Freddie and Me

Freddie watches from the shadows. I’m not aware that he’s watching me, not at first.  Not until it is too late.

I had thought I could get my mind off of my personal problems by getting out of the house and having a laugh. It didn’t work. Show over, now my companion and I are walking through the city at night, invisible to the million-dollar penthouses high above, and I am once again rambling on about the hurt of a divorce that I don’t want and have tried to avoid. I am not coping well, and I know it.

Divorce is hard enough.  When the woman you love won’t even speak to you, it is unbearable. I try to explain this to my friend but choke, and the tears begin to flow again. I pause my walk and sit on a low retaining wall in front of a darkened building, as I try to compose myself.

My friend asks, “So what did she tell you?”

“Nothing. Not a damn thing,” I tell her.  “She had gotten her own place, but we were still working on things, you know? She refused my offer to come along with me and bring her kids on the trip for my daughter’s graduation, and so we reluctantly went ahead without her. That’s when it all changed.”

I can’t seem to stop talking. I ramble on, giving too much background information and never really answering her question.

“After I got back into town, my mother tried to reach her but couldn’t, so I called. I couldn’t get through either.  That was unusual. I got worried about her safety, so I went to her apartment.  She wasn’t there, but the callbox rings to her cell phone. When she answered, it immediately disconnected.  That was weird too, right? I had no idea then, but she was just hanging up on me!  I was worried about her.  I started to call the police; I even dialed 911, but before I placed the call, I realized it was Sunday afternoon, so she might be at the grocery store. That would explain the issues getting through to her phone, also.  I was relieved to see her car in the parking lot! The last time I’d seen her, we’d had dinner together. Now, just 9 days later, when she saw me she flipped out, telling me to stay away from her, causing a scene, saying she wasn’t talking to me anymore. That’s how she told me.”

My friend is silent.  There’s really nothing she can say even if she could find the words. Even then, nothing would make it easier. She knows this, and so for the moment she just listens, and shivers in the crisp November air.

That’s when Freddie spots me. My guard is down, and I’m vulnerable.

“She was just screaming at me,” I cry. “Screaming! Everyone in the store was staring. She told me not to speak to her.  She told me to get away. I had no idea why.  I still don’t even know what happened, and it’s four months later. I just stood there, stammering. She just changed, like overnight.”

I sniff and wipe the tears from my eyes yet again and look up.  That’s when I see Freddie approaching. 

Freddie is tall and broad-shouldered, but thin.  In the dark, with the streetlights behind him, his silhouette is imposing. He also lacks the awareness to see he’s intruding on a difficult moment. He’s either getting ready to rob me, or asking for a handout. I’m instantly on the defensive. He speaks, but I can’t tell what he’s saying, either because he’s speaking softly or because my mind is reeling.

“I’m sorry,” I respond before thinking.  “What did you say?”

From the looks of him, he doesn’t eat much.  From the smell of him, he doesn’t seem to bathe much, either.  I’m not sure what Freddie’s drug of choice is, but as I get a better look, it’s pretty apparent he has a favorite.  His uncombed hair and his shaky voice underscore the point. 

Realizing now that he’s probably only looking for a handout, for just a second I consider pretending he isn’t there, ignoring the interruption as I deal with my own issues. It’s too late for that though; I’ve already spoken to him.

Freddie manages a meager smile.  “First of all,” he speaks slowly, “thank you for acknowledging me.”  As he says this, he dips his head a little and raises his hands slightly, as if to say he’s not a danger.

His voice is soft and gentle, and now I realize he is also nervous.

“Thank you for acknowledging me,” he repeats with another nod.  “Most people won’t acknowledge me.” 

Perhaps he realizes that would’ve been my preference too, and I feel guilty for it.

“What do you need?,” I ask, a little annoyed. I’m still sniffling and embarrassed, trying to hide the fact I’ve been crying.

