Devil's Head Diary

Pandemic Distractions


As I entered the early stages of restless boredom, our modern conveniences conspired to provide distraction. Minor amusements were provided by the DIY restoration of the coffee grinder, a favorite chainsaw, the TV remote, a sewing machine and other malfunctioning amenities.

When Googled info was inadequate, time was devoted to helpline contact. Each required a series of calls and robotic options, none of which addressed my needs, followed by pseudo-soothing music. For me “hold” became an exemplification of the socially distant state of mind. The result, once human contact was made, was pleasant, helpful, brief, and worth the wait.

In mid-August I entered into more meaningful and lasting acquaintances. My husband David was off on a “can’t-live-another-day-without” Costco run, only to find he was driving a car with no brakes. He was able to roll back down our half-mile gravel road without damaging the car, the house or himself. I called for a tow truck and we bid the car safe travels to the dealership.

The problem was identified in short order and we were informed that parts had to be ordered.

And that was the seed that allowed my friendship with Brett to grow. We chatted weekly as he reported on the continuing search for parts. The dealership even offered to pay for them and the labor — provided they could be found.

I lodged a complaint with the parent company. Its lack of support was damaging the image of the local dealer, as well as its own. For good measure I cited statutes requiring manufacturers to have parts available for 10 years after production and the car in question had a few years to go.

And that is how I met Valerie, the voice from the big corporate office in the sky. She called weekly for another five weeks to say the parts were on order and would be available ASAP.

After 10 weeks the parts were located. The repairs took less than a day. The car came home.

Meanwhile, friendship blossomed on another front.

Days after the brake failure, David walked into the kitchen and discovered the telltale puddle that alerted us to the death of the freezer.

Armed with sketches and measurements of our cabinetry layout, off we went to the big box store to search for the right-sized fridge. We discovered, much to our surprise, that modern refrigerators have outgrown our kitchen. After several stops we found one that would fit the space, and it would be available at the end of December — four months and several holidays away. At the fourth big box, an identical one was located that could be delivered before Thanksgiving.

A helpful employee then remembered that a same-make fridge had been returned to the warehouse. She took off with measurements in hand, and reported that “Yes it was there and it can be delivered within a week.”

It arrived the following Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, the measurements she verified were only for the box, not the hinges and convex doors. Still, the ever so pleasant young men who delivered and installed it took on the task and would not be stayed “from completion of their appointed rounds.”

They hauled out the old and installed the new. Just one teensy problem, it stuck out about 12 inches, and although we didn’t have to turn sideways to walk between the fridge and island, access to cabinets was blocked, and the doors could only be opened from the side.

The fridge we had originally selected was ordered and delivery scheduled. Although it would not be available until November, we could use the new silver monster during the eight-week interim.

Delivery day arrived. David moved all the vehicles that might interfere with truck turnaround, I moved all the goodies from the monster fridge. The new installation went smoothly, but when we went to retrieve cars, mine was dead.

Another chance to bond with a stranger!

The spiffy automated roadside assistance app assigned a tow truck driver from Olympia — only 12 miles away (if you are a bird) –– and GPS led the driver to a spot about 4 miles off target. It took several chats to redirect him to the long gravel road leading to our newly refrigerated rural home.

We had just seen the tow truck off and I was thinking how nice it would be to renew my contact with Brett when the phone rang. It was an automated caller telling me that our new refrigerator would be delivered the next day and I should call the store if there was a problem.

I perceived a problem.

Getting past the automation and into a new cycle of hold music and finally a non-robot voice used up a good chunk of time: It was too late to stop delivery. If we were not at home the new fridge would be left on the porch.

Luckily, the delivery guys had no better luck finding us than the tow truck driver and delivery of a third new fridge was stayed.

If COVID-19 confinement has you feeling lonely and bored and your options for making new friends are limited, your stuff is too new.

Award-winning humorist Carolyn Wiley lives in Longbranch.