Saturday, June 10, 2006

Flying High In Birdland

My sisters, those fools with excellent taste, have left me with the keys to the family store. Sarah Vaughn plays on the stereo and verbena perfumes the breeze, now and then tickling the wind chimes. Everyone went to Dunellen for Anya's son Ezekiel's birthday party. Corinne accidentally left me half a snack-size bag of salt and vinegar potato chips. I've made coffee. It's like I died and went to shinyshiny-sweet-smelling Heaven. With chips.

This morning, a person in the form of the blogger known as DBK came to my apartment with a toolkit and installed an air conditioner in my living room window. This was exciting because I can generally assemble stuff with power tools and a bottle of merlot and yet when I opened the boxes containing my air conditioners, I knew immediately installation would be a two-person job and extra personalities don't count. Mr. DBK volunteered to help, if only to make me quit complaining. So I'd opened one box, dragged everything out of the box and when I looked up styrofoam was settling on every surface in my bedroom like a gentle, toxic snowfall. My cat took one look at this and, muttering, slunk off to nap somewhere softer and furrier. I tossed the box and went so far as to paw the manual like it might read itself to me before bedtime. I even looked at the pictures. When the pictures didn't help I knew merlot wouldn't either. Merlot gives me a headstart on an attention span when I forget for a while that I don't have one. Then I commenced whining until Mr. DBK stuck fingers in his ears and volunteered to help me, which was very funny considering this was all over email and how did he type that?

Last night, to prepare for his visit, I opened the second cardboard and styrofoam container and realized right away I had a problem. On top of the unit itself sat a plastic bag full of little parts. I knew no matching bag of little parts sat on top of the air conditioner in my bedroom. Merde!

At 9 this morning, I phoned Sears to ask about a replacement of my goody bag but no one answered. Perhaps my complaints can only be heard by the ears of men holding tools and the guys in Appliances knew better than to pick up. At Sears Appliance Repair's interplanetary headquarters a woman answered the phone who, like many civilians, at first did not understand my problem.

Tata: Okay okay okay so last night I opened Box Number Two! Sitting atop the whatsis was a bag full of teeny pieces, and I don't have a twin from the other box. I am vexed!
Lady: What's in that bag?
Tata: A bunch of these, two of those and a plastic thing.
Lady: The air conditioner has over two hundred parts. Can you be more specific?
Tata: The bag says "Installation Kit". Does that help?
Lady: It doesn't! I don't understand this. My parts list does not list these parts.
Tata: The manual has a list of 14 wood screws, two more wood screws, two more after that, two braces and a plastic jobby. Should I just march myself over to my local Sears and ask if they have an extra one?
Lady: Extra nothing, those parts are yours.

I've got a convert! Anyway, it would have been nice to get both whatsii installed but no dice. The living room was obviously the place to start and by obviously I mean in the apartment in which I've lived since September I'd finally noticed someone had already drilled air conditioner bracket holes in the living room window sill. Mr. DBK rang the bell just after 10, while I was washing dishes. Wide-eyed, he stares at the adjacent building off to my left.

DBK: Have you noticed the crack that runs up the side of that building nearly to the top?
Tata: No. I bet the front of those apartments peel off like a banana peel that is especially ready to be peeled. Like a banana.
DBK: And the orange spot. I've read about it and now I've seen it.
Tata: That means neither of us is imagining you're at my house. Please come in!

About five minutes later, Mr. DBK is holding the manual and swearing. I sit on the floor and shrug. If installing the air conditioner were an ordinary puzzle I would have solved it myself. I built the cabinet in my bathroom and ended up with extra pieces. He is pleased to hear this and hopes I'll take up cabinetry, the art form of my ancestors. No, really. They made cabinets and knives and carved sculptures and Mr. DBK goes a little spastic.

DBK: Is that a Thighmaster? I'm so embarrassed.
Tata: Yes, my cat loves it.
DBK: Are you talking dirty?
Tata: No. See the cat? He finds it cushiony. One of my exes gave it to me because he used it and that made it funny. While you're here, will you help me medicate the cat?
DBK: Sure!

Holes drilled by someone else for another air conditioner prove a blessing and a curse when some of them are in the right spot and some are too large to provide any grip. Mr. DBK and I put the air conditioner in place and he affixes it to the windows from all sorts of angles using little chunks of wood he brought with him. Then I corral the cat and Mr. DBK, a veteran cat-medicator, squeezes droplets of a foul-smelling elixir into the mouth of the cranky pussycat. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, then climbs over my shoulder with claws fully extended and makes a break for it.

Tata: I'm sorry. One more thing: will you help me move the credenza two feet that way?
DBK: Sure. Howcum?
Tata: When I move it myself it gouges the floor. And I need a handstand wall.
DBK: People say that to me all the time, they say, "I need a handstand wall," and I say good for them! What does that mean?
Tata: It means I am an Upside-Down American and I've been right-side-up long enough!
DBK: By all means, it's upside-down for you.

We relocate the credenza and I am happy to say there is plenty of room for inverted me. Now, I'm at the store and the sun is shining, and I'm smoooshing little grape tomatoes between my molars. It's been a good afternoon for me but tomorrow morning, when I can do head- and handstands in my own living room again, will be better.


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