When in the course of human events, it happens that Spring shows up, and homeowners start thinking about some possible around-the-house projects. And in the course of all that, visions of new, improved, better looking and easier to use stuff starts to dance in their heads (I know I mixed up Christmas and the Declaration of Independence, but stay with me).
So it was that a couple of weeks ago, Cheri and I started thinking and then talking about what it might look like if we changed out the big bamboo roll-up blinds in the gazebo. The current blinds, we are sure, went in probably when the thing was built back in the 1990s. By the time we inherited them, they were still in pretty good shape, but they are very heavy and dark, and the cords that create the superstructure for pulling them up and down have frayed a bit, and the outer covering on some has been stripped away, so that now we basically have kite string being sawn through the little pulleys. Now, if we were simply out on a desert island, we might not care about how things look, but that’s just not the way it is here in the big city. Granted, in the last five years, besides Cheri and the boys and I, we have had only about ten other people even sit in the place, but that’s besides the point. The time had come for us to make a change.
There are seven big blinds, four foot wide and about 6 foot tall. Like I said, by changing them out, we would have the opportunity to maybe lighten things up a bit, and have them be nicer to use when the hot summer sun comes pounding in on us. If the sun ever decides to shine, and the temp get above 60 degrees, at least.
So, with having some money set aside over the winter, we began to look around. We actually found a nice bunch of blinds on Amazon, and with free shipping, it seemed like a winner. We decided on the right color, selected 7, and pushed “order.” They would be delivered in about four days, and about 20 minutes later, we would have them hung and be enjoying our new look.
If this were a movie or television show, what I just wrote would have been a dream sequence, with fuzzy edges, and happy music. In reality, it wasn’t four days – it turned out to be 8 days, because for some reason, CoVid hijacked the trucks and kept them ransom until Amazon paid them off – those pandemic thugs… but eventually, we had seven slender heavy boxes on our front porch, so we hauled them in, and opened up a couple of them with the firm belief that they would have come with two small eyelet hooks that would fit perfectly on the hooks that were in the gazebo, just like all good bamboo blinds have. Not so. When we opened up the plastic wrapping on one, and unrolled the blind, a package of hardware dropped out onto the table. No instructions – just a myriad of metal and screws and wing nuts.
This was not what I had expected, to say the least. As I tried to figure out the contraption, it looked like we were going to have to drill three holes for each blind in the ceiling of the gazebo, and then somehow slide the wooden valance through some small slits, and attach the wing nuts… oh, you get the picture. Of course, we would do this, all the while with 20 pounds of bamboo being held over our heads – by which I mean my head – and we would get to do that same process six more times.
I am not easily defeated, but I did not buy into a ten stage process that indeed may or may not really work. In my mind, I went back to the simpler idea of just unhooking a blind and hooking up a new one – two minutes at most, with no drilling. I’ve always liked the gazebo – I didn’t want to start resenting it. So, very quietly I suggested to my darling wife that these were not the blinds we hoped them to be, and perhaps we could send them back. She agreed, fortunately.
I went online to Mr. Amazon, and lo and behold, the return process didn’t seem to be very difficult. We repacked the open boxes, and were instructed to take them over to the UPS store where they would scan a little code and ship them back to Amazon with no cost or fuss. Outside of trying to haul seven boxes through a door to the store that for some reason has a spring strong enough to hold it closed in a hurricane, we kissed the boxes goodbye and went to stage two.
We decided that instead of ordering the blinds, we could go over to Home Depot or Lowes or another big home improvement store, and shop off the rack. Apparently, none of those stores, at least up in North Dakota, do a brisk business in bamboo blinds – this isn’t Florida for crying out loud – and so after looking all over the dumb stores, we found store clerks – none of them over 22 years old – who informed us, “Nope – but I’m sure we can order them for you.”
At least it was a fun drive all over town, having to put on dumb facemasks and walking five miles at each store. However, if we had order them, I could do that on my own! So, back home in the comfort of my office, we picked out another set of seven blinds, these with the right hooks, and I punched “order,” and they promised another four days.
On the fourth day, I heard the UPS truck pull up and then heard a rather large sound as boxes were dropped off onto our porch again. I opened the front door, and could barely see daylight… there on the porch were three enormous boxes! By enormous, I mean they were each four foot by three foot by three foot. I pulled them inside, and opened them up. After taking the ten foot of tape off the box, inside I found one blind. Three huge boxes – three blinds. The cats loved it, since they discovered a catacomb of boxes to sit in, but the little blinds seemed out of place in the huge boxes.
Little blinds. I was suddenly concerned. I checked the info on each blind, and sure enough, as I had ordered 48x72 inch blinds, we received three 42x72 inch blind-ettes. They were not going to fit. Again. Of course, we had to wait until the next day when FOUR more huge boxes were delivered, each with a 42x72 blind.
Do you see how the human spirit can be bent, if not broken? I went back on the Amazon site to figure out how to return these, wondering how we were going to get seven huge boxes in the back of our SUV. Even worse, for us to take them back to UPS meant this time it was going to cost us $10/box to return them. Since they were all shipped separately, we couldn’t even put them all in one box, the way God intended. However, I then stumbled across another option: we could take the blinds, no boxes or shipping labels or anything except a scanner code which was already on my phone, to our friends at Kohl’s department store. Somehow, they had a special arrangement with Amazon to collect and return items, and they would box and label and send them off for us – at no charge!
So, unpacked blinds in the back of the car, off to Kohls, and after some other adventures, we “sent” them back.
Two and a half weeks after we started this process, we are now back to exactly where we were in the beginning. Older, wiser, more bent over a bit, today our task will be to try to select the right size, right color, right hook and right price (although that qualification is starting to fade a bit…), and hopefully after a time, once again we can believe that the American system of commerce actually works. If not, there is always next year. Maybe we can start growing our own bamboo…
Even when you act with great intentions, it’s possible that accidents, mistakes, errors and boo-boos will beset you. I’m glad they were only blinds, to a gazebo, which is not a major issue, to be sure. It’s just tough sometimes, as you know, to keep the grit out of the gears of normal living…I hope your day is a better one!
Word for the day: mendacity. Pronounced men-DA-sit-ee. Not a commonly used word, but it should be. It’s Latin, of course, coming from mendacitas, meaning “falsehood.” That comes from mendax, “liar,” and derived from mentior, “to deceive” and even mens, “mind.” Someone who is skilled at mendacity frequently offers the pretense of telling the truth, when indeed, it’s only a tendency to lie – about most everything.
Someone who embodies mendacity should be trusted as far as you can thrown them. When the trust between two people is broken by lies, it’s a compound fracture that can hardly be set right.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.