Eva and I went to a munch last week, a couple of days after we got back from our cruise.
A munch is just a meeting of like-minded people over food, usually held at a restaurant or bar. This one was at the Huether Hotel, a place I hadn't been to since my first week in this city almost twenty five years ago. There are dozens of them monthly in our city alone, covering every conceivable interest; it seems like a good way to get out of the house and meet people. Eva had been to a completely different munch a couple of weeks before, and had a great time. This one was something we would share, and hopefully enjoy. It was also my first opportunity to put my words from the last blog into practice.
It did not go well. At all.
I guess it says something that I'm willing to put myself out there and meet people. Though I have to tell you, the mere thought of walking into a room full of strangers with the express intent of making them not-strangers ties my stomach in knots. It's another one of those glaring contradictions: put a piano in that room and I'd play it, happily; give me a speech to make to the group and I'll carry it off without a hitch, but ask me to interact socially with any of them and...let's just say it took more courage than you'd think for me to walk into that room. More than I thought I had, actually--I almost chickened out of it several times. In the end I realized that I was never going to get over this social block if I kept it right in front of me, so I meekly and tentatively stepped over it.
The munch was held in a long and narrow space. Two rectangular tables filled most of it. We got there a little late and the first table was full, so we started the second.
There were about twenty people there all told, which was twice as many as I was expecting. Everyone seemed to know each other, or at least know a large segment; there was a lot of hugging and enthusiastic greeting as each party came in.
The host of the munch greeted us, shook my hand, and returned to his conversation. Everyone was neck-deep in conversation--nobody so much as made eye contact with Eva or I. We nibbled on some garlic bread and waited for some sort of acknowledgement. Nothing came.
I thought about how I could insinuate myself into some conversation--the ones going on around me, to the extent I could hear them and make them out, sounded quite interesting--and then realized how rude I would appear if I tried. Everyone was so intent, so focussed on the people around them that breaking that focus was unthinkable. And so I sat and stewed. Despite my best efforts, awful thoughts rushed in.
You were afraid of this? This is your normal leper shunning, nothing you haven't lived through countless times before. Gotta admit we didn't expect this shit with Eva here--that repulsive forcefield you carry around with you is even stronger than you thought it was, if it so effortlessly overcomes your wife's charisma. Look at those people over there--they're standing, and have been for the last half hour, rather than come over here and sit next to you and pick up whatever disease it is you have.
And so on...my mood got worse from there, and after an hour of complete isolation we just got up and left. I was in a foul, foul temper: angry, bitter, depressed, and totally and completely self-centered. It didn't occur to me to comfort Eva at all, which is unforgivable--she was right there with me and experienced exactly the same ignorance I did, but I was so caught up in my own drama about this that I ignored her myself entirely. It turned out, of course, that she was feeling the same hurt and neglect I was (although nowhere near to the same degree, rejection not being as big a bugaboo for her as it is for me.)
Now, I hasten to tell you I didn't expect a grand hurrah when I came in. Best case scenario, I thought the host might silence everyone and let us introduce ourselves--I'd gladly do it for both of us if Eva wanted me to, that's public speaking and I can do that. Barring that scenario, I thought somebody--anybody--would notice us looking all newbie like deers in the headlights and come over and introduce themselves.
Didn't happen. Nobody made the slightest move; hell, nobody even looked at us. You get to musing on existential questions at times like this: are we here? Are we invisible? And I was so terrified of making an ass of myself that I sat, immobile...making an ass of myself.
It turns out that I did pretty much everything wrong.
The best advice I got was this:
Actually, admitting I'm unsure of myself is ever so much easier than acting as if I'm sure of myself.
Staying away after one bad experience is the worst thing I could do. We need to go back, possibly several times, so our faces look familiar. And yes, we need to actually approach people. I can't expect strangers to do it for me, and I shouldn't expect Eva to do it for me either. We're a team.
WE'RE A TEAM
Shortly before our cruise, our washer died in the middle of a load. This is one of life's serious annoyances--things like this never seem to happen when they'd be easily accommodated, and a washer is one of those things you kind of need.
