Monthly Archives: July 2012

Garage Archaeology

This summer, I’m determined to find my blender. And my hand mixer. And the bottom half of my juicer. And hopefully, my antique, clamp-on meat grinder. With any luck, they’re all in the same box.

Let me explain. Grif and I bought our house in October of 2008. We’d been renting a house from a friend of ours for several years prior to that, so we’d accumulated a lot of stuff, not to mention a child with his own growing pile of stuff. All three of us tend to be nostalgic pack rats, so we had boxes of stuff we’d collected that was too precious to throw away and moved from previous lives, houses and relationships, along with stuff our parents had given us (to rid themselves of some of the stuff we’d left behind when we’d moved out upon reaching adulthood) that all had to be moved into the new house. To make matters worse, there was some confusion about the actual date we would be vacating our rental house, so the final weekend of packing and moving consisted of me frantically stuffing random items into any box that had space and many friends helping to move all our things out of the rental house and into the new house while the landlord was underfoot trying to make repairs before the next tenants moved in. Not exactly the organized, careful, well-thought-out plan I’d envisioned. As we started unpacking boxes at the new house, I realized that many boxes that had items that needed to be in the house were stacked in the garage, and vice versa. I managed to find the crucial bits, but fell into the bad habit of “I’ll go through that stuff later,” and stored many unpacked boxes out in the garage. It was then that I realized I hadn’t found my blender, hand mixer, juicer or meat grinder, but I was sure it was in one of those packed-badly-at-the-last-minute boxes and that they’d turn up eventually.

Next, I got lazy and overwhelmed. Sure, I have a lot of good reasons (excuses) why it took me 3-1/2 years to start trying to find my kitchen appliances. Grif got laid off from his job and we were both completely consumed with trying to pay the bills and keep the house. We both got depressed at our rapidly deteriorating financial situation and his inability to find another job right away. My son started having academic and social trouble in school . My father was diagnosed with (and eventually succumbed to) terminal lung cancer and my parents needed my help. I started a business with some friends. But the real reason I didn’t start going through the boxes is that the prospect overwhelmed me. There was just so much stuff!

Fast forward to this spring. Having cheated death-by-ruptured-appendix this past November and successfully completed my first half-marathon in January, I’ve been feeling like I can tackle any challenge lately. Helping my grandmother go through my great-grandmother and my grandfather’s things and helping my mother go through my father’s things after they passed away was a huge eye-opener for me, so I became determined to ruthlessly pare my stuff down to the items that truly matter. I keep repeating William Morris’ famous quote – “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” So far I’ve shredded old utility bills from 1999, donated boxes of baby toys to charity, rescued several of Grif’s childhood photos before they disintegrated, found my high school diploma and yearbooks, and recycled, donated or otherwise disposed of many, many pounds of stuff. I make it a point to go through at least one box per day, and often empty more than one if I’m really on a roll. It feels great to be making progress on a project that has been bugging me for a long time, and I have grand visions of turning our garage into useful, workable space in the not-too-distant future.

But I still haven’t found my blender.

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Rant On

Dear Person Whom I’ve Asked For Help (i.e., retail clerks, salespeople, customer service reps, tech support folks and anyone else in the position of answering questions, solving problems or fixing things for people):

If I ask you for help, it is because I either can’t find what I’m looking for, or I don’t know the answer, or I need help solving a problem. I am not trying to get you to do my work for me, nor am I being lazy, nor am I necessarily stupid and incompetent. I am, however, most likely already embarrassed, irritated, stressed out, frustrated or otherwise not my usual cheery, agreeable self. Responding to my request for assistance in an annoyed, irritated, impatient, snarky, frustrated or condescending manner does neither of us any good and certainly doesn’t move our interaction toward a positive outcome.

I get it that you deal with idiots all the time, and you’re right, the item I’m looking for or the solution to my problem is most likely pretty obvious, to you, anyway. I understand that you might be right in the middle of something important and don’t want to have to drop everything to work on my problem. And since I’m already frustrated, I may have started our interaction off badly by letting my irritation show in my voice and my attitude. But I asked for your help because I thought you were the person who could do that. If you’re not, please point me in the direction of whomever can assist me and I’ll take my request elsewhere. Don’t make me feel worse than I already do about the situation.

Despite what you might think, I’m fairly self-sufficient and would prefer to handle things on my own if I can (online shopping and self-service checkout line, anyone?). If I knew how to fix whatever it is on my own, I wouldn’t have asked for your help in the first place. Making me feel bad about my need for assistance (or my decision to ask you for it), only encourages me to stop asking you and to find someone else who can help me. In other words, to take my business elsewhere. If you’re in the business of helping people or if we have a working relationship, you may not see that as a problem, but it certainly doesn’t endear me to your product or service or brand or company. It just makes me determined not to do business with you in the future.