Today I needed to accomplish three fairly minor errands:
- Take the clogged-up vacuum cleaner to the repair shop to have it cleaned out;
- Go to the post office and mail tax returns, return receipt requested;
- Buy a new mattress to replace my 15-year-old number, which is sagging on both sides.
How easy does that sound, eh? None of these places is very far away. It should take maybe an hour, an hour and a half at the outside, to accomplish these small chores.
And how much time did it take?
Three hours of miserable, frustrating running around. I left around 11 a.m. and got back at almost 2 p.m.
First, to the post office, the one over by the freeway on the other side of Conduit of Blight Blvd. There I found a packed parking lot and a line extending to the back of the big reception area and curving along the wall.
Okayyyyy. Got better things to do than stand around with a sore back watching postal employees move as though they were swimming through molasses. Turn around, walk back out, climb in the car. Back out of the space, with no one coming. A moron down the aisle can’t stand it, so floors the gas pedal and shoots around behind me. Fortunately I’m watching and so see the bastard coming. He misses me.
Schlep across the freeway and through a depressing slum, therein to visit the fabric store/vacuum cleaner repair store. Go to the front counter, where I ask about vacuum repair. (The place is primarily a fabric store for quilters.) Am told to go to the back of the (very large) store.
Walk to the back of the store. They tell me to go to the front counter.
Walk to the front counter. There I’m told they don’t repair Shark vacuums because they can’t get the parts. “That’s why they’re so cheap,” says the broad behind the counter. If you think I’m going to replace this thing with one of those Mieles you folks are peddling, you are FREAKING NUTS. They’re evidently lying, because at Amazon customers remark on having this, that, or the other item repaired on their Sharks, and Amazon sells Shark parts. But if the only repair shop in town refuses to fix it, my sole alternative is to buy a new one, which probably wouldn’t cost much more than paying those clowns to fix it. Ask them if they’ll toss the thing, and they say sure. I figure they’ll fix it and resell it, but WTF.
Now for another try at the post office.
There’s another PO near the ’hood, about the same distance from the Funny Farm as the one over in the blight by the freeway. This one is usually less busy; it’s better staffed, and the regulars there seem to be more competent than the bunch over by the freeway. So, traipse north of Gangbanger’s Way into Sunnyslope, park a good long distance from the door, and without much hope, trudge into the building.
And yup: the line there is even longer! People are backed all the way up to the door, a good 20 customers standing there looking bored and annoyed.
Drive down to the Albertson’s shopping center. There one can find a Matchbox Car store that has a postal counter.
“Can you send these envelopes return receipt requested?”
“Sure. Fill out these forms.”
No line. Zero waiting. Nil aggravation. Why didn’t I think of this at the outset? I must be getting senile.
Head on down to the Target, thereinat to buy a new Shark. To get there, I have to navigate endless signals around the accursed train tracks, playing touch-tag with the
Bum Express lightrail all the way down to the Target/Walmart/Costco shopping center.
This Shark-purchasing task used to be easy. Not so anymore!
First time I bought a Shark at the Target, they had one (1) model. No hassle. Next time, they had two (yes, just 2). Not much of a hassle there, either. But today? They had a freaking can-can line of Shark vacuum cleaners! What exactly were the differences among these contraptions is unclear. Which is what and why? I decide to go home and look them up on Amazon, where I can at least see the rants and raves of random consumers.
Pick up a bag of tennis balls for the dog, walk to the front of the store, where the longest wall in the whole huge building is lined with checkout stands…most of them closed. Two self-serve stands way down on the south end and one self-serve stand way over on the north end are open…and vacant. Two (2) cash registers staffed by humans are serving lines of customers backed halfway to the cosmetics department.
Well, I figure, if I have to order from Amazon, I might as well buy the tennis balls there. Out the door.
On the way to the car, I reflect that Costco, which is right next door in an adjacent parking lot, vets its products pretty well. They have in the past carried Shark vacuums. If they have one, it’s probably the one their buyer thinks is the best.
Okay. Move the car a quarter-mile, traipse into the store, and track down the vacuums.
Yea verily, they do have Shark: only two models, each well rated at Amazon. I buy the one that looks most similar to the one I just tossed. A hundred sixty dollah!
Peruse the mattresses. See a couple that will do the job nicely. Confirm that you can’t buy them there and arrange for delivery: you have to go online to give them your money and beg them to deliver the thing.