“I’m just trying to get a little money to get a train ticket home,” he says.  Do you have a few dollars that I could have?”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t have any cash at all,” I lie.  I’m confident that if I give Freddie any money, he’ll be drinking it or smoking it or shooting it into his veins soon.

He looks disappointed.  He’s gentle, but jaded.

I’m not sure why, but there’s something about him that affects me. I get a sense of injustice about him, like I’m not the only one to tell him an untruth. I’m taken aback by both his thanks for a simple acknowledgement — as if it is a gift I have given him — and the guilt I feel for not wanting to give it. Before I have a chance to think it through, I’m compelled to make him an offer.

“I’ll tell you what: If you need a train ticket, I’ll walk with you to the station and get you one.”

I’m surprised at my suggestion and surprised when he accepts the offer; I wonder if I misjudged him and he really is trying to get home, instead of a fix. As we walk along my friend, now a little wide-eyed, holds on to my arm and stays close.  The silence is awkward, and I try to engage Freddie in conversation.  He’s reluctant to talk; I keep trying anyway. I don’t think to ask him his name.

“So do a lot of people just refuse to talk to you?,” I ask. 

“Most of them pretend I’m not there,” he says.  Again, this troubles and convicts me. He doesn’t elaborate.

As we near the train station, I ask Freddie if there’s anything else he needs.  Is he hungry?  Yes he is, and I offer to walk with him to a nearby grocery, but he declines.  Instead, he’d just like some noodles from the gas station if it’s not too much trouble.  I find this to be odd, because I’m offering what I think is a far better option. Nevertheless, he’s bent on that gas station. Very well.

We get the train ticket and he leads me up another block.  We enter into the glow of fluorescent lights, shuffle past the pumps, and step into the little store.  As we enter, Freddie’s arms are now folded across his chest; I think he looks anxious. As we enter, the clerk, with a heavy accent, shouts something across the store, but I don’t pay attention. It’s Friday night and the place is full of customers getting gas, buying beer, and taking a chance on the lottery.

Freddie is even more uncomfortable, it’s now obvious. Again the clerk shouts, and I realize it’s Freddie that’s the target of his anger.

“You know you are not supposed to be in here,” he shouts through a thick Caribbean accent.  “Don’t you come in here trying to steal anything!

I’m shocked at this. It’s both unprofessional and rude, and I ask Freddie if we are okay in this place or if he wants to go someplace else.

“I’m okay,” he says as if he’s used to it all, and he quickly makes a beeline for what he wants.

Another employee steps up to Freddie and just stands there, watching his every move. Every time Freddie takes a step, this guy shadows him.

“Is everything okay, sir?,” I ask.

“Yep.” He doesn’t take his eyes off of Freddie.

“Is there a problem?”

“Not yet.” His gaze is still fixed on Freddie.

Now the clerk, finished with his latest customer, steps from behind the counter and shouts again, heading our way.  There are still customers in line. “You get out of here right now!,” he yells.  “You’re a piece of shit, and you don’t belong in here!”

All eyes in the store are now on us.

I’ve had enough. 

“Wait a second,” I say.  “This guy is my friend, and he is here with me.”

“I am not talking to you,” the clerk says, never meeting my gaze.  He looks past me.  To Freddie he says “I am talking to this piece of garbage here.”

Freddie tries to defend himself.

“Don’t talk to me,” the clerk says.  “Get away from here. Get out.”

I do not know why, but I am suddenly hurt, stung by the callous uncaring of this clerk. It feels like he hates me as much as he hates Freddie. It feels wrong. It feels personal.

“No,” I demand.  “You don’t talk to him.”  I lean into his field of view so he has to look at me.  “You talk to me.”  I am suddenly angrier than I think I should be, and I’ve now determined that I’m in charge. A fire has been lit within me, and I don’t know where it came from. Not yet.

“I’m buying some things, and all you need to do is ring them up.”

“He can wait outside,” the clerk insists.

