Adventures in customer service

The kid’s doing well, in case you were wondering.  Also, the iPhone’s Portrait Mode is ridiculous.

So last weekend sometime I sold a sectional.  I am absolutely religious about checking ETA dates whenever I order furniture, as you are probably aware if you’ve ever read any of my posts about my job before.  I absolutely despise dealing with pissed-off people, which makes me the most honest salesperson on the planet, because I’ll lose a sale in a second before I’ll misrepresent when something is gonna come into the store.  Because you’re gonna notice, and I’m not gonna want to deal with you when you do.

So.  A bit of background: our company has two main warehouses.  Our upholstered product is all supposed to come to us from one of them, but if that warehouse is out of a particular piece and the other warehouse has it, we can send an email and switch which warehouse it comes from and it still shows up on the same timeline.  I do this a lot, as you can probably imagine.  However, the person who responds to those emails works banker’s hours.  So I was rather dismayed on Monday to discover that a particular piece had sold out from the secondary warehouse over the weekend and that I now couldn’t get it until– wait for it– June, when I told my customers to expect it in the store in 7 to 10 days.

June is farther away than 7 to 10 days.

No problem!  I found one at our Lafayette store, and decided that rather than wait for a truck to come through from their store to ours and hope that they remembered to put the piece on that truck, I’d just go get it myself today.  It’s like a two hour drive.  I have a former student who I’m still in touch with and quite fond of who is a sophomore at Purdue, so I’ve got somebody to grab lunch with, too!  I’ll go get the piece and have lunch and come back and drop it off at the store and nobody’s the wiser and I’ll lose a chunk of my commission on gas money but whatever.  I like the occasional car trip.

Go ahead, check the weather report for today for northern Indiana.  Because holy Christ, why did I do that stupid thing I did.  I have never seen fog in my life like the Lovecraftean, Ravenloft-esque insanity that I had to drive through today.  We’re talking maybe three seconds of visibility in front of the car, less on the heavy spots, for the first two thirds of the trip.  I thought about turning back repeatedly, consistently falling prey to the sunk cost fallacy and reasoning that surely I was damn near out of the fog by now and that it would be, would have to be, gone by the time I was on my way home.

Also, once I got to campus, my GPS utterly shit the bed, trying at one point to send me the wrong way down a one-way street, then redirecting me to another street that it could have just left me on the entire time rather than taking me out of its way to nearly die, and then directing me into an alley between two buildings that abruptly turned into a bike path that just-as-abruptly turned into nothing, at which point I called my former student and described where I was as best I could, informing her that I wasn’t moving my car again and she needed to come find me.

(Also: I’m not a complete idiot.  The other problem with Purdue’s campus is that there are damn near no signs anywhere.  Signs that say things like “No Exit,” which one might put before a point-of-no-return road of some sort.)

Also, Logansport, Indiana is the worst place in the world and I don’t want to hear any different from any of you.  I got directed through “town” for some reason and half of the place was utterly deserted and everyone in the rest of it had the Innsmouth look.  I deliberately took a different route back to avoid the town.

We lingered over lunch, at any rate.  I was the oldest person in the restaurant by at least 18 years and we were both vastly entertained by the literal hush that fell over the room when we walked in, as everyone tried to figure out if I was a sugar daddy or not.  When the hell did college students get so Goddamned young?

I was planning on being home by 2:00 and didn’t bother leaving West Lafayette until after 1:00, figuring that the fog would have to have burned off by then.

Nope.  Just as bad on the way home as on the way down there, except without the opportunity to turn back.  Also, west central Indiana smells terrible.  That sounds like I’m just being mean because of IU vs. Purdue regionalisms and I swear I’m not.  It smells awful.

Point is, I think I deserve a tip for this one.

Odds and ends/proof of life post

polar-vortex-nasa-670-1I woke up the other day and consulted my watch to discover that it was thirteen degrees below zero outside.  I feel like we were largely spared polar vortex horror last year, for the most part, but this year has definitely picked back up on the trend of the last several years, which is that the weather at the end of Winter Break is horrifying enough that school being cancelled and the break being extended is at least plausible if not guaranteed.  The boy goes back on Monday, finally, and I think the weather will be back to winter-normal by then, mostly, but holy fuck has it been cold around here lately.  There’s maybe, I dunno, fifteen inches of snow on top of the house, too, which means that we probably got eighteen to twenty since it tends to compress under its own weight after a while.  On the plus side, the new car appears to handle pretty damn well on ice and snow, or at least the new tires I put on it not too long ago appear to have done their job.

IMG_6692.jpgIN OTHER NEWS: the Lumberjack Beard is dead; long live the Lumberjack Beard.  I don’t normally shed my winter beard this early in the year, winter having just barely started, but apparently the answer to this year’s beard question, i.e. “How long can I let this fucker get before it starts to drive me insane?” is about nine weeks.  Granted, I brushed it backward to make it easier to shave off for that picture, but this was easily the bushiest I’d ever let my beard get, and unexpected side effects were starting to crop up– like eating getting much messier and– and this one really surprised me– all that hair on my face actually making it harder to sleep.  I think if I groomed it a bit better it wouldn’t have been as much of a thing, but I’m a novice at this and wasn’t super interested in putting in the research time.  I’d intended to just dial it back but ended up going completely back to the vandyke that I keep on my face for the other eight months of the year.  I may grow it back right away or I may not, but I won’t be doing Full Lumberjack again anytime soon.

