Friday, May 01, 2009

The tipping point

The tipping point came at about 2 o'clock this afternoon when I came home from Pamida with a new push lawnmower. Dragged the box out of the back of the pickup and into the garage, extracted the lawnmower from the box, oiled and gassed it up and went to work. But now, with that lawnmower in the garage, the pickup won't fit. It's finally come to this. The garage door is shut. You will not see inside.

On Monday, I'm going to see if I can get the card table out of the closet under the stairs and set it up out there, then begin hauling stuff out of the house in order to make more room for what's already stuffed inside and begin sorting the stuff packed in boxes stacked around the walls of the garage so it can go inside in an orderly manner. This could go on all summer.

The riding lawnmower's fine, by the way, but there's a rocking chair on top of it and several things in front of it and I needed a new push lawnmower to trim with anyway. Besides I like to mow lawn --- pushing the mower --- when I have time. I followed my dad's rule with the new mower --- buy the cheapest you can find with a Briggs and Stratton engine.

The old push lawnmower was about 15 years old and I think we killed it with kindness last year. I hadn't given it any fresh oil in years, but Darrin gave it a dose at the start of the season and just as the season ended it expired in a puff of smoke.

Got about half the lawn done --- everything that shows from the font. The rest will have to wait until the weekend Minneapolis trek is over.

Lots to do outside. I've never really had time to work on the lawn and lord knows in needs it. Nor have I really had time to garden --- filling narrow beds around the little gray Quaker house with whatever struck my fancy and building on what my mother already had planted there. But nothing more. It could be an interesting summer.

One job that needs to be done immediately is to move some of the purple coneflowers out of places where the pretty but aggressively pesky prairie flowers have planted themselves out to the rear of the back 40. Need to do that before they get bigger than they already are.

Took me about five hours yesterday to close out in Mason City --- filled the dumpster again (didn't know that much stuff was left) and don't know when I've been so happy to crawl in the truck and head out. Didn't even look back.

Put off cancelling utilities until Thursday and Qwest was a breeze --- got a customer rep right away and got the job done. Keep in mind, Qwest has a gazillion customers.

Then I tried Alliant Energy, two-bit Midwest utility with aspirations, which also serves Chariton. Another of those aggravating telephone systems: "Welcome to Alliant Energy. Please Press 1 if your house has exploded or a loved one has been electrocuted."

I listened to all the options and still couldn't figure out which button I should press, since "cancel service" was not among the options. Finally decided on "customer service" and got the automated message, "all our of representatives are helping customers right now; your estimated wait will be between 12 and 20 minutes."

Twelve and 20 minutes. You've got to be kidding me. Called back two or three more times. Similar message. Finally just before noon, got "seven to 11 minutes." All right!

Actually it took 20 minutes, but I waited --- I figured it would confuse them no end if I called later from Chariton since they nail you by tracking your phone number. I called it the zen of waiting and it wouldn't have been that bad if they hand't kept repeating the message, "your call is important to us and that's why our customer service representatives are available 24 hours a day seven days a week."

What they don't tell you is that they only have one customer service representative who works long hours, poor woman.

Once I got through, the rep was extremely pleasant and helpful and we got the job done. I declined, however, to take the survey designed to gauge how well she had performed. She was fine. It's the damnfools who run customer service at Alliant who are the problem. I suppose it has something to do with competition. Qwest needs business therefore the system is user-friendly; Alliant already has your business, you've got nowhere else to go and it really doesn't care.

I may be a Democrat, but by gum I recognize a benefit of capitalistic competition when I see one.

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