It's Saturday. I've been cooped up at work and home all week or two and it's time to get the hell out.
Mrs. leftystrat told me about this place called The Christmas Tree Store. Right off the bat, it sounded horrible. She said it's open year round, at which point I asked what was the point. Well, they don't just sell Christmas trees and stuff. With virtually no way to say no that would leave my genitals intact, I agreed. Being at least somewhat clever, I bundled it with a trip to the guitar store.
Since the wife was so familiar with the store, I had to look it up online, just to make sure it was in roughly the same state as the guitar store, which it was supposed to be. I got very simple directions from Google, which should have tipped me off immediately.
Once on the road, I figured I'd put the address into the Garmin GPS, in case Google's directions were faulty. HA! The joke, however, was on me, as it usually is with the Garmin. Remember the movie Poltergeist, where the station wagon hated Craig T Nelson's character but purred for the Indian? That's what my relationship with the Garmin is. Except for the fact that the Garmin really does piss everybody off and causes marital strife. First, I typed in the city. The Garmin, ready for me, assured me there was no city with that name in New Jersey. This will come as quite a shock to 71,045 people who live there (per 2010 census). Not to be outwitted, I put in the street address. The clever auto-complete finished the street name for me and suggested four addresses, none of which was the address I put in.
Now here is where the marital strife bit comes in. When I start to curse loudly (as opposed to normal everyday cursing), Mrs lefty provides some helpful tips. And when I say helpful tips, I mean THINGS THAT MAKE ME WANT TO STRANGLE HER. These consist largely of the steps I have already taken and produce largely the same results. This is in addition to one of the main difficulties of Garmin; the fact that any kind of entry is near impossible due to some sort of anti-input coated membrane keyboard. Never mind the technical aspects, what this means is that you can't actually enter most of what you want to type into the bloody thing. It may take every other letter or refuse to take anything. Wife uses a stylus, which makes things slightly less painful. Slightly.
Having gotten absolutely nowhere (with the backup system, mind you), Wife 'suggests' that she give it a try. She rips it out of my hand and does the same thing I just did, with the same results. Then she tries it a different way, producing the same results. Only then can we 'just screw the stupid thing.' The inevitable followup is "I dunno, it always works for me when I'm alone."
NOTE: this is not good, as it brings up a part of my life I thought I had left behind. The part where my mere proximity to things made them go awry. If I went to a store, no one would wait on me. If I went to a restaurant, my order would get messed up or go missing entirely. The grocery store's automatic door wouldn't open for me. I am not making any of this up. Burning dead chicken parts and eating the feathers, combined with Good Clean Livin made it all go normal for me.
Both of us having given up, I put in a nearby address and off we went. The Google directions were completely foobed. There are cute little phrases like 'take a small right and you'll be on the same road,' which means Go Straight, Stupid. Well past where we thought the place might be, we turned on the Garmin. The fact that it did not cackle at me left us with a slight positive feeling. After pondering for a mere few seconds, it told us exactly where to go, not at all like when I tell IT exactly where to go.
DOES IT MEAN HERE?
DOES IT MEAN HERE?
Yes, Dear, where the sign says Exit.
One thing my presence does still affect is my wife's driving. This woman can get anywhere in any car, including in states in which she has never been. Put me in the passenger seat and she regresses to a twelve year old, who can't decide if take the next exit means pull over to the side or take the next exit. It's painful to see a well-educated, bright woman go all blonde on me. Total airhead. It's not like I have this effect on other women.... and I stopped giving her the pills ten years ago.
The Garmin gave good, solid directions, complete with mileage figures that made us feel all secure inside. And then we hit Camden, New Jersey - armpit of the US. The bridge to Philly was coming up on us and the Garmin said to go straight five miles.
Dear Garmin: ahead five miles would put us in the Atlantic Ocean and I'm reasonably sure the store is not located under water, especially on the PA side of the water. So we pulled off at the Last Exit Before Bridge and looked for a place to launch the Garmin and try a cell phone. Wife throws her phone at me and tells me to look it up while she exits the car and works on putting the disgusting smoke of burnt leaves into her lungs. The problem here is that I've never played with her phone and she has it set up in a way that even she can barely operate it. I can't use mine because it's so locked down that by the time I can enable GPS, we could have walked the 120 hours home. One 'Christmas Tree Store' input later, we got a list of ten locations. Each one was in a different state, none of which were the current state. I do not run a retail business but I'm going to guess that no retail business has any interest in hiding and not being found. Putting the actual address into the phone produced a route. Halleleujah!
