Monday, March 26, 2007

The Price of Puppy Love

I’ve walked pass The Local Puppy Palace many times without going in, but today - in celebration of it’s 10 year anniversary - a sign in the window offered "A Free Goodie Bag for Your Furry Baby!" The Mister, my moody seven-year old Cocker Spaniel, is hard to please; a picky eater who turns his nose up at most of the treats I give him. Milk Bones? What dog doesn’t like Milk Bones? The Mister. Oh he’ll take them from me, but he rarely eats them. For days on end a bone will languish in various spots around the house: the hallway, the office, the bedroom, apparently anywhere my foot is likely to find it. He’s also been known to stash a few under the couch like a squirrel storing nuts for the Winter. When the famine comes, he’ll be ready.

So the offer of a free goodie bag was very enticing. A chance to find something The Mister would like, without spending money? Sold! I walked into The Local Puppy Palace intending to get my free goodie bag and bolt, forgetting completely that I’d have to make it past a passel of puppies in the process. Ay, there’s the rub.

Separated by breed, the palace pups lay in beautifully appointed baby cribs like little furry babies. As I’m sure it was calculated to be, I felt the vise like tug on my heart and the tidal wave rise of my maternal instincts.

The free goody bags were at the register, at the far end of the store, reachable only by walking through the gauntlet of cribs. Who could resist stopping to peek as the puppies rustled around in their newspaper lined cribs. Pure breeds all, they were quite adorable, but it was a little Silky Hair Terrier that caught my eye.

So small. Her ears were bigger than she was. When I reached into the crib to pet her, she hoisted herself up, grabbed my hand between her tiny paws and gently nibbled on my fingers. It was love at first lick. She was trembling a little so I picked her up to calm her. She felt so tiny and fragile in my arms, weighing less than my handbag. Not even as big as a baby. Somebody help me.

Appearing out of nowhere, like good sales people do, the clerk told me that this little ball of love was only three months old and would grow to be five pounds at the most. Wow, she did weigh less than my handbag, and would probably fit nicely into it without making it noticeably heavier. I imagined bringing her home. Would she make a nice addition to the family, a companion for The Mister?

So I ventured into dangerous territory and asked the question:

"How much is she?"
"Thirteen hundred."
The background music in my head abruptly changed from "How Much is That Doggie in the Window?" by Doris Day to "Can’t Buy Me Love" by the Beatles. I was so stunned, all I said was,

"Yes, but we’re running a special."
I’m sure you are.
"$200 off."

A Rover Rebate. How thoughtful.

Sensing my firm ‘no’ as a mere hesitation, the Clerk brightly informed me that financing was available. Really? Well that made all the difference in the world. Now the answer was definitely, no. I’d finance a house, a car, an education, but a dog. No, Sir. What if I defaulted on the payments? Would they take the dog back? Would I be living in fear of the Puppy Repo Man? Get my purse snatched not for my wallet, but my dog? No can do.

Although a pure breed himself, The Mister was not a store bought dog. We rescued him from a shelter. He’d been abused and abandoned by his former owners so I never knew him as a pup. I would have loved to have held him in my arms as I did Miss Silky and give him a good home right from the start. What wouldn’t I give to have done that? Eleven hundred dollars.

I eased Miss Silky her right back into her crib, picked up a free goodie bag for The Mister and left. At 35 pounds he may not be able to fit in my handbag, but he does fit my wallet. Puppy love is out of my price range.

Monday, March 19, 2007

My Dog Drank My Coffee!

Next Stop Starbucks?

I was sitting on the couch working on my laptop, my coffee cup by my feet on the floor, my dog – a grumpy cocker spaniel named, Rolie - asleep in his bed. Sleeping is his talent. That’s what he does. He’ll be fast asleep in his bed, wake up suddenly, as if late for an appointment, and dash down the hallway to go sleep on the rug in the bathroom. That is how he spends his days, taking a sleeping tour of the house with breaks to eat, go for walks and frequent tummy rubs from those of us who are lucky enough to be in his service.

If he has any vices at all it’s the garbage. Rolie can’t resist digging through a garbage bag when the opportunity presents itself. He’s well fed – our trainer thinks he’s a little over weight and could stand to go on a diet – but the sight of an unattended garbage bag is irresistible to him. He tears into it like the media into Britney Spears’ personal life.

Rolie is the reason we replaced all of our plastic open top garbage cans with metal cans that you have to step on to open. I sometimes see him staring wistfully at the kitchen garbage can. That is his favorite. But Cocker Spaniels are frighteningly smart dogs and I wouldn’t be surprised if what I take for simple reminiscence is really him plotting on how to open the can.

That would explain why he’s not losing any weight. He’s keeping on the extra pounds to aid him in is garbage quest. He’s probably got a goal weight that will allow him to open the can with his back paws, while sifting through the remnants of last night’s dinner with his front.

But other than the garbage, he’s a sweet little dog. So I never thought twice when I got up to go to bathroom. When I returned, my plan was to heat up my coffee and get back to work. I returned however to an empty cup. Not only was it empty, it was bone dry, with a ring of incriminating fur around the top. "Rolie!" I turned and of course the thieving cur was no longer in his bed. Rolie rolled me and then rolled out.

He drank a half of a cup of coffee, and not just any old coffee. It was a cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, that sells for about $50 a pound! The beast has slurped down a $7 cup of coffee. Perhaps he knew the value of it, since he didn’t spill a drop and left nothing in the cup but his fur and my spoon. I was angry, impressed, and a little nervous. A Cocker Spaniel on caffeine?
Excuse me while I lock up the garbage cans and call the vet.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I Want A Fisher Price iPod

Growing Up in The Fisher Price Generation Has it's Drawbacks.
It Makes You Think Everything Lasts Forever
Like worried family members in a hospital waiting room, anxious to hear if a loved one is going to make it through emergency surgery, a group of us paced around the lobby of The Renegade Unlicensed iPod Repair Shop while young and grungy technicians attempted to repair our respective gadgets. We engaged in small talk, the camaraderie of desperation:

"What do you have?"
"The 30 gig,"
he said. "You?"
"The 20. Hard drive?"
I said.
"Yea, I think so."
"Good luck."
"You too."

