The journey from there to here
...about 300 of 'em, to be precise
Published on April 25, 2008 By Gideon MacLeish In Current Events

Earlier this week, I was delighted to see my inbox fill up with three tickets about two hours away. The individual prices were initially too low, and I didn't want to enter my bid too high for fear of being underbid.

So I took a gamble. I bid an amount on all three tickets that individually would have paid gas, meal money, and not much more. But if I got all three...well, let's just say, it would be a fairly nice payday, despite putting in 4-5 hours on the road. I am happy to say, the plan worked well, although I wasn't successful in bumping up a ticket scheduled for Tuesday, even despite offering a discounted price

My plan was to get up at 5AM, and hit the road. Scope out the sites when I got there, hit the first at 8AM, the second at 11AM, and head home at 1PM. I had a two hour window, as I needed to be at work at 5PM at my "day job".

Ahh, but the best laid plans of mice and men. To start the ball rolling, some old friends were coming into town on Thursday. And with the price of gas being what it is, you can't miss those opportunities. So Tuesday night we were out until 9:30PM, and I can never go straight to sleep, no matter how hard I try. After a couple of botched attempts at playing John Prine's "Paradise", and a rather solid rendition of "Goodnight, Irene" as well as a few assorted other favorites, I was ready for bed...but it was nearing 11 (any good guitarist will tell you you cannot simply play for five minutes!). So off to sleep with 5AM looming.

We've been battling an intake manifold gasket leak, a common problem in Chevy Suburbans, so my trip had to include some stop time just to make sure all was good with the cooling system(fortunately, it leaks more when it sits than when it is running). So when 5AM came, I was as bright eyed and bushy tailed as it gets, which wasn't much. Fortunately, I had the foresight to schedule the first job at 9AM, counting on the idea that it's better to arrive early than late.

These were cool jobs, both with prominent big box stores, so this was definitely a job I didn't want to muck up on. I hit the road at 5:30AM, and got my first omen of the day to come when I got 5 miles down the road and realized I forgot my cell phone. This is something you can't afford to forget on a service call.

I arrived onsite with big box #1 (which, fortunately, was two of the three tickets). The first job was an (ack!) printer, but it was a fuser replacement, so no big deal. Or so I thought. Omen #2 came when I was directed to the computer room to eliminate a banner page from printing. Nothing like what was described on the ticket. The printer was an HP Laserjet 4250, a pretty common machine.

The second ticket with big box #1 was a breeze. I just had to check the cables and equipment at their outdoor lawn and garden center. No repairs, just a site survey basically. A Cakewalk. No problems here. So I finished up and left big box #1, and as I was filling up my vehicle, a call came in (good thing I remembered the cell!) Seems the banner page wasn't the problem, they had shipped a fuser because there was a problem with the training room printer. So I go back to big box #1, and there is the training room printer, staring me in the face. A Lexmark T620 (note to the computer illiterate: HP 4250 fusers will not fit in a Lexmark T620). OK, the buyer said, you completed what was described, but we need the fuser back.

Umm, yeah. Let's just say communication efficiency is not a major asset of big box stores. I'm searching high and low for this fuser, because it's my butt if we don't find it. And unfortunately, the contact person was not going to be there until 6AM the next morning. I was about to suggest me calling her from home at 6AM and picking it up when I arrive for the job scheduled next week in the same city, when we finally found it in receiving (note: big box stores are also not small!)

OK, done, and time for lunch, the highlight of my day, because there was an Arby's down the road. I haven't eaten there in literally years, and a jamocha shake sounded really, really good! (and was). But as I left Arby's, I decided to double check my remaining ticket. Umm, there was a file download I didn't see. So I'm racing around town trying to find a place with wifi access. No luck. Fortunately, I didn't have a hard time finding the local library, and I was in and out in under 5 minutes (literally...their Internet has a timer, and I was clear of the computer in two!) Good, got the paperwork. Now, on to big box #2. At 1PM. My window's getting narrower and narrower (thankfully, I had the foresight to schedule it at 1PM, so it wasn't a late arrival.

I get to big box #2, and a tech servicing another issue had hooked up the device. Meaning all I have to do is check functionality, write down parts and serial numbers. No problem, right? Umm, "no problem" wasn't really in today's vocabulary. Instead of releasing me from the site, I had to wait while emails went back and forth in the middle of a busy store...with a part I knew I was going to have to return, and so couldn't leave unsupervised. I finally got cleared to go at 2:00PM (window's down to an hour), knowing I would have to stop halfway home to ship the packages.

About halfway to the place where I was going to ship the packages, I get another call requesting parts numbers. So I pull over to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and head to the back, where the box was stowed. I get the requested numbers, but it occurs to me as I am ending this call that I might not want to ship this item yet. If it's on the UPS express, I can't exactly answer their questions yet, can I.

So I get to the halfway point, fax my paperwork and ship the fuser, but the other part stays with me. I made it to 5PM without another call, so I'm probably in the clear. But just in case, I'm keeping that box on my nightstand all weekend.

By the time I hit the sack tonight, I'll have put in at least 18 hours since my head last saw a pillow. And I know I'm gonna have to have a talk with my guitar before I snooze, so it'll be even longer than that. And next week, I have jobs scheduled the first three days of the week, then other engagements the following two. So it'll be busy for the foreseeable future.

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