Thursday, February 23, 2017

Story 174: Expedition Extreme: Furniture Superstore

            (At a diner)
            Friend 1: And my kitchen table’s never been the same since.  I think I have to face the facts and finally buy a new one.
            Friend 2: It’s about time.  I never wanted to tell you earlier that I was always afraid to eat on it, thinking it’d finally give up and take my legs with it.
            Friend 1: It was never that bad; I put magazines under the feet, those at least kept it steady, right?
            Friend 2: Sure.  So where’re you going to get a new table?
            Friend 1: Well, I need it to be cheap in price but not in quality, so I’m going to run to ---- after work one day and just pick one up there.
            Friend 2: (Eyes bulging, and choking on tea) I’m sorry, did you say you’re going to run to ----, after work, and just pick one up?!
            Friend 1: Yeeeeessss…?
            Friend 2: AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!  (Takes a breath) AHAHAHAHAHA!!!
            Friend 1: What is happening?
           Friend 2: I’m sorry – I obviously can’t let you go to ---- unsupervised, no one will ever hear from you again.
            Friend 1: (Disbelievingly) What?
            Friend 2: (Checks phone) Plan to be free this Saturday: ---- opens at 9:00, so I’ll pick you up at 7:30.
            Friend 1: You don’t have to do all that, it’s not that far away, and I can find my way around, it’s only a store.
            Friend 2: AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
           (At 7:30 Saturday morning, Friend 1 waits outside her house.  A tank turns the street corner and stops in front of her; Friend 2 emerges from the top hatch)
            Friend 2: (Reaches down to Friend 1) In you go!  I only have this thing for 10 hours.
           Friend 1: I don’t understand – (Is yanked through the hatch.  They roll to ---- and leave the tank at the edge of the parking lot but really, who literally could move them if they hadn’t?  Upon entering ----, Friend 1 immediately passes out from sensory overload)
            Friend 2: (Revives Friend 1 with a gentle slap to the face) No time for that!  Quick, take a kit before they’re all gone.
            Friend 1: (Rummaging through the store-issued knapsack) Are night vision goggles actually necessary?
           Friend 2: Surprisingly, yes.  (Finishes paperwork to rent a pick-up truck for them to travel through the store.  Friend 2 drives them through home decorating areas marked on their portable wall map and they occasionally reorient themselves using GPS)
            Friend 1: I just want a kitchen table….
         Friend 2: There is not “just” in this world.  (They detour through The United States of Bedroom) Ooh, I need a quilt!  Here, go pick out a desk set for yourself.
            Friend 1: But why would I need a desk set?
            Friend 2: Why wouldn’t you?
            (Two hours later)
            Fellow Shopper: (To Friend 2) Excuse me.  (Points to a nook in Kitchen Land) Is that yours?
            Friend 2: Thanks!  (Goes to the nook and pulls out Friend 1, who was curled up in the corner)
            Friend 1: The drawers have even more stuff in them!
            Friend 2: I know; don’t forget to keep breathing.
            (They drive to the rooftop restaurant and are seated for brunch)
            Friend 2: (Reading from the menu) I’ll take the five course special, please, and put it on my tab.
            Wait Staff: All right.  (To Friend 1) And for you?
            Friend 1: Can I have a piece of bread?
            Wait Staff: Of course – there will be meat, vegetables, and/or sauce on top of and next to that bread, though.
            Friend 1: I would like one ice cube, then.
            Friend 2: Please order another five course special for us and add it to my tab.  (Wait Staff nods and leaves) Don’t worry, this all counts towards our purchases, they’re practically paying us to shop here!
            Friend 1: That’s not true and you know it.  Besides, I can’t sit and eat while the truck full of our stuff is stuck all the way over there.
            Friend 2: Don’t worry about that either: the valet service here is great.
            (By mid-afternoon, they reach the District of Dinettes)
            Friend 1: I like this one, but that one is more the size I want, and I’m not sure which color is better, I have to see more –
           Friend 2: Here.  (Accesses a screen on the wall that lists the infinite combinations of shapes, sizes, colors, and special features) Pick out which one you want and we’ll go get it.
            Friend 1: (Takes an hour) OK, that one.  I think it’s right over… here!
            Friend 2: That’s the floor model; we have to go pick it up in The Warehouse.
            Friend 1: Oh, right.  Warehouse?
        (A freight elevator takes them in their truck to The Warehouse; upon arriving, Friend 1 immediately becomes lost.  Store employees assist Friend 2 in locating Friend 1)
            Friend 2: (To Friend 1) I turn my back for two seconds!
            Friend 1: (Seated on a clearance couch, looking befuddled) Where am I?
           (They track down the kitchen table using the store-provided compass and night vision goggles)
            Friend 2: There it is!
            Friend 1: That can’t be it – the table upstairs was twice as wide as this box!
            Friend 2: It’s broken down into pieces, hon.
            Friend 1: Oh.  Fancy that.
           (They drive their purchases to the conveyor belts of checkout, are astounded by the amazing deals they obtained, and drive the truck through the final exit.  Friend 1 waits with it and the setting sun while Friend 2 brings the tank around to the loading/unloading zone)
            Friend 1: How are we supposed to get everything in there?
           Friend 2: I always come prepared!  (Uses a system of pulleys and levers to maneuver all the items into the tank.  Leaving the truck for store pick-up, the tank roars out of the parking lot and returns to Friend 1’s house, where they reverse-lever the purchases out of the tank and into the house)
            Friend 2: (As they stand in the living room, surrounded by newly bought home goods) There!  Success!  That actually was one of my faster trips in that place.
            Friend 1: (Quietly) Yes, thank you very much for all your help.
           Friend 2: Uh-oh, why so glum – not the table you really wanted after all?  The letdown after the thrill of the chase?
            Friend 1: No; it’s just that, now I have to assemble it!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Story 173: Return to Sender