I knew for months that my iPod was having trouble. When I turned it on, instead of the menu, I'd get the dreaded Apple icon and hear the hard drive noisily struggling to play what I wanted. I tried pretending that everything was going to be okay. But then I saw the sad face iPod icon and the website address to Apple Tech Support and I knew my gadget was gone.

In the year that I had it, my iPod had become an essential accessory. It allowed me to indulge my passion for unabridged audio books. Purchased or borrowed from the library, I spent hours downloading and listening to them in the car; making traffic jams and road trips bearable. I bought accessories for my accessory: A charger and FM transmitter for the car; microphone so I could record my shows, and of course a cute sexy little carrying case. I was heavily invested in the iPod lifestyle, and I wasn’t ready to let it go.

First, I took my iPod to the Apple Store. The kid in the wireless head set truly looked sympathetic. He said they couldn’t fix it, but he’d be happy to sell me a new one when I was ready. I wasn’t. I went to TekServe, a mac repair store in the city. Sadly, they fix everything but iPods. "Why not just buy a new one?" the non repairing sales girl said.

"Will one of the new ones work with my microphone and transmitter?"
"Uh... no," she said, her smile faltering.

I had heard stories about Apple’s epically bad customer service; the cries for help from frustrated iPod owners that went unanswered. I never thought I’d be one of them. Like a refugee I wandered the land looking for help; that's how I found myself in the Renegade Unlicensed iPod Repair Shop in the basement of a seedy souvenir store. I had officially entered the dark side of iPod ownership.

It was comforting to see that I wasn't alone. There were quite a few of us who were traumatized to suddenly find ourselves without the status symbol of the minute. We were plagued by guilt and self doubt:

'Did I do something wrong? Did I break it? Maybe I shouldn't have left in the bottom of my handbag. Can it be fixed? If not, will I have to buy a new one? Will that be cheaper? I knew I should I have bought an iRiver instead. It's not as popular as the iPod, but it's got a built in microphone and FM radio. I bet iRiver owners don't have these problems. I feel so vulnerable! What's a nice girl like me doing in a seedy little place like this? I'm right in the middle of listening to "The Cell" by Stephen King. Will I have to buy the actual book now? Oh God, how much will it cost me to get back to happy?'

"$106. 21.
"It's your mother board," said Renegade Unlicensed iPod Repair Shop Guy. "I can replace it for $106.21. You want me to fix it?"

In for a penny, in for a pound. "Yes, please."

Ten minutes later Unlicensed Repair Guy plugged in a headset, listened for a moment, then handed them to me so I could hear. My iPod was working as evidenced by the song softly playing through the ear buds: "Me So Horny" by 2 Live Crew. I was horrified. I had borrowed the Hip Hop Box Set from the library and had downloaded all the songs, but hadn't gotten around to deleting the ones I didn't want.

But my embarrassment was overshadowed by my joy: no sad faced icons, no horrible noises. My iPod was back! While the Tech Gods grinned down upon me I floated out of the Renegade Unlicensed iPod Repair Shop happy once again to be a member of polite society. And I made plans: I would buy a sturdier iPod case, finish my audio book and quietly pray that one day Fisher Price would make a digital music player.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Karma Of Giving Good Directions

Asking for directions is an unpolitically correct art. You are judging, solely by someone’s appearance, if they look like they can help you. It’s needs based stereotyping. Walking on seventh avenue in Manhattan, a gentlemen once asked if I could direct him to the nearest Barnes and Noble Bookstore. Of course I could. And I was quite flattered. Something about me made him think that I’m a reader. Cool. Conversely he didn’t ask me where the nearest Home Depot was. Not that home improvers aren’t readers, but this reader doesn’t look handy.

If asking for directions is an art, then giving them is a skill. Landmarks are great unless they’re hyper successful chain restaurants. In NYC for example, telling someone to turn left at the Starbucks will keep them walking in circles for hours. Most people want to help but they can’t, and lack the courage to simply say, "I don’t know." Instead, god help the asker, they try.

On a trip to Cambridge I rode the T from Boston South Station to the Kendall stop on Main Street. I had been told the hotel was on same block as the T, but I wasn’t sure which direction to go. I asked the hot dog vendor sitting outside the station.

"Excuse me, Sir? Do you know which way the Kendall Hotel is?"

"The Kendall? Hotel?" He shook his head and blew air from his lips. "That’s uh... that way," he said pointing right. "It’s about five or six blocks down. I don’t know if you want to walk it," he said looking at my suitcase. "You can take the bus. But... yeah... it’s about... ten, fifteen blocks that way," he said, pointing left.

Bad art: I had hoped a street vendor would know his street, but alas no. Bad skill: he had no idea where I was going and yet felt compelled to make up an answer. I thanked him for his time and then did what I should have done in the first place, called the hotel.

"Kendall Hotel, how may I help you?" the desk clerk asked.
"I just got off the T at Kendall, how far away are you?"
"Can you see the Marriott Hotel from where you are?"
"Yes it’s right behind me."
"Great, turn right. Walk half a block and we’re across the street. You can probably see us from where you are."

I looked down the block and yes, I could see the hotel from where I was standing, which was right next to the hot dog vendor. There’s no way he didn’t know where the Kendall was. But perhaps that’s what I get for sitting in Starbucks watching tourists do laps around the block. Ah Karma.