My parents reside in a land far, far away. Not far away, mind you, far, far away.
During my mother's last visit (she usually spends one week with us, then one week at my sister's), she spent a good deal of time seeking out replacement vacuum bags for her old, now obsolete, Eureka vacuum cleaner. The thing is, she forgot to check the bag size before she traveled. So through email, she got my Dad at home to look at the old bag and determine the size.
I suggested she look in Walmart. From there we moved up the ranks through Kmart, Target, then Sears. No luck. So we searched for specialty stores. Found a nifty little joint called AAA Vacuum services in the Yellow Pages (yes, that's still the only place to find nifty little joints) that wasn't far from my house. She went there, paid $7 apiece for two packets containing three bags each.
With the matter resolved, we gave it no further thought and enjoyed the rest of our time together.
Upon her return, my mother wrote to thank us for our hospitality, to say she'd had a great time, she missed us, so on and so forth, and to let me know that the vacuum cleaner bags she had purchased were the wrong size. According to her, my father had given her the wrong information. But she didn't realize they were the wrong type until she opened one of the packages and tried to replace the existing bag. Then she couldn't find the receipt. Either way, she said, my uncle was coming to Miami in a few days to spend a couple of weeks with my cousin. She was sending the bags with him so that I could replace them.
Well, anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm not much for that kind of thing. I'd rather eat my steak raw than return it to the waiter and demand that they give it to me well done as I requested...If I buy the wrong size bolts at Home Depot, I concede that it was my fuckup and just go buy the right size...the list of examples goes on and on. My mother's always said to me it's silly not to complain and get what you need, and I know she's right. But the thought of doing it gives me a sharp pain in the pit of my stomach, so I usually choose not to deal with it.
But of course, as far as this situation's concerned, I'm between a rock and a hard place. I either deal with returning the damn bags, or I deal with her. I chose the bags.
My uncle arrived in town and called me a few days later. I asked him over for drinks and he showed up the next evening with my cousin. But he forgot to bring the bags with him. No biggie, we decided, my sister (who lives a lot closer to my cousin's than I do) would pick up the bags at their apartment and I would get them from her. Somehow.
Well, she did pick them up. But we had no plans to see each other for a few days. So over the phone, she gave me the details of what was needed, along with the address to the specialty shop. Having the bags wasn't really that necessary for me. After all, I had no intention of trying to exchange an open bag of obsolete vacuum bags without a receipt. The whole thing was just more than my stomach could handle.
Now my reasoning here was the following: when my mother went to the department stores she was looking for the wrong size - there really wasn't any reason to believe they wouldn't have the type of bag I was looking for. Well, I was wrong. But it took the mandatory visits to Walmart, Kmart, Target and Sears to figure that out. Hardheaded, I know.
The specialty shop came without a phone number. It was located within a couple of miles from my house, but I work 30 miles away from home. So, on a Friday I decided to venture that way after work. I raced there as fast as you can during Friday rush hour traffic, but when I finally got there after five, they were already closed. The shop had one of those protective gates they lower in front of jewelry stores after hours, so I couldn't see their schedule, but luckily their phone number was boldly printed below their name on the main sign. I figured I'd give them a call in the morning and see if they opened on Saturdays.
That night, through pure coincidence, I met up with my sister briefly. She had the bags my mother had sent in the trunk. I tossed them in the backseat, not really sure what I was going to do with them.
A sense of urgency had begun to creep up on me. My uncle was leaving on the following Thursday, and I needed to have the bags by Sunday when he was coming over for a barbeque.
So Saturday morning after mowing the lawn, I called up the shop and asked about the bags. The had them in stock and they were open until noon. That gave me about an hour. I showered and changed, grabbed my daughter and made her get dressed. We jumped into the car and began driving in that direction. A thunderstorm ensued. Visibility became very limited. People were stopping in the middle of the road. As close as the place was, I didn't think we were going to make it. But we did. They were getting ready to close. I reached to the backseat to grab my umbrella and saw the vacuum bags staring back at me. My mother had scotch taped the bag together so it didn't look so obviously open, but all you had to do was look at it to see. Still, I was so sick and frustrated with this entire production that I grabbed them, along with the umbrella and my daughter, and ran inside.
Soaked (the rain was coming down sideways), we waited before the empty counter while the attendant got off the phone. I placed the two wet packets over the glass top, with the unopened one on top. The guy got off the phone, came to us, looked at the bags and then at me. I said, "My mother bought the wrong size. I was wondering if we could exchange them." He said, "Sure! What size do you need?" I told him. He pulled them off the wall, handed them over and wished us a good day.
I picked up my daughter, put her in her seat, and peeled out of there before he changed his mind. I felt exhilarated! Like I just won at Bingo, or something. Such a small silly thing, and I had made such a big deal out of it.
Of course, it wasn't totally over with. My uncle came the following day and spent the afternoon with us. We had a great time! Then he left without the bags.
Fortunately I reached my sister coming back from somewhere else, and she picked up the bags and delivered them to him the next day. But man, what an adventure!
When my mother called to thank me she asked if I'd had any problems doing the exchange. I said, "No Mom, no trouble at all." After all, it was for my mother. How can any trouble amount to much?