We went a few miles in this direction then that direction and finally found ourselves..... in Camden, exiting at the Last Exit Before Bridge. Why do two separate GPS devices want to send us through Camden and into the water? Does Camden pay off the GPS manufacturers to route all traffic through there? If I were going from New York to Rhode Island, would it take me through Camden?
Wife insists we use the Garmin. If the Garmin tried to get us wet, cold, and dead last time, what could we reasonably expect it to do when we asked it a second time? But we were wrong - it provided a path that did not involve water, bridges, and death (we hoped). Or Camden. This proves that if you're going west, Garmin will give you the wrong directions but if you're going east, it will get you where you want to go. Remember this.
One left at the light later, we were at the Christmas Tree Store. The (internal) children were as excited as they could be. I was assured that I would love it too. There were these huge glass-ish globes called Wishing Globes. Apparently she bought me a blue one last year. Hmmm... never saw it. I was extremely curious as to why I needed one. Well, you like blue. Yes I do, but what about a glass-ish 10" ball was supposed to be interesting or useful to me? She got distracted immediately by some other shiny object but I managed to keep steering the topic back to the value I was somehow getting from this ball I never received. I think I finally nailed it when I asked if it was like me buying her a guitar for Christmas.
The part about me liking the store was strictly to make her not feel too guilty about dragging me into a warehouse-size store with 90 tons of Christmas Crap. They had stuff we'd never seen before, which is almost as much fun as going to a dump and finding trash you've never seen before. Stupid swirly Santas, three thousand nutcrackers, hideously gaudy this and that, and even some furniture and tables. I try to be reasonably nice (to my wife only) so I kept my tongue largely in my mouth and didn't utter a single "Dear God, please get me out of here or at least lock me in a random trunk until she's done."
I pointed out the Clearance section, which she loves. She asked where. I suggested it might be under that HUGE RED SIGN that said CLEARANCE. You know she would have found it immediately if I weren't there. It was over there, past the sixty-year-old lady with purple hair and a nose stud. Go ahead - I'll wait while you read that again. In spite of the proximity to Halloween, this was not a costume.
There was a bathroom stop. There is always a bathroom stop. While it is a fact that women's bladders are smaller than men's, hers seems to be the size of an average pea, and needs to be emptied at a frequency that is inversely proportinal to the location of a bathroom. And I, of course, had to watch the pocketbook and cart. And you guessed it - I got the cart with the square wheel. Again. I really thought this was behind me, and here it is, popping up again. Perhaps ALL the carts are developmentally disabled. Or perhaps the stores need a pit crew, like NASCAR, where they change the wheels in under ten seconds, so the driver can get back in the race with minimal lost shopping time.
They did have food at this store. It was closeout food, most so bad you didn't know it existed in the first place. I did see chocolate Frosted Flakes, which looked Greeeeat, but the box was in Spanish. We also found some garlic fig spread, amazed as we were that we never saw it when it was really popular. Once we passed the Maple Bacon Pop-Tarts, we knew it was time to go.
We got directions to the guitar store from the Nicest Cashier Ever, who even recommended restaurants in the area. We bravely followed the directions, not even bothering to turn on the Garmin, which would have told us there were no guitar stores in New Jersey anyway.
The Sam Ash chain store even had a few lefty guitars. They were all cheap, thereby encouraging beginners. I looked around for other stuff, none of which caught my eye. They had all of two acoustic lefties, so we lefty.
The Guitar Center chain store had roughly the same amount of lefty electrics, largely cheapies. Ok, good for the lefties that need them. My wife slyly started asking me questions about stuff. I slyly denied knowledge or told her I was not interested, as she was trying to get something out of me about a possible Christmas present. I tried diligently to find something to purchase but again failed. Well, there was an $1800 amplifier that I heard great things about, but I didn't think I was going to like it $1800 worth. As I was checking out some effects, I walked past a female employee in army greens and a military hard hat. Maybe it's because I'm getting older or I just don't care anymore, but I declined to ask.
Walking to the car, we passed one of those buffet places. Worse - a Chinese buffet place. These places, like Golden Corral, frighten me to death. Everything comes out of a can, like industrial food. Vegetables from a can, mashed potatoes from a can, whole chicken from a can. Ice cream that has no ice or cream in it. Still she wanted to go, however she wisely suspected that I may not like it. There were people eating that stuff with chopsticks. Although I consider eating an Olympic sport, I will not (and cannot) perform the digital gymnastics involved in operating those infernal wooden things.
So we went home to Pennsylvania, where the food is tastier and we can get there without any forms of GPS assistance.
In fact, if you listen closely on a cold autumn night, you can hear the sound of traffic being routed underwater and Garmins being thrown off bridges.