Friday, August 14, 2009

How to Bleed Money Out the Wazoo: Prt. II

Okay, so it’s not that bad.  But we do seem to be bleeding cash.  And it’s not just because everyone and their mother assumes that because you’ve got a Fulbright and you’re going to Hong Kong you must be loaded:  half the time it’s because you’re just so distracted. 

Case in point:  most of the blinds in our house are nice wooden, two-inch Venetians.  A few, however, were little plastic cheapy things we bought from Wal-mart, and two blinds, in the kitchen, were JC Penney honeycombed clothe drapes that had spent the last 7 years soaking up every bit of grease in our unventilated kitchen.  Once we’d rented the house, we decided we’d better take care of  anything that would make a renter go “Ewww.”  The blinds, especially the kitchen ones, qualified.

So I get out a ruler and my little notebook and stroll from room to room, taking measurements of all the window dressings that need to be replaced, seven total.  Then I get on the phone and call some company down in Atlanta that custom measures these wooden blinds we, in our Yuppie-scum way, like so much.  I pay approximately 10 thousand dollars for these blinds. 

Three weeks later, the blinds arrive—all five of them.  Of course, I don’t realize that two are missing until I’ve already taken down the old blinds in the kitchen, driven over them seven or eight times with my car in disgust, and hung up the new hardware.  Only then does it occur to me that I don’t actually have blinds that fit my kitchen windows. 

So I get on the phone with Mr. Millionaire the blind cutter down in Atlanta.  “You left out two blinds,” I say. 

“No I didn’t,” he responds.  He has a deep, confident voice, the kind of voice that says he has practical skills that someone with a PhD in Victorian literature will never have, and that he never makes mistakes.  I can almost feel his strong, calloused hands caressing my body as I—oh wait, that’s another entry. 

Anyhow, he sounds smart, and experienced, and like he knows what he’s doing not just in the blind business, but in life in general.  So of course, I challenge him.  “Where’d you learn your math,” I say, “at blind-makers school?”

“Brown,” he says.  “Double major in physics and philosophy.”

“What’s the matter,” I retort, “Ohio State wouldn’t take you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, you know what it means.”

“No,” he says.  “It makes entirely no sense at all.  Oh.  Wait a minute, let me guess:  Ohio State is where you went?”

“You forgot my kitchen blinds,” I squeak.

“No I didn’t.”

“Did so.”

“Did not.”  And then he reads, measure by measure, every blind I’ve ever ordered from him in the last twenty years, punctuating each measurement by telling me exactly which window each blind fits, in which room of my house. 

“See,” he says, wrapping it up.  “Nothing for the kitchen.”

I don’t say anything. 

“You still there?”

“The sun hurts my eyes,” I whimper, “when I’m eating my Cocoa-Puffs.”

“No problem,” he says calmly, like the kindly grandfather I never had.  “Give me your measurements.”

So I do.  And the blinds come in two weeks.  And I hang them.  And they look beautiful.  Even if they did cost me two million dollars. 

Then, six days after we vacate our home and head up to the Midwest for a pre-Hong Kong vacation, my wife gets an e-mail from the renters:  “The new blinds came,” they write, “from JC Penney.  What should we do with them?”

My wife looks at me, something like despair mixed with loathing in her eyes.  I try and meet her stare, but finally half to lower my gaze to the floor.  Half to myself, half to her, wholly to the man in Atlanta who will never hear me, I mutter:  “Told you I ordered shades for the kitchen.”  

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