extended warranties and lotto
Monday, May 9 2005
When I respond to housecalls that come from my advertising, the clients tend to be wealthier and better educated than average. This is why the vast majority of my computer housecall business is in Woodstock.
But in addition to my normal business, I also do service calls as subcontracts for large national tech support companies. The subcontracts for one of these companies tend to be large Lexmark printers in various Key Banks. But for the other companies they're all computer service housecalls, usually for blown motherboards and power supplies. The only people entitled to these sorts of housecalls are those who sign up for extended warranty service at a place like Best Buy. Interestingly, such people usually seem to come from the opposite end of the economic spectrum. They tend to be poor and uneducated, and apparently incapable of saying no to a slick Best Buy sales associate. The uneducated buy extended warranties for the same reason they buy lotto tickets: statistical ignorance. They're too foolish to know that the 50 dollar bet they're making that their computer is going to need repair is a bad one; this is because modern electronics are extremely reliable and if they're going to break, they tend to do so during the conventional warranty period.
Of course, the computers I see actually do need repairs and in these few cases the purchasers of the warranties, uneducated or not, are actually lucky, in the same way that the fry cook who wins the lotto is lucky.
Today I had one of these subcontract housecalls down in Kerhonkson, a village known by Ulster County residents as one of its seedier places. People in, say, Stone Ridge regard Kerhonkson in much the same way that, in Virginia's Augusta County, the people of Staunton regard Craigsville. When I arrived at 2pm, the man of the house was out in the yard drinking a beer. His wife, who probably weighed 300 pounds, was smoking cigarettes and playing video games on the television. On the radio, the local Clear Channel rock & roll station was in the middle of 45 minute rock block. To give you a sense of how strange this was, given the businesses I patronize and the people I visit, this was the first time I'd ever overheard a radio playing anything other than WDST (Woodstock's independent commercial rock station), WKZE (musical diversity from Sharon, CT), or WAMC (the local NPR affiliate). Eventually the man of the house came in and chatted with me all friendly like, asking (as a non-sequitur) if I ever went deer hunting. He had a trophy deer head on the wall and I could tell he wanted to talk about it, but something interrupted him. He also made some disparaging remarks about the trees growing near the house and told me that he was going to cut them down as soon as possible. (I didn't find his dislike of trees the least bit surprising.) Eventually the two teenage sons came home and played videogames with mom for awhile. I wondered what it must have be like growing up with parents like theirs.
As for me, I found myself installing a new replacement power supply that was dead on arrival, something I confirmed using a good power supply I happened to have out in the truck. I've noticed that due to general diagnostic incompentence on the part of my parent company, I always end up making at least two visits to a site before a problem is fixed.
This evening Gretchen was one of two featured poetry readers at Woodstock poetry event at the Colony Café. I came along to give my support, as did most of the usual members of Gretchen's support phalanx. These Woostock poetry reading events are always sullied by the what happens before and after the featured readers: the open mike. Open mike poetry is a uniquely dreadful form of torture and there should probably be a law against it. There's are reasons for the existence of editors and review boards in this world, and bad poetry is chief among them. Tonight's open mike had every permutation of dreadful possible, to the point where it all sounded like some sort of contrived parody.
The only amusing presentation during the open mike came from Chief Mike, the wacky manic depressive from the barbecue the other night (the guy who gave Gretchen a "Support Casino Gambling in Woodstock" teeshirt). Chief Mike is the bartender at the Colony Café, but he stepped out from behind the bar to read his "poem." It actually wasn't a poem at all, though he sort of read it as if it was one. Instead it was a letter to the editor he'd written in his self-proclaimed capacity as the Chairman of the Woostock Casino Gambling commission. In it, he politely chided as hypocrites the various churches who have come out against casino gambling, pointing out their various raffles and bingo.
As always, Gretchen gave a stellar performance. Her talent isn't just the poetry by itself; she's an amazingly effective reader of that poetry too, perfectly working the microphone to the height of its power without overdriving it or causing too much distracting breath noise. As for the poems themselves, I've noticed a tendency in her recent work towards a rather flip and irreverent view of biology, comparing (for example) a medical patient to a duffle bag full of clown parts. I've found this tendency a little unsettling - not in a moral way, but in a visceral way. Some of her latest poems actually make my stomach crawl with their casual disregard for the sanctity of, well, organs and tissue.
Gretchen had to stick around to listen to all the sorry open mike readers doling out their punishment to the bitter end of the event, but I was free to go. I went with Tara, our photogenic Buddhist friend from Rosendale, and we got a table at the Landau Grill. We talked mostly about bluestone until Gretchen showed up.
I'd bought Gretchen a handheld carpet cleaner as an anniversary gift (we got married two years ago today). But when I gave ity to her tonight she got all pissy and actually said "I don't get it." This seemed ungrateful to me and in despair I said things like "I'm never getting you a present ever again" and "Getting gifts is so much fun!"
Her attitude, as she explained later, was that a proper gift really ought to reflect the interests of the recipient, not be something that "the house" or "we" need. The fact that she'd expressed interest in getting a handvac some weeks ago didn't mean that it was an appropriate gift.
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