ralph robert moore
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Copyright © 2003 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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Return to lately 2003.
"no, but i do have a turkey"
october 25, 2003
Our bedroom walls finally painted, and such a pure white, evoking freshness, like the coolness on your face when you walk outside after a long meeting, Mary and I stepped back from the truly wonderful whiteness of our walls, looked down, realized how awful, in comparison, was our bedroom carpet.
The carpet itself, once, had also been pure white, when we first moved in twelve years ago, but us, our cats, the faulty design of several ashtrays, the brooding nature, under heavy furniture, of dust, the limitations of vacuum cleaners, even the most noble and expensive of vacuum cleaners, all of this mess added to recently by a large number of circular, Pollack dribbles of white paint, had turned our carpet into something that was actually quite interesting, visually, a random, organic art that might do well if hung on a museum wall, but that failed miserably at one of the most basic functions of carpet, i.e., that it look nice.
We had planned on replacing the carpet anyway, so there was no great sorrow in the Moore household that night, no holding our hands out in front of our hips and letting out wails.
Originally, while we still had white paint in our hair, we thought we would call up Empire Carpet, because they advertise all the time on TV, kind of old-fashioned commercials, with a cheerful jingle for their 800 number, like something you'd see on a drive-in screen between features, amid the marching french fries, and the owner of Empire, a late middle-aged man with a moustache who appears in the commercials, seemed like such a gentle soul, someone who must be honest, and probably regrets it whenever he's pushed to say, "Darn it!", but we were in the local Home Depot one day, looking for I don't remember what, except that I'm sure it was a tool we never knew existed a few days prior, but which we had since discovered was absolutely vital to completing a task so the end result looked professional, when we saw Home Depot itself now not only sells carpet, but also arranges to have it installed.
If you're not familiar with Home Depot, it's a chain of huge, warehouse stores that sell everything you could possibly use for home improvement, whether it's hot water heaters, nails specifically designed to be driven into stone, toilet ball cock assemblies, different grades of electrical wiring, bathtub spigots, and on and on. Sometimes we wander down the wide aisles just lifting little objects out of cardboard bins, turning them over in our hands, wondering what their use is. Some of them look like they're designed to fix flying saucers. Home Depot's logo color scheme is orange and white, which always reminds me of Creamsicles, a bar of orange sherbet blended with vanilla ice cream, served on a stick, the best of all frozen treats.
We went to Home Depot this past Tuesday.
Our mission was to order the carpet, order a stainless steel kitchen sink and matching faucet, order a new exhaust hood for our stove, and arrange for all these items to be installed.
The hang-up, as it turned out, was the exhaust hood.
Mary had gone on the Internet a few days prior, to the Home Depot site, and found the perfect exhaust hood. Eighty-nine dollars. She printed the page. We brought it with us to the store.
The woman who helped us was cheerful and sincere, but she couldn't find the exhaust hood we wanted in her Home Depot print catalogs. Darting her eyes up at us during her flippings, looking apologetically at us over the top rims of her glasses, she explained the store catalogs weren't always completely up to date.
I politely cleared my throat after Mary and I watched her flipping through the same catalog pages for about fifteen minutes, during which we saw, sitting on the opposite side of her desk, the upside down images of quite a few exhaust hoods, over and over again. "Would it help to go on the Internet to the Home Depot site, and get the model number there?"
She kept flipping. "I don't have Internet access."
After a few more minutes, Mary and I glanced at each other, one of those husband and wife exchanges. "Is there a similar model in that catalog?"
"Well, there might be, but I'm just trying to see if maybe I somehow overlooked the one you wanted."
So here was the problem, and it's one you encounter occasionally. We had happened upon a really nice person who really wanted to get us the exact model we wanted, but who was so intent in that search she was incapable of perceiving that we ourselves had long ago given up any hope of getting what we initially wanted, and were now willing to settle for something else, just to get things moving again, and no matter how politely, or, in time, how overtly, we signaled our change of mind, nothing was going to stop her from doggedly flipping those same few pages back and forth, back and forth.
