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Monday, May 24, 2010

Out of Commission

The wife and I made two serious purchases this weekend. Somebody put the brakes on us-- or at least electroshock rubberbands around my wallet.

On Sunday, we purchased an antique settee for our living room, so that we can actually have people over and converse with them in a semi-normal way. If we ever had people over, that is. I know this sounds gay, but I love our settee. It reminds me of my wife, because it manages to effortlessly be both beautiful and cute (cuteiful?) at the same time. It's orange and corduroy-- though my wife is neither.

The other purchase we made was neither beautiful nor cute, and it wasn't orange and corduroy either. On Saturday, we went to Sears and bought an air-conditioner.

Pretty fucking glam, no?

But, there are things you buy because you want them in your heart, and there are things you buy because Pennsylvania summers can make your balls stick to your taint. And because the wall air-conditioner that came with your house was so old it was probably blessed by Pope Pius X.

Oh, and you read that right-- wall air-conditioner.

As in, there is a gigantic, rectangular hole cut into the wall of our house, into which an antique television-sized air-conditioner is shoved.

I'm told that, in other parts of the world, people don't have wall air-conditioners. Typically, one-room air-conditioners are stuck into windows, and I don't know that this especially makes more or less sense than shoving them into a hole in the wall because, it totally renders your window ineffective, whereas a wall is not more or less effective for having a huge fucking hole in it, as long as there's an air-conditioner in there.

In any event, and whether it's a Philly thing or not, our dining room has a wall air-conditioner that, we realized last summer, does nothing but infuse the room with room-temperature air, even when placed on the highest and coldest setting. Clearly, Pope Pius X's blessing was wearing thin.

"I just won't come visit you in the summer until you get a new air-conditioner," my mother-in-law said last August as she was melting into one of our dining room chairs. I glanced at my wife out of the corner of my eye, she looked back at me and shook her head warningly. Even though I love the written word, I'm also pretty into non-verbal communication.

So we decided to bite the bullet on Saturday and buy a wall-unit. "Assuming they still make the goddamn things," I said to Mrs. Apron.

Turns out that they do make the goddamn things, but that there was only one on display at Sears. It was bigger than a Volkswagen Beetle, and not as aerodynamic either. The Kenmore wall air-conditioner on display was 13,000 BTUs and it cost $529.00. Now, when things start costing half of one thousand dollars, I immediately develop swamp-ass. A middle-eastern salesman limped over to us. He was approximately my father's age, but much shorter and, dare I say, hairier. His nametage said "Ahram."

"You vont this?" he said to us abrasively. "It's very good."

Right, I thought. Because I'm sure you personally tested it.

"Do you have any other wall air-conditioners?" my wife asked.

"No. Only this one. Do you vont it?" Ahram answered brusquely. He had a thick salt-and-pepper beard and a stye under his left eye the shape of Lake Michigan. He glared at me as if I had just challenged him to a duel with scimitars.

"We need to think about this a little bit," I replied.

"Okay, sir. Ma'am. Thank you. Goodbye," Ahram said, gimping away as his voice trailed off.

"What an asshole," my wife said to me under her breath.

"He can't help it," I said, "too much infidel blood in his tea."

We stared at the card on the display wall air-conditioning unit and my wife noticed an 8,000 BTU wall unit for $369.00. Ahram was nowhere in sight and so I caught the attention of another sales associate, a white-haired guy named Dale. He was in the refrigerator section, so I wasn't sure he would be able to help me.

"I can certainly try," he said with a glint of hope in his eye. He tracked down the SKU number for the cheaper, more efficient wall-unit, guaranteed that it was the same size dimensions as the football-field-cooling behemoth Ahram tried to sell us and the deal was done. As Dale was ringing us up, Ahram suddenly appeared. He hissed angrily into Dale's ear,

"Vot are you do-ink? Dat is my customer!"

"No, 'was', as in past-tense."

Ahram glowered at Dale and, one day, will surely mail Dale's hands to his wife in a Priority Flat Rate envelope. But for now, Dale had triumphed, and so had we.

"Oh, by the way, is this your air-conditioner size pamphlet?"

"Yes," Ahram seethed, "my name is on it."

Dale looked down at it-- there was something scrawled on it in blue pen.

"Your name is Eileen?" Dale asked. My wife cracked up.

"Give me dat!" Ahram said as he grabbed the well-worn pamphlet and stomped away from us unsteadily. I wondered briefly if my father had shot him in the leg back in 1973, in a far off desert in a far off time.

Commission is an ugly thing. It's like the retail version of warfare. When I worked at the eyeglasses store, we never worked on commission. Well, hardly ever. There was one time when Maui Jim, a noted sunglasses manufacturer, created an incentive program to get us to sell their sunglasses. If you sold ten pair of Maui Jims in a one-month period, you could get a free pair of Maui Jims for yourself. I sold the fuck out of those bastards, selling thirteen pair in one month, three pair to the same customer. ("Because, you know, what if you lose two pair while on vacation?") Maui Jim tried to tell me that the offer would only cover a regular pair of sunglasses, not the prescription that I needed, but I created such a fuss with the sales rep that I got my prescription lenses. Of course, I lost them years ago.

They say that working on commission makes your more apt to sell people things that they don't need or want. I didn't need commission to compel me to do that, I did it all the time. My boss at the eyeglasses store and I shared a particularly warped sense of humor, and he and I had a running bet to see who could sell more women's frames to men. Each time I sold a pair of ladies' frames to a man, I won ten bucks. He wouldn't take money from me, so he just got a warm handshake and a lot of laughs. The best sale I ever made of this nature was to a slightly insane man who wore polo shirts and shorts in the dead of winter. I sold him a pair of Sophia Loren wire-rimmed frames with little flowers etched on the temples. With light blue lenses. I'll never forget the day he came to pick them up. When he tried them on in front of me at the dispensing table, I almost shat myself. When he finally left the store, happy as a fucking lark, my boss and I laughed until we cried and my stomach almost exploded.

Maybe one day I will get to sell a pair of ladies' frames to Ahram. I mean, Eileen.


  1. Rude salespeople really annoy me. I'd never be rude to shop assistants so I'd be grateful if they could at least extend that same courtesy my way.

    Ahram should probably get a job in a basement somewhere where he doesn't have to come into contact with people. He sounds like that Indian guy in The 40 Year Old Virgin.

  2. I refuse to shop anywhere that I know is paying their people via commission. Not because I like the idea of someone possibly starving because I'm not shopping but because these people don't take no. Never. They hound you, follow you, and god forbid you seen them OUTSIDE of the store, they continute to ask you how you are, how's that thing you bought, etc. I am more of an impulse shopper myself so if I want something, I'm going to buy it. If I don't- I won't. No amount of talk is going to change my mind either way. ;)

  3. Oh man. I really wish you had a picture of the guy with the glasses on. Priceless.

  4. Even with the orange corduroy settee, I can't imagine you conversing with people in a semi-normal way :)

    (Sorry for the emoticon).

    Pope Pius X also blessed the claw-foot tub in my grandmother's bathroom and the laundry chute in my aunt's kitchen.

  5. LOL!!! oh my god. i wish i could get past my hatred for people in order to enjoy myself selling them shit that will make them look ridiculous. in my retail experience (mostly winter break jobs while in college), i spent my time refolding shirts with my hands and watching porn with my brain.

  6. WALL UNITS! My old apartment had one of these. I had to sleep on the couch in my living room if I didn't want to die of heat. Or, you know. sweat. (It's so rough being me, sometimes.)

    Also, my dad so totally has a window unit. He takes it out every fall and puts it back in every spring. I KNOW.


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