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   the thefts of Lila the dog
Wednesday, November 20 2002

Today was one of those days in which one Kafkaesque screw-up seemed to metastasize into another in a completely unrelated area, demonstrating that the entire patina of order and neatness in our world overlays a shoddy, rotting, disorganize framework, much like the way the smoothness of spackled drywall conceals the frightening entropy inside the walls of our homes: nails missing studs and piercing electrical wires and plumbing instead. This cluster fuck actually began yesterday evening, when Gretchen called the Carpet Garage and asked what we owed them for the hardwood floors they'd installed. They'd given us an estimate of four thousand dollars and change, but the bill for the completed project was mysteriously in the high seven thousands!

Okay, that was fucked up, but then this morning Gretchen made a series of phone calls about a four hundred dollar Long Island College Hospital bill resulting from a procedure that was supposed to have been covered by her insurance. After calling multiple people and experiencing the buck being passed in the usual cyclical manner, Gretchen discovered the following things:

  • The bill hadn't been paid by insurance.
  • The reason the bill hadn't been paid was because the procedure had been marked as routine (it had been for a misdiagnosed mononucleosis complication)
  • The procedure was supposed to have been re-marked as non-routine and sent back to the insurance agency. This had evidently not been done.
  • The hospital had, without further notice, sent the bill on to a collection agency.

This, coupled with the bureaucratic runaround had Gretchen so irate that she could barely function as a human being. It's not often that I see her flip out about bills and paperwork stuff (I have a much lower threshold for Kafaka-induced embolism), but this was so far beyond the usual background level of bureaucratic incompetence that even a Vulcan would have lost his shit.

Meanwhile there was the issue of Sally's toys, nearly all of which seem to have been stolen by Lila, the annoying neighbor dog. We hadn't noticed that Sally's toys were disappearing until last night. On the way home from being picked up at the bus station, Gretchen had us stop at a Kingston pet store to buy Sally a brand new toy. The toy was a plushly-upholstered rubber tennis shoe that squeaked when squeezed and cost $8. When we got home last night, we found Lila in our house, emerging from our pet door to greet us. As Sally played with her new toy, we told Lila to go home. Moments later, we realized Sally no longer had the toy shoe, and it was nowhere in the yard. Lila had evidently stolen it.
Today I went around the house trying to see if Sally had any toys at all. All I could find was her red crab, the one that came with a sea otter that Gretchen bought in Coney Island. The many toys now missing included the Ti Quon Dog (which makes electronic ninja sounds when squeezed) and the green frog I'd bought Sally for her birthday. We were beginning to realize that Lila had become a rather serious problem, particularly since she can come in through our pet door any time she wants (at least during daylight hours) and rob us blind.

Today Gretchen and I went into town to research options for bathtub and shower equipment for the new bathroom. We started out at sort of pricey place in a strip mall in Ulster, mostly so we could try out the Mid-Hudson Buffet, yet another Chinese buffet next door. These buffets all seem to imitate each other in terms of food offered, decorations, and dreary locale. They all feature a wide smorgasbord including everything from tater tots to pizza to Kung Pow tofu. Though almost exactly like the nearby Dragon Buffet, Gretchen thought there was something just a little unappetizing about this place. Her worst fears were confirmed near the end of our lunch when she went back to refill her plate and witnessed the Mongolian stir fry chef unabashedly hawking a massive loogie into a kitchen drain. If that didn't completely ruin Gretchen's appetite, what she saw some minutes later did, a sign proclaiming "Raw Oysters, Very Fresh!"
Our next stop took us to a plumbing equipment seller called Security Supplies, where a woman with an "I'm still living in the 80s and proudly playing my Quarterflash tape" hairdo helpfully showed us the different bathtub and shower options. Then we went to Lowes and, based on yet more helpful advice from their resident plumbing expert (who happens to be missing the last two inches on the middle fingers of his right hand), decided to buy a couple cheap Delta showers, knowing we can upgrade the heads to something better when we find what we want (while I can get started on sweating together all the pipes, not that I've ever done this before).

Back home, we worked ourselves up into such a indignant rage about Lila's thefts that we marched over to her house to reclaim Sally's stolen toys. Lila was tied up with a short leash outside her doghouse, completely bored out of her mind. She was, of course, delighted to entertain guests, but we were in no mood to be neighborly. Sure enough, right in front of her was one of Sally's toys, a large stuffed multicolored jack (a sort of inflated version of the kind one uses to play the game of jacks, if you know what I mean). No other toys were visible, though we did discover a couple of Gretchen's sneakers, one each from her only two pairs, strewn around nearby. They were pretty badly chewed up. Mind you, these weren't old shoes; they were expensive New Balance shoes Gretchen had bought specifically to help her with her arch support issues. She was incensed to see them ruined and casually strewn about in someone else's yard, particularly when they'd obviously been stolen from out of a closet inside our house. Nobody was home at Lila's parents house, so we'd have to put off our confrontation for later. But, Gretchen assured me, she'd get them to pay.

This evening Gretchen went out to a movie with Larry (the realtor who sold us this place). They've hit it off so well professionally that they've gone on to become genuine friends. It's good for Gretchen to have someone of Larry's refined sensibility showing her where all the good restaurants and theatres are in this area. For the uninitiated these places might otherwise be impossible to find amid the Mid Hudson Buffets, Stewarts, and Hannaford Supermarkets.
While Gretchen and Larry were out, I babysat Larry's dog Pony, a large tawny-colored mutt (who looks as if he might have a little Rhodesian Ridgeback in his ancestry). I suppose sometimes you need to interact with another dog on occasion just to remind yourself how fabulous your own dog is. If this is the case, Pony definitely served this purpose. What a demanding, needy, unintelligent pooch! He followed me around ceaselessly as I went about my work, getting underfoot as I used the power saw and undertook other construction tasks. The only time Pony would entertain himself was when he saw a cat was beneath the upstairs couch, at which point he'd launch into a barrage of monotonously pointless barking. Then, as if to drive home the point of what a chore he was being to babysit, he kept leaving puddles of urine in random places on the floor. The whole time Pony was there, Sally kept giving me this look as if to say, "I too an embarrassed by this example of caninity."

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