IMG_6678.JPGMy phone is starting to slowly fill up with pictures like this, and I’m starting to see grid shapes with arcane symbols and glowing lines on them every time I close my eyes.  My buddy James Wylder posted a shot to Instagram of a bunch of notes and diagrams he was working with as he was playing through The Witness, and upon discovering that the PlayStation store had it for $15 and deciding I could use a more cerebral break from Horizon: Zero Dawn and Nioh, I was in.  Two days later I’m hooked as fuck.  I’d compare the game to Myst, but Myst had a genuine story to it and this really doesn’t; the reward for solving puzzles is more puzzles and occasional frustration and headaches.  There have been a couple of puzzles where I’ve had to cheat to get through them and at least one where even when the answer is on the screen in front of me I’ve been unable to figure out why the right answer was the right answer, but for the most part it’s hitting a nice sweet spot for me– challenging enough that solving the puzzles isn’t automatic, but not so challenging that my rapidly-becoming-legendary lack of patience with video game bullshit kicks in.  If noticing that some vines near you are a different color from the other vines and then figuring out how to get outside and line your screen up perfectly so that the vines trace the right path on the grid in front of you, and then taking a picture of it with your phone because fuck that, you don’t seriously expect me to memorize this, do you? sounds up your alley, check it out.

I had plans to write fiction this week, but they were burned to the ground once I realized that I’d have the boy with me all day yesterday and today for the last two non-weekend days of his break.  I’ve been lazy as hell on hiatus since Tales came out but it’s time to get back on the horse.  Next Thursday, then, I will either officially begin work on the latest version of the sequel to Skylights or start working on my entry for this anthology or both.  Because battle poets.  

Book sales have had a nice little spike lately too.  After most of a year where if I was selling a book or two a month I was pretty happy with it, I’ve sold five books today, two yesterday, and twelve since Christmas Eve– and that absent any sales or any particular promotion on my part other than a few surprisingly well-received Tweets.   In an absolute sense that doesn’t seem like much to brag about but I’m still in holy shit people are sending me money for stories mode, and I kinda hope I never break out of that.

That said, if anybody else wants to keep the ride going, that would be awesome.  Reviews would be cool, too, especially of the three that aren’t even at 10 yet.  Wanna help me out?

Advice for those from warmer climes

5405943268_e3280ff9f1_z.jpgIt never fails to fascinate me: that moment when you realize that your body has adapted to winter, because what was “cold” a few weeks ago is no longer even worth noticing.

I am a Midwesterner.  If you are from Florida, or Arizona, or Southern By-God California or somewhere similarly godforsaken, you may not be aware of what winter is like around here.  Today was in the low thirties, what we call “t-shirt weather” around here.  Last week it was cold.  If I brought you up here in cold weather, you would die.  I would stand there, wearing a t-shirt, not even shivering, wondering why you were dying and quietly suspecting that the human race’s future prospects were probably being improved.  But you would die.  There is no doubt about it.

But yeah: when the last week has seen consistent below zero temperatures, and especially when the wind chills get into the dozens of degrees below zero (it hasn’t been that cold yet, but it will be) when a day in the thirties or even low forties rolls around, we don’t even notice that shit anymore.  That’s wake up and think about putting on shorts weather.  It’s nothing.

Today was one of those days.  It was damn near warm all day, and sunny besides, and the sun was doing a damn good job of melting the leftover, unplowed ice off of the parking lots and roads and driveways around the area.

And then it became night, and it got much colder.  I’d say it probably dropped 20 degrees in an hour.  And all that water that was on the roads and the parking lots and the driveways because the ice and slush had been melting refroze.

Are you familiar with the term “black ice,” Person of a Warmer Clime?  Black ice is what happens when a thin sheen of ice forms on a surface– generally, on a paved surface, which is why it is called black ice.  It is transparent and can be damn near invisible under the right circumstances, and a lot of the time a patch of asphalt covered in black ice just looks a little wet.  It’s dangerous as hell, to both drivers and walkers.

Sometimes, for example, you’re walking back to your car after a day much like I’ve just described, and you step on a patch of black ice despite knowing what you’re in for and walking very fucking carefully.  And you don’t fall down!  No, instead, you discover that suddenly your foot is next to your ear, but you are still upright and to the casual observer it must look like you are executing some sort of badass martial arts move or perhaps an impromptu Nazi goose-step or Cleesian silly walk, only you’re a fat old man who is incapable of such things by either poor flexibility, personal politics, or both.  Then, somehow, you’re still standing on both feet, only you heard at least three distinct pops out of your hip while your foot was on walkabout (see what I did there?) and you had a brief moment where you thought wow, that actually feels good before the shattering pain kicked in and then you drive home, your thoughts drifting back and forth between Percocet and the emergency room.

tl;dr it’s icy out and I may need a cane tomorrow.

POSTSCRIPT:  Managed to get my shoes off.  I have been wearing two different color socks all day today.  The end.