Monday, November 30, 2009

Blue Cyber Monday

For about ten minutes, today was a really good day.

Things didn't start off very promising; I'd slept in past my intended target hour and was wondering as I checked e-mail if I was going to get any of the four things I needed to get accomplished that I'd listed out last night:

1. Mail dropoff at the Post Office
2. Fluid top-off/computer inquiry at Valvoline
3. Return/exchange at Borders
4. Cyber Monday orders (if applicable)

Cyber Monday was pretty good for the store this year, and by the time I'd generated the shipping labels for the stuff sold from the store account (and the couple that had sold from my own), it was already nearly 3:30 in the afternoon. Thus, I arrived at the Willowick Post Office at one of the worst times to visit any such place (the late afternoon), and true to form, I lost a half hour of my life waiting in a seven-person line that moved slower than a herd of turtles. Good lord, I hate these places. As I was mailing a couple of international packages for the store, I didn't have much of a choice in the matter and did my best to reach that inner state of Zen I seek whenever I find myself trapped in situations like these. I can't put into words how glad I am that I ponied up for that postal scale back in April and am able to do most of our shipping from work or home: it gets very easy to understand exactly how and why people "go postal" when you are the second person in line for fifteen of the thirty minutes you are in these horrible places.

Despite the clammy, frigid conditions and the barely detectable snow flurries that fell like tiny grains of sand from the slate gray sky, it felt positively wonderful to finally get the hell out of that post office and back on the road, even if it was Vine Street at 4 PM. I made Record Den my next stop, and spent an hour there packaging all of the Cyber Monday orders that had come in by then and ultimately managed to get them all of them ready for our typical 5 PM mail pickup. Two objectives down, two to go.

After spending an extra half hour attempting to wait out the worst of the evening rush hour, it was off to Borders to return a couple of bookends I'd purchased the night before. The traffic on Mentor Avenue was still pretty grating to deal with, but it was at my destination where the day suddenly took a surprising turn for the better.

A bit of background explanation: I am completely out of room for CDs in the office. All of the shelving units behind me are currently packed end to end with music, and there is no more room for any more shelving in here. While selling a few hundred pieces on Amazon had partially eased this problem for a while, but nearly all of my recent online listings had been coming from the boxes of CDs I have stashed in the closet (most of them banished here years before for the crime of only having one good song on them or whatever other reason I could come up with). As a temporary solution, I decided to take the box sets out of their alloted space and move them on top of these shelves for the time being, using bookends to keep them in place.

When we finally came across these bookends last night, I was a bit crestfallen to find out that that they were freaking expensive (at least the cool-looking ones, anyway). After some chin-stroking and frowning over the options, I selected a pair that were by some measure the cheapest models available. Problem was, they were also by some measure the smallest and lightest models available. Upon getting home, I quickly deduced that these little guys were not up to their intended task and opted to return them the next day and use the exchange credit towards a set of more expensive (and weighty) models.

After leaving my too-small set at the front counter with the same clerk who took care of the sale last night, I headed back to their "decor" section of the store to pick out the cheapest, heaviest set I could find. To my considerable surprise, the simple, elegant green marble "triangle" style that I had looked at the night before had magically been marked down thirty dollars over the last twenty four hours to $19.99 a pair. Fuckin' score! Elated, I grabbed two sets and wound up spending only ten bucks on top of my exchange credit.

A bit flush with success, I decided to stop over at Kohl's (as it was right down the plaza from where I was parked), hoping to find some slipper socks and lounge pants for my dad's Christmas gift. While hunting about for the above, I came across a winter hats sale (50% off, natch) and picked out a couple of new "beanie"-style caps for myself as well as a couple of convertible hat/mask thingies for my younger brothers.

From there, I had to make a bit of a mad dash clear across the county to fulfill my last objective: a monthly topping off of car fluids at Valvoline, hopefully along with a resetting of the Saturn's computer. A few days before, my SERVICE ENGINE SOON light had come on and had kindly provided some company for me to and from work over the holiday weekend. Touched by the gesture, I took the Saturn to Autozone on Sunday and had the problem diagnosed as the gas cap not sealing correctly. A problem very easily corrected! Hurray!! Since the Autozone tech could not reset the computer once I had replaced the cap, I took a chance that the Valvoline guys could do it and was pleased that they could and did. With all of my objectives completed, I grabbed some Chik Fil-A and headed home feeling a real sense of accomplishment and of things being in their right place. Hell, I even just beat the train signal on E 305 and didn't even get the red light at the South Marginal intersection. It was a truly wonderful ten minutes.

As I was coming home and maneuvering through the parking lot, I noticed the SERVICE ENGINE SOON light came on again. I was a bit surprised and irritated, but not really worried as the problem had been corrected. The tech at Valvoline had told me that if that light came on again, then I'd need to take the car to a shop to get it looked at, and it was that scenario that annoyed me more than anything else. After dinner, I drove the car to Autozone again just to be absolutely sure that the gas cap was (somehow) still the culprit here.

Great news! It wasn't!

Instead, I was presented with an all-new error message that read "GEAR 1 RATIO INCORRECT," which based on my research appears to be a kind of mechanical shorthand for "your transmission is having minor issues that are not going to go away and will likely become totally fucked at some point in the future."

So, yeah. Great. Wonderful. Coming right smack in the middle of my Christmas shopping (and just after a recent splurge purchase on my behalf on a couple of box sets), this may be my most impressively-timed bit of bad financial news since about August of 2006.

Bah. One of these years, I will enjoy an entire holiday season without once worrying at any point about future insolvency thanks to something inside of a car I own picking that particular point to cease working correctly. Believe me, when this happens, y'all will be the first to know.

NP: Devo Duty Now For The Future

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