Finally, I sat up in my seat, held up my hand. "To be honest? We don't want that particular exhaust hood anymore. We want to just choose one from that catalog. What exhaust hood in that catalog is somewhat similar to what we were looking for?"
"Well, I don't know…let's see…" Flip, flip, flip, pilf, pilf, pilf.
We were there an hour. Finally, we agreed we would simply order over the Internet the exhaust hood we originally wanted, and then someone from Home Depot would come out to install it.
The next day, Wednesday, a man showed up to measure our bedroom for the carpet. He held what looked like an etch-a-sketch in his hands, glancing around at our bedroom, touching different points on the screen with a rod. Finished with that part of his task, he whipped out an old-fashioned measuring tape, started measuring each wall the way professionals do, barely bending the thin metal length of the tape against a corner before snapping all that inch-marked length back up into the tape holder.
When he was finished, he showed me the etch-a-sketch screen, silvery gray with a black outline I recognized with fondness as our bedroom floor dimensions. I signed the screen.
That same day, we got a call from one of the Home Depot installers wanting to know when a good time would be to come out and install the exhaust hood. I told him we hadn't received it yet.
Thursday we got a call from the kitchen sink installer, and set up a tentative time, Friday afternoon, to get the sink put in (the boxed sink, and the boxed faucet that went with the sink, were sitting in our garage).
Thursday evening, UPS delivered the exhaust hood. The guy, not our regular UPS driver, ran away as soon as I opened the door, as if practicing for Halloween.
The box's top flaps were already open Lifting the box produced a rattling.
We pulled the hood out. The styrofoam packing inside was crushed, most of it missing. A loose screw fell on the floor of our vestibule. The hood itself was bent. So was the filter.
So much for the integrity of UPS.
Friday the guy came out to install the kitchen sink, spending about two hours getting it just right, which we appreciated. During that time he and I talked about this and that. I asked him at one point what the most common kitchen installation was (I was running out of small talk). He surprised me by saying it was garbage disposals. All of him but his shoes were in the cabinet under our sink. "People always want new garbage disposals." After the installer left, Mary and I stood in the middle of the kitchen, side by side, looking at our shiny new stainless steel kitchen sink, its purity suggesting, as new appliances often do, whether we want to admit it or not, a standard we might dare attempt to live up to.
We got a call from Home Depot giving us the final cost for the bedroom carpet, based on the etch-a-sketch man. A little over a thousand dollars. I agreed to the amount, paid for it over the phone with a credit card. It'll be installed in two or three weeks. Our bedroom is fifteen feet by fifteen feet. Some carpet rolls only come twelve feet wide, so I asked if the carpet we chose came in a fifteen foot roll, but unfortunately, it didn't. "Will we notice the seam?" "Don't watch them install the carpet and you'll never know where the seam is. People who watch, they can't stop seeing the seam. We've had the installers go back, reinstall the carpet without the homeowners seeing where the new seam is, and they can't find it afterwards."
Good advice in a lot of situations.
And we went to Central Market to buy the ingredients for the ground veal and chicken cannelloni we're thinking of making when Joe, Mary's dad, visits over the Christmas holidays. The key ingredient to the cannelloni is teleme cheese. I say that because the recipe calls for one and a half pounds of teleme, and one and a half pounds of anything in a dish is automatically a key ingredient.
Central Market has a huge number of cheeses, probably three hundred or so, from all over the world, to where you have to stand on tip toe, get down on your haunches, to slowly work your way down the refrigerated wall, but Mary and I couldn't find teleme. I asked one of the men in the department if he had a cheese called teleme, spelled it out for him. "No, but we do have taleggio," a type of cheese you normally don't cook with, you eat after a meal, usually with fruit, and which has a completely different flavor from what we were looking for. I don't fault him, he was trying to be helpful, something we all try to be, but the only connection between teleme and taleggio is that they sound similar. It's like a paramedic, trying to stop the rapid spread of blood across pavement from a hit and run victim, turning to his partner and asking, "Do you have a tourniquet?", and the partner saying, "No, but I do have a turkey."
Mary and I have to work on our menu for Joe's Christmas visit, so there won't be a Lately next week. The next Lately will be November 8. I've posted a new essay of mine, space.