again call that number and get the mechanical woman with the gentle voice and that gentle voice says, "You have a refrigerator scheduled for delivery between 4:45 and 6:45 tomorrow..."




"The sun'll come out
Tomorrow 
So ya gotta hang on 
'Til tomorrow 
Come what may 

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! "




Maybe.


I mean, would you trust it to happen at this point?


I am up bright and early Saturday morning, tomorrow is today, and I have moved the frozen stuff and the essential stuff and the wine bottles and the condiments. I have removed the kitchen table. I have carried a large cedar chest up four steps from the entry way and placed it well out of the way of the delivery people. I have moved the dining room table and chairs to clear the easiest path for them to go. 


I am scrubbing out the innards of the old drippy fridge when the phone rings. It is about 7:00 in the morning. I look at the Caller ID and it is the store, de javu all over again.


Man, oh, man, am I starring in a remake of "Groundhog Day"?


I answer and a male voice with a heavy Spanish accent says, "We are delivering a refrigerator today. Please make sure someone is there between 4:45 and 6:45 this afternoon."


Now, we usually go out to dinner on Saturday evening and this may make us leave late and lose the chance of getting into our favorite restaurant, but who cares if this reluctant refrigerator just shows its face.


A minute or so before 4:00 PM a truck magically appears out front. Two nice Hispanic gentlemen carry -- that's right -- carry out my old fridge and carry in the new fridge. 


Now we must just wait 24 hours for the refrigerator to cool before we can put food in. This I will be doing this afternoon. My one though is, what if it had been an emergency? What if the refrigerator just died? Thirty-seven days without refrigeration would be worse that what they had 100 years ago. 


Black beauty is finally corralled. Welcome to our kitchen Godot.


















Samuel Beckett waiting for a refrigerator.