A few summers back, someone threw a tennis or golf ball onto the roof of my little apartment building, where it clogged up the drainage system. My landlord came by to say the tenant downstairs was complaining about water coming through her ceiling. The wet splotch on my bedroom floor was nothing dramatic; we concluded an open window was to blame, and paid no attention to the slight stain on the ceiling. Cut to a week later and water was dripping from the stain, now a definite crack, at a rate that required a bucket but was still containable. Twelve hours later, it was a literal downpour, I’d been up over twenty hours dumping water into the bathtub from the big kitchen trashcan and every other large pot and bucket I owned, and all my towels were in circulation between my upper floor and the basement laundry. Early morning I came back from a laundry run to find the entire ceiling down inside my bedroom, slanting from tall dresser across the bed, broken into gigantic pieces, with stuff like wet gray wool hanging from above, and pieces of white plaster driven into everything. The entire room smelled sour. There’d been enough water to fill a swimming pool over my bedroom, and it had entered with force. I think I actually laughed.
So then a dehumidifier, painters, spackling, everything; I camped out in the living room, which was kind of fun. A section of the bedroom’s wood floors was in sharp waves; I was told they’d subside, but three years later and it’s still startling if I step on that area by accident. It’s hard to explain the overall effect of this kind of experience. I didn’t think much of it at first; it was all handled professionally and I was given a break on the rent to cover the dresser, so I thought I was fine.
But I’ve just recovered from – what? a minor depression? simply being overwhelmed? – to actually get around to making everything presentable again. It’s been exhausting: the dresser was part of a set, the backings of the framed prints were warped, family photos were ruined, never mind what happened to the drapes and quilt. Never mind that my low-grade leather living room set peeled beyond redemption. At first I patched the bald spots with shoe polish, which dripped and ruined the carpet.
You have to pay someone to haul all that stuff away.
Now I have new furniture, which is reassuring. And now enter the great big company that brings anything I want right to my door, so I don’t want to hear about them being employee-abusing, small-business-destroying vultures, at least not right now. They sent me a duvet, which I love. And throw pillows. And picture frame mats and backings. And spray paint for the wicker pieces. And touch-up paint for the woodwork. And a living room rug and then another rug for the hall. And some new houseplants. And flower pots and potting soil and plant food. And surge protectors. And an electric blanket and a regular blanket and towels. And a laundry hamper and some kitchen appliances and a shower curtain and regular curtains and a wok. And a throw quilt for the new sofa, and storage bags for the closet, cutting boards, a vacuum cleaner, and an alarm clock. And a good deal more, every restoration breeding a further desire.
They attempted to send me a white wicker wastepaper basket. UPS got it as far as a facility in NJ and there it stayed. Strange; did someone really need one that badly?
So I clicked onto Chat, which is something I enjoy, which tells you a lot about me. Chat said they were sorry, and if it didn’t arrive by Sunday let them know and they’d send another.
Sunday evening I logged onto Chat and let them know it hadn’t arrived, and they ordered me another white wicker wastepaper basket, which made it to a facility in NJ and stayed there. Note that lots of the other stuff I order through this same mega-company processes through the same facility with no issues. Why white wicker wastepaper baskets? Drug smuggling? Some obscure fetish?
I logged onto Chat and explained, whimsically I think, and they were apologetic; Chat is consistently apologetic, which is one of the reasons I like it so much. They agreed there was a serious problem and promised it would be reported immediately. Also they refunded my money, because I wasn’t about to try again. Then I ordered a white wicker wastepaper basket from another vendor that specialized in home decor.
They sent me Marvin. He came in an unmarked cardboard box, wrapped in an unmarked plastic bag, with the plastic loop for a price tag attached to him but no price tag. Marvin the anonymous. His photo doesn’t do him justice: he’s grayer, and mottled, and kind of mushy. Looking at him, you have to wonder why anyone would create him on purpose: an existential expression of the concept “wastepaper basket?” I went to the vendor’s website and connected to Chat. They were very apologetic; they would refund my money, but unfortunately the item I wanted was out of stock. They helped me order a similar white wicker wastepaper basket. As for Marvin, I uploaded a photo of him at Chat’s instruction, and they said that rather than return him, I should just hold onto him for a while. If I didn’t hear from them in a few weeks I could donate him to a charity. I swear this is true.
A few days later, a white wicker wastepaper basket actually arrived. Hurrah!
A few day later, another white wicker wastepaper basket arrived, a twin to the first. I decided to keep it for my refurbished bedroom and logged onto the evil humungous company’s Chat and told them they needed to bill me all over again because the item did finally arrive, and they understood, which was pretty impressive.
A few days later, another white wicker wastepaper basket arrived, so I had four: three identical white ones and Marvin, in his box, in my bedroom closet. I printed out a return label and left a white wicker wastepaper basket at the UPS pick-up at my office building.
And I started wondering if the whole incident of the bedroom ceiling falling in and flooding out my apartment might have affected me more than I first realized. The flood, and possibly some other things, all resulting in a predilection to Chat.
Me and Marvin, the endearingly pathetic, squishy piece of grayish braided something or other I’ll be throwing out.