Grapes, the coffee machine, and everything

I live in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina.  For those of you who are not here, it’s basically a small Silicon Valley with no valley, less traffic, cheaper homes, and more tobacco than marijuana.  Because it is a relatively high-tech area, the population is divided into engineers and people who have to put up with engineers.  This fact is the only reason I could get away with this.

I was at Wal-Mart earlier today to pick up some things I needed: an umbrella, a new coffee maker, and some grapes.  (Disclaimer: I didn’t really need grapes.  I just like them.)  When I got to the checkout line with my items, the checker said hi and asked me, “Did you find everything?”

I get asked this a lot, along with “How was everything?” in restaurants.  Apparently I give off a vibe that says, “Ask me about everything!”.  I have a hard enough time keeping track of what day it is.  So normally I will respond apologetically, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t looking for everything.”

Today was different.  In a flash of what I call “brilliance” (like a seizure, but less painful), I smiled and cheerfully responded, “Yep!  Now I can finish my time machine!”  I didn’t get a laugh, but I also didn’t get detained by security, which I probably would have in a less tech-savvy part of the country.

Disclaimer: You do not need grapes to build a time machine.  I got the grapes as a snack, in case all the food in the future is in pill form.  Actual produce from the 21st Century might be worth a fortune in steak pellets or dilithium 500 years from now.

Customer service

Like most people, I occasionally have problems with customer service.  Unlike most people, I rarely have problems with customer service people.  This is largely because I don’t give them problems.

Let me tell you a story.  (Pretty please?)  A number of years ago, I was coming home from a business trip to the Boston area.  It was the Friday before Labor Day weekend, and the airport was packed.  When I got to my gate, most flights out of Logan were cancelled due to storms all through the Midwest grounding the planes we were planning to use to leave.  (Interesting science fact: If you have enough storms in the Midwestern United States, you can cause a butterfly in South America to flap its wings.  This is one of the less useful aspects of chaos theory.)

Anyway, the lack of outgoing planes forced all of us to rebook our fights.  This was in the days before ubiquitous smartphones, so we had to stand in line.  The person in front of me was not a happy camper.  He stood at the reservation desk and screamed at the woman trying to change his flight.  She kept trying to calm him down, to no avail.  (This was also before misbehaving in an airport elicited the helpful attention of the TSA.)  Eventually, he shut up and went away, and it was my turn.  I had never been to Boston before, so I had the following conversation with the reservation clerk: Continue reading