“No.  That’s not what I said. We can both leave and buy nothing, or we can both stay and buy whatever my friend wants. Your choice. Either way, I’m responsible. You talk to me, not him.”

The clerk frowns at this, but to my surprise shrinks back behind the counter to address the customers waiting in line. “Hurry up,” he says.

Freddie seems to stand a little taller. Now I get it, I think. Did he really ask to come here so I would provide him some cover? The argument over for the moment, he now takes his time, going to the back of the store to open his noodles and add hot water from the coffee maker.  There’s a little defiance in him, some confidence he didn’t have before. Dignity. We’ve overstayed our welcome, but he seems to be enjoying the delay. I’m anxious to get out.

The clerk rings us up and I pay, being careful to use a credit card, keeping my cash hidden. The total bill is less than four dollars.

We get outside finally, and my friend and I wish Freddie well.  He’s holding two hot cups of noodles and doesn’t have a free hand to shake. “God bless you,” is the best I can offer.  His response is a sneer, an annoyed look that conveys he doesn’t have a whole lot of expectation for coming blessings. 

Having gotten what he wanted, he ducks between construction barrels, takes a turn behind an old building undergoing demolition, and scurries down an overgrown hill, disappearing into the night.  I realize then that I didn’t even get his name, and will have to make one up to share his story.

My friend and I walk along, mostly silent.  We shake our heads at the abject cruelty of the clerk, and discuss the pain Freddie must feel at being denied that most basic human need of acknowledgement. We part ways soon afterward.

Alone, I am still bothered, disturbed by the cruelty that life seems to have handed Freddie. I walk back outside alone, into the night, and look up at the lights in the lofty residences. The people who live up above me are as different from me as I am from Freddie, but we all have the same basic needs. He remains on my mind the rest of the evening, as I think about the pain he has experienced, both at his own hand and at the hands of others.

At 2:00am I awake with a start. It suddenly makes sense.

I saw the pain it caused Freddie to cease to exist, to be denied that most basic of human gifts, simple acknowledgement.

I watched as Freddie, in a store, was yelled at, silenced, and embarrassed. He was treated worse than anyone should deserve.

The tears roll down my cheeks as I realize why I am so deeply affected by him, why it feels so personal.

I think about my own story, the way my own bride has refused to acknowledge me. I think about how she, in a grocery store, shouted at me not to speak and to go away. I think about Freddie and I feel his lack of hope, and know this is something else we share. My whole body shakes as I sob into my pillow.

We are from two different worlds. We have two different stories. We could not be less alike.

And yet we share the same pain. Rejected.  Denied. Shut down. Cast off. We are unwanted.

I am Freddie too.

So much …

I’m looking around the kitchen. The floors and the cabinets are color coordinated with the countertop. A designer tried to help me pick out colors that you would like, but in the end, I chose exactly what was in the model home. I had no idea if I had done right. You came and saw it, and you loved it.

You put a sign up on the top of the cabinets, just over there. “LOVE” it said, in all capital letters. It’s gone now.

There was another sign over there, next to the stove. It said “This kitchen is for dancing.” We danced a lot in this kitchen you and me, long before there was a sign. I loved to dance in the kitchen with you.

I sat you up on the countertop, and you wrapped your arms around my neck and pulled me close, so many times. I kissed you. I loved kissing you, while the stove behind me sizzled.

There was so much love here.

Just over there, I had them build the stacked stone fireplace because you said you liked that look. I remember the times we’d drag the mattress downstairs and cuddle up in front of the fire. We would sleep there all night, after we’d made love.

There’s a verse on the wall, the width of the room. “He is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, by His power at work within us,” it promises. I would meet you at dawn under that covenant and kneel and pray for you and your son. When you cried, I cried. You loved for me to pray with you.

And there, in the corner, we would sit and talk out our grievances, the kitchen timer telling each of us when our time was up. We were learning to work things out. We’d make up and tell one another “I love you, babe.”