Having been told this before, I’ve watched for mattress stores as I’ve been trudging around the city. These seem to have been put out of business by Tuft & Needle, a popular mail-order product that has two stores in more affluent parts of the Valley.
Tuft & Needle, I’m sure, is wonderful. But their mattresses are made of foam. I’ve never cared for foam mattresses. Sorry, I may be retrograde (again), but I want an innerspring mattress, dammit! Besides, even if their mattresses are miracles from heaven, they don’t deliver and cart off the old stuff. The mattress I’ve got is so heavy I can’t even rotate it by myself, to say nothing of hauling it out to the alley.
No mattress companies. The department stores that used to carry mattresses have closed. WTF?
So I give up and figure I’ll have to order a Sealy or something from Costco’s online site. And lemme tellya…I really, truly, do NOT want to buy a mattress sight unseen.
There’s a Penney’s next door to that Costco, but the area is so downscale I think I’d do better to schlep to the Penney’s in Paradise Valley, or go over to the Whole Foods shopping center in the Biltmore area to see if the mattress store that used to be there is still holding forth. Choices are likely to be better in either of those garden spots.
Think of that: three hours to mail two envelopes and buy a (relatively) cheap vacuum cleaner.
The other day I was chatting with a friend about the dystopic nature of life in Our America. I think this kind of experience is emblematic of that dystopia.
Consider: in the name of political correctness, globalism, and corporate greed, what do we have?
- Washers that do not wash clothes
- Dishwashers that do not wash dishes
- Wall ovens that burn themselves out if you set them to “broil,” to say nothing of trying to use the self-clean feature
- Cheap foam mattresses sold to us as the be-all and end-all of sleeping luxury
- Water-saving toilets that have to be flushed three times each time you use them — assuming they’ll flush at all
- Water spigots that dispense water at a slow drizzle
- Water heaters that cost $800
- Steak that even fairly affluent Americans cannot afford
- Farm-raised fish full of filth and chemicals
- A steady diet of unhealthy, processed food
- Cars that cost three times as much as your first home cost
- Weed killers that do not kill weeds
- Medications that promote drug addiction
- Doctors whose goal is to get you hooked on medications of all varieties
- Homeless drug addicts swarming the street corners and living in our alleys and yards
- Prisons run by corporations that don’t even provide basic healthcare for the hordes of minor offenders warehoused there
- Schools like prisons, where children are regularly terrorized in bullet-dodging drills
- A plague of untreated mental illness (hence the need to teach children to dodge bullets)
- Costs for basics — like cars and homes — that are now so high that most mothers have to work, leaving the kids in day-care: no option there
- Cameras and microphones spying on us at every corner
- Computers that record our every move, from purchases of bug spray online to what TV shows we watch
- Jobs that do not pay a living wage
- Decently paying blue-collar jobs sent off-shore
- Junk merchandise, sold at upscale prices, shipped back into the country, made by underpaid workers in those off-shored jobs
- Desperate, beleaguered citizens who elect a batsh!t corrupt administration in a mistaken effort to bring back the good old days…which really were better than what we have now, objectively speaking
Lovely, isn’t it?
We live in a dystopia. What marks that dystopia is exactly what my father used to worry about and, in his most pessimistic moments, would predict was gonna happen: Our standard of living is slipping.
He believed that America, simply by its top-heavy nature, risked sliding back into Third-World conditions. This, he feared, would happen for political and economic reasons. And he knew whereof he spoke, when it came to Third-World conditions. As a young pup, one of his first jobs was delivering milk in a horse-drawn wagon. He escaped Texas and went to sea, and then along came the Great Depression — when he and my mother passed ten days eating nothing but oranges and pancakes. And he spent most of his life sailing to Third-World countries, plus for 10 years we lived in a country that was a relic of the Middle Ages.
I used to think, when he’d go on about this subject, that it was just his right-wing craziness speaking. But he was right.
It’s highly unlikely he would have voted for Donald Trump, and neither would my mother — they recognized corruption and lies in action. But the woman he married after my mother died surely would have — she shared his thinking about the inexorable downward slide of America, but in addition she was very stupid.
Still, my guess is he’d have cheerfully voted for Mike Pence. In a heartbeat. And it’s no wonder, when you look at what has happened and continues to happen to the lives of working-class Americans.
And in the lives of all of us.