            Every day, she received mail that was addressed to previous tenants.  Usually they were circulars or random offers, so on the ones that did not include the phrase “Or Current Resident,” she entered her own phrase “Return to Sender” and put the postal service to double work.
            The past-due bill concerned her: didn’t the former tenants have their mail forwarded?  Oh well, not her problem, “Return to Sender.”
            Three months after she had moved in and the mail not addressed to her still was being delivered steadily.  She knew the mail carriers were obligated to deliver as addressed, but she wondered if they thought she was running a frat house before receiving her response, “Return to Sender.”
            She was surprised one evening when there was a knock at her door; that just didn’t happen in her building.  She peeped through the peephole and saw a woman standing in the hallway: she searched her memory and recalled seeing this person once, in the distance, climbing the main staircase.  She opened the door to this neighbor, keeping her carving knife out-of-sight on standby.
            The neighbor’s arms were full of mail.
            “Hi,” the neighbor said, “we’ve never met before today, and we’ll probably never speak to each other again after this, but I saw these letters were piled on top of your bursting mailbox and I couldn’t just leave them like that.”  The neighbor passed the letters into her arms; the latter kept staring at the former.  “You might want to get in touch with some of these guys so they’ll stop sending you stuff – I’ve never seen it this bad in my life.  Good luck with that!”  And the neighbor disappeared from her world forever.
            She continued staring as she held the falling mail.  She seems nice, she thought, then returned to the kitchen to inflict writer’s cramp on herself, “Return to Sender.”
           The next night, a thump sounded against her front door.  She peeped and saw no one, so she opened the door to see a package had been left behind.  The label listed her address but a different, although familiar, name: she looked up in time to see the delivery truck screeching off into the night.
            She called the number of the company listed on the label but they were closed.
           As is often the case in life, she found herself in an unsought-after moral dilemma: normally she would never open someone else’s package, but this one had an extra label of “Live Specimens – Open Immediately Upon Receipt!!!!”  The dilemma had the added layer of her not wanting to deal with live specimens.
            She opened the box so as to be responsible for the lesser charge of mail fraud over the greater one of negligent homicide.  As she did so, the landline that she had never replaced rang.
            “Hi, is this the new tenant?”  The voice asked.
            “Who wants to know?”  She hedged.
            “I’m the previous tenant – listen, I made a mistake the other day and had a box sent there, did it arrive yet?”
            “It sure did, and I don’t think I can ‘Return to Sender’ it.”
            “That’s all right, you can leave it outside and I’ll come pick it up right now.  You didn’t open it or anything, right?”
            “It’s extremely important for your own safety and for all of humanity that the contents of that box stay in that box.  Please tell me you didn’t open it!”
            “It said ‘Open Immediately!’  They were alive, I couldn’t leave them to their fate!”
            “Oh no, where are they?!”
            “Right here – ” she looked in the box and saw it was empty.  She then saw that the curtains at the open living room window had rustled, even though the air was still.  “Actually, I think they’re on the loose.”
            “Oh no!  We’re all doomed!”
            “Well don’t go looking to blame me because you can’t remember where you live.  What are those things, anyway?”
            “They’re everyone’s problems now.  I’ll be around soon to try to track them down – keep your windows and doors closed and don’t go outside for at least the next two hours.  Thanks anyway.”  The call disconnected.
            Oh well, she thought as she broke down the box for recycling.  Whatever happens to the world because of those things, she probably still will be receiving that guy’s mail until the bitter end.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Story 172: Cleaning the Self-Cleaning Oven

            “Yes, my love?”
            “Don’t be sarcastic – when was the last time you cleaned the oven?”
            “…I thought it cleaned itself.”
            “You do know that you actually have to press the buttons that tell it to clean itself, don’t you?”
            “Well yeah, sure, everyone knows that.”
            “So when was the last time you did that?”
            “Take a look in there, would you?”
            “Sure.  Oh.  Oh wow.  That’s pretty gross.  What did you put in there?”
            “Food!  And so did you!  And you’re the one who said you’d clean it!”
          “That’s when I thought it cleaned itself automatically and I didn’t have to do anything.  Modern technology really lets you down in a lot of insidious and subtle ways, I’ve noticed.”
            “Right – here’s a sponge, here’s soap, here’s water, now get to it!”
            “Argh, why can’t we just turn on the self-cleaning now?  Isn’t this all that thing’s job?”
            “Here’s the instruction book: be my guest.”
            “Hm.  Oh look, we only would need to stop the cleaning cycle if a lot of smoke starts coming out from all the cruddy food left behind.  I say, skip doing this machine’s work and go for it!”
            “Do whatever you want.”
            “Wow, the cycle takes over four hours.  Glad the game’s on today.”
            “What’s that smell?!”
            “Oh don’t worry, the instructions say that’s normal.  I left the window open too, so we don’t suffocate on the carbon monoxide.”
            “OK, what’s that noise?”
            “Apparently, physics is causing the metal to expand and contract with the massive amounts of heat floating around in there.  I honestly don’t even hear it anymore.”
            “All right, there’s smoke coming out, I’m shutting it off!”
            “No!  It’s got another two and a half hours to go and the instructions say the smoke is fine!”
            “They did not, they said to stop if there’s smoke!”
            “The exact words were ‘excessive smoke’ – this is just wimp smoke, I can barely – cough – see it – cough cough cough.”
            “There are flames in there!”

            Five years later....

            “And that, kids, is the reason why there was a gaping hole in the kitchen wall for so long and why you should always clean up your messes right away.”
            “But these are just our toys – ”
            “You heard me.”