Up on the wall, five tin stars hang. We had been driving through the mountains and stopped in that little antique shop. You loved the big stars, and wanted one of your own. I couldn’t limit you to just one. They hang there still, just as you arranged them.

There was so much love here, not long ago.

Upstairs, we sat in the living room and worked a thousand puzzles, a thousand pieces each. We would talk about our days, our plans, and our fears. We laughed a lot here, the two of us. We watched the movies that you love, and I’d cuddle up next to you and watch, and kiss you on the shoulder. I loved kissing you on the shoulder.

And here, in our bedroom, on the wall are the giant initials, G and B, joined by a golden ampersand. They were the first things I hung up after the house was completed. Just off to the side is the picture that once hung in my lonely apartment; it reads “Today is the day.” For 8 months I read that sign every day, hoping that that day would be the day that you would come and marry me. That day finally came.

There was so much love here … so much love.

In this bed I took care of you when you felt sick. And here I lay as close to you as I could, trying to keep my breathing from waking you up, as I watched you sleep. And in this bed we laughed and we cried and we shared so much of our life, of our love, of our energies and of our emotions, of ourselves, intertwined.

There was so much love here.

And now, you are not here. The pictures are gone. The dresser is empty.

And yet you are here still, in every corner, and I rattle around this empty shell of a home and plead with God in Heaven to wake me up or to let me sleep forever. There is still so much love here, even now, at the end, when you’re not.

There is so much love here.

A Mother Speaks

Ken001

LILBURN, GA – The parking lot is nearly empty as I pull in; ten minutes early, I sit in my car and wait until it’s time.  I had not expected a big turnout.  There are only two other cars here, and a limousine.  And of course, there’s the hearse.

As I enter, an older gentleman, a Baptist preacher, introduces himself like only a Baptist preacher would; he’s a little too glad to meet me and a little too eager to thank me for coming.  Ken was Catholic.  No, he never met Ken he says a little sheepishly, when asked.

“It must be tough to perform a funeral service for someone you haven’t met,” I say.

“The only thing tougher is doing one for someone you knew really well,” he replies, and it’s clear he speaks from experience.  He looks to me for some information that he can use in his eulogy, some golden nugget, some anecdote.

I’ve got nothing for him.  “Ken was kind of odd,” I offer as helpfully as I can, and the pastor’s shoulders fall in disappointment before he goes to seek better insights elsewhere.

Why did I come to this funeral?  Ken and I had not spoken much over the past several years.

———-

We were in 10th grade in Journalism class when I met Ken.  I was the new kid, uncomfortable, unsure, awkward, and out of my element.  Ken was all of those things too, and so we had that in common.  He said he’d moved from Brooklyn, but to a kid from the Georgia hinterlands, Brooklyn seemed a foreign country.  He talked of his old home with enthusiasm, and said he was already planning to return.  Someday.

Ken was interested only in the things that Ken was interested in, which is to say that he would gladly talk about places I’d never been and music I’d never heard, but he wasn’t concerned with  much else beyond his likes.  I found that, like the other kids, I couldn’t really connect with him.  We weren’t close, but I had a sense that he viewed me as being among his closer friends, if Ken ever considered himself close to anyone.

He showed me something he’d written about his memories of Brooklyn.  His writing was good.  Poignant even.  As I read his piece, I was surprised to learn that Ken wasn’t the new kid in school that I thought he was; he had moved more than five years prior.  He had apparently just never adjusted; he still felt out of place.  His writing gave me a feel for the love he had for his old home and alerted me to a sense of pain that he felt within his own skin.

I got lucky.  Something I wrote caught the teacher’s attention, and I was promoted to the school newspaper staff, big time journalism.  It also meant that I’d found my niche, a place where I wasn’t so awkward.

