Monday, September 21, 2009

Radio Slack

The laser printer in the office at the store has been jamming with increasing frequency. Last week Perry and I cleared a major jam by removing many key parts of the printer and fishing out the accordion-pleated paper, and yesterday Michele and I cleared another jam and found a scorched mailing label in its innards. This morning Alan was trying to print the replenishment report, and the printer seized up again, so I got out my handy screwdrivers and tongs, cleared the jam, tried to print a test page, and watched as the printer jammed again.

I gave it up as a bad job and decided to call the local computer place (you'd recognize the name immediately, because rhymes with "radio slack"). A sweet little dollie answered the phone.

"Hello, this is Radio Slack."

"Hi. This is P-doobie from Otowi Station Bookstore up the street. Do you repair laser printers?"

"I don't know."

"Well, perhaps you can check?"

"Yeah, hold on." After a long hold, a guy with that fascinating husky voice that's just short of asthma answered. "Hello?"

"Do you repair laser printers?"


"This is P-doobie from Otowi Station Bookstore. Our printer keeps jamming, possibly because a scorched self-adhesive label may be in there. May I bring ours down so you can take a look at it?"

Heavy sigh. "Well, I don't have any time today, but if you bring it down right now, I'll look at it."

So I gathered up the printer, drove the two blocks to Radio Slack, wrestled the printer out of the back seat, and, carrying the printer in both hands, approached the door. Two workers inside watched as I tried to open the door. When I finally got inside by dint of some intricate footwork, kicking, and using my elbows, one of them said, "May I help you?"

"Well, not anymore." The comment was lost on him. "I called a few minutes ago about getting my printer repaired."

"Who did you talk to?"

"He didn't identify himself."

"Well, it wasn't me."

I thought, "Three people are working in the store. You say I didn't speak to you, and the dollie is out of the running because she's female, so maybe, just maybe, the guy standing in the back is the person I talked to. And we really need to talk about whether you were ever dropped on your head as a child." Meanwhile, my fingers were cramping and the printer wasn't getting any lighter. The guy pointed to the back. "Go talk to Joe," he said, and walked away.

I heaved the printer onto the counter and Joe shuffled over. "I spoke to you a few minutes ago about repairing a laser printer."

"Did you call?"

"Yes, I did. I told you that my laser printer keeps jamming."

"When did you call?"

"This morning. About five minutes ago."

"I don't repair printers."

"Then why—"

He tried to lift the top off by tugging hard on the output bin. Nothing happened, so he tried harder, then asked, "How did you get the top off?" I told him that we didn't take the top off; we worked from the back. "Oh," he said. "Well, you should go to Santa Fe. Maybe somebody down there can help." He shuffled back to his work bench.

I hope nobody comes in and asks for help today.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ina rides again or "Oh, lord, what have I done?"

I have written previously about my interactions with the always impressively bonkers Ina, the local author and relentless self-promoter.

Last month she seemed to be unclear on the concept of authorship; she is, however, absolutely clear on the concept of chutzpah. Indeed, she redefines it. She was in the store before the signing with Rick Rickman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and author of the book The Wonder Years: Portraits of Athletes Who Never Slow Down, and leafed through the book with evident interest. "I don't see my picture in here," she said. "I'm a senior athlete, and my picture isn't in here." I told her that most of the athletes were from California, where Rickman lives. "Well, I'll give him a picture of me from one of my races, and he can put it in his next book."

One of the things I've learned from reading authors' manuscripts is that I often have to lie down and apply cold rags to my head afterwards if the authors can't maintain a consistent tone, point of view, plot, characterizations, chronology, etc., they call their work a "spoof," even though the work is neither parody nor satire. Or funny.

And so it is with Ina, the Jane Austen fan. She has "spoofed" Persuasion, and her latest is a novella "spoofing" Northanger Abbey. She was in the store last week and asked, in hushed, conspiratorial tones, if I'd do her a favor. I replied, against my better judgment, that I'd do my best. She told me about her newest book and wants me to write a cover blurb (!!!!!) for it because a) I'm a published author myself and b) I'm a noted bookseller. I thought, "This is gonna take more than cold rags." I said, "Let me see the book, and I'll let you know." I thought, "Dear God, what have I done?!"

That evening she came to the store with the manuscript taped securely in an opaque plastic bag and asked the evening staffers to make sure I got it. The next morning she called and asked, "Have you read it yet?" I said that I had just come into the office, so of course I hadn't read it. "Oh. Well. No hurry, no hurry." She calls once a day, asks whether I've read it, and always assures me that she's in no hurry.

I have learned a lesson from all this. I will no longer read manuscripts, especially if they're "spoofs." If I even think about doing so, I'll call you, and you can come over with a two-by-four and commence to beatin'. I'd do the same for you.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Adventures with the Kia Rio

Today I took the rented Kia Rio back home to ABQ, and good riddance to it.

I couldn't drop it off early, the sweet little dollie at the counter told me when I rented it, because there would be a penalty. So I couldn't take it back last week when I picked up Sophie. And if I returned it one minute past noon today, I'd be charged for an extra day. Timing was obviously of the essence.

Uncle P picked me up at the store this morning at 9:00 and followed me to ABQ in Sophie. I filled the Kia up ("If you don't fill it up, we'll charge you $6.99 a gallon to do it for you.") and drove it to the Budget Rental Car place on San Mateo where I had picked it up last month. The place was closed! A notice, written in a barbed and illiterate hand, was posted on the door and stated that rentals should be returned to the Budget place on the Pan American Freeway. Uncle P called the place for directions, and, backtracking four miles, we met at the new place.

The guy ahead of me in line got steamed because his credit card had been declined. So he did the logical, rational thing: he kicked out the glass front door of the rental office. The Budget staff surged out to the parking lot to the kicker's truck to block his way, and the remaining person called the cops. I couldn't hear what the Budget guys and the kicker were saying to each other, but by reading their lips, they seemed to be saying vacuum a lot.

Meanwhile, back in the office, the sweet little dollie at the counter asked if I'd like to put a $25.00 charge on my credit card. I asked, "For what, please? I prepaid online." She went back to the computer and tapped away for an unconscionable time and studied the monitor with all the intensity of a scholar of the Talmud. Finally she declared that I was all paid up and didn't need to fork over the extra dough. I was free to go. I asked for my receipt. "Eeee! I forgot," she said and printed it out.

When I passed the other Budget employees and the kicker, the kicker said, "Why don't you just call the glass company, and I'll pay for your door right now." The Budget guy said, "No. The cops are coming."

When Uncle P and I passed them in the air-conditioned comfort of Sophie, they were still saying vacuum.

The "CAT FOLDER" is a handy tool. You just insert Flicker in the slot, press the button, and presto! a handy folded kitteh can fit comfortably in the glove compartment.