Don’t worry! He’s alive! I apologize; I had no idea I was cliffhangering everyone, to invent a horrible word I already regret. Believe me, if Jasper had been lost or struck by a car, I wouldn’t have spent 1000 words on the Bard of Woebegon.

Consider the end of yesterday’s Bleat the bottom-of-the-hour break on “Mission: Impossible” where it seemed as if they’d been discovered and everything was lost, and after the break the guard shrugged and decided he’d heard nothing, or possibly mice, and Barney went back to drilling through the wall.

We resume the gripping tale of Fridge Delivery.

I looked across the street; there was Jasper, sitting on the sidewalk, watching us. He was very calm, but alert for danger; ears were up, posture straight. Third-position-dog was away from the den, but Alpha was with her, so it was okay. How did this happen? The deliverymen were taking the fridge out the side door, but they’d left the front door open. Well, it happens. The bus came, and Jasper trotted by my side back into the house, where he could supervise the men attending the holy Food Box.

Took them a few minutes to get the new fridge situated. And yea, it was beautiful.

A little loud, though.

Well. Just powering up, perhaps.

No, it was loud. Novice bus-driver finding third-gear loud. Well, it would calm down. Opening-day jitters. I went upstairs to work, but one of the installers asked if I’d come down and take a look, because we had a problem.  The water dispenser in the door was sort of . . .well, broken wasn’t the right word, because water came right out of it all right, but the water kept coming out, and it couldn’t be stopped, and do you have any rags?

At least he didn’t try to sell it as a feature - Constant-On™ Water, or Splash-Plus with Auto-Streem Delivery. No, it was broken. He said they’d have to make a service call. Someone would be by around noon. Oh, and they couldn’t put the kick-plate, because they didn’t have the right tools.

I asked why it was so LOUD, and he couldn’t say. While he finished the paperwork   I tried to strip some of the plastic coating off the unit – they arrive sheathed in a clingy condom – and discovered it was gathered up around the hinges; you could tear it out, but it would leave big hunks of plastic hanging out. I asked if he could remove that.

“Sorry, we have other stops to make,” he said.

Oohhkay. Usually they leave a little card with a website URL or a phone number, and they ask for feedback.

They didn’t do that this time.

They left. I removed the plastic. It didn’t come off around the hinges, and remains bunched up & unsightly. Ah well. Perhaps it’s that special plastic that degrades after exposure to air, and three years from now I’ll never notice it. I sat down to work, but was distracted by the ungodly noise coming from the fridge. Remember, I got rid of the old one because it had become loud and cranky in its old age, but it was whisper–quiet compared to this fargin’  cement mixer.  After a while I began to doubt whether a repair person would come by noon, and thought: I should call someone.

The source of much human unhappiness, that. I should call someone. Someone should do something.

Ah, but who? Once you’re sent to a call center, you enter the world of Unyielding Procedure, and the sound of the operators being squeezed between your request and the remorseless limitations of their authority isn’t fun. Everyone’s unhappy. You’re unhappy because you’re unsatisfied, but it’s not the operator’s fault. The operator is unhappy because you are unhappy and there might be Stress-spikes on the voiceprint analysis of your call, which of course was recorded for your protection. You’re unhappy because you probably sounded peeved to someone who has no power and deals with buttheads from sunup to sundown. The operator’s  unhappy because you were peeved for a moment, and seriously, do you think he’s trying to keep you from attaining the Product Nirvana to which all Americans feel so instantly entitled? Jeez.

So, then, let’s be calm and nice and see what we can do.

I called the store: the automated phone system kicked me hither and yon, and I finally got an operator. Asked to speak to someone who would help me schedule an appliance repair. I was passed off to someone with a thick Spanish accent who had a mouth full of crackers and Play-Doh, and after he’d finished chewing and swallowing I learned that this was the AV department. Which would have been great if the ice-maker on my television was broken. He gave me the 1-800 number. I called it.

Bear in mind that I’d already lost sight of my original objective. I had no idea what I really wanted. I just wanted to do something. After that, I wanted a repairman to come by and fix the ice maker. SOON. NOW. YESTERDAY. And in my defense, I had a point; I paid a sackful of shekels for this thing, and they have my money, and yes I understand this is really Problem #391,129,951 in the scope of things, but I like a good whiskey on Friday nights with two cubes of ice, and it doesn’t make ice.

So I swallowed my sense of global justice and called.   I got a cheerful, if nervous, young man who sounded nervous, as though they’d just shot another tech-support guy in front of everyone just to set an example. I told him I wanted to speak to someone about scheduling a call. He said he could put in the scheduling request. Ah, I said, I believe it’s been made. I heard the deliveryman make it. Granted, it was hard to hear every word, since the appliance was sounding like the Cyclops passing a kidney stone, but that was the gist of his conversation. I would like to talk to someone here, in my city, so I can be sure to be here when they come at noon. Because they haven’t called me to tell me when exactly they’re coming.

I know, I know: I believed someone would come at noon. In a pumpkin carriage drawn by horses that snorted pixie dust.

He passed me off to a sullen creature who did not feel my pain, and she gave me the number for the local delivery company. Ah, well, thank you, but they’re a subcontractor. (Out of New Jersey, incidentally: they won the bid to handle deliveries in Minnesota.) They’re not actually connected with the company. She couldn’t do more. She didn’t give a thin tin fart. I thanked her for her time and hung up.

An hour passed. No one called. The fridge was now sounding like someone was feeding the Ten Commandments tablets into a wood chipper.

I’ll spare you the rest. Suffice to say that I made a lot of calls. Four hours later I had an email from a fellow in the Resolution Department, assuring me someone would call soon. And someone did! Unfortunately, she couldn’t enter a request to fix the unit, because the system had no data on the fridge I’d just bought, and hence they could not communicate with the repair people.

At this point I wondered what I would have done if I’d lived 100 years ago.

Seriously. Martha, the iceman hasn’t arrived. He was supposed to be here Tuesday, and it’s now Monday. I shall ride into down and send a sternly worded telegraph.

Again? Dear, you send one on Friday.

She was very apologetic and kind and took this seriously and personally, and I almost felt as if I had to talk her down from a ledge. It’s just a fridge, dear, I can live without ice for a week. It’s okay. Really. There’s a gas station down the block. They sell ice. I’ll make do. Even though they’re those odd cubes that seem to dissolve instantly, and dilute without chilling. You know what I mean? Like hotel bar cubes that have a hollow center. It’s like they want you to drink fast and order another. Well, of course they do, that’s how they make their money. Ask any bartender who’s forced to use those cubes, and he’ll tell you that people order a double the second time. If you slide a fiver across the bar he can get you ice from the kitchen. It’s solid, all the way through – oh, I’m sorry. Right: someone will call in an hour.

An hour later someone else called to tell me that they’d solved the great Data Lacuna, and a repairman would call me tomorrow morning. “Between seven and nine.”

Can you make it after eight? I asked.

She said she’d put a note in the file.

So how do I like the fridge, otherwise? Well, I managed to shut it up by turning off “Express Freeze,” and the doors are slightly out of alignment. And there’s the matter of the plastic in the hinges I can’t dig out. But it’s gorgeous. And I can’t fault the store – the thing came defective. They’ve promised to fix it tomorrow and ease my raging, towering fury with a gift card.

I think we’ll manage, in other words.  

UPDATE: the repairperson – who called at 8:00 on the dot – arrived at noon. We hooked up the water. It did not shoot from the machine in a pounding stream. She pressed the button. Water came out. She released the button. Water stopped.


She did it again. And again. And again. The water came out and the water stopped.

So everything was fine. And I felt like an idiot. Well, one more question: why does the fridge make such a horrible racket when the “Express Freeze” button is depressed, like this –

Whereupon the water shot out. Ah hah! Now I got it. Pushing the dispenser doesn’t open up an actual valve; it sends a signal to something that opens the valve. If pushing “Express Freeze” turns the water on, then something in the on-board electronics is fubared. And indeed, that was the diagnosis. So they’re going to replace the circuit boards.  In the meantime, I have ice.

As long as I don’t do any Express Freezing.

That was not my day, but it was part of it. Otherwise, how are things? Well, toting up the week, there’s five Bleats of varying quality, the Fargo and Money updates, which were not entirely insubstantial, six newspaper columns, an additional column I wrote tonight, the Newhouse column, the MPLS / ST. PAUL mag piece, the graphics for the piece, AND ten tons of behind the scenes prep work on the upcoming Minneapolis site. That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

Thanks for the visit, friends; see you Monday.