We were talking about what to do with a part of the paper, and I thought of Ken’s Brooklyn piece.  I shared it with my new friend Mark, the editor.  Mark read Ken’s story and thought it was good, too.  He even gave Ken his own column, arranged to fit at the edge of the page.  “Ken’s Corner” he called it, and Ken could write about any odd thing he wanted.  He did.

Ken wrote about whatever pleased Ken.  There were columns about alternative bands nobody had ever heard of.  He wrote about the challenges of getting a girl’s attention.  He wrote about television shows and radio stations and TV Guide ads and other minutiae that ruled the lives of 80’s teens, but always from a perspective that was a little outside the norm.  He seemed to enjoy that space, that place that was just out of reach of mainstream ideas of fashion, of culture, of life.

What he wrote about music offended some kids, and what he wrote about dating, some others.  Ken never flinched.  He would publish one column and immediately begin to think about ideas for the next one.  Writing his own column seemed for him to be an outlet. Ken shared with others – maybe for the first time ever – something about himself.  Kids began to see him in a new light.  He became a minor celebrity with that column, and he seemed to finally find a place where he fit.

I didn’t try very hard to keep in touch.  20 years later, I found by accident that we lived just 10 minutes apart in the rural South.  He hadn’t returned to Brooklyn after all.  I saw him a few times, to catch up.  He was older.  Like me, he was heavier.  Ken was still the same Ken though.

He had high blood pressure, and didn’t take it – or his medication — seriously.  Last week he was hospitalized and while there, had a mild stroke.  I visited with him briefly, the first time I’d seen him in three years, and he was optimistic.  He was going to take his medicine, he said.  He was a looking forward to losing weight.  He made all of the resolutions for a changed life that a man makes when forced to face his own mortality.  He went home soon after.

A few days later, he was dead.

———-

At his funeral, there are only seven of us present, including the preacher.  It seems like an awfully small number to reflect on a man’s 47 years.  The pastor, still looking to fill time, asks if we wouldn’t mind talking about Ken some in the service.

I don’t know what to say, but I stand before his mother, his sister, and his uncle at the front of the chapel.  “I knew Ken a lot less than anyone here,” I begin.  I talk of meeting Ken, of our journalism class, and of his high school newspaper column.  I speak about Ken’s unique spirit, the best that I can.  It’s not much.  I tell someone else’s story, the only funny anecdote I have to offer of Ken, of how he was surprised to learn that the Brooklyn Dodgers had moved to Los Angeles.

“Why didn’t I know this? When did this happen?” asks an incredulous Ken.

“1957.”

The story gets a laugh, and with it, I get his family’s confirmation that they too know that Ken was different.

Afterward, there’s a brief reception.  There’s food for maybe 25 people.  Most of it will go untouched.  His family politely thanks me for coming and for speaking, and I’m embarrassed about that, because I wasn’t a good friend.

A parent shouldn’t have to bury their child, no matter his age.  Ken’s mother is devastated, and the day is understandably difficult for her.  She speaks with me for a while about Ken.

“Oh, he was so proud of that column,” she remembers.  “He came home from school so excited, saying ‘Ma, they gave me my own column!  Can you believe it?’” She talks with the pride of a mother, and for a little while, the past 30 years are gone.

“Of course they did, because you are good!  You are a good writer,” she says.  She glows as she remembers the moment, and her face softens.  The encouragement I hear in her words makes me think she tried often to make her boy believe in himself more.

They had left New York for South Florida when Ken was 11 years old.

“He hated Florida,” she tells me.  “He always wanted to go back home to Brooklyn.”

I wonder if his desire to go back was because he couldn’t make friends, or if he wouldn’t make friends because he wanted to go back.  I see in her eyes the doubt of a mother who wonders if things couldn’t have been different for her son.

“There weren’t many people here,” she tells me, “but you know what?  I’d rather have a few people who care than a whole room full of people who were here because they felt obligated.”

It’s an indictment, but she doesn’t realize it.