A dear friend offered the use of hers, which was really nice, but her life is beyond busy and we really didn't want to impose, there being a laundromat just around the corner from our house.
Advantage laundromat: you can do ten loads in the time would take to do one at home. Disadvantage: it costs, it's tedious, and you can't exactly leave and make lunch the way you would at home.
There's not much choice for appliances in this town: if you don't want to pay an arm and a legging, you're stuck getting your washer at The Brick.
Oh, how I hate The Brick.
The day before the cruise, we went in to the nearest Brick to us, an almost brand new store that wasn't around when we had that linked experience. There was a washer there for $348. By itself. Like holy crap, grab that before they tack a 1 on the front of the price.
"Oh, don't buy that one", the woman told us. "It's broken. It's been broken for weeks."
Plus five points for honesty, considering the tag didn't say anything like "AS IS". Minus twenty million points for WTF?
She left and said a salesman would be with us shortly. My guts were acting up, since I was getting on a plane in less than twenty four hours. A man appeared, greeted Eva and I, and directed me to the customer restroom.
Then he walked away...without serving Eva at all.
The Brick.com it is.
We found that if you buy a washer, you may as well buy a dryer as well: the pair deal makes the dryer about a third of what it would cost on its own. Plus, with my luck, we'd get the washer installed and the dryer would die the following week. There was a nice GE pair on sale.
We paid extra for the disposal of our old washer and dryer and the hookup of the new one, remembering this. My father had rained blood, sweat and curses all over our basement getting the damn pipes to fit properly, and Eva and I wanted no part of a similar experience.
The pair was delivered last Friday, of course after Eva had gone to work. The litany of excuses started immediately. 'We will be unable to hook this dryer up because the vent to the outside is too small, it's exactly the diameter of the pipe." This was, of course, the problem my father had, and why we were paying them rather than doing it ourselves. How they determined this by eye alone was a mystery, but since it was true, I couldn't exactly call them on it. They explained that they are only contracted to do simple hookups, and this didn't qualify. Then they announced they couldn't take our washer away because it was wet and too heavy and had soap on it which was too slippery which constituted a serious safety hazard and blah blah blabbledy blah.
I don't like confrontation. I don't do it well. It was patently obvious I wasn't going to get the services we'd paid for. What I should have done here was refused to sign the paperwork, or at least amended it to show that the washer and dryer were not delivered (they were left in our basement, but not in the laundry room since the old washer was in the way) nor installed, nor was the old washer removed. Instead I signed their damned paperwork as it stood just to get them out of the house, and resolved to at least start the process of doing their work by myself.
It wasn't easy.
Silly of me, I know, but I hadn't realized there was water in the washer's innards when I'd unplugged it for removal. There was none in the tub itself where the clothes go: it was all somewhere else. I tipped the washer on its side to drain it. Very little water drained. The rest of it just sat there, sloshing at me from somewhere while I swore at it.
I slowly and oh-so-painstakingly righted the machine and dragged it out into the basement proper. That took about twenty minutes to accomplish. If you Google "how much does a clothes washer weigh", you will get numbers that aren't even close to what this one does, especially with water sloshing around in it. Trust me on this. I was angry enough -- at the Brick and at myself -- to carry that washer up the stairs, but not stupid enough to try...especially not without a dolly (which the Brick people had effing taken with them, crisse de câlice de tabernac d'osti de sacrament. Moving the new washer and dryer in wasn't much easier. They're both half again the size of the old ones, and they barely fit through the door. But I managed it.
The next day, Eva and I tackled installation.
I am proud to say it took under an hour, washer and dryer both, and it only involved one expletive-filled do-over moment. I can thank my father for laying some of the groundwork here--we cannibalized parts of his setup. I can also thank this stuff. But mostly I can thank Eva for her patience and understanding as her sad sack of a husband tried his best to contort himself into laughably small, dark spaces and fail to perform the simplest tasks. A handyman I'm not. Inverting Red Green, at least my wife finds me handsome.