You Can't Always Get What You Want
Bob has almost finished assembling the desk we bought when he announces we're missing a part, a caster wheel. I look at the instructions. The parts manifest says the desk comes with four wheels. We clearly have three in the bag.The parts list also has a toll-free telephone number, and it says operators are waiting to take my call about missing parts seven days a week, 12 hours a day. I am surprised. This is nice, of course, but it seems like the company is so certain they have not properly packaged all the parts I'll need to build their desk, they've capitulated to that knowledge and have a parts department staffed nearly around the clock. The desk can stand without any wheels, so we can wait, but if it had been a more crucial piece, I would have been angry that this company can't get things right the first time.A week later, we buy another piece of furniture that needs to be assembled. The two largest pieces of the rack that holds the TV trays are missing. What are the odds of this happening twice in a row now? It's not even the same company, so I have no friendly toll-free number to call for parts. We have to return the trays to the store.Now we're on line at the customer service counter, waiting for our number to be called. It's not particularly busy, two people are ahead of us. A woman walks in and asks the first counter clerk if anyone has returned a pair of sunglasses she thinks she left in the store. The clerk turns to the second counter clerk and asks her, "Anybody turn in any sunglasses?" The second counter clerk says, "No." The woman missing her glasses leaves.A few moments go by, and the second counter clerk turns to the first and casually comments that she's only been on duty a few minutes. I hear this, and immediately realize what she's really saying.What she's really saying is she has no idea if anyone turned in the sunglasses. Her definitive "no" actually only applies to the last few minutes.After a few moments of deep thought, the first clerk comes to the same realization and pulls out the lost and found bucket. There are the sunglasses. In fact, there are a lot of sunglasses. "Lady, lady?" she says without much conviction because obviously by this time, the lady is miles down the road. The two clerks shrug, and return to desultorily helping the customers on line.Oh my god, this is the "customer service" department.Now I know to never accept a "no" answer. Now I know you actually have to say, "Well, would you please look anyway?" which will probably annoy the person I'm asking to look, especially if the missing item is then found. I wonder if it ever occurred to the second clerk to announce to the first one that she had just reported to duty and had no idea what had gone on before while the woman without her glasses was still there. I wonder if it occurred to either one of them to actually look in the bucket while the woman was still there.The next morning I call New York City information. I am looking for a messenger service that was the last known employer of a missing relative.The automated system comes on first. What city?New York.What name?Calvary.Now a live operator comes on board because I haven't divulged enough information. It's because I don't know, I tell her. It's a messenger service, a delivery service, and it starts with the name Calvary. Give me all the listings that look like it could be a messenger service under the name Calvary.There are none, she says.Hmmm. I go on the internet next. One of the search engines has something called Yellow Pages. I hope I can access New York City's yellow pages this way. I type in the city and messenger service in the keywords slot. A giant kaboodle of listings come up, so many, they offer an alphabet bar to narrow the search. I click on "C." Under the C's is Calvary Couriers. I click on that, and I get an address and phone number. The phone number gets me right to the owner who tells me all he knows about my missing relative and gives me phone numbers of places he might be.After I hang up, I wonder why the name Calvary Couriers didn't seem like a messenger service type business to the information operator. How did she miss such an obvious choice? The answer, I realize, is, of course -- she never bothered to look. She had just told me no to get me off the line. I wonder what contretemps would have erupted if I had asked her to please look again.For the past four years, I have gone to the post office once a month with 20 to 30 packages of varying weights that need to be mailed. For the past four years, the counter clerks have weighed every one, even though I try to help out by sorting them into piles of similar weights. They don't seem to mind and blissfully attach barcodes and metered postage to each one. I have used two different post offices with the same results. Now I go to a third one, and the clerk declines to weigh all the packages. He will weigh one from each group and sell me the stamps, and I can stick them on myself.But two other post offices have never done this, I protest."Can't handle more than 10 packages from a customer. Otherwise, you have to go back to the end of the line."The other post offices don't make you do that."Then we're the only one obeying the rules."Ah. I don't know what rule this is. A 10-item window limit is not posted anywhere, but I guess it is to my best advantage not to argue with a postal clerk. They might close their window.Getting small things done is a daily challenge. Life is even tough at the fast food counter. Frosty sounds a lot like coffee, so you can have this debate at the drive-through menu PA."A Frosty.""A coffee?""No, a Frosty.""Coffee?""Frosty!"At least you can tell the difference right away when you're handed a coffee instead of a Frosty at the next window. Not so with Dr. Pepper, which sounds a lot like Diet Pepsi, so I may be a mile down the road before I realize I have one of those metallic tasting liquid glops instead my beloved Pepper Upper. But there's no excuse for "just lettuce" getting translated into "with everything," or mustard into mayonnaise. Okay, both start with an "m," I'll concede that, but close only counts in horseshoes.Today I'm in the Dollar General store because they have those toilet bowl deodorizing cakes, two for a dollar, but the rack is empty. A clerk, a surly looking teen, comes out of the storeroom. I ask him if there are any more toilet bowl deodorizing cakes back there. Immediately he says, "No."I want to ask him, are you sure? I want to ask him, how can you be so sure? I want to ask him, well, could you look anyway? But...somehow I can't. I'm afraid. I leave without what I came for.You can't always get what you want, and increasingly, you can't even get what you need.