“He was so smart,” she says.  “He had such a memory.  He could tell you what page an article was on in the encyclopedia.  If you wanted to know where ‘Animals’ was, he would tell you the page, and what pictures were there.”

She’s right.  That’s pretty impressive.

She’s thankful for those who reached out to her son when he was ill.

“When he was in the hospital, people wished him well over the internet.  He called me and he said to me, ‘Ma, all these years I thought people didn’t care about me, but they do.  They’ve been telling me they hope I get better.'”   Her voice echoes the excitement she heard in his.  She knows about my short hospital visit and thanks me for it, but I suddenly feel guilty for not doing much more.

She talks about how her son wanted to be a journalist.  He started college she says, but then lost interest; she doesn’t know why.  The question seems to haunt her, all these years later.

That’s not all that haunts her.  There are unanswered questions about why her son died, and whether or not someone could have done something to get help to him sooner.  Details are sketchy.  There are conflicting stories.

“I’ll never get the answers to those questions,” she laments.

Me, I get the answer to my question.  Now I know what I’m doing here.

A mother deserves the right to talk about her son, and to have someone listen.  For a little while, I can do that.

 

 

Open for Business?

“Harvey’s Garage Door Service, Harvey speaking!  How many I help you today?”

“Hi, Harvey.  I need to have a garage door opener installed, please.”

“Great!  We’ll be glad to do it.  We can do that work Friday, for just a hundred and ninety dollars.”

“No, I think you misunderstood, Harvey.  I don’t need the door and the opener.  I just need the opener installed.”

“Right.  Installing your door opener is one-ninety.  Will Friday work for you?”

“Wow!  Nope, that’s too expensive for such a little job, Harvey.   I’m going to call someone else.”

“Okay.  Thanks for calling.  We’ll speak to you soon.”

“Huh?”

<click>

 

“Thank you for calling the Home Depot.”

“Yes, hi, I’d like to speak to someone about …”

“Your call is very important to us.  For English, press 1.  Para Espanol, marque numero dos.”

“1.”

“Pour Français, appuyez sur 3.”

“1.”

“Voor Nederlands, drukt u op 4.”

“1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. …”

“Za Bonsanske, pritisnite 5.”

“1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1.”

“Gracias por llamar al Home Depot usted.  Has llegado a la mesa de ayuda española.”

<click>

 

“Thank you for calling the Home …”

“0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0.”

“One moment please.”

“Sigh …”

“Hi, this is Brittney!  It’s a great day at the Home Depot, where low prices are just the beginning.  How may I direct your call?”

“Hello, Brittney!  I’m glad to talk to a real person.  I need to find out about having a garage door opener installed.”

“What department is that in, sir?”

“Excuse me?  I don’t know … the garage door department?”

“Let me try Building Materials.”

“Wait, I don’t think …”

“Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.”

“Hi, this is Brittney!  It’s a great day at the Home Depot, where low prices are just the beginning.  How may I direct your call?”

“Brittney, you were just trying to connect me to someone to …”

“Did they not pick up?  Okay, let me try Lawn and Garden.”

“No, I don’t th—“

“Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.”

“Hi, this is Brittney!  It’s a great day at the Home Depot, where low prices are just the beginning.  How may I direct your call?”

<click>

 

“Thank you for calling Sears, home of the Sears Shop Your Way program for loyal customers …”

“0.”

“… and the brand names America trusts, like Craftsman, Kenmore …”

“0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0.”

“… and Die Hard.  Check out our new website …”

“0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0! 0! 0! 0! 0! 0!”

“… where you can find all of the great products we offer, at everyday low prices.  Your call is …”

“Aaarrrgh!”

“… very important to us.  Our store is located at 24 …”

“Why do you idiots not have a human answer the freaking PHONE?!?!”

“… and we are open weekdays from 10:00 am to …”

“I don’t CARE where you’re located.  I just need to speak to a real person!”

