I made the grave error of buying something from Office Max, a/k/a "Temple of Doom."
But let me backtrack a bit.
Having moved into a new apartment, and living alone for the first time in my life, I discovered I was woefully unprepared to deal with setting the place up. For one thing, I am a book fanatic, and have a personal library of over 6,000 volumes. Unfortunately, I had not one bookcase to my pitiful name. The time had come, as the Walrus said, to stop threading my way through my living space around ten-foot vertical piles of books.
Being somewhat frugal at this point in my life, I naturally checked the Sunday circulars to see who might be having a sale. After flipping through Circuit City, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Sam's, and a place called "Jimmy's House of Edible Lubricants" flyers, I came upon an ad from Office Max. To my delight, they were having a great sale on, not only the bookcases I needed, but also on computer desks. The clouds parted. Seraphim sang in perfect harmony. A ray of sunlight fell across my face--a face that was covered with a sheen of grateful tears.
Who says the universe doesn't have a sense of humor?
I high-tailed it down to Office Max, humming all the way. I danced in the front door, only to find…ground zero when the shit bomb hit.
I had never seen such disorder in my entire life. If ever a place of business looked as though it had been picked up 2000 feet and dropped, this was it. But, undaunted (well, okay, maybe a little bit daunted) and spurred on the by the great prices, I stumbled forward.
Upon finding the desk/bookcase area, I glanced around for a salesperson.
Finally, I ran serpentine through the mess and inquired at the customer service desk. I was sent a salesperson forthwith. Or, as forthwith as I could get, anyway.
After about twenty minutes, a wizened man three days older than dirt tottered up to me. "Can help you, Miss?" he rasped, in a voice reminiscent of Im Ho Tep.
Stifling the urge to reply, "Gee, may I help you," I told him of my mission.
"I'll have to check out back to see if we have any more left," he said, and in the style of Tim Conway's little old man, shuffled off to the nether regions.
Thirty-five minutes later, he returned, and I noticed that he was now wearing one of those Mission Impossible type black headsets. I wondered if this was really the image they wanted to project to a shopper in their establishment.
"I'm sorry, Miss, but we'll have to order them for you," he said.
"Why? The circular was just released this morning! How could you possibly have sold out of them already?"
"I just work here, Miss. I don't know."
"Ah, that sounds familiar. Just following orders?"
"That's right, Miss. The order desk is right this way."
I shrugged and followed him. It didn't really make that much difference, I supposed. I'd done without them this long; a few more days wouldn't matter.
At the desk, their latest twelve-year-old hire greeted me with a highly professional, "Yeah?"
"I need to order twelve bookcases and a computer desk." I'd brought the circular with me, so I pointed out exactly what I wanted. "Please have them delivered on a Tuesday."
"Lady, you can't just pick a day like that!"
"Then this is the only store in American where I can't!" I retorted.
Another twelve-year-old, drawn by the raised voices, sauntered over. "Sure she can," he said.
This resulted in a filthy look from moron number one, and additional typing. Oh, I could see tense times at recess today!
"What's your phone number?"
I gave it to him.
I repeated it.
I repeated it.
"OK. Is it 236-8799?"
"What was that again?"
After another five minutes of this delightful banter, I gave it to him in semaphore and American Sign Language, and I think he finally got it.
"That's $853.72. Your order will be delivered on Tuesday between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm."
"Can you be any more specific than that?"
"No," he said, handing me my receipt.
"Well, you're welcome, of course. And I must say, it's been a wonderful, friendly experience, and I think I'll have you all over for a big cookout this summer!" I snarled, snatching my receipt and stomping out the door.
I wondered what the odds were that I would actually receive the items I ordered.
So, Tuesday morning came, and I bounded out of bed to the jangling of the alarm clock. This is not easy to do on a day off, but I did it, because I wanted to be ready when everything arrived.
I waited all day and the only person who showed up was a Jehovah's Witness, looking for heathens. I sent him to the apartment below me, but not before telling him that he might want to stop back tomorrow, because by then I will have committed a murder.
"Oh. You ordered something from Office Max, didn't you?" he asked. "Believe me, God will understand. He may even help you."
I thanked him, gave him a cookie, and directed him downstairs. Misery loves company, don't you know.
At 5:15, desperately trying to keep my voice from sounding like something out of "The Exorcist," I placed a call of Office Max.
"Office Max. How may I direct your call?"
"The store manager, please," I said.
"Hello, this is Wayne." Good God! His voice hadn't even changed yet!
I told him my tale of woe. No matter what I said, he replied with, "I can certainly understand how you feel."
Finally, after the fourth time he said that, I asked, "How can you possibly understand how I feel? Have you bought something from Office Max recently?"
"Oh, no! I'm a whole lot smarter than that!"
"Yes, you probably are," I sighed. "How are you at ducking throwing knives?"
"Oh, no reason. Just call the warehouse and find out what happened, will you please?" I asked. "And then call me back and let me know what's what."
After twenty minutes, Wayne called me back.
"It seems that there was some damage to some items on the truck, and they couldn't be delivered," he sniveled.
"And when was this reported, Wayne?"
"Pardon me? I didn't hear you."
"AT NOON! And you couldn't be bothered to pick up the phone and let me know? I've been sitting around my apartment all day with my thumb where the sun don't shine, and you're telling me that your people knew AT NOON that the delivery wasn't going to be made? Is that what you're telling me, Wayne?"
"Hold on, Wayne. I have to run and stick my head into a bucket of ice water so it won't EXPLODE! Don't go anywhere!"
When I returned to the line, I was considerably calmer.
"I WANT TO KNOW JUST WHAT THE HELL YOU PLAN TO DO ABOUT THIS, YOU AMAZING MORON!" I remarked casually.
After screaming myself hoarse, we decided that the items would be delivered the following Tuesday, when I would again be at home for the day. In return, I agreed not to lie in wait for Wayne in the parking lot with the intention of chewing his leg off.
During the balance of the week, I said twenty-three Novenas, sacrificed three white roosters, and danced naked by a fire in the light of the full moon. Confident that I had all bases covered, when Tuesday rolled around, I again leapt from the covers early, and waited with, as Dickens would have said, great expectations.
At 12:30, there was a tap at my door. Sure it was the delivery, I flung it open.
On my welcome mat stood a short, fat creature who looked like he just crawled out of a pipe. "Delivery from Office Max," he mumbled.
"Fine! Bring it on in!" I cried.
"Nope. I was told that this was a dock-to-dock delivery. I don't get paid to haul this stuff up two flights of stairs. There are fourteen boxes in the truck and they're really heavy."
"Do you mean to tell me that they sent you out all by yourself, with no help?"
"Yeah, lady, and I have a bad back like you wouldn't believe."
"My friend, once I get through with your boss, he's going to wish a bad back was ALL he had!"
Door shuts. Short, fat deliveryman exits stage left. Our protagonist grabs the phone and dials Office Max.
"How may I direct your call?"
"WAYNE! WAYNE NOW!"
"I'm sorry, but he's tied up at the moment."
"THEN GET HIM UNTIED, YOU PERVERT, AND PUT HIM ON THE PHONE, PRONTO!"
Thirty seconds later, my buddy, Wayne, arrives.
"IS THAT ALL YOU HAVE TO SAY? 'HELLO?' THIS IS CARSON BUCKINGHAM, IN CASE YOU DON'T RECOGNIZE MY SWEET, DULCET TONES!"
"Oh my God. What happened?"
He didn't have to ask ME twice. He got such an earful, it had to have been leaking out his nose.
When I finally lost my voice, Wayne said he'd call the warehouse and see if they could get the short, fat deliveryman some help and send him back over.
"Fine," I croaked.
Two hours later, another tap at my door. I said a quick prayer of thanks to any deity that cared to listen, and opened up.
It was the Jehovah's Witness again.
"Hello. I just thought I'd stop by to see if you needed any calming down."
"How on earth did you know?"
"You're dealing with Office Max, my child."
"Right. Please come in."
We talked for hours and he calmed me down considerably…until I glanced at the clock.
"It's 4:35! DO YOU BELIEVE THIS? IT'S 4:35 AND NOT A GODDAMNED SIGN OF THEM!"
"Now, Carson, remember what we discussed…forgiveness, serenity, patience…"
"OH, BLOW IT OUT YOUR ASS!" I suggested, scrabbling for the phone.
"Office Max. How may I direct your call?"
I shrieked into the receiver.
"Oh, hello, Ms. Buckingham. I'll get Wayne for you."
"Hello, this is Way…"
"THE QUESTION YOU HAVE TO ASK YOURSELF IS, 'DO I FEEL LUCKY?' WELL, DO YA…PUNK?"
"Oh, Ms. Buckingham…hello. Did your delivery arrive?"
"NO, MY DELIVERY DID NOT ARRIVE. CHRIST WILL ARRIVE BEFORE MY DELIVERY DOES!"
Wayne, fearing for his life, came up with a cunning plan. The items would be delivered the following evening at 6:30, when I would be home from work.
The next evening, I actually allowed myself to feel hopeful. I arrived at home at 6:20 and walked up the stairs, only to discover that my doorway was completely walled in, 'Cask of Amontillado' style, by fourteen huge boxes!
After I finished banging my head against the wall and shuffling these monoliths out of the way, I propped open my door and dragged the fourteen boxes, easily weighing about 150 pounds each, into my abode.
As a result of all this heavy lifting, I am now in the hospital. They want to put me in traction to correct my back problem and relieve my pain, but the traction machine is broken.
They're waiting for a part from the medical division of Office Max.
I may just slit my wrists and save them the trouble.
(NEXT WEEK: PART TWO)