Author: Cornish, Rick

If you want to get anywhere you have to run twice as fast...
This is what the Red Queen said to Alice during her visit to Wonderland. It was also on the subject line of an email sent to me by my wife Wednesday morning. Here is, in part, what Lynn’s email said:

“Bill from Hilltop Appliance came this morning but couldn’t fix the light in the stove top hood. He had to order a new switch. Doesn’t know how long it will take to come in. Back ordered. While Bill was here I locked the three dogs in the study. Rudy ate the remote control (to our new TV) and a smoke detector (which I’d purchased but hadn’t gotten around to installing.) I called about the remote. It’s back ordered too. Ta”

Frequently notes from my beloved inspire, or at least get me aimed in a particular direction toward, the day’s Welcome column. Though pretty short, Lynn’s email from Wednesday morning was pregnant with possibilities. For example, I could complain a bit about the one-step-forward, two-steps-backward phenomena that’s pretty much defined my miserable life. A fifty-buck deductible to our home insurance company for having Bill come out to fix the light on the range hood that completely baffled me. (Thankfully it baffled Bill too; took him forty-five minutes just to open up the hood to remove the defective switch.) Ironic that my wife and I debated spending the fifty bucks when it will cost at least that much to replace the remote and the smoke detector. And ironic that it will take twice the time to drive to Modesto to buy the remote than it would have if I’d taken the time to figure out how to get inside the hood so I could switch the switch. In other words, I could write an entire column today about the utter futility of my life, with examples that would both amuse and amaze.

Or, I could go with the bad-seed puppy angle. I could share with you that for the past three weeks Rudy, the eight-month-old blonde lab with red nose and yellow-green eyes, has been almost exclusively into electronics. Before the remote and the smoke detector it was three CD’s (two music, one chalked full of some pretty critical data); two days before that he chewed up, swallowed and then eliminated the chord that connects my I-Pod to my computer. Headphones before that, and before that a One Gig mini card for my camera—cost, sixty-five bucks. But the worst was knocking over my G-5 Mac Tower. Now that could have been costly. And he’s not satisfied with what he can do on his own. Alex is 11, Eddy is 5, and neither one of them had ever, EVER, dug a hole in his life. Along comes Rudy and before he’s barely three months old he’s got them both helping to dig long, deep trenches in key spots around the property. And Rudy doesn’t bring into the house old dirty stuffed animals or branches like other dogs. He brings in plumbing parts, irrigation fixtures, recently planted flowers, tools from the shop. A few nights ago, my pup came lopping into the study with what looked like a tail hanging out of his mouth. After quite a struggle he reluctantly gave up a live and very relieved mouse. But here’s the topper--last afternoon, just awakening from a nap, my eyes still closed, I yawned a big, open yawn and Rudy LICKED THE INSIDE OF MY MOUTH. Clearly a bad see puppy column would have legs.

But then Lynn’s e-mail to me Wednesday morning could be a great segway into a story about Bill from Bill’s Hilltop Appliance. Bill is one of the most miserable humans on the planet, (or at least in Tuolumne County): his business, he says, is just barely hanging on, his health is failing, his ’71 F-150 is even worse off, he’s an expert on every design flaw ever built into every model of every washer, dryer, stove, refrigerator etc. and he drones on and on about them from the moment he arrives at our home to fix something until the moment he leaves, which is usually a long, long time. For all these reasons and more Lynn’s quite fond of him. Were I to go that direction in this morning’s column I could tell you about the first time I met Bill. About how the pilot light in our heater in the study, (which is where I spend the better part of my life), began going out and about how we called American Home Shield and told them we needed someone to come out right away to get the stove fired up before someone froze to death. So the woman asks, ‘What level would you give this?’ “Huh?’ ‘Would you describe your situation as an emergency?’ ‘Well’, Lynn shivers, ‘we can see our breath. Does that count for anything’ and the AHS woman says, ‘Yeah, hon, we call that an emergency’ and she promises she’ll have someone in our area call us right away’, (she being in Buffalo, NY, where it’s undoubtedly much, much colder but where the central heating is undoubtedly working.) And sure enough, Bill from Bill’s Hilltop Appliance calls in less than five minutes, is apprised of the situation, agrees we’re at ‘emergency level’, and promises to be here in thirty minutes or less. Except, of course, he isn’t. Bill arrives two hours later and, having dealt with the public long enough to know that when your more than an hour and a half late the best defense is an offense, he stomps into the study, drops his tool box angrily onto the floor, and says with a level of sarcasm that only an appliance repair man with twenty years experience could muster, ‘Oh, GREAT! It’s a McKinney Durango 3730….my favorite stove to work on.’ (Want to defuse the situation with a customer who’s been kept waiting for an hour and a half? Just make him feel like you’re doing him a favor by showing up at all.) But I, having been stood up by some of the best in the business, turn the tables by jumping up, rushing over to him, slapping him on the back like he’s a long lost friend, and saying, ‘Oh, great! GREAT! That’s just what we wanted to hear. Sounds like a piece o’ cake. I’ll go call American Home Shield and tell ‘em you made it and you’ve already got a handle on the problem.’ As Bill stammers, trying to find the words to convey that he was actually being sarcastic without seeming like a complete jerk, I cut him off with another slap on the back and quickly leave him standing alone in front of the broken heater. Let’s see him turn this simple fix into a two or three hour job.

But, in the end, what my darling’s e-mail from Wednesday has ultimately inspired me to write about is Valentines Day and my trip to the dentist yesterday. Though the appointment wasn’t scheduled till 2:00, I made an excuse and left at 1:00 so I could go downtown and buy Lynn a natural stone necklace I knew she’d seen and was taken by. From the jeweler I headed up Main Street toward my dentist’s office, looked at my watch and realized I had time to duck into the florist to buy my love a single red rose to go with the necklace. It was a beautiful, large and perfectly formed flower, all duded up with a sprig of fern and wrapped in Valentine wrapping and a bow, but just as I entered my dentists office I had a sudden change of heart and presented the rose to Leslie, Dr. Rankin’s receptionist, scheduler, business manager, Jill of all trades. ‘For you, Leslie,’ I said, handing her the lovely single flower bouquet, ‘for all your hard work. You’ve taken such good care of my mouth these past six years, and I appreciate it. Happy Valentine’s Day.’ Leslie gushed her obvious appreciation. ‘Gosh’, she said, ‘I hope I can find another vase.’ Looking at her desk I noted a half dozen or so bouquets of flowers. Her work area looked more like a wedding chapel or funeral home than it did a dentist’s office. ‘Wow’, I said, ‘looks like you’ve got a town full of admirers.’ ‘Well,’ she blushed, ‘everyone has their 15 minutes of’…..’ her voice trailed off. Odd, I thought.

In a few minutes I was settled into Doc Rankin’s old leather examination chair, bright light focused on my gaping mouth, Nitrous mask firmly and lovingly in place. ‘So,’ says the doctor, ‘I see you brought Leslie some flowers too.’ ‘Too?’ I ask,
Posted:  2/15/2008

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