“… and Sundays from 12:00 to 5:00.  Now, what department are you calling?”

“Uh, garage door openers?”

“That’s … HARDWARE.  Is this correct?”

“Sure.  That’s correct.”

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t understand your response.  Please try again.”

“Hardware!”

“What department are you calling?”

“Hardware!  Hardware!  Hardware!”

“That’s … HARDWARE.  Is this correct?”

“Yes!”

“Please hold for … HARDWARE.”

“Oh my goodness.”

“Hardware, this is Jake.”

“Hi Jake.  I’m trying to have a garage door opener installed.”

“I don’t think we do that.”

“Don’t you sell garage door openers?”

“Yeah, I think we do.  Let me ask my manager.  Hold please.”

“…”

“Hello, Sir?  Yeah, we sell garage door openers.”

“Right.  I’m trying to have one installed.  I need to hire you to install an opener in a new house.”

“Oh, okay.  I don’t think we do that.”

“Are you sure?  You used to install them.”

“Let me ask my manager.  Hold please.”

“…”

“Hello, sir?  Yeah, we install garage door openers.”

“Great!”

“You just call our 1-800 number, and they can set you up.”

“Why do I call you for you to tell me to call someone else?  Can’t you just take my money now?”

“No, I’m in the store.  If you want to order from the store, you can’t.  You have to come into the store.  If you want to order over the phone, you have to call another number.”

“That doesn’t even make sense.”

“Let me ask my manager.  Hold please.”

“Wait, ask him what?”

“…”

“Sir?  I talked to my manager, and that’s our policy, sir.  You’ll have to come into the store or call our 800-number.”

“Fine.”

<click>

 

“Thank you for calling Sears Home Services.  My name is Frank.  Do you need help with a product warranty?”

“No, I need to have a garage door opener installed.”

“We have a special deal on product repair agreements today.”

“I just need to have my garage door opener installed.”

“Okay, I can see here that the fee for that installation is one-hundred twenty dollars.  Would you like me to set up installation for you?”

“Yes.  That’d be great, Frank.”

“And how would you like a way to save money on costly repairs for your garage door opener through our exciting new repair agreement program?

“No thanks.  I just need the opener installed.”

“Okay.  Let’s start with your name.  Your first name sir?”

“James.”

“Okay, and your last name?”

“Carver.  C. A. R. V. E. R.”

“Thank you mister Barber.  I’ll need your address and your method of payment.”

“Fine.”

“We have a one-time deal on Maintenance Agreements today, if you’d like to know how you can save $300 on maintenance and warranty calls, Mr. Barber.”

“No, thank you.  And it’s Carver, with a C.”

“I apologize, Mr. Carber.  Lastly I’ll need your ZIP code, Mr. Carber.”

“My ZIP code is 30028.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Carber.  I see here that we don’t offer installation services in your area.”

“I thought you had nationwide installation.”

“We do, Mr. Carber.  What country are you calling from?”

“I’m calling from ZIP code 30028.  In Georgia.”

“We don’t have an installer for your area, Mr. Carber.  I’m sorry.  I can save you hundreds in repair costs on your new gara–”

<click>

 

“Harvey’s Garage Door Service, Harvey speaking!  How many I help you today?”

“Hello, Harvey.”

“No luck at Sears, huh?”

“Nope.”

“Tried Home Depot too?”

“Yep.”

“Usted no habla español, ¿eh?

“Nope.”

“How’s Brittney?”

“Perky as ever.”

“Okay well, I still have a slot open for Friday, if you’d like it.  Can we install your door opener then?”

“Sure.”

“The price will be just two-hundred fifty dollars.”

“Two-fifty?!?  An hour ago, you said it was one-ninety.”

“Yes, you’re right.  It was.  Maybe you want to try Lowe’s?”

“Okay.  You’ve got me.  I’ll see you Friday.”

“Cash only, please.”