Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Pickpocket, The Whore and The Delivery Boy

"The daily lives of the pickpocket and the whore are even more monotonous than those of the delivery boy and the housewife."
-Mason Cooley, whose profession is described by The Columbia World of
Quotations as "U.S. Aphorist"

I have a new hair barrette. It was handcrafted by orphans in the Ukraine and carried across the ocean by a lonely Ukrainian missionary whose only purpose in life is to give meaning to their barren existence by selling these humble fruits of labor. More on that later.

Today we received our shipment of office furniture. The delivery guys were supposed to be there between 8 and 9 in the morning. I am supposed to be at work at 8:30 but I showed up an hour earlier to make sure I was there if they arrived ahead of schedule. And they didn't disappoint. They sailed through our doors right on the stroke of . . . twelve.

Normally this wouldn't be an issue, but on Tuesdays we close at 12:30 and by 11:45, my boss is already twitching because she's having lunch with her mother-in-law - "at Clydes," she says with emphasis - and needs to rush home to "slip a check under the mat for the repair man."

Wait a second, what did she say? Excuse me, ma'am, what planet are you from? Stupiter? Mercuripmeoff? Urheadupyouranus?

So anyway, by the time the guys show up at the office, she has been pacing up and down and muttering to herself for several hours. "Call Marianne," she tells me, naming the saleswoman at the furniture store.

I pick up the phone and began to dial.

"Tell her that the guys haven't showed (sic) up yet. Say, 'Just wanted to let you know we're still waiting for the furniture guys to come.' Tell her they were supposed to be here at eight o'clock this morning."

The phone is ringing. Once, twice, a third time, a fourth.

"No, wait. Tell her that I'd like to speak with her. Tell her this is ridiculous. I mean, you were here at 7:30 this morning, for God's sake!" The spoon in her cup of tea clanks louder and louder as she stirs.

The voice mail begins to play. "Hi, this is Marianne! I can't answer my phone. Leave a message and I'll call you back." The annoyingly long instructions on how to leave a voice mail message begin to play - are these ever really necessary? I mean how often does someone leave a message FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THEIR ENTIRE LIVES? Is this a common enough occurrence that we really need to be reeducated every time someone else doesn't answer the phone? Is there a subliminal message hidden in there?

"Please leave your message at the sound of the tone. To page this person, press *4*. To leave a callback number, press *5*. At the end of your message, hang up, or press *1* for more options. After hanging up, the memory cells storing this information will self-destruct, as will the lyrics to every ABBA song ever written, the exact location of the dry-cleaners where you dropped off your favorite sweater last week and all the steps to the Macarena."

But I don't have to worry about listening to the annoyingly long instructions because my boss still has some instructions of her own.

"Actually, what I want you to say is, 'Hi, Marianne,' umm, 'please call us because we are still waiting for our furniture and,' umm, 'and we ordered it over a month ago, I think we've had to wait long enough, don't you?' but sound nice, 'so if you could call us, that would be great.' Or something like that. You know what to do; you're a smart woman."

At this point, I am smart enough to have my finger stuck in my ear. "Hi, Marianne. This is Crittergal from Kadin Family Chiropractic. Just calling to check in with you. Dr. Kat and I are still waiting for the furniture to be delivered - it's about 11:47 now and I know you had said they were scheduled to arrive between eight and nine this morning, so I just wanted to check in with you to get an updated estimate on their arrival time. Normally it wouldn't be an issue but we close today at 12:30, which is why we had scheduled the early delivery . . . " As I blather on, my eyes start to glaze over. I don't know what else I say but suddenly I am hanging up and my boss's head is bobbing up and down enthusiastically.

"Excellent!" Thank goodness.

At that moment, the door swings open and a woman walks in. She is in her late forties, blonde with a dark tan and deep wrinkles around her eyes and mouth. She has on a loose yellow tank top cut off at the waist and pink terry cloth shorts. But it is her shoes that catch my attention. They are very high sparkly heels with huge rhinestone butterflies tied on the toestrap and they wink and flash as she approaches.

"Oh, thank God!" she exclaims. She puts her hand to her head and I notice that her fingernails and forearms are streaked with dirt. "Do you have a bathroom?"

"Uh, er," I sputter. I'm not sure how Dr. K will react to this woman's tushie touching the same toilet seat as the rest of us. But I needn't worry because Dr. K immediately pastes a smile on her face.

"Sure! Um, it's right through there," she says, indicating the door to the restroom.

"Oh, thank God! You know, things just aren't the same after four babies!" She grins conspiratorially and dashed into the bathroom. Dr. K and I give each other the "WTF Eyeball" but before we can say anything, we hear a flush and she opens the door.

"Man, that was SO good! They wouldn't let me go at La Madeleine. I was in there for awhile but then some lady got an attitude so they chased me out. Some people just don't understand things don't work so good after four babies." She leans on the front desk and crosses her feet. "Them kids just tore me up."

"Oh, yeah!" Dr. K says, a little too loudly. "Yep, we know about that, don't we, Crittergal?" She throws a desperate glance my way.

I force out a "Hahaha" and try to read in Dr. K's eyes how she wants me to act. It's sad because I want to be as open as possible if some homeless woman in revealing clothes wants to use our bathroom but the truth is that some of our patients would feel threatened. I mean, heck, I feel sort of threatened. If we want to keep our patients, we can't welcome people like this woman with absolute openness.

"Yeah, well, it's too bad about them kids. I don't have no way to get back to them right now. Won't be able to till I get enough money for the Metro."

And just like that, Dr. K transforms from helpless and apologetic to Lady Sheriff.

"Well, is you're asking us for money, I mean, I'm sorry but I just don't have anything to give you."

"Oh." This was not the hoped-for response.

Dr. K softens. "Except maybe a few quarters. But really, I don't have anything."

The woman brightens. "A few quarters?" she says hopefully.

"Yeah! Yeah, I think so!" Dr. K leaps up and hustles into her office. A moment later, she is back. "Here, this is all I have. I'm sorry, wish it could be more. There you go!" She drops the money into the woman's outstretched hand.

"Thank you," the woman says, her head already turning in my direction.

"I don't have any cash at all. Sorry!" I chirp.

"Oh, okay." Dr. K is already casting an anxious eye toward the door, hoping that no patients will arrive until we can get this hustler out.

"All right, then!" she says. "Good luck! Hope you make it home to the kids."

"Okay, then," the woman says slowly as she turns the coins over in her palm. She shuffles to the door. "Thanks for letting me use the bathroom." She swings the door open and is gone.

As she totters down the stairs, two men slide past her and head for our office. Their shirts bear the logo of the delivery company. No sooner does the door crack than Dr. K is speaking.

"Hi! Where have you been?! You were supposed to be here between eight and nine this morning, right?" she asks, drawing out the last word with the condescending slowness of a preschool teacher. "What happened?"

The older guy blinks and his mouth gapes a bit. He runs a hand over his head. "Yeah," he says with a nervous chuckle. "Sorry about that. One of my guys called out and then we didn't have enough guys to cover all the jobs so I had to wait for this guy." He jabs a thumb at his younger companion."

"Yeah, I was sitting at home eating my breakfast when I got a call. 'You have to come in.' So I jumped up and got there as fast as I could."

Dr. K restrains herself until the guy stops talking, then, "Well, SHE was here at 7:30! She had to get up early to wait for you guys!" The two men shrug a mournful apology my way and I try to glance at my boss and discreetly roll my eyes. The ol' "Yeah, I know she's a nutcase. At least you don't work for her!" look.

"Okay then!" I say, clapping my hands together purposefully. "Let's see about where we should put that furniture!"

"Oh, yes! Well, the smaller one should go right here . . . " And with that, further scolding is averted. The men make notes and go back out to the truck. When they return, they are groaning under the weight of two huge steel filing cabinets. They slide the larger one into its assigned spot and begin cutting away at the plastic sheeting surrounding it. One of the men reaches for a few scraps of paper inside identifying the cabinet as "factory-direct" and listing the make and model of the unit.

"Wait," cries Dr. K. She grasps at the papers, a pulsating glint in her eye. "Wait, I want to keep those!"

"Okay," the delivery guy says, handing them to her.

She clasps them to her chest and laughs shakily. "I know, I know. Some people make fun of me. But it's always stood me in good stead!" By now the guy is backing out of the room as Dr. K unconsciously smoothes the glossy surface of the paper.

"Oh, okay," he says, nodding.

Outside of the file room, the younger guy has been unboxing a smaller file cabinet to go under the front desk. When he flips it over right-side-up, we all see a large crimp where the top panel covers the cabinet. All three of us tense as Dr. K walks out, still stroking her papers.

"Wait, wait, wait!" The older guy's shoulders sag. "Look, this one's damaged! This one's not right!" They try banging on it with a hammer but it still doesn't look perfect. After several minutes of Dr. K declaring over and over again that "it's not right" and cataloging its defects, it is agreed that we will keep this unit while another is being ordered and that the replacement cabinet will be delivered free of charge.

At least I think that is the agreement, because halfway through their conversation, a wan-looking young woman opens the door slightly and squeezes herself in.

"Hi! How can I help you?" I think my head is spinning. How many random visitors will we have today?

"Hello." Her voice is soft and melodic. She is carrying an old leather briefcase which she swings up onto the countertop. "I am raising money for the orphans in the St. Ludovico Orphanage in Ukraine. I have some items to sell. Would you mind if I show you?"

I am about to ask her to come back some other time when I hear Dr. K's voice raise an octave. "But I specifically asked for eggshell, not candlelight!"

I sigh. "Sure." She opens the case and even I have to admit that everything inside is tempting. There are beautiful handpainted nesting dolls that open to reveal the tiniest little dolls I have ever seen and little mirrors crusted with jewels, painted fans and embroidered handkerchiefs. And there are carved wooden hair barrettes.

I am addicted to hair barrettes. For some reason, every time I use an elastic band to put my hair in a ponytail, I end up with a lump of hair poking up in the middle of my head. But when I use the barrette, no lump. The trick is finding a barrette that doesn’t pinch your hair, snapping off strands every time you take it out.

“Ooh,” I say, fingering the barrettes.

“These are made from poplar. Very pretty. Many layers of poplar that have to dry to the surface before the next one goes on.”

“How much are they?” I ask.

“Twenty dollars. The children carve them themselves.” Uh huh. But at this point, I don’t care who carved them. I want one. “Here, try one,” she urges, holding a barrette out to me. “Looks pretty on your skin.”

It does kinda look pretty against my skin, doesn’t it?

So long story short, I end up plunking down twenty bucks for a barrette.

Hey, I saw that look.

I did it for the orphans!

3 comments:

Nivek Yrurd said...

"After hanging up, the memory cells storing this information will self-destruct, as will the lyrics to every ABBA song ever written"

I was rolling when I read this! Your boss sounds clinically insane, if only we knew how all of our health professionals really act! Cool story though, what happened with the cabinets are you getting a new one?

MamiCritterGal said...

We *are* getting a new one, and we may even be able to keep the reject, which has my boss all atwitter. Nothing more exciting than free damaged product!

Luap Otisopse said...

I was rolling too! Funny stuff. I love that you can make some everyday things so entertaining